Hello all. EM-C here. First off, I want to apologize for taking so long in updating No Man Knows My Story. I'm waiting for my inspiration to kick back in, but I promise (beli neder) to get around to working on it again eventually. I'm a little reluctant to force a story when there is no inspiration behind it. It could turn out to be not-so-good.

In the meantime, this little plot bunny has been aggravating me for the longest time, so here's a short little one-shot to help everyone along.

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Oh, How the Pretty Have Fallen

by "The Enduring Man-Child"

With thanks to cpneb for the beta.

All standard disclaimers apply.

The place looked pleasant enough. The ultra-modern building seemed friendly, its surroundings attractive, replete with park-like grounds dotted with flowers and trees and strategically placed benches on which the—ahem—guests (the more fortunate among them, at any rate) could spend some precious time outside each day (carefully monitored, of course). But that didn't alleviate the uncomfortable feelings the two newest visitors had in the pits of their stomachs as they pulled up into the parking lot in their powerfully upgraded Sloth.

Noticing that Kim continued to just sit after turning off the motor, her boyfriend thought he would end the oppressive silence.

"Well...we're here," he said.

"Yeah. Here we are," she agreed, still making no move to get out.

"Um...KP, I know this isn't going to be the most pleasant experience, but she was a friend of ours at one time. Hadn't we better go in?"

It was a moment before Kim answered. "Yeah. Yeah, I guess there's no use putting this off any longer." Then with a sigh she unlocked her seat belt and opened the door. Ron followed close behind. They slowed as they approached the entrance, unsure as to whether they were supposed to just go on in, press a button, or what. Rufus popped his head out of Ron's cargo pocket to take a look till Ron whispered to him that this was a time for "low pro," after which he dove back in.

Kim placed her hand on the door and turned to Ron. "Well?" she asked him.

"No idea, KP. I don't see any guards or anything. If it's not locked I guess we're just supposed to go in."

Kim pressed and the door opened. She turned to her bf/bf and with a motion of her head told him to follow as she stepped in.

Never having been to such a place before, their unsureness could be excused. They were surprised to find a small lobby within (though no one but themselves was present) and saw a receptionist on duty. Walking up to the desk, Kim cleared her throat.

"Excuse me, Ma'am. We're--"

"Ah yes, Kim Possible and her gentleman friend!" she said, much to Ron's embarrassment, "We've been expecting you. Please take a seat while I summon someone."

They did as they were told and presently a young man entered from an inner door. Kim was impressed with his neat and pleasant look (she didn't know what she had been expecting). The only indication of where they were was his white intern's jacket.

"Ah, Miss Possible, Mr. Stoppable," he said to them, "You're here, and right on time. Please follow me." And he went back into the door from which he had emerged, Kim and Ron following him down the hall, looking uncomfortably at the doors on both sides of them as they did so. Finally after escorting through a confusing series of hallways he led them into a waiting room and indicated a couple of seats. "Please make yourselves comfortable. It will be just a moment." Then taking out a key card he opened another, very thick, door and disappeared.

Kim took a seat and motioned for Ron to do the same, then looked around. Now this was more like what she expected. It wasn't bleak, but it certainly didn't make any pretensions. There were no pictures or decorations on the walls of this room—only a coat of sickly light green paint. But the stark evidence of exactly what sort of place this was was right before them: a thick window of plate glass, intersected with metal grids, and in the center a small grill for the passage of mechanically enhanced speech. But as uncomfortable as it was to look at this, it was easier than looking at one another. Both teens looked straight at the window, then to the floor, then back at the window—and then they saw her.

Her appearance was jarring. Gone were the beautiful long blond locks. Instead her hair, which she had evidently dyed black some time earlier, was unkempt and so terribly short, struggling to grow out of a head that had been recently shorn clean. Her eyes were tired and sagging, with heavy bags under them—nothing like the sparkling cerulean gems they had been at one time. Her skin, though certainly not ugly, no longer bore makeup to hide the myriad little "flaws" that are present in all girls but those manufactured in a doll factory. She wore a green uniform somewhat resembling coveralls and thus lacked a belt. Most distressing were the two staff members who accompanied her to her seat on the opposite side of the window. Their uniforms were of a darker green than their charge, and their countenances were much sterner and more serious than the young man who had led them here. Furthermore, when they had deposited their young charge into her chair they refused to leave, folding their arms and standing on either side of her.

It was a pitiable sight.

Finally the young girl spoke.

"Kim..."

"Brittina. I'm so sorry. I don't know what to say..."

"There's nothing to say," she responded. "I'm well aware I made my own bed. But..." Then the tears began to fall.

Ron instinctively reached for his handkerchief to offer her, but to no avail. There was no space for the passing of such things.

"Please, Brittina," Kim said, becoming distressed at seeing her old friend in this sorry condition, "it's all going to turn out all right! That's what this place is for—to make you well, so you can go back out there and get right back on top!"

"Yeah...sure..." Brittina sounded as though she'd heard it all before. "I hear I'm still very big in Uruguay," she said with bitterness.

"Um...excuse me," Ron interjected, "but you should be grateful that they got to you in time. Now you can turn your life around!"

Brittina looked at Ron's simple, trusting face. So innocent. So naïve. Then suddenly she opened wide her formerly sirenic eyes and GAZED upon him. She lifted her hand towards him in an imperious fashion and commanded, "Hapless male, COME TO ME!!"

Ron just blinked.

Nothing.

"Oh, it's no use!" Brittina wailed, the tears falling unhindered, "My Magical Female Powers(tm) are shot! Once I had all the prepubescent and teenage boys under my EVIL SPELL, and now..."

"Yeah, I know," Ron said in a comforting tone, "Now all they think about is that Fiona Arizona."

Suddenly Brittina's eyes bore the look of a wild animal. Her escorts sprung to restrain her as she jumped out of her seat.

"Do NOT mention that name!" she shouted as her two escorts grabbed her and tried to settle her back down in the chair.

"Ulp! Oops! Sorry 'bout that," Ron said, an mixture of fear and regret apparent in his voice. Kim took his hand and patted it to show she knew he had meant no harm. Finally the interns had managed to force Brittina back down and hold her till her breathing had calmed somewhat. She looked sorrowfully back at her two old friends.

"Sorry about that," she said sadly, "I just...I can't bear to hear that girl's name! I mean...sure, she's 'America's sweetheart' now...but I was 'America's Sweetheart once, and now...now..." She put her head in her hands and wept silently.

"Brittina," Kim said, trying to snap her out of it, "don't cry! It's going to be all right."

"Just you wait! She'll be here herself one day! 'Little Miss Perfect!' Hah!!"

"Brittina, please!" Kim appealed to her once again.

"Oh my...oh, I'm so sorry, Kim! They tell me I'm much better now, but I still sometimes lose it, especially when I think about...her!" There was the hint of a snarl as she spoke the last word.

"But you are getting better!" Kim comforted her, "how much longer do they think you'll need here?"

"Oh...they won't tell me just yet," she said, "they tell me I still have a lot of issues to work through. But I suppose I should start looking forward to starting life anew."

"That's the spirit!" Kim said.

"Brittina, exactly how did all this start?" Ron asked. Kim cast a disapproving look his way for a moment and even the two interns looked nervous, as if afraid their restraint might be called for again. But it wasn't.

"No, that's all right," Brittina said, wiping her eyes, "it's a perfectly legitimate question. And, I suppose, a cautionary tale as well. I'll tell you."

Kim and Ron were on the edge of their chairs.

"It started with...with...chewing gum," she confessed. Kim and Ron were visibly shaken.

"No. Oh no, not that!" Kim said finally.

"Yes. Yes, I'm sorry; I was weak. But then...then..."

"Listen, if you don't want to talk about this..."

"No...no, I want to talk about this. Anyway, one day I was with some bad company. I believe Camille Leon was there. Anyway, I tried a drink of...of..." Her voice trailed off.

"Excuse me, what did you say?" Ron asked, to Kim's chagrin.

"Coffee. I said I had a drink of coffee! There! I've said it!"

"With...with...c-c-caffeine??" Kim asked. Normally she wouldn't be the one to ask for such sordid details, but her curiosity was piqued.

"Yeah. Yeah. It was caffeinated. No cream," she added.

"The Devil's own brew!" Ron observed grimly.

"I know that now!" Brittina sobbed quietly. "Anyway, you can imagine where it went from there."

Both wholesome teens nodded.

"Playing bingo...and dancing...with boys... Oh, don't look at me!"

Kim and Ron could feel the shock within them, almost like a psychic black hole.

"Then one day," she added, her tone suddenly changing, "I took this kaiser blade. Some people call it a sling blade; I call it a kaiser blade...Mmm."

The two heroes, who had faced innumerable madmen over the years, held each other for comfort.

"And I bobbed my hair!"

Kim and Ron could contain themselves no longer. They wept openly.

"What a tale of degradation and shame!" Ron observed, overcome by emotion. Even Rufus, till this point carefully hidden in Ron's pocket, could contain himself no longer but popped his head out and bawled audibly.

One of the two interns looked at his watch and leaned towards the window. "I'm sorry, but we need to get our patient back to her room now," he said.

Brittina stood up. "Don't cry, my old friends!" she said, a note of optimism—or at least resignation—creeping into her voice at last. "In there there is no gum, no coffee, no bingo, no dancing and no kaiser blades (some people call 'em sling blades, I call 'em kaiser blades). Of course there was that incident with the lawn mower, but occasional relapses are to be expected. Ron—"

Ron looked at her in response.

"I'm sorry I turned you down for that date that time. You're a really nice guy. Kim's incredibly lucky to have you, and I had to be the most stuck-up little princess in the world not to see it. Kim—"

Kim looked at her.

"Keep on the straight and narrow. And tell all the immature prepubescent brats who worshiped me to learn from my experience and to avoid my fate."

"Brittina," Kim said earnestly, "Ron and I aren't the only heroes present here. It takes a special kind of bravery to pull back from the very brink of naughtiness and warn the impressionable youth about that dark underbelly of our society. I just want you to know that I'm proud of you, and when you do get out—and you will—we'll be waiting to illegally download your first new release!"

"Thanks Kim...Ron..." she said as she stood and prepared to be led away back to her room. "That's nice to know. Yes, one day I'll be back. Then look out, Fiona Arizona! At least in Uruguay," she added.

And she was gone.

"There goes a brave, brave girl," Ron remarked.

"Yes. Yes she is!" Kim agreed.

The End?