The next day, Kim was feeling lower than she had in a long time. She had apologized to Bonnie, Tara and the rest of the squad, but she still felt bad about it. Sure, they had accepted her apology without any comments, but Kim didn't feel as if the matter had been closed just yet. She knew Bonnie wanted to really chew her out, and it must have taken a superhuman effort to just let it go with a "Just don't do it again, K."

When she had beat up the bullies, she felt... justified. Those guys had been on Ron like a bad rash for a long time, and while she knew it would be better if Ron stood up to them himself, she often wanted to do it for him. Sure, she'd given them a lesson when she was in Ron's body, but after a few months they were right back again. Beating them up was no different from throwing an extra punch to the face of some henchman that laughed at Ron on any old mission.

But yesterday she almost beat up people she thought of as friends. All because her imagination and anger got the better of her. She winced at the thought of what would have happened if they hadn't been able to stop her. Or what would have happened if it had been some else, like Monique or Felix or her family. Would she have been as out of control if it had been anyone really close to her?

To top it all off, she had heard on the news about a break in at the headquarters of Nakasumi Toys. She had her suspicions about the low number of missions lately, and was starting to think that maybe Wade and her parents were holding her back. This practically confirmed that they were. She was pretty sure Mr. Nakasumi would have asked for her help, and even if he hadn't, Wade would have suggested it. But she had heard nothing.

She sighed. Ironic. She had fought hard against Team Impossible when they had started to edge her out and now her friends were holding her back? So not ok, but at the moment, she didn't have it in her to start arguing about it.

The day trudged on until lunch. Kim managed to push her thoughts away during the classes but now they were returning as she sat next to Monique at their usual table. Monique was trying to get Kim to talk about anything, but Kim wasn't in the mood.

"Ohh, check that out!" Monique suddenly exclaimed. Kim followed Monique's gaze over to the lunch queue. She seemed to be looking at a dark-haired boy, who was staring at the food in disbelief. Kim hadn't seen him before. She had to admit, he didn't look bad. At all.

"Thinking about the prom, are we, Mon?" Kim asked. Monique smiled. Finally a response.

"Nah, not gonna play into that whole "sends a message about who you are"-thing. I'm thinking more along the lines of a quiet restaurant and a good movie." Monique grinned.

"You don't even know who he is", Kim replied.

"That can change... and fast", Monique said, and nodded towards him again. Kim looked over and saw him looking their way. When he saw both Kim and Monique looking his way, he smiled and started to walk towards them.

"Excuse me, is this seat taken?" He asked as he he approached their table. Kim looked over at the grinning Monique.

"Doesn't look like it", Monique responded. "Why don't we make sure it doesn't fall into the wrong hands? Sit.." The boy immediately took the seat right next to Monique. At least he didn't take Ron's chair, Kim thought.

"I haven't seen you here before. You new?" Monique asked. The boy nodded.

"Yeah, technically I start next fall, but I wanted to check out the new school, get to know some people you know?" The boy responded, then caught himself. "I'm Eric, by the way", he said and extended his right hand.

"I'm Monique, and this is Kim", Monique said as she shook his hand. Kim didn't offer her hand, instead merely nodding in his direction. Eric, got a look of recognition in his face. Her it comes, Kim thought.

"Wait... You're Kim Possible, aren't you?" He asked. Kim smiled brief, noncommittal smile.

"Guilty as charged", she said, looking away.

"Man, this is so cool!" Eric exclaimed. "I heard you were a student here! Didn't expect to meet you, though." Well, at least it was a positive reaction, Kim thought.

"Yeah, she's our resident heroine. But back on topic, tell us about yourself", Monique said, drawing the attention away from Kim as she saw her reaction.

"Uh.. nothing much too say", Eric replied. "I move around a lot, my dad's in the military. We usually don't spend much time in one place. I am gonna be a Senior next year, I graduated my Junior year a few weeks ahead of time since we had to move here... Are you gonna be Seniors next year, or..?"

"Yeah, and I can already say it's gonna be a spectacular year", Monique said as she grinned. Eric smiled at her. He glanced back at Kim.

"Hey, doesn't that guy who goes on missions with you go to this school too? I really dig that naked mole rat he's got."

Kim clenched her teeth and closed her eyes. She really didn't want to go into this right now. Instead, she got up from the table.

"Excuse me, I think I'm done here", she said, grabbing her tray and walked away. Eric stared after her with a concerned look.

"Did... did I say something wrong?" He said, looking back at Monique, who sighed.

"Not your fault", he replied. "Ron's... been missing for the last four weeks. We don't know where is is or even if he's ok. It's a... sore spot, too say the least." Eric held his hand over his mouth as he listened to Monique's explanation.

"Oh... oh God, I'm sorry, I didn't know", he said, a bit shocked.

"Like I said, not your fault, don't worry about it. She'll come around", Monique said. They finished their lunch and left the cafeteria shortly afterwards.

As school ended, Kim was elated that she had gone through the daily motions without another meltdown. She felt a little bad for being curt with Eric, but at least she hadn't yelled at him or anything. Her thoughts were interrupted, though, when she saw Eric approach her as she was closing her locker.

"I.. Monique explained everything. I'm sorry if I-" Kim interrupted his apology.

"Don't worry about it. It's just... I'm not handling it all that well sometimes", she said. He looked at her with a sympathetic face.

"It'll get better. Trust me", he said. Kim frowned at his words.

"How would you know", she asked, a bit miffed. She was tired of hearing that phrase by now. Eric sighed.

"Personal experience. My sister... ran away two years ago." Kim's face immediately softened.

"Oh... Oh.. I.. I'm sorry, I didn't..." She stammered.

"It's ok. You couldn't have known", Eric replied.

"Did... did you find her?" Kim asked after a short pause.

"Yeah, we did. She was gone six months before the police found her on Skid Row in Go City. She's ok now, we're all ok now, but... it wasn't a funny six months", Eric said. They stood in silence for a while.

"So... does it really get better?" Kim finally managed to ask. Eric sighed.

"Not really. But you get used to it and you'll learn how to handle it", he admitted. Kim sighed.

"Can't imagine ever getting used to it", she said. She took a deep breath. She really didn't want to lose it in front of this guy.

"Neither did I. But that's the way it goes. Anyway, I'm sure you'll find him. I mean.. what's that phrase on your web page? 'I can do anything'?" Kim frowned at his words. She had tried so hard for the last four weeks, but had nothing to show for it yet. Eric saw her discomfort and continued.

"Anyway, I got to be going. But... If... if you ever want to talk... you know... Don't hesitate to call." He fished out a piece of paper, wrote down his phone number and handed it to her. She took it, somewhat hesitant. Not sure how to respond, Kim just said a quick "Please and thank you. See ya later" as she walked away.

A few hours later, Kim lay down on her bed. She'd spent some time studying and was now watching Rufus devour some leftover nacos. Her mind wandered back to what Eric had said. She can do anything... Except finding her friend, it seemed.

Three weeks ago.

"Uhh.. Dash? Could I talk to you for a second?" Kim asked softly. Felix, Rufus and Crash had gone to the counter for a new set of nacos and Burn had left as soon as he had heard of her father's sitch. Dash fixed his eyes on her.

"Sure, Ms. Possible. What is it?" His dark voice seemed a bit more friendly now that they had settled their differences.

"Well... I was wondering, uhm... Do you do... a lot of... missing persons cases?" Dash seemed to know what she was talking about, not surprisingly.

"We usually don't do investigative work, so I can't say that I'm an expert. You were thinking about your partner?" Kim nodded at his question, but stayed silent. Dash took a breath.

"I'm assuming you've checked out his enemies?" He asked. Kim nodded.

She had. But no one seemed to have anything to do with it. Monkey Fist, the most likely to kidnap Ron, was still stuck with DNAmy in the jungle. Drakken and Shego had just been busted by Team Impossible, and Kim had taken the time to investigate their last lair while she had the chance. She'd come up short. Shego even looked surprised at the implication. Sure, they had escaped just two days later, but Kim was fairly confident that they didn't have anything to do with it.

After that, it got more strained. Adrena Lynn, Gill and Fukushima, who had real grudges, were in prison. SeƱor Senior, Sr had some respect for Ron, but holding someone kidnapped and not asking for ransom wasn't his style. Killigan, Motor Ed and Dementor had alibis.

"It is possible that he hasn't been kidnapped, you know", Dash said. She didn't want to think that he had run away, but she knew Dash was just trying to help. "Have you talked to his friends and allies?"

Of course, Kim had done that too. Everyone of her contacts had been asked to keep an eye out for Ron, but no one had seen him. Not even Global Justice had any leads. She didn't think that anyone of them wouldn't tell her if he'd contacted them, most of them viewed him with the same skepticism as the rest of the world. Except...

"Have you ever heard of... someone being forced into service? I mean... for the good guys?" Kim asked. Dash frowned.

"It's not common... Usually that kind of force are about forcing kids to fight in wars, like in Sudan and Rwanda and the like. But if someone, even on the side of the angels, thought that it was an opportunity they couldn't miss... I wouldn't be surprised. He is some sort of master of monkey kung fu, right?" Dash looked inquisitively at her. Kim's visage darkened.

But even Dash's help hadn't done much for her in the end, she thought as she lay on the bed, remembering. Instead, she had almost made the biggest mistake of her life.

Kim moved silently up the mountain. She had ditched her usual mission clothes for a real ninja outfit for this mission, which could very well be the most dangerous mission she'd ever do. Infiltrating a secret ninja school... Not the same as jumping through a vent and crawling through air ducts.

She was also alone in this. Felix was good, but he wasn't up to Ron's level, and even Ron would have problems with this. Rufus had been pretty vocal about her being wrong, so she had just left him behind.

As she neared the school, she decided against going straight through the huge gate. Instead, she climbed the wall of the nearest house, a hard feat without her grappler gun. She reached the roof and proceeded to jump across to the next building, making her way towards the largest building. She made it as far as she could, then silently made her way to the ground. She would have to cross the yard to get to it. This was the most dangerous part.

She had made it half way when she heard a wind chime make a slight sound. Odd, she thought, she didn't even feel a breeze...

She turned around and was shocked at the sight. At least twenty ninjas had silently appeared behind her. She turned around again and saw twenty more ninjas ahead of her, jumping in from all sides and directions. Her eyes narrowed and she frowned beneath her mask. This was not going to be easy.

She made a break for it and ran towards the large building. She knew she wouldn't stand a chance against all of them, better to try to try to get past them. She duck several punches and kicks, and had only a few yards to go when a kick finally connected with her back, sending her flying to the ground. Within a second, she was held in place by several ninjas, who wouldn't give her an inch to work with. She stared ahead, as she saw Sensei walking out of the building. His face was calm, but there was a look in his eyes she hadn't seen before. Granted, she had never seen how he looked when his school was invaded.

"I must warn you", Sensei said with a stern tone, "that we punish those who invade and attack our school severely. However, the punishment for lying is much worse. So I advise you to answer truthfully when I ask you why you have foolishly tried to take us by surprise." Kim stared back at him.

"Where's Ron?" She asked defiantly. Sensei raised his eyebrows in confusion. He looked over to the ninja next to him and nodded. The ninja walked over to Kim, grabbed the mask and pulled it off. The ninja gasped when she saw Kim's face, and Sensei frowned. He nodded again, and the ninjas pinning Kim down let her go at once. Slowly, Kim stood. Sensei gazed around the yard.

"Those of you on guard, return to your station. Those of you not, return to your rooms", he said, and in just a few seconds the yard was as empty as it had been. Only Kim, Sensei and the ninja Sensei had ordered to unmask Kim remained, but Kim was sure that they were still being watched.

"Possible-San, why do you come to us in the middle of the night to inquire about Stoppable-San?" This was not what Kim had expected. She didn't think that they would admit he was here, but their confusion seemed genuine.

"I... I thought he was here?" She responded. Sensei looked over to the ninja, who promptly removed the mask she was wearing. As Kim expected, it was Yori who stared back at her.

"Why would he be here at Yamanouchi, Possible-San? And why did you not simply contact us instead of infiltrating us?" The young ninja's tone of voice almost approached anger as she spoke.

"Yori!" Would you please go boil some tea for us, I wish to speak to Possible-San alone", Sensei spoke. Yori bowed her head, uttered a quick "Hai, Sensei", before leaving them.

Kim and Sensei walked into a small pagoda next to the main building. Sensei motioned for her to sit down on a pillow on the floor. After a while, Yori arrived with the tea and left just as promptly. Sensei sipped the tea before looking at Kim again.

"Possible-San. What is the reason for your visit?" He asked, his tone now kinder and more collected than before. Kim proceeded to tell him about Ron's disappearance, how she had searched for him and her decision to search through Yamanouchi, believing that he had been taken there to complete his ninja training. Sensei frowned.

"You know of this school, Possible-San. If Stoppable-San had returned to us, we would not force him to keep his return a secret to his family or friends.. Nor would we take him by force", he said. Kim hadn't implied that he'd been taken by force, but Sensei knew it had to be on her mind. Kim's posture softened.

"I... I didn't want to believe it, but... But I'm just... I don't know what to do anymore, Sensei. I've tried everything I can think of and I still can't find him!" Kim looked down on the table. She hadn't touched her tea yet, and wasn't in the mood to do so. Sensei pondered.

"If you so wish, I could attempt to find him," he said, finally. Kim looked up. How would...

"You... You mean... that ghost thing you do?" A new hope was born in her. Sensei nodded. Kim nodded fervently in return.

Sensei assumed the lotus position. Kim watched him silently. After a few minutes, he opened his eyes again. He looked dejected.

"It appears that I can not find Stoppable-San. I apologize for my failure, Possible-San." Kim lowered her head. So close... Tears were forming now. She looked back up.

"What does that mean, Sensei?" She asked, trying to regain her composure.

"There are ways to foil astral detection", Sensei answered. "Specific meditative techniques, unconsciousness, certain drugs, certain scientific apparatus... As well as the fact that he possesses the mystical monkey power, which could conceivable make his mind look more like a monkey than human to me, if he so wished and knew how to do it." Square one, Kim thought. Either he'd been kidnapped or he didn't want to be found. He took a deep breath. There was still one possibility she didn't want to think of.

"Sensei...could... if he... if he was... dead... would you know?" Sensei looked away, pondered his answer for a while, then looked back.

"If Stoppable-San had perished... the results of my search would be the same as any of these other methods to foil detection", he spoke. "However... he is a monkey master. I could not imagine that his death would not be noticed by me." Kim breathed a sigh of relief. Thank God for the monkey powers, she thought. Sensei finished his tea, which had almost gone cold. He looked back at her.

"Do you wish to stay here for the night, Possible-San? It is a long walk down the mountain."

"I... I think I've used up your hospitality, really. I am so sorry for that, by the way", Kim said and bowed her head. Sensei returned the bow.

"Think nothing of it, Possible-San. I would not expect you to do anything less if you believed he was in danger." Sensei got up, and they walked out of the pagoda. Kim decided to spend the night, although she did not get much sleep. The next day she returned to Middleton, even more sad than when she had left.

Kim almost started to cry when she remembered her visit to Yamanouchi. Rufus was lying next to her, patting her right hand , trying to soothe her. She returned the favor.
"And this is supposed to get easier?" She muttered.

"Dunno. Try?" Rufus responded. Kim looked at him. Rufus had been sad the last few weeks too, but he was always by her side when she needed some help.

"I guess... But how?" she asked. Rufus shrugged.

"Talk?" he tried. Kim winced. Everyone wanted her to talk about it, but she didn't feel like they could help. They were dealing with their own grief, just like she was. Even her father had chewed out the tweebs when they had made a comment on Ron's disappearance, and Kim had the feeling it wasn't just for her benefit that he had done so.

Therapists was out of the questions. She had tried an appointment, but when the discussion shifted to why she was doing missions at all, she felt uncomfortable. She wanted help, not end up as a psychological study on the effects of heroics or something.

She sat up. Why not, she thought, as she reached for the phone and dialed.

"Hi, Eric... It's... It's Kim Possible... You said that I could talk to you?"