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Angels Walk among Us

Tara remained hidden in the trees until Bev and Crystal were back at the lodge, then found Ron. "What happened? You and Hope didn't make it back with the rest of us."

"Crystal said some part broke. Bev is trying to get a new one."

"So, you're stranded?"

"Sure looks that way."

"Where's Hope?"

Ron turned around and peered at the lift benches behind him, "It appears I have no Hope. She was looking for her cell phone. The lift must have broken down before she got on."

"Maybe I can fix it and get you down."

"Uh, Tara? Thanks, but no thanks. You might just mess it up worse and then Bev won't be able to fix it."

"Let me look."

"Hey, not a good idea," he shouted as Tara disappeared into the shack.

Tara knew the diesel engine wasn't broken. Unfortunately she couldn't start the engine, nor could she have engaged the lift machinery if she had. She stared at the mechanism for a minute, then looked around the shack for something that might be useful.

"You didn't break anything did you?" Ron shouted as Tara trudged back.

"No, too complicated for me. Found a rope," she pointed to the coil of yellow nylon rope over her shoulder, "and a wrench." She waved the wrench in the air.

"How do you use a wrench on a rope?"

"I can't throw a rope that high. But maybe if I tie the wrench to it and I can throw it to you and you can climb down."

"Maybe I should wait until they see if they've got the part."

"You don't know that will take. Besides, it might be funny. You climb down, we put the rope away and they think you can fly."

Ron laughed, "Okay, just don't hurt yourself swinging that wrench."

On Tara's third attempt Ron caught the wrench tied to the rope. He pulled up the rope, shouted, "Look out below!" and dropped the wrench. He looped the rope over the seat of the lift bench, tied the ends together, and as Tara watched anxiously he shinnied down, untied the knot, and pulled the rope down.

"You make it look easy," she said in awe.

Ron grinned, "Piece of cake compared with the things I had to do with Kim."

"Let's put this stuff away and see if Bonnie is still playing Linda," Tara suggested.

"Shouldn't I look for Crystal and tell her not to worry?"

"Ron, promise me you won't tell anyone I helped you down?"

"Why not?"

"I think the mystery would be funny. Let people guess how you did it."

"That's silly."

"Please? I just saved you from being stuck up there for who knows how long."

"Okay, I owe you one. Your wish is my command."

Linda breathed a sigh of relief as she saw Tara and Ron approaching the court, and missed a hard return shot from Bonnie.

"How was the mountain?" Bonnie asked as the two sat on a bench to the side.

"Beautiful," Tara assured her. "You should have gone."

"Then I couldn't have gotten whipped in tennis by Linda."

"How is Bonnie playing?"

"Better than I expected," Linda told Ron. "Your girlfriend is really good."

"Girlfriend?" Bonnie asked in surprise.

"Sorry, Kim told me. She swore me to secrecy. Can I plead this doesn't count since you already know?"

"I guess," Bonnie sighed. "I wonder how many others Kim has sworn to secrecy."

"Probably no one," Linda assured her. "I had a little heart to heart with her this morning and it sort of came out."

Bonnie shrugged, "Can't do anything about it now."

"Come on, I need to beat you two more games for set and match."

"Ha! It's going to take you more than two games, I'm going to win another one or two."

Both women were dripping by the time the match ended. "How was I?" Bonnie asked eagerly.

Linda patted her on the shoulder, "Girl, you should have played in high school. We could have had the state women's doubles title if we'd been together."

Bonnie beamed at the compliment.

Ron looked at his watch, "Oops, dinner in forty-five minutes. And you two need a serious shower if you want to eat dinner with the rest of us."

"A shower, for the two of us?" Linda replied, "sounds like the girls' locker room after cheerleading practice." She gave Bonnie an exaggerated wink, "You wash my back, I'll wash yours."

Bonnie laughed, "Sorry, that falls under the category of boyfriend's job. Hey, Ron, maybe if we sneak into the lodge quietly enough, you can fulfill your duty."

Tara and Linda lagged behind Ron and Bonnie on the way back. "How did it go?" the black woman asked.

"It went okay. Ron said he wouldn't tell anyone I helped him down. We're just going to leave it a mystery."

Kim joined the others in the lounge after her hike. The others expected her to ask about Ron, and weren't sure what it meant when she didn't. The conversation seemed a little strained to the redhead.

Hope had four blisters on her feet when she arrived back at the lodge. The only comfort she had was the knowledge Ron was even more uncomfortable. She hobbled into the lounge and ordered a large Margarita to help with the pain.

Kim showed the most sympathy for her plight.

Maggie cleared her throat, "Crystal, shouldn't you see if Beverly got the part she needed to fix the chairlift?"

Hope was not in a good position to demand, 'No, wait another hour,' but objected with, "I'm sure Bev will let you know."

"It doesn't hurt to check," Liz insisted. Even if Crystal had wanted to wait longer there was no longer a good way to do it with Kim there. Crystal stood up and went in search of her friend, hurrying as slowly as possible.

Crystal came back twenty-five minutes later, looking a little worried.

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing," she snapped, "Nothing at all. Chairlift is working fine."

Kim turned to Hope, "A shame it broke down and you had to hike down."

Fifteen minutes later Kim went back to the bar for another cranberry juice and seltzer. "What's wrong," Marcella hissed at Crystal.

"Ron's gone."


"He wasn't up in the chair lift."

"He didn't fall, did he?"

"No, there was nothing. It was just weird."

There was a minute of silence. "All right, who helped him?" Hope demanded.

"What do you-" Jessica began to protest, then fell silent as Kim returned with her drink.

Kim talked about the hike up the mountain. No one else wanted to join the conversation. They glanced around at each other, Hope was right - someone helped Ron. Kim and Hope could not have done it. Linda had been keeping Bonnie occupied. Tara was even further out of the loop than usual… They tried to remember if any one had taken a longer than expected break from the rest of them. A couple of them assumed it must have been Beverly, but suspicion hung heavily over Liz and Maggie who had objected the most. Jessica and Marcella also drew attention to themselves by encouraging Kim to talk about her work for Global Justice. What had begun ostensibly as a plan to punish Ron and Bonnie for their perceived mistreatment of Kim had changed the group dynamics so that being friendly with Kim marked them as potential traitors to the others.

Crystal's obligations to her family kept her from eating dinner with the rest. Ron's promise to Tara kept him from bringing up the chairlift story, and a fear of revealing too much kept the conspirators from quizzing him about how he got down. Ron felt some disappointment that it wasn't the center of the conversation. And Linda and Tara smiled as they watched the others glance at Ron and then nervously look around at each other.

After dinner they moved to the lounge. Bonnie hoped to avoid the appearance of evil by suggesting Kim and Ron sit together on one couch, but the way Tara eagerly sat by the brunette caused some stares. Linda had a bad feeling about this, but didn't know what to do. When the waitress came over Maggie asked about setting up a tab for the group, and was told their drinks for the evening had been taken care of.

"Crystal's folks," Jessica guessed, "they were great hosts when we had parties over there."

Marcella spoke up, "I'm gonna guess Tony's folks, Crystal's too smart to fall for a guy without money."

Maggie shook her head sadly at Marcella's comment, "You are evil," and ordered a glass of white wine.

A couple women didn't want to run up the bill for their unknown host and kept their orders simple. A couple women figured if someone else was paying for it they could order some exotic drinks they hadn't tried before.

Bonnie, who had instructed the bartender to put the evening's drinks on her bill, laughed and told Kim, "I found a drink you need to try, it's called a green widow."

Bonnie and Kim both ordered green widows, and Linda's fears were confirmed when Tara did also.

Bonnie tried to warn her against it, "You won't like it, it's too strong for you."

"If you recommend it to Kim I want to try it."

Bonnie sighed, the blonde usually stuck with soda. Bonnie had once seen Tara become giddy on two small glasses of wine.

The waitress went to the bar with their orders, and Hope went with her.

"I really can carry all the drinks," the waitress assured her.

"Probably, but there are so many of us I just want to be helpful."

"Hey, Bonnie," Hope called, "the bartender has a question about your green widow."

"He's never heard of it before?"

"No, he knows two of them. You want the one with curaçao and banana liqueur or the one with gin and peppermint liqueur?"

"Peppermint. Banana sounds gross."

Linda watched, feeling helpless, as Hope and the waitress brought the drinks back to the group. She gave Tara credit, even though she was watching for the blonde to switch drinks with Bonnie it was done so naturally Linda almost missed it.

Bonnie caught Kim's attention, "To green widows, may the children not leave them too exhausted." The other former cheerleaders weren't certain why the four who had traveled from Middleton laughed so hard at the toast.

Crystal arrived only a few minutes after the drinks.

The night before had been devoted to where people were now and what they were doing. Tonight seemed set apart for reminiscing about high school. They remembered every victory in every sport, and perhaps remembered more victories than the record books would show for the Middleton athletic teams. They shared any information they had on other girls who had been on the cheerleading squad at different times during what they called, 'The Kim Possible Era'.

They were ready to start on 'Most embarrassing moments in high school,' when Liz asked, "Should we order another round before we hear about which of Ron's accidents with his pants he considers the most embarrassing?"

Kim went back to her cranberry juice and seltzer. Tara waited until Bonnie had ordered a toreador and asked what was in it. "Whipped cream and crème de cacao sound like fun. I'll have one too."

"I don't think you'll care for the tequila in it," Bonnie told her.

"I never get to try any interesting drinks in Middleton, you know fun things to order," Tara protested.

"You're going to make me sound like a drunk," the brunette grumbled.

Linda could follow Tara's sleight of hand more easily this time. Fortunately the drink was smaller and so there was less room to hide vodka.

To Ron's slight discomfort the topic evolved from 'my most embarrassing moment' to 'my favorite story about Ron losing his pants'. Marcella appeared to have the best tale. In tenth grade American History he had just presented a report on why the South felt justified in leaving the United States in the Civil War and walked back to his desk, leaving his pants caught on the podium. "And the next day," Marcella solemnly informed the others, "Mrs. Knutson announced she was retiring from teaching history."

"A little help here, KP," Ron hissed at Kim.

"That's nothing," Kim informed the others, "let me tell you about the time we had to go after Professor Dementor in India and…"

"Not that one," Ron groaned.

Bonnie ordered a pogo stick for the third round, and Tara followed her again. "You're a lightweight," Bonnie reminded her, "you shouldn't try and keep up with me."

At least Linda offered her help that time. "Oh, that looks like fun," she told Tara after the drinks were switched. "Would you trade with me?"

Tara looked distinctly grateful as she traded glasses with Linda and took the black woman's ginger ale.

No one was drinking quickly. Given how long they sat and talked between ordering rounds if is doubtful if any of those who were drinking would have hit the legal limit of intoxication if the drinks had been prepared properly.

Linda didn't care for the grapefruit juice in the pogo stick, and could tell it was strong. She couldn't reasonably order another drink with her glass two-thirds full when Bonnie ordered a Jamaica green. Linda said a little prayer, hoping Tara had the good sense to let Bonnie drink the high octane cocktail herself. Good sense, unfortunately, had never been Tara's forte.

The blonde woman had joined in the reminiscing about cheerleading and sports at first. As the hours passed, however, she found herself wanting to start singing whenever someone said something which reminded her of a song. And it seemed like almost everyone said something which reminded her of a song. She appreciated Linda giving her a break on the third round.

Hope felt frustrated that this plan appeared to be going nowhere. She had put enough extra alcohol in Bonnie's drinks that, even at the slow pace people were drinking the actress should be showing some sort of symptoms.

Linda groaned at how poorly Tara made the switch of the glasses. The blonde's motor skills were seriously diminished and only the fact no one suspected her of doing anything kept her from being discovered.

Tara began giggling for no apparent reason while Maggie described her mother's recent surgery. Bonnie frowned and took Tara's drink away. The blonde thought of something terribly rude and funny to say, but passed out instead.

Bonnie and Linda took Tara back to the room.

Tara's eyes opened in fright when they laid her down. "The bed's moving!"

"Bed spins," Linda muttered, "not good." Linda told Bonnie to go back to the others, she'd stay and watch Tara.

Tara's tremendous headache the next day wasn't made easier to bear by Bonnie scolding her for drinking too much.

Linda considered punching Bonnie or joining the conspiracy against her for the way she treated Tara, but the blonde reminded her that Bonnie had tried to warn her against drinking too much and it looked like Tara had shown no sense in her drinking.

"Please, let me tell her," Linda begged. "She needs to know."

"No, she doesn't," Tara insisted. "She thinks I can't keep a secret."

"Some secrets shouldn't be kept."

"I'll know I can. Besides, she'd just get into a big fight with Hope if you told her. We don't want that. We're here for Crystal."

"God, I hope I can find someone as nice as you."

"I'm sure he's out there for you."

Tara could not understand Linda's odd laugh.

The conspiracy collapsed under its own weight. Several women wondered how Hope could have screwed up who she gave the spiked drinks to, and one or two half wondered if she had done it to Tara on purpose. The burden of resentment had shifted away from Bonnie, and as Hope limped on her blistered feet the other ex-conspirators felt like she brought it on herself.

After the wedding there were hugs, and kisses, and tears as everyone prepared to leave for the airport. To Bonnie's despair Ron took the Mad Dog head out of the trunk and everyone had her picture taken with him.

The four returning to Middleton had the earliest flight and had to leave first.

Tara closed her eyes and gently rubbed her temples as they pulled onto the road.

"You okay," Ron asked sympathetically.

"Not really," Tara groaned, "but I'll live."

Bonnie started to open her mouth with another, "I warned you to not drink," but thought better of it and said nothing. She had already reminded Tara of that fact several times and would let the hangover be sufficient punishment. "I'm just glad she didn't do anything to mess up the weekend for the rest of us."

"A sound head, an honest heart, and an humble spirit are the three best guides through time and to eternity" -Walter Scott

-The End-