"Did you guys think Ron was acting a little weird tonight?"
It was the Saturday before Memorial Day and Kim was taking advantage of the long weekend to come home from college for more than just a few hours, the first time she had done so since heading off to California more than a year and a half ago. Between her missions and the extra days she had to put in at school because of them she simply didn't have the time. Usually she stopped in when she was meeting up with or dropping off Ron on one of the infrequent occasions when time and circumstance allowed them to get the same ride to or from a mission. But she had spent the last three weeks working overtime to ensure that this weekend would be clear. She had even cut half of her classes yesterday to stretch the three day weekend out a little bit longer. Now they sat in the living room after dinner. Ron had left only a few minutes ago and Kim was reflecting on his odd behavior. At least it seemed odd to her.
"You know me, Kimmy Cub," her father said from behind his newspaper. "I've always thought Ronald was a bit off."
Anne gave her husband one of her trademark looks that said either to stop being silly or to wake up and join the moment, or on rare occasion, both. She also knew it was capable of penetrating his detachment, newspaper or not. After noticing the slight droop in the paper that told her the look had made it's impact on him, she turned her gaze to Kim.
"What do you mean, dear?"
"Well he just seemed…I don't know…clingy. Like a shadow. Like there was a two foot long tether attached to us. Or even Dementor's Bondo Ball." She shuddered at the memory of being joined to Bonnie, quite literally at the hip, for several days. Though she always found it funny to think about how that incident hadn't raised her Dad's eyebrows a bit (like most of her unusual mission induced situations) and how a simple matter of timing had stuck her with Bonnie instead of Ron. She was quite sure he would not have remained as impassive then.
"I suppose he did seem to be hovering a little."
"A little? He was practically a helicopter."
"Why do you think he was doing that?"
"With Ron, there's no telling."
Anne looked askance at her husband, whom she knew wasn't nearly as disinterested in their conversation as he might seem. When the subject of boys and his daughter came up he was always more than attentive. She stood.
"Why don't we take a walk, dear?"
They stepped outside. The sky was just fading from purple to black above, but in the west the sun was half hidden by the horizon and cast a brilliant orange glow upon them.
"Now Ron would not approve of me having this conversation with you so this is just between us girls, okay?"
"Has Ron ever mentioned how much time he spends at our house?"
"No, not really."
"Well it could best be described as constant."
"If he's not at school or at work, he is almost exclusively with us."
"You know, I'm not sure. But I have a theory."
"Let me ask you something. How much time have you spent with Ron since you left for college?"
"I don't know. We go on missions all the time. Occasionally we get a layover where we can spend time together…"
"But alone, as a couple?"
"Well…A movie here and there. Dinner together."
"But a number of hours that wouldn't add up to a day."
She sighed, realizing that her mother was correct. She had never thought about it like that before. She was always too busy.
"I guess not."
"I didn't think so. Now Ron uses tutoring as his excuse to be here."
"He's never mentioned that?"
"No, never. Whenever I ask him about how school is going for him he gives me a generic answer and changes the subject."
"So then you're also not aware that Ron is an A-B student."
"Ron? My Ron?"
"Yes, and quite unhappy about it at times. He wants straight A's. He's always studying with one of us, usually Jim or Tim. He's very focused. I've tried to get him to engage in extracurricular activities, to try and make some friends. He's got no interest in that. He says 'I don't go to school to make friends, I go to school to make A's'."
"That so doesn't sound like Ron."
"Not to you. Doesn't that tell you something?"
"He's trying to hide that from me. But why?"
"If he told you, would you believe him?"
"Of course I would."
"Kim," she said in that mother's tone.
"Well…I don't know. Maybe I would just think he was trying to put up a brave front. To not worry me."
"That's what I thought. And though he hasn't said as much, I suspect that's the exact reason he hasn't said anything to you. I think he would rather show you through his actions. He hasn't ever seemed different to you?"
"Well…sometimes. Nothing that screams out at you. But he's not as clumsy. He's more helpful on missions. And sometimes he says things that don't sound so…Ronnish. I guess I've noticed that. His vocabulary has improved. But I guess I never put much thought into that."
"But here's the problem with his line of thinking. You're not around him enough to notice the changes. Only a handful of hours of contact close enough to allow you to notice in better than a year and a half. And that leads directly to his real reason for spending so much time here."
"I think it makes him feel closer to you. To be around us, to be around all of the memories he has of the two of you in our home. His preferred study spot is your desk."
"That's kind of creepy."
"No it's not. If he wandered around touching your things, perhaps. But he doesn't. He doesn't have time. All he has time for is study. I told you, he's very focused. But more important: he's lonely."
"Longing for you, Kim. I can see how much he loves you. How much he misses you. There is a great emptiness in his heart. I know because it's the same emptiness that's in mine whenever your father and I are separated for an extended time. Except his is greatly magnified. He's terrified, Kim. Terrified he's going to lose you."
"But we went through that at graduation. He knows he's not going to lose me."
"Does he? Imagine yourself as Ron for a moment. You're somewhat clumsy, not unattractive but also not a head turner. Far from unintelligent, but also not the brightest bulb on the tree. Fairly low on the social ladder. You're dating the very intelligent, very attractive, very popular international heroine Kim Possible. A Kim Possible who is halfway across the country where there are no doubt many very intelligent, very attractive, very popular young men vying for her attention. A Kim Possible who, despite assurances that she's not going to break up with you, has spent what amounts to virtually no time with you doing boyfriend-girlfriend things in going on two-years."
Kim stopped dead in her tracks, horrified both by the reality her mother had just presented her with, and by her failure to have noticed it on her own. She suddenly felt the terrible pain that Ron must feel and the realization that it was pain she had caused him nearly brought her to tears.
"I think I'm not good enough for her," she said, her voice just above a whisper. "I think that I have nothing to offer her and I can see she's growing apart from me. I think that if I don't do something to hold on to her, if I don't make myself good enough for her, eventually she'll be gone."
She looked up at her mother, despair written plainly on her face.
"What have I done? Mom what have I done? What do I do?"
She put her hand on her daughter's shoulder.
"Go to him, Kim. Be with him. You have to show him that he has nothing to worry about. Prove what he means to you. Only actions can do that."
Kim held her mother's gaze a moment more, hope starting to mix in with the despair in her eyes.
She turned and fled.
Kim lay awake on the couch in Ron's small apartment, unable to sleep. Her mind kept replaying the conversation she had earlier with her mother, followed by the image of Ron's face lighting like a gas accelerated flame when he opened the door and saw her standing there. Letting out an exasperated sigh, she threw aside the blanket and got up.
As she padded down the short hall towards Ron's bedroom, she felt some trepidation, unsure of whether or not this would simply be an exercise in making the both of them uncomfortable. She opened the door just enough to stick her head in.
"Ron, you still awake?" she asked sotto voce.
The darkness was unrelieved by the glowing red numerals on the alarm clock next to the bed, but she heard the rustling of bedclothes as Ron turned over. His voice held no trace of sleep.
"Yeah, whaddya need, Kim?"
She moved cautiously across the ink black room and sat on the edge of the bed.
"Well," she started nervously, "The couch uh…just…you know…uh kinda…isn't working for me. I thought…maybe um…you wouldn't mind…uh…sharing."
"Sharing?" he asked, momentarily confused. "You mean you want to sleep here?"
"If uh…it's not…too much trouble."
"Well, no…I…I guess I don't mind."
He slid sideways to make room for her and she climbed under the covers. The moment she did, the trepidation and nervousness left her, even after belatedly realizing that Ron wore only boxers when he slept. It seemed the most natural thing to lay there next to him and without conscious thought she snuggled close against his side and felt his arms around her.
"Guess not," she murmured, though apparently louder than she intended.
"I wasn't sure about this at first. I thought maybe you or I or both of us would feel uncomfortable."
"This is far from the first time we've cuddled, Kim."
"I know, but this is different."
"I don't see how."
Well, for starters…." She fingered the sparse hair that ran down his chest, then lay her palm flat against his chest over his heart. "And, the bed just makes it seem different."
"I've never known you to be a prude, Kim."
"I'm not. At first, it just seemed different for some reason. I don't know why."
"Feels perfectly natural to me."
"To me too. That's what I was thinking when I said 'guess not'."
He squeezed her, almost enough to hurt. "Oh, I've missed you, Kim."
"I've missed you too. I mean, this is the first time we've done anything meaningful just as a couple I think since I left for Cali."
"It is. Our last time alone together like this was…" he paused for a moment. "One year, nine months, two weeks, three days, and," he paused again, craning his neck to see the alarm clock, "Two hours ago, give or take a little."
"You remember that exactly?"
"We had dinner at Chez Couteoux. You wore your teal dress with the red inlay. Jade pumps. And the pearl earrings I got you for your birthday. You ordered the garlic and herb roasted chicken. The waiter brought you Caesar instead of Italian. After dinner I took you home. We curled up together in the den to watch The Princess Bride, but ended up talking about going off to college instead."
"How do you remember all that?"
"People always say how well you remember your best days. They don't say as much how well you remember your worst."
The simple expression of his most basic emotions nearly brought her to tears.
"Oh, Ron, I am so sorry."
"For going away. I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I thought I'd get home more."
"…Oh best laid plans, dreams dashed down on the dreary drums of the is and the is to come."
"T.S. Eliot. Talking about how the dreams and plans you make are often disrupted by reality."
"Since when do you go around quoting T.S. Eliot?"
"I don't. I guess that particular line just caught my attention and stuck."
"Okay, so since when do you read T.S. Eliot?"
"Part of the English curriculum at Middleton Tech."
"Where Mom says you're an A-B student. And yet you've never mentioned it."
"It's no big deal."
"It most certainly is. It's something I always knew you had in you but was never sure I'd see. Study must take up most of your free time."
"Well, C's and D's won't get you anywhere in life. And I don't plan on being a nobody. Play time's for kids, and I'm not a kid anymore."
"See, that's something I wouldn't have expected you to say. It's like watching you grow up."
"Just do me a favor, though."
"Don't forget about that kid. Be sure he knows when it's playtime and when it's not, but don't forget him. He's the better part of you."
"You think so?"
"Absolutely. He's why I love you. Annoyed when the child runs unchecked, yes. But he's the one I fell in love with."
"It means a lot to hear you say that, Kim."
"I hate I'm missing the transformation. I'd like to share that with you." She heaved a great sigh. "California. Oh, what was I thinking? And I was considering places like Hong Kong, London, and Venice! I didn't think about Mom and Dad, or the Tweebs. I didn't think about you."
"Shouldn't what, think about you? You're my boyfriend. I love you."
"Kim, I love you more that I thought it was possible to love someone. But eventually, I've got to accept that you're destined for bigger and better things than I am. You've got to follow your destiny. And if that means leaving me behind than-."
"No," she said sharply. "Stop it right there. Don't think that way, Ron."
"It's the 'is and the is to come'. Like Barken said, the center cannot hold. I won't hold you back."
"Ron, I refuse to let you talk this way."
"Shush! I'm talking now."
Her eyes had adapted to the darkness and she moved so she was half astride him, hands and arms on his chest. She could make out his face and she made sure they were eye to eye.
"Don't you talk like that. Don't you even think like that. We've always been together. And we're always going to be together. Now, I'm nowhere near ready for marriage, and neither are you. But anytime I think about myself being married, I automatically assume it will be to you. And if destiny one day asks me to go somewhere you can't follow, then destiny can kiss my ass. But that will never happen. Don't you see, Ron. You are my destiny. You have been since pre-k. And you will be until post-mortem."
"Kim, I…I don't…have the words."
"You don't need them."
"I just…I've been terrified…I mean we hardly ever see each other and I thought-"
"We went through this at graduation, baby. You're not going to lose me."
"That was before you left. I thought-"
"You thought wrong. Listen, here's what I'm going to do. It's always been Nana's intention for me to have her engagement ring. I'll take it back to Berkley with me, put it on, and never take it off. That way I've got a great big off-limits sign to anyone who thinks they might have a shot at me. What do you think?"
He brushed a stray strand of her hair back in place and caressed her face. He tried to keep the tremor out of his voice but failed. "I think…I think I love you."
They kissed. It was by far the most passionate Kim had ever experienced. The passion and intensity only built as the kiss drew out and when they finally broke, it was only long enough to gasp for breath and they were back at it.
Suddenly Kim realized why she had been uncomfortable in the hallway. She had been lying to herself. She had not gone to Ron's room simply to share his bed. From the moment she rose from the couch, her intention had been to make love to him, no doubt not one of the actions her mother had in mind when they were talking earlier. But with that realization also came the realization that she was desperate for him, absolutely had to have him and any doubt or hesitation that might have been left evaporated in the heat of her need as she climbed fully astride him. When next they broke for air she sat up and stripped out of her nightshirt in a swift fluid motion, eager to return to his lips. But Ron took her shoulders, being careful to look her only in the eyes.
"No, Kim. Wait."
She put a finger to his lips, expecting this, but no less moved by it.
"Ron, your protestations to the loss of my virtue and innocence are sweet and greatly appreciated. They are also given their due consideration and immediately discarded."
"I just don't want for either of us to end up regretting this in the morning."
"I think we would wake up and regret it if we didn't. With this we seal the deal. We are meant for each other and this is the right thing to do."
She returned to his lips, and he was hesitant at first, but slowly became more passionate.
He gave himself to her, and she gave herself to him. And in that final moment of pure bliss, she knew him in ways she wouldn't have imagined, knew his love for her, felt their hearts beating together, heard his voice in her mind, speaking without words.
And in the afterglow, they lay curled together, for the longest time saying nothing, afraid to break the spell that had been cast upon them. Finally, Ron traced Kim's brow and cheek with a finger.
"For a moment there, I was Kim," he said softly
"And for a moment I was Ron."
After a time, Kim realized Ron was ready again.
"Round two?" she asked him.
The line of poetry Ron quotes is not T.S. Eliot. It is entirely of my own creation as I couldn't think of a prominent poetic line that fit the situation. I attributed the line to Eliot for two reasons: 1. It sounds to me like something he might have said and 2. For some reason I can't see Kim being impressed by Ron's quoting of Otis Spofford.