She gripped the edge of the sink with one hand and closed her eyes. You can do this, she thought to herself. After all – anything's possible for a Possible. This did little to quell the nervous churnings of her stomach, but it did steel her resolve. She opened her eyes and jammed her electric toothbrush into her mouth. It was a rote habit to draw the vibrating bristle over each tooth – rear, to top, to front – which unfortunately gave her ample time to think.
There was a good deal that could go wrong in the morning. Her biggest worry was her alarm clock. She'd been meaning to get a new one, as her current monstrosity was somewhat like her younger brothers. It could be counted upon to be annoying, and sometimes it was responsible, but for the most part she wouldn't bet money on it working in her best interest. On any other morning she would have wholeheartedly relied on her internal clock, which had served her more faithfully than any electronic... but this upcoming morning would allow for no mistakes.
When she realized that she had scrubbed each tooth and was now just letting the toothbrush splatter excess froth around her mouth, she switched it off and spat into the sink. Opening the cabinet, she tugged out her bottle of mouth wash. It wasn't a part of her usual routine, but she wanted her smile tomorrow to be dazzling.
Her Kimmunicator jangled from the bedroom beyond her bathroom. Swishing the liquid through her mouth, she mentally took a bet on who was contacting her. It was probably one of two people, she determined. Either it was her mother calling to wish her good luck, or Ron to psyche her up. Part of her wished that her father would be the one calling, but he had taken it as a personal offense when she'd announced her plans.
When her mouth was clean to her specifications, Kim wiped her mouth on a towel and trotted into her bedroom. The Kimmunicator could wait. She dug through a few drawers and pulled out a pair of loose basketball shorts and a tank top. Her apartment got a little too toasty, even as the winters of Go City dipped below freezing. She neatly folded her dirty clothes and stacked them in the laundry basket.
Finally, when she was snuggled up under a comforter and propped up by her pillows, she reached for her Kimmunicator and checked her missed call. Her mother. She sighed deeply – on the one hand she wanted to get last minute advice from her mother, but on the other her mother was likely to only add to the stress of the event. But if she didn't ring back, then it was likely the woman would call again and again until Kim picked up.
"Kimberly!" Ann Possible would have beamed through the phone if she could. Instead she settled on infusing her voice with as much enthusiasm as she could muster. "I hope you're on your way to sleep, young lady."
"Yes, mom. Actually curled up in bed right now."
"Oh! Well, I'm glad I caught you. It's good you're getting a full night's sleep. Do you have the directions for tomorrow?"
"I do." Kim glanced over at her bedside table. A folded up piece of paper stuck up out of a drawer. She reached over to touch it, to make sure it was real and there. "They're sitting right beside me."
"Good. Now remember…"
As Ann droned on through the bits of advice she had already given her daughter, Kim settled her eyes on the ceiling and began running through what she had to do in the morning. The first step was making sure she was awake on time. She would ask Ann about that as soon as Ann finished her helpful tirade. Step two was, bypassing the obvious necessities of getting ready for the day, making her way to the nearby subway station. The E3 left every fifteen minutes. Though she was building in enough emergency time, she hoped to not miss the first one.
"…and remember that they want you to succeed just as much as you want to succeed."
"Hey, mom, can you do me a favor?"
"Anything for you, you know that."
"So not the drama or anything, but could you call me at six thirty, just to make sure I'm awake?"
"Of course, honey."
"Thanks. Just haven't had the heart to get rid of this old piece of junk."
"You could always ask us for one…"
Kim shook her head slowly. Though her parents had always made it clear that they would financially support their offspring, Kim wanted to be as independent as possible. Of course she accepted the occasional spot of help when she was struggling, but she didn't work two jobs to ask her parents for a new alarm clock. It just wasn't on the top of her list of priorities.
"I'll be okay, mom. Really. I normally wake myself up at six anyways, alarm or no alarm. It's just I don't want to take chances tomorrow."
"You're going to be fine."
"I know." Kim feigned a yawn, hoping the simple noise would alert her mother that the conversation should end.
"Listen to me blathering on when you're probably as ready as you'll ever be." Ann mused. "You've always been that way, even when you were a little girl. You probably don't remember it, but you started begging me to let you go to school when you were just three years old."
Kim did actually remember that and indulged her mother with a small chuckle. "I'm glad that some things never change."
"Just show them how great you are. They'd be foolish to pass you up."
Underlying her mother's words Kim sensed an anxious expectation. Her parents had always wanted her to do well, and were there for her when she failed – but despite their words, their support had always been tinged with a covert disappointment. It was as if they expected more from her and could only blame themselves when she couldn't do something as well as they dreamed.
"I know, mom." Kim insisted. Her prediction, it seemed, was coming true. The pit of anxiety in her stomach was widening and deepening with every passing second.
"Well, I'm proud of you no matter what. And so is your father."
A moment of silence passed between them before Kim spoke. "That's not entirely true."
"Oh, he'll get over it. He's got two rocket scientists starting college next fall. He's got to let me have one doctor. Otherwise it wouldn't be fair, would it?"
Kim blinked, suddenly aware of sparse moisture lining her eyes. Her success just wasn't enough, she realized. It probably never would be. James Possible would always secretly be disappointed that she didn't like the math and engineering that went with his field. Sometimes she wondered if she should have even pursued medical school, although it truly was her passion. After spending her teenage years helping people around the globe, it felt like a natural transition: from helping people to helping people.
"You're right." Kim kept her voice steady.
"Now get to bed. I love you."
"Love you, too."
Kim disconnected the call and tossed the Kimmunicator to the side. It landed next to her pillow, just beside her alarm clock. Why, she wondered, did Wade build such a brilliant machine, but neglect such a simple function as an alarm?She sighed and wriggled down under the sheets. It took a while – approximately forty-one minutes and twenty seconds by her count – but she eventually drifted off to sleep.
Her eyes opened and she felt like she hadn't slept at all. She bit back a groan and rolled over to look at her alarm clock. It was five until six. Rolling her eyes, she turned the alarm off before it could ring and pulled back the covers. Once she was free of her bed sheets, she pulled them up and tugged out the wrinkles.
In the shower she ran over what she wanted to talk about. Though she wanted to expound upon her years as a teen hero, her mother insisted that it was more important that she discuss the time she'd spent shadowing doctors at the hospital, or that internship she'd had the previous summer with the local family doctor. That felt too average, she thought – but then again, Ann had done it before, and had made it into one of the country's best medical schools.
She toweled herself off and returned to the mirror. Her mantra ran through her head. She could do anything. Less than assured, she traipsed to her closet and sorted through the various clothings therein until she found an outfit that appealed to her: a form-fitting black pencil skirt, a white button up blouse with poofing sleeves, and a pair of appropriate heels. She tugged the clothing on and returned to the mirror to debate hairstyles. Hair down was more attractive, but – she tugged her hair back from her face into a ponytail – up-dos tended to be more formal.
Her Kimmunicator rang incessantly and she darted to pick it up. The walls of her apartment were thin and she would hate to unnecessarily disturb her neighbors. Ann was glad to find her awake and thankfully wasted none of Kim's time. Kim dug out a simple dark purse and tucked her belongings into it, the Kimmunicator included.
She paused at the front door and reminded herself again that nothing was impossible for a Possible. Nodding firmly, she exited her apartment and locked the door behind her.
"You did it!"
Kim held the Kimmunicator away from her ear. Ron's exuberance, though appreciated, was louder than expected. When he quieted, she returned the phone to its original resting place. "I did. I think I really did."
"That's the bomdiggity."
"Have I ever told you how much I'd hoped you'd grow out of that saying?"
He laughed wholeheartedly. "Meet me tonight for drinks. On me this time!"
She rolled her eyes. The day that Ron Stoppable paid for his own drinks was the day that she shaved her head. "We don't even know if I got in…"
"Wow." Ron was raising his eyebrows, Kim could just tell. "Way to take something mega awesome and bring it down to boresville. Not today Ms. Possible! Meet me at Bonnie's at eight."
"Does it have to be Bonnie's?" Kim groaned.
"Hey – stop complaining. We get discounted drinks, remember?"
"I thought you were taking me out to celebrate…?"
"I am, but you gotta remember the Ron-man's budget." He wheedled. "Besides, she runs the only bar in town that let's Rufus in."
"He's a health hazard waiting to happen." Kim hedged.
"Fine…" Ron's voice dripped with overdramatic disappointment. "Where do you want to go?"
"Look, if it matters that much to you, let's just go to Bonnie's."
He pumped his fist into the air and let out a hearty, "Booyah!"
"Grow up, will you?"
"No thanks. You've done more than enough of that for both of us, my dear Possible."
"How is it that you're graduating?"
"I've had the best tutor in Go City." He boasted. "Besides, I had some hot lady professors. Nobody can resist my charms."
She snorted. "Well, try to keep your charms in your pants tonight, okay?"
"But- but what if there's…"
"No 'buts,' Ron. If this is going to be a celebration of me making it through the world's toughest medical school interview, then I demand you don't spend it with your tongue down some chick's throat."
He sighed. "Gotta kill the fun, don't you?"
"I'll see you later, Ron."
He grunted in reply, so she hung up and flopped back onto her bedspread. It was over, she thought with relief flooding her. She'd been on time – ten minutes early in fact, and that was even after getting lost once. No matter how many years she'd spent in the city, she always managed to find a wrong turn to take. The interviewers seemed to love her, and they were just as interested in her adventuring as they were in her work experience.
By her determination, the school was a perfect fit for her. All that she needed was for the board of admissions to give her their approval. Please, she begged her ceiling, give me this one thing and I promise that I won't waste the opportunity. She rolled onto her stomach and stared at the Kimmunicator. She ought to call her mom and tell her how things went.
Instead she went to her kitchenette and made herself a sandwich. Her mother could wait. She'd probably bring up all sorts of little things, and Kim was in no mood to hear about reality. Ann would likely critique the manner in which Kim spoke, or tell her that things didn't go as well as she thought they had. Just a little while longer on cloud nine – that was what Kim wanted.
Ron drew her attention to a small booth. He jumped up to hug her tightly when she approached. She was pleasantly surprised to find Monique with him. She too hugged Kim and offered congratulations.
"Just so we're all clear, I only had an interview. I won't know their decision for another couple months."
"Psh." Monique flipped her hand. "Girl, who would turn away the Kim Possible?"
Kim felt that odd twinge of expectation again. She swallowed, trying to remove the lump building in her throat. "So what are you doing all the way out here in Go City?"
"I was looking at transferring into the university." Monique offered by way of explanation. She dug her fingers into the bowl of bar nuts. "I figured it was about time."
Kim nodded. Monique had initially decided to skip on the whole college experience, but found that jobs without a degree just didn't put her where she wanted to be. She'd signed up for courses at Middleton's community college, and Kim was glad that her friend was finally looking to move up to a more prestige school.
"I ran into her down in the quad." Ron flagged down a waitress. "Head's up, good lookin' lady."
Kim cut him off before he could really get started. "I'll have a screwdriver."
While the other two placed their orders and flashed their IDs, Kim glanced around the bar. With a little bit of luck, the bar's namesake wouldn't be around. She practically groaned when the other woman stared directly back at her. Once eye contact was made, it would be impossible to avoid some sort of nicety. Bonnie stood and stalked over to their table.
"Well look who's here."
Kim couldn't help but eye Bonnie's low cut teal blouse. She knew, instinctively, that Ron was mirroring her and the thought made her want to laugh. Had Bonnie been any other woman, she and Ron might have had to fight over who got first dibs. But the fact remained: though they had grown up significantly since high school, Bonnie was still in essence Bonnie.
"Hey, Bonnie." Ron greeted. He was unabashed in his survey of her figure.
She soaked in the attention and turned to Kim. "Hardly see you around anymore."
"I was pretty busy studying for the MCATs." Kim kept her eyes on Bonnie's face. She had gone down the path of checking Bonnie out before and it had ended poorly. So poorly in fact, that she'd woken up in Bonnie's bed.
"Did you get in, then?" Bonnie intercepted the waitress as the woman tried to deliver the table's drinks. She informed the woman that the round of drinks was on the house and set about giving each person his or her order. The dim light glimmered off of her wedding band.
Kim shook her head. "Not yet. But I did well at my interview today."
Things between them since high school had become civil enough. Despite Bonnie's open hostility during their final semester, something had changed. Bonnie was missing from school for close to a week and when she returned she had almost felt like a different person. Though Kim would never call Bonnie her friend, the other woman's jibes at her seemed half-hearted and just for show. The month after graduation, Bonnie had landed what she'd always hoped for: a rich older gentleman willing to give her money. He'd certainly had enough of it, and it was with that money that Bonnie had opened her bar. She was no longer openly hostile to Kim – the competition, as she saw it, was over. Kim was in college and she was taken care of.
"Well congratulations on that." Bonnie saw Kim's eyes flicker to her wedding band and turned her attention back to Ron. Ron was an easier target.
"I'll see you later."
Ron watched Bonnie slink away from the table, his eyes transfixed on the sway of her hips. "Is it just me or does she keep getting hotter?"
Monique shrugged. "Easy there, tiger."
"Married, Ron. She's married." Kim reminded him.
"Didn't stop you, did it?"
She flushed. "That was a mistake. How many times do I have to tell you that? She got me drunk."
Monique sipped her drink. "Seems to me that she's got everything she wants and can do whatever she wants. I don't think being married stopped any part of her spoiled behavior."
"Exactly." Kim nursed her drink. "Can we stop talking about her and start celebrating? I'm tired of Bonnie always looming over and stealing the spotlight."
"Ah, but she does it so well." Ron sighed wistfully. He seemed to forget the torture she had inflicted upon him in high school.
By the end of the night, Kim had to wrangle Ron from the bar. He said he was going to use the restroom, but she caught him meandering towards Bonnie. Through an exchange of fierce whispers, she reminded him how awkweird it was to wake up next to their childhood rival and dragged him out onto the street with Monique's help.
By the time she got home, she was thoroughly exhausted. Tomorrow, she promised herself. She would call her mother tomorrow. She managed to tug her heels off and stumble into bed, but couldn't bring herself to drag on pajamas or to slide under the covers. Her mouth slightly agape, she fell asleep.
Zombie-like in the morning she sat up and rubbed her face. Her head, despite her expectations, felt just fine. She should have had a headache, if not some mild form of a hangover. But she wasn't going to argue with her body. If it wanted to feel great, then she was going to let it. She deserved it. Kicking her legs out over the ground, she got up from the bed and practically floated to the bathroom.
Approaching the mirror, she rubbed her hands on her face. She still had her make up on, she found with a ripple of distaste. Blech, she thought. It always felt so disgusting to wake up in the same state that she fell asleep in. As she reached for her toothbrush, she glanced into the mirror again and her hand halted in its journey.
There was a lump on her bed. A human lump. Had she brought someone home with her, she wondered. But she could remember no such thing. Monique was staying at Ron's place overnight. Kim knew as much because she had left the pair there before continuing home. So who was the lump on her bed?
She rubbed her eyes. It was too early to deal with something like this, especially after a night of drinking. She'd have to deal with it sooner or later, though, so she might as well see what she was up against. I hope it's not someone ugly, Kim prayed as she approached the bed. Her heart hammered but crashed to a stop when she finally got a good look at the person on her bed.
A brilliant light burst into existence next to her face. She shouted and toppled over, tripping on the foot of her bed and scrambling backwards towards the bathroom.
"Connectivity problem detected." The light pulsated as an ethereal voice rang through the room. "Connectivity problem detected."
Kim pinched herself hard on the arm. This had to be some sort of mad dream. "What's going on?"
The light flickered again as more words entered the room seemingly from nowhere. "Greetings. We apologize for the inconvenience, customer, but there has been a connectivity problem."
"I gathered." Kim managed. She staggered to her feet. Just how much had she had to drink last night? "That's not what I meant."
"We thank you for your patience while we determine the cause, rectify the problem, and then verify results."
"Seriously. What's the sitch?"
"My apologies." The voice repeated. "Thank you for your patience. I am #4315, on-site technician. How may I be of service?"
"On-site technician." Kim stumbled closer and reached towards the orb.
"I do not recommend that course of action."
Kim withdrew her hand automatically. "What are you a technician for? What's going on?"
4315 pulsated again. "Your soul has been disconnected from the server."
Kim stared down at her body. "My body is a server?"
"We apologize for the inconvenience."
"You've already said that."
"My apologies. I am not used to such direct contact with customers." 4315's tone had thus far been bland, but Kim detected a small amount of sadness. It was brushed aside, though. "Problem logged: #52."
"What's problem 52?"
"I am unsure of how to explain it."
Kim cleared her throat. This was some sort of whacky out of body experience – a dream of some sort. There was no other explanation for the craziness she was currently going through. It was easier to process once she realized that.
"So how soon can you fix problem 52?" Her voice sound bemused. "Until I can – you know – pop back inside?"
"Two days. We will have our technician working on your case as soon as we can."
"So I'm just supposed to sit here for two days? I have things to do." Kim argued. It was odd to argue with a pulsating dot of white light, but Kim wasn't sure what else to do. Perhaps, because she was dreaming, she should try jumping out the window and going for a fly.
"Negative." 4315 responded. The pulse of light began to grow and change form. It halted only when it was a door just taller and wider than Kim. "Please enter."
"Where will I go?" Kim was suddenly apprehensive. Just because it was a dream, didn't mean it was a good dream. It might be a nightmare that would begin as soon as she touched that white thing.
"The waiting room, where all souls awaiting assistance go."
"And if I refuse?"
"You will slowly dissipate without a host. Already you are fraying."
Kim glanced down at her body and noted that her edges were hazy. She gulped and walked towards the light. For a split second it was unbearably hot, but then she took another step and found herself on black and white linoleum tiles. She found herself in a small room. There was a row of seats on her left and right, but the wall in front of her was broken and crumbling. The light appeared at her side.
"Please take a manual from the coffee table and peruse it at your leisure. We also ask that you sign a waiver."
With a slight pop, a clipboard was in Kim's hands. She read through it quickly and squinted. "What does this mean – a substitute soul?"
"Without a soul, your body will appear lifeless. A soul powers the heart and brain, you see. A substitute soul does nothing but maintain your body's natural functioning."
"Without it, they'll bury me." Kim realized. She signed her name across the bottom. "So they'll just think I'm in a coma?"
"It is likely."
"So just two days, right?" Or, Kim figured, just until she woke up from this strange dream. She wondered if Ron would be willing to interpret it for her.
"We can make no guarantees…" Kim wondered for a second whether there was some sort of legal action one could take against whatever this was. "However we will work diligently to rectify your situation. Do you have any further questions?"
Kim scratched her head. "I guess not."
"If you think of further questions, please feel free to ring the bell."
The orb pulsated once more and then was gone. Kim picked up a manual from the coffee table, which automatically changed at her touch. The cover went from blank to displaying a six digit number. She took a seat in one of the plastic chairs and began to read. What a boring dream, she thought.
The first portion of the manual was dedicating to quelling fears. It reminded her that most problems were temporary and the worried soul would be returned to its server without further ado. She flipped through the pages, disregarding the advice it wanted to give and sorted through the last seventy or so pages, which was a detailed list of common problems. At the fifty-second problem, she paused and read the passage multiple times.
"Doesn't matter how many times you read it, Princess." A voice startled Kim out of her concentration. "Won't make any more sense than it does now."
Kim stared at the lithe woman leaning on the broken wall. The woman was about a head taller than she was, with decadent black hair and a pasty green pallor. She closed the manual and tucked it under her arm.
"I suppose it doesn't matter. The dream'll be over sooner or later, right?"
The woman snorted and tossed her hair, quite like a rambunctious horse was wont to do. "Sure. This is a dream."
"I hate to break it to you, but you aren't in Kansas anymore."
"I was never in Kansas."
The woman rolled her eyes and stood hands akimbo. "Come on, then. Grab your dumb manual and follow me."
"No. The little white orb thing said I should wait here."
"He meant here, too." The woman seemed quite stingy with her patience. She gestured to the world beyond the wall. "There's too many of us to fit inside this dinky room. Come on. They'll talk to you through the manual if they have to tell you anything."
Kim wrinkled her nose. "How do I know I can trust you?"
"It's just a dream right?"
"What's your name?"
"You can just call me Shego." The woman gestured once more for Kim to follow. When Kim did not comply, Shego tossed her hand into the air and shrugged. "Do what you have to."
Though Kim had initially decided to refuse Shego's offer, she found that she didn't want to be alone. She leapt to her feet and rushed after the taller woman. "What is this place?"
"As I'm sure you were told, Pumpkin, this is the waiting room." Shego spread her arms over the world before them. "Everything the light touches," she added sarcastically, "will someday be yours."
Kim stared out at the dismal scene before her. The ground beneath their feet was some sort of fake Astroturf, and the sky above was the color that Crayola labeled as sky blue. It wasn't quite right, Kim thought, but it was close. What she initially thought was the sun, she noticed, was actually a gigantic light bulb set against the horizon. The land before her was littered with shacks and shanties and discarded television sets.
"Thanks for the offer, but…"
"Do you have a better one?"
Kim shrugged defensively. "This is my dream. I can expect more from it."
"Lemme know how that works out for you."
Kim frowned. "I will."
"So this is the waiting room?"
"Technically." Shego began walking down towards the ramshackle buildings. "We like to call it Shanty Town."
"And what are you? The welcoming committee?"
"Something like that."
As they approached, forlorn faces poked out of windows and Kim came to notice people lying on the ground, hunching in doorways, and skulking in shadows. A few came close enough to leer at the traveling pair, but most kept their distance. Shego spread her arms wide and gestured to the buildings around them.
"So here we are, Princess. Take your pick. Most of 'em are empty, and you can take a television set from the streets. Have a nice stay."
Before Kim could react, Shego flicked her fingers as a replacement for saying good-bye and strode back off down the road. Kim hesitated in the middle of the street, staring at the shacks that stood like drunken squirrels. With Shego next to her, things hadn't been so overwhelming – but now that she was alone, she had no idea what this dream was leading to, no idea what should come next. She waited a moment more, casting dubious glances at her surroundings.
Well, she thought, I might as well do as that strange woman said. She squared her shoulders and approached one of the sagging shanties. After a quick knock brought no resident forth, she twisted the doorknob and stepped inside. Unfortunately the inside was just as desolate as the exterior. The slatted walls were mostly grey, save for streaks of brown and green along the ceiling and floor. A lowly cot waited in the corner. There was no other furniture was present, save for a dully ticking clock hanging crookedly just above the bed.
Light from outside beat in through a solitary window. Kim took the cot's sole blanket and did her best to drape it over the window to block as much of the light as she could. There were nails beaten into the wall around the frame that she forced the blanket to cling to. The effect was a much darker room.
"This will do." Kim found that talking alleviated some of the stress she was feeling. Perhaps this was just a dream, but it was quickly turning into some sort of nightmare. "Not quite home, but it'll do."
She went to the cot, tossed her manual to the foot, and sat down. Her fingers dipped into the thin mattress and she let her eyes rove the room. So, she thought, just two days of this? So not the drama. She'd pick up one of those abandoned televisions in a bit – though what they'd show she hadn't the slightest clue. Perhaps the waiting room had cable. What else were the people here supposed to do? Leaning back against the wall, she let her eyes slide closed. She wasn't tired, but this was the first real break she'd had in years, even if it was a dream.
A/N: I can't promise an exact update schedule for this, but chapters should be posted fairly regularly until its completion. I know this is an odd concept, but bear with me. You might actually like it. And yes, there will be some Kigo loving later. Also, if you hadn't guessed, this is set in an alternate universe where the biggest difference is that Kim never encountered Shego whilst doing the hero thing. Leave your thoughts :)