The following day, the Mad Dog obedience training was the talk of the school. The student body knew who the Mad Dog was so people were coming up to Ron all day and congratulating him. He was confused at first but went with it as Tara was always nearby smiling at him. It was well into the day before he noticed many girls had been pulling the blonde girl aside and talking to her.
A majority of the girls at lunch were prying for information on what was looking like the newest Middleton High couple. Tara would only smile and say she was working on it. Many of the girls reminded her to watch out for Kim since Tara might appear to be poaching on Kim's turf. Tara only replied that Kim was still going out with Josh Mankey and that meant Ron was fair game.
After Tara told that, the other girls all seemed to agree. If Kim Possible was seeing someone else, then Ron Stoppable was fair game. Most simply just could not picture one without the other due to the hero work the pair took part in.
For his part, Ron seemed oblivious to the conversations Tara kept having. His focus had been more on the jocks that had been giving him nods in greeting. It made him feel good to be accepted. Even the few that had picked on him in the past had become neutral to him.
Kim and Monique just kept to their table while Josh was hanging with his 'art peeps' in the corner. The artist did not show it much but he enjoyed the happenings and gossip as much as the next person. He would have to make a move of his own tomorrow to cement his perceived status as still being with the sophomore head cheerleader.
The day passed relatively uneventfully past a freak lab accident that left Mr. Barkin as the substitute teacher for chemistry. Tara had Ron sit with her that day instead of Kim much to the redhead's chagrin. Kim and Ron had been lab partners all year. She had hoped to use the class to talk to her friend but it was not to be. Kim got seated with Eric Gruberman who tried to talk karate with her during lab.
With Tara watching out for him, Ron managed to complete the lab assignment without anything bad happening. This got him a grudging nod of approval from Mr. Barkin. Tara rewarded Ron with a hug and a peck on the cheek when Mr. Barkin had his back turned.
Kim on the other hand had a hard time as Eric kept on getting in her way. The resulting small explosion left her covered in soot and her hair standing on end. Mr. Barkin grumbled at the pair but only made a checkmark for an incomplete assignment and afterschool detention to complete it.
The cheer squad had no practice that day so Ron headed home to eat dinner with his parents. Kim finished her detention and headed home as well. Her parents were at a school function with the tweebs so she thought it would be a relaxing evening but without Ron there, the house seemed empty.
Thursday and Friday continued in the same vein with Tara monopolizing Ron's time and attention. He was dressing nice each day and Tara kept complimenting him and encouraging him when he began to mess up. Ron's confidence was growing by leaps and bounds but he was still nervous about things crashing down around him. He had never been 'popular' for so long and his time with Tara felt like some of the best moments in his life.
But something gnawed at the back of his mind. Saturday morning after temple he stopped in to see Rabbi Katz. The older man ushered Ron into his office and had him sit while he took care of something. Having never been in there before, Ron looked at the degrees and certificates on the wall. Associates in Accounting; Rabbinical Training; Bachelor's in Sociology; Masters in Psychology; and training in marriage counseling were prominently displayed.
When the Rabbi returned and they began talking, Ron seemed overwhelmed at first. As he talked, Rabbi Katz would nod and ask simple directional questions to keep Ron going. He rambled on about his past week and his misgivings about his work with Kim.
"That is a lot for a young man to deal with Ronald," Rabbi Katz stated. "I see a number of issues at work here. A major one is that you are nervous about your own abilities. You tend to define yourself as 'Kim Possible's Sidekick' rather than as 'Ron Stoppable' in all your adventures. Let me show you something."
Rabbi Katz went to a bookshelf and pulled out a scrapbook. "I have to admit, I am also something of a fanboy of your and Miss Possible's adventures. I was amazed when the two of you started your exploits a few years ago, and I kept track of everything." The book was set on Ron's lap and opened. The first newspaper clipping of Kim Possible saving the billionaire was on the first page.
The photo of the telegenic middle-schooler made Ron frown. Page after page of clippings of adventures of Kim Possible were flipped through with occasional mentions of a sidekick; whose name varied each time or simply not mentioned at all. Rabbi Katz had Ron tell him about what the adventures were like.
"I'm just the distraction," Ron said morosely.
"It is hard to live in someone else's shadow, Ronald. But that is sometimes the most important place to be. Think about all you have accomplished these past two years alone. You told me of the adventures and what was done to reach some of these villain's hideouts. You give the credit to Kim but think about what you have done."
"You might call yourself 'the distraction' but think about all that entailed. You have accomplished so much in doing these things. Take this one adventure a few months ago. You parachuted into an unknown landing area, climbed up and repelled down unstable cliffs, fought and dodged up to twenty full grown men with weapons and came out unharmed past a few bruises. Kim got the credit and all the things that were done in the background are never mentioned but all of these things are accomplishments to be proud of."
"When you complete a mission, and see the police or soldiers take away the villains, how are you treated by them?" Rabbi Katz asked next.
"Well, they are usually quiet. They kind of look me over, some frown a bit but most just nod at me and take care of things. Most never talk to me," Ron said in a confused tone
"In the entire world, there are only a few thousand people capable of doing all of this at once. Special Forces military units are the ones that come to mind. These people spend months and years in training and as an amateur you are matching them without any formal training. The professional soldiers are not dismissing you. They recognize a person capable of matching or exceeding their own skills and are quietly acknowledging them with their quiet nods."
Ron thought back on his missions once more. Few soldiers had ever spoken to him harshly. The ones of higher ranks always were soft spoken but respectful. The few times one or two had been mouthy but those had been low ranking soldiers who were pulled away and spoken to in quiet tones to one side and sent off by the older ones.
"So, the biggest question of all. Why do you do all these things, Ronald?"
"So Kim can come home safely," Ron said looking down. "I made a promise to Mr. Dr. P the first time we went out of town on a mission. I told him that I would make sure she always came home or I wouldn't come back either."
"That is the word of a man, Ronald. Remember with the Bar Mitzvah certificate a few months ago? You were worried that by me not signing it made you not a real man. But your actions have proven time and again that you have willingly shouldered a man's responsibility and you are only just recently turned 16 years old."
"I heard talk that you and Kim had a falling out this past week," Rabbi Katz said next. Ron looked up shocked that even Rabbi Katz knew about that. "I do know a number of people that love to pass along gossip, Ronald. Some of them are always talking to me whether I want them to or not and I do hear what they are saying. They say that you and Miss Possible are not speaking and you are seeing the young blonde cheerleader from the basketball game the other night. That was quite a performance at halftime."
Ron blushed heavily at Rabbi Katz's statement. "It's not like that," he replied rubbing his neck. "Yes, I have not spoken to Kim outside of class all week and I have been hanging with Tara but we're not together or anything. I'm not really boyfriend material."
Rabbi Katz smiled at Ron. "We'll need to work on that self-esteem in the future. But this Miss Tara; how does she make you feel, Ronald?"
"Happy. Wanted. She smiles at me and thinks I am a hero. She is kind to me and encourages me. She corrects mistakes I make without putting me down," Ron replied after thinking for a minute.
"And how does Miss Possible make you feel?" Rabbi Katz asked next.
Ron thought even longer this time. "Kim has been the center of everything for me. Best Friend. My only friend sometimes. She pushes me to be better than I am and even though I'm scared, I follow along. The saving the world thing is awesome most times. But she also puts me down when I screw up. I know I can do better but I have to do it without any support from her. I trusted her not to do things that are bad for me but I can't get past the whole Wannaweep thing right now. I was angry with her over that but I walked away before I could act on my anger. I'm confused about it, Rabbi. That is part of why I stopped in to see you. I was never angry at Kim before no matter what. I've been upset but this is new. This feeling of being betrayed by someone I trusted."
A knock on the door interrupted them. The secretary apologized for interrupting but the Rabbi had a call he had been scheduled to take on hold.
Rabbi Katz nodded and patted Ron on the shoulder. "It is not wrong to be confused, Ronald. She did the wrong thing and for now, just try to work past it. When you are more certain on how to deal with it, then settle things. Acknowledge her in school even if you do not speak of personal things. Leave the path open because if you close it, something wonderful will be lost to the world. Forgiveness is a good thing but it has to be earned in its time. Everything comes in its own time and has its own purpose, Ronald."
"Thanks Rabbi," Ron said as he walked out. Things were not clear but his thoughts were less muddled than they had been.
Sunday afternoon, Ron took a deep breath and knocked on the Possible family front door. They were an important part of his life for so long it had thrown him off not interacting with them. The door opened show to Mrs. Possible who smiled at him and pulled him into a quick hug. "Hi Mrs. Dr. P," Ron said in a soft voice.
"How are you doing, Ron?" Mrs. Dr. Possible asked her surrogate son. "You want to come in? We are going to be having dinner soon."
"Thanks, but no. I just wanted to touch base with you since it has been more than a week and all," Ron said rubbing the back of his head. "Still have a few issues to sort out but I just wanted to let my other mom know I'm ok."
Mrs. Dr. Possible smiled softly at Ron. She could see he was still hurting just being over here but he cared enough to let his 'other' family he was okay. She laid a gentle hand on his cheek and told the teen. "We'll be here when you're ready or anytime you need us, Ron."
Ron nodded and turned to head back to his house next door.
The next school week passed rather quickly as state testing had been scheduled. Ron felt he did better than he normally did as after each one Tara would come over to him and give him subtle encouragement. They were closer than ever and it showed in his bearing. Ron stood taller without the normal slouch he affected and he dressed a bit better. At least he wore clothes other than his normal jersey over baggy cargo pants. Tara hung to his arm when they were together and she always smiled at him.
They talked about many things and about each other's family. Tara came from a large extended family with multiple cousins both in the entire Tri-Cities area and across the country. Ron's family in comparison was smaller, much closer knit and not well liked by Ron. His laid-back attitude was frowned upon by the cousins who pushed for social and financial success.
Friday afternoon, Tara told Ron of how she had family obligations all weekend but she would call on Sunday night to confirm Monday's plans. Before they parted, Tara hugged Ron tightly and pecked him on the lips before heading home. Ron was stunned for a few moments from the feeling of her hug then kiss before a goofy grin covered his face as he wandered home.
By the following Wednesday, Tara and Ron began to part from each other with small pecks and hand squeezes. Tara was always the one initiating new gestures as Ron was still unsure about his place in Tara's life. Lunch was in full swing when an ominous tone rang out in the cafeteria.
The silence that resulted from the sound of the Kimmunicator allowed the second iteration to seem louder than the first. Kim nervously pulled out the handheld device and activated it as the lunch crowd looked on.
"Go Wade, what's the sitch?" Kim said in her 'mission tone'.
"Kim, this is a big one. Global Justice is asking for you again. What do I tell them?" Wade asked.
The redhead realized this was big. She had minor dealings with Global Justice in the aftermath of several of her adventures but she had not been called directly by them until recently. Kim was torn on what to say when Ron was suddenly next to her with his 'serious face' on.
"Ron?" Kim asked in a confused tone.
"This is important stuff, Kim. More important than any disagreement or headlines," Ron stated.
Kim paused then nodded and composed herself in a moment. "Put them through Wade," she commanded as she tried to look confident.
The tech guru routed the message through to the Kimmunicator with no other comments. The stern face of Dr. Director filled the small screen.
"Good afternoon, Ms. Possible. I am calling to let you know that you are needed. As you are aware we normally do not call on free-lance help but this is another special case. The recent news of difficulties between you and Mr. Stoppable has led to several of your foes to act out all at once. We are able to handle most of them but our resources are stretched quite thin between them and WWEE also causing problems. Drakken and Shego have been spotted lurking near a research lab near Boulder that deals with cutting edge robotics. We would like you to head there and find out what they plan on doing and stop them if needed."
Kim hesitated for a few moments and glanced over to Ron. The blond boy still had his 'serious face' on and just nodded to her.
"We're in, Dr. Director," Kim replied. "We can be there around the close of business if Wade can swing us a ride.
"I can dispatch one of our transports for that Ms. Possible. Our resources in your region are thin but not that thin. Expect it within the half hour. Dr. Director out," the older redhead said and ended the transmission.
Kim looked up at Ron and he could see her hesitation.
"Mission comes first, Kim" Ron said. "In the word of Captain Constellation's Exec Officer 'You have always been and always shall be my friend.'" Ron smiled at her and at once she understood. Despite over two weeks' separation on a daily level, they were still best friends.
"Mission clothes," she muttered and headed out to her locker.
Ron turned back to his table to get his bag and saw a worried Tara. He smiled to her as she stood up at his return. "Drakken and Shego are casing a place in Boulder. Global Justice asked us to check it out." He took hold of her hands. "It should not be a problem."
"You come back to me safe, Ron'" Tara said in a worried voice. "I don't want to lose you."
"I know the timing is bad, Tara, but I have had a thought running through my head since last Friday. Would you think about being my girlfriend?" Ron asked nervously.
"Yes!" Tara replied with a squeal of delight in spite of scared tears at the corner of her eyes. She wrapped her arms around Ron and kissed him hard in front of the entire sophomore class. Cat calls and whistles sounded as the new couple shared that special first true kiss.
It was a full ten seconds before Barkin sounded out, "If you lovebirds do not want detention, you will break that up right now!" The man was strict but even his sense of fair play had allowed them a few seconds of P.D.A. time gratis to make a memory for life.
Ron smiled as he disengaged from Tara's hug and with a nod at the lunch table, ran out toward the locker rooms to change.
The ride came on schedule and the trip to Boulder took only another fifteen minutes. Kim and Ron dropped out of the hovercraft in mission mode to find Shego leaning on a building while Drakken monologued at her.
"Hiya Princess," Shego said with a happy look on her face. "Looks like I get to dance after all." The green tinged woman activated her comet power and attacked the redhead.
Drakken tried to slide off out of sight but he got tripped up by Ron who maintained a serious face the whole time. A trash can lid to the face broke his fall leaving him stunned on the ground. The blond teen pulled a zip tie from his pocket and bound Drakken's hands behind his back before the blue man could do anything else.
"Ack! Shego!" Drakken cried out in dismay when he recovered his senses.
Shego had been enjoying her fight with Kim. As always, she toyed with the redhead with her hands only lit up. She was not really generating enough plasma to burn through things yet to extend the fight. It had roamed out of the alley and up a fire escape to a nearby rooftop. The cry from Drakken caught her attention so she looked away for a moment only to be felled by a jumping side kick by Kim to the side of her head while she was distracted. The stunned Shego fell to the ground in silence.
"Booyah!" Ron cried out as he sat down on Drakken to wait for the Global Justice hovercraft to find a place to land.
Kim tried to secure Shego but the former hero had not been completely knocked out. With a flare of her comet energy, Shego melted the plastic binding. She kicked Kim back and rolled off the rooftop and was out of sight in the surrounding buildings before Kim could get over to the edge of the building. The returned hover jet finally landed to take Drakken into custody ensuring them a partial victory.
"Booyah denied," Ron grumbled as he noticed Kim returning empty handed.
"Global Justice should be satisfied with a capture. Drakken does have several outstanding warrants," Wade told Kim over the Kimmunicator as the team flew back toward Middleton to be dropped off. "Shego does not do much offensive solo work. She tends to play at being muscle and enforcer for Drakken, Junior and whoever else hires her."
"She is in this for the money and thrill of it," Kim stated with Wade's agreement following.
Ron just sat in silence. He was lost in thought of a blond-haired cheerleader who was now his girlfriend and that kiss they shared just hours before.
Drakken just tried a rant but with no one paying him any mind, he stopped and grumbled to himself until the pilot returned to Global Justice.
Kim and Ron returned to school a few minutes before the last class of the day. Kim paused outside the building and looked to Ron.
"Thank you for the mission, Ron," she said in a sincere tone. "I couldn't save the world without you. Sometimes I tend to forget that when the rush of doing it hits me."
Ron nodded back at her but did not reply at first. After a few minutes, he let out a small sigh before he spoke softly. "Kim, you hurt me with the whole Wannaweep thing. I know I can get big headed when things go right for me, but this time I couldn't blow it off. Gill was my nemesis and his plot was aimed at me and I beat him with my own abilities. When Tara told me that they gave the credit to you and you didn't correct them, I got angry over it."
"I just want to be able to know when I do things right and not for grabbing the headlines. You are the one people look for and want to talk to and put on the front page. I can deal with that. I don't mind you getting the attention and the interviews but don't ever let them lie about me, okay?"
Kim nodded sadly. "Okay, correcting the press when they get it wrong. I'm sorry I was not doing that before. Can you forgive me?"
Ron nodded and opened his arms to his best friend. Kim practically jumped into a hug with him. "Already forgiven," Ron whispered.
"You get that Wade?" she called out to the 12-year-old she knew was listening in.
"Got it Kim!" Wade chirped back in an excited voice. "Is the team back together then?"
"It was never apart, Wade," Ron replied. "Just Kim and Ron being separate words again. Tara mentioned that book from English Lit and it makes some sense to me for once." He smiled and turned to head into the building.
"Time to meet up with the Badical GF!" he said on an excited voice as he walked in not seeing Kim's sad smile.
Author's Notes: Well life has thrown me a few curves but I am still plugging along. A long bout of depression caused by other medical issues had hit and is fading with proper treatment of said issues. To kick-start my muse [or simply kick it] I am posting what I have on my various in progress stories to date over the next week or so. They are rough in places but I need to keep moving forward. I cannot guarantee a timeline on more than I have posted but I will say if I ever give up on something permanently.