Spoilers: Takes place after "But for the Grace of Ron".
Feedback: Some of you have been extremely helpful, and I hope you'll continue to do so. New reader opinions are encouraged too!
Disclaimers: Kim Possible, Ron Stoppable, Shego, Wade, and all other characters from the Kim Possible television series belong to Disney, its television production arm, and the creators and producers of the animated series. All original characters are my invention. I seek no profit from writing this, and expect none.
"No, we can't take a break yet," Kim said. "We've only been doing this for two - "
"I am NOT that out of shape," Ron said defensively. "And that wasn't what I was going to ask."
Kim flushed. "Sorry," she replied. "I guess a little of Shego's abrasiveness is rubbing off on me."
"Along with sweat and dead skin cells, I bet."
Ron grinned at her. "Now if only some of your sweetness can rub off on her, we can call it even." Then he became more serious. "Kim, I'm not exactly the fighting master like you," he began.
"Which is why we're doing this," Kim pointed out. "I've neglected your training for way too long. If I was a better friend I would have started teaching you long ago."
Ron tugged at his workout clothes self-consciously. "KP, I still remember you coaching kids' soccer in high school. If you'd been training me back then, I probably would have hidden in my room and locked the door."
"I can't help it if I'm a bit of a perfectionist," Kim told him.
He just looked at her.
"Maybe more than a bit," she conceded.
"Yeah, well, don't get me wrong. I appreciate you doing this for me now, but what I was going to say before is that I couldn't help but notice that this isn't your normal style of fighting we're practicing."
"You can tell?" she asked, surprised.
"I've been watching you for years. I think I can tell when you're using a new move."
"Point," Kim said. "And yes, this is something different. I thought we could begin with something a little more appropriate for you."
"Uh-huh," he said. "Chinese, right?"
"Maybe something similar to, oh, I don't know, Ta Sheng Pek Kwar?"
Kim sighed. "Ron, you DO have the Monkey Mystical Power inside you."
"Monkeys!" Rufus squeaked from where he was watching them. "Sick!"
"Wrong!" Ruby chimed in.
"What they said," Ron added.
"You have a gift, Ron, whether you choose to use it or not. When you've defeated Monkey Fist in the past, you did it using the monkey kung fu abilities the Power automatically gave you," Kim reminded him. "Imagine what you could do if you were actually schooled in the art of Ta Sheng Pek Kwar."
"I get what you're saying, KP," Ron replied, "and it's really not because of the monkey thing. Well, okay, partly. But not all of it! Just maybe most of it - some of it. It's 49, all right?" His shoulders drooped. "Unlike Lord Monty, I don't want to be the Monkey Master. I'm not going to learn to be something I'm not, just because I accidentally got some powers years ago. Besides, you never got powers. You became the person you are through sheer determination, skill, and practice. If I became the Monkey Master because of some special power I have, it'd be like - I don't know. Cheating?"
Kim looked at him oddly. "And you think you can do the hard work necessary to become the fighter you think you're supposed to be, Ron?"
"Of course," he said. "Contrary to public opinion, Kim, I'm NOT the same guy who once forced Monique to build a volcano all by herself. If I could work with a personal trainer every day for weeks - a trainer, by the way, who happened to be my ex-girlfriend - "
"Who you started dating again," Kim reminded him.
"For a while, until she got jealous," Ron said. "I guess she never understood what it meant to be part of Team Possible. What I'm trying to say is - I want to become the kind of hero you are, KP, the way YOU did it. This is about you and me fighting evil as a full-time job. If I can't pull my weight, what good am I?"
"So no monkey kung fu?"
"I don't even want to fight like the orangutan in that Clint Eastwood movie."
"And three-hour practice sessions if that's what it takes?" Kim asked.
"Shego and I worked six to eight hours a day, every day, on the Seniors' island," she pointed out.
"Yeah, but your batteries were constantly being replenished by a compulsion to win and a lot of hidden sexual tension," Ron replied. "Unlike the current situation," he added slyly.
Kim turned beet-red. "Yeah," she said sheepishly, rubbing the back of her head. "It's not hidden any more."
Ron chuckled. "Yeah, okay, if it means you've got to run my ass ragged for three or four hours a day, then that's what it takes."
She grabbed him before he knew it and pulled him close. Her other arm wrapped around his back and held him tightly in a hug. "I'm so proud of you, Ron," she murmured.
He couldn't see the gloating look on her face. Shego was losing this bet for sure!
And when she let go, she looked normal again. "So, who DO you want to be?" Kim asked.
"I thought I'd learn to fight like you, KP."
"Well, obviously I'll teach you all of my moves, and certainly you've been in top shape ever since the Acceptable sitch, so we don't need to worry about your conditioning. But you just told me that you want to become the fighter you were meant to me, not who you became by accident," she said. "Do you have any idea of who that is?"
He didn't even hesitate. "I am all OVER that ninja stuff, Kim." He raised one hand over his head, and extended the other arm, making a "come" gesture with his hand. "Hoo-aaaaah!"
She shook her head, smiling. "I should have known," Kim said. "You and your movies."
It was too bad Ron couldn't tell her about Yamanouchi. He still remembered a lot of what they'd taught him at the secret Japanese school, and he'd practiced some of the moves alone in his room. If she taught him anything he was already familiar with, he'd just have to hold himself back and play the "fast learner".
Now the Lotus Blade - that was the one good thing about the Mystical Monkey Power. THAT had been a sword! Plus Yori had been really nice. Too bad she hadn't been interested.
So he just smiled back at her. "Enter the Ronster, baby!"
Monique groaned as she pushed her way into Bueno Nacho. It was two minutes until closing time, but damn it, if SHE could deal with the Supreme One coming into her store five minutes before she locked the doors, then THEY could deal with one very sore crimefighter - civilian attire, of course.
"Uh, miss?" the assistant manager said from the cash register. The place was deserted. "We're about to - "
She threw a murderous look at him, and he trembled.
"W-welcome to Bueno Nacho, may I take your order?" he asked politely.
"Give me a cup," she said, holding out a hand. "I want a soda."
"Er, that may not be such a good idea," he said.
"Look, I don't CARE what time it is, I just want to sit down and drink my diet soda," she said, exasperated.
"That wasn't what I meant, miss," he replied. "You see, there's this - situation."
"Just give the lady a bottled water, my good man."
Monique started. Shego had ridden her even harder than she thought. For a moment she thought the soda machine had spoken. "You didn't maybe let anyone from the Space Center tinker with your soda machine, did you?" she asked hesitantly.
"No, ma'am," the employee said. "There's been a, uh, customer in the ice bucket for the past ten minutes."
"A what in the what?" she asked. Now she KNEW she was too tired. The inanimate objects were talking, and the actual people were saying things that couldn't POSSIBLY -
A hand rose from the top of the soda machine and waved limply. "I said a bottled water for my lady friend, good Bueno Nacho custodian," someone said.
Monique stared. "Ron!"
"I'd raise my head to see who just said my name, but I can't really move right now."
She climbed onto the countertop, causing the assistant manager to scramble backwards. From there she could see that the top of the soda machine had been removed, revealing the large tub from which the ice was dispensed. Nestled atop the ice was, in fact, Ron Stoppable. "Ron, what the hell are you doing in there?"
"Hey, Monique. Physical therapy. I'm hoping to die from hypertension."
"Hypothermia," she corrected him. "Are you all right?"
He looked at her. "If I was all right, would I be doing this?"
"Probably not," she admitted. "Although this IS Bueno Nacho. Anything's possible for YOU in here."
"Funny you should say that word, Monique. Possible. Actually, KP is why I'm here. She told me earlier today that I needed to work on my fighting skills," she sighed.
"Ahh," Monique said. "How long ago was that?"
"About five hours."
"Ouch. Almost as long as me."
"Almost as long as you what?" he asked.
"Shego worked me over good tonight," she explained. "We were fighting on the roof of a factory for almost six hours. Said that if I was going to be coming along with Team Possible on missions, then I was going to have to live up to a 'higher standard'." She smiled. "Which, according to her, means getting to the point where I have a slim chance of lasting against her."
Ron shook his head ever so slightly. "Shego, thy name is spelled with 'ego'. How much more of that do you have to look forward to?"
"A few weeks or so. Shego's not exactly someone who plans far ahead."
"Whereas Kim's got my training schedule nailed down for the next month," Ron groaned. "Including a diet. A diet, Monique! She wants to cut down on my Diablo Sauce intake by 50!"
"Poor Ron," she said, reaching in and ruffling his hair. She stopped. "Uh, Ron, I'm no doctor, but your forehead feels a couple degrees short of normal."
"Good. My savior hypodermia has arrived."
"Thermia," she muttered.
A couple minutes later they were seated across from each other at a BN table. "You realize I'm never getting a soda here again," Monique told him. "I think you just violated a half-dozen safety codes tonight. Hell, you did everything to the health and safety code except flush it down the toilet. How'd you get them to let you in there?"
"I'm a valued customer, Monique," he reminded her. "Inventor of the naco, remember? Also, I may have scared them a little. They kept calling me 'Mr. Stoppable'. About every three seconds, I think."
"What about Kim?" she asked. "You going to be doing this every night?"
"Until Dad buys that Jacuzzi, yes," Ron said.
"Maybe you're not cut out for this kind of high-intensity training," she suggested gently.
"Maybe," he admitted. Ron looked into her eyes, and Monique could see that for all his exhaustion, he was completely serious. "But that doesn't mean I'm stopping."
"Just checking," she said.
"What about you? You're as beat as I am."
"After learning how to get by on three hours' sleep five nights a week," Monique said, "I think I can survive this."
"It helps having someone to talk to, though," Ron said.
She realized she agreed. "Yeah, it does. Maybe we should get together tomorrow too. We can argue about who's more beat."
"That's easy, I am," Ron replied, grinning weakly.
"Maybe we can compare notes, too," he went on. "I mean, most people might not know this, but after watching Kim and Shego fight all those times, I've learned there are a lot of subtle differences in how they fight. Kim's going to teach me everything she knows, but there must be things Shego knows that Kim doesn't."
"Ditto for Shego," Monique said. "Of course, she'd say that she DOES know, but that her way is better anyway."
"Probably," Ron agreed.
"Sure, why not?" she said in answer to his suggestion. "Whatever makes us better fighters."
"And if I'm going to watch Kim's back, I need to be the best fighter I can be," he said quietly.
"Amen to that," she said. "And so we can protect Shego too."
He raised an eyebrow.
"Ron, what do YOU think it would do to Kim if Shego was hurt?" Monique asked rhetorically.
Ron waited for a moment before he nodded. "Shego too," he said.
Rufus and Ruby crawled out of Ron's pockets and clambered onto the table. Rufus lifted up Ron's hand by the wrist, and Ruby did the same with Monique's.
Ron smiled and shrugged. He took Monique's hand and shook it. "Then it's a date."
"As long as you're not bringing flowers."
"You have an excellent facility here, James," Dr. Director said as they walked along the hallway. Thomas was safely strapped into his stroller - although perhaps not securely. Already an old hand at disassembling and reassembling electronic devices, Thomas had shown in the past that if the stroller were to stop moving for a minute or two, the straps would be unbuckled and he would be climbing out again.
"I'm surprised you've never visited before, Betty," Mr. Dr. Possible replied. "We do a fair amount of work here for the American government."
"I had my hands full at Global Justice, James. And I'll remind you that GJ was an international organization subordinate to no government, so the Space Center's affiliation with the scientific arm of the U.S. government would have meant little to us." She looked around. "Still, I was always aware of its status as a research facility of the highest order. I believe I lost one or two of my people to your Center, lured by civilian salaries and shorter hours."
"Ha ha, of course," he said. "Um, which ones?"
"Classified information, James. We make sure our best undercover agents have only the most sterling resumes."
He chuckled. But he eyed two scientists closely as they walked past.
"So, when do I get to meet Team Possible's most expensive employee?" she asked.
"The SADI is in her hangar right now," James Possible said. "We'll go there as soon as my better half arrives. Doctor Freeman will also be joining us at some point. As Sadie's creator he can tell you more about her than I. Whereas I can tell you more about . . . my office."
"Spacious," she said as he ushered her in. It looked more like a research lab than an office.
"Actually, this used to be my research lab when I was younger," he told her. "Later on I added the desk when they started giving me administrative duties as well as scientific ones," he grumbled. "Still, I usually find myself looking out the window at the launchpad when I'm trying to solve a particularly difficult problem."
"I imagine there were few of those, James."
"You should have been there those nights when I was trying to figure out how to keep Kimmie away from boys until she was twenty-five," he said. "Never did solve THAT one."
Dr. Director blinked. She realized Mr. Dr. Possible was protective of Kim. She just hadn't realized how much. "I suppose Shego solved that one for you."
"You know, she did at that. Maybe she should be working here."
Betty Director tried to imagine that, and failed completely.
Before their conversation could return to something a little more - normal, there was a beeping from Mr. Dr. Possible's coat pocket. She almost expected him to pull a Kimmunicator out and utter the immortal catchphrase, but instead he retrieved his cell phone.
"Dr. Possible here," he said, opening the phone. "There's a what? . . . You're not serious . . . And they tried to launch anyway? . . . All right, I'll be right down." He closed the phone and put it back in his pocket. "I'm sorry, Doctor, but there's a bit of an emergency at the launch pad. Would you mind if - "
"Not at all," Dr. Director said. "I'll wait here with Tommy until you get back."
"Thanks," he replied. "If my wife arrives before I get back - "
"I'll tell her you'll just be a minute."
"Top notch," Mr. Dr. Possible said. "Take a seat and relax while you're waiting."
Dr. Director smiled and nodded, but she remained standing even after he left. He had a nice office at the Space Center. Not as nice as her old one at GJ, of course, but nicer than the one she was using at Team Possible, Inc. Of course, they were only spending money on the essentials right now - computer hardware, security, a twin-sized mattress for Shego's room JUST so she was clear that her new accommodations weren't arranged just so she could have a little lovenest with . . .
She turned around and gave a little sigh of exasperation. She'd let her mind wander, and naturally Thomas had freed himself from the stroller again. "All right now, Thomas," she called out as she went into the corridor, quickly ascertaining that he wasn't still in the office. Undoubtedly he was looking for something he could disassemble. Like a fission reactor. "You're not getting - "
Then Dr. Director stopped. Thomas was sitting on the floor in the middle of the hallway, staring up at the large man before him. He looked completely mesmerized.
"There you are!" she said, going over to him.
"You have a fine boy there," the man said. "Good, solid manufacturing."
"Er, thank you," Dr. Director said.
The man turned around. "Yes, Doctor?"
Dr. Director looked past him and blinked with her good eye. A woman in her early thirties was approaching them, and the only thing that suggested she was truly a doctor and not a shampoo model was her no-nonsense lab coat. It hid her body somewhat, but not enough.
Beauty, and evidently brains as well. If she was still head of GJ, Dr. Director would consider her a prime candidate for recruitment.
"The experiments are a little rambunctious without you around, Oliver," the woman said to him as she stopped. "Perhaps you should get back."
"Right away, doctor," he promised. He turned and left without another word. Thomas just watched him go. Then he looked up at his mother. He seemed almost disappointed.
"You'd almost think your friend was a machine the way Thomas took after him," Dr. Director said.
"Funny you should say that," the other woman said with a knowing grin. "Are you just visiting, or a new addition to the staff?"
"Just visiting. I'm here with the Drs. Possible. Oh, I'm Dr. Betty Director." She offered her hand.
"Dr. Vivian Porter," the woman said, shaking it. "Pleased to meet you."
"Oh? What field?"
"You don't believe me?" Dr. Porter asked. Her hand was still in Dr. Director's grip, and it stiffened slightly. She sounded suddenly irritated.
"Of course," Dr. Director said, surprised by her shift in demeanor. "I simply was curious about your area of expertise. I know enough about the Space Center to know that not everyone here is a rocket scientist."
"Oh," Dr. Porter replied, seemingly mollified. "I'm in robotics, actually."
"Really? If Thomas here should be staring at anyone then, it's you. He loves machines." Dr. Director paused. "Wait - Vivian Porter? You're not V. F. Porter, are you?"
"I don't really go by my initials much any more," Dr. Porter said, startled. "But yes, that's me."
"I read several of your articles years ago on robotics designs," Dr. Director explained. "I found it fascinating. I would have tried to hire you for my organization, but I heard the Space Center had already snapped you up."
Vivian looked intrigued. "What organization was that?"
"Just a little something in the public sector," Dr. Director said vaguely. "Anyway, that was years ago. I'm semi-retired now, except some work I'm doing with James' daughter Kim."
"I haven't seen Kim Possible in a long time," Dr. Porter said. "She practically saved my career years ago."
"It seems there are very few people Kim hasn't saved nowadays."
"Probably. So, your boy here likes machines?"
"Very much so."
"Perhaps he'd like to see my lab," Dr. Porter suggested. "We have a lot of experimental work going on there."
"It sounds like something he'd enjoy, but that's probably not a good idea," Dr. Director said. "It could be dangerous."
"I assure you, my lab is completely safe - "
"Dangerous for your robots," Dr. Director corrected her.
Dr. Porter chuckled. "Another time then. I should be getting back, though."
"It was a pleasure meeting you, Dr. Porter."
"Please, call me Vivian. Any friend of Kim Possible's is a friend of mine." She leaned closer. "And just so you know, my assistant Oliver?"
Dr. Director nodded.
"He's a robot. Almost as if your son knew, eh?"
"Right," Dr. Director said, although this remark concerned her. Surely it wasn't possible that little Thomas had known Oliver was a robot? She certainly wouldn't have guessed.
"Well, enjoy the rest of your visit," Vivian said.
"Thank you, Vivian. And it's Betty."
Vivian smiled. "Enjoy the rest of your visit, Betty."
"I will. Tell Oliver how close he came to becoming Thomas' latest masterpiece," Betty told her.
The robotics expert waved as she walked back down the corridor. Betty Director watched her go. She could guess that most men here enjoyed that as much as watching her coming.
If only GJ had hired her before the Space Center did. Pity.