Kim Possible Fan Fiction ❯ The More Things Change... ❯ The More Things Change... Part 2 ( Chapter 2 )

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Kim Possible: The More Things Change…
Part 2
By Aaron
…Roughly seven years ago…
He can see it so clearly. It's as if he's floating outside of his body, looking out over the foothills towards a forest with a small mountain in the center. Then, as if being pushed by an unseen force, he flies right into the forest, faster than he ever thought possible. And yet, he manages to deftly fly over, around and under every tree and branch standing in his way, as if he clearly knew everything that was going to be in front of him. Within seconds, he reaches the mountain and flies around it to discover a small opening, just barely big enough for a grown man to fit through. But just then, at that instant, a blinding flash bursts forth from the entrance…!
…and then he wakes up…
Maximillion Ambro sat up in his bed, a look of shock plastered across his face. It was the same dream again. He stopped counting how many times he'd had it a long time ago, but for some reason he still couldn't get used to it. It started when he was 16 years old, coming to him once every few months. But over the last couple of years, it started becoming more frequent. Once a month…then once every couple of weeks…then once a week. Now, it was almost every night that he woke up from it. And always, it was the exact same dream, right down to the last detail. All around that little forest in England with the small mountain nestled right in the middle of it…
But…why England? For that matter…how could he possibly KNOW that?
Max could only give a frustrated sigh of confusion as he looked around his room. His duffel bag sat at the foot of his bed, fully packed and the plane ticket was lying right on his bed table. It had been like pulling teeth to persuade Alice, the head of the group home he lived in, to provide the money for the flight. Especially since that money was coming from a savings bond for his college education, one of several she had set up for every child in the home. And it didn't help his case that he didn't have an exit strategy for his trip. He had no idea where he was going when he got there and no idea when he'd be coming back…or even IF he was going to be coming back at all. It took almost a month to finally wear her down. He did everything but get down on his knees and beg, although he was certainly glad it didn't have to come to that. But he KNEW this was the right decision. Every molecule in his body was telling him that it was right. He HAD to do this, even if he didn't know WHY. Although…maybe that WAS his reason for going…to FIND OUT why.
Of course, Alice had been the easy part. As his eyes turned slightly to the phone sitting beside his plane ticket, Max couldn't help but sigh, because he knew the HARD part was about to begin. He wasn't entirely sure what had happened to make her run off, probably another fight with her brothers. But he hadn't seen her in over a month. And even before that, the last couple times he'd been out with her weren't exactly memorable. She'd been snippy and on edge. Still, in the last month, he'd tried so many times to call her, but she never once attempted to contact him. She may even have another phone number, but all he had was the old one. Still, even though she hadn't been around to tell, Max still didn't feel right springing this on her at the last minute. He wasn't sure how she'd react to him going. Still, he knew he couldn't put it off any longer. Dawn was just breaking as he looked out the window. If she was going to be around, it would HAVE to be now. Taking a deep breath and steadying himself, he picked up the phone and began dialing…
The answering machine…big surprise. Max rolled his eyes as the message played, but as he heard the beep to begin recording, he suddenly found himself at a loss for words.
“Hey, Shego,” he said uneasily, “Look, I don't know how you're going to feel about this, but I can't wait until you're around to tell you. I'm…well, I'm leaving for England today…and I don't know where I'm going or when I'll be back. I know I should have told you sooner, I'm sorry for that. Look, I'll try to give you a call from wherever I land and…”
Max stammered into the phone, trying to sound civil. But the more he spoke, the more he couldn't help thinking about how Shego had just been gone for an entire month without telling him or trying to talk to him. And the more he spoke, the more he felt his frustration growing until he finally let out an angry sigh.
“…Look, you know what, Shego?! Forget it! Just forget it! Because this just isn't working, okay?! You know, you run off, you don't tell me where you're going. I've been trying to get ahold of you for a month and I'm betting you haven't so much as picked up the phone! So if that's the way it's gonna be, then forget you! We're done, okay?! Call me if you want, Shego, but don't expect me to be here!”
Max was feeling pretty pleased with himself as he slammed the phone down. However, as he looked around the room, he still had to come to one conclusion in response to what he had just done.
“She's going to kill me,” he thought out loud before rising from his bed, “Oh well, can't worry about that now. I've got a plane to catch.”
… … … …
…Five weeks later…
Tired and dirty, Max was sitting in the back of an old pickup truck from a nearby farmer who'd been kind enough to give him a lift. He'd done alright for himself the first little while, but at around the four week mark, his money had soon dwindled down to nothing. He'd managed to work for food, but he no longer had any money for hotels or inns, so he'd had no chances to clean up and he barely slept more than a few hours a night in the outdoors. More and more, this trip was starting to look like a huge mistake. But at the same time, he could feel something inside, urging him on. No matter how bad it looked at this point, he knew in his heart he couldn't quit now. And in a way, it actually made him feel a feel a distinct swelling of pride to keep going. Never in all his life had he ever been this motivated before. And he found himself smiling as he raised his head up and looked around to examine the lush English countryside before him. But just then, a sight greeted him that made his eyes grow wide in shock.
“Whoa! Whoa!” he called to the farmer as he rapped furiously on the back window, “Stop here!”
The truck slowly came to a halt with a loud creak as Max jumped from the back. Running a few yards off the road, his eyes were still as big as dinner plates as he dropped his duffel bag and nearly crumpled to his knees. He was here, he knew it. This was the exact place he'd seen in his dream. The green foothills, the forest just off in the distance, with the small mountain just peeking out of the center. His dream had been real all along, there WAS a reason he had come all this way. And as that realization hit home, he didn't know whether to laugh, cry or run away screaming in terror.
“Hey lad, are you sure THIS is where you want to get off?! There's nothin' out here!” the farmer called to him from the truck. But Max barely acknowledged him as he continued staring out at the scenery with awe, his brain still trying to process how such a place could actually exist.
“Oh yeah,” he replied with a slow nod, “I'm sure.”
“Well, if you're sure then!” the farmer called back as he shifted his truck back into gear, “I'll tell the lads in the next town where you are. They can send someone to look for you if you end up getting lost!”
“Yeah, thanks…you do that,” Max said, still entranced by the sight before him. As the farmer drove off, Max picked up his duffel bag from the ground and cautiously began his slow trek towards the forest.
As he made his way through the trees, Max felt a huge swell of anxiety building up inside him. It was frightening how he seemed to be navigating his way through so effortlessly, as if he knew every square inch of this forest by heart. But how was that possible? He'd never been to England in his life. Shivering slightly, he began to have doubts, not knowing exactly what to think. He knew he couldn't stop now, not after coming so far, but still, this was just getting FAR too strange. And yet, at the same time, he could feel his uncertainty being mixed with a feeling of…anticipation. It felt as though he was like a kid at Christmas, running down the stairs knowing that presents would be under the tree, waiting for him. Just one more thing he didn't understand. But suddenly, all thoughts left his mind and he felt his heart jump into his throat as he broke through the treeline and found himself staring directly at the base of the small mountain.
As he slowly made his way around the base of the mountain, Max found himself almost hoping that he wouldn't find what he was about to find next, even though he somehow knew with absolute certainty that he would. And as turned around a large rock and found the narrow opening, he had to admit, his heart sank a little bit. More and more, he was starting to wonder if he really wanted to see this through. And yet, he knew he couldn't stop whether he wanted to or not. It was just like in his dream, as if some unseen force was guiding him onward.
Hesitating slightly, he pensively put his hand inside the cavern entrance. And he winced as he thought for sure that same white light would come and hit him the face. As he opened one eye slightly, he could see that nothing happened, but it still remained to be seen if that was a good thing or not. And so, sighing heavily and swallowing hard, he placed his duffel bag down beside the cavern entrance and slowly squeezed his way inside.
It was definitely a tight fit as Max inched his way through the tiny crack in the mountain. After a while, it seemed almost endless and the longer it went on, the more Max began to worry. He kept picturing himself at any moment getting a hand stuck…or a foot…or even his head…and then that would pretty much be it. He'd be stuck there until he starved to death. It didn't seem like the kind of thinking that should be coming from someone who'd faced danger before, but this wasn't like when Max was standing alongside Team Go. They had super powers, they could back him up. He could afford to be cocky then. But this time, he was by himself. If something happened…
But before he could think any more about it, Max's hand reached out and suddenly felt open space! Feeling a surge of excitement and relief at finally getting out of that cramped tunnel, Max scurried along as fast as he could and finally popped out onto the other side. He took a few moments to stretch and take some actual deep breaths, something he wasn't able to do for the whole time he was in the tunnel. But as he finally turned around to see the destination his effort had brought him, his eyes widened in awe.
The cavern room seemed to go on all the way to the top of the mountain, with a small opening at the top for sunlight to enter and illuminate the entire area. There were stalagmites and stalactites of every shape and size peppering the ceiling and floor. It really was a sight to behold and for a moment, Max was a little disappointed that he'd left his camera outside with his duffel bag. Some pictures of this place would REALLY be a highlight of his trip. But as he looked over, something else caught his attention that instantly made him forget about his camera. Lying in the center of the room, glittering from the sunlight shining down, was a deep freshwater spring. It seemed odd to Max that such a thing would exist here, but he was even more surprised by what was in front of it. Standing in front of the spring was what almost looked like a podium made of rock, with a large thick book placed on top of it.
Walking over to the podium, Max found a wooden stick placed on top of the book, about 12 inches long, smoothed and fashioned to a dull point. But Max paid it no attention as he casually set it aside. He was actually more interested in what a book could possibly be doing in a mountain like this, as if anything else he had gone through up to that moment had made any sense either. Opening the cover, the first page was written in a language he'd never seen before and didn't understand, yet still seemed strangely familiar to him. But as Max touched the book in an attempt to turn the page, the words began to give off an eerie glow. And before Max could react, a white light burst from the book and completely enveloped him!
Max felt like he'd been taken to another place, but he couldn't make sense of what was around him. He was surrounded by white light everywhere and his mind was being bombarded by hundreds of images within a span of seconds. He saw faces he'd never seen before, but somehow, knew…places and events he'd never been to, but somehow recognized. And as the sensory assault continued, Max could feel his heart pounding as fear began to grip him hard. All these people and places and feelings and wants and needs…it was all too much! He couldn't get his head around any of it!
Suddenly, in a second brilliant flash of light, Max stumbled backwards and fell onto the cavern floor. He was back where he was, but his panic had refused to fade. He kept seeing hundreds of faces, one passing in front of his eyes before disappearing and being replaced by another. He could hear hundreds of voices screaming at him but he couldn't understand what they were trying to say. He didn't know who was who or what was what! Did he even know who HE was anymore? The confusion was overwhelming, like a black tide that never ebbed, threatening to drown his mind!
Just then, just like a light leading him to the surface, the stick he had put down beside the book began to glow. Desperate for any kind of relief, he scrambled back to the podium without even thinking and grabbed onto the stick as tightly as he could! And just then, the glow coming from it trailed up his arm and slowly began to surround him, almost like being immersed in warm water. In that instant, all his fear was gone. His heart slowed, his breathing became steady. All the pieces of images, so fractured and twisted in his mind, suddenly came together into a clear picture. The voices that were so chaotic and distorted before now hummed in a gentle symphony, growing softer and slowly vanishing into the back of his mind. And as he opened his eyes and looked around the cavern once again, he couldn't help but smile…
He understood.
At that moment, Max suddenly found himself very amused, even chuckling a little. He thought back to how he couldn't make sense of anything just a short moment ago, but now it was all…so obvious. And as he kept looking around, everything just seemed…brighter…more alive. It was as if he'd been given new eyes and was seeing the real world for the very first time. Or maybe it was simply the first time his eyes were seeing everything they COULD see.
Then he paused to look down at the wand in his hand. He knew what it was now. In fact, he actually couldn't believe he didn't know it before. A moment later, the wand began to glow again as it grew and refashioned itself into a long black cane right before his eyes. That might have shocked him before. But now, it just seemed very funny as he found himself looking back to the person he was. It was just a few short minutes that had taken place between who he was and who he'd just become, but it might as well have been an entire lifetime. He kept thinking about how he once looked at the world around him, how uncertain he used to be about so many things. Now all he could think about was how little he really knew about himself before this moment and suddenly, it all just seemed like a joke. At that moment, he looked up at the sunlight beaming down from the opening at the top of the mountain and he couldn't help chuckling a little harder. Then suddenly, he flopped backwards onto the ground, basking in the moment as he let his giggles turn into hysterical laughter that echoed through the cave…
… … … …
Present Day…
“Lunchtime Rufus!” Ron announced, “You hungry buddy?”
“Mmmhmm mmmhmm,” Rufus chattered, cheerfully nodding his head as Ron made his way to the gates of Middleton Community College. He knew Kim's university classes would be wrapping up anytime. And since her car made the whole world a five-minute commute, a lunch date at Bueno Nacho was definitely pending. After two days, Ron was already settling into the new groove and it looked as though things were starting to work out very well. More and more, it was starting to look like Kim was right. Going to different colleges halfway around the world had absolutely no hope of keeping them apart. They were going to have plenty of time for just the two of them. But just as Ron reached the campus gates…
“A-HEM!! Mr. Stoppable,” Kevin Barkin's baritone voice boomed through the air, forcing Ron's heart to jump up into his throat, “I understand you were late for another class yesterday. I'm starting to see a bit of a disturbing pattern here. I don't know how it worked with my cousin in high school, but I say, if you want to take your post-secondary education seriously, you'd better straighten up and fly right.”
A couple days ago, Ron would have had a complete nervous breakdown over Barkin's sudden appearance. But after all the weirdness he'd had with Kim involving Maximillion Ambro over the last two days, first with Electronique and then with Shego, Barkin's complaining just seemed very trivial. And he was in no mood for it as he calmed down and tossed an annoyed frown over his shoulder in Barkin's direction.
“Excuse me. `Pattern'? What `pattern'? The school year is only two days old,” Ron protested, with Rufus drumming up enough courage to run up onto Ron's shoulder and chatter angrily in Barkin's direction, “You know what, dude? If this relationship is going to work, you are going to have to start acting a lot less Barkin-y. And keeping the stalking to a minimum might not be a bad place to start.”
“EXCUSE ME! Do you mind?!” A voice called out before Barkin had a chance to argue back. A faint rustling followed, causing Barkin and Ron to turn to the large tree beside them. A second later, Maximillion Ambro popped his head out from the leaves, hanging upside down from a branch with his cane under his arm, his digital camera in his hand and a whiny frown across his face.
“You are RUINING bird watching for me!”
Ron and Rufus could only give each other a concerned look. After two days, they still didn't know what to make of this guy. But Barkin wasn't the least bit concerned or amused as he stormed over to Max, looking into his upside down eyes with an annoyed glare.
“Explanation NOW!” he bellowed. Max, meanwhile, didn't seem the least bit concerned either as he simply looked back at Barkin with a deadpan gaze.
“I beg your pardon. I believe I've made my intentions perfectly clear,” he objected, flipping out of the tree and landing on his feet without a care, “Bird watching. It's a hobby of mine, one of several. You should think about taking one up yourself sometime `Kev'. Maybe then you'll lighten up a little.”
“I'm keeping an eye on you, Mister. You step out of line once…just once…” Barkin spoke under his breath. But his words didn't seem to intimidate Max in the least as he simply looked Barkin in the eyes with a confident smirk before giving a little shrug.
“Well then, as the saying goes…,” he said before twirling around Barkin, who turned to see Max pointing the digital camera right in his face, “…catch me if you can.”
Barkin was blinded only a second by the camera's flash, but as he turned and looked around frantically, Maximillion had completely disappeared. Only Ron was in the immediate area, sharing a confused look with Rufus. But Ron had no longer become his main target as Barkin pointed a finger in his direction.
“We're not done yet,” he warned before running off to look for Max. But as soon as Barkin was out of sight, Ron heard a snickering coming from beside him as a giggling Max poked his head out from behind the same tree he'd been sitting in just a moment ago.
“See, I told you he was going to be fun,” Max announced cheerfully.
“Riiiiight,” Ron replied, still unsure what to make of the situation, “Look, just as long as you don't try that kind of stuff with Kim, okay? Not if you want her on your side, anyway.”
“Why? What's up?” Max asked simply, shrugging his shoulders.
“What, are you kidding?! She doesn't know you, man! She doesn't trust you!” Ron blurted out in response, as if he couldn't believe Max had just asked such a question, “All she knows is some guy who used to date one of her arch foes showed up one day with magic powers. And she doesn't know what he's going to end up using those powers for.”
“Is that how YOU feel?” he asked Ron, his tone becoming slightly more serious. Ron, however, was stuck for a way to answer that question. On one hand, he definitely understood where Kim's was coming from, not fully trusting Max. But still, he had to remember that Max was the one who saved Kim from Electronique back in Go City two days ago. And that one act still carried a lot of weight, as far as Ron was concerned.
“Look, I'm just giving you a heads up, okay? Kim is NOT Shego. You want her to be down with you, you'd better start getting on her good side pretty fast.” Ron said in place of answering Max's question. Max, meanwhile, simply gave Ron a blank stare before shrugging his shoulders.
“Hm…Well anyway, good job standing up to Kev, back there. I think you're finally starting to get it,” he stated before walking off. Ron, unsure what he meant, could only look at Rufus, who shrugged in confusion.
“Get what?”
“That some things are more important than others,” Max replied simply, looking back over his shoulder towards Ron, “And the things that aren't so important…well, they're really not worth worrying about, are they? Well…see you around.”
With that, Max began to walk back to the campus buildings. Ron, meanwhile, simply looked on as if he had something to say, but he wasn't sure if he should say it. Still, he couldn't help but think back to what Max had said to him after he'd transformed into his Mystical Monkey Power form at the Go Tower the day before…
…“Well…Mystical Monkey Power, huh?…That is some pretty potent stuff you've got there. Man, I'm even MORE impressed now.”…
“Hey, wait a minute! Can I ask you something?” Ron called out, knowing he was acting against his better judgment. Max, however, paused and turned with a smirk.
“Ask me something?” he replied, “Even though you DON'T fully trust me?”
“Well…it's just…” Ron struggled to find the right way to make his point before he just up and blurted it out, “You know about magic, right? How it works?”
“Oh, I've been known to dabble here and there,” Max replied jokingly as a ball of light appeared in his hand before exploding into glitter like a firework, “What's on your mind?”
“Well…” Ron sighed, sitting down on a nearby bench, “…did you ever do something that you weren't sure you deserved the credit for?”
“Where are you going with this?” Max asked curiously as he walked over sat down beside him. Ron didn't answer right away, however. He needed a moment to gather his thoughts.
“It's just…well, I was never really all that good when it came to the punching and the kicking part of the hero thing,” Ron finally said, “But ever since I got this Monkey stuff to work for me full-time, I've been going out there and I've been able to really help Kim out when it comes to fighting off the bad guys. And it's been great…at first. But…the last little while, I've started to wonder…is it really me who's going out there and doing all that stuff?”
“Ah…I think I get what you're saying,” Max replied, nodding slowly.
“I mean, when I'm out there in a fight, I don't even think about it anymore. I just do it, you know?” Ron continued, “But sometimes, when I'm at home, I look in the mirror, and I don't see a fighter, I don't see some great warrior. All I see is me. And it just makes me think…what really happened? Did I do that? Or was it all the magic and was I just along for the ride? And if it really WAS the magic, well…what does that say about me?”
Max didn't give him an answer right away. He simply sat back on the bench and let out a sigh. But then, his lips curled into an amused half smile, as if he knew exactly what the answer was to Ron's doubts.
“Look, I'm gonna give one of the basic rules of magic, okay? Magic, I won't lie, is an UNBELEIVABLY powerful factor,” Max stated, not really making Ron feel any better until he continued, “But it's been my experience that no matter how powerful a magic is…only the person USING the magic can determine how much of its power is given to them. They have to have what it takes to get the most out of it. So take a minute and ask yourself…do you think you've gotten the most out of yours?”
Upon hearing the question, Ron's mind immediately began drifting back. He still remembered with crystal clarity the night he first got the Mystical Monkey Power and his first fight with Monkey Fist. Granted, that victory had been pretty much a fluke more than anything, but then he started flashing forward, to his win over Fukushima at the Yamanouchi school in Japan, defeating an entire team of Monkey Fist's monkey ninjas all by himself just a few months later. Of course, those victories paled in comparison to his defeat of the monstrous alien warriors, Warmonga and Warhok just a few short months ago, when his power truly exploded. Since then, it had just been full speed ahead for him. His most recent thoughts were when he helped Kim defeat Gemini's WEE henchman at a Global Justice facility. Not to mention destroying a 25-ton force gauge when Global Justice tried to measure his strength, then matching punch for punch with a giant robot that Gemini had stolen from a GJ storage area later that same day.
“Wow,” Ron uttered under his breath, his eyes widening slightly as the answer slowly became clearer and clearer the more he thought about it. Max was quick to notice the change in Ron's expression and he had to smile as it seemed Ron was finally starting to understand what he meant. Realizing that Ron was slowly getting into the right way of thinking, Max simply gave a hollow chuckle.
“There…you see?” he said, getting Ron's attention by gently nudging his shoulder with his fist before getting up from the bench to walk off. However, he did pause to turn back to Ron for a brief moment.
“Give yourself a little credit, kid,” he added, tossing Ron a reassuring grin as he slung his cane over his shoulder, “You're stronger than you think.”
That said, Max calmly strolled off, leaving Ron to his thoughts. He stayed on the bench for a moment longer, but as he stared out across the campus, a look of confidence began to etch itself into his smile. And at that moment, Ron felt instantly renewed and even let out a little laugh as he performed a quick one-armed handstand on the bench before flipping to his feet. Rufus, meanwhile, simply looked on with a surprised expression before Ron grabbed him and put him in his pocket. What he didn't notice is a lone figure stepping out from the shadows behind the bench. The same woman with long sandy blond hair and bright blue eyes who had been watching them the day before.
“Now I've got you,” she hissed wickedly with a twisted grin as Ron ran off. Ron meanwhile, didn't seem to have a care in the world anymore as he headed off to meet Kim like he'd intended. Suddenly, as he'd turned to head down the block, something wrapped around his waist and held him tight!
“Whoa!” he blurted out in surprise as a pair of hands softly ran up his chest. But before he could react…
“Mmmmm, hey you,” Kim cooed in his ear as she kissed his cheek and pulled herself against him, “I thought I'd pick you up and surprise you today.”
Ron could only let out a warm smile as Kim loosened her grip just enough for him to turn around and face her. And he didn't waste a second to also fold his arms around her as they softly nuzzled against each other.
“Hey, if there's a better surprise than this, I don't know what it is,” Ron replied as they gazed lovingly into each other's eyes. They remained frozen in the moment for as long as they could before Kim hugged his arm and walked with him back to her car where she'd been waiting for him.
“I'm thinking something simple, but romantic for lunch today,” she said with a playful lilt in her voice as she put her head on his shoulder, “What do you say to you and me under a nice big tree in Middleton Park with some Bueno Nacho takeout? Sound good to you?”
“Hey, you know me,” Ron said with a cheerful shrug, “I'm down for anything that has you and me in the equation.”
Kim couldn't help but smile as she snuggled against him a little tighter, but just then, her expression suddenly became very serious. As much as she wanted the moment to last for as long as she could, there was one topic she felt she had to bring up.
“So…have you run into HIM yet today?” she asked cynically. And Ron swallowed hard as he knew she could only be referring to Maximillion. Even Rufus had to let out a whimper of worry, since there was no way of knowing exactly what answer Ron could give. After all, even though Kim wouldn't likely throw a fit, Ron knew she probably wouldn't be too thrilled if she found out he had been willingly talking to him.
“Well…” Ron started apprehensively. But before he could finish, a blinding flash exploded in front of them! Momentarily blinded, Kim and Ron could only hear a loud shriek of wicked laughter before their eyes cleared to see the mysterious armored woman floating in the air just above Kim's car.
“At last I've found you!” she gloated menacingly, pointing her staff towards them, “After all this time! Did you really think you'd gotten rid of me forever?!”
“Is…she talking to you?” Kim asked, looking at Ron with a confused look.
“I've never seen her before in my life,” Ron could only answer with a shrug. The floating woman, meanwhile, was only growing angrier at being so blatantly ignored.
“Enough!” she bellowed, pointing her staff to the street in front of them, “Now!”
Rufus jumped out of Ron's pocket and start sniffing around to determine what she was pointing at. Just then, it was as if the ground itself seemed to shift! And Rufus shrieked as a huge figure of sand burst from the street! Before either Kim or Ron could react, the giant lashed out, its arms turning into thick pillars of sand that swallowed them both up to their necks and slammed them into the wall of the campus! The strange woman, meanwhile, could only looked on with twisted satisfaction, slowly floating down to Ron as he and Kim both struggled to escape the sand creature's crushing pressure.
“I can't tell you how long I've waited for this,” she hissed as her eyes seemed to glow, “Waiting for the chance to pay you back for everything you did to me.”
“Lady, I don't know what you're talking about!” Ron protested, feeling more confused than threatened as he continued to struggle, “I don't even know you!”
“Uh…Milady?” the sand giant spoke in its calm, civilized tone, “Perhaps your brilliance is executing a strategy that I am incapable of comprehending, but…why are we attacking them? This is not the one we're looking for.”
“What are you babbling about?!” she yelled back, glaring at her servant.
“Milady,” the giant replied cautiously, “You're not wearing your eyepieces again.”
“What?! Oh, of all the ridiculous…” the woman seemed almost embarrassed as she stayed in mid-air rummaging through her armor. Finally, she found what she was looking for as she pulled out a pair of round, thick eyeglasses and put them on before staring at Ron's face intently, her face just inches away from his.
“Uh, excuse me? I usually try not to get all territorial, but you're in a section of personal space that's typically reserved for ME!” Kim called over in an irritated tone as the woman continued examining Ron's face. Suddenly, her face widened in surprise as she finally made a realization.
“Wait…you really AREN'T him!” she exclaimed, sounding slightly confused, “But if you're not him, what's this aura I sense from you?! Only magical energies can produce an aura THIS strong!”
“Go ahead Ron,” Kim replied with a sly grin, “The nice lady asked us a question. It would be rude not to give her an answer.”
Ron simply returned Kim's smirk before turning his attention back to the strange woman, who suddenly looked very apprehensive, as if she was sensing that something was about to happen. As her eyes went wide, she instantly turned and dove behind Kim's car. A wise move as it turned out. A second later, Ron transformed into his Mystical Monkey Power form, unleashing a pulse of energy that crushed the sand giant's arm back into the particles that formed it! Without a pause, Ron turned his body around as he landed, throwing his arms forward and sending a wave of pure force crashing into the giant's other arm! Kim quickly landed a moment later as the creature's other arm disintegrated and within seconds, she and Ron stood side by side, ready for the REAL fight to begin. But the armored woman wasn't in the mood for any such battle as she peered up from behind Kim's car with a stern frown.
“This REALLY isn't how I was hoping this would go,” she sighed, lifting her hand as Kim and Ron charged forward. And suddenly, Kim and Ron found themselves stopped short by an invisible wall, bringing the fight to an immediate end. Feeling more secure, the woman merely smirked as she walked towards them while Kim and Ron pounded on the barrier with everything they had.
“I see, so THAT'S the source of your aura,” she spoke confidently as she turned to leave, “Very interesting.”
“Hey, come on! We weren't finished yet!” Ron shouted after her as he and Kim still tried to break free.
“I am!” the woman replied sternly, tossing a quick glance back over her shoulder, “Your power is quite impressive, I must admit. But I didn't come here for YOU…at least, not yet.”
“Then who ARE you after?” Kim asked, even though she fully expected not to get an answer. Just then, another figure stepped onto the scene.
“That would probably be me,” as they all turned to see Maximillion Ambro standing just a few feet away, wearing the same outfit and hairstyle he'd worn against Electronique and Shego, with his cane slung over his shoulder. And as she turned to face him, the strange woman instantly glared in rage as she gripped her staff tightly.
“You,” she hissed through her teeth, “It IS you, isn't it? You even have the same wretched aura as before…Merlin.”
“That's a VERY old name for me,” Max responded, although his tone seemed more serious than his usual, lighthearted air, “Although to be honest, I could have gone a lot longer without seeing YOU.”
“Gee, let me guess,” Kim responded sarcastically, “Another ex-girlfriend?”
“HAH! In her dreams!” Max answered abruptly, almost wanting to laugh. The woman, meanwhile, was in no mood for laughter as a ball of fire appeared in her hand, hurtling it straight at him! But Max showed no look of concern as he flicked his wrist and his cane flashed in an upward strike, hitting the fireball and bursting it into nothing!
“Please…you haven't changed, have you? Did you REALLY think that would work?” he asked with a smirk.
“Oh, you'll find that I'm hardly the same as I was before,” the woman replied as flew towards him at top speed, lunging forward with her staff. But Max effortlessly blocked the blow, fighting her as he had fought Shego the day before, using his cane like a sword. Kim instantly noticed that while this woman may have had incredibly poor eyesight, her fighting style was top-notch. She was very skilled, especially using her staff as a weapon. But again, Max didn't seem the least bit concerned as his opponent didn't seem to be making any more headway against him than Shego did. Each of her attacks, he either blocked, deflected or dodged with ease until he crossed his cane against the woman's staff, struggling against her in a firm standoff.
“Oh…so you've got a body that can actually fight now, huh? Not bad…” he noted before tossing the woman a smirk. But just then, he opened the palm of his free hand, unleashing a wave of force that blew the woman back and sent her bouncing along the sidewalk! Meanwhile, her sand giant servant, instantly sensing danger, leapt to the woman's aid, charging forward and lashing out at Max with its rebuilt arms! But Max simply smiled as he raised his hand, his fingers just barely touching the creature and turning its entire body into the most brittle glass! A glass that instantly shattered to dust as Max firmly flicked it with his finger. Meanwhile, the woman had managed to struggle to her feet and could only scowl back as Max grinned at her confidently.
“…But you're going to have to do a LOT better than that.”
“You should be more careful what you wish for,” The woman threatened as she and the remains of her creature began to fade into vapor, her voice echoing on the breeze, “I'm just getting started!”
As soon as the mysterious woman vanished, the barrier surrounding Kim and Ron disappeared as well, allowing Rufus to come out of hiding and rejoin them. Ron was perfectly happy to have Rufus back in his pocket. But Kim, meanwhile, was just getting all the more aggravated as she stormed over to Max.
“Well?” she spoke out angrily, “Mind explaining why you didn't feed us THIS little tidbit of information?”
“Well, to be honest, I didn't think I'd ever HAVE to. THIS wasn't even supposed to happen,” Max argued, staring back to where the woman had just stood as he let out a whining sigh, “Honestly, does no one have respect for my timetable?”
“ENOUGH ABOUT YOUR TIMETABLE!!!” Kim hollered, showing no fear about getting in Max's face, “Now you listen to me Max or Merlin or whatever you want to call yourself! I am not about to sit around, waiting for every skeleton in your closet to come jumping out at us one at a time! So either you start giving us some answers or you can just go back to whatever cloud it is you floated down from!”
“Uh, dude? Remember that nice little talk we had about getting on her good side?” Ron's voice lowered to a whisper as he indicated that now might not be the best time to refuse a request from Kim, who could only stand glaring at him. Max, meanwhile, simply looked back to where the mysterious woman had been standing and gave a serious frown, again, not an expression he usually showed. Whatever was going on, it was becoming clear that this was not in his plan.
“My office. This afternoon. After his last class,” he stated as he turned and walked off. There didn't seem to be anything more Kim and Ron could do. They could only do as he requested and hope that he would actually be there.
… … … …
Kim was outside Ron's classroom so she could meet him immediately after his final class and together, they both made their way to Max's office in silence. They had tried their best to enjoy lunch together, but being attacked in broad daylight just a few minutes earlier was definitely a mood killer. And Kim didn't like that one bit. Granted, he'd dropped a few pearls of wisdom in Ron's direction to help him cope with an all-new Barkin and yes, he'd also helped them in the fight against Electronique. But between the disappearing acts, bizarre attitude, powers that seemed to have no limit, a secretive past that included dating Shego and NOW getting attacked by strange enemies out for his head, the drawbacks to having this guy around were FAR outweighing any benefits. And Kim was already determined that she wasn't about to put up with his presence at all until she knew what he was all about. Still, as they reached the door to his office, they both seemed unsure as they tossed each other concerned glances. After all, who knew what he would have in there waiting for them…or if would even be there at all? Just then…
“Come on in guys! The door's open!” Max called from beyond the closed door, catching them both off guard.
“Uh…okay, that was just spooky,” Kim noted, looking over at a wide-eyed Ron, who simply nodded along with Rufus, perched on his shoulder. Still, it wasn't about to stop them from walking in the door. Inside was pretty much typical of any school office. There were books on shelves, files strewn about here and there, a desk with a few chairs around it. And behind that desk was Max, stuffing a few odds and ends into a duffel bag before he looked up to acknowledge them.
“About time…I was just about to leave,” he announced with a cheerful air, walking around his desk to close the door behind them before walking over to another door, “Hope you don't mind, I've got to make a quick stop on the way.”
“Uh huh. Look, I don't know what act you're trying to pull now but…that's a storage closet,” Kim replied cynically. Max however, merely turned to her and smiled.
“Is it now?” he responded with a small chuckle. Opening the door to a pitch black opening, he simply waved an inviting hand to Kim and Ron to come with him. Kim couldn't help but raise a suspicious eyebrow, but decided to take a chance as she and Ron looked at each other and took each other's hand before taking a deep breath and pensively walking through the door…
“Hey guys! Guess who's here!” Max called out loudly as Kim and Ron suddenly found themselves inside the main room of an enormous house as soon as they'd walked through the doorway! There was a dining room on the left with a kitchen beyond it, a living room on the right and a hallway and a staircase right in front of them leading to bedrooms and bathrooms. Whirling around, they both looked back through the doorway they had just entered. But instead of Max's office, now all they saw was a front porch leading to a large gated front yard. Beyond that, a stream of skyscrapers poked their way out of the background, instantly betraying they're location.
“Kim,” Ron whispered, “We're in GO City!”
“Yeah,” was all Kim managed to get out, her voice filled with awe. Trapped in a state of complete shock, all they could do was look at each other in wide-eyed amazement. Even Rufus found himself in a daze of disbelief.
“MAAAX!!!” a collective scream instantly snapped Kim and Ron out of the moment, however, as a small herd of children came running out of every room to greet him. They were all of different ages, ranging from three and four to as old as 13 or 14. Max, meanwhile, simply smiled and laughed as he offered hugs, high fives and pats on the head. But a moment later, he felt a tug on his shirt as he turned to see one little girl with short brown hair, clutching an enormous teddy bear almost as big as her.
“Hey Elizabeth, how are you, Sweetie?” Max asked happily.
“Good,” was all the girl replied with a big smile, but continuing with a whisper as Max lifted her up, “You know what?”
“What?” Max whispered back. Elizabeth simply smiled at him and giggled before answering.
“I'm getting `dopted tomorrow.” She answered, drawing out a playful gasp from Max.
“I know. You are so lucky, you know that?” he said, hugging her even tighter. Elizabeth giggled again, but then a part of her seemed a little sad.
“I'm gon' miss you, Max.”
“I'm gonna miss you too kid,” Max said, feeling a little unhappy himself, but still offering her a reassuring smile as he set her back down, “But you're gonna call me once a week, right?”
“Yeah,” Elizabeth replied, giving a shy smile as she hid behind her teddy bear.
“That's my girl. Now you go play, okay?” Max replied, giving her a messy pat on the head before she giggled and ran off into the other room. Kim and Ron, meanwhile, could only exchange looks of amazement. So far, they'd only seen Max's wild side. A sight like this was the absolute last thing either of them was expecting.
“She's just had her head in the clouds ever since that nice couple said they'll take her. For days, she's been telling anyone who'll listen,” another voice sounded as Kim and Ron turned to see a tall woman with short dark hair and brown eyes walking towards them from the dining room, “How are you doing, Max?”
“Hey,” Max replied simply, pointing his thumb over his shoulder at Kim and Ron, “Just a short visit today. Got some friends here who need a little help with something.”
“Oh, hi. Uh, Kim Possible…Ron Stoppable. Sorry to be showing up unannounced,” Kim introduced, feeling a little caught off guard as she turned back to the doorway and still saw the front yard, “To be honest…WE didn't even know we were coming.”
“Oh, there's no trouble. The name's April,” the woman replied, “I run the group home here. Do you guys want to come in for something?”
“Go ahead, make yourselves at home. I'll try to make this quick,” Max invited before turning back to the kids in the main hall with a loud clap, “Alright now! Who's got homework!”
The younger kids immediately raised their hands obediently at the question. But a few of the older kids behind them seemed a little more reluctant to do so. Max, meanwhile, simply gave a suspicious glance.
“I think some of you in the back are lying! Go get it!” he commended with a smirk, despite the disappointed groans from some of the older kids as they trudged to their rooms, “Now come on, I don't want to hear that. Some of you guys are old enough. You should be pulling your weight around here and setting an example.”
“Oh that's REALLY rich, coming from YOU,” April replied with a smirk of her own.
“Don't start,” Max replied with an amusing tone, pointing his cane at her before turning back and calling to the kids, “Alright, I want all of you in the living room with your homework in five minutes, okay?!”
“Come on,” April motioned to Kim and Ron, “You can wait here in the dining room until he's done.”
… … … …
“I have to say, this is a little surprising. I wasn't really expecting Max to be doing this sort of thing,” Kim stated as she and Ron sat beside each other at the huge dining room table. Ron and Rufus meanwhile, were too busy enjoying the cookies and milk that April had laid out for them.
“Well, Max grew up here, so he comes in quite a bit to help out,” April replied as she sat across from them with a cup of coffee, “I keep telling him it's not necessary, but…well, you know Max.”
“Well…actually, we don't really,” Kim noted with a little apprehension, “That's…kind of what we're trying to do. Figure some things out.”
“I'm not surprised. Max has never been very open about certain things,” April said with an understanding nod, “To be honest, he had it pretty rough when he was a child. I mean, by the time he got to me, he'd already been bounced around five group homes in seven years. And he was so shy, he never opened up to anybody, so no one wanted to adopt him. After a while, I just took him in myself. Still, I could never shake the fact that there was always something missing his life. And it wasn't something a parent could provide, it was like something…inside himself.”
Kim didn't say anything as she hung on every word. Even Ron and Rufus had stopped eating to listen intently.
“He went through an incredibly awkward phase as a teenager. It was a very angry time for him because he was so insecure about himself,” April continued, “He was always trying to cover it up with jokes and sarcastic comments and acting all rebellious. It was enough to fool some people, but he never fooled me. I could always see in his eyes what he was really going through. But then he started going out with that girl. I never did get her name…but she was always wearing green for some reason.”
Kim and Ron only tossed each other a worried glance as April took a sip of her coffee. After all, they knew EXACTLY who she was talking about.
“Listen, don't tell him I said this,” April leaned across the table as she whispered to them, “But I was actually VERY relieved when I heard he broke it off. To be honest, I never really cared for that girl. I thought she was a terrible influence on him. Always running around, never saying where they were going or what they were doing. I tell you, it drove me crazy. Every day, I just kept picturing him coming home in the back of a police car.”
Kim and Ron didn't say a word. They simply rolled their eyes and looked away.
“Then, after he graduated from high school…he started getting this crazy idea in his head that he wanted to go to England,” April said, the confusion in her voice indicating that still didn't know what he'd been thinking, “And at first, I flat out said no, because he was asking me to use his college savings to fund this trip. I mean, he'd never shown an interest in travelling before, he didn't where he was going or when he was coming back, I thought it was just a reckless whim. But after a month, he kept arguing with me about it, and eventually, I started to see that this was something he DESPERATELY wanted to do. So eventually, he wore me down and I ended up saying yes. But only if he wrote me at least once a week.”
This was the part that Kim and Ron were listening for. Giving April their undivided attention, maybe now they'd learn something about Max's powers. At least something they could nail down a timeline from.
“For the first few weeks, everything was fine. He wrote, just like he said,” April recalled, “Then suddenly, one week, no mail, two weeks, no mail, three weeks…I was just going out of my mind. I didn't have a clue what had happened to him. Then, suddenly, in the middle of the fourth week, he just appeared out of nowhere at the front door. And I was so angry at him, I wanted to let him have it so badly…but then I looked at him…and I couldn't believe it. It was like, for the first time in his life, he was happy. ACTUALLY happy. And that's when I knew, he'd finally found that missing piece he was looking for. And he's been like this ever since.”
Again, Kim and Ron didn't reply. They simply offered each other thoughtful looks. Just then, Max's head peeked into the room.
“Hey, you guys want to go or do you need a few more minutes?” he called in.
“Uh…I think we're good,” Kim said as she and Ron stood up, looking over at April, “Thanks again for the talk. It…actually kind of helped.”
“Heeeey,” Max looked at her with a mock look of suspicion, “What have you been telling them?”
“Oh stop,” April replied with an amused smile, “I didn't say anything. We just talked.”
“Uh huh,” Max replied cynically as April walked into the kitchen and Kim and Ron headed for the front door. Picking up his duffel bag, he followed Kim and Ron to the door but stopped to point his cane at the living room.
“Okay, I'm out of here, but remember…you guys never know if I'm coming back! So you'd better make sure every bit of that homework is done, got it?!” he called into the room before turning to leave. With that, he opened the front door and he, Kim and Ron stepped out into the bright sunlight…
“Come on in,” Max said as he closed the door and Kim and Ron suddenly found themselves now in the front door of a huge apartment loft! Whipping open the door and sticking their stunned heads out along with Rufus, all they saw was a long hallway leading to an elevator at the far end. Inside, a spacious kitchen with a dining room table was on their right while a large living room was to their left, complete with two reclining chairs, a love seat and a couch. A large home theater system was in the far corner with a desk and computer system by the far wall. And a set of patio doors opened up to a wide balcony looking out over the Go City skyline. Only the position of the buildings suggested that they were nearly halfway across town from the group home they had just been in!
“Okay, he has REALLY got to warn us when he is going to do that,” Ron whispered to Kim, who was just beginning to solve only a FEW of Max's mysteries.
“This must be why Wade thought it was an old address. There's no way ANYONE would think he lived HERE if he's working in Middleton. That's probably why I couldn't find him on campus yesterday either.” she whispered back. Max, meanwhile, was walking through the apartment past the kitchen, just as a cup of tea floated through the air into his hand.
“Haaaaaah, much better,” he said after taking a sip as he continued walking, “Well, come on then. Don't be strangers. You're the ones who said you wanted answers.”
Getting back to the business at hand, Kim and Ron trotted after Max. Still ahead of them, Max was already walking up a flight of stairs leading to an indoor balcony which served as a makeshift second floor.
“The truth is, you two really aren't that much different than me in some ways,” he said as he continued upward, “For one thing, you both know what it feels like.”
Unsure of what he meant, Kim and Ron simply looked at each other confused as they both pensively made their way up the stairs.
“What…WHAT feels like?” Kim had to ask. As they reached the head of the stairs, they found Max's bed, with a closet carved into the wall and a large end table beside it, covered with a large cloth. And in front of the table stood Max, who took another sip of tea before answering.
“Clarity,” he said simply before placing his tea onto the end table, “That one single defining moment when you look inside yourself and realize with absolute certainty who you are and what you were brought into this world to do.”
Instantly, Kim and Ron found themselves looking back in time. They had to admit, they did both have that moment of clarity and they knew exactly what it felt like. In Kim's case, her moment came in Jr. High, that night at the Paisley mansion when she leapt through the laser grid and disarmed it, saving her first lives. Until that moment, she knew what her abilities were, but she never really knew what her skills could really make her capable of. Until that moment, she was happy just doing odd good deeds. But after that night, she saw how far she could really go, that there really were no limits to what she could do for others. From then on, she looked outward, taking her abilities to the world and she never looked back.
For Ron, the moment came much later, but it was every bit as profound. It came to him at their graduation, the day he went to Kim's rescue and defeated Warhok and Warmonga. For Ron, it was about more than just saving the life of the woman he loved. In recent years, his growing affection for Kim had been such an inspiration for him, making him want to better himself. And when they got together, Kim became like a rock for him to lean on during moments of uncertainty, always offering him her unconditional support and becoming an even greater influence. And yet, he never managed to break through that glass ceiling to reach another level, which continued to frustrate him. But all that changed in a single moment…the moment Kim was knocked out and unable to defend herself from the two giant warriors. At that moment, Ron didn't have Kim beside him anymore. He was alone, and it was then that he finally realized the truth. For so long, he had Kim's support, Kim's faith and Kim's love, but Kim alone could only take him so far. The rest was up to HIM. It was that realization that let him look inside himself and finally trigger his Mystical Monkey Power to defeat Warhok and Warmonga on his own. Looking back, Ron could clearly remember the things that went through his mind after the battle, as he was holding Kim in his arms. It was like he felt comfortable in his own skin for the first time in his life. And at that moment, he knew it was a lesson he would never allow himself to forget.
But as Kim and Ron were reminiscing to themselves, Max was more focused on something else as he pulled back the cloth on the end table, revealing a large safe underneath. But the door to the safe had no combination dial or latch to open it. But it seemed to provide now trouble for Max, who actually reached his hand THROUGH the door and pulled out a large thick book.
“This…was mine,” he continued, staring at the book intently for a long moment before handing it over to Kim, who didn't waste another moment to open it, with Ron looking over her shoulder. But instead of satisfying their curiosity, it only made them more confused as they found every page in the book blank!
“Oh, ha, ha, very funny,” Kim commented sarcastically, thinking he was playing another joke, “There's nothing in here! Where are the words?!”
“Oh, there are words,” Max answered plainly, “Let's just say they've been…relocated.”
“Relocated…to where?” Ron asked. But Max only gave a cryptic half smile in response before raising his hand and tapping himself on the head.
“That book is an account of everything I was. Although every-ONE I was would probably be a little more accurate” he explained calmly as he sat on the edge of his bed, “See, your boy Wade found out about the Merlin/Aurelius Ambrosius connection. He was on the right track, but the truth is, I'm not his descendant…”
“…I'm his reincarnation.”
“…huh?” Kim could only stand with Ron and stare at him, their faces showing complete bewilderment.
“Well, actually, it would be more accurate to say I'm A reincarnation,” Max continued, as if there was absolutely nothing unusual at all about what he was saying, “See, Aurelius was the first incarnation, Merlin was actually the third. He just became more famous, that's all.”
“Wait…so you're telling us…you really ARE Merlin,” Kim responded with a hint of disbelief.
“I don't like to think that way,” Max replied, shaking his head as he stood back up, “I mean, if I start thinking I'm this guy or that guy, then I'm going to start losing sight of who I am. And that's REALLY not good. Especially since a couple of my incarnations have had an unpleasant habit of going insane. You might say I've had a history of mental illness.”
“And you're a Counselor,” Kim noted, raising an eyebrow suspiciously.
“Hey, I've got an angle,” Max replied with a shrug before taking another sip of his tea, “I mean, come on. Dealing with hundreds of stressed out teenagers with too much homework who are just about to set both feet into the real world for the first time? If you're gonna do what I do, it doesn't hurt to be crazy.”
“You know, as disturbing as it is to say this, that actually made sense,” Ron commented as Max offered him an approving nod.
“Okaaaay, still…you don't think this is all just a LITTLE far-fetched?” Kim asked cynically. Of course, Max's only reply to that came as he snapped his fingers, causing the book to float out of Kim's hands and back into his.
“As opposed to, oh say…THAT?” he argued back with a cocky smirk.
“You know he does make a good point…Yeah, yeah…” Ron and Kim murmured dryly to each other in agreement as their voices trailed off. But as she was learning more, Kim felt the need to ask more questions.
“So…that's what you found when you went to England?”
“Ah, very good. You see how it's all starting to come together now?” Max jokingly before holding up the book, “Anyway, like I said, the book is an account of everyone I used to be, all the way back to Aurelius. Think of it as computer hard drive, containing all the information from every single one of those lifetimes. When that life ends, its experiences are recorded and the book is returned to where it belongs so it can be found again next time. That's where I found it. And when I did, that information was uploaded into me.”
Max paused, placing the book back inside the safe before taking another sip of tea.
“Of course, in some cases, the people who absorb the information can't handle it,” he continued, “Like my SECOND incarnation, a guy by the name of Myrddin Wyllt… well, let's just say that things didn't turn out so well for him.”
“Uh huh,” Ron noted with a hint of concern, “I'm just gonna go out on a limb here and assume that he was one of the ones who went…”
“…CA-RAAAA-THZY!” Max followed up with a goofy yell, his swirling eyes not making Kim or Ron feel particularly comfortable before he instantly turned back to his calm demeanor, “That's probably where I would've ended up to…if it hadn't been for this.”
Suddenly, Max's cane slowly shrank and reformed into a smoothed, pointed stick. Kim and Ron, meanwhile could only look on curiously.
“Okay…what IS that exactly?” Kim had to ask.
“Merlin's wand, believe it or not,” Max answered, looking at it with the same intense stare as when he was holding the book, “By the time he found the book, Merlin was already a student of magic and alchemy. I guess that's what helped him adjust. I think he made sure the wand stayed with the book so that other incarnations would be able to handle the transition better. Apparently, each incarnation is born with these magical energies. As near as I can tell, certain objects like the wand can act as a lens, which focuses that energy and allows it to be used. Otherwise, the results are completely random.”
“Random…like how you had all that good luck with Team Go and never got hurt!” Kim exclaimed as another piece of Max's puzzle seemed to fall into place.
“You're learning. There, see how satisfying it is to figure these things out on your own?” Max answered back with a smirk as his wand changed back into a cane. Kim, meanwhile, turned serious again as she still had more questions.
“Okay, enough with the introduction,” she said, “Now why don't we skip ahead to the chapter with the lady in the heavy metal. What's the story on her?”
“Well, that's where things get a little complicated,” Max replied with an apprehensive eye roll, “How much do you know about the King Arthur legends?”
“What do you mean…Like, Excalibur, Round Table, Guinevere? What?” Kim asked, confused.
“Ever heard of Morgan Le Fay?” Max asked back.
“Morgan Le Fay?” Kim thought for a moment, “Wasn't she some witch who kept trying to take over Arthur's kingdom?”
“Mm, a CRUDE summary, but that's about the gist of it.” Max replied, “I'll make this quick. Morgan was Arthur's half-sister. She studied magic under quite a few teachers, Merlin included. But she was impatient, she kept wanting to fast-track things. One day, what happened was she ended up summoning forces she couldn't control. Those forces possessed her and grew into a separate entity which eventually took over her mind. Arthur and Merlin did manage to get her back, but it wasn't easy. In the end, Merlin was just BARELY able to overpower the evil that possessed her and sealed it into a wooden staff.”
“That woman we ran into was holding a staff,” Kim thought out loud, “You don't think the evil in that staff…”
“Oh, I don't HAVE to think,” Max cut her off, confirming Kim's theory that who they were dealing with was someone who was clearly possessed, “What I can't figure out is how she got her hands on it. You see, Arthur decreed that the staff was too dangerous to be left in anyone's keeping, so he sent Merlin to the farthest edge of his kingdom to bury it in an underground chamber. He told NO ONE its location. By all rights, that staff should NEVER have been found.”
Just then, as Kim and the others were trying to figure out this new development, the Kimmunicator sounded, instantly getting everyone's attention.
“Go Wade,” Kim said.
“Kim, I ran a check on the face of that woman you guys ran into and I found this,” Wade announced, calling up a picture on the screen of a woman with sandy blond hair tied in a bun with bright blue eyes and thick glasses, “Her name is Maria Novak. She's an archeologist who specializes in the King Arthur legends. But she disappeared about a month ago during an archeological dig in a remote part of England.”
Hearing this, Kim and Ron immediately looked up at Max, who could only wince in concern.
“Okay…that would probably do it,” he replied.
… … … …
“CURSE HIM!!!” the possessed body of Maria Novak, now Maria Le Fay, raged on a remote rooftop as her sand creature slowly began reforming, “I can't believe how much stronger he's become, while I've been lying in a hole for centuries! As much as I hate to admit it, even WITH this body's impressive fighting skills, as I am now, I have no hope of defeating him on my own.”
“Milady, if you would allow a humble suggestion,” the sand giant spoke, “Would not the most prudent course of action now be to simply capture someone or something of value to him in order to ensnare him into a trap?”
“Hmmm…no,” Le Fay replied somberly as she shook her head, “At this point, he's FAR too powerful for such a direct tactic to work. We need something else.”
With that, Le Fay waved her arm and a sphere began to envelop herself and her creation, rendering them invisible to sight. As the sphere floated off the rooftop, Le Fay lowered down to the ground to get a better view at the changes that had taken place over the centuries. It was at that moment, that they chanced to pass an Internet café where something in the window caught her eye.
“What's this?” she murmured as she pulled out Maria Novak's thick glasses and peered in the window to see a young girl browsing through the Kim Possible website. As the site loaded, a large graphic of Kim and Ron emerged on the main page.
“It's them. The same pair from before.” Le Fay thought out loud, recalling her earlier encounter with Kim and Ron. Suddenly feeling even more curious, she leaned in closer and squinted to see more.
“Kim Possible…She can do anything…” she read the title aloud. Just then, a twisted smile slowly crossed her lips as she let out a wicked chuckle.
“Is that a fact?”
… … … …
“So what you're saying is, all we have to do stop this whole possession thing is just get that staff away from her?” Ron asked as Max explained the situation.
“The staff is the conduit for the possessing entity. Separate them and you sever the connection,” Max replied, “But that's easier said than done. Don't forget what you've already seen her do. I know I made it look easy, but that's only because I've spent the last few lifetimes getting better than Merlin was in HIS day. And remember that creature that was with her? That was a sand golem. Now you can make golems out of just about anything, that's basic. But creating one that can actually talk and think for itself? THAT'S next level stuff. This thing that's got ahold of her, it obviously has access to all of Morgan's skills. And she WAS skilled, don't forget that.”
“Not to mention some of THESE credentials,” Kim noted, continuing to scan Maria Novak's file through the Kimmunicator, “Jiu Jitsu, Tae Kwan Do…she may LOOK like a skinny little bookworm, but this lady's got some real brawn to go with those brains.”
“Also, don't forget that if you do separate her from the staff, you can't touch it yourself,” Max added, “Not unless YOU want to end up getting possessed.”
“So…are we coming up with any HELPFUL suggestions?” Ron noticed, starting to feel concerned. Even Rufus began to whimper with worry.
“Well, the one disadvantage of spiritual possession is that the door swings both ways,” Max said with a shrug, “You may gain access to all the host's strengths, but you also get their weaknesses.”
“Weaknesses? What kind of weaknesses?” Kim asked curiously.
“What kind have you got?” Max answered with a shrug, “Maybe the host is crippled or has an injury. Maybe they have an illness, maybe they have a phobia. It could be anything. Possessing spirits don't have the power to override things like that.”
“Hmmmmm,” Kim thought out loud, “Well, we already know she's blind as a bat without those glasses. But I don't think that's going to be enough. We need to find something else we can exploit.”
Just then, Ron heard a pair of shrill beeps coming from his watch. Looking down, he noticed it was almost 6:00!
“Aw, man! KP, we've gotta go!” he exclaimed, “It's almost dinner! I'd better at least get home for that so my parents aren't worrying.”
“Yeah, I'd better get a move on too,” Kim agreed.
“So…you got some more info,” Max stated with a smirk, “Feeling a little better now?”
“Well…maybe just a little,” Kim had to admit with a shrug, “There's just…one more thing I've got to know…”
Kim seemed reluctant to ask at first. But she didn't really need to. Max was already flashing another smirk as he nodded his head knowingly.
“You want to know about me and Shego, don't you?”
“Well…” Kim's voice trailed off as she looked away, still uncomfortable about asking. Max, however, simply laughed in response.
“Oh, I'm sorry. I just think that's very cute,” he chuckled before raising his hand to one of the far bookshelves, “Oookay.”
Just then, what looked like a DVD disk in a plastic cover slid out from the bookshelf and flew towards Max, who snatched it from the air. Then, with a flick of his wrist, he tossed the disk to Kim, who only looked at it perplexed.
“There's about an hour and a half of footage on that,” Max explained, “It's hardly everything, but it's a pretty accurate cross-section of what our relationship was like. Have fun.”
With that, Max walked over to the door, and opened it. At first, Kim and Ron thought they were leaving with him, but as they stepped to the edge of the doorway, Max simply stepped behind them.
“Try not to be surprised,” he whispered over their shoulders as he shut the door behind them, forcing them through the doorway…
The next thing Kim and Ron knew, they were standing on the front steps of the Main building at Middleton Community College. Instinctively, they whirled around again, only to see the main hallway leading inside the building. Of course, by this time, both of them should have known what to expect.
“Wow. And we thought your car could get around,” Ron noted as Kim let out an annoyed sigh. Then she looked over to notice the DVD disk still in her hand.
“Well…” she thought out loud…
… … … …
“…we might as well see what's on this thing.”
Saturday morning had arrived the next day. Kim didn't see any immediate need to watch the disk the day before, but she was up bright and early that morning and made her way to Ron's house. Since Ron's computer had been upgraded recently, they decided to play the disk in his room to opt for a little privacy. Kim was quick to pull up a second chair as Ron placed the disk inside the DVD-ROM tray and started it up. And as they waited for the disk to load, they both turned to each other with a look of uncertain anticipation, since neither of them knew what to expect from what they were about to watch.
What appeared on the screen was an anthology of what looked like video clips featuring Maximillion and Shego in high school. Aside from the fact that they both seemed a little shorter and thinner, they both looked like they hadn't really changed at all. Their hair and facial features were more or less the same. But it also showed what Max looked like fighting alongside Team Go. He had the same slicked back hair and sunglasses he'd currently worn when he was in his black suit, but when he was younger, his clothes were much different. The suit was actually white, with a bolero-style jacket, and a black shirt with black gloves and shoes.
Pretty much every single clip had Max and Shego together. And while on the surface, they didn't seem to be anything more than a couple of pals hanging out, little by little, other scenes began to emerge. Scenes where they'd look like they were staring each other down, then toss each other a sly grin before sharing a quick peck on the lips. One scene had Shego jumping onto Max's back and wrapping her arms around his neck. Although quite a few of the clips were hardly as cute and cuddly. It seemed no matter how many clips there were of them being nice to each other, there seemed to be just as many clips of them fighting. And most of them always turned out the same way, with Shego ranting and raving while Max calmly dismissing her with a cocky smirk. Then Shego would try to attack him, only to be stopped by either Hego, a teacher or someone else. And Max would playfully wave to her as she was dragged away.
Still, in the clips where they DID get along, Max and Shego seemed to show a surprising amount of solid teamwork. One of the Team Go clips involved a fight with Electronique where she leaped at Max, who had only a plastic trash can lid to protect himself. Falling backwards, he curled his legs up and kicked hard, flipping Electronique overtop of him. Although Electronique managed to land on her feet, Max's diversion allowed Shego to get behind her, grabbing her hair and falling backward to drive her knees into Electronique's back! A moment later, the trash can lid that Max was holding came flying into Electronique's head, putting her down for the count. Other clips had the two of them pulling pranks or arguing with teachers. One clip in particular had them walking into a school dance and Shego using her powers for a fireworks show as they walked into the gym, instantly getting everyone's attention! It actually looked like a professional wrestler's entrance. They showed that same cocky, showboating attitude against Team Go's enemies too. Watching such moments, Kim was starting to realize how Hego had such trouble reining them in. And while they didn't seem to get along well with any of their classmates, Shego and Max always seemed to make any of the other kids around them too nervous to retaliate to anything they did.
Kim and Ron, meanwhile, seemed to go through a whole range of emotions as they watched the events unfold on screen. There was one moment when Kim had to slap her hand over her mouth and pound on the desk to keep herself from laughing, while Ron fell back in his chair from laughing so hard. Another point had Kim, Ron and Rufus wincing in shock, with Kim's hands over her ears, Ron's hands over his eyes and Rufus' paws over his mouth. And there was yet another moment when Kim and Ron felt so emotionally touched, they couldn't help but reach out and hold each other close and Rufus even sniffled a little as they watched the screen. Then, almost all too quickly, the clips were over, leaving Kim blinking and shaking her head in an attempt to get her focus back.
“Wow,” she said under her breath as the program ended, “Could you believe some of that? I mean, there were a couple of times there when Shego actually looked…happy. And I didn't think Shego could even DO happy. Well, there was that whole thing with Jack Hench's Attitudinator, but that doesn't really count.”
“I just couldn't get over THEM,” Ron replied, looking over at her, “KP…was it just me…or were there some moments there when they…you know…seemed like a…twisted version of US?”
Kim didn't immediately reply. But as she returned Ron's gaze, it was clear from the look on her face that she was thinking the same thing he was.
“I have to admit,” she noted, tossing a concerned glance at the screen for a moment, “It WAS a little creepy in parts.”
“Yeah,” Ron added, hanging his head slightly, “I just hope WE don't end up like…they did.”
Again, Kim turned her attention back to Ron, who definitely had a worried look on his face. And Ron wasn't the type to mention something unless it actually concerned him a little, no matter how unfounded those concerns might be. Kim though, simply gave a hollow chuckle and shook her head as she smiled.
“Yeah, like THAT would ever happen,” she answered before leaning in and softly kissing Ron's cheek, holding both his hands tightly and looking into his eyes with a tiny smile as he turned to face her, “Ron…I'm happy with you. I LOVE what we have. I don't EVER want to give that up.”
Ron had to smile at her and Kim's smile grew wider in response as she reached up and gently slid her hand down his cheek. Rufus, meanwhile, sighed blissfully as they pressed their forehead together and another kiss seemed inevitable. But just then…
“She's got a point!”
“AAAH!” Ron cried out as he and Kim whirled around in shock to see Maximillion lying on Ron's bed, staring up at the ceiling.
“Sorry,” Max said, looking over apologetically once he realized his surprise visit had gone a little overboard, “Force of habit.”
“Let's just get that habit BROKEN, okay?” Kim replied with an aggravated frown.
“My point is…There's absolutely no way you two are going to end up like me and Shego.” Max stated and he sat up from Ron's bed, “If you need any more proof than that, it's right there.”
Max paused as he lifted his cane to point in their direction. At first, Kim and Ron didn't understand his meaning, until they looked down and realized they were still holding hands, neither one willing to let go.
“You know what the main difference is between what you two have and what WE had?” Max stated with a shrug, “You two agree on one want to BE together. The truth is that despite what some of those clips might have shown you, about 75 percent of the time, Shego and I couldn't agree on the time of DAY.”
“Okaaay. So…if things were so bad between you guys…why did you stay together for so long?” Kim had to ask. Max, meanwhile simply shrugged.
“Gluttons for punishment, I guess. And at the time, we didn't really have anyone else. The bottom line is, no matter how twisted it may seem, everyone has their own reasons for choosing to be with someone,” he replied. Even Kim had to bob her head thoughtfully, conceding his point…
“Not me,” Ron's voice suddenly chimed in, instantly getting Kim's attention as she turned to see Ron staring into her eyes with a serious gaze. She even felt Ron's hands grip hers a little tighter.
“It never WAS a choice. Kim's the only one I ever WANTED to be with,” Ron continued, looking away with a shrug before turning back to Kim with a warm smile, “I guess…deep down, I always KNEW that.”
“Oh, Ron…” Kim breathed as she felt every one of Ron's words touch her heart. At that moment, all she wanted to do was kiss him and hold him and never let go, no matter what. But at the last second, she found herself hesitating as she and Ron both turned around to see Max still sitting on Ron's bed.
“Yyyyeah, I'd…better get back to your parents now,” Max stated, his eyes darting back and forth as he stood up to leave, “I asked them where the bathroom was so I could talk to you guys. They're going to think I got lost or something.”
“You're talking to my…? Wait a minute! How long have you BEEN here?!” Ron exclaimed, with a completely bewildered look.
“Oh, I'd say we're going on about…half an hour now,” Max replied simply, looking at his watch before flashing them a cheesy grin, “See ya.”
And then, in a puff of smoke and glitter, Max had disappeared from the room. Kim and Ron, meanwhile, could look at each other in confusion…
… … … …
“Where you goin'? Huh? Where you goin'? You think you're gettin' away from me? No you're not. No you're not.” Max spoke in a playful babying tone as he picked little Hana Stoppable up over his head and started wiggling her around. As he held her up, the tiny infant simply giggled and squealed in response, waving her arms and kicking with her legs while Ron's parents looked on with amused smiles. Kim and Ron, meanwhile, had quietly inched their way down the stairs to the kitchen and were staying just out of sight as they listened intently.
“I must say, Mr. Ambro, you're certainly good with children,” Mr. Stoppable noted. Max, meanwhile, simply gave a modest shrug.
“Well, it helps when you've had enough experience, as I've had,” he answered before lowering Hana down and smiling at her giggling face, “You know, you really are lucky kid. I know what it's like to not have parents. But it's good that you've found a home at least. Having never had the pleasure, it always does me good to see it happen for someone else.”
“Oh my, Hana has just been such a blessing for us,” Mrs. Stoppable commented, being careful to leave out the part about Hana's magical ninja heritage, “And she's brought out such changes in Ron. He's taken on so much responsibility, it's really incredible.”
“Of course, we can't give Hana all the credit,” Mr. Stoppable added, “This whole last year has been such a huge turnaround for him, ever since he got together with Kim.”
“Really?” Max replied as Mrs. Stoppable nodded in response while Kim and Ron could peer into the kitchen, wide-eyed, “How HAS that been working out, if you don't mind me asking?”
“Oh, it's been just wonderful,” Mrs. Stoppable answered, “I mean, they've known each other almost their entire lives. After a while, I have to admit, I actually started hoping that they would get together, if for no other reason than just to make Ron happy.”
Kim and Ron only looked at each other in silence as Mrs. Stoppable spoke. After all, they had to admit, they really had no idea she felt so strongly about their relationship.
“I know he was much too young to understand it at the time, but I have to be honest. I think he loved Kim the moment he met her,” she continued, “I still remember that day. Ron's father had just picked him up from pre-school and he came running in the door as fast as he could, shouting, `Mommy! Mommy! Guess what! I made a really great new friend today! She's pretty and she's fun and she has freckles just like me! And…!' And he just kept going.”
“It's true. He went on like that for almost 20 minutes,” Mr. Stoppable added.
“Ron…,” Kim uttered under her breath. Ron, meanwhile, turned to her and felt a premature sense of panic.
“Well, I mean, I was only four, right? It's not like I even rememb-mmm…!” Ron started trying to explain himself, but was cut off as Kim leaned in and softly kissed him. And as she draped her arms around his waist and leaned her head on his shoulder, looking up into his eyes, Ron couldn't help but smile back warmly as he put his arm around her and snuggled in close.
“But what I remember most from that day was the way he smiled,” Mrs. Stoppable continued on, “Not once had I EVER seen him smile like that. And he kept that smile for the rest of the day. After a few years, like I say, I started hoping they would get together. But after a while, I started to wonder if it would ever happen, until the night of the Junior Prom. Ron never told me what happened when he got home, but he didn't have to. I could tell just by the look on his face…”
At that moment, Ron's mother had to take a moment to compose herself. She could feel her eyes welling up and her voice started to crack as Mr. Stoppable reached over and gently took her hand.
“He…he walked in the door that night…and he had that smile,” she finally managed to get out, “That exact same smile. After a while, I wasn't sure if I'd ever see him smile like that again. But that night, when he did…it almost made me cry. He was just so happy…”
She had to cut herself off at that point, almost losing herself to emotion. It took a few moments, but she managed to paste a warm smile on her face as she forced herself to finish her thoughts through a few stray sniffles.
“After that…everything was just so much better for him. His days seemed brighter, he had a better attitude. He started doing better in school, he got a job…”
“It was like he just kept changing every day,” Mr. Stoppable chimed in, “It really was amazing.”
“I believe it,” Maximillion replied with a gentle smile, “I totally believe it. For a thing like that to happen, it can be truly…TRULY profound. And when someone goes through something like that, it can literally change their world.”
It was at that moment that Kim and Ron had overheard just about enough. Without a word, Kim tapped Ron on the shoulder and motioned her head towards the front door. Ron simply nodded in reply as the two of them sneaked past the kitchen doorway and out of the house.
… … … …
Kim and Ron kept walking, hand in hand, neither one of them saying a word. While Kim was just enjoying the time she was spending with Ron, she couldn't help but think about what she had just overheard his mother talking about and it made her think about what Ron had said to Max up in his bedroom. At that moment, she knew the question she wanted to ask, but it still took a few more minutes to drum up the courage, as well as to try and not make it sound insulting.
“Uh, Ron?” she asked, swallowing hard, “You know, when we got together, I promised myself I was never going to be…you know…`this girl' with you…and I totally hope you don't take this the wrong way…but I was wondering. What you said to Max before, about only ever wanting to be with me…did you really mean that?”
Ron stopped dead in his tracks when he heard Kim's question. But the expression on his face when he looked at her was completely blank. Well, at least he didn't look mad or upset. Kim chose to take this as a good sign. But it was still a few moments longer before he finally answered.
“Well…yeah,” he said with a shrug before holding Kim's hands and looking into her eyes, “Kim, ever since we met, I've spent every day wondering what I did to deserve you…I still can't come up with an answer. Okay, maybe it did take me a while to figure out how I felt. Maybe I don't know exactly WHEN it happened. But the one thing I always knew was how much I needed you in my life. Sometimes, my only reason for getting out of bed in the morning was because I knew I'd be able to see you.”
Ron paused for a moment, looking into Kim's eyes. And his lips curled into a soft smile.
“You're the best thing that's ever happened to me, Kim.”
Kim could only smile back as first before an affectionate sigh passed her lips.
“Right back at you,” she uttered under her breath as she threw her arms around his neck and the two of them hugged each other tight. Savoring the moment as much as they could, they both smiled contentedly as they held each other, but eventually, Kim pulled away slightly, looking warmly into Ron's eyes.
“Well, for what it's worth,” she started to say, “I know when it happened for ME.”
“Oh yeah?” Ron responded, although he was admittedly feeling more amorous than curious.
“Yeah,” Kim answered back, “You remember our first `date'…?”
… … … …
…Roughly 1 year ago…
Ron sat on the couch in his living room, a blank stare plastered across his face. The Junior Prom had only just taken place the night before. Looking back on it, it all just seemed so unreal what had happened. He and Kim had barely spoken to each other after they arrived, which made everything that happened afterward just feel like a blur. He remembered the dance and the kiss. He remembered walking her home in complete silence and holding her hand. He remembered the two of them exchanging shy smiles at each other every few minutes. He even remembered how they fidgeted on Kim's front porch as she was about to go in for the night. But again, he didn't remember actually SAYING anything. The only words he recalled being spoken were from Kim just as she was about to walk into the house.
“I'll see you later, okay?” she blurted out as she leaned in to plant a quick kiss on his cheek before ducking into the house and shutting the door.
Lost in a joyful daze, Ron didn't even remember how he got home that night or even falling asleep afterwards. But that was then, this was now and his mood had completely changed. Now the only daze he seemed to be in was a daze of confusion. For the life of him, he had absolutely no idea what he was going to do next. He spent what felt like hours pacing around his house, trying desperately to come up with some kind of a plan. But what was the best way to proceed? What was the etiquette? He just couldn't decide.
“What do you think, Rufus? Should I call her?” he thought out loud as he picked up the phone, but then set it back down, “But what if that's too informal? And what if she doesn't pick up? Wait…I could go over there. Oh, but what if that's coming on too strong? And what if she doesn't let me in?! Aw Rufus, I just don't know.”
“Oh man,” Rufus chattered as he slumped in disappointment. Just a few short hours ago, it seemed like Ron had gotten over his insecurity about Kim. But now, all those doubts had just come back with a vengeance.
“Alright…okay. I'll…I'll go over there,” Ron tried to steady himself, appearing to have made a decision, but still stopping short at the front door, “Okay…I'm gonna do this. I'm going…now. Okaaaay…now. I'm going…I'm going…RRRRG! Alright, I'm going!”
Before he could pull back again, Ron grabbed the knob and threw the door open, ready to charge outside. But what ended up happening was the last thing he expected as he saw Kim standing on the front step of his house, trying to work up the courage to ring the doorbell.
Neither of them seemed able to move as they stood on opposite sides of the doorway, bashfully looking away from each other. Rufus, meanwhile, had slapped his paw against his forehead in frustration. Finally, after all this time, it looked like Kim and Ron were finally heading in the right direction together. And now, after one step forward, they both appeared to have taken three steps back.
“Look,” Kim murmured under her breath, struggling to collect her thoughts, “About last night…I mean, there was all that craziness…we weren't really…But I don't mean that…I mean, it really WAS…It's just that you…we…Look, what I'm TRYING to say is…Oh, who am I kidding?!”
Abandoning any logic or reason, Kim lunged forward, throwing her arms around Ron's neck and burying her face into his shoulder. Ron, meanwhile, was only caught off guard for the briefest of moments before his instincts took over as well, wrapping his arms around Kim's waist and pulling her as close as he could. Rufus, meanwhile, simply wiped his brow and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. After a few short stalls, it looked like things were about to get back on track.
Neither one of them was sure how long they stayed in the doorway, holding each other. All either one of them knew at that point was they weren't about to let go until THEY wanted to. Until then, no force on earth was going to separate them. Eventually, they slowly pulled away just a little, but even then, they only seemed able to toss a few shy grins at each other.
“Uh, so…You…wanna come in?” Ron invited, trying not to sound half as nervous as he felt. Kim, meanwhile, responded with a smile and a slight nod.
“Yeah,” she replied, slowly walking in as Ron closed the door behind her.
The rest of the day seemed to fly by so fast that it was almost beyond belief. In the end, Kim and Ron could only remember brief bits and pieces of everything they had done. The first few hours were spent in the living room, as they sat on the couch, surrounded by a half dozen photo albums as they recalled everything they had done together since childhood. They couldn't explain why they suddenly felt so nostalgic. Maybe they were just trying to replay their lives together to give themselves bit more perspective. But at one point, as Ron pointed towards an old photo and started laughing, Kim noticed his arm gently slide around her shoulder. Instinctively, she looked up at him, but only saw him still looking at the photos. It was like he didn't even notice he'd done it. At that moment, it all just began to feel so natural…so right. And gradually, Kim felt herself smiling warmly as she curled up and snuggled beside him before continuing their trip down memory lane.
After a while, they both felt the need to get out of the house and just go somewhere. They didn't have any particularly special destination in mind. In fact, they just ended up spending time at their usual haunts…Middleton Mall…Bueno Nacho. And yet, as the day went on, Ron found himself sensing tiny little changes in their usual routine also. At one point as they walked through the Middleton Mall, he happened look down and noticed that Kim was holding his hand. A simple gesture, something most people probably wouldn't even draw attention to. It was also something they'd already done too. And yet, Ron couldn't help but focus on it as he looked over at Kim and flashed a happy grin. Then there was lunch at Bueno Nacho. They were having just a normal conversation, Ron couldn't remember what about. But he remembered making some off the cuff remark about something Kim said…and suddenly…Kim laughed. She actually LAUGHED.
“Uh…were you just laughing?” Ron blurted out, caught off guard. Even Rufus raised an eye in surprise.
“Well…yeah. I mean, why not? It was funny.” Kim added with another tiny giggle.
Kim was never typically known for laughing at Ron's jokes. An occasional grin here and there, but that was about it. For her to laugh and actually say it was funny…Ron just had to smile.
… … … …
The sun was just beginning its descent towards the horizon as Kim and Ron sat together on a bench in Middleton Park. Ron had his eyes on the fountain as it sprayed its geyser of water into the air to splash back into the pool around it. Kim, however, might as well have been a million miles away. Her attention was being paid exclusively to her thoughts. Specifically, a question she wanted to ask. But was it really appropriate now? Taking another few moments to drum up the courage, Kim simply sighed as she decided to bite the bullet.
“Ron, can I ask you a question?” she asked, getting Ron's attention as he turned to her curiously, “It's just…I want to know. Whenever I went out…you know, on a date with someone…did it really bother you that much? I mean, I wasn't hurting your feelings or anything, was I?”
“What? No…I mean, come on…I was down with it…I…,” Ron tried to dismiss Kim's question, but the look on her face told him that now was not the time to be sugarcoating his answers, “Well…okay, maybe it bothered me a little…Okay, sometimes it bothered me…MORE than a little.”
“…oh…” Kim turned away with a guilty frown, “Ron…I…I didn't know…”
“Well…I mean, it wasn't THAT big a deal,” Ron replied, not wanting to make Kim feel bad, “I mean, seriously. What was I gonna do…ask you out myself?”
“Well,” Kim shrugged, giving Ron a series of shy glances as she spoke, “You…could have tried.”
“Kim…let's get real,” Ron wasn't sure what to say, feeling more than a little self conscious at the moment, “What did I have to offer YOU? I mean, look at you. You're INCREDIBLE. And then…look at me. What business did I have asking you out?”
“Ron, you don't know that I wouldn't have gone out with you,” Kim responded, “We could have at least talked about it.”
“Yeah? And then what?” Ron protested, “Kim, we were always the best friends. That was the rule, that was the line. I didn't know what would happen if I tried to cross it. I didn't know if you'd even LET me cross it. And even if we DID go out…what if I had just ended up blowing the whole thing? Either way, you'd have moved on, found some really great guy and then you wouldn't have been able to be around me anymore because there would just be this whole awkward thing and...”
Ron had to pause a moment, sighing as he tried to collect himself.
“Kim, I just…I couldn't lose you like that. I wouldn't have been able to handle it. I was better off just staying the best friend and letting you find someone who made you happy.”
There was a long pause as both Kim and Ron looked away from each other, already stuck in one of Ron's predictions of awkwardness. But just as Ron was starting to despair, he felt Kim reach out and take his hand, bringing him back to her.
“I think I get it now, what you're saying. But…did you ever stop to think that maybe…YOU…make me happy?” Kim said softly, looking into his eyes with a tiny smile, “Ron, you ARE a really great guy, whether you screw up or not. Why do you think we've stayed best friends after all this time? I mean, we have fun together, we can talk about anything. Okay, maybe we didn't talk so much about this but…you make me feel good to be around you. You're a part of me, Ron.”
This time, it was Kim's turn to collect her thoughts as she looked away. But a moment later, she shyly started turning back to him.
“And sometimes…the only thing I can think about…is being part of you.”
“You…really?” Ron asked, feeling a little surprised as Kim nodded shyly in response, “Kim, I didn't know…”
“Well, it was never an easy thing to bring up,” Kim explained with an uneasy shrug, “Because…well, you always seemed happy just being the best friend…I just never thought it was an option so I just didn't let myself think about it. Because I thought…you know, if we crossed that line and started talking about going places in our relationship that you didn't want to go, then…”
That was it. That was the moment right there as Kim and Ron looked into each others' eyes and instantly had a crystal clear understanding of their situation. All this time, they'd both been thinking the same thing, but letting their insecurities get the better of them. How much more time could they have had together if they had just…? At that moment, they both hung their heads solemnly as they both felt a surge of guilt coming over them.
“We're both really stupid, aren't we?” Ron said after a long pause.
“Well…maybe a little,” Kim replied, but she managed to paste a shy smile on her face, taking Ron's hand as they both managed to lift their heads just enough to look into each others' eyes, “But…it's still not too late…if we don't want it to be.”
Ron raised his head a little higher and as he looked into Kim's eyes, he finally found a profound sense of relief as he gave her a warm smile. It was at that moment that he turned away slightly to see the sun just starting to dip behind the trees of Middleton Park.
“Well, it's kind of short notice,” he started to say, bashfully turning back to Kim, “But do you…want to go on a date tonight?”
“Well, it's a good idea,” Kim said with a shrug before giving Ron a playful grin, “But I thought we were on a date already.”
“Huh?” was all Ron managed to get out, a clear look of confusion on his face.
“What?” Kim asked, “Don't you think so?”
“Well, I mean, it's not like we did anything special,” Ron shrugged, his eyes darting back and forth as he tried to think about what they had done that day to make it qualify as a dating experience, “We basically just did what we usually do and…”
“Ron…it doesn't matter what you do when you're on a date. It matters who you're with,” Kim cut him off, taking Ron's hands tightly in hers. And as she got his attention back, she simply looked into his eyes with a contented smile.
“I've just had the chance to spend the whole day with you,” she added, her voice lowering to a whisper, “And I don't think it can get any more perfect than that.”
There was another long pause they the two of them just sat on the bench, looking at each other. It was as if they were putting all the past awkwardness behind them and slowly getting ready to move on to the next level. In the end, it was Kim who ended up taking the first step as she slid closer, leaning in and placing a slow, feathery kiss on Ron's lips. It was more of a soft peck than anything, but Kim immediately followed up with a second kiss, longer and slightly firmer than the first. By this time, Ron had started kissing her back as their second kiss instantly moved into a third, even longer one. Just like at the Junior Prom, the moment was played out in complete silence, but for some reason, it seemed so much more profound to them both than when they kissed that night. What had happened then had been more instinctive than anything else. Enjoyable, yes, but they were still just barely conscious of what they were doing. This time, they knew with absolute certainty, everything that was happening and felt every single emotion that went with it washing over them both, like warm sunlight. Finally, their lips slowly parted, but it was another few seconds before they opened their eyes and softly smiled at each other.
“Wow,” Ron said with a slight chuckle, “I think I could get used to that.”
“Mmmm…I think I'm already used to it,” Kim replied under her breath, savoring the moment before leaning in once again. And within moments, the two of them were letting a pair of soft pecks grow into a long, deep kiss as Kim softly draped her arms around Ron's neck and Ron put his arms around her waist, pulling her close. From there, it was as though the rest of the world simply didn't exist as they stayed locked in their kiss, the sun gently setting behind them…
… … … …
“Don't get me wrong, what happened at the Junior Prom was great, but we both still kind of had our heads in the clouds. I mean, I kind of thought I knew what I WANTED to happen, but I wasn't COMPLETELY sure, you know?” Kim explained as she stepped in closer to Ron, smiling affectionately, “But THAT day, when it was all over…THAT'S when I REALLY knew. And I never looked back. I couldn't…”
“…I was in love.”
Kim had to pause for a moment after that, pressing her forehead against Ron's and gently holding his face in her hands before she whispered onto his lips.
“I'm still in love.”
There was no more need for hesitation now as they both leaned in, sharing a soft, deep kiss. Kim continued to hold Ron's face in her hands as Ron's arms gently folded around her and it seemed like nothing on earth could possibly disturb something so perfect…
Just then, a blinding flash ignited the air, snapping Kim and Ron out of the moment as their eyes flipped open, still locked in their kiss! A second later, a familiar shriek of laughter instantly announced who was coming to call as Maria Le Fay appeared before them, floating just a few feet off the ground.
“OH, COME ON!” Ron shouted in frustration as he whipped around and glared at her, “Would it have killed you to wait thirty seconds?!”
“Hello, Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable,” Le Fay announced with a twisted grin, ignoring Ron's tirade, “Oh yes, I know all about you two.”
“Oh, so you've come looking for US now, huh…Maria Novak? Or would you prefer your old name, Morgan Le Fey?” Kim replied with a cocky smirk, indicating that she knew a few things too.
“So you know about me, do you? You're every bit as good as your reputation, but I didn't come here for introductions,” Le Fay answered back with a smirk, “You see…I have a so-called `mission' for you.”
“Oh, this is very cute,” Kim noted as she and Ron shared an amused smile, “And you think we're just going to up and help YOU?”
“Well, not by choice,” Le Fay replied with a wicked grin before flashing her hand in Ron's direction.
“Hey…Whoa!” Ron blurted out as his body was instantly enveloped in a sphere of light. And with a flick of Le Fay's wrist, he found himself floating up into the sky!
“RON!” Kim shouted as she leaped forward to attack Le Fay! But just then, a pillar of sand burst from the ground, coiling around Kim's body like a snake and making it impossible for her to move!
“Oh, now we can't have that,” Le Fay's sand golem spoke as its head formed right beside Kim's.
“KIM!” Ron cried out, unable to help her. Le Fay, meanwhile, simply strolled over to Kim with a serious frown.
“Let's make this short and sweet,” she demanded, “Merlin's new incarnation, you know who he is. I want him…you're going to get him. It's that simple.”
“Simple, huh? Lady, if you can't beat him, what makes you think that I'll do any better?” Kim groaned as she struggled in vain against the golem coiled around her. Le Fay, however, simply looked into her eyes and let out a wicked chuckle.
“Oh, but you already KNOW how to beat him,” she replied as she pressed her finger to Kim's forehead. Instantly, Kim's memories triggered back to Maximillion's apartment when he showed her and Ron his wand…
…“As near as I can tell, certain objects like the wand can act as a lens, which focuses that energy and allows it to be used. Otherwise, the results are completely random.”…
“Use THIS to contact me when you get him and I'LL deal with the rest,” Le Fay continued, placing what looked to be a signal flare into Kim's hand, “The wisp contained inside will find me when it's done. Until then, your `special friend' will be my guest. This spell has already proven effective in containing his magic. He's not going anywhere. What happens to him from this point on…well, that depends on YOU.”
Sufficiently satisfied that she had made her point, Le Fay moved in closer, glaring into Kim's defiant frown to prove just how serious she was.
“You have 24 hours,” she hissed threateningly, “DON'T keep me waiting.”
With that, another blinding flash followed and Kim found herself instantly dropped to the hard sidewalk. Flipping to her feet, she looked around frantically only to find that Le Fay, the golem and Ron had all disappeared. Kim felt lost in the panic of the moment, but suddenly a quick glitter of light caught her eye as she looked down to see the necklace that Ron had given her at Global Justice headquarters just a couple weeks earlier dangling from her neck. The same necklace with a half heart pendant, one of the pair that Ron had the other half to. It must have flipped out of her shirt in all the commotion. Staring down at it, he focus instantly came back as she looked at where Le Fay had just been standing and glared in rage.
“Okay, I WAS just going to let Max deal with you on his own, but FORGET that!” she spoke through gritted teeth as she squeezed her pendant hard. She could feel it almost cutting into her hand, but at that moment, she was far beyond caring.
“As of right now…you just got my UN-DIVIDED attention!”