'Monique...' Kim said, and she was looking down as if ashamed. 'I need your help.'
And in less than a minute, Monique was sitting on the couch in her living room with Kim sitting across from her in the easy chair. She listened as Kim told her everything that had happened, with her own emotions ranging from interest, to shock, to sympathy, then outrage and back again. When Kim finished, Monique leaned back in her chair.
'Woah.' she said, shaking her head. 'I mean.... woah.'
'Yeah, tell me about it.' said Kim, running a hand across her forehead.
'So... why did you come here?' said Monique, though she had a prickle in the back of her neck that told her trouble was ahead.
'I've sort of made up my mind to give working with him a try.' Kim said, but she sounded resentful even as she spoke. 'Until this is over, could you... watch my back?'
Monique put up her hand. 'Oh no girl!' she said. 'You're my best friend, but the last time I went out sidekicking with you, I nearly got woven into the latest nightmare slated for the Paris runways!'
'Monique please.' Kim said, and Monique could never remember her sounding more serious. 'I can't do this by myself, not with Grimm.'
Monique stared. She'd never known Kim to be intimidated before, not against Shego, nor against any of her other pug-ugly foes. And there was something in her eyes that told Monique that Kim wasn't worried about fighting him. It was something else. 'What is it about this guy anyway?' she said.
'I just... don't want to be alone with him.' Kim said, looking embarrassed. 'He's a user, a player. Take the sitch with Eric, then amp up the angst about ten times and you'll have Grimm in a nutshell.'
Monique raised an eyebrow. 'Come on girl, he can't be that bad.'
'Monique, I'm serious.' Kim said, and there was pleading in her voice. 'I have to find Ron, to bring him back. But if Grimm is helping, or if he's in on it in any way... You wouldn't have to do any fighting or anything, it won't be dangerous. I just need someone to keep Grimm off balance.'
Monique looked doubtful. Kim had a different idea about what things were dangerous and what things weren't. But Kim was still speaking.
'Please - I need a friend on this one.'
Monique sighed and slumped her shoulders in defeat. 'I must be outta my mind...' she said.
Kim smiled warmly. 'Thanks, Monique.'
Monique looked up. 'You're serious now - no fighting?' Kim shook her head. 'So... what do I have to do?' Monique said.
Kim was still smiling. 'I think just... being you is the best way to go.' she said.
Monique smiled as well. 'Got that right.' she said.
- + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - + - +
As Kim pulled into her driveway later, she saw dim shapes through the glass in the windows which told her that her parents had been watching for her. She waited in the car for a moment, sighing and steeling herself for what might come next. She went into the house and found them in the living room, looking at her expectantly.
'How are you feeling, Kimmy-cub?' Mr. Dr. Possible said.
Kim wasn't sure how to answer honestly. 'I'm... fine.' she said, though she felt anything but fine. 'Where is he?'
Mrs. Dr. Possible looked back towards the kitchen. 'He went into the backyard a few minutes ago.' she said. 'Haven't seen him since then.' Kim turned and walked into the kitchen, headed for the sliding glass door. 'Kim....' Mrs. Dr. Possible started, but felt her husband's hand on her shoulder. He shook his head and they both stayed in the living room, hearing the kitchen door slide open and then shut again.
Kim looked around the whole yard, but there was no sign of Grimm. She slipped over the fence and started looking around in the hilly, wooded area behind her house. She had never explored it much, except to look at it from above while parachuting down to her backyard after missions. She was just wondering if Grimm had actually split town when she saw a slightly flattened set of patches in the grass which indicated someone had passed that way. She followed until she was under the eaves of the woods, then she stopped.
Grimm was sitting on the stump of a tree a few yards away, the sunlight filtering through the leaves far above tinting everything with a yellowish green. The flying motorcycle she'd seen him riding at the Yoyodyne labs was parked next to him. His back was to her, and his communicator was in his hand. It looked like he was arguing with someone.
As quietly as she could, she stepped nearer until she could hear better. Besides Grimm, she could hear Jade's tinny voice in the still air of the trees.
'I need you out here Jade - I'm in the middle of a stinger's nest and I want some backup!'
Jade's voice almost sounded offended. 'G-man, you know I don't work like that, and neither do you! What happened to 'leave no trace you were ever there'? Look at you - working in broad daylight, actually calling in Leigh....'
'I know, Jade!' Grimm said. 'That's why I can't do this alone! If Rhonda were here it would be different, but....' He trailed off suddenly.
After a pause, Jade spoke. 'If Rhonda were there, you wouldn't need Kim in the first place.' she said. And Kim felt a twinge of deja vu, hearing Grimm and Jade come to almost the same conclusion she had come to herself.
'Well... she's not, and I do.' Grimm said sullenly.
'So how did it go?' said Jade. 'Did she buy it?'
'I'm not sure.' Grimm answered. 'I'm waiting to find out.'
'What's to wait for?' said Jade, confused. 'You're right there - can't you just ask?'
'She sort of... ran off.' Grimm said.
There was silence for a moment. 'Why did she do that?' Jade said at last.
Grimm sighed. 'I wanted to make sure she got through any resentment from our... previous encounters.' he said. 'So I pushed her into letting it all out.'
'How?' said Jade, though her tone indicated she already knew the answer to her own question.
Kim listened as Grimm described the events that took place in her house, and the fight in the backyard. It was weird hearing it from his perspective, but when he was finished, Jade's voice sounded out almost in a shriek.
'You did what??'
'Pipe down!' Grimm hissed. 'What's your damage? I do that kind of stuff to the good guys all the time!'
'When you're working against them, yeah! But not when you're trying to talk them into working with you!' Jade said. 'Jeez mon! Why didn't you go over this with me beforehand?'
'I didn't see the need!' Grimm said. 'You know I don't consult about stuff like this - and even if I had, would you have gone along with it?'
'No!' said Jade. 'I'd have suggested something more sensible. I can think of at least a dozen ways you could have done it without going all... Grimmy on her!'
'You sound just like her parents.' Grimm said peevishly. 'Look, she wanted to get even! I just gave her a reason and an excuse! Once she simmers down...'
'You can't wind someone up like that and expect them to chum up to you later!' Jade said. 'Normal people don't work that way!'
'Kim's not normal, she's exceptional!' Grimm snapped.
'Have you ever told her that?' Jade said. 'That might actually help you know. I know you like cheesing her off because you respect her as an adversary. Why didn't you say you'd respect her as an ally on this one?'
Grimm didn't answer for a second. 'I know what I'm doing....' he said at last.
'Do you?' Jade broke in. 'I never wondered before, but you actually went too far this time. You'll be lucky if she doesn't paste you again when she comes back, never mind teaming up with you.'
'If that's what it takes, I'm game!' Grimm said, sounding angry. 'She can wale on me all she wants, I don't care! As long as it helps bring Rhonda back....'
'Grimm,' she said, and her voice sounded a lot more serious, 'Kim's hurting too. And I don't think she's torked off because she wants to get even with you - she's upset because she misses Ron.'
'Then she should be grateful I turned up.' said Grimm. 'Bringing Rhonda back almost certainly means bringing Ron back with her. And when you factor in what we're up against, then toughening her up a little will help in the long term.'
Jade sounded exasperated. 'Grimm, you're the smartest guy I know when it comes to getting someone's goat, but when it comes to actually helping someone - you're dumber than ditch water.'
'Isn't that why I'm here?' he said, frustrated. 'Because I need help? I've told her as plain as I can....'
'No you haven't.' said Jade. 'You insulted her BF, threatened to destroy her life and danced around in front of her after you lawyered up chanting 'nyah, nyah, nyah'. What did you think was going to happen?'
Grimm looked like he was bristling. 'If she doesn't work out her anger, it'll always be roiling beneath the surface - I can't risk that happening in the field! Maze and Monkey Fist are too dangerous....'
'And after she socked you, did she calm down right away?' Jade said. 'Did bofh of you have a couple of sodas and laugh about it? That's a guy thing Grimm - when you hurt a girl's feelings, they don't just forget about it after trading a few punches.'
'Rhonda was never like that....!'
'Rhonda's in love with you Grimm! But Kim's not just gonna forgive you for stuff like Rhonda does!'
Grimm looked stunned. 'Rhonda...?' he said. 'Forgive me for what? I've never done anything to her!'
Jade made a tinny sounding sigh. 'Grimm, this might be news to you, but being a teen mercenary hasn't been as easy for her as she lets on.'
Grimm didn't answer for several seconds. 'What are you talking about?' he said at last. 'She's always been rock solid...'
'Yeah - well, she's not.' Jade said. 'Hobnobbing with the ne'er-do-wells of society, always wondering how much longer you can stay ahead of things, always worrying that someday you'll get taken down by a hero, or a disgruntled client... That thing with Maze back at Kwitcherbeliakin really spooked her Grimm. And it didn't help that you seemed more concerned about helping her develop her powers than you were about how she felt...'
Again there was silence. At last he spoke again, but this time his voice sounded not in a defiant epithet, but as a pleading question. 'Well, what then?' he said. 'The Great Bear isn't answering me. I need Kim to find Monkey Fist - and Maze. There's no other way I can think of. What am I supposed to do?'
'For starters, you should listen to your techie.' said Kim. 'She's come closer to the mark than you ever have.' Grimm stood up and turned to face her at once, putting his communicator into his hip pouch. There were red patches in his cheeks, visible even through the bruising around his eye.
'What did you hear?' he said.
'I heard... enough.' Kim answered.
They both stared darkly at each other in silence. The only sounds were the rustlings in the undergrowth and the leaves sighing overhead. Rueful's head poked out of a backpack lying on the seat of the bike and he looked back and forth between them.
'What's it gonna take to make this work?' Grimm said, glaring at her.
Kim didn't answer, but kept staring at him.
'What do you want?' he hissed. 'Money? Name your price! You want blood? Hit me again - I won't say a word! Do you want me to beg? I'll do that too!'
Again, Kim didn't answer. For the first time, she could almost see through the aura of invulnerability he usually projected and glimpsed the troubled heart of a guy who had finally run out of ideas. She understood at last, that the reason he had done what he did by goading her was because he did everything that way. And so he had asked for her help by playing her, because it was the only way he knew how.
'First tell me.' she said. 'What do you want?'
Grimm sniffed. 'So now you want to get into my head?' He looked at her angrily. 'What do I want? Why do you think I even came here? Why do you think I traveled this far and set myself at risk? Why do you think I'm bowing and scraping to you of all people?'
'Stop answering questions with questions!' Kim said. 'What do you want?'
For a moment, he looked so angry she thought he was going to throw a punch. Then he lowered his head, closing his eyes and clenching his fists. 'I want Rhonda back.' he said at last. 'I need her back! Please - what do you want?'
'I've already told you what I want.' said Kim.
Grimm stood silent, chewing on his lip. 'All right....' he said, looking away. 'No head gaming. I get it.'
'And no evil.' Kim said firmly.
'All right!' Grimm snarled. 'Fine. Until this is over, you and your little circle of friends are off limits. Happy?'
Kim narrowed her eyes, but put out her hand. 'Shake on it.' she said.
Grimm hesitated, but at last he sighed and took Kim's hand, gripping it firmly. 'I'm not making any promises about Maze.' he said. 'If you don't want him roughed up, you'll have to stop me. But if he sees you protecting him from me, that might be useful.'
Kim nodded and they unclasped their hands.
'For what it's worth,' Grimm said, and his voice sounded extremely uncomfortable. 'I regret it if you took what I did in the backyard the wrong way.' Kim raised an eyebrow. Then she turned her head as another voice came from Grimm's hip pouch.
'Take your bows, Lady K.' said Jade. 'That's as close as he's ever gotten to saying he's sorry.'