A Kim Possible Fanfiction
by Greg Fisk (aka "Slyrr")

Kim Possible is owned/copyrighted by Disney and its affiliates, etc. etc.

Chapter 24:
Reflections
The Rehearsal Dance

Part I: Exchange

In their hidden mountain lair, Monkey Fist calmly watched a news broadcast on a small television set. The flickering pale light cast long shadows in the dimness, and the voice through the speakers echoed tinny and shrill before falling dead in the deep caverns behind.

'All of Middleton is breathing a sigh of relief after the menace of the giant statue.' said Summer Gale, now back at a news studio. 'Teen crime fighter Kim Possible destroyed the statue in a stunning battle that can only be described as 'heroic'. Our cameras were able to catch footage of our daring local teen, charging to the attack against the colossal titan and winning. Due to the distance, the footage is a bit low resolution, but as you can plainly see....'

Her next words were drowned out by a low, guttural snarl, followed by a smashing sound. Monkey Fist turned to look at Maze, who had struck his staff against the casing of the Immersion Pod, cracking a glass pane and leaving a small dent in the frame.

'Calm yourself,' said Monkey Fist wearily. 'We still need that.' He had been watching for some time as Maze prowled the lair in a tense, but mostly silent rage. Maze hadn't even seemed to notice as Monkey Fist and Dr. Drakken had returned to the lair through the shadow passage and begun unloading the supplies they had stolen. Nor had he said anything as their golem slaves began distributing equipment and parts under Drakken's direction.

But when Monkey Fist had tuned in to Middleton News, the shadow shaman's anger had brimmed over. 'It was useless!' he hissed. 'For all the labor and time I spent creating the Ubergolem, it was still destroyed!'

'I believe I warned you not to underestimate Kim Possible.' said Monkey Fist dryly. 'She has a history of doing this sort of thing.' He turned his attention back to the TV, where Summer Gale was still talking.

'...did manage to get a few words from Kim Possible immediately after the battle.' And the screen cut to a shaky camera view of Kim with Summer's voice heard off camera. 'Ms. Possible - would you share your thoughts after this stunning victory?'

Kim wiped her forehead, brushing her matted hair away from her eyes. 'Same as always,' she said brightly. 'It's no big.'

'And this new battle suit - is this a new look you're trying out?'

Kim shook her head. 'I'm told black's not really my color. I'll be switching back soon.'

Summer quickly darted in as Kim paused. 'Do you have any idea who was behind this attack?'

'Actually yes.' said Kim, and her smile faded a little and she leaned in to look right into the camera lens. 'So if you're watching Monkey Fist, I'm putting you on notice. You're next.'

'Ms. Possible, you say Monkey Fist did this, but no one saw him in Middleton tonight. Is he still out there? What will you do next?'

Kim smiled faintly again. 'I'd say 'I'm going to Disneyland', but I've got a villain to track down...'

Maze shook his head, pacing back and forth. 'Could she know where we are?' he said, sounding rattled. 'Is that possible?'

Monkey Fist raised an eyebrow with a stony, grating sound. 'I suppose anything's possible....'

'For a Possible!' said Dr. Drakken, walking past them, carrying some parts in a box. 'Like I haven't heard that one like a million times!'

'Relax.' said Monkey Fist, ignoring Drakken. 'Things haven't turned out all that badly. We were able to escape completely undetected, and now we have all we need to complete the full-scale Jammer. It's only a matter of completing the construction, and then the endgame can begin.'

Maze was glaring, but said nothing. The television speakers replaced the silence that fell with more of Summer's report. '...disappeared soon after this brief interview. Her family has so far refused to comment. And as the task of assessing and cleaning up the damage now begins, new questions are beginning to be asked.'

'Because there is strong evidence that Kim Possible had help in taking down this giant statue. Our cameras exclusively reveal that before Kim attacked and destroyed the statue, it was restrained and damaged by what seemed to be a gigantic bear made of energy...'

A blurry image showed the Ubergolem locked in a grappling struggle with the Great Bear Spirit. Maze growled again, turning away from the screen as Summer continued.

'This after it was seen that Kim was fighting alongside someone else at the scene. Again, our camera was not able to get a clear view from this distance, but a figure wearing another battle suit was definitely spotted, and a few reckless citizens with cell phone cameras were able to get more still images....'

A pixilated image of a figure in a white battle suit was shown, and another of a figure wearing a strange outfit carrying a staff. 'That is the ceremonial garb of a Blackfoot warrior.' Maze growled. 'How dare he...'

Monkey Fist was now glaring as well, looking thoughtful. 'Probable never did anything like this when he was doing jobs for me.' he said. 'What exactly happened?'

'Somehow, he summoned the Great Bear Spirit.' Maze said quietly, as if loath to hear his own words.

'The Great Bear?' said Monkey Fist. 'The same Great Bear who you said would be yours to command once Ms. Fatigable was out of the way?'

'The... the time Katasistsikoowa spent using his power must have corrupted him somehow.' said Maze, shaking his head. 'Much as you have said Ipi'sskinao'siwa corrupted your Mystical Monkey Power...'

Monkey Fist looked thoughtful. 'Well...' he said, 'That at least I can understand. But if Probable has also learned how to use this Bear Power, then it changes a few things. Does he now possess the same power that his girlfriend once had?'

Maze looked suddenly worried, as if the thought had not occurred to him. 'I... don't know.' he said.

'Well,' said Monkey Fist quietly. 'I suppose we could ask him.'

Maze paused. 'Ask him?' he said. 'What do you mean?'

Monkey Fist shrugged. 'I'm suggesting that we might be able to counter both Possible and Probable by appealing to his more... practical nature.'

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After the battle in Middleton, Kim had escaped from the press and quickly made a run to her house and Monique's house to check on their families and let them know they were all right. They had been understanding when she said the sitch wasn't over yet and she needed to return to Riddleton.

'Monkey Fist is still out there, and we don't know where.' she said. 'Until we take them down, there's still a chance they could hit you if I was standing too close.'

'How about another hug for the family before you go?' said Mr. Dr. Possible, putting up a brave face.

Kim wrapped her arms around her mom and dad warmly. She looked down at the twins, who were shuffling. 'Still have cooties from the last one.' they chimed.

Monique looked a little less happy when she came back out of her house and got into the Sloth. 'Is everyone all right?' Kim asked, concerned.

'Yeah.' said Monique. 'Except... the place where my Mom works got hit. She wasn't there when it happened, but....' and she trailed off into silence.

Kim knew without speaking what it meant. Another source of income for Monique's family would most likely be stunted while her mother's employer rebuilt - if they rebuilt at all. So it was a rather quiet trip as they went back to Riddleton. Grimm's bike had again silently appeared in front of them, guiding the way after their GPS failed. But the entire way back, Kim was thinking carefully about what to say next.

They returned to Riddleton near the dawn. The battle, the aftermath and the trip back had taken up much of the night. Grimm had dropped off Enrique at his house without fanfare and driven to his own house. Kim followed him out as he parked his bike in the garage, leaving Monique and Rufus asleep in the Sloth.

'It's late, Possible.' he said as she approached. 'Go back to Rhonda's and get as much rest as you can, there's still school tomorrow.'

'I want to know what happened back there.' she said firmly. 'Not that I'm ungrateful for the assist - but since when could you do... that?'

'I don't know what you mean.' he mumbled, looking towards the door leading from the garage interior to the house.

'Hello?' Kim said. 'A giant glowing bear? You think I didn't notice?'

'It wasn't me.' said Grimm. 'It was the Great Bear Spirit.'

'The what?'

'He's the source of Rhonda's powers.' Grimm said, sounding tired.

Kim remembered Maze's words at the UNIT lab before he had tricked her. 'This is the power of the Great Bear Spirit. It is a mystical power that belongs to my people....' Dozens of other questions sprang into her mind. 'Then how did you...' she started, but Grimm waved her off.

'Later.' he said. 'I'm dead on my feet here. Tomorrow.' and he did seem to be stumbling as he went into the house and closed the door behind him.

Kim stared after in, standing in the now empty garage, then shook her head and went back to the Sloth.

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Mr. Probable stood up from his reading chair as he heard Grimm enter the house. One look at his son, however, told him that questioning would be pointless at the moment. They exchanged looks, Mr. Probable giving him an expression that said plainly, 'You'd better be prepared to talk about this tomorrow.'

Grimm nodded and shuffled wearily to the door leading down into the basement. His arms and feet felt as if they had lead weights strapped to them as he entered his room and cast himself down on the bed without changing out of the battle suit. He was asleep within seconds.

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Monique didn't do much besides yawn as she made her way to the guest room at Rhonda's house. She waved vaguely towards Kim as she closed the door, and Kim heard a heavy squeak which told her Monique had collapsed onto the bed.

Oddly enough, Kim didn't feel very tired. It was often like that on missions. Once you hit a certain time of night, you just didn't feel sleepy anymore, and she changed into a nightdress, sitting down at Rhonda's desk.

Despite the victory, she felt frustrated. She knew Monique wouldn't say anything about it, but that the loss of income was going to hurt her family even more. She wanted to do something about it, but this was different than fighting villains or Ubergolems. Then she fished a slip of paper out of a pocket in her baggage. Mr. Matter's check.

She found herself staring at it in silence, imagining the possibilities. She could set up an anonymous fund to help anyone whose house or business had been affected by the attack - no one would question it if a portion of the funds went to help Monique's family. Maybe seeing a fund set up would even encourage others to donate - to help more people...

The voice in her mind which protested, which said this was villain money, and that it was wrong to take payment of any kind seemed weaker. 'It's to help people in need..' she thought, and suddenly felt an angry defiance. 'Why shouldn't I use this money to fix the damage Monkey Fist has done - to help the people and families that have been hurt?'

She picked up a pen, slapped the check down on the desk and firmly drew out her signature. 'This isn't for me - it's to help other people!' she thought furiously. Then she folded the check in half and slipped it quickly back into her luggage. But before she turned out the lights, she found herself almost unconsciously putting her bag behind all the others - so she wouldn't have to look at it...

Part II:
The Price is Right

Grimm slept fitfully, tossing and turning. He could still hear the voice of the Great Bear in his mind, and in his sleep he found himself parsing the words, trying to determine what they could mean.

'Even if you save her, one day you will drift apart...'
'The price I speak of is a spiritual one...'
'If you do this, you will be changed...'

He thought and wondered, even in his sleep. He didn't feel any different. The thought of humiliating Possible still brought a smile to his face. He was still a mercenary, and still was willing to accept any job... Except from Maze or Monkey Fist. And he realized, he had never made exceptions before the incident with Maze at Kamp Kwitcherbeliakin. Had he already changed - slowly - and simply not realized it? Was it something to do with the Great Bear's power, or was it simply growing up?

No, he thought. He knew in his heart he was only cozying up to Possible as a means to an end - to find a way to beat Maze and Monkey Fist, and to get Rhonda back. It was all self-interest - nothing to do with changing. In fact if anything, he was resisting change. He just wanted things to go back to the way things were... to have Rhonda back.

And he saw Rhonda's figure, hovering like a wraith in front of him. 'Hey, GP...' she seemed to whisper. He reached out his hand for her...

And he woke up lying in bed, staring at the moon-dappled ceiling of his room, his arm raised up towards nothing. He felt something under his eye and quickly reached to touch it, finding his hand suddenly wet with a teardrop glistening on his fingertip.

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The morning came quickly, and Grimm guessed he'd only gotten a couple hours of sleep before his alarm clock started buzzing. He cleaned up and made his way upstairs where he found his whole family waiting silently around the breakfast table, their food mostly untouched. 'What?' he said, looking them all over. 'You don't need me to eat, right?'

'You know the drill, boy.' said Mr. Probable. 'Family debriefing comes first.' Grimm sighed and sat heavily down at the table, taking a piece of toast. 'So...' said Mr. Probable, his fingers tented in front of him, '...what happened?'

Grimm tried to shrug nonchalantly, avoiding everyone's eyes. 'The usual.' he said. 'Go in, finish the job, leave.'

Both Lynn and Mim laughed. 'The usual?' said Mim.

'Yeah right!' said Lynn.

'We've seen you tooling around town on your giant energy bear dozens of times.' said Mim.

Grimm winced. 'So... it was spotted?' he said, but he knew even as he asked it that it was a stupid question. Mr. Probable didn't answer, but instead he picked up a remote and turned on a DiVo perched on top of the kitchen counter TV set.

'...Still no word on the identity of the daring heartthrob who assisted Kim Possible in destroying the giant statue,' said Summer Gale. 'But his exploits and heroism have all of Middleton calling him 'Bear Boy.' Summer paused for a moment, looking uncomfortable. Then she hurriedly looked off camera and whispered, 'Was that really the best you could do...?' then Mr. Probable shut off the TV.

Lynn and Mim both raised their eyebrows so high it looked like they might pop off their heads. 'Bear Boy?' said Lynn with a mocking smirk.

'Daring heart-throb?' said Mim, and they both started making exaggerated kissing motions towards him.

Grimm's face flamed red and he jabbed his fork towards them. 'Shut up, twisters!' he said with a dangerous growl.

'That's enough, all of you.' said Mrs. Probable with a firm voice.

Mr. Probable kept staring at Grimm. 'You might be interested in knowing that some of my colleagues are very concerned about this.' he said. 'They don't know who you are yet, but they're talking about mobilizing covert ops to find out. They don't like the thought of any super-heroes running around with powers that might endanger national security...'

Grimm laughed bitterly. 'They won't have to worry about that.' he said. 'If they knew what I had to go through to make him appear just once.... I don't think he or I would want it to happen again.'

'Then how did it happen this time?' said Mrs. Probable. 'Has it got something to do with Rhonda? I've heard you calling her the Bear Priestess sometimes.'

Grimm blushed and looked away. 'Yeah.' he said quietly. 'Something to do with Rhonda.'

Mr. Probable didn't say anything for a few seconds. 'Is that all you have to say?'

'For now, yeah.' said Grimm, not meeting his eye. 'You can tell this to the DOD if it will keep them off my back. It was most likely a one-time thing. It's got nothing to do with national security or the military. It's got more to do with protecting people from Monkey Fist than anything else.'

Mr. Probable nodded slowly. 'All right,' he said. 'I'll do what I can to throw them off the scent. But when you're feeling up to it, I still want to know exactly what this giant bear is capable of.'

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After breakfast, Grimm went to the garage. Rueful was asleep in a padded basket near the Ksikkihkíni, but he got up at once and scurried to the seat of the bike. Grimm waited, taking out his communicator.

'Jade, you up?' he said.

Jade's face tilted into the camera view. Her eyes were bleary and her hair was out of their ponytails, looking like a multi-colored octopus had died on her head. 'Yo G-Man, whazzup?' she said, and her voice sounded as tired as she looked.

'Damage control.' he said simply. 'I need you to hack into as many news agencies as you can and delete any footage of that dust-up in Middleton. They got me on camera.'

'Well yeah,' said Jade. 'What happened there was the best way of saying 'look at me' that you could have pulled besides shouting.'

'I want all the videos and pictures wiped, staring at ground zero.' said Grimm firmly.

'I'll do what I can.' said Jade, stretching. 'But you know how the internet and stuff is - we might have waited too long. It's probably all over Utube by now.'

'If we can delete the originals we can still circulate rumors that any copies floating around are hoaxes.' Grimm muttered. 'I mean, people are still saying the moon landing was fake, for crying out loud...'

'Maybe,' said Jade. 'But why? I've looked at most of the news footage, and it doesn't look like they got any clear shots of your face...'

'I was fighting along with Possible.' Grimm said darkly. 'And people in Middleton and Riddleton know I've been hanging around with her for a while. Someone's bound to put two and two together unless we get ahead of this. Turn out the Irregulars if you have to.'

'You got it G-Man. Or should I call you Bear Boy?'

Grimm glared at the screen. 'Shut up.' he said, and turned it off.

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When Kim met Grimm at school, they both awkwardly exchanged wrapped bundles, giving each other back their original battle-suits. 'Laundered?' Kim said pointedly, but knowing she'd be washing it again later whether Grimm had cleaned the suit or not.

'Yeah.' said Grimm, looking away. They both cleared their throats and made their way to class.

Under the watchful eye of Ms. Darken, Kim wasn't able to ask him any questions about last night. But during lunch, she was aided by the fact that she, Monique and Enrique wanted to know all about the Great Bear.

Grimm answered as cagily as he could, saying nothing about his days of pleading to the Great Bear for help, or the communion he'd finally had which led to the Great Bear's dramatic appearance. He simply let on that his closeness to Rhonda must have led the Great Bear to lend a paw when it looked like things were hopeless.

'Muy bien, Senor Grimm!' said Enrique. 'And what super powers does this mean you now possess?'

'Keep it down, will you?' Grimm whispered. 'I don't have any super-powers. I didn't 'make' the Great Bear appear, he just... decided to pitch in because I asked him.'

Kim, Monique and Rufus all rolled their eyes to each other. 'So if your GF was the one who was tight with this Bear guy,' said Monique, 'Does that mean you saw her too?'

Kim stared at Grimm intently, but Grimm was avoiding looking at any of them. 'OK fine, I did see her.' he said.

Kim felt a stab of jealousy. First Monique made contact with Ron - now Grimm had seen Rhonda? Why wasn't she in on any of this action? 'What did she say?' Kim asked, her eyes narrowed resentfully.

'Nunna your beeswax.' Grimm muttered, looking equally sulky.

'I don't suppose she told you where Monkey Fist is hiding?' Kim said sarcastically.

'If she had, do you think I'd be sitting around here?' Grimm snapped.

'Hey, Bear Boy!'

Grimm flinched at the sound of the words and turned to his meal, making like he wasn't paying attention. But Donnie Stoneport was next to the table seconds later, staring down at Grimm until he could no longer ignore him. 'Donnie,' he said. 'What dragged you away from the captain's dining room?'

'I saw you on the news last night, Bear Boy.' said Donnie with a sneering expression. 'This a new move you're planning to show off for the team?'

'I don't know what you're talking about.' said Grimm mechanically.

Donnie snorted. 'So you're saying you weren't the guy in white underoos helping Kim out in Middleton?'

'Yeah right,' said Grimm with a convincing display of sarcasm. 'Like I'd be caught dead wearing white.'

Donnie sneered, but looked a little less sure of himself. 'I'd say you were playing dumb, but you don't have to play dumb...' he said.

'Did you have anything intelligent to say?' Grimm said. 'I'm trying to eat here.'

'You're up to something Probable.' said Donnie. 'And I'm gonna find out what!' then he backed slowly away, giving Grimm the eye and pointing at him before leaving the cafeteria.

'Great,' Grimm muttered. 'As if putting up with you losers wasn't enough.'

Kim smirked at his annoyance, but Enrique cuffed him on the shoulder. 'No worries amigo,' he said jovially. 'He is simply jealous because you have Rhonda, while the only one who loves him is himself. And even he knows what a lousy companion he is.'

Grimm smiled, but even as Enrique mentioned Rhonda's name, he saw a flash of blonde hair a few yards away, a black shirt and brown cargo pants. He stood up suddenly, staring. But it was only one of the cheerleaders. He blinked, because she wasn't wearing black or brown at all - but he would have sworn he'd seen both colors on her - like Rhonda in her mission clothes.

The cheerleader was now staring back at him. She blushed and waved with a soft smile. Grimm sat back down hastily.

'Tack on your chair?' said Monique.

'No... it's nothing.' said Grimm, but he felt rattled.

At that moment, Cousin Mary stumped up to the table and stared down at Grimm, drumming her fingers against her folded arms. 'Well?' she lisped.

Grimm shrugged impatiently, wondering if he would ever be allowed to actually eat his lunch. 'Well what?' he said.

Mary looked affronted. 'The Prom Rehearsal Dance is tonight!' she said. 'And I don't see Rhonda anywhere - do you?'

Grimm winced, glancing around Mary to where the cheerleader had been, wondering if he'd been seeing things. 'Oh... right.' he said. In all the to-do over the last couple of days, he'd totally spaced on the Prom Rehearsal dance.

'Yeah.' Cousin Mary repeated. 'That means you fill in for Rhonda. And we'll need you at our pre-rehursal to make sure you're not lying about being able to sing the number!'

'Fine, I'll be there - your place, right?'

Mary nodded and made her way back to one of the tables. 'A chance to see you trying to look good on stage...' said Monique slyly. 'This rehearsal thing might not be a total wash after all.'

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After school, Grimm spent the hour or so before he was due at Cousin Mary's going through the training yard, trying to focus. He went through the first and second enclosures, but something felt off. His blocking was barely keeping pace with the incoming attacks, he was finishing the different enclosures almost too late to stay ahead of the timer.

He stood in the last enclosure, blocking and fending off tennis balls, when unbidden, he thought he saw Rhonda standing below the platform looking up at him. He paused, trying to make sure of what he was seeing.

Thwack!

One of the tennis balls hit him square on the forehead and he was so surprised that he fell backwards. At once there was a loud buzzing, and his sisters' pre-recorded taunt echoed in his ears.

'Gimme an L, Gimme an O, Gimme an S-E-R! That spells loser! Loser! Loooooooooo-serrrrrrrr!!'

But Grimm barely paid attention. He got to his knees but couldn't rise any further. He had been so sure he'd seen Rhonda, but as he gazed wildly around the training yard, he saw nothing. He was alone. 'Alone...' he thought bitterly. 'I've been alone since she disappeared...'

He heard a thrashing of approaching footsteps through the surrounding woods, and Lynn and Mim crashed into the training yard, looking delighted. 'I was him this time!' said Mim.
'Too bad, bro!' said Lynn.
'Looked like a head shot too! Wonder if he even felt it!'

Grimm said nothing and didn't move as his sisters continued to fire back and forth with various taunts and jibes at his failure. He simply stayed on his knees, staring at the ground. Finally they stopped, their smiles faltering.

'Jeez...' said Mim. 'What is with you?'
'We've been waiting for this moment for years, the least you can do is play along!' said Lynn.

'What do you need me for?' Grimm said in a miserable growl without raising his head. 'Go ahead and laugh, I don't care. Rhonda's gone - what difference does it make? What difference does anything make?'

Lynn and Mim looked as if he had punched them both in the gut. 'Whu.... you.... No fair...' stammered Lynn.
'Making us feel sorry for you the one time you blew it in the training yard!' said Mim.
'Way to spoil the moment...' Lynn muttered, and behind his closed eyes, Grimm could hear them plodding slowly back towards the exit.

Grimm didn't follow them, but remained there in silence for several minutes. 'What's the matter with me?' he thought, clenching his hands. He took out his communicator and waited for the answering beep.

'G-man, what up?' said Jade's voice. 'I managed to delete all the original footage from Middleton, and I've started some rumors on the conspiracy websites about the whole thing that seem to be picking up steam with the skeptics...'

'Jade,' he said, cutting across her, 'I need you to.... say something stupid.'

'What?' said Jade.

'Just do it.' Grimm said uncomfortably. 'Say something Rhonda might say.'

Jade looked curiously at Grimm. His expression seemed forlorn and somehow... sad. It was a side of him she'd never seen, or at least that Grimm had never let her see, and she wasn't sure how to cope with it. 'Um... Rubber baby buggy bumpers?' she said at last.

Grimm let out one stifled chuckle, shaking his head. 'Thanks Jade.' he said softly.

'Yeah... no problem.' she said, feeling a bit weirded out. 'Uh... you're supposed to be at Mary's in fifteen, you might want to...'

'Yeah.' said Grimm, and he turned off the communicator.

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When Kim and Monique had come home from school, they found Grimm had given them some cash to rent dresses, and they had hit the local mall eagerly, not having gone shopping together for some time. Monique found a store that sold dresses almost instinctively. Kim picked out a number that looked a lot like the dresses she wore with Ron to formal occasions. Monique picked a modest, black dress with sequins. Both of them stood in the full length mirrors in the store, striking various poses.

'Oh yeah,' said Monique. 'Don't need to be summer to know we're hot!' Kim smiled before going back in the changing room.

Kim thought that Ron might have mentioned something about how girls dawdle over getting dressed for special events, and Kim had to admit that the time to leave for the Prom Rehearsal dance seemed to come very rapidly. She wasn't sure why she was going all out - Ron, after all, was not there to appreciate the results. But she didn't want to go looking like a slob either. Pride led her to look good even if she wasn't trying to impress anyone.

As evening fell, Grimm and Enrique turned up, looking fairly sharp in tail-less tuxedos. Mrs. Fatigable insisted on taking pictures. 'Oh I know Rhonda's not here,' she said, 'But when she gets back she'd never forgive me for not getting a shot or two!' Grimm posed with the rest of them rather reluctantly, making sure there was plenty of distance between himself and Kim.

'Let's be clear on this,' said Grimm, as they left the house and made their way to the Sloth. 'We're accompanying each other to the dance, we're not going together.'

'You hear that?' said Monique to Enrique, for he was sidling up to her with a misty look in his eyes. Enrique sighed and retreated, but didn't look away.

As they got to the Sloth, Grimm took Rueful from his shoulder and eased him down on the sidewalk. 'Sorry, Ms. Darken won't allow pets at this shindig.' he said. 'You can chill in Rhonda's sanctorum till we get back, right?'

Rueful saluted and scurried off towards the backyard, disappearing between two slats in the wooden fence. Kim glanced up to the window of Rhonda's room and saw Rufus giving her the thumbs-up sign and a wink.

'Which do you dislike most?' Grimm said, not looking at them. 'Chivalry or Independence?'

'What are you talkin' bout?' said Monique.

'The car doors.' he answered. 'Do you want them held open as a sign of respect and chivalry? Or would you take it as some kind of insult to your female independence?'

Kim and Monique exchanged glances. 'I feel chivalrous tonight,' Kim mused.

Grimm sighed and shook his head, opening the driver side door. Enrique darted forward instantly, opening the passenger side door for Monique with a soppy grin. 'This would make more sense if I were driving.' Grimm muttered as Kim got in.

'I'm not riding on your bike and messing up my hair.' said Kim as the boys closed the doors, then got into the Sloth in the backseat. 'And you're not driving my car either. You don't mind having a girl in the driver's seat, do you?'

'Actually, I prefer...' Enrique started, but yelped as Grimm smacked him on the shoulder with a scowl.

'Let's just get this over with...' Grimm said, staring out of the window as Kim started the car and moved off down the street.

Part III
Fast Times at Riddleton High

The halls at Riddleton High were filled with a trickling of Seniors making their way towards the gym. Kim hadn't noted any decorations being put up over the course of the school day, but she certainly saw them now. The halls were decked with intricate displays, complicated arrangements of streamers and banners. Mrs. Darken, still wearing her rigid gray jacket and skirt, was prowling the halls, and Kim suspected she had assigned some team of students to put up the decorations between the time when school dismissed and the dance began. She had to admire the efficiency.

All the decorations were green and festooned with dark purple question marks. At the large doors leading into the gym was a gigantic banner that read: No urging needed to have this without tea. Using the same car to move a coffin twice.

The Riddleton cheer squad were all gathered together in the hallway, being fawned over by a number of smitten boys. 'Hi Kim!' they all said together, waving at her as she passed by. A number of jealous eyes from the boys darted from Kim to Grimm and back.

She saw Donnie Stoneport soon after, and the thought of Bonnie wearing a tux like his struck her as so funny that she couldn't fight back a giggle. Donnie noticed her at once and quickly checked his zipper before looking angrily at Grimm who was following Kim into the dance hall.

Kim gasped, thinking for a moment that she had wandered into the finale of Batman Forever. Spotlights were projecting question marks made of green light everywhere. Computer controlled lasers traced question marks and riddles on the high ceiling. Green balloons with question marks on them hovered over every table, and a mammoth question mark made of glittering green tinsel dominated the gym from its mount at the back of the stage.

Enrique and Monique looked around, impressed. The gym was already filled with a crowd of seniors wearing gowns or suits. Some were dancing to a tune which Kim recognized at once, smirking.

If you find your world is caving in
you can bet you'll need a friend,
someone to take those fears away!

Say the word! Make a call and I'll be there!
Anytime, anywhere - have you heard?
That I'm all about saving your world!
All you have to do is say the word...

Grimm had a sour look on his face, and he seemed to be trying to blend into the wall, retreating from sight while Kim and the others moved towards the refreshment tables. Even the punch was green with question mark shaped ice cubes.

'You're Kim Possible!' said a voice. Kim turned and saw it was one of the boys on the gymnastics team, with brown hair and dimples. 'Saw you on TV taking down that giant rock dude - awesome!'

'It was no big.' said Kim, smiling.

'You came with Probable, right?' he went on. 'I saw him coming in - he looked a little off. Is he OK?'

Kim wasn't really sure herself. Ever since the battle at Middleton, Grimm hadn't been his normal, cocky, insolent self. She was hit with a sudden impulse and leaned in, lowering her voice. 'Well...' she said, 'I heard Grimm is losing his touch, but don't tell anyone.'

The boy nodded, and Kim saw him move to another group, engaging another student in a muttered exchange. She remembered trying to start rumors about Bonnie a long time ago, and sabotaging Prince Wally's campaign for class president. And she wondered if anything would come of it this time. But a fast dance number had started and Monique was heading out onto the dance floor with Enrique following after her like a puppy. She followed as well, and they were soon lost in a boiling sea of dancing Seniors.

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Jade tapped her computer keyboard, the sound of it thunking loudly in the emptiness of her room. Wade was holed up in the guest house, still trying to find a way to trace Monkey Fist or Maze. She'd been keeping an eye on him to make sure he wasn't quietly trying to pinpoint Riddleton on Kim's orders. But since the kiss, she felt leery of actually being in the same room with him.

Grimm and the others had gone to the Prom Rehearsal dance. She'd never gone to a dance before, and with her tutoring being nearly all private, it seemed unlikely that she'd ever get the chance. She felt jealous, but there wasn't much she could do about it.

Then she heard a familiar, echoing shout in the cavernous marble hallways of the house. 'Jaaaaaaaaaaade!'

She sighed, going over a list of things she knew annoyed her father and checking to make sure she hadn't done anything on that list over the course of the day. Once satisfied that she hadn't done anything wrong that she could think of, she quickly made her way into the main living room. Mr. Omo-sa was seated in a lavish couch next to Mrs. Omo-sa, both of them looking like they were in the middle of a contest to see who could conduct themselves with the most dignity. 'Yes dad.' she said wearily.

'I have heard rumors from the staff that Wade-san kissed you.' he said in his grating voice. 'Is this true?'

Jade winced. 'Yes.' she said slowly. 'But I didn't kiss him. He kind of... ambushed me.' She expected him to fly into a rage, but there was a shrewd, calculating look in his eye as he exchanged glances with his wife.

'Does this mean you and Wade-san will be... dating?' he asked.

'No!' said Jade firmly. 'We don't really like each other! He was just short on sleep and... he wasn't thinking properly. The whole thing was just a mistake, that's all!'

Mr. Omo-sa stood up and paced, his immaculate shoes making crisp tapping noises on the shiny floor. 'Well...' he said thoughtfully, 'If you wished to use his weakness to get more information about the Nakasumi Corporation...'

Jade blinked and fought hard not to roll her eyes. Of course - all he'd wanted to know was if Jade could use Wade's romantic delusion as a tool to get corporate secrets. Any feelings that she or Wade might have were secondary. 'Yeah sure...' she said, her voice now tired and distracted. 'I'll get right on that.'

Mr. Omo-sa nodded curtly, and Jade took that to mean she could go. She was half-way out of the room when she stopped and turned back. 'Dad?' she said, her voice hesitant. 'Have you and Mom ever thought about... having another baby?'

There was a moment of silence. Then Mr. Omo-sa broke into loud laughter. Jade's face fell, but Mr. Omo-sa actually leaned against a wall in his mirth. 'Jade...' he said, wiping a tear from his eye. 'You try to amuse your father! Have another child? We cannot even control you!' And he bent over in a fresh volley of laughs.

'Heh... heh.' said Jade, with a bitter, forced smile. 'Yeah... great joke, huh? Forget I said anything...'

And her father's laughter echoed in her ears as she made her way back to her room.

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Grimm was sitting at one of the round tables away from the dance floor, idly nursing a cup of punch and fiddling with the cloth and ribbons that bedecked the table. He ignored every request to dance from the various girls which milled around in the gym. Instead he focused his attention on the overall behavior of the crowd.

The students were most thickly grouped around the cheerleaders. Enrique was making his rounds through the crowd, asking nearly every girl to dance. Some of them did, others waved him off. Ms. Darken was making regular patrols of the hallways, the gym and the stage, and Grimm had marked all the students who had signed on to be Ms. Darken's plain-clothes snitches and watch over things while she herself was elsewhere. So far there had been several broken-up PDAs, two thwarted attempts to spike the punch bowl, and one song in the DJ's list was skipped as 'inappropriate'.

And of course, Kim Possible was like a queen bee in a hive with her pick of the drones. She was dancing, but she refused to dance with anyone, vanishing from the dance floor whenever a slow number came up. This seemed to make the boys want to try even harder to get a dance from her, and Grimm had watched her turning down requests nearly all evening. She still had a sizeable crowd of hangers-on though, and reading their lips, Grimm knew most of them were talking about how they'd seen her on the news last night and admiring her heroics in tackling the Ubergolem.

In times past, he had done this at every dance, including Junior Prom, as an exercise to hone his observation skills and because he didn't have a girlfriend. But after he'd started shipping with Rhonda, he'd gone to a couple of dances with her, and found himself enjoying them on a whole new level.

'Senor Grimm,' Enrique appeared from the midst of a crowd of other dancers, looking flushed and dabbing sweat from his forehead with a napkin. 'I have heard some of the other students talking - some of them are saying that you're losing your touch, purple monkey dishwasher.'

Grimm felt irritated, remembering his recent failure in the training yard. 'Tell them not a chance,' he said defiantly. 'Especially that purple monkey dishwasher part.' Enrique nodded and vanished back onto the dance floor.

Before long, Ms. Darken strode onto the stage and took a microphone, reading from a note card taken from her blouse pocket. 'The talent portion of the dance will begin now.' she said simply. 'First up, the AV club.' And she left the stage at once as the curtains came up to show a number of students set up with full band equipment.

The music was all right, but not outstanding, palatable enough to keep the students dancing while it played. Cousin Mary appeared at Grimm's table. 'We're the fourth act, cousin!' she said. 'Let's go backstage and get ready with the others!' Grimm sighed and followed her through the crowd towards the backstage door.

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Kim and Monique were having a fairly good time, though the structure of the Rehearsal dance was a lot more rigid than any she'd attended in Middleton. Ms. Darken seemed to have an itinerary she was working through, a set amount of time for regular dancing, a fifteen minute punch break, then more dancing, a station for photographs and so on.

The talent portion was good, with several clubs from the school playing various musical numbers, mostly pop songs from past and present. But the one Kim had been waiting for had just come up, and she stopped dancing, moving closer to the stage to watch as Ms. Darken made another announcement.

'The Chess Club.' she said, and left the stage again.

The sparkling, sequined curtain rolled back again, revealing a number of gangly students, male and female. All of them looked out of shape, either too thin or slightly overweight, and seemed like they'd be more at home wearing high-water pants and button-down polo shirts instead of the tuxedos and gowns in which they were dressed. Grimm took a place on the stage with them, looking very ill at ease among the nerdy chorus of students.

Cousin Mary took a microphone and her nasally voice echoed with a tinny ring through the speakers. 'Hellooooooo Riddleton!' she squealed, trying to sound like a rock star addressing a city by name on a concert tour. 'Get ready to kick your feet in the air like you just don't care!'

Then the chess club started to play, with all the gusto and enthusiasm of persons who didn't realize they ought to be embarrassed.

May-ya-hi! May-ya-hu! May-ya-ho! May-ya-ha-ha!
May-ya-hi! May-ya-hu! May-ya-ho! May-ya-ha-ha!

myyahi

'Ooooh, I love this one!' said Rachel, and she joined the other cheerleaders near the front of the stage. Mary seemed much more comfortable in the spotlight that Grimm did, but he didn't falter. They started singing the O-zone version of the lyrics. Grimm's voice went well with the song, though Kim felt an inward satisfaction that her own voice sounded much better.

Hello, Salud, it’s me your Duke
And I made something that’s real
To show you how I feel

Hello, Hello, it’s me Picasso
I will paint my words of love
With your name on every wall

When you leave my colors fade to gray
I need your love to stay or All my colors fade away
Every word of love I used to say
Now I paint it everyday...

The chess club played the music almost flawlessly, obviously it was one of their favorite riffs. They threw themselves into it with such gusto that even though they looked ridiculous with their mis-matched clothes, their thick glasses and gangly physiques, Kim found her foot tapping in time to the beat.

Beside her, Monique was nodding too, a faint smile on her face. 'Nerds got moves.' she said simply.

Kim saw a sour look on Donnie's face as the assembled students clapped in time to the music and many were dancing the 'Chicken Little' dance in a line in front of the stage. Donnie was obviously miffed that the students were enjoying the number, and he glared at the stage in a manner that would have made Bonnie proud.

I sold my strings, my songs, and dreams
And I bought some paints to match the colors of my love

Hello, Hello, it’s me, Picasso
I will spray my words of my love
With your name on every wall

Monique had actually joined the line of dancers and was whooping it up with the rest of the Riddleton students. Kim smiled, but was touched by the awkweirdness of the scene. It was just a normal dance with normal students having fun the way normal students would - despite the fact that one of the singers on stage was someone she utterly despised. In any other circumstance she might be out on the floor with Ron, and wouldn't have even minded if he broke into his bon-diggity dance.

And as she stood alone on the sidelines, she was suddenly struck by how much she missed him. The repeat chorus triggered a great pang of loneliness that she couldn't suppress.

When you leave my colors fade to gray
I need your love to stay or All my colors fade away
Every word of love I used to say
Now I paint it everyday...

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Rhonda and Ron were dancing as well as they could without having a floor beneath them. The shadowy forms of the other students swirled around them like leaves in a storm, hazy and indistinct, but visible. A number of them passed through Rhonda and Ron as they moved.

'Watch where you're going, pal!' said Ron, even though he knew only Rhonda could hear him. He was trying to stay close to Kim, and he was surprised to see she wasn't dancing at all, but merely standing off to the side with an expression that looked pained.

But Rhonda only had eyes for Grimm. 'I never thought he'd actually get up on stage.' said Rhonda, smiling. 'That was sweet of him...' All that day long, Rhonda had been able to more or less see Grimm. And there were brief instants in which she thought he could see her. She tried waving up at him on stage while the Chess Club went into the song's breakdown, and didn't see Ron following after Kim, who had suddenly wiped her eyes and darted to the nearest doorway.

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Grimm froze, looking out into the crowd, sure that he had seen Rhonda weaving in and out among the other dancers, but they were so compressed and jumbled together along with the blinking lights and strobes that he was baffled. Cousin Mary had to nudge him before he remembered it was time for the final chorus.

When you leave my colors fade to gray
I need your love to stay or All my colors fade away
Every word of love I used to say
Now I paint it everyday

Kim heard the words while she stood alone in the hallway, her face buried in her hands. 'Ron...' she sobbed quietly. 'I miss you....'

Ron stood by her side, trying to put a comforting hand on her shoulder, but like always, he passed through her like empty smoke. He could only stand there, watching awkwardly as she wiped her eyes, composing herself before going back into the gym.

The song had ended, and Cousin Mary was taking exaggerated bows with the rest of the chess club as loud applause rippled through the gym. But Grimm had quit the stage almost as soon as the music ended, trying to blend back into the crowd.

But he wasn't fast enough to escape Donnie, who was there next to him just as Kim was returning to the dance floor. 'Nice riffs, Probable.' Donnie's sneering voice. 'A little behind the times though - kind of like you.'

Grimm ignored him, getting a drink from the refreshment table, though his eyes were narrowed.

'So where's the queen geek?' Donnie went on. 'Usually she's there helping you make a fool of yourself. Left you stag tonight? Or did you finally wise up and ditch her?' His eye strayed to Kim, looking her over with a barely visible leer. 'It sure looks like you've traded up....'

Grimm snorted, rather than smirking like he normally did. 'Rhonda will be back soon enough,' he said, and there was a harsh edge in his voice. 'So feel free to make a move on the trade-up, if you think you haven't already put her off with your Neanderthal impersonation....'

The comeback seemed to sting Donnie, and his voice became even more snide. 'I never understood you, Probable - wasting time with deadweight like Fatigable.'

Grimm's expression became cold. 'She's not deadweight.' he said, his voice low and dangerous.

Kim could feel the tension brewing simply because the banter was like what she experienced with Bonnie nearly every day. But she sensed a lot more anger behind it and tried to defuse things before they went any further. 'Listen Stoneport, if you're trying to impress me with this tough guy act, forget it. I already said I don't even like Grimm. Plus I've got a boyfriend waiting for me at home...'

But Donnie didn't seem to hear her. He seemed more intent now on needling Grimm than anything else. 'If you don't like the word deadweight, how about freak?' he said. 'You think I haven't seen her sitting in your stupid training yard, talking to animals like she's some kind of Disney princess? Well it figures she'd have to talk to animals since no one human likes her...'

It happened so fast that Kim could barely see it. In one smooth motion, Grimm had put Donnie into a hammerlock and slammed him down on the table, scattering several cups of punch and upturning a plate full of cookies.

Grimm's look of cocky non-concern was gone, replaced with a snarling expression of rage. Donnie's arm was bent to hyperextension and Kim could hear the faint sound of tendons and muscle tissue on the verge of snapping. The other students had backed away, leaving them in a small circle.

'Apologize!' Grimm hissed.

Donnie was struggling, but it was clear the pain in his arm had nearly paralyzed him. 'Let... go!' he said. 'What are you, crazy?' He winced as his arm was twisted further - his right hand bent so far behind his back that he could have touched his left ear.

The band had faltered and stopped playing. Enrique stepped forward, putting a hand on Grimm's shoulder. 'Senor Grimm,' he said quietly, 'Don't do this - Rhonda would not have wanted...'

Grimm's teeth were gritted. 'You're gonna take back what you said about Rhonda!' he growled. 'Or I'll break it!' Donnie cried out in pain.

Kim joined Enrique, putting her own hand on Grimm's other shoulder and pulling. 'Grimm, stop it!' she said.

Kim's voice seemed to break through to him, and Grimm relaxed his hold. Donnie rolled out from underneath him, turning and breathing heavily while massaging his arm and shoulder. 'You're a freak job Grimm!' he said, glaring. 'Just like your loser GF....'

Grimm started forward again and Donnie flinched. 'You're just lucky a girl was here to save your bacon.' he said. Grimm looked around at the silent and staring crowd. 'Well, get back to your dancing!' he said finally, then he turned to the next student band on stafe. 'And what are you guys waiting for? Applause?' Then he stormed out of the gym, slamming the door behind him.

Slowly, the music resumed and the other students started dancing again. But all of them were muttering, some of them casting looks at Donnie. Donnie was angrily brushing brownie crumbs from his white tuxedo jacket and inspecting the punch stains. 'You're going down for this Probable,' he growled to himself. 'You can kiss your spot on the team good-bye...' But he winced and flinched as he heard a voice behind him.

'Stoneport!'

Kim, Monique and Enrique saw Donnie turn slowly to face Ms. Darken. Again, most of the other students retreated. 'Hello teach...' said Donnie, his voice putting on an air of bravado. 'Great dance...'

But he trailed off. Ms. Darken's eyes were blazing as she stared at him, though the look that darted between them was like knives made of ice. 'Follow.... me...' she said, and she turned, walking through an aisle of students that had practically jumped out of her way. As Donnie followed after her, the students made soft 'Ooooh' sounds which rose and fell in pitch. Donnie glared at them angrily.

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Grimm didn't look back, but strode down the mostly dark and empty hallways until he lost track of how long he'd been walking. He had initially headed for the parking lot, intending to get on his bike and drive home, until he remembered that the Ksikkihkíni was back at his house.

So he continued threading through the hallways, trying to walk off the raw anger he'd felt surging inside him because of Donnie's words. Ms. Darken's patrols kept the halls fairly clear of wandering students or trouble-makers. He found himself making his way to Rhonda's locker, and he froze. Standing in the darkness, he could see the silhouette of a girl who looked like she was dialing the combination lock - she had long hair, and the clothes... looked like mission clothes.

'Rhonda...!' he said, but he blinked, and even as he did so, the figure seemed to melt into the vague shadow shapes that engulfed the entire hall. He looked around, his head whirling, but he was alone. Or so he had thought.

'Probable!'

The harsh crack of Ms. Darken's voice cut through him as he heard the rhythmic clack of her approaching high heeled shoes. 'Yes, Ms. Darken.' he said, his voice flat. But he wasn't looking at her - he was keeping an eye on Rhonda's locker, flustered by what he thought he'd seen.

'You disrupted the Rehearsal Dance with that boorish display.' she hissed. 'Explain yourself.'

Grimm frowned, because even he wasn't sure why he'd done it. Normally, he ignored Donnie's pathetic sniping. But somehow tonight... 'I was just minding my own business.' he said. 'He got in my face and... pushed the wrong buttons.' Grimm said, shrugging, but knowing this answer would hardly satisfy Ms. Darken.

And he was right. She was glaring at him as if she'd just heard the lamest joke in the world. 'I don't want to have to throw you off the gymnastics team.' she said, looking almost hawk-like. 'But I can't ignore this sort of behavior. It's detention for you, Mr. Probable. Every Friday night until the end of the school year. A kid who has time to pick fights at dances obviously has so much time to spare that he doesn't need his Friday evenings free.'

'So you want to punish me? Fine.' he said impatiently. 'Where's the punishment for Donnie for bad-mouthing Rhonda in the first place? Or are you gonna let him skate on that?'

'No.' said Ms. Darken, 'As a matter of fact, he is also slated for detention. I'm already planning a series of delightful projects for the both of you to perform - side by side - in which you will hopefully learn the value of teamwork. If you wish to graduate on time, you will serve these detentions. Your missions will not be accepted as an excuse.' And she turned and walked away, leaving Grimm alone in the hall.

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The dance ended at ten without any further troubles. Ms. Darken pronounced the evening 'satisfactory' and dismissed them with orders to return to their homes immediately. A number of students said good night to Kim as they filed to their cars through the parking lot. Kim remained outside the car with Enrique and Monique for some time, craning their necks over the heads of the other students and trying to catch sight of Grimm. He hadn't been seen since he stormed out of the gym.

It was only when there were a couple of cars left in the lot that she decided to give up. Enrique protested, but Kim shrugged it off. 'If he wants a ride home, he can beep me.' she said. 'I'm not searching the school for him if he can't find his way out.'

When they got to Enrique's house, he turned to Monique. 'It is traditional to give one's date a good-night kiss..' he said hopefully.

'I wasn't your date!' she said wearily. 'We said that before we got in the car - good night, home-boy!'

Enrique sighed longingly, but slid out of the backseat and closed the door behind him, backing slowly up the walkway leading to his front door and blowing kisses towards them.

As Kim drove away towards Rhonda's house, she couldn't hold back a smile. 'You know, he's not that bad.' she said. 'And he is kind of cute. You could give him a chance...'

'Shut up girlfriend - you know I can't take him home with me.' said Monique quietly, though Kim thought she saw a smile flicker at the edge of her lips.

Part IV: Switching Places

Kim tried to tell herself that the evening was over, but every time she didn't know where Grimm was she got suspicious. 'I'm gonna check over at his house.' she said, after they had gotten to Rhonda's. 'Shouldn't take long.'

'Checking on him?' said Monique. 'Don't tell me you care?'

'As if.' Kim said with a laugh. 'Go ahead and turn in, I'll be back soon.'

She made her way to the Probable's through the darkness and checked the small depression at the base of the house which marked the only window into Grimm's basement room. There was no light on. She went around towards the backyard, thinking that he might be in the training yard. But as she neared the back fence which led to the grassy path and the training yard, she heard soft music from one of the tall trees in the backyard.

She stepped softly through the grass and looked up, seeing a treehouse nestled in the lower branches. She sniffed, finding a small ladder of boards nailed into the tree trunk. 'Typical boys.' she thought as she climbed up quietly. 'Why do they all want treehouses when they're younger?'

She went through an open trap door in the floor of the treehouse and saw Grimm kneeling at a rail which had a spectacular view through the tree branches of the night sky and the silvery moonlight beyond. But Grimm was hunched over, his head bowed and his hands clenched around the railing as if he were in pain. On a rickety table made of roughly sawn planks was an mp3 player and speaker. It was playing the Aniron theme from Fellowship of the Rings. The musical, echoing voice spread through the treehouse.

It was then Kim saw that Grimm was crying. His fingers trembled around the railing, his teeth were gritted and his eyes were squeezed shut as if he were trying to block the tears which rolled down his face. Kim felt momentarily uncomfortable, but also a dark satisfaction at the sight. Grimm Probable - her iron-boned tormentor - weeping in the moonlight.

'Rhonda was working for months planning to play that stupid song at the dance. And she never got to...' he said, his voice shivering. Kim stared. He hadn't turned, and she had been as quiet as possible, but he had still heard her. She didn't answer, not knowing what to say.

'A while ago I'd have given anything to see her again.' he went on. 'Now I'm seeing her everywhere - and it's driving me crazy! I swear even now I can smell that shampoo she always uses... I know she's close, but I still can't find her.' He paused, and his voice was trembling as he spoke again. 'Is this how it felt when I took Ron away from you?'

Kim remembered that day. The day Grimm had kidnapped Ron and used the Attitudinator on him. And the evil triumph that had been in his eyes when he'd led her to Ron, so she could find him twisted and changed into Zorpox the Conqueror. 'Yes.' she said.

A silvery glint shone in the moonlight as a tear fell from his chin onto the railing. 'It tanks.' he said.

All the anger she'd felt towards Grimm, mostly ignored while they teamed up to find Monkey Fist, now boiled back to the surface. The desire for justice, for revenge, swept back into her heart like a missing treasure and she reveled in his misery. 'Does it hurt, Grimm?' she said, 'Does it feel like someone tore your heart out and made you watch while they stomped on it and laughed?'

'Yes.' he said.

  the price

'Good.' Kim said, her eyes narrowed. 'Now maybe you'll think twice before you do it to anyone else.'

Grimm looked up at her, dark circles under his eyes. 'I thought you were supposed to be the good guy.' he said. 'That doesn't sound like something a hero would say.'

Kim glared. 'Are you expecting sympathy from me?' she hissed. 'After everything you've done?'

Grimm's face was hardening again. 'No.' he said. 'I tutored you too well in cruelty to expect that.' He turned looking out at the moon again. 'So this is what the Great Bear Spirit meant when he said a price was required. He said that fighting for a noble cause would feel like poison to me - but that I stood on the threshold of a new world. With his power, he infected Rhonda with compassion and kindness - and because of her it's infected me too!'

He sank over the rail again, his forehead leaned against the rough wood. 'Katasistsikoowa....' he said, and his voice broke. He struck the rail with his fist. For some time, he said nothing. Then finally his spoke again.

'I'm glad you learned your lessons from me, Possible.' he said bitterly. 'We won't be able to stop Maze or Monkey Fist unless at least one of us is as ruthless as they are. You're going to have to be the ruthless one from now on.'

And he walked past her, climbing back down through the trapdoor and walking towards the house. Kim stayed there for a few seconds. The feeling that she had finally scored a genuine hit against Grimm gave her a heated sense of satisfaction. 'Serves him right,' she thought angrily. 'If he wasn't a tool for every villain in the world, he wouldn't have wound up in this mess - or dragged me into it with him And now that one of his schemes has come back to bite him, he wants me to clean up his mess and bail him out? I'll bail him all right - straight into Cell Block D with Dementor...'

She made her way back down and saw that Grimm had actually left the garage entrance open. She couldn't stop her detective's curiosity, and sneaked into the house, creeping through the dark hallways. The light leading into the study was still on, and she paused just outside the door, peering in and hearing two voices.

Mr. Probable was standing there, his arms folded, his face impassive. '...just got an interesting call from Ms. Darken.' he was saying. Grimm didn't answer. 'She said that you attacked Donnie in the gym during the dance, and that you and he will be serving detentions together. Is this true?'

Grimm nodded curtly. 'Yes, sir.' he said.

Mr. Probable's face was hovering between stony and angry. 'You have to be smarter than that, boy.' he said. 'Haven't I taught you anything? What have I always said to you? When you're facing an opponent who isn't using physical force...?'

Grimm sighed, looking sulky. 'Don't get violent - get information.' he said.

'And what did Donnie do to make you forget that?'

Grimm glared into his father's eyes, looking both defiant and defensive. 'He insulted Rhonda.'

'What did he say?'

'He called her a freak!'

'Is he right?'

Grimm looked angry. 'No!' he said quickly.

'If you're sure he was wrong then why did you attack him? Did you think other people would believe him?'

Grimm muttered, looking away. Mr. Probable's steely eyes narrowed. 'What's the other thing I always tell you? If there are people out there bad-mouthing you...?'

Grimm sighed again. 'Live your life so no one else believes them.' he said, sounding slightly ashamed.

'That's right.' Mr. Probable said. 'And because you couldn't remember that in the heat of the moment, you've supplied Donnie with weapons that he can use against you. Now he knows he can get under your skin by dissing your girlfriend.'

'What was I supposed to do? Just stand there and let him get away with it?' said Grimm, his face flushing.

Mr. Probable shook his head. 'No. Never let them get away with it. But never let them know they got to you.' His eyes softened slightly and he put his hand on Grimm's shoulder. 'Look son, I know Donnie's a pain. But I told you to never lay hands on him for a reason. There are going to be people like him in almost every phase of your life, and you have to practice devising ways to deal with them without using your kung-fu. If you use violence every time someone pops up and annoys you, then you're no better than a street punk.'

Grimm didn't look up. 'Sorry, dad.' he said, his voice almost a whisper.

Mr. Probable patted him on the shoulder. 'It's all right, son.' he said quietly. Then he took in a breath and became more business-like. 'OK, we know the current situation.' he said. 'Now - we use it as an opportunity to practice your core modus operandi - and that is....?'

Grimm nodded. 'Make your enemies use their own weapons against themselves.'

'You gave Donnie a weapon tonight - now he knows that to get to you, he just has to insult Rhonda. What does that mean?'

Grimm looked thoughtful. 'He'll definitely try it again.' he said.

Mr. Probable nodded. 'Now - is he really insulting Rhonda when he does it?'

Grimm raised his head, his eyes narrowed in concentration. 'No.' he said. 'He couldn't care less about Rhonda - he's doing it to insult me.'

Mr. Probable nodded again. 'Right. And if he's resorting to dragging a third party into a dispute between the two of you, it means...?'

Sudden understanding seemed to dawn on Grimm's face, and the look of cunning returned. 'It means that he's either run out of things to say about me, or he's too stupid to think of anything new.'

Mr. Probable looked intently at Grimm. 'Which means...?'

Grimm's smirk crept back into place. 'He's acting like he's threatened by someone he doesn't even care about.'

'Which means?'

'Advantage - Probable.' he said quietly.

Mr. Probable smiled. 'Took a while this time, but you got there.' he said. 'Now the next time he tries it, you'll be ready.'

Grimm smiled, not looking like the cunning schemer, but like an errant teenager grateful for a father-to-son chat. 'Thanks, dad.' he said.

Mr. Probable waved, smiling faintly. 'Don't get all schmaltzy on me.' he said, but he sounded mellow when he said it. 'Just do what you normally do - and make me proud.'

Kim had watched the entire scene from the shadow of the doorway, her mouth hanging open in disbelief. There were a whole family of users. She quickly retreated the way she had come in and made her way back to the Fatigable house. If Grimm was flaking out over Rhonda, then the burden of hunting down Monkey Fist was mostly hers now. She started going over all their failed attempts in her mind, trying to devise new methods they might not have tried yet. She made a mental note to contact Wade tomorrow. Maybe he'd been able to cull more intel after the incident with the Ubergolem...

Part V: Crossroads

Grimm slumped into his computer chair, pulling off his tie. He wanted to go to sleep, but he wondered if even then he would get any peace - or if another phantasm of Rhonda would torment him in his sleep, ever present, but always just beyond his reach. His computer beeped four times and the monitor flickered on. 'What's the sitch, Jade?' he said.

'Incoming call.' she said, and she looked unusually grave.

Grimm shook his head. 'I already said - I'm not taking any more clients until...'

'It's Monkey Fist.' said Jade.

Grimm froze. A cocktail of emotions boiled inside him as he tapped his finger on the desk. 'Put it through.' he said at last. 'But quadruple the anti-tracing. He's probably trying to find us with their Jammer.'

'Ya think?' said Jade with a faint grin.

'And if you can manage it, trace the call back to them.' he said quietly, putting a small plug into his left ear. 'Let me know through the bug if they're zeroing in on me.'

'Leave it to me.' she said, cracking her knuckles. Then she blipped out, and he was staring face to face with Monkey Fist, who had a calm, relaxed expression on his stony face.

'Master Probable,' he said, his voice oozing with charm. 'Are Possible and her friends listening in?'

'No.' said Grimm, his voice low.

'Good.' Monkey Fist said. 'I've decided it's time for you and I to discuss certain things.'

Grimm wanted to shout at Monkey Fist, or threaten him, but his mercenary instinct for more information won out over his anger. 'What do you want?'

'This misguided alliance you've made with Kim Possible - it's become quite a nuisance.' he answered, shaking his head with exaggerated sadness.

'I wouldn't have teamed up with her at all if you'd played it straight with me from the start.' Grimm said angrily. 'Instead you joined up with Maze and took it out on my girlfriend.'

'And in retrospect, that may have been rash.' Monkey Fist said, spreading his petrified hands. 'So I've come to offer you a deal.'

'Deal?' Grimm said, laughing. 'What kind of deal?'

Monkey Fist took on a devil-may-care expression, looking off to the side and twirling his finger. 'Oh don't mistake me, it's been fun watching you and Possible scramble around, trying to catch us. But I think you understand by now that you haven't done much more than annoy us. Our plans are still firmly on schedule, and the conclusion is inevitable.'

the price

'If you're so sure of that, why call?' said Grimm. 'Unless your 'plan' isn't as stable as you're letting on...'

'You'll fish no answers or hints from me, Probable.' said Monkey Fist. 'I called you - for want of a better description - for old times sake. You once served well as my student, and admirably carried out tasks for me as a mercenary. But if you remain on Possible's side, you'll be trodden under foot. That would be a great pity.'

'What are you suggesting?' said Grimm.

'Deliver Kim Possible to us.' he said, his expression now harder than the stone of his face. 'You're a clever boy - we could easily arrange for you to 'find' us on another of our raids. You need only supply a push, a trip or a nudge at just the right time... we would handle the rest.'

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Jade had hacked dozens of high security systems over her time working with Grimm. She'd dueled a few times against Wade, trying to out-hack him. But going up against the Ultra-Atmospheric Jammer was unlike anything she'd tried before. She had dozens of fake grids set up everywhere to misdirect and repel any tracking or tracing programs from any source. No one had ever broken through her first layer of defenses.

Yet despite her re-writing code and re-routing signals totally on the fly, the Jammer had wormed it's way through the first layer, tracing the call and closing in on them. She didn't believe for a minute that Maze or Monkey Fist was directing the effort - which left only one person. Dr. Drakken. She tried to remember everything she could from the intel she'd gathered on him during their mercenary work - tried to put herself in his shoes to anticipate what he might try next in his attempts to track them down...

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'Why should I help you after what you did to Rhonda?' said Grimm.

'Well asked.' said Monkey Fist. 'I know our methods at the beginning were... a bit rough. And you're rightfully upset - but that can all be rectified. Assist us in capturing Kim Possible and her friends, and you will be greatly rewarded.'

'You've blown all your money already.' said Grimm. 'And you destroyed your own manor. There's nothing you can offer me.'

Monkey Fist looked annoyed for a moment, but it passed. 'Those were merely... investments for my current plans. Rest assured, the entire world will be in our power soon - and a great portion of it's riches could soon be dancing at your heels...'

There was a tense silence. 'What about Rhonda?' said Grimm. 'You banished her as part of your 'plan'. I want her back!'

Monkey Fist nodded. 'Perfectly understandable,' he said. 'And in exchange for your assistance... I think something could be arranged.'

'Liar.' said Grimm, shaking his head. 'I already had a chat with Maze in Basalton. 'Cannot be undone' were the words I think he used.'

'And at that time, he was right.' said Monkey Fist smoothly. 'But our powers are growing every day - and with the good Dr. Drakken's aid, they will grow even more. Once our power is established over the people of the world - who knows what their limits might be? I think we can eventually bring back your precious girlfriend.'

'Then what about your partner?' Grimm growled. 'I know he's right there listening. He hates Rhonda - so how does he feel about this deal you're proposing? You expect me to believe he's ready to help bring Rhonda back?'

Monkey Fist was waving his hand airily. 'Oh, all he wants is to rule his own people and take back the land he says is rightfully his.' he said. 'When he thought the only way he could do that was with the power of this 'Great Bear', of course he lost patience when Rhonda somehow usurped it...'

'She didn't usurp anything, the Great Bear chose her!'

'Potato, po-tah-toe....' said Monkey Fist with another wave, 'The point is Maze understands now that he doesn't need this Bear Power to achieve his ends. Our plan will work with or without it. And since he doesn't need the Great Bear's power... there's no reason to keep Ms. Fatigable imprisoned.' His lip curled into a smile. 'Besides,' he said, 'Don't tell me you've enjoyed being Possible's stooge. I'm offering you a chance for untold riches, to be reunited with your companion, and get rid of Possible in the bargain.'

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Jade grimaced as her second layer of defenses was breached. Like a blip of energy soaring and zagging it's way through lines of wires and circuitry, she monitored the Jammer's progress in isolating frequencies, cracking codes and homing in on their signal. All thoughts of trying to trace Monkey Fist back to his lair was abandoned. It was all she could do simply to slow down the Jammer's relentless advances.

'Hurry up, G-Man...' she thought, typing madly across three keyboards. Her third tier of defense was crumbling...

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Grimm's mind buzzed, though he did his best to keep his face flat and expressionless. It was possible that Monkey Fist was lying, he thought. All of Monkey Fist's words could be nothing but smoke and mirrors to distract him while they used the Jammer to track him down and petrify the whole neighborhood. But there was also a flicker of doubt in his mind. What if there really was a way to bring Rhonda back? And if Monkey Fist and Maze were given free reign with their powers, wouldn't the smart course be to get on their good side? To be ready to stand beside them as an ally - so he could benefit from their powers when they took over?

Monkey Fist was offering him something solid he could hold onto for getting Rhonda back. It was something much more easy to believe in than the Great Bear's cryptic hints and vague suggestions.

And all he had to do was help them capture Kim - who he didn't like anyway. He hadn't gone through anything weirder or tougher than the last two weeks of trying to play 'nice' with Possible and her gang of dewy-eyed idealists. He reflected for a moment. Monkey Fist was right. It would be child's play to simply stay a step or two behind Kim the next time they encountered Monkey Fist - she was so trusting - then when her back was turned...

And why shouldn't he? Possible had made no secret of the fact that as soon as the mission was over, she was going to try and have him arrested. She was still sneaking around behind his back, trying to gather evidence, trying to contact the police. If it was a question of double-crossing, wasn't he justified in making sure that Kim went down first?

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Ron was watching the entire exchange from behind Grimm's shoulders. 'Dude!' said Ron, 'That is... cold!'

Rhonda was squinting. After Grimm had summoned the Great Bear, he had seemed clearer and clearer to her in the visions she had experienced. But now as she watched him listening to Monkey Fist's offer, he seemed to be growing fainter and more distant, fading into the shadows that surrounded her.

'Grimm...?' she called out, but he seemed to become steadily more distant. 'Grimm?'

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'What say you, Probable?' Monkey Fist drawled, seeming to know that Grimm found the offer tempting. 'With your help - we can all get what we want. Do we have a deal?'

Grimm's voice was heavy as he answered. 'You had your chance to play it straight with me in the UNIT labs.' he said. 'But you thought it would be more fun tie me up, leave me for the cops and banish my girlfriend to another dimension! Next time you want my help - think twice before you turn my life into your punching bag!'

Monkey Fist frowned. 'I take it then - you're refusing my generous offer?'

'You and Maze better enjoy whatever it is you're cooking up while you can.' Grimm said. 'I've told my clients from the get-go - if you double-cross us, all bets are off. If you thought I was skilled when I was working for you, just wait till you see what I can do when I'm working against you!'

'You're making a great mistake...' Monkey Fist started.

Jade's voice buzzed in his ear. 'Just broke through the last tier! They'll find us in five sec...'

Grimm reached up and clicked the mouse button, closing the video link. He leaned back in his chair, putting his hand over his eyes and sighing.

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Rhonda sighed in relief as Grimm seemed to suddenly come back into clear view. She also felt somehow closer to him. Despite how glum and troubled he looked, she felt an unaccountable sense of relief. It was as if they had both been driving towards a forked road with one path leading to a flowery meadow, the other into a creepy forest, and Grimm had veered towards the meadow at the last second. 'I donno what happened just then,' she thought, 'But it felt kinda nice...'

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Maze stared at Monkey Fist while Dr. Drakken popped up from behind a computer console, pulling off a microphone headset. 'That's it - transmission's broken!' said Drakken.

'Well?' said Monkey Fist. 'Did you find them?'

'Just a second...' Drakken answered. 'Final data is coming through... There! According to the instruments, Probable's house is located at... 90 degrees north latitude and 180 degrees west longitude!'

Monkey Fist covered his face with a large, stony hand. 'The North Pole.' he said. 'I suppose that's his idea of a parting joke.'

'I'm not laughing.' said Maze. 'Your attempt to 'bribe' him into revealing himself has failed.'

'It was worth a try.' said Monkey Fist, shrugging. 'And I think he found the offer more appealing than he let on. If we're lucky, he'll change his mind. And if not... then he will truly join Possible in defeat.'

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Grimm pulled the mini-microphone out of his ear as Jade's face blipped back onto the computer screen. 'I just managed to head them off.' she said. 'If they follow the data, they'll have fun looking around for Santa's Castle, but they won't find us.'

'Nice work Jade.' Grimm said quietly.

'I heard what he was offering.' said Jade. 'Sounded like a good deal.'

'It was.' Grimm said.

'Not the kind of deal you'd normally throw back in someone's face.' Jade said.

'Yeah.'

'Grimm what's wrong with you?' she said. 'Picking fights with Donnie, turning down common sense deals, not to mention you've gone all mopey...'

'I don't know.' Grimm said.

Jade shook her head. 'A hint? A clue? Anything?'

'Nothing.'

For some time, there was silence. 'So... now what?' she said at last.

Grimm sighed, standing up. 'There's only one option left...' he said, and he left the room, leaving Jade blinking after him from the computer screen.

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The last thing Kim wanted before ending the day was another talk with Grimm. But as she got ready for bed, she heard a soft knock downstairs, and a few seconds later, Mrs. Fatigable was knocking on her door.

'Grimm's down in the kitchen.' she said. 'He says it's important.'

Kim put on a robe and made her way down where she saw Grimm sitting at the kitchen table, looking grave. He nodded to Mrs. Fatigable, thanking her before she left the kitchen.

'Now what?' she said.

'Get some bags ready for travel tomorrow.' he said. 'I have to take you to the Yamanouchi School.' His voice sounded as if he were speaking against his better judgment, or being pressed somehow.

'Why?' said Kim, suspiciously.

'I don't know.' said Grimm irritably. 'When I communed with the Great Bear, he told me that if I wanted to save Rhonda, I had to take you there.'

'You took your time telling me.' Kim said. 'Is there anything else you're holding back?'

'There's something you have to do there. He said you have to seek the wisdom of... the Mystical Monkey.' he ended, looking away sheepishly, as if he knew what he was saying sounded foolish.

'The... what?' Kim said.

'The Mystical Monkey.' Grimm said again. 'Don't ask me what it means, the Great Bear said it, not me.'

'Bear spirits... mystical monkeys...' said Kim, shaking her head. 'This is all whacked out!'

'Yeah.' said Grimm with a sarcastic snort. 'And aliens living in Hawaii makes perfect sense.'

'What?' said Kim.

'Nothing.' Grimm said quickly. 'Look - all I know is the Great Bear said it was part of bringing Rhonda back, and probably Ron too. I don't understand how it's supposed to help. But the Great Bear came through in fighting that golem, so I'm hoping this Yamanouchi thing will eventually make sense too.'

Kim waited for a few seconds, thinking. 'That's it?' she said. 'No tricks? No double-talk, no winding trail of riddles? That isn't like you.'

'I know.' he said, and he looked for a moment as he had in the treehouse, pained and helpless. 'It's not my first instinct, being honest with you. But I couldn't.... I can't keep it from you like I wanted to. That's just the way it is.'

There was more silence. After nearly a full minute, Grimm sighed. 'So how about it?' he said. 'I've got nothing to bribe or compel you with. It's all a leap of faith. I have no idea what will happen - but there's nothing else I can think of to try. Will you come?'

Kim didn't answer right away. She felt Rufus shifting position inside her hip pouch - Ron's pet. She'd been carrying him so long she'd gotten used to it, but it was still abnormal. Ron should be there, taking care of Rufus and just being with her. 'Well...' she said at last. 'Ron always seemed to come away from Yamanouchi with something good at every visit. I guess... I'll see if that happens for me too.'

           
 
Chapter 25