How do you fix a relationship with someone who doesn't remember you?
Ron sighed as he ordered himself lunch at the BN Express that had been put in the cafeteria. He also grabbed her a large, unsweetened iced tea. She remembered some things—less things, by far, than the last time she'd had amnesia.
He couldn't help but feel a bit smug. Last time Kim had had amnesia, she'd regained her memory of everything except her relationship with him. This time, the only thing that had remained in her memory was how much she'd loved him.
She was always asking questions about them. While she knew that she'd loved him, she didn't remember many details of their time together, so he obliged her, answering ever question he possibly could with stories of their childhood and their relationship. He told her everything he could remember from their first day in preschool together to their first kiss.
She'd giggled at the first kiss story, her cheeks pink with embarrassment. "You must have been so confused," she'd observed, her face still bright with amusement and a little bit of shame.
He'd chuckled a little bit, his fingers reaching her cheek, feeling the heat there. "I'd been confused the whole day. And you'd been chasing me around with your fancy cheer moves and badical kung-fu skills—I never stood a chance, really. When you kissed me I passed out. Oh, and also, Wade called in that moment, and he saw you kiss me... and then he choked on his drink and fell off his chair choking."
"Did he really?"
"Yep. Made my top ten list of most awkward moments. Right behind parachuting into the United Nations with no pants."
Her peals of laughter had made his day. She'd dozed off soon after, and he'd slipped out to grab a bite.
He sighed as he waited. Despite her amusement, he noticed that she became more and more withdrawn and morose with each question she asked and each story he told. He didn't know what to do, and the strain was becoming more evident between them.
He was afraid. He just found her, and he couldn't lose her again. Not while she was still breathing.
"Thanks and have a muy bueno day," said the girl behind the counter, handing him his order. He nodded absently, and headed back up the stairs. A muy bueno day, huh? Well, he obviously wasn't having a muy bueno day, because if he were he'd be eating a Mucho Guaco Naco at the BN near Middleton High, with his girlfriend—maybe fiancee—instead of a crappy burrito at the hospital's express store.
He got upstairs and Kim was resting her eyes, completely still with her hands limply at her sides. She was clearly tired or in pain—or both, and he wondered if the physical therapists or eye doctors had been in here while she was gone.
"KP," he whispered.
"Headache," she mumbled back.
"Have a cool drink," he said quietly, pushing a straw through the hole in the cup. "I brought you something from downstairs."
She took it gratefully and sipped it. Her nose crinkled and she frowned. "Tastes bad."
He tilted his head. "Unsweet tea. It uh... you always used to get that, I figured you might like it."
She sighed and looked down, and he saw she was trying really hard not to cry. "Kimmie," he mumbled, putting the drink on the stand next to her bed and taking her hands. "KP, what's wrong, baby? What can I do?"
She scoffed. "What can you do?! You do everything! It's me that can't get anything right. You're here all the time, you're patient with me, and you... after everything I've done to you, I'm here, screwed up and incomplete and incapable of remembering how I take my damned tea... I didn't even know your face! I'm the worst friend in the entire world, and you—"
"Wait, hold it," he snapped, raising one hand. "Hold on just a second. You're the worst friend in the world?! Who told you that complete bullshit, so I can kick their ass," he hissed.
She looked down to where she estimated one of his hands was still holding hers—in the dark, her vision was still too poor for her to make out the shapes. "All the stories you told me about... you know... I mean, sometimes the things I did..."
"Oh, KP, no baby," he said gently, brushing the wetness from her cheek. "You—I mean, we were teenagers. We did crappy stuff to each other all the time. Your first year as cheer captain, I made you date Brick Flagg—after totally misquoting you in an interview, mind you—so that I could get on the school paper. And then I insisted on covering the date. As a result, Brick and I both got kidnapped and you got dumped on national television.
"You're so out of his league, though. He was so dull and you're just... I made up the story about you liking him, and it went totally viral. It was the talk of school for days—until Brick broke up with you, anyway. And then I made a story up about that, too."
She gave him an unimpressed look that read 'I'm not happy with you' and pursed her lips. "You did that, really?"
"Totally. In that moment I was probably the worst friend ever made. I was a jerk to you sometimes too, you know. But times change, and so do people, and that's part of life. It was different when we started to date... to grow up. We changed. Everyone changes."
"But nobody has changed as much as me," she whispered. "I'll never be who I used to be."
"KP... I spent the better part of a year a complete mess because you were dead. Do you think that right now I care about you remembering how you take your tea? Maybe your taste changed, I don't know, that's fine. But you're here, and you're alive, and somehow, even though you forgot everything else, you remembered that you still love me."
"I... well, yes, but I don't remember us, I don't know what we were like. Those stories that you tell, I don't remember any of them."
"And I'm too excited that you're alive to care," he said bluntly. "Yes, it sucks. I hate seeing you like this, and I hate how much it frustrates you that you don't know, and that you're stuck here until you're through with all your treatments and therapies and whatever else. I want you to get better. But you're doing better than I thought you were doing not too long ago. And I'm okay with that."
She hugged him tightly. "Thank you," she whispered.
He kissed her forehead and sweetened her tea.
"Why do you look like you just farted a rainbow?"
"And a good day to you too," Ron chuckled at her as he slipped into her room and sat down on her bed. She'd had multiple eye surgeries, and her vision was starting to clear. Now, when he looked her in the eyes, she could look back and see for herself that he truly loved and accepted her, and her spirits had lifted significantly. He brushed her lips with his, smiling.
"Rumor has it, KP, beautiful, that Dr. What's-His-Face has finished rebuilding his so called 'memory recovery machine' and it's ready for human trials again. You're mom's working with him to get you in, but they're trying to work a way around a complication that you could have."
"Yes ma'am. Your mom didn't want to tell you just yet, she didn't want to get your hopes up. But you are a grown person, and you deserve to know what's going on. But you didn't hear it from me, okay?"
"Got it," she chuckled.
"But... look, even if this whole thing doesn't work out, and you don't get your memory back or your vision back, I still love you, and I always have, and I always will. You're too big a part of my life for me to just give up. I'll always have your back, and I know you know that even though you don't remember anything else."
She smiled. "I know."
"Good." He stood and stretched, and his plain, white t-shirt climbed. There was a raised pink scar on his side.
"What happened?" she asked, pointing.
He looked down and then frowned. "Uh... got in a fight a few months back."
She studied him closely. "A sword fight?"
His head jerked around to look at her so fast, he almost broke his neck. "What?"
"You were in a fight, and someone came at you with something. A machete maybe, or a sword. They cut your back, near your side."
"How do you know... how do you know that?"
She stared at her hands. "I had a nightmare. I couldn't see your face. I can never see your face," she complained, her voice thick with tears. "Someone was trying to hurt you, and you were fighting. And then I heard someone... a girl. She said your name, and that's how I knew your name." She sniffed. "It all went dark. I thought you were going to die."
He swallowed hard. "Was that the only nightmare you had?"
"I always dream about you," she whispered. "Sometimes I wonder if that means you're the only thing in my life worth remembering."
He sat down and took her hands, kissing her cheeks and her lips. "You have a beautiful life, Kimberly Anne. All of it is worth remembering. You have no idea how freaking awesome it feels to know that, out of all the amazing things you have done, and all the people that have been in your life, you remember me." He couldn't help his happy grin.
She giggled at his expression, but frowned when he turned serious again. "When I... fight... something happens to me. I have this special... power... that I got, one day, and... I think that somehow, my powers made you see what I was doing."
"So you knew I was alive?"
"What? No! If I had, I would have been here. You know that."
"Well then how did you—I mean, why did I dream about you?"
He sighed. "I don't know, KP. I don't know."
"I'll be waiting when you get back," he whispered. "Good luck." he pressed his lips to her forehead.
"Don't go," Kim begged, reaching for his hand.
"I'm right here, I'm not going anywhere. But KP, this surgery is important, and I have to stay out here. I'll be waiting for you when you come back, I swear." It was the final corrective surgery for her vision, and she needed it to work in order for them to be able to use the MRM on her without any complications... the previous MRM was contraindicated for certain conditions, and Kim was at a really high risk for permanent damage, seizures, and a host of other side effects if this surgery didn't work.
A whole lot was riding on this going well, and he tried not to show how nervous he was.
"I'm afraid," she whispered.
"I would be too," he said honestly. "But you're going to be okay. I promise."
She was rolled away on her bed after kissing her mother and father goodbye, and he sat down to wait.
One hour passed.
He sat, face in his hands, shoulders slumped.
Three hours, twenty-seven minutes, and forty-eight seconds.
He stared out the window at the sunset, his mind blank.
Six hours, nineteen minutes, fifty seconds.
The surgeon came in. the surgery was successful, he said. She was stable throughout, minimal bleeding, no other damage done to her brain. She should be able to resume her physical therapy within a week, and she would recover most of her vision over the course of several months.
He breathed a sigh of relief, sagging into a seat. Anne asked to see her, and then she came back and sat next to him.
"She's still a bit out of it," Anne said gently, "but she wants you."
"When are they going to do the memory thing?"
Anne smiled. "As soon as the doctor clears her. Go see her. She's asking about you. She's... loopy, though. Be warned."
He swallowed the sudden euphoric hope that rose in him and made his way down the hall, slipping into her room. Bandages covered part of her head as well as her eyes.
"That you, Ronnie?" she whispered. "The monkeys came to see me."
He chuckled. "Did they?"
"Mm-hmm. I missed you. Did you know, the monkeys wanted me to tell you that you can help me. But they stole my toes," she finishes with a mournful whisper.
"Aww Kimmie," he whispered, trying hard not to laugh. "Nobody stole your toes, KP. I promise they're all accounted for." He didn't feel the need to freak her out by reminding her that two of them had been cremated not a year before.
"You should touch my boobs."
"Not today, baby," he grinned.
"Maybe next time," she whispered with a slight shrug. "The monkeys said you should take me to training."
He frowned then. "Training?"
"Mm-hmm. They said they would help me if you took me there to train. The monkeys like me."
"Yeah. They like you too."
If only she knew.
"If you won't touch my boobs, will you at least kiss me?"
"With pleasure," he chuckled, pulling a seat next to her bed. Before plopping into it, he leaned over her, pressing his lips to hers gently. "I love you," he said between kisses. "You're going to be okay."
"I know. They said you do. They said you'd help me be me again."
"I'll do my best, KP baby. Just... sleep, okay?"
"Are you sure you don't want to touch my boobs?" She was asleep before he could answer and fortunately, before he let out a laugh.
He sat, gently rubbing her arm with his fingertips. That conversation was strange. Something tugged at his brain. Yes, it was strange because she was clearly very, very high. But why, of all the things in the world, did her hallucinated dreams consist of monkeys?! Those used to be his worst nightmare. Now, they were fine. His fear wasn't as irrational as it used to be.
The monkeys in her dreams had said that he could help her be herself again, and that he had to take her 'there' for training, wherever that was.
He was baffled. There was something else... something more.
She shifted a little, and he immediately looked up. She was awake? She'd only fallen asleep a few minutes before.
"No, I don't want the monkeys to touch my boobs. I said Ronnie."
His laughter escaped in a snort.
"No, I don't want you to touch him either, leave him alone!" Her voice started out stern and stubborn, and ended in a shriek.
He shook her awake. He couldn't tell how her eyes looked because they were covered, but her body shook with sobs.
"Hey, I'm okay, KP baby," he said gently.
"Don't let her touch you, she's not a monkey. She tried, I saw it. She said the monkeys would like it."
"Kimmie, sweetheart, I kind of love how perverted these pain-killers have made you," he said with a chuckle, "but nobody's going to touch me except for you. It has always been that way, even when I thought you were gone."
"Not even if the monkeys say?"
"No. I'm only yours. I promise when the time is right. For now, let's just sleep. Okay?"
"Are you sure she won't touch you? You told her her red thing was pretty, and then she was on you, and she said the monkeys would like it. And then, she was a monkey too, and then she was taking you away and I was scared."
"KP, I..." he trailed off as he realized what she said. Her red thing was pretty.
"Your red thing is pretty. I never noticed the patterns on it before."
"Thank you, Stoppable-san."
"Call me Ron-san," he said with a friendly smile, the kind that was supposed to remind her that they'd been through enough battles and conflicts to forgo formality.
She leaned over, before he could react, and her lips were on his. Every part of him lit up as he recoiled. His lips were for KP to kiss. Nobody else. No one would kiss those lips again.
She pulled away when he did, and she looked determined. "You didn't want that."
He shook his head, cold fury licking his way through his veins and constricting his throat. "Her body's not even cold yet and you want to put moves on me?"
"She has been gone for months. She doesn't need your fidelity anymore."
He swallowed, stepping back from her.
"You are the Monkey Master," she said. "It is here, by my side, that you will know what that means and what you are truly capable of. She held you back. I will not."
"Yori. I've lived and breathed for one reason in my whole life, and that reason is... dead. She's dead. You know what she meant to me. Part of me is gone, and you'll help me deal with that as a friend, or you'll get out of my way."
Shortly after that, the argument happened, the one that nearly ended their friendship. He was sorry for how he'd spoken to her, for how his power had almost gotten away from him, the first time since the Lorwardian Attack. But he was never ever going to be sorry for defending his KP.
She was asleep again, but he frowned. How did she know that that had happened?