The Chrysanthemum and the Sword (With apologies to Margaret Mead).
This story follows immediately on the events at the end of Buried, and first time readers are advised to start with that story.
"Hello…" Ron called. They were close to the monastery, and he wanted to get the VTOL down as fast as possible. The walk up to the monastery was no joke, even if you didn't have a disabled person with you.
"Hello, Ron Stoppable." A familiar voice intruded.
"Hey, Yori—give me some landing coordinates…" Ron paused, "You…know."
"Shego-san explained it to us. Come to 34 Mark 3." Ron obeyed and then blinked as he saw a quite modern VTOL pad behind the school.
"Tell me that's a new addition…that I did not almost kill myself walking up here last time."
"Very well, it will be my honor to tell you that you did not." Yori said, giggling. The sixteen year old sighed, and brought the VTOL down—and then, to add insult to injury, he saw that it was actually an elevator—the VTOL would be lowered into some kind of underground hanger.
"Kim?" Ron said, "KP?" Kim started, and grabbed his hand in a bruising grip, her eyes wild. Then, looking around, she calmed down…but still didn't say anything. Ron had taken off that disgusting straitjacket, but now he worried…what if she. Then he looked at her again. No. Kim wasn't likely to do a thing right now.
"OK, KP… ready to see our new home?" Kim didn't say anything, but gave a tiny nod, as Ron got up and helped her to stand. She looked like she might fall over, so Ron gathered her in his arm, pulling her to him, supporting her.
"Hey, KP." Ron said, softly, "It's going to be okay…I'm here, and I won't let you fall."
Outside, Sensei and Yori waited, alone. Sensei had decreed that they be the only ones to greet Ron, after conversing long on the phone with his former student. Yori, as Ron's friend, had been allowed to come with him. The hatch opened, and the two teens walked out. Yori gasped.
She had heard about Kim Possible—who had not. In fact, when she first heard that Ron was coming on the exchange program, she had been interested in hearing about Kim Possible… although Ron had quickly abolished that desire. But this girl…
Ron wasn't that much taller then Kim, but the timid girl who huddled in the circle of his arm, blinking at the sun, was nothing like any picture of Kim Possible Yori had ever seen. Her eyes were huge and dilated, bruises on her face and arms. Her hair was matted—parts of it cut nearly down to her scalp, other parts looking like someone had simply ripped the hair out by the roots. One arm was in a pressure cast, while her fingers were also splinted. Ron looked more 'in the world' but he too was partially bent, the bandages over his ribs plain, and cuts and bruises adorning his face and body.
Sensei had said that Kim was injured… but this was not injury, this was devastation. As they came closer, she could see Kim pull back into Ron, his pet making comforting noises in her ear. There was little of the amusing goofball in Ron-san, either. His shadowed eyes were serious, the only time they broke into affection was when he pulled Kim closer to him in response to some unseen need on her part.
He can barely walk, and yet he is supporting her. Yori realized. Whatever was keeping Ron up, it was something more than bones and muscles.
"Sensei" Ron said, quietly. "Thank you." He paused. "From both of us."
"We will speak later." Sensei said, "You both must rest. We have rooms for you."
"No…nono…." Kim moaned, shaking her head in weak denial. "I…c-c-can't sleep." She looked like she wanted to run back into the VTOL.
"Kim…" Ron said softly, "You slept in the VTOL…remember? On the flight over here?" She mutely shook her head. "KP…" Ron quietly said.
"If you're not here…he comes back…he talks to me, and I can't find my way out…." She said in a soft, sing song voice. "He's always waiting for me when I close my eyes…." Ron swayed. Yori started towards him, but Sensei blocked her with a look. Ron gently swung Kim around so she was facing him, and smoothed back her hair with one hand.
"OK, KP… I'm…" His voice almost broke, but then he continued, "not certain how to help, but I was with you on the VTOL…I'll stay in the same room with you, no matter what." Kim looked at him.
"okay." Her voice came out listlessly, but without refusal. Sensei nodded.
"We have a single room then, for both of you. Nothing will disturb you, our guards shall see to it. Ron-san…once you came here for a school, I ask you now to accept our hospitality as your home, for however long you desire." He bowed.
"Thank you Sensei." Ron said, and gave a short nod. "I'm sorry to trouble you."
"To see the spirit of a samurai is no trouble, but honor, Ron-san."
Ron didn't remember anything after they hit the floor. When he woke up, it was dark and there was a warm form huddled against him.
"She has not had a nightmare—it is two days now, and she slept huddled against you, Ron-san. Slept well I might add."
"Sensei…" Ron said, and felt a grumbling in his stomach. He also realized that between he and Kim, the smell in the room was probably giving your average landfill a run for its money. "I'd better…"
"A moment please." Ron looked at Sensei. "Kim is still fighting the effects of the drugs… I have inquired through my sources, and the drugs will remain in her fatty and neural tissue, possibly for years."
"Oh no…." Ron said. Flashbacks. Not Kim. How much more was she going to have to suffer?
"You did not let me finish." The old man said, placidly. "I have a certain… therapy that may be of assistance."
"Ancient Japanese wisdom?" Ron asked. Sensei smiled.
"No. Modern western medicine. You know of an individual named DNAmy?"
"Ugh." Ron said, "On the other hand, she was twitchy, but not bad."
"No…and as per the terms of her plea bargain, she engaged in work for the National Institutes of Health…including detoxification therapies. I was able to obtain a prototype."
"Then let's use it!" Ron said.
"It is…not dangerous, but I fear it will be hard on Possible-san… you see, it works along the lines of a purgative." Ron paused, and then Sensei explained.
"Oh…yuck." Ron said, "But I want that shit out of her, as soon as possible."
When Kim woke up, Sensei had left, letting Ron explain it to her.
"…so it'll be hard and disgusting KP and you'll probably feel like your d-" Ron kicked himself, "turning inside out. It takes a few weeks." He looked at her. "If you want to start… well we could do it after dinner and you get cleaned up-"
"No." her voice was soft but certain. "I can't live like this Ron… I need it out of me, now. I want to start now." Ron nodded.
"OK… I'll tell sensei."
Amonth later, Ron decided the dictionary needed a new word. "Purge" did not begin to describe the effects of the concoction. Sensei and Yori had come in with a group of syringes. Yori with a basin. Kim had flinched at them, but not so badly as she did at the pills.
"They aren't what you took, KP." Ron said, patting her hand. Kim nodded, and drank the several glasses of water, gulping the pills down, right after Yori injected her. Sensei had other duties, and later a quite uncharitable part of Ron figured that he knew what was coming.
Kim had started sweating and trembling within minutes of the injections, looking like she was in a sauna, not a rather chilly mountain top monastery. The reason for the Basin became clear a few minutes later, when Kim launched a projectile vomit that probably broke world records. She shuddered and then vomited some more—though where she was getting anything else, Ron wasn't certain. When she finished, still sweating, Ron mopped her face with a wet cloths.
"Oh… God…" Kim moaned. "Is that it…is…" she gulped, and barfed again.
Three weeks? Ron wondered, there wouldn't be anything of Kim left! Yori signaled and two other female students entered, carrying a platter with tea and cakes on it.
"You must now eat…so that your body will replenish itself, and burn out the last of this evil." Yori said. Normally Ron would have laughed at her choice, but he'd seen this drug combination in action, and it was evil.
"Eat?" Kim gasped… She reached out shaking hands to take the cup. "First I barf, and now I'm thirsty?" She asked the world, and drank. If anything, she started shaking and sweating worse. Yori changed basins with a new one. The reason quickly became clear, and Kim once again imitated the Amazing Chucking Machine.
Over the next three weeks, Ron was never away from Kim, save for very short periods when he practiced with some of the other students, usually when Kim was in such a bad temper that she was throwing things. Not even often then—he simply dodged them and really, really hoped that Sensei wasn't using the good china. Kim trembled, sweated, barfed, and that was the least of it. The concoction burned the drugs out, but often it came at the cost of hallucinations, the worst being when Kim flailed away at him with weak arms, seeing nothing, screaming about being buried, or how she was trapped and couldn't escape from the eyes, the terrible eyes. Then Ron grabbed her and held her fast to his chest, talking to her softly, trying to bring her out of it, while Rufus crooned into her other ear. Usually, those flashbacks ended with her sobbing herself into sleep, clinging to Ron desperately.
Kim had always been slim, but she lost weight alarmingly fast—no matter how much they forced her to drink or poured down her throat despite her feeble protests, it wasn't enough. The therapy was supposed to take that into account, and it had been measured for her weight, but Ron was worried as Kim's face became sharper, her physique no longer slim, but bony. One day, he saw that Sensei shared his worries, as a set up for IV feeding was moved into the room, although not used yet.
In addition, Kim needed to be bathed—quite often as the purgative therapy used every opening. She wouldn't let Yori with her alone, and panicked at the thought of anyone else—yet she could not bath herself. That left Ron, and even after everything he'd done, and the fact that he was now a wanted felon, images of Mr. Possible and a one way rocket trip to a black hole danced in his head. But Ron learned an important lesson.
Seeing a beautiful woman nude can be erotic. Helping her bathe can be incredibly erotic.
Helping a beautiful but very sick nude woman bathe because she pukes all over herself on an average of three times a day and has poor bowel control is not erotic in the slightest. Ron didn't flinch. When Kim puked on herself in the middle of the night (and often on him, although Rufus, the rat, had a sixth sense about that), he cleaned her first. When morning hit, or whenever it was needed, Ron helped her walk, and on a few occasions, carried her bodily to the bath. And gradually, he noticed that the tide began to turn…at least if you considered being a target for cups and food.
"Don't want to." Kim gasped throwing the cup to the side. She would just puke again…God, was there ever a time when she wasn't puking. She could feel the runnels of sweat rolling down her face, sticking the robe to her thin body. She was either burning up or freezing and no matter what happened it only got worse, and she was not going to eat. Ron smiled at her, a cheerfully ruthless expression… part of Kim wondered if he'd been taking lessons from Shego.
Inside, Ron was rejoicing—Kim peeved but not psycho, even at him was so much better. Which didn't mean she was going to get out of eating.
"Sorry Kim. You need this tea and these wafers to replace your body fluids and salts." Especially since 90 of it comes right back up, "Now, you can drink it yourself, or I can have Yori hold your nose while I pour it down your throat."
"I hate you…" She said, "And you wouldn--" And then she looked at him. Yes I will. His expression said. "Ron!" she screamed, flailing her hand at him.
"Now that's a temper tantrum, so you must be getting better." Ron said, "Now, do you drink or do I go get Yori?" He frowned, "And she won't be as gentle this time, either. I never expected you to bite."
"Or do I have to make airplane landing noises with the spoon?" Ron asked. Like those family movies of your brothers. He thought, kicking himself. She didn't need to remember that right now. Kim didn't seem to make the connection, and she looked at him… and gave a tiny, fragile, almost unnoticeable smile.
But for Ron's exultation, it could have been her announcing his crowning as world emperor and king of all the Naco's.
"You would too, Ronald Stoppable… I'll be good, But please tell me the barfing is going to come to an end…some day?"
"Pretty soon." Ron said, with more confidence then he felt. He looked over at the IV equipment. Kim wasn't barfing as much, and she had more energy…but before all this, she'd been a trim 105 pounds. Now she was tipping the scales at 90 pounds, and she did not have a lot of fat to explain the loss. Kim's flesh was pulled tightly back over her face, her arms were thinner than Ron had ever seen them, and she was weak as a kitten.
But it would all be for the best if this stuff worked, and it seemed to be doing so. No flashbacks, and the blood samples taken and sent to a hospital in Tokyo that did fairly secret work for the UN peacekeeping organizations involving drug and CBW countermeasures showed that the amount of drug still in her system was dropping rapidly.
One morning the dawn came, and Kim opened her eyes, seeing Ron's chest where she'd put her head in the crook of his shoulder. Her hand was across his nightshirt clad chest, with his hand comfortingly holding it. She blinked and realized that she wasn't sick…She didn't feel like puking, or sweating… Could it be over? She moved, and Ron twitched in his sleep.
"Don't worry, Kim, I'm here." he sighed in his sleep, and Kim looked at him, at how exhausted he still was, after three weeks of watching her…protecting her. Even now he was still doing it. She heard a chitter.
"Hi Rufus." Kim said, her voice seeming unnatural in her throat. She'd talked during the purging, but it still felt strange, raw… She'd screamed so loud and long in the coffin-
No. don't think about that. You are here, and Ron is with you. You are…safe. Kim tried to disengage herself from Ron, not waking him up. Rufus, ran over to Ron, poised to wake him.
"No…Rufus, don't." Kim said, "He needs to sleep… I'm not going anywhere." She reached over and got the hand mirror from the small table next to their floor mat. A stranger looked out at her. Skin was pulled over her face, her eyes were dull and matted with mucus, her hair dull and ravaged, even where it hadn't been cut. She held her hand up to her face, and saw the bones showing through the tight skin.
But that wasn't the worst.
Did Ron really kidnap her? He had destroyed his life for her. After all that had happened, he could never go to Middleton again, never see his home or 'their' Bueno Naco, or the school. She closed her eyes.
Not that she would ever be able to return. Not that anyone would want to see her. Bonnies' terrified expression filled her mind's eye, the feel of Ron's ribs snapping under her kick, throwing Mr. Barkin, who hadn't even tried to punch her. Ron had done so much for her, she thought, feeling her eyes fill with tears. She had to do something for him.
"Hey KP…" Ron said behind her. She looked at him. His eyes were bright with moisture.
"Nice to see you back." Ron said, "I think that you're officially drug free." He paused, "Which isn't hard to believe, being that I think you're about everything else free at this point." Kim felt a smile flicker on her face. Ron. Always there with the jokes, making her laugh… and what had she given him for it? Let him walk in her shadow, the butt of other peoples' jokes.
"Thanks Ron." Kim said.
To be continued.