Chapter 51: A Friend in Deed
Kim stepped off of the elevator and walked down the hallway to Ron's hospital room. He had been moved from ICU to a standard, private room earlier that afternoon. She had visited him that morning before school, and again over her lunch break, when she had brought the remainder of his textbooks. She now had the unpleasant task of bringing all of his Monday assignments. She also had a more agreeable task to perform.
She smiled as she handed her backpack to one of the guards outside the room. The guard checked the contents, sharing a grin with the teen. Kim felt content; last night she had decided to listen to both Monique and her mother. She would help Ron through his recovery. After he was back at full capacity, they would deal with other issues. The guard returned her backpack and she entered the room to see…
"Mr. and Mrs. Stoppable, you made it back!" She greeted her best friend's parents. The two adults turned to greet her, allowing her to see Ron.
Ron was looking better. Of course, the fact that he wasn't in ICU was an improvement in and of itself. He was a little more alert than he had been on her two previous visits this day. Of course, one visit had been before eight and the other visit had been while he had a tray of food in front of him, so his lack of outside focus could be explained in both instances.
"Hey KP," his voice still wasn't strong, but it wasn't the raspy whisper of last night. "It looks like I've got a stay of execution."
Kim was confused and his parents were giggling.
"Our kitchen has been declared a crime scene," he explained. "That means my parents can't go in and see the mess I left."
Kim thought for a moment. "Oh, the synthodrone! You said something about it looking like a giant sneezed in the kitchen."
"Ronald!" His mother admonished him. "That's disgusting! Haven't I raised you to mind your manners?"
"Sorry mom." Ron's voice was contrite, but his expression wasn't.
Ron's father shook his head with a grin. "Fortunately, the police will allow us access to the rest of the house. We will be heading home in a little while to grab some clothing and check into a hotel. It's just too awkward to try to live in a house with police and federal agents coming and going."
"And it means that they can't see the mess, so I don't get punished for it while still in the hospital." Ron pointed out. "But with my luck, I'll get released on the same day the investigation is completed, so I'll still have to clean up the mess."
"Think of it as physical therapy," his mother insisted, then tears started to flow. "I-I just can't believe that we came so close to losing you!" Her husband put an arm around her and Ron reached out and took her hand. Kim could see by her face that this wasn't her first crying fit over the incident.
"You've raised a tough boy, Jean." Mrs. Dr. P's voice sounded from the door. The Stoppables and Kim turned to see Mrs. Dr. P entering the room, along with Dr. Munson. "Now that you're here, we can discuss Ronald's injuries," she continued. "But before we do, I'm informing you that you'll be staying with us until the various law enforcement agencies are done with your home."
"We couldn't impose on you like that!" Mrs. Stoppable insisted.
"It isn't an imposition," the redheaded doctor insisted. "We love company. Getting back to Ron, Dr. Munson here is his primary caregiver. Do either of you have any problems with Kim or myself being present for this discussion?"
"None whatsoever," Mr. Stoppable replied. His wife agreed with him.
"Well then," Dr. Munson began. "Why don't we just start at the top and work our way down? First of all, you have a mild concussion, probably from where that…what do you call it…synthodrone… hit you. The cut under your eye took a few stitches and I'm afraid it's going to scar."
"That's fine doctor, I wasn't that much of a beauty to begin with." Ron offered.
"Ron!" Kim admonished him.
"You think I was?" Ron tilted his head slightly. Kim blushed and the adults snickered at her.
The doctor smiled, "working down, you have four broken ribs, which we set using orthoscopic methods last night. Most of the rest of your ribs are cracked and your left lung is partially collapsed."
"Doctor," Ron asked. "When you say my left lung is partially collapsed, is that left as in my left or left as in your left when you're looking at me?"
"Your left," the doctor clarified, while Ron's 'rents and Kim shook their heads. "You also have a cut along the your left side of your chest. We pulled some debris out of the wound before stitching it up, so we're going to be keeping a close eye on it for infections." The doctor looked up from his chart and asked Ron. "How did you manage to get concrete and metal fragments in that wound?"
"I was fighting someone, er, something, on a collapsed antenna." Ron replied.
The doctor shook his head, "The things young people do these days! While we are on the subject of your torso, you have some internal injuries, but you're young enough and they appear to be minor enough to heal without surgery. Onward and downward, your thigh and calf wounds are stitched up and will be painful and stiff, but they won't keep you from walking."
"I won't bore everyone with the number of major bruises, contusions, and minor cuts." The doctor concluded. "The bottom line is that you appear to be on the mend. We need to observe you to make sure that none of your internal injuries are more serious than we think. I'm hopeful that we will have you home by the end of this week and you can quit warning the nurses about the conspiracy."
"Conspiracy?" Kim gave Ron a questioning look.
"I figured it out before you brought my textbooks over lunch." Ron explained. "It's weekday daytime television programming. It's so bad that it has to be a conspiracy between the government and the networks to encourage everyone to get a job!"
"Hey, I like the soaps!" Kim protested while the adults chuckled at Ron.
"Okay, Okay," Ron brushed off her complaint. "I'm glad you brought the books, I was really starting to go nuts before I had something to keep my mind occupied."
"No big," Kim replied. "I'll help out until you're on your feet."
"Uh, Doctor Munson?" Ron asked. "Speaking of being on my feet, when could I give it a try? The nursing staff has been ready to tie me up every time I so much as looked at the floor."
"They were following their instructions, Mr. Stoppable, but this would be an excellent time to try a few steps." The doctor replied. "Mrs. Stoppable, I am well aware of your issues, so you might not want to watch. Mr. Stoppable, could you accompany your wife to the hallway?" Ron's parents stepped out of the room. "Now, Miss Possible," the doctor continued. "Would you be so kind to support your friend, while I observe?"
Kim nodded while Ron swung his legs off of the bed, grimacing at the pain the motion applied to his abused torso. Kim put his right arm over her shoulders and Ron slid off the bed and onto his feet. Kim wrapped her arm around Ron's body, causing the boy to flinch in pain, then dropped her arm down to his hip. Ron shifted more and more of his weight from Kim's shoulders and onto his own legs until Kim was simply steadying him. With that, Ron walked a few steps with Kim at his side.
"You weren't joking about the pain in the leg, doctor." Ron commented. "But the ribs are really tender right now."
"I've cut back on your pain medication to get a better feel for your status." The doctor explained. "We don't want you to overdo this."
"Okay, mind if I try a few steps on my own?" Ron asked. When nobody objected Kim slipped, reluctantly, out from under Ron's arm. She kept a light hold on the back of his gown as he walked around his bed. He was slow, but able to move.
"Very good, Mr. Stoppable." The doctor commented.
"One more thing," Ron informed him. He then shuffled into the bathroom. He hated using the bedpan.
A few minutes later, Ron was settled back into his bed and his parents were allowed to return. Dr. Munson had informed Ron that if there were no complications, he would be allowed to take a shower the next day. Everyone chatted a little bit, even though Kim and Ron wouldn't talk very much about the mission that caused Ron's injuries. They were sure that a trial was coming up and they didn't want to go blabbing too much. After a few minutes, Ron's parents left to move into the Possibles' guestroom while the two doctors left to attend to their duties. Kim and Ron broke out their schoolbooks.
"Uh, Kim?" Ron asked, nervously.
"Yes, Ron?" Kim replied.
"About what I said last night," Ron continued. "Some of what I said might not have come out quite right and I'm sorry if…"
"Ron," Kim interrupted. "You said some things that really, really needed to be said. Let's not worry about them right now. Let's worry about keeping you caught up in your classes and getting you back on your feet. We can deal with our issues then, okay?"
Ron nodded, "thanks, KP."
Kim paused, then looked sternly into his eyes. "Only one thing, Ron. If I ever, ever pull a stunt like I did with that closet, or blow you off like I did two weeks ago, I want you in my face snarling like a rabid Doberman, do you understand me?"
Ron nodded again.
"Good, " She replied with a kindhearted smile. "Now lets get you caught up with your schoolwork. Once you get caught up, I've got about fifty get-well cards that the other students wanted me to give you."
With that, the two teens cracked open the books and went to work. While Ron hadn't had his official assignments earlier, he had been studying ahead. (He wasn't kidding about how much he loathed soap operas.) So it wasn't a great deal of effort for him to make up for his missed day. Kim had just finished her own assignments when she looked up to see that Ron had dozed off with a get well card propped up in his limp hand. Smiling at him, she gathered her own schoolwork, as well as his completed assignments. Then she stacked his textbooks and cards neatly on his table. She sat there for a few minutes, very aware that she herself had had a very strenuous weekend followed by very little sleep.
She remembered the last time she had watched him sleep, in the back of a cold service van returning to Middleton. She remembered wondering, at the time, just what role he fit in her life and found herself doing it again. They were friends, sure, but could, should something more come out of this? He had already said that it wouldn't, but did that have to be the case? Perhaps both Monique and her mother were correct; events were too recent and emotions were too strong to deal with that issue right now.
She sat back down and thought some more. She knew that she had a habit of taking decisive action whenever events seemed to be out of her control. Usually she made good choices but she had occasionally done something foolish. Some of those actions had damaged her relationship with Ron. Then again, was she only considering pursuing a romantic involvement because he had said they wouldn't have one? She shook her head at that thought. Her mother and Monique were definitely correct; she needed to let her emotions settle down before considering this too much.
Her eyelids growing heavier, she rested her head on his mattress, next to his pillow. She repeated her promise to herself from last night; she would be his friend and help him recover. She would stick by him through the interviews and debriefings that were sure to be coming up in the next few weeks and months. After that, she would sit down with him and discuss them. She smiled as she drifted off.
Kim opened her eyes to see a strange scene. She stood on a hill, looking over an open plain. Behind her, on the very top of the hill, stood a wooden tower. Below her sat a small town, which looked something like an 1890's era frontier town. Perhaps two dozen homes surrounded a much larger structure. This structure's roof was partially removed, exposing damaged rafters and what appeared to be a hot air balloon inside. A canal ran from a river in the near distance, to the large structure.
She looked closer and realized that almost all of the buildings were damaged in some way and the canal's levees were leaking at several points. The hot air balloon in the large building had a tear, and was only about half inflated. She then realized that small men were repairing the damage to the structures, canal, and the balloon.
The work was well organized. A small army of the men pushed wheelbarrows between the work sites on the canal and a quarry at the base of her hill. In an endless cycle, the men hauled the wheelbarrows to the quarry, where a gang of men filled them with gravel, then to the canal breaches, where another gang of men unloaded them. After a breach was filled with gravel, another crew of wheelbarrow handlers delivered soil from another quarry, which the crews at the breach site used to cover the gravel. The buildings and balloon were being repaired much the same way; crews hauled materials to the sites where other workers performed repairs. She studied the men closest to her and found that they looked vaguely like Ron.
"This is a very strange dream," Kim said out loud.
"It is not exactly a dream, Miss Possible." A voice spoke from behind her. Kim turned around, for some reason not alarmed, and found herself facing Master Sensei.
"You are indeed dreaming, Miss Possible, and you can wake up at any time." The old man informed her. "I would ask you not to do so at this time, as I wish to speak with you."
Kim knew that if she wanted to, she could wake up and find herself leaning against Ron's bed. She decided to speak to the old man.
"Where are we?" She asked him.
"Physically, you are next to Stoppable-san in his hospital room and I am in Japan. Our awareness, however, is currently in a portion of Stoppable-san's mind."
Kim's eyes, or at least her dream-self's eyes, flew wide. "We're in Ron's mind?"
Sensei favored Kim with a calming smile. "Is this so hard to believe, Miss Possible? Did the two of you not share a dream in a museum? The two of you are highly…attuned to each other. Stoppable-san is not actually asleep; he is in a deep, meditative state. In such a state he can communicate with me. As such his mind serves as a…common ground for us to speak."
Kim shook her head in wonder. "If this isn't a dream, why are we seeing these strange things?" She gestured towards the town and the workers.
"You see before you another aspect of Stoppable-san's mastery of both Tai Sheng Pek Kwar and the Mystical Monkey Power. He is using a combination of both to accelerate his healing. What you see is the analogy he has chosen to represent these efforts."
Kim was confused for a moment, and then it seemed that a light came on in her mind. "So the damage to the buildings represents the damage to his organs?" Sensei acknowledged with a grin. "The holes in the levees must be where he is still bleeding, the deflated balloon must be his collapsed lung, and the damaged rafters must represent his injured ribs!"
"Correct again, Miss Possible." The old man agreed. "The workmen you see are representations of Stoppable-san's cells healing his body. Had you been here before he accelerated his healing, you would have seen each of the workmen attempting to repair this damage on his own. Take the levees, for example. Earlier, each worker would go to the quarry, load up a wheelbarrow with gravel, then haul it to the nearest breach. Stoppable-san has organized his body's healing effort and made it much more efficient."
Kim stared in wonder, then frowned. "Where is Ron?" She asked.
Sensei gestured to the tower on top of the hill. At the top, Kim could now see Ron. As she watched, he picked up a megaphone and shouted something she could hear but not understand. Down on the levee, the workmen who had just fixed a breach moved to another breach. Kim also noticed that the tower was damaged and that another crew was repairing it.
"The tower must represent Ron's skull and the damage must represent his concussion!" She blurted out.
"Correct again, Miss Possible. This analogy isn't perfect but it serves Stoppable-san's purpose. Stoppable-san is busy healing himself, so he will not be able to join us in our conversation."
Kim looked at the old man. "Then may I ask what is the purpose of this conversation, Master Sensei?" Kim decided that manners were in order.
"I wish to discuss three items with you, Miss Possible. The first deals with what you see taking place around you." Sensei gestured towards the scene before them. "Stoppable-san is using a great deal of energy to heal himself and he does not have much in the way of reserves."
"Oh, you mean that he doesn't have much fat on his body to burn up?" Kim asked.
"I see that you understand, Miss Possible." The old man was clearly pleased. "Stoppable-san will be able to continue this accelerated healing, in secret, if you can secretly bring him additional food."
"I should be able to sneak him protein and energy bars easily enough." Kim informed him. "I don't even have to be sneaky, nobody will question if I say that Ron's hungry."
Sensei smiled at that. "That will be acceptable, Miss Possible. While Stoppable-san shall not heal at a miraculous rate, he will heal at roughly three times the rate without these techniques. While the medical staff may be surprised, they shouldn't become too curious. However, if he were to demand three helpings for each meal, suspicions may add up." The old man paused and became more somber. "The second item, Miss Possible, deals with Montgomery Fisk."
Kim grew very alert. "What about Monkey Fist?"
"We at the Yamanouchi School try to monitor his movements," Sensei explained. "I do not deem it appropriate to tell you why at this time. However, shortly after you and Stoppable-san defeated Doctor Drakken, Lord Fisk evaded our watchers and we have been unable to relocate him. Various press releases have reported that Stoppable-san is seriously injured but expected to make a complete recovery. Fisk may have heard these reports and be placing himself in position to attack Stoppable-san when he leaves here. While he is safely under guard in this hospital, Fisk may attempt to attack Stoppable-san at home, school, or other locations after he is released."
"So you want me to guard Ron? You don't even have to ask." Kim informed the elder.
Sensei smiled. "Asking either of you to guard the other is indeed unnecessary, Miss Possible. However, I needed to warn you that Fisk may appear at any time. Stoppable-san must be protected until he is capable of defending himself again."
Kim's expression grew troubled. "Sir, I can't be with him 24/7. I mean, there are going to be times when he's at his home and I'm at mine. Also, we don't share all of our classes at school."
"It is most honorable of you to admit this to me, Miss Possible. I was already aware of these limitations and I am taking steps to assure Stoppable-san's constant protection. I trust that I was not in error when assuming that you would want to be a major component in his defense?
"Not at all, sir."
Sensei's expression grew sad, almost troubled. "The third item, Miss Possible, are the unresolved feelings between yourself and Stoppable-san."
Kim became annoyed. "Sir, for all of your age and wisdom, I believe that these issues are between Ron and myself."
"This may be true, Miss Possible, but Stoppable-san's mastery of the Mystical Monkey Power is strongly affected by his emotional balance. The issue between the two of you affects him deeply and as his teacher, it is my responsibility to guide him in dealing with it. As you are the focal point for these emotions, I must also attempt to advise you."
"So what are you going to advise me to do, to listen to my heart or some such?" Kim asked bitterly.
Sensei snorted in disgust. It was the first time that Kim had ever seen him be anything other than polite.
"Of course not, Miss Possible!" The elder explained. "I advise you to listen to your brain! Hasn't listening to your heart, acting through your emotions, placed you where you are at this time? I may be old but I am not that old. It's obvious that you have feelings for Stoppable-san which go beyond friendship. Yet you had acted upon your emotions when you distanced yourself from him, did you not?"
Kim was able to keep her annoyed look on her face for only a few seconds before her tears started again. "Yes, and I did it more than once." She looked at Sensei again before asking. "Do you suggest that I, that everyone, live a life without emotion? No passion, no joy, no love?"
Sensei smiled gently at the young woman. "Now you read too much into my words, Miss Possible. I did not say to remove emotion from your life, I said to make your decisions based upon reason. Live your life like building a house. Use reason and logic to build the structure then fill it with joy and love."
Kim managed a pained smile. "I think I caught that advice a little too late. Ron's already told me that he will never allow us to be more than friends."
"Would that truly be a tragedy, Miss Possible? Do you not find your friendship with Stoppable-san fulfilling?"
She looked at him, troubled. "So I shouldn't pursue anything beyond friendship with Ron?"
"The future is never certain," he continued. "The two of you may remain friends, you may part ways or you may enter a deeper relationship." Then the old man looked closely at her. "Yet I will say this to you, Miss Possible, his feelings for you are very strong. Any estrangement from you will be painful to him, and I suspect painful to you as well. I strongly urge the two of you to come to terms with your situation as soon as possible."
"We've already agreed to this sir." Kim informed the elder. "My family and friends have suggested that we do so after Ron has recovered, so that these emotions have had a chance to settle."
"Good advice, Miss Possible." The old man then took on a more formal bearing. "My messages to you are complete, with one exception. Stoppable-san will receive an invitation to visit the Yamanouchi School again, over the summer, as part of a cultural learning program. If you wish, you will receive the same invitation."
Kim thought for a moment, then with a smile she replied. "Yes, I would like to visit the place where he learned so much about himself."
The old man favored her with a small, polite bow. "And perhaps you will learn something about yourself, as well. Very well, Miss Possible, I will see you there." The old man paused. "Now would be a very good time for you to wake up."
Kim suddenly found sitting in the hospital room, with her head resting on the bed next to Ron's pillow. The mattress was damp, she had cried in her sleep. She sat up and looked at Ron for what seemed to be a long time, feeling a mixture of hope, sadness, and irritation. Finally, she got up to leave. She looked around and, seeing nobody watching her, leaned down, kissed Ron's cheek and left for home.
Again, thanks to Joe Stoppinghem for Beta reading.
It may be a few days before I can update again, I haven't abandoned the story, I just have other issue to deal with.
Thanks for reading, catch you at the next update.