All characters used in this story are, of course, copyright Disney.
In a Rut
"His Delicate Situation"
Silence. Pure, unadulterated silence.
It filled the air that morning, reaching into every nook and cranny of the small, stone room it occupied. It played off the green marble and light glass that made up the floor; danced across every decoratively sleek object that made up the interior.
It was very dark in the room too—all the thick curtains were drawn over the larger windows towards the left side of the room. There was only a small ray of artificial brightness that had managed to pierce through the black. This delicate light—just barely filtering through the small, crack of a pane that was situated directly above the entrance door—beamed finely down onto the bed.
And, much like a tiny spotlight above a miniature stage, it cast gentle glow over the form of a sleeping Shego.
She slept on a bare mattress, her sole coverlet folded at the foot of her bed, cast away in the summer season. She wore only a small, silky black camisole and matching lace panties that clung form-fittingly to her body. She was lying in a comfortable still on her side, her legs out before her so that her feet just dangled off the edge of the mattress. Her arms were bent at the elbows, positioned so that her hands lay tucked beneath one soft pale-green cheek. Her voluptuous black hair cascaded out across her pillow and curled over her shoulders, becomingly mussed by sleep and haloed softly in the dim light.
She was the very picture of serenity, wearing a simply contented look on her beautiful face, her dark lips curled up into an unconscious smile.
"WAKE UP, YOU!"
At once, all the curtains flew open, filling the room suddenly with the blindingly brilliant light of day.
Shego shot straight up with a loud shriek, her green eyes wide. The force of her abrupt movement sent her folding bed into a strange frenzy of shaking, and it rattled violently before it snapped closed upon her body.
She let out a few muffled cries of anger, then the bed popped back open, and she was left sitting knee to chest in the center of the mattress, her arms held out to the sides of her body, fingers level with her face and curled irately as green plasma lit her hands. The raven hair that had been so lovely moments before now stood frightfully on end. Her eyes darted furiously about her room, looking for the assailant that had woken her so unexpectedly.
"SHEGO—UP! NOW!" the voice shouted out again, and she was able find the source of the noise: the sickeningly blue alarm clock on her bedside table.
She immediately reached out and snatched up the thing, an angry growl rising in her throat.
"YOU GET OUT OF BED THIS VERY MOMENT, OR… OR FACE THE CONSEQUENCES!" the high-pitched rasp snapped at her from between her fingers. Though it sounded more like a smurf than a full-grown man, there was no mistaking the voice of her boss.
"You have got to be kidding me." She looked disbelievingly at the object in her hand. When had this been put in her room?
"RISE AND SHINE! UP AND AT 'EM!"
"No thank you!"
"CARPE DIEM!" the recording continued, oblivious to her unwillingness. "SEIZE THE DAY!"
"Seize this," Shego raised the clock above her head, rearing back to throw it against the far wall.
"THE WORLD DOESN'T TAKE OVER ITSELF, YOU KNOW!"
The phrase made her stop in mid-pitch, and the little clock fell down onto the mattress before her. Suddenly, all the events of the past night came rushing back to her.
"Doctor D…" she said in a voice barely above a whisper, her eyes staring anxiously at the empty air before her. The night's scene began to replay in her head like a cassette in a tape player.
"Oh, please! Don't give me that act of surprise! We've had this conversation at least a hundred thousand times! Don't pretend like you're just starting to really get it NOW! … You are so ridiculous! What are you looking all wounded for? I'm not saying anything I haven't already! …Uh… Doctor D?"
"Maybe I really am just starting to get it now, Shego…"
She hit the mental off button on the player, a sinking sensation rapidly filling her stomach. Had he really said that? Had he truly reacted the way she remembered? Or was she just imagining things?
Uneasily, she swung her legs over the side of her bed and slipped her feet into her sea foam-colored slippers, then hastily grabbed her bathrobe, threw it on over her scanty sleepwear, and made her way out the door. She needed some food to help clear her head.
She moved quickly through the long hallway, made a turn, then walked through a round entryway and into the dark kitchen.
She flicked on the sickly yellow light that hung from the ceiling, and her eyes were instantly met by the sight of Drakken, his head buried in his arms as he lay forward on the tin-plated table. He was also dressed in bathrobe, and his black hair was more violently messy than usual. Shego thought that the kitchen was an odd place to spend the night, and probably not a very comfortable one either, and decided it was best not to wake him.
A skilled ninja, she managed to be nothing but silent as she walked around the large table and toward one of the many black cabinets that covered the walls. She opened the door, grabbed a particularly obnoxious-looking yellow mug, then sidled quietly in the direction of the coffee maker. She poured herself a steaming mug of coffee and—
Her brows furrowed and she eyed her coffee suspiciously for a few moments. She then surmised that someone must have warmed up what was leftover from yesterday in the microwave and then returned it to its pot, not wanting to wake Drakken by making a new batch… of course, this was the private kitchen, so that didn't quite make sense… but then again, with the cheap, foul-tasting grinds that the henchmen were supplied with in their kitchen, it would make sense that they would risk a trip to get their hands on something actually drinkable. And besides, who else could have? Drakken was out cold… It had to be one of the henchmen… Yes…
She shrugged, relatively satisfied with her explanation, and turned around and unexpectedly found herself facing a very frightening looking blue doctor.
She let out a startled shriek and dropped her coffee to the floor with a crash.
"Don't scream, Shego. It's bad for my nerves."
Drakken's face bore clear signs of an obviously hard night—he had dark bags under his eyes and little prickles of hair stuck out in odd places on his chin—and he looked all-around drawn and tired. He was slouching uncharacteristically, his arms crossed over his chest as he looked at Shego with bloodshot eyes.
"Er… right. Your nerves," she repeated uncomfortably.
They stood silently at the counter for a few moments, eyeing each other in the stark fluorescent light.
"You look terrible!" Shego suddenly blurted.
Drakken sighed, his shoulders hunching in a little more.
"Well, at least you're honest."
Shego blinked, feeling at once sorry for the outburst.
"Uh… It's just… You sort of surprised me… I mean, I thought you were sleeping," she finished lamely.
"I didn't get a wink of sleep all night." He let out a loud yawn for emphasis.
"Oh." Shego looked with rapt interest at a pile of crumbs that sat on the counter. "So… not tired?"
Drakken straightened up and threw his arms over his head with an emotional gasp.
"When a man realizes that he's wasted half of his life chasing a dream that can never be his—when he notices that he's never once come out the victor of any evil conquests—when he finally sees what a complete loser he is…" He whimpered, his eyes suddenly filled with tears. "How can he ever sleep again?"
The question came out in a strangled wail, and Drakken was suddenly crying into the front of his sidekick's bathrobe like a big blue baby.
Shego, shocked at this sad display of behavior, found herself temporarily at a loss for words. After a long while, she hesitantly began patting his back and cleared her throat nervously.
"Well… you could try pills… or something."
Drakken merely let out a choked sob at this and flung his arms around Shego's middle. The woman flushed in embarrassment, and was all at once very glad that this was, in fact, the private kitchen.
"Never again," the blue man managed to whimper into Shego's shoulder after a solid minute or so of nothing but crying.
Shego, painfully aware of Drakken's arms still around her waist, said nothing.
Drakken sighed wetly, then sniffled.
"Yeah, I really hope you're not still talking about sleeping."
Drakken instantly stopped crying, unwrapped his arms from around his employee, and stood up stock-straight, all signs of his tearful fit vanished.
"Very funny, Shego," he growled coldly, crossing his arms over his chest. "No, Doctor Drakken is finally retiring his evil endeavors… he can't go on playing the foolish, bumbling, half-witted, ne'er do well villain forever—"
"And you're referring to yourself in third person now." Shego raised an eyebrow at the man before her, her typical tone of sarcasm leaking back into her voice, "How interesting."
"Shego!" Drakken's eyes were wide. "You won't let me be happy, you won't let me be miserable—you always have something hurtful to say to make me second-guess myself!"
A look of defiance registered on Shego's face.
"Well, in this case, maybe that's a good thing!" she snapped, turning away from her boss and stalking to the pantry on the other end of the room.
Once she was there, she had to take a moment to calm down. Standing before the door, she closed her eyes and exhaled slowly. If she got mad, what good would that do?
She reopened her eyes, pulled open the pantry door, then glanced over her shoulder at Drakken, who hadn't yet moved from his spot by the counter.
"A good thing," she repeated calmly, then quickly changed the subject. "Fruity Puffs?" she offered, holding the bright red box of cereal out and waving it to the side where he could see it.
"So you want me to be the laughing-stock of the entire super villain community!"
Shego decided to play dumb.
"Now, Doc," she said lightly, a forced smile on her face, "I hardly think eating Fruity Puffs will make you the laughing-stock of the entire super villain community… even if you do keep the prizes—"
"I tell you, those Pop Pop bobble heads are collectors' items!" he barked indignantly as a light flush crept into his cheeks. "And you know very well that I was not talking about the cereal!"
He paused, tapping his fingertips together tensely.
"I was…" he reddened further, glancing at the ceiling, and cleared his throat. "I was referring to my reputation… and how it has diminished significantly since Kim Possible walked into the picture."
He finished hurriedly, as though he were divulging some huge secret that caused him much chagrin to be heard aloud.
Shego considered what he had just said for a few moments, then walked towards him and set the box of cereal down on the counter beside her.
"Okay, firstly, you didn't really have much of a reputation to begin with—"
Drakken sniffed huffily.
"And secondly," Shego moved around the blue man to the refrigerator, "it's not like you're the only one who gets their butt kicked by Kim Possible."
He opened his mouth and whirled to face her in protest, but was thwarted when Shego opened the refrigerator door and hit him square in the nose.
"She walks all over everybody…" the woman continued, ignoring the moan of pain from the other side of the door as she reached for the milk. "You're no more a loser than anybody else!"
She closed the door at this, and walked back around her boss and toward the cereal box, where she set the carton down on the counter as well.
"True…" Drakken stopped to consider what she had said some more, then continued, "But does that really make it any better?"
Shego had moved to open another cupboard, in search of a cereal bowl.
But Drakken ignored her.
"No, it does not!" he shouted, a lost look on his face. "Why keep cooking up evil plans when I know that Possible is around to mercilessly stamp them out!"
Shego stopped looking for a bowl, letting her hands fall to her sides and her gaze to the counter.
"On second thought, I'm really not that hungry," she said evenly, and began to turn towards the door. "I think I've lost my appetite."
"Oh, so you're leaving me?" Drakken's hurt voice carried from his spot. "You can't stand to be around a failure, is that it?"
Shego's jaw dropped and she whirled to look at the blue man.
"No, that's not it—"
"No, no, don't," Drakken waved a hand in the air casually, but Shego could easily see the tears that were welling up in his eyes again. "You don't have to explain! I understand completely! If I was you and I was stuck with me, then I would want to be as far away from me as I possibly could!"
Shego opened her mouth to object, but quickly closed it again, a look of confusion crossing her face.
"NEVER MIND!" the doctor shouted in frustration. "I can't even talk good anymore!"
Shego couldn't help herself.
"Talk well," she said, "You can't talk well anymore."
"Don't correct me, woman!" Drakken choked out angrily. "It's detrimental to my delicate situation! Can't you see I'm a man on the verge of emotional psychosis!"
Shego's eyes narrowed.
"And this is different from every other day how?"
Drakken howled in frustration.
He moved to step towards her but ended up slipping in the spilt coffee that, in all the commotion, Shego had forgotten to clean up. He was instantly sent falling to the grey stone floor.
"Right!" Shego's eyes were wide, and she began to edge very quickly toward the exit door. "Not hungry—leaving! See you, Doc!"
And with that, she slipped hurriedly out the door and began to race down the hall, with the only thing following her the sound of Drakken's hysterical wailing as he discovered that his sidekick had, in fact, broken his favorite mug.
Some hours later, Shego sat moodily at her monitor, both elbows resting on the desktop of controls as she cradled her chin in her hands. Her eyes were fixed unblinkingly on the large, bright screen as she habitually checked the security cameras that were placed about the exterior of the Haunted Island lair.
It wasn't exactly the most stimulating way to spend her time, but hey, it definitely beat finding herself in another unsettling chance encounter with her boss...
She dropped her hands from her face and quickly keyed in the command that would bring up the set of indoor surveillance. For the eighth time since she'd entered the room about twenty-five minutes before, she rechecked the monitor for any activity in the hallway outside.
She rolled her eyes and pushed herself and her rolling chair away from the station and into the center of the room. Her face was drawn into an unpleasant scowl.
The rest of that morning had been terrible. She'd been forced to sneak around the lair like some sort of nervous cat-burglar, keeping her back to the wall as she slid down the corridors, peeking around every corner before she moved into the next passage. And she'd hated every minute of it… She couldn't stand having to tiptop around everywhere, constantly ducking and slinking, always on the watch for her blue employer. She positively loather hiding from the man, stealing away into empty rooms like some frightened little girl.
Usually, there was nothing that was there to make her want to stay out of the sight of her boss. It wasn't like he was particularly frightening to Shego—it hadn't been long into her employment that she'd seen that all his evil unruliness was ninety-nine percent hot air. He was the type, she'd noticed, that would scream and puff himself up to make himself seem intimidating, but rarely acted upon anything he said.
However, this new emotional Drakken easily put her off balance. There was something about all the misery that really freaked her out… She enjoyed pain, of course—what villain didn't? … But something about the situation made it an exception, and Shego was finding herself wishing that the entire thing the night before had never happened at all.
It was really beginning to get to her… and it had barely been going on for six hours.
She hopped from her chair and stalked to the other end of the room, stopping before the phone that was bolted to the wall. The woman cast it a long, conflicted look.
She could apologize.
She turned her back quickly, deciding against the idea. If she said she was sorry, it would be like admitting that she had done something wrong, which she most certainly hadn't. All she had done was make an honest observation… it wasn't like she'd tried to upset him on purpose. And she wasn't about to have Drakken come rushing down to the room to have him crying all over her again or to have him give her an earful about that stupid mug of his…
The hard look on her face softened, and she gingerly glanced over her shoulder at the phone.
Of course, she had said a lot of mean things the night before… she'd seen that she was somehow making an impact on him, and she hadn't stopped. She'd liked that look on his face… she'd felt like she was the one who was calling the shots… like she was the person in control, for once.
Her head snapped back forward and she looked away at the opposite wall.
What was she thinking? It was stupid to feel sorry for what had happened. It was Drakken's fault that he lost all the time… he was the one who had given her fodder for her tirade. And it was his sensitivity that had him in a slump—he shouldn't have let what she said bother him so much… he shouldn't have even let her go as far as she did… He should have stopped her!
She grabbed the hair on the sides of her head in balled fists and let out a scream of frustration.
It wasn't her fault!
She stomped away from the phone and threw herself into a nearby armchair.
"This is ridiculous!" she shouted, her face pressed into the cushiony piece of furniture so that the sentence came out in a muffled drone. "Why am I even thinking about it? I didn't do or say anything out of the ordinary!"
She rolled over in the chair, resting her neck on one side of the chair so that her hair hung over one arm and her legs over the other.
"He's a total glutton for getting walked all over… He must love it, or he wouldn't do it so much! He fails again and again, and I'm always here, ready to provide that much needed dose of reality… He lives in the evil equivalent of fantasy land! I have to be the one that sets him straight… and I've done it a thousand times at least, and he never seemed bothered by it before! But I say that same thing one more time, and suddenly, it actually manages to penetrate his thick skull! And now I'm the one in trouble! What a surprise! Put the blame on Shego and her huge mouth! Doesn't she know when to stop? Hey, it's not my fault that he let it get to him this time… I mean, it's only the truth—he has to face the facts sometime or another! And that sometime or another was better last night than later! Besides, how was I supposed to know that he was going to be such a huge baby about the whole thing! I'm an assistant, for Pete's sakes, not a mind reader! I can't see—much less begin to fathom—what's going on in that freaky head of his! Besides, when your forty-one, shouldn't you be able to take a little tough love! Tough love! That's all it was! I wasn't purposefully trying to make him go all helpless and weak on me! I mean, who on earth would want that! Does anybody know how annoying it is to live with this guy day to day when he's in a good mood! Imagine a bad day! I swear, I'm going to die if I have to watch him cry all over the place! Why do I have to be the one who takes all the idiocy in full! Can't he hire a psychiatrist! IT'S NOT MY FAULT!"
She screamed the last bit out, her sharp nails digging into the fabric of the chair so that some of the stuffing fell out and onto the stone floor.
"It's not my fault," she repeated evenly, slowly releasing her grip on the cushion of the furniture. She was breathing loudly and in deep gulps. She couldn't remember a time she had ever said so much at once without pausing in between.
Once recovered, she jumped up from the chair and snatched up a copy of Villains Magazine from the coffee table. She pulled it open and buried her nose in the pages. Her green eyes narrowed, she began to read the first words she saw aloud.
"Torture of the Month Club says…"
She paused and her jaw dropped.
"Punishment by guilt-trip! Are you kidding me!" She threw the magazine across the room, then sank back into the chair behind her. Was the whole world against her?
"I didn't mean to hurt his feelings!" she wailed in exasperation. "I didn't mean to single-handedly retire him from villainy! I… I was just…"
She stopped, covering her face with her hands.
"I can't believe I actually feel bad about this."
She dropped her hands and looked down at the coffee table. Covered with Villains Magazines from left to right, it was a mess of nasty scowling faces. And each one of them seemed to be glaring at her, as though they were showing their obvious disdain for her heartlessness… a stretch, considering that each and every one of those faces were famous for their own heartlessness, but that's what Shego saw.
She wondered if that was what the rest of her life was going to be like… Seeing things in her guilt… Soon, she'd every bit as crazy as Drakken, and then what would they—
All at once, a small patch of violet amidst all the bronze, red, green, and blue caught her eye. She quickly leaned over the table and pushed away some of the magazines that were concealing the thing. Once uncovered, her eyes widened at the discovery.
"Wicked Lady." She reached forward and picked the object up, a tight-lipped smile forming on her face. A yellow, star-shaped sticker on the cover read 'Free with your renewed subscription to Villains Magazine'. Shego noticed that it was oddly dog-eared for being at the bottom of the pile.
"So, Doc… interested in the bad girls, huh?"
She flipped it open and began to scan through the magazine amusedly, noticing how a few of the pages had been obviously marked with folded corners. She stopped at a particularly interesting looking article that had been double bent.
"Playing Nice—Five Ways to Cheer Up Your Favorite Bad Boy."
Shego snorted, wondering why on earth Drakken had bothered to mark an article about making your boyfriend feel better, and was just about to toss Wicked Lady back into the pile when it hit her. Slowly, a broad smile appeared on her face, and she suddenly found herself much more appreciative of the purple-colored magazine.