Author's Note: sigh. The Last Chapter. And – my last fanfic for awhile, as I pursue the Almighty Grail of Publication. 370 reviews as of this writing! That's what gives me the courage to try, so a big THANKS to the readers I now seem to be abandoning – but it only seems that way. There will be more to come eventually – although I DO owe the D.E.B.S. girls a fic – so go off and read the other great authors while I collect rejection slips and work on The Great American Novel (after getting my Great American Short-Story in print somewhere). :)
Kim took a deep breath and covered her eyes.
The wall blew outward.
The force of the blast knocked Kim to the floor as red-hot salt filled the air. That must be why they told me to hold my breath. Well, it should be-
"DON'T BREATHE! KIM! DON'T BREATHE! POISON GAS! POISON-" Shego screamed at the top of her lungs through her mask even before she saw Kim lying on the floor, her arm still across her face. Would the gas hurt her eyes? Shego didn't know. No reason to think it wouldn't... "KIM! It's me! Don't open your eyes! I have a mask for you!"
She knelt down beside Kim, "Don't open your eyes, and don't breathe until I say so! Nod if you understand!"
Kim nodded, still amazed that Shego was even there. Shego removed Kim's arm from her face, but Kim kept her eyes squeezed shut. Then she felt the cold rubbery seal of the mask pressed against her face. Good, so she was safe now? So why didn't-
Her un-formed question was answered as she felt and heard air being forced into the mask sealed against her face, blowing out the sides. Of course, the mask would have to be purged. Hurry it up, Doc... I can't hold it much longer...
The purge stopped and Shego said, "Okay, Red. Try breathing now. Just a little. If you smell rotten eggs, stop and... uh... nod your head or something..."
Kim let out some of her held breath, and cautiously inhaled through her nose. It was horribly difficult not to just let her breath go and suck in a fresh lungful, but she managed. She could do anything. No smell. She opened her eyes, and looked through the plastic at Shego's face.
"Okay. Go on Red. Breathe for me. Careful about the seal on the mask though, I'm just holding it against your face right now."
Kim exhaled as fast as she could and took in a great spasm of air. Her chest had just begun to hitch, and she repeated the process three more times before she could speak. When she did, all she said was- "Doc?"
Shego couldn't make it out very well, but she could see Kim's lips move. "Yeah. Look, Kim, I gotta get these straps around your head now. Can you hold your hair outta the way? Not a lot of time to talk here... we got a long way to go and... well, no time to chat. Okay... lemme just get this through here... Okay, and pull it tight – yeah, like that. One more, front and center. Good. Feels tight?"
Shego held the pack while Kim stood up, and then she helped Kim get her arms through the loops. Finally, Kim was safe. Well, for what it was worth. Shego's buzzer had gone off a good fifteen minutes ago. She had maybe twenty minutes left – probably less - and the tunnel was going to take half an hour go get through. Not good.
At the end, there might be fresh tanks. If Will had left any there. If Will had found some.
"We gotta go, Kim. I'm gonna run out of air before long – so I can't talk much. I'm going to try and calm myself as much as I can. Okay, let's go."
Shego grabbed one of the lanterns that Kim had brought – she didn't dare light her plasma in there - and led Kim by the hand through the blast hole and into the tunnel. They walked casually, almost like strolling, but with very long strides. Since Shego was trying not to talk, Kim refrained from asking her any questions, although they flooded her mind. As relieved as she was that Shego was there now, Kim was still surprised that they seemed to be all alone. No rescue-workers, no machinery. Just Shego.
Kim smiled to herself. Shego - Don't leave home without it.
Kim didn't know what Shego did – that they didn't have enough air to make it, even with Kim's previously full tank. That purge had used up... a significant amount of air. How much? Another thing Shego didn't know.
Maybe she should turn her air off, and re-breath the mask air until she couldn't stand it anymore. Would that make it last longer – or would she just end up breathing all the harder once she turned it back on... Should they run? Should they hold their breaths? Hadn't anyone ever thought about this before? Her advice form the fireman had been "breathe normally". Great. Lot of help that was... Wasn't she supposed to be trying to calm herself? Another idea that wasn't working out too well...
Before long, Shego's regulator began to stutter. She stopped. She was going to have to think of something now. Her breath was already getting faster as she began began to re-breathe what was in her mask.
"Doc?" Kim said anxiously, "Are... are you out of air? Okay. Okay... don't panic. Look, uh..." Kim was momentarily stunned by the rapidity of the changing situation. Shego was already gasping for oxygen from the stale air in her mask. It didn't take long. Cut off her oxygen, and even Shego will panic. Even Kim would have. "Okay, we'll have to take turns breathing on my tank, right? Okay... so, uh... this hose here..." She pointed to the outlet of the second-stage regulator at her waist, "It has a quick-disconnect thingy. No, wait... it has two! Okay, they already thought of this. Here, you plug your hose into my regulator, right? Try to keep the end covered while you do it, so no poison gets in. Ready?"
Shego nodded. It was risky, but she needed to breathe... although, really, it wasn't going to help them for long. And the longer they stayed there, the less good it was going to do anyway. But that was all academic: right now, she was desperate for air. She unplugged her hose and shoved it onto Kim's regulator.
Ah, blessed oxygen... she tried to force herself not to gasp, to try and conserve it.Kim probably didn't have enough air to make it out herself – and now Shego was breathing it too. It was hopeless. They would never make it out of that tunnel. Unless Will were to deliver new tanks to them in there – and if he did, he would never make it back to the elevator.
"We're not gonna make it, Red. I'm sorry..."
"Don't say that. C'mon. And stop talking."
But Shego had gone through too much, too fast, and the constant use of her plasma had made her too tired. At least they were together, this time. Maybe that was enough. Maybe that was what the Note-Taker in the cathedral, the barn, and the sky had in mind all along. "Kim..."
The resignation in Shego's voice was clear to Kim even through her face mask. "Doc! You listen to ME for a change! We do not give up! If we go, we go fighting, not standing here waiting to die! You understand? We DO NOT GIVE UP!"
Kim began walking, forcing Shego do to the same, tied as they were by their air-hoses.
Shego walked sullenly, her mind filled with one word: we. If "we" were going to die, she'd really rather just get it over with, maybe say a few parting words – there were so many things she'd like to say, now – and then pull the masks off, get in one last kiss, and then take their final breath. Together. A nice goodbye, that was all Shego really wanted. Kim was ruining it with her damn "die fighting" attitude.
Still... that's what made her Kim Possible. The Girl Who Could Do Anything. If Kim were more like her – like Shego – well... maybe some things would be easier. But she wouldn't be Kim, would she... Kimmie. Princess. Pumpkin.
Less than ten minutes later, Kim's regulator started making the dreaded noise. And they still couldn't see the end of the tunnel.
"Kim... Stop. It's over."
Kim tried to break into a run, but Shego held her back. It wasn't easy. The red-head had her mind fixed on going on, on, on down the tunnel, and she simply would not stop until Shego stepped in front of her. "It's over, Red. Listen - I want to say something. I... I'm glad we're together."
Already beginning to pant – and desperately trying not to – Kim said, "It's not over! It's NOT!"
Shego pulled her into a hug, which Kim resisted only for a second. Her face mask buried in Shego's hair, Kim Possible finally gave up. It was a first.
"I love you so much, Shego..." she said, barley able to keep herself from gasping.
"Me too" Shego replied. All the things she wanted to say, and that was all she got out. They didn't have time to do more – their gasping precluded any last-minute declarations of feeling. Too bad.
Ready for... our last kiss?" Shego paused for a couple of fast breaths, "Let's take... these masks off..."
Kim backed away in order to see her wife's eyes. Yes, she was ready for that. That would be... good. She grabbed the hose at the bottom of the mask, preparing to lift it up off her face. Shego did the same.
"On three," Shego said, "One. Tw-"
"Wait! Sh- Shego! Look!"
A light. Coming their way. Bobbing up and down.
Will was running as fast as he could with two 75 cubic foot tanks in his arms. 30 bigger than usual. As he'd entered the tunnel, he'd seen Shego's lamp, but then saw it disappear as Shego had fought to stop Kim. All he knew was that it was a bad sign – he couldn't see their bodies. Really, he had no idea just how far away they were, or that there were two of them at all. But something told him to hurry. Actually, whatever it was, something told him to FUCKING HURRY!
Shego saw too. "Oh... my... god..." she said between gasps.
"Quiet... place... Shego..." Kim said, trying to tell her to become as Zen-like as possible. Whoever it was was still a long way off.
They were both breathing as fast and deep as they could now, and it was just physically impossible to stop. But anything would help, so maybe it was mentally possible to do something.
Shego thought of the memory she'd had only a few nights before – lying in the fall grass, watching the shooting stars with Kim. Cool, quiet... pleasant. Kim asking her if she were gay. Heh. Well, things change I guess, Pumpkin. Ya never know. The stars were pretty...
Kim thought too: a winter day, snow outside, her at her desk. Watching Shego through her office window as she trudging towards the greenhouse. Just watching her – the way she moved, the way the wind blew her hair. Listening to the clock ticking on her desk. If only moments like that could last forever...
Shego began to collapse on weak knees, and Kim followed her down until they were on the floor sitting on their heels, eyes closed, each seeing things only they could see. Their chests heaved uncontrollably.
Kim blindly reached for Shego's hand and held it.
"Shego! Kim! Wake up! Shego!"
The human body has an amazing capacity for self-preservation. When it runs low on oxygen, it begins to shut things down in order of priority: muscles go first – excepting the heart, then organs, and eventually even the brain. Everything is sacrificed to keep the heart beating, keep the heart alive. It is not a conscious decision. It can't be - people are too stupid to be allowed make decisions like that. The heart must live, above all else. That's just the way it is.
"S-Shego?" Kim said weakly. She had no idea where she was or what had happened.
"It's me, Will Du! Now be still – don't move for awhile, until you get your bearings, okay?" He turned his attention back to the other woman, "Shego! Wake up! I can see you breathing... C'mon!"
Slapping her face wasn't really an option with the face mask on, so he batted at her ears instead. "C'MON Shego! Wake the hell UP!"
"Will... god-dammit... I am going to fry your ASS if you don't stop that..."
Will stopped slapping her ears and leaned back on his haunches. She was awake. They were both awake. Holy COW that was close... can we not do this again? Whaddaya think? he thought.
"Shego?" Kim said, wondering why she was there.
"Red!" Shego answered back, turning to see her. They were still holding hands.
"Yeah, yeah, Doc and Red... Together again," Will almost laughed, "Okay girls, you may have lots of time – but I don't. Let's see if we can get out of here now, eh?"
"SHEGO!" Kim yelled, finally remembering the "sitch".
"RED!" Shego did the same.
"WILL!" Will shouted. Both women looked at him questioningly. "Sorry. Felt left out for a second there. C'mon," he said, getting to his feet, "Let's see if you two can get up... Kim?" He reached out to help her up.
Neither girl's legs were working quite right, so with his arm around one on each side, the three of them stumbled toward the elevator.
They entered the elevator and Will lowered the safety-bar. He punched the button and the three of them started to rise out of the mine.
"Okay. When we get to the 100-foot level, we can take these damn packs off. The H2S hasn't made it that far yet, they tell me."
"What are those things?" Kim said, pointing to some bright-orange, metallic-looking things on the floor that looked like chin-guards with spikes sticking out of the middle. They each had a wire to them, that lead to a single spool of wire sitting beside them.
"Shaped charges to close off the mine. Otherwise the H2S will eventually start spilling out at the surface. I'm getting off at the 50-foot level to set them, you girls go on up."
"Good," Shego said, "I never wanna see this place again as long as I live..."
They rode on in silence, each thinking their own thoughts.
Will stopped it and got out at the level he'd told them he would. It was so good to have the damn air-packs off... how long had he been wearing it, now? He watched as Kim and Shego continued on up, then went to work.
The girls were looking at the ever-widening circle of sunlight above them. They never thought they'd get out of there. And now here it came. Freedom. Life. Blue sky. They looked at each other.
Shego said, "Now, about that last kiss..."
"Hurry, before we reach the surface!"
They embraced. They kissed. Time stopped.
For them, anyway.
The Press had shown up, and the local auxiliary police force had been overwhelmed by their sheer numbers. The top of the elevator shaft was ringed with photographers, videographers, newsmen, newswomen, half a dozen gaffers holding their microphones-on-a-stick, newspaper men with notebooks and pencils – they were all there, waiting for the show.
They got one.
Kim and Shego, lost in their obviously passionate embrace, were still writhing and roaming for a long moment after the elevator had reached the top of its climb. They'd forgotten all about "before it reaches the surface". They didn't even see the flashes from the strobes.
But then they heard the voices - "Kim Possible! How's it feel to be rescued by your lesbian lover?" "Kim! How long have you been sleeping with Shego?" "Ms. Possible – are you a homosexual?" "Does Global Justice know you two are lovers?"
In the crowd-mentality of the reporters, the questions just got more an more personal, sensational, and... ridiculous.
Kim dropped her arms and backed way from her wife, instantly aware of what had happened. She'd been caught. She'd been caught red-handed, in the act. In front of cameras. It was out. This was going to be Big News. No one was even asking if she was "all right", or what had happened, or if she was "glad to be alive" - they didn't care about that anymore. They had a bigger story. She squeezed her eyes shut to make it all go away. It didn't work.
Shego only looked at Kim with pity. This was exactly what Kim hadn't wanted to happen – she knew that. These reporters with their damn questions were going to leave a mark on Kim - permanently.
"When did you two first start having sex?" "Shego! Are you aware that Kim isn't of legal age yet?" "Kim! What's it like being a lesbian crime-fighter?"
In the back of the crowd was Ron Stoppable. He'd arrived hours earlier, but what the shortage of air tanks, there hadn't been much he could do. Now, as he watched Kim almost visibly shrink before his eyes, he knew he had to do something... because, if nothing else, Shego was eventually going to get pissed and probably start throwing fire around the place.
"What's it like sleeping with a high school girl, Shego?" one of the reporters shouted.
That got her attention. Shego turned to the crowd as if noticing them for the first time. She did not look happy...
Ron Stoppable possessed a super power: "Mystical Monkey Power". It was an... odd... kind of power. It's virtue lay in utter and compete randomness – such that it's wielder, Ron, could never know when he was about to use it – or even when he had. Quite often, it manifested itself by having his pants fall down around his ankles at critical times – just enough to completely change the situation. Perhaps Drakken would pause for a few seconds before setting off his Doomsday device – giving Kim the opportunity to hit the Self-Destruct button. Or perhaps DNAmy would glance and point at him while the business-end of an overhead winch slammed into her back. Always something.
As super-powers went, it as a fairly embarrassing one. But it did the trick. That aspect of Mystical Monkey Power never failed.
Ron had the faintest hint of an idea, and before he could even fully form the thought, and no doubt decide against it, he disguised his voice and shouted - exactly at a simultaneous pause in all the reporter's questions -
"Kim! Is it true that Shego's vagina tastes like mint!"
The the entire herd of reporters did a double-take – who had said that? That was just incredibly low, even by their standards. An embarrassed silence followed, and no more strobe-lights flashed. Video cameras were turned off. That sort of thing... why, it made one ashamed to even be a reporter!
Even Shego's eyebrows shot up at that question. Who the hell had said that? Who the hell even would say something like that? Tastes like mint? What the HELL...
She looked at Kim to see how she was reacting, and found her just staring back in abject dumbfoundedness. Which Shego could understand... I mean, "tastes like mint"?
She couldn't help but smile faintly as she thought about it, and a single eyebrow went perceptibly back up.
Well? Shego thought.
Kim's forehead furrowed deeply, What the hell do you mean 'Well?' she thought back.
Then Kim felt an unbidden smile coming on. She should be angry – she knew that. She should be embarrassed, humiliated... She should have felt a lot of things. But... mint? It was just SO ridiculous! Her hand was on it's way up to hide the smile-that-shouldn't-have-been when she just exploded into a massive fit of trying-not-to-laugh laughter: "Pppppppssshhhhhhppppt!", she sprayed Shego with saliva in the process. Fuck... Mint? What the fuck?... Oh, WHAT the fuck!
Then, in full view of reporters, cameras, cops, firefighters, ambulance-drivers, and Emergency Medical Technicals, Kim embraced Shego again and went right on kissing her.
Mystical Monkey Power – believe it.
Epilogue: Houston, Texas, two years later.
"Good morning, Shego. Ready for another day of crime-fighting?" Will asked as she walked up to his car from the apartment she and Kim shared. Kim had left for class earlier.
"Mmph" Shego grunted. She was in no mood for Mr. Happy Morning Person right now.
"Ah," Will said as Shego got into his Aston-Martin, "The usual, is it?"
"Yes it is. I swear to God, Will – it's too late for me but you can still save yourself. Turn gay now! Before you're trapped with a woman for the rest of your life! Doy!"
"Yeah, it must be rough."
"Oh, do NOT patronize me, Secret Agent Man! You don't know what it's like! 'Oh, Doc, I just worry about you out there!', 'What if something happens to you?', 'Do you have any idea what it's like waiting for you to call? Wondering IF you'll call? I just don't know how-' awww shit. She's got the guilt-trip thing down pat, Will. Sometimes she just makes me... so... mad!"
"It'll be better once she gets out of college and joins up. I can guess who she'll get partnered with..."
"The buffoon?" Shego guessed.
"No, you idiot – you! She'll probably make it a condition of employment, if I know her. And you. Besides, Stoppable will probably be on tv somewhere. He's already beaten The Iron Chef, and he's still in cooking school! I mean.. the 'cheesy-shake'. Who would have thought?"
"Yeah, maybe it'll be okay eventually. Still sucks rocks now, though. Pull over. I wanna drive."
"No, damn, way. This is my car, Shego. I don't even like being in a company car when you're driving..."
"I gotta work off some steam. Pull over."
"Who's teaching you more martial-arts than you knew existed, Will?"
"Who picked out your clothes and arranged the evening with Miss Manufactured Celebrity Tits-and-Ass Girl?"
"Okay, but that-"
"And how'd that date work out?"
"You can't hold that over my head forever-"
"Shego, if you so much as scratch my car..."
4 p.m. that day:
"We still have a couple of hours before we pick up Kim. I need a drink. Or three" Will said.
"We'll go to my usual place."
"No, we'll go to my usual place! I can't believe you took me into a lesbian bar that time! I've never been so self-conscious in my entire life!"
"Hey, there were lots of girls around, weren't there? I thought you'd like that..." she smirked.
"Yeah, and I didn't dare look at ANY of 'em! My bar. You know the way." Shego drove on, and eventually Will said, "Hey – Ever heard the one about a cop and a lesbian go into a bar-"
"Will, it was funny the first time. The second time was cute. The third time was sarcastic. Now it's just lame."
He didn't say anything.
Shego relented, "Oh, go ahead..."
"And the cop said, 'I MEANT my gun!'" He laughed, even though he'd only told the punch-line, not the joke.
"Grow up, Will."
"You're one to talk. Here we are."
Inside, Shego saw that the new girl was tending bar again. She also noticed Will straightening his collar. "Now Shego, I'm trying something out here, no cop-talk, okay? And can you try not to look gay? It blows my cover."
"What the hell do you mean-"
"Just cool it, is all I'm asking. Miss! JD rocks for me, please."
After a short glare at Will, Shego place her order for Chivas. Neat.
Shortly, the new bartender brought their drinks, "Here's your JD, officer. Your scotch, sweet-heart." She gave Shego a wink as she sat it down. Shego looked at her questioningly, but tried not to let Will see.
After she'd left to tend the other end of the bar, Will said, "Damn! How is it everyone knows I'm a cop! Nothing's showing... I'm not even wearing a gun... What IS it, Shego?"
But Shego's mind was elsewhere: sweet-heart? And she winks at me? What the hell...
"Excuse me a minute Shego. Little boy's room."
After he left, Shego caught the bartender's eye and she came back over. "How'd I do?" she asked.
"Uh, fine, just fine. Here's your twenty. What was all that about 'sweet-heart', though?"
"What, you're hot, is all... I like to flirt with the lesbians. I'm bi myself, by the way..."
Shego blinked. "What makes you think I'm a lesbian?"
"Huh? I thought... oh. Uhm... nothing. My mistake. Sorry."
"No, seriously. What is it? I really-"
"I – uh – gotta go get those guys another round of Buds, 'kay? I said I was sorry, all right? I have work to do." She quickly turned and left Shego sitting there wondering if she had an "L" painted on her forehead or something.
When Will came back out, the bartender gave him a wink as he passed her. It was the easiest $40 she'd ever made.
Will, Shego, and Kim watched from the wings as the announcer said, "And the Nobel Prize in the field of Physics goes to... Dr. Drew Lipsky, for his work in Extra-Dimensional Loop Theory. I might as well say at the same time, the Nobel Prize for Humanitarian Aid also goes to Dr. Lipsky for his wonderful Earthquake Prevention Method, with which I'm sure we're all familiar. Dr. Lipsky?"
Dakken stood up shakily from his table and nearly tripped on his way to the podium.
After all this time... after all the – well, the madness, here he was, being acclaimed by his peers for his genius. They were applauding! They were actually applauding!
"Uh... thank you Mr. Chairman" he backed away from the microphone as it began to squeal with feedback, "I, uhm, I've prepared a little speech..."
He thumped down a two-inch thick sheaf of papers onto the podium and looked at it. Everyone waited.
But he just kept looking at it. Two minutes went by and he hadn't said a word. He hadn't even moved...
Finally, Kim shouted at him in the silent auditorium, "Just take the statue and sit down, Drak!"
He glanced over at her in the wings, then back at the audience, "Yes. Yes, well, uh, thank you. Thank you all." He turned and took a step back towards his chair in a daze, but then his eyes lit up, his face cleared. There was something he wanted to say, after all. He turned back to the podium:
"And most of all, I'd like to thank Kim Possible, without whose... help... Well, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for her. I suppose I really am something of a madman, you see, but with her advice, at least I don't come across that way in my published papers. I only wish... well, I've wasted a lot of time. She's over there off-stage right now. Come on out here, Kim!"
Kim – with both Will and Shego pushing her – stumbled awkwardly out from behind the curtain. The crowd applauded.
When it died down, Drakken went on, "Kim, I just wanted to say something to you, and ask you a question. Here it is: Kim Possible – you really are all that. I'd be honored if you'd be... my intern."
Kim rolled her eyes. What a way to get a summer job. "You're such a dork, doctor..."
"Now Kim, that may be true, but you don't have to tell everyone. Perhaps you could just call me 'Dr. D', for short?"
And late that night – under a full moon.
"You get anything yet?" Kim asked.
"Not yet. I sure hope the bad stuff is behind us. Dammit! When am I gonna ever get the wedding? That really pisses me off."
Kim giggled, "Yeah, well, I... I uh... I..." her eyes widened, staring at Shego, "Oh. My. God. OhMygod... OHMYGAWWWWD!"
"What? What'd you get?" Shego asked quickly and with more than a little anxiety.
"Shego! Oh... you... oh! OH!"
"WHAT the hell did you GET, Red!"
Kim could only stare at Shego a while longer while her mind reeled. Then her face flushed, so red that she looked almost dark-skinned in the moonlight.
"Ooooooh... something good, huh?" Shego chided.
"My birthday. My thirtieth birthday..."
"Yeah. Shego! You... you dirty..."
"I'd be careful who I'm calling 'dirty', Pumpkin. I just remembered a certain Valentine's day... And I gotta say – DAYUM, girl!"