The unique personality which is the real life in me, I can not gain unless I search for the real life, the spiritual quality, in others. I am myself spiritually dead unless I reach out to the fine quality dormant in others. For it is only with the god enthroned in the innermost shrine of the other, that the god hidden in me, will consent to appear.

An Ethical Philosophy of Life ~ Felix Adler

Chapter 25: The Touch of Green Fire.

When Kim looked into the room it was empty.

Standing by the door undecided she looked around for the guards then, noting their absence, went to the nurse's station. The nurse recognized her immediately and smiled. Although most of them looked the same to Kim, she recognized this woman specifically as the one who had gotten in the way of Shego's power in ICU. Having been at the wrong end of a blast several times, Kim could sympathise with her. Although Shego's fire didn't work or act like a normal fire it still hurt and, considering that the nurse only had numb arms for two days, she could count herself lucky.

Before Kim could ask her about Shego she was already motioning down the corridor. "At her request," she said without greeting, "they took her to Professor Adamson's room. It's in the next ward if you don't know. You brought flowers today I see?"

Kim blinked at the bunch of irises in her hands and blushed suddenly, resisting the urge hide them behind her back. "I saw them on my way here from school," she said. "It's no big."

The nurse grinned and shrugged. "Of course not," she said. "If you want, I can keep them here till you return. You are going to get her I take it?"

Kim wanted to protest but found herself putting the flowers down instead. "I ah," she shrugged. "She's still weak you know. And if she isn't, she'll need more watching. Besides I'm terrible at waiting."

She left before the grinning nurse could say anything and hurried down the corridor. It was Wednesday and in a way Kim could still not believe that just a little less than a week had passed since Drakken brought Shego to her house. It felt like a life time. She felt as if a lot had changed even though she could not completely put her finger on it. The world felt clearer somehow, though she was willing to admit it might also be because the fear that she had lived in the past few days was gone.

Shego was going to make it and, against all the odds, she was alright.

Or at least she was going to be.

Kim didn't remember much of the two days that followed their return from Canada. She remember the seemingly endless ride back to the hospital and the elation she had felt when Wade called the news through to them that Shego was conscious and seemed to have her power back. She remembered the shock that she had felt when she saw the destruction that Shego's initial 'discharge' had left and her absolute relief when she was lead to Shego's new room, even if the woman herself was so disorientated she could hardly put two sentences together. Her mother had not allowed her to stay long but had taken her home and practically fed, bathed and put her to bed herself. Somewhere in between it all, Kim had started crying and she didn't stop until well after her mother had tucked her in and left her alone in her dark room. The woman had even taken her Kimmunicator and unplugged her computer. Kim hadn't understood why she cried so much that evening. Perhaps she had been over tired, perhaps it was relief. And perhaps, it was because for the first time, she had stared over the abyss. She could've let Teryl Adamson die but she didn't and a part of her would always regret that. She understood a little bit more of the dark now and it frightened her.

She had slept until midday the next day and spent the rest of it in a sort of daze. She went to the hospital to find that Global Justice had delivered the modified dialysis machine and that Dr. Director had left a message with Dr. Hong that she wanted to see her but, Kim had blatantly ignored it and rather spend as much time as she could sitting beside Shego's bed, watching the woman as she slept. Although they weren't very open about the details, Kim understood that they had come very close to losing her. The only thing that stood between her and a permanent brain injury was probably her body's resilience thanks to her powers. When she went home that evening, she found Drakken hovering in the shadows of the building's entrance. There was a lot she had wanted to say to him in those few moments, but instead she had found herself just standing back and motioning to him to go in. It had been very strange to see the look of gratitude in his eyes as he actually nodded at her in acknowledgement and went in, a bouquet of flowers held in front of him like a mask. It was the Sunday evening.

Monday and Tuesday passed in a blur. She had to go back to school and attend all her usual activities, something her mom was absolutely unwilling to negotiate about. None the less, she tried to spend a few hours of the day with Shego, even if it meant doing her homework there under the woman's critical eye. Shego had not been kind when it came to maths.

Of Teryl Adamson and their strange new friendship, they did not speak. Kim was afraid to ruin the fragile moments in which Shego went as far as to smile at her. And, the truth of the matter was that Shego was still very weak. The dialysis had taken a lot out of her (though thankfully the nanocytes as well) and her near brush with death had left her with a broken breast bone and two broken ribs. When she wasn't making sniping comments on Kim's math, she was drifting in and out of sleep or staring thoughtfully out of the window. Though somehow, Kim had known that she would eventually get up and go see Teryl Adamson.

Dr. Hong, when explained who she was and where she fit into the picture, immediately took over supervision of Teryl's medical treatment. The hook was removed from her side and leg and what ever internal damage it had done was repaired. Kim tried not to pay too much attention, still too sensitive about the whole matter, but it sounded as if the woman would most probably have some problems with her leg for months to come. The hooks had done a lot of damage but she could not make herself feel guilty about it. On Sunday as well, some none descript representatives from Teryl's 'company' had come to claim the woman, saying that her medical care would be supervised by their private clinic. Emily Hong had been polite but insistent. Professor Teryl Adamson would not leave her care until she was sure she too was clear of all the nanocytes in her body.

"Bureaucracy," Kim had overheard Dr. Hong say to her mother, "is a bitch when it comes to the apolitical."

The people had to be satisfied with Leanne, who went with them in a cold sense of dread. Kim did not see her again for the first two days of the week. It alarmed her a bit, but she could also not make herself fear for the woman's safety.

She was therefore pleasantly surprised when she reached Teryl Adamson's room and saw Leanne sitting by the door, her gaze focused on a blank space on the wall. Kim hesitated to approach her, standing back instead to study her a bit closer.

She was dressed completely differently from the last time Kim had seen her, her clinical lab clothes exchanged for what looked like a comfortable pair of jeans and a dark purple sweater, home knit by the look of it. She looked younger with her thick glasses resting on her lap but she also looked very tired.

Kim swallowed and hesitantly made her way to the woman, nodding at Shego's guards who were lounging around. Just before she reached her, Leanne looked around by some call of intuition and blinked when she saw her. Her hands twitched in her lap and in an almost mechanical gesture she brought her glasses up and perched them on her nose. Kim sniffed and stood back a bit, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

Leanne studied her then smiled slightly and moved up a seat, she had a bruise in her face from where Kim had punched her. The teen hero didn't sit down immediately but moved so that she could look into the room. The curtain was partly drawn around the bed but she could see Shego sitting in a chair next to it. Her skin once again held its faint green tinge and her eyes were like green emeralds. None the less, she still looked pale, her face gaunt. Occasionally, her hand would move to her chest and touch a spot just blow her collar bone but all her attention was fixed on the woman in the bed with her. She didn't like the expression on Shego's face.

Sniffing, she turned away and looked at Leanne who was still studying her. Kim sniffed sharply and crossed her arms again.

"How is... she today?"

Leanne raised an eyebrow at her tone and sighed. "I haven't been in to see her yet," she said blankly but Kim saw a hurt light in the woman's eyes. "But the doctor says that she's recovering. She's almost done with the... ah... dialysis." A touch of distaste twisted her mouth, causing Kim to sit up sharply and glare at her.

"That dialysis is ridding her of those wretched things that started all of this," Kim snapped. "You should be grateful for it."

Leanne blinked at Kim then smiled slightly, shaking her head. "Should I?" she queried ruefully. "For the past few years, every day of our lives were centred on those wretched things. This past week had been the fulfilment of every goal we've been striving to. What should I be grateful for?"

Kim gaped at her, her old anger flaring up again. "So, what?" she snapped. "You're disappointed by how this all turned out and you regret that you saved not only Shego's life but probably mine and Ron's as well?"

Leanne looked at her for a long time. "I do not know you," she stated. "And your Shego has been our 'subject of study' for the past few years. And as for your friend, as cute as he is, why should I care if he lives and dies?" She paused and looked at Kim, her voice blank of emotion. "I have lost my job, my credibility and my lover, all for what I did on Saturday. Tell me, what should I be grateful for?"

Stemming the eruption of Mount Kim, the teen took a deep breath and stood up sharply so that she could step away from the woman. "You did the right thing," she snapped. "Is that not enough?" When the woman didn't answer she started pacing, shaking her hands in anger. "Forgive me for saying this but you had a shitty job to begin with. You will find another I'm sure. And, in my books and those of the world, your credibility has risen because you did the right thing. And as for your lover, I'm sure she'll forgive you. But, if you had let Shego die, that would've been one thing that could not be undone. And, maybe not now but later, her face would've come back to you and you would have had to live with the regret of what you've done."

Seemingly taken aback by her speech, Leanne stared at her for several moments. She took off her glasses and rubbed at her eyes. Then, when she put them back on, she gave Kim an open expression.

"You look awfully cute when you're angry."

Completely derailed by her words, Kim chocked and stepped back. "Ah..." she blinked at Leanne, then at the guards who were still lounging down the hallway and sat down again. "Ah, thanks. I think."

Leanne chuckled to herself and folded her hands in her lap, leaning forward to look at the floor. She studied the monotone patterns for a while then sighed deeply.

"You're wrong about one thing," her tone was mild, almost amused. "Teryl won't forgive me. It's not in her nature. It's one of the reason's I haven't seen her yet, she doesn't want to let me into the room."

Kim swallowed and shook her head. "Don't be silly," she said. "She's... just not feeling well. And, yes, she probably is angry with you but it will pass." Why was she defending the woman?

Leanne gave her a sideways glance, her mouth twisted with humourless amusement. "You think so?" she queried and shook her head. "No, young one, she won't. I have known her for quite a few years now and I know that forgiveness is not within her grasp." She sat back and shrugged. "I knew it the moment I realized what I had to do," she admitted. "You see, I think deep down Teryl has always used her inability to forgive Shannon, for walking out on her all those years ago, as justification for her project. I'm not saying it was the only reason, but I know my Boss, and I think it did feature."

Kim frowned at her and shook her head. "I... What else featured?" she queried. "I mean, how... How do you do that to someone you loved? I don't care about justification. How could she do it? It can't just be because she's a scientist or a broken hearted lover."

Leanne snorted and shook her head. "Just because I was her lover," she said dryly, "doesn't necessarily mean that I was privy to her thoughts."

This time it was Kim's turn to snort. "Don't give me that," she said. "What kind of a relationship were you in if you didn't talk to each other?"

It disturbed her that Leanne actually looked amused by the question. "We were in..." she paused and looked at the wall, "a partnership, according to her. I don't think Teryl's had a relationship in years."

Kim had to look back at the woman. "And according to you?"

Leanne shrugged. "My thoughts never really mattered," she admitted. "But, if you must know. I love her. She is passionate, smart, intense, and if she makes a decision she pursues it whole heartedly and with no regrets... Even if I knew she could never love me as much as I loved her, the fact that she loved me was enough. And, to come back to the subject that started all of this, that is why I helped you. Not for your sake, or your Shego's or even your goofy side-kick. I helped her because I could not see her change any further. I could not see her step over that edge that she had been balancing on for so long. And frankly," she sighed, her features becoming harder. "It wasn't what I signed up for. In the beginning, what we did was almost like... playing a computer game. Everything happened at a distance, the data that we gathered, our experiments, the initial trial and error of honing onto the nanocyte's signal. It was all data to me. Then, one day, it became so much more than that when I had to come to this very hospital to check up on Shego's progress or her lack of it if you will. Even as I was taking her DNR from her file, I started realizing that we were walking over a dangerous edge. You see, we didn't know that this would happen to Shego. We had thought that we would be able to... Borrow her powers without her knowing, like scooping water out of the ocean. One cup doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. I certainly didn't become a part of this to become the silent killer." She hugged her arms to her chest and looked at the floor again. "Perhaps I wouldn't have minded if..." she sighed. "I don't know. It had not been Teryl's previous girlfriend."

Kim studied her hunched figure, trying to grasp what she was saying. Glancing behind her into the window she frowned before looking back to Leanne. "You started wondering whether she would be able to do this to you."

When Leanne didn't reply to her but rather gave her a remorseful smile Kim sat back and felt an overwhelming sense of pity for the woman. She carefully reached out and touched her shoulder, squeezing it briefly before pulling back. They sat in silence for a while until Kim shifted and caught a brief moment out of the corner of her eye. Looking back she saw Shego get up and, using her IV stand as support, slowly make her way to the door. She stood up but glanced down to where Leanne was still sitting with her arms wrapped against her chest.

"What will you do now?" she queried. "I mean, if you know that she's not going to see you, what are you still doing here?"

The pale woman looked at her and sighed softly. "Hope," she said. "And, I'm meeting a new potential employer. But, it's just a potential one, nothing's on paper yet."

Feeling a spark of relief for the woman's sake Kim smiled and moved to the door so that she could be with Shego the moment she stepped out of the room. "Who?" She queried.

There was an unreadable expression on Leanne's face when she sat back and replied;

"Global Justice..."

&&&

When she first entered the room, Teryl had been asleep. Shego had slowly made her way to the bed, her feet barely able to keep her up, her chest protesting every time she took so much as a shallow breath. The walk here had exhausted her but she had refused all aid. She would never show weakness again, especially not in the company of this woman. She had thought about a lot of things the moment she became aware of herself. She had thought about her brothers and what an injustice she would've done them had she not made it. She had thought about the loyal Kim Possible who, according to word of mouth, had almost killed for her. And, she had thought about a young woman who had one evening so many years ago, followed another outside for supper under the stars. The young woman had been enthralled by the other, mesmerized by the evening and eventually, by a kiss stolen over a glass of wine, been tied to her.

As that young woman, as what ever remained in her of Shannon Go, Shego knew that she could never stop loving this woman before her. Never begrudge her for what she had done. But, as the woman she was, as Shego – she could hold her responsible for it.

Power always came with responsibility. It was the oldest rule in the book and the biggest cliché ever to be flaunted by movies. And, it also came at a price, one she and her brothers had paid over and over again.

To think then that someone had just tried to take it, much less someone she cared for...

It made her think twice about the duty of responsibility.

Reaching the bed, Shego took a moment to study the figure before her. The changes she had stared to see in Teryl when she came back from Europe had all but taken over her body. She looked nothing like the young woman she had loved in college, the person who was willing to accept her despite her unnatural powers.

What happened to you? Shego thought as she slowly reached for the woman. Surely, it wasn't just all me?

When she enclosed her hand around the woman's throat, she jerked awake, her blue eyes locking with hers. They looked at each other for several moments until Shego started squeezing her throat tighter.

"Do you know," she said calmly, "I've discovered that – with much the same way I can charge objects, I can also charge human flesh. Of course, the human body doesn't handle it quite as well as say, a piece of charcoal."

The heart monitor beeped, but Teryl's face remained calm. "Do it," she said softly. "Show me."

The anger and the power were there, all she had to do was release. For a split second she knew that she could. It was all there, ready for her to use. Her hand tightened on so much on Teryl's throat that the woman visibly started gasping for air, but her eyes remained calm, even expectant. For a second Shego squeezed as hard as she could, and willed herself to release her power but then, the moment passed and she suddenly found herself slumped in the chair that had been next to her, her body jarred by coughs that made her chest feel as if someone was stabbing a knife in it. In the time it took her to control her breathing, Teryl could gather herself again. Rubbing her throat, the woman struggled up into a more upright position and looked at Shego, her blue eyes clear of all emotions.

"Ask me," she said simply. "I know that's why you came here for."

Blinking tears of pain, Shego clutched her chest and looked up at the woman, still gasping.

"Why?" she managed. "Why you?"

Teryl shrugged and laid back, her hand unconsciously travelling to her hip. "Because I could," she said. "And you couldn't, as you just showed."

Shego's temper flared again and she almost leapt up to grab the woman. "So?" she snapped. "You would've liked to see me kill you? Incinerate you from the inside out?"

Sighing, Teryl shook her head and shifted again. "No," she admitted. "But it would've been nice to see you act."

Feeling as if her heart had been torn out of her chest, Shego sat back and regarded her old lover, wishing that she could understand what was happening. "I don't know what you mean," she managed. "Teryl... I don't know."

For a moment she thought that the woman won't explain, but then she sighed and met her gaze openly. "I got the sense from you Shannon, even when you were at university, that you were always one step behind yourself. You never acted for yourself, never reached for your full potential. You marks, though good, were held back by your participation in your brothers' little crime fighting team and your involvement there was hampered by your studies. You never strove to advance your powers, unless encouraged by me. You wouldn't even have accepted it if I had not prompted you to. You could've done so many things Shego, but instead you choose to stand one step behind everybody else."

Rubbing her tears, Shego glared at the woman. "And what would you have had me do?" she queried. "Take a step out in front? It was not the kind of life that I wanted! It still isn't."

She could see the regret in Teryl's face. "I know," she said wistfully. "That's why it's so unfair that someone like you were born with powers so extraordinary. I've always known that you were only utilizing a drop of your potential, but I didn't fully grasp it until I joined the industry."

Shego sniffed. "And, by the industry you mean the people who employed you?" she queried. "Who tried to kill me?"

Teryl didn't reply but looked away, beyond Shego. "That wasn't entirely the idea," she said mildly. "But, unfortunately our research had its side effects here towards the end. We didn't want to attract that much attention to ourselves."

She almost lunged at the woman again, but kept her temper in tight control. Biting her lip, she took a deep breath and shook her head. "So, this had all been planned," she said blankly. "From the day I left you, to the day I showed up on your door two years later. What a stroke of luck it must've been for you. And then, let me guess, you put me with the megalomaniac with the worst track record in history to make sure that I... Stay one step behind as you say. Brilliant, Teryl, as always... Thank you very much."

She started standing up when the woman shook her head. "It was never personal Shego," she said with a shrug. "It ceased being personal the day you walked out on me. You made your choice that day, and I made mine. This was all business... science. I wouldn't have let you die you know, unless it really couldn't be stopped. We were going to move you to the facility."

Shego snorted and pulled herself up. Even moving her arms hurt her broken ribs.

"You are worse than Drakken," she sneered and pulled her IV stand closer. "At least he knows on which side he plays. I'm sorry Teryl, that I was such a big disappointment to you. And I'm sorry when I say that this is not just business or science. It was personal because I almost died. I understand, I think, why you did this. What I just can't understand is why you did it to me." Shego shook her head and started heading towards the door. "I'm not going to say anything else; because I think you've gone to that place in your head where you have ceased to understand what it is to listen. But, here me now – if you ever come close to me or mine again, I will kill you..."

&&&

Kim could see that Shego was upset when she opened the door, but one look from the woman ceased all questions she wanted to ask.

"You just keep popping up everywhere don't you?" Shego growled as she slowly moved past her. "Don't you have a life?"

Glancing at Leanne, still reeling from her reply, Kim quickly moved in next to Shego – aware of how unbalanced the woman seemed on her feet. "School's out," she tried to say in a light voice. "And, since crime fighting is my life... well... You're it."

Shego glared at her and continued to move on, the dressing gown hanging off of her like an oversized coat. With one last look in Leanne's direction, Kim quickly fell in step next to Shego without crowding her too much. Unable to decide what to say, she settled for the most basic question.

"Are you alright?"

Shego actually glared at her and walked up straighter. "What's it to you, Miss Priss?" she snapped. "Worried that I might never be able to fight you again?"

Kim flinched at her tone, but she knew that Shego wasn't angry at her per say. "No," she replied and carefully reached to put her hand on the woman's back. "I'm worried about you Shego because... I care."

Shego didn't relent immediately, but glared down at her and abruptly stopped in her tracks. None the less, Kim could see the tears that she was struggling to hold back. "And what makes you think that I do?" When Kim didn't say anything but continued staring at her, her face suddenly contracted in pain and she wrapped her one arm around her chest. Kim watched as she looked down to the ground then abruptly turned her face away, rubbing at her cheeks.

With her heart aching for the woman, Kim slipped her arm around Shego completely. She first gave her a light hug, careful of hurting her further and then remained next to her. Although Shego didn't look at her immediately, Kim felt her shift her weight ever so slightly so that she could lean on the teenager. After taking a breath, Shego sniffed and swallowed, shaking her head to herself. Without making a scene of it, she put her arm around Kim and allowed her to start walking, carefully shifting so that she supported her weight. The guards fell in around them, but gave the two women their space.

When she had her emotions under control, Kim felt Shego sigh and shake her head, her face now blank.

"I should've killed her," she whispered as they entered her ward.

Kim smiled slightly and briefly allowed her head to touch the woman's. "So should I," she said. "We can always go back? Third time's a charm you now. And now there are two of us..."

Shego snorted and shook her head. "Are you even listening to yourself?" she queried dryly. "Honestly Pumpkin, do you want to go down that road?"

Kim sniffed and said abruptly. "With you? Yes." When the super villain blinked at her in genuine surprise she realized what she had said and shook her head quickly. "I mean no. No, not in the evil kind of sense but I mean..." She sighed. "I guess what I'm trying to say Shego is that... I want to be here for you. Really I... I do."

The anger that had previously filled Shego's face filtered away and was replaced by a soft emotion Kim could not place. Meeting the woman's gaze, Kim felt a resonance of warmth. "And now, Cupcake – do you even know what you're offering?"

She didn't exactly, she wasn't sure herself and the woman saw it. Sighing, Shego tightened the arm that was around her. "Enthusiastic," she said with a small smile, "and young." She sighed and closed her eyes, the wave of pain washing back over her.

Kim didn't say anything until they reached Shego's room. The guards remained outside when the two women walked in, resuming their lounging air. Kim took Shego to her bed and carefully helped the woman sit down.

"I can't believe how much weight you've lost," she said quietly as she noticed Shego's thin arms.

Shego clenched her fists, studying her arms and taking note of every bruise she could see. Needles were sometimes more brutal than fists. She sighed and shook her head.

"I can't believe how much I've lost," she said softly – though she had not intended to say it out loud.

Kim looked at her and sighed. She went to stand in front of the woman and touched both her hands. "Did she explain to you why she did it?" When Shego jerked and blinked at her Kim quickly added. "You don't have to say if you don't want to."

The dark haired woman looked at her for a moment then sighed, moving her one hand away from Kim so that she could rub at her eyes.

"Power," she said softly. "It was her obsession with mine. I think, if you take everything else away, that's what it boils down to. I had it and she wanted it."

Kim blinked at her. "It can't be that simple," she stated to which Shego shook her head.

"Isn't it?" the woman queried. "Think about it Pumpkin, when are you afraid... truly and deeply afraid? Why are you alone?" She waited a moment then took the cheerleader's hands in hers. "Power..." She enclosed her hands around the girl's. "You feel powerless when you're alone. You feel powerless when you're afraid. A situation that you're comfortable with is just a situation that you feel in power. Is it so way out to want it?" When Kim opened her mouth to protest Shego shushed her with a shake of her head. "Don't deny it," she said softly. "We both know you're not that stupid."

Kim took a quick breath to stop the tightness from spreading in her chest as she looked into the woman's emerald eyes. "Are you still defending her?" she queried. "After everything she's done to you? Do you still justify her actions?" When Shego didn't answer her Kim took an abrupt step back. "Do you still love her?!"

For the first time, the tears that Shego had held back for so long started streaming down her face as she blinked and looked down. "I will never be free of her Princess," she said softly. "Never... She was my first love and it is something I can never walk away from. Never... Like her nanocytes had invaded my blood, her touch had invaded my body. Ingrained herself in me, I can never get rid of that. And I hate her for it." The last was said with the same feral growl that Shego always had when she was angry. She closed her eyes, but the tears didn't stop. Kim looked at her in a kind of shock before she slowly stepped closer again and rested her hands on her shoulders. When Shego didn't move away from her touch, Kim closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around the woman as tightly as she dared with her broken ribs, the pain she sensed in her echoing through her soul. She couldn't even say anything, because she knew that it was not alright. But, she thought as she let her arch-nemesis cry, resting her head on the woman's, it will be for her.

One day.

&&&

Wade's call came the next day, in between Biology and Latin.

"Kim!" he said immediately as she opened her locker. "I just got a call from Dr. Director."

The teen sniffed and glared at him, shoving her books up onto the computer screen. A soft toy dislodged itself from the cramped space and fell to the ground. Before Kim could grab it Bonnie swooped in and picked it up.

"Ooh!" she exclaimed. "Kimmie can't even leave the house without her Pandaroo!" She waved the toy in the red head's face.

Kim growled and snatched it from her hands. "It's not mine Bonnie," she snapped and shoved the Cuddle Buddy back into her locker. "It's for a friend."

Her fellow cheerleader snorted and tossed her hair. "That's what they all say Kimmie," she said and walked away. "It's not welcome at cheer practice. We're still trying to get rid of the last thing you dragged in."

Ron walked up behind Kim and glared at Bonnie. "You know," she said. "I have to wonder what her mother raised her on. Sour milk?"

Kim snorted and shook her head before she turned her attention back to Wade who was waving at the camera, trying to get their attention.

"Tell Dr. Director that she should stop trying to contact me, I don't want to talk to her right now."

Wade shook his head and shot Ron a desperate look. "That's not what it's about," he said. "She said that the U.S. Marshals have gotten involved. They've taken jurisdiction over Shego and are coming to collect her today."

Kim blinked at him for a full minute before she managed to find her voice. "What?!" she queried. "But... She's not arrested!"

Wade shook his head. "Kim!" he exclaimed. "She's a wanted fugitive. What did you expect? I'm surprised INTERPOL didn't get their hands in there first." When Kim didn't move Wade sighed and shook his head. "Dr. Director says that she's stalling them. She said that she knows you would want to go and say good bye. I have a taxi waiting outside; it's the quickest thing I could manage. The bill's been paid."

Kim gaped at him and shook her head, feeling sluggish. "I can't believe they are doing this," she said. "I mean... They can't."

It was Ron who pushed her away from the locker, grabbing the Pandaroo and putting it into her hands. "Go," he said. "I'll excuse you in Latin. Go on KP."

Blinking at her friends, Kim hugged the soft toy to her chest and ran.

&&&

When she reached the hospital, there was already a commotion in the hall. Kim watched numbly as a pair of U.S. Marshals spoke to Shego's guards. One of them with short black hair and a small moustache looked vaguely familiar and he certainly recognized her because he came over and slapped her on the back.

"Shouldn't you be in school, Miss," he said with a smile. "Or do teen heroes get extra credit? Who's your friend?"

She blinked at the Cuddle Buddy and shoved it in behind her back. "What's going on here?" she asked. "You... You guys can't take Shego. She's still very weak."

The man's blond partner came over with a nod of his head. "That may be, Ma'am," he said in a strong accent. "But, that's one of the reasons they want to transfer her now. She'll be placed in the infirmary immediately, don't you worry. We're just avoiding her breaking out of here."

Kim glared at him and shook her head. "Forgive me for saying this," she snapped. "But this is just kicking a person when she's down. Where's Dr. Hong?"

The first man with the moustache motioned to Shego's room. "In there, having a chat," he said. "She sure is one hell of a spitfire."

Kim sniffed and went to the window. Sure enough, Dr. Hong was standing beside Shego's bed, buttoning up the flannel shirt the woman was wearing with a martyred expression on her face. Shego in turn was looking at the woman with a touch of tired amusement. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, both her hands holding onto the edge as if it was the only thing she could do to remain upright. Dr. Hong was talking to Shego as she straightened her shirt, her expression changing from stern anger to frustrated concern. She had already removed the IV from Shego's wrist and it took Kim a moment or two to realize that Shego's hair had also been braided back in a loose plate. When the doctor stepped back with a critical expression on her face Shego smiled at her and said something to which the doctor raised a dismissive hand.

"Just get better," Kim saw her mouth through the window. Shego smiled and nodded weakly and, after a moment's consideration, held out her hand.

Dr. Hong grinned and held up her hands in a mock gesture of surrender before she took Shego's hand in both of hers and shook it.

"Thank you," Kim saw Shego mouth, to which Dr. Hong replied with her same dismissive air. "My pleasure..." Both women must've sensed then that they were being watched because they looked up and around as one. Kim's stomach twisted painfully when Dr. Hong sighed and smiled, motioning to her to come into the room. Not looking at the U.S. Marshals, Kim quickly opened the door and walked inside. Dr. Hong was looking at Shego again. She had released her hand but had placed one on the woman's shoulder.

"You take care," she said. "It's been interesting Shego. I'm so sorry about this; I don't have the authority to stop them."

Shego sighed, and with a look in Kim's direction, shook her head. "I knew it was going to happen," she said with a small smile. "The only reason they haven't come to collect me yet, is probably because they didn't want me to die when I was in their custody. I hear the paper work is hell if that happens."

The doctor snorted a laugh but squeezed Shego's shoulder and stepped away from the bed. "Don't joke," she said. "Good luck Shego, I'm going to go and brief them on how they should treat you." She walked to the curtain and pulled it around the bed so that the view from the window would be blocked. "We'll talk later Kimberlee."

She left them without another word, her iron grey bun disappearing through the door. Both Shego and Kim watched her leave before Shego sighed and slowly got off of the bed.
"I still haven't forgiven her for my nails," she said blankly. "But, I guess seeing as how she saved my life I can't really hold it against her. Shouldn't you be in school, Muffin?"

Kim blinked at the new nickname and looked down to her hands. She suddenly felt silly, clutching a Cuddle Buddy. "Wade told me that they're taking you," she said numbly. "I... had to come and..." She didn't know what to say suddenly, her mouth dry. Shego gave her a curious look and leaned against the wall, touching her chest gingerly.

"Bring Joe for a walk?" she queried dryly and motioned to the Pandaroo. "Or does he have a stomach ache?"

Kim sniffed and shook her head. "Ah, no," she said quickly, feeing very embarrassed suddenly. "He's... for you... I know it's silly but..."

Shego shook her head, interrupting Kim's torrent, and held out her hand. "Let's have it then," she said, her voice betraying no emotion. Feeling like a school girl handing in her report card, Kim surrendered the Pandaroo. Still leaning against the wall, Shego turned him over in her hands, her fingers studying him even if her eyes were watching Kim. "Thank you," she said simply. "It figures that you of all people would have thought of giving me one of these. And it's really lame. But thank you."

Kim could tell immediately that her heart had not been in the last comment and knew that somehow, Shego was very pleased with the gift. She smiled at the woman, still searching for something to say.

"You ah... Look different... Your clothes..?"

Shego glanced down and shook her head. "Spares that the hospital has," she said. "I wasn't up to leaving here in my nightie and bathrobe. Drakken had had the charm to bring me flowers, taken this time from poor Mrs. Holmes and her broken leg, but not the sense to bring me some clothes." She sighed and touched the shirt. "This reminds me of an old, unkind lesbian joke I heard once."

Kim opened her mouth, still struggling to think of anything to say under the woman's unblinking green stare. "You look nice," she said. "Differently nice... What's the joke?"

Shego snorted and shook her head, her eyes travelling to the Pandaroo as her braid dropped over her shoulder.

"What's the difference between a lesbian and a whale?"

Kim opened her mouth, and then shrugged, she was starting to blush and she didn't know why. Shego smiled bitterly and sniffed. "Flannel shirts," she pointed out.

Kim snorted, although she didn't feel like laughing. "I'm sorry," she said.

Shego shrugged and put the Pandaroo on the bed's table beside Mrs. Holmes's flowers and Kim's Irises. "It's very unkind," she said. "Flannel shirts are very comfortable, especially if they are someone else's."

Kim shook her head again, unable to find the right words. "I am sorry Shego," she said again. "I'm really sorry."

The woman smiled slightly and raised an eyebrow at the teenager. "It's just a joke Pumpkin," she said. "Don't worry about it."

She had wanted to protest softly but instead, to her shock found herself shouting. "This is not about the whale!"

Shego blinked and leaned back a bit, watching her expectantly. Breathing heavily, Kim closed her eyes and shook her head. "This is so unfair!" she snapped. "They can't take you!"

Shego coughed suddenly, a gesture that very clearly pained her, but she managed to shake her head. "They can Kimmie," she said blankly as she touched her chest. "Why shouldn't they?"

The teen sniffed and shook her head. "You weren't arrested," she pointed out to which Shego nodded.

"True," the woman said. "But, I should be and I'm going to be the moment I leave this room. I have a criminal record you know."

Kim blinked at her and shook her head again. "But the injustice here was done against you!" she snapped. "Teryl is lying there on the other side of the hospital, with probably not a thing done against her. Her secretary, who helped us, gets fired. You get arrested. Where's the justice in that?! Tell me!"

Shego sighed softly and shook her head. "Come here Kimmie," she said softly and held out her hands. "Come on, let me tell you something."

Unable to stop herself, knowing that they were obscured from view by the curtain, Kim stepped closer and allowed Shego to pull her into a hug. It was a gentle one, because it must've been excruciating for the woman, but it was a secure one. Holding the teenager, Shego took a steadying breath and rested her head against Kim's.

"The wheel turns Kim," she said softly. "It always does. It might not happen today, or tomorrow. But it will turn."

Kim barked a bitter laugh and shook her head. "That's a shitty argument," she said. "How the hell did you pass philosophy?"

Shego chuckled, though it was accompanied by a winch in pain. "Hard work," she said. "Come on, I need to sit down. I don't know why you're so upset by this Pumpkin. You know that I'll break out eventually."

Kim snorted a laugh when they were seated on the bed, their hands inexplicably entwined. "I guess... I just wanted more time to figure this out," she admitted. She felt Shego's smile more than saw it, for her attention was on their hands.

"Figure what out?" the villainess queried.

Kim's face started burning as her Blush returned. It was one of those super ones that draped her whole body in a hot, red glow. "This," she said softly. "Myself..." She hesitated. "Us?"

It was encouraging to hear that Shego didn't laugh. Instead the woman smiled and rested her hand on the side of Kim's cheek, raising it so that they could look each other in the eyes. "You think there's an 'us'?"

Kim couldn't answer her, but found that her mouth was dryer than it had ever been. "That's..." her voice was shaking. "What I don't know Shego. I don't know what this is. Am I just protective? Am I... disillusioned? Relieved that you are alright? Being silly?" She hesitated. "Gay?" She laughed suddenly. "Are you feeling anything?"

Shego was quiet for a very long time, her hands stationary in Kim's as she gazed out of the window. When she heard a small 'thunk' against the glass, almost like an insect striking the pane, she sighed and smiled at the teenager.

"Well, I have a test you know," she said with a small smile. "It will only take a second."

Kim swallowed against the desert in her throat, her body shaking in anticipation. "H..." the first sound she made was unsuccessful. "How does it work?"

Shego smiled in a considering fashion and pretended to think. "Hmmm," she said and traced a line down Kim's cheek. "It's... complicated. It's more in what happens afterwards, than the test itself, you understand?"

Still unable to breathe or think, Kim nodded numbly. Shego smiled encouraging and leaned closer. "You've kissed a boy before right?" she queried, her voice low. "Well, how did that make you feel? Excited? Changed for the rest of your life? Did you feel as if your insides were on your outside and your outsides were all over the place?"

Kim swallowed again, unable to take her eyes away from Shego's. "I... Don't know," she admitted. "Maybe..."

Her answered seemed to please Shego for the woman smiled and leaned closer. "Believe me Princess," she said softly, Kim could already feel her breath just touching her face. "You'll know. It's not a moment that passes unnoticed. When I'm done, and you feel as I have described now. If all you can think about is this moment, here and now. Then my dear, I am sorry – but you will live an extraordinary life. Nothing will ever be the same again. So," she paused and leaned closer. "Are you ready?"

She knew what was coming; her whole body and being could sense it. Kim tried to breathe, but her breath got caught in her throat and her tongue stuck to her palate. Yet, she nodded, slowly and leaned forward to accept the woman's mouth on hers. Shego's gentle, almost hesitant touch was a sharp contrast to the sudden fire she felt inside her. At first, all she could do was close her eyes and savour the feeling of the soft lips on hers, then slowly as the fire inside her grew more intense she found herself releasing Shego's hand so that she could slip it around her back. Leaning closer, she started kissing Shego back, an action that prompted the woman to be more daring. Shego's one hand rose up to caress her arms, touch her chest and squeeze her knee while the other one travelled up to her neck, first tracing the line of her jugular down to her breast then travelling up to her cheek. Kim's world felt as if it was melting away, every time Shego's tongue touched hers, every time the woman moved her hand over her body. She vaguely heard a whimper of pain from deep inside the villainess throat and briefly tried to pull away but Shego tangled her fingers into her hair and pulled her closer as if drinking her very essence. Kim tried to gasp for air without breaking contact with the woman, well aware of the warm tears that flowed down her cheeks and her body shaking with fear, excitement and anticipation. She pulled away briefly, caught a sight of Shego's emerald eyes and then gasped as the flare of green fire exploded in her mind...

&&&

Gasping in pain, tears streaming down her cheeks, Shego carefully lowered the unconscious Kim Possible to the bed, the green fire dying away from the hand she had had tangled in the cheerleader's hair. Her body was shaking almost as much as her heart was racing and she longed, craved to feel Kim's soft lips on hers just one more time.

What have I done? Shego thought as she pushed Kim's hair out of her now pale face, rubbing away the patch where their tears had met. Why did I do this to myself now? This wasn't a game...

Touching her mouth, she took a steadying breath, forcing herself to calm her mind and her body and then looked up, out of the window. Swallowing, still struggling for breath she stood up and rubbed the tears from her cheeks.

Do what you have to do. There was a knock on the door.

Shego closed her eyes and took a deep breath before igniting her hands. It was a bitter sweet gesture, for there had been moments when she was stuck in this place where she thought she would never be able to do it again.

When the second knock came, more insistent this time – Shego took a deep breath despite the protest in her chest and threw her flames at the window. She knew exactly how much energy to put in it to make it shatter instead of bounce back. The effect wasn't as spectacular as it would've been in the ICU, but it was sufficient. Seconds after it shattered, Dr. Drakken appeared in his hovercraft, his face impatient as usual.
"Shego!" he snapped as she prepared herself to leap through the window. "Behind you!"

She turned instinctively and threw a blast of plasma at the U.S. Marshal who was storming up from behind her. She turned again, ready to leap out but suddenly remembered the Pandaroo. Snatching it from the table, regretting that she would have to leave the flowers, Shego tucked it in underneath her arm and shot another blast of fire at the other U.S. Marshal that was storming into the room. Then, unable to stop herself, she touched Kim Possible one last time before she leapt out of the window. Her chest protested with every movement and she started coughing the moment she was seated next to Drakken, but it was nothing compared to the unexpected pain she felt at leaving Kim behind like this. There's so much I want to show you, she thought.

Struggling with the controls as usual, it took Drakken a second longer than it should've to blast away allowing him time to briefly look into the chaos of the hospital room. His unibrow climbed up his forehead when he saw Kim sprawled on the bed.
"Now that was unnecessary!" he said as he fidgeted with the controls. "She helped you, you know. I figured we're on some sort of truce." He finally got the hovercraft in motion and blast off, skimming the top off of a tree standing in the hospital gardens. Patients and staff alike looked up aghast as they sped off.

Unable to help herself, Shego glanced back even though she could not see anything anymore.

"I didn't hurt her," she said blankly. "I... just kissed her." She didn't mean to say it out loud but Drakken heard it and snorted.

"Bloody young people," he muttered. "If this is what a kiss does, I would hate to know what happens when..."

&&&

She woke up in her mother's office, lying comfortably on the leather couch. Kim looked at the blank roof in confusion and touched her lips with her tongue. She tasted... something...

She blinked suddenly and sat up, her world spinning around her. "Shego," she gasped. "Shego?"

"She overpowered you."

Feeling as if her whole body was in the middle of a gigantic twister, Kim looked around for the voice and found that Dr. Betty Director was sitting on the opposite chair, her face blank as she studied her. "It was a low blow, pretending to be so weak."

Kim's hands were shaking and it took all she had not to touch her mouth. She could still smell the woman around her; feel her touch...

"Where is she?"

Dr. Director twisted her head to the one side and raised her single eyebrow.

"She's probably in the Bahamas by now," she said calmly. "Drakken busted her out with his hovercraft. And we've got another room to put on the hospital's insurance bill. I heard the Chief of Staff say that he's not sure their policy covers this kind of damage. Are you in any pain? Your mother should be here shortly."

Kim shuddered and touched her head, trying to piece together what had happened. She didn't remember anything about Drakken. Only...

"No," she said shortly. "Why are you here?"

The woman shifted and stood up to sit down next to the teen. Kim shifted but didn't stand up to get away from her. She wanted to, but she didn't trust her feet to stand on her own just yet.

"To see if you're alright and I told your mother I'd watch you," Dr. Director said. "And I wanted to apologize. Not as a part of Global Justice, but as a person. Me. That's why I've been trying to contact you these past few days. You probably don't want to hear it right now, or don't feel up to it. But, I'm sorry for letting you down."

Kim closed her eyes but, when she did, all she could see was Shego's eyes looking back at her. She couldn't help but feel that gravity had forsaken her and she suspected that it had nothing to do with her brief bout of unconsciousness. She grabbed at a thought, trying hard to focus.

"It's alright," she found herself saying and meaning it. "You didn't have anything to do with this, I know that much. GJ's betrayal wasn't yours. I'm sorry if I took my emotions out on you."

Dr. Director blinked at her and chuckled softly, laying a hand on her shoulder. "You truly can do anything Kimberlee Ann Possible," she said. "Even forgive a friend when you're obviously half conscious and disorientated."

Kim touched her head and laughed bitterly. "If only it was that," she said with a bitter chuckle. "What's going to happen now?"

"What do you mean?"

Kim took a steadying breath and forced herself to look at the woman, hoping that none of her emotions showed. "What's going to happen?" she said again. "With Shego, Teryl Adamson, Leanne? What about their research? This could happen again."

Dr. Director sighed and sat back. "I don't think it will," she said, "not now that our attention is on them. But, if it will – you'll be better prepared. Shego is in no more danger now than she had been. There have always been people who would like nothing better than to have her on their dissecting table. This is just the first time one of them managed to get at her."

Kim sniffed, feeling terribly threatened by the idea.

"And what will happen to Teryl Adamson?"

Again the other woman sighed. "She'll be transferred from this hospital to one of her company's private clinics the moment Dr. Hong signs her release papers," she said. "If you ask me what's going to happen, I'll venture a guess and say that she'll be booked off for a period of time and they will hand in a big letter of apology to who ever needs to get it, claiming that her freedom of research send her over the edge. They have the evidence for it. She'll be put on a lighter program, maybe retired whilst secretly still assisting them in what ever project she would be of use. A mind like that will never be wasted. And, as for Leanne, she's considering a job in Global Justice itself. I figured that that's the best way of stopping at least some of the knowledge that she has from leaking out into the rest of the world. And, I've always needed a secretary."

She listened to what the woman was saying, but realized that she didn't really hear her. Kim swallowed and pushed herself up. Her world spun precariously and before she knew it Dr. Director was at her side, putting an arm around her to steady her. Her touch sent shivers up Kim's spine and once again, all she could think about was how Shego had kissed her.

"Are you alright Kim?" the director asked again, her voice truly concerned. Kim could only look at her, her mouth still dry. This was what Shego had meant, she thought as she allowed the woman to ease her back to the couch and leave the room to call her mother or somebody who might help. They would fuss, Kim knew it. She would be put through a million tests to make sure that she really wasn't hurt, even if she probably had gone through them in the time that she was unconscious. They would find nothing, and she would be send home with a strict order to rest. And, all the while, through everything and probably for the rest of her life, Kim would be sure of only one thing.
She was forever doomed to live an extraordinary life, to love in an extraordinary way and to be in love with an extraordinary woman.

She was forever changed by the Touch of Green Fire.

&&&

And finally in her room, Shego carefully put the Pandaroo down next to her reading lamp. She caressed its dark body, unable to rid her mind of the picture of Kim giving it to her. She would've loved to flop down on her bed but settled for lowering herself gingerly. She closed her eyes for a moment and savoured the feeling of her own bed and her own smell around her. When she heard a knock on her door and, seconds later, heard it open she didn't even bother shouting at the person but rather just opened her eyes and watched Drakken as he came closer, a tray of food in his hands.

"I've brought you some Coco-moo," he said awkwardly, "and a bowl of my mother's chicken soup. I called her up to have her bring some over... it's a miracle worker."

Shego snorted and closed her one eye so that she could squint at her employer. "She's not coming over is she?" she queried.

Drakken shook his head and put the tray down, stepping away from the bed as quickly as he could. "No," he said. "She's already left, but I was thinking... We need a change of lair for a bit. I did some research and there's a place available in Cypress. Sunny beaches, health spas." He rubbed his neck and pretended to be gruff. "It's the perfect place for my evil muse to be creative. And I expect you to stay away underfoot; I would hate to have you in the lair all the time."

Shego smiled at him and closed both her eyes. "With all those beaches around?" she queried. "You wish."

He hovered for a moment longer then cleared his throat. "Well then, I'm ah... Glad that's settled. See you later Shego."

She waited until he was at the door before she called him back. "Hey, Doctor Dee..." She heard him hesitate and could feel him looking at her again.

"Yes?"

She didn't open her eyes, but smiled and shifted into a more comfortable position.
"Thanks."

He didn't say anything to that, but left shortly after. Shego sighed and gingerly reached out and picked up the Pandaroo. She once again caressed its body, as one would a kitten, and then carefully hugged it to her chest. She had a lot to think about in the time she would be in bed. She had to put her experience with Teryl in its right place in her mind, re-evaluate her feelings for Kim Possible and try and come to terms with what happened. But, it could wait. What she truly wanted to do was curl up next to the Cuddle Buddy and sleep.

It was a poor substitute, but it would do.

For now...

&&&

FIN

Original AN - written 31st December 2008: With the New Year already sneaking past Melbourne already, Alyssa finishes this by the skin of her teeth...

So. Happy New Year everybody.

Wow. Done. And now, I have no idea what else to say. When I started this story, only the end was written, or clear in my mind rather. I had to build everything else around it. Now it's done, and I'm satisfied, as hopefully you, the reader is.
I have to say that, despite the time it took me to write this, it was an excellent story to work on because I never stumbled (as I do with so many of my other things). Maybe because I knew my destination, I enjoyed the journey tremendously. Like the well trodden path home, I knew exactly where I was going with this. Took me longer to get there than I imagined, but I managed.

Without sounding like an actor receiving an Oscar, I would like to thank a few people for their support and friendship. Firstly, to you the reader who delighted me with your reviews and even just by showing up on my visitor's count. I've never had traffic this congested ;) To the friends I made through this, especially Master Matt and his presence by my side in the battle against the ?'s. A big thank you to Immortal7 for his permission to use the phrase 'eruption of Mt. Kim.' It took me a while, but I finally worked it in there. :P

And, then to sound very sappy and even though she'll never read this, to my mother. Unbeknownst to you, I almost lost her six weeks ago thanks to a vicious virus that turned her own immune system against her and left her paralysed from the neck down. I raced back home, thinking that I came to attend her funeral and instead came to share in the remarkable moment when my mother walked back into our home on the 24th of December, aided only by a cane. Miracles do happen.

To my real life friends who are reading this, thank you. To Ingrid for her home and love, thank you even more. And, to Imbrem's Ward. For love, for everything. Thank you.

Now, I'm going to love and leave you to the New Year. ;) This is definitively not the last you'll see of me though.
Thank you very much for everything, for every review and every hit. It is always deeply appreciated.

Yours in writing,

Alyssa.

-;--