A/N: This story is set in The Visitors universe, so if you haven't read The Visitors or Crimson and Clover then it might not make much sense. It is set in the past, so for once, I don't have to warn about possible Kigo, but I should still mention that some of these characters belong to Disney. :) And before I forget, this is only a one-chapter story. I promise the real third story will be coming soon.
"It's as if he already knows you." Rama looked up and gave her a "well, duh, of course I know her" look. Shego's eyes widened. "He does know you," she realized. She searched her brain for when they possibly could have met before and she winced when she realized when it had to be. "You're kidding me, right?" she asked Rama. "That wasn't her." Rama, having stopped the rubbing to sit beside Kim, looked at Kim and nodded his head.
Kim couldn't help but notice the interplay. "I sense a story," she said.
"Um, yeah, there is one," Shego confirmed. "But it's a long one and I think its best left for later."
"Okay," Kim agreed. "but you are going to tell me eventually."
"Promise," Shego promised. "I would just like to make it out of this evening with my dignity still intact."
"So, what's the sitch with me and Rama?" Kim asked unexpectedly, as she made herself comfortable on her favorite couch in the parlor.
"Um, what now?" Shego questioned, playing dumb.
"You know what," Kim insisted, refusing to let her off the hook. "When did I meet Rama before?"
"You don't wanna hear that," Shego said hastily.
"Oh, but I do," Kim assured her.
"You're not going to let this go, are you?" Shego sighed.
"Nope," Kim confirmed.
"Fine, well, it starts off on a beautiful summer day about 16 years ago…" Shego began, settling herself on the couch beside Kim and curling around her.
"Junior?" a voice called from downstairs. "Are you about? We need you to come down here for a moment." A small jet-black head popped up from the picture she was studiously coloring. She broke out into a grin, shook the sleeping clouded leopard yearling beside her awake and jumped up.
"Come on, Rama," she prodded. "Nana Mim needs us downstairs." Rama yawned, sighed, and slowly got up from the floor. The child grinned at him and rubbed his head before she bolted for the stairs. Sighing once more, Rama strolled leisurely after her.
"Here I am, Nana Mim!" she announced at the top of the steps, and a pair of kindly emerald eyes followed her as she bounded down the steps.
"Ah, there is my Junior!" Mim said warmly. "Come here my sweet girl."
Sheila Miriam Goshen, known only as "Junior" in this particular household, smiled wider and skipped over to her great-great aunt, plopping down beside her on the couch.
"Do I hear a Junior prancing about?" another voice inquired, as a second older woman came in from the kitchen with a smile on her face.
"I'm not prancing anymore, Nana Sheila," Junior informed her with a serious face. "I am sitting on the couch."
"So you are, Junior," Sheila said, chuckling. "Please forgive me." She looked over Junior's head and caught Mim's eye. Mim shrugged and smiled and Sheila acknowledged the "she's just like you" non-verbal jab with a nod of her head. Junior was just like her, after all.
Sheila made her way over to the couch and sat down beside her wife of 82 years and her great grandniece. Junior promptly got up and snuggled between the two of them. "What did you need me for, Nana Mim?" she asked.
"Well, Junior, we are having visitors today," Mim told her.
"Aw, Nana Mim, I don't like it when other people come around," Junior complained.
Mim gathered her up and hugged her. "I know that, Junior, but my grandnephew has just had a baby girl and they want to bring her over for a while."
Junior's brow scrunched up in thought. As far as she knew, Daddy was should have been Nana Mim's only grandnephew. "But Mom still has my little sisters in her tummy," she said, confused.
"Your daddy is my grandnephew," Sheila explained. "Nana Mim has a grandnephew of her own."
The brow scrunched up once more but then relaxed as she figured it out. "Oh, like I have two grandmas and grandpas because Mommy and Daddy are married," she said.
Sheila smiled, pleased. Her Junior proved time and time again that she was the smartest Goshen of her generation. "Exactly, Junior," she said proudly.
Junior thought some more and frowned. "What is it, Junior?" Mim asked gently.
"Well, you are her Nanas too, right?" she asked.
"In a way," Mim replied.
"Well, what if you like her more than me? Will she come to live here with us in the summer like I do?" she asked, childish jealousy taking a firm hold.
"Her parents live here in Middleton, so she wouldn't need to stay with us like you do," Mim assured her. "And we could never love anyone more than we love you, Junior."
"Promise?" Junior asked, plaintively.
"We promise," Sheila and Mim said in unison. They looked at one another and then at Junior. "So will you promise to behave this afternoon when she comes over?" Sheila asked.
Junior pouted for a moment. "I guess," she said begrudgingly. "If I have to."
"You do," Mim informed her, with a smile. "So thank you."
"Do I have to really?" Junior wheedled, turning to her Nana Sheila.
"She's the nice one, Junior, so if she's making you behave, I think you had better," Sheila replied, biting back a grin.
Junior looked back and forth between them, but neither one seemed willing to budge. "Okay, I'll behave," she promised. "Can I go play now?"
"Yes, you may go play," Mim agreed, gently correcting her grammar as she was prone to do.
"Come on, Rama," she told the leopard who had been taking this all in while lying on the floor. He yawned and got up, following the bounding girl out of the room.
She only had about an hour to play before their visitors arrived, and even though she knew she should be behaving and thus be there to answer the door with Nana Mim and Nana Sheila, Junior ran the other way when she heard the Mansion's front door bell ring. She didn't like strangers all that much, and she really didn't like strangers who were bringing a potential interloper into her very happy situation. She heard the adults talking in the front room, but she couldn't make out what they were saying. It sounded like they were getting closer to her, and she tensed, just about ready to make a break for her hideout in her tree house when the voices started to get farther away. She cocked her head, listening carefully, and was surprised to hear the front door close. Curious, she sneaked back into front of the house and snooped around cautiously for unfamiliar faces.
"You can come out now, Junior," Nana Sheila informed her as she poked her head around the corner.
"But where are the other people?" she questioned, still suspicious.
"Only one of them decided to stay," Nana Mim answered, showing Junior a blanket-wrapped bundle that was cradled in the older woman's arms.
It appeared safe, but Junior wanted to clarify the situation. "Only the baby is here?" she asked, suspiciously. "Her mommy and daddy didn't stay?"
"No, Junior," Nana Sheila assured her. "Her mommy and daddy needed a break, so she is staying with us for the rest of the afternoon."
Junior fidgeted, thinking. She didn't mind the baby so much if her parents weren't there, but then again, without her parents, she might stay too long. Curiosity warred with jealousy until curiosity won out. "Can, um, may I see her?" Junior asked.
Mim chuckled. "Of course you may," she replied, folding back the blanket so Junior could see.
Junior sidled up to her Nana Mim and peered carefully at what she was holding, scowling slightly as she looked at the baby. She was pretty cute, Junior decided reluctantly. She had fine wisps of red hair on a mostly bald head and large green eyes that looked up at her with interest. She took exception to the Junior's scowl, though, and scowled back at her, her tiny infant brow puckering as her face grew grumpy. Junior, never one to be outdone, deepened her scowl. The baby matched her effortlessly, and the two of them stayed like that for a few seconds, testing one another. Finally, Junior's face hurt and she was forced to relax it, giving the baby a begrudgingly respectful grin as her face went back to normal. The baby lit up with a vibrant smile and Junior smiled back, causing the baby to giggle.
"What is her name, Nana Mim?" Junior asked, reaching out a finger that was promptly grabbed by a grasping infant grip.
"Kimberly," Mim answered, having thoroughly enjoyed the power struggle between Junior and her newest great-grandniece. It seemed there was somebody that could match Junior for attitude and Mim was pleased it was Kimberly.
"I don't like that," Junior decided instantly. "I'm going to call her Kimmie."
"And what if she doesn't like being called by that nickname?" Sheila asked, amused.
Junior thought. "I'll find a better one," she shrugged.
Sheila chuckled. "Well, if anyone is interested, I think I am going to start making lunch," she informed them, heading into the kitchen. Rama perked up and jumped up, the word "lunch" having improved his mood instantly. Junior, reluctantly detaching her finger from Kimmie's grip, followed him into the kitchen. Mim and Kimmie followed close behind. It was grilled cheese sandwiches for everyone except Kimmie; it was pretty much the lunch staple of the house in summertime, even though Mim and Sheila had done their best to expand Junior's culinary horizons. Even Rama got one, although his was supplemented by a pound of raw ground beef. As they ate, Mim fed the baby, so that when they were all finished every body under one hundred years of age was ready for a nap.
Junior usually took her afternoon naps in her tree house, but today, there were other considerations. "Is Kimmie going to take a nap?" she asked.
"Yes," Mim answered, rocking her. "She is a little sleepy."
"Can she sleep in the tree house with me?" Junior asked, figuring the answer to be "no," but deciding there was no harm in asking.
"That is probably not wise, Junior," Mim said. "She is just learning how to roll over and she could roll out of the tree."
"What if I took my nap in my fort?" Junior bargained. "That is on the ground."
"Even still, it is better for her to be inside," Mim said, gently killing that idea.
"What about my tree fort?" Junior persisted. "It is on the ground and it has a cover."
"I think it is best that she sleeps in her bassinet," Mim replied with finality. "She can start accompanying you when she is a little older."
Junior pouted and then sighed. "All right," she moped. "Come on, Rama." The leopard got up and followed her. An idea came to her as they left, and a mischievous grin passed over her features as they walked out the door into the living room.
Quiet as she could be, she stealthily followed them into the living room, hiding her presence there by flattening herself under the couch. They talked in low voices for a while and at one point Kimmie made a weird kind of baby noise. Nana Mim chuckled and cuddled the baby briefly before placing her in her bassinet. She and Nana Sheila talked for a few moments longer, but still softly, and Junior presumed that they were trying not to wake the baby. After they had walked toward the kitchen, they began to talk louder and Junior could finally hear them. "Why, yes, dear, I do think we should begin to tidy up the kitchen," Nana Mim said more loudly, and Nana Sheila coughed suddenly as she followed Nana Mim into the kitchen.
Junior watched them head towards the kitchen from her carefully chosen hiding place. As soon as they had left the room, she grinned and crept out from under the couch, being careful all the while to make sure they were not coming back. She stole over to where Kimmie was sleeping and peered into the bassinet, smiling when she saw that the baby had woken up. "Hey there, Kimmie," she whispered, holding out a finger. Kimmie giggled and made an uncoordinated grab for it, missing the first time but succeeding the second. "You don't wanna stay in this stuffy old house, do you?" Junior asked, frowning, and Kimmie, copying Junior, frowned. "Yeah, I didn't think so," Junior said smugly and smiled, causing the baby to laugh. "Now, Nana Mim said you had to stay in this bed thingy," Junior said, talking to Kimmie but really thinking out loud. It was just a basket really, and it had handles, which was a bonus, but it was sitting on a webbed platform suspended by four wooden legs, and the height made it difficult for Junior to move it. If it had been on the ground, she might have been able to slide it, but there was no way she was going to be strong enough to lift the basket out and put it on the ground.
Time to call for back up, Junior decided. "Rama!" she whispered loudly. "Get over here!" The leopard gave her a look but came over anyway, knowing that he had just been sucked into the little human's plotting but that the plotting usually turned out to be a whole lot of fun. "Do you think you can lift it off?" she asked him. He considered it and shook his head. Much as it had been for Junior, the height was prohibitive; he could barely look over the side of the bassinet. "Nuts," Junior commented. She thought some more. "If we got it down, could you lift a side?" she asked. The cat considered this, and nodded, confident he could lift that much. "Okay, so now we get her down," Junior decided. She looked around for something to help, but didn't come up with much. Junior sighed sharply, then thought of something else. "Can you lift just her out of that thing?" she asked Rama.
Rama's eyes widened slightly at that request, but paused to think about it, and ultimately decided that he might be able to. He nodded. "Okay then, here's the plan; you lift her out of here, I'll push the basket off, you put her back into it and we carry it outside," Junior told him. The leopard nodded and stuck his head over the lip of the bassinet. He was choking himself, so he put his paws on the side and rose on his hind legs, giving himself a little more room. He did everything he could to lift her out, but it was summer and she had little in the way of blankets or other easily- liftable things wrapped around her. That meant that he had to try to lift her out by her clothes and after about one attempt where his teeth almost scraped her delicate skin, he gave up. He sat back down and shook his head at Junior.
"No go, huh?" Junior asked. Rama shook his head in an emphatic "nope". Junior frowned. She thought about giving up, but that was not in her nature, so she turned her mind to a solution, and with a flash of childish brilliance, she thought of something. "Be right back, Rama," she promised, taking off for the backyard. She returned a few minutes later, her Radio Flyer trailing behind her.
She carefully positioned the wagon under the webbed platform and was pleased to see that there was just a little space between the wagon bed and the bottom of the basket. She went to work on the wingnuts that held the webbed netting in place, and by carefully working on them one by one, she freed the webbing and it, along with the basket, landed with a gentle thump in the bottom of the wagon. Junior grinned.
The kitchen was the easiest way to get to the backyard, but there were Nanas in there and Junior had not done all of this to get busted. She would have to go out the way she had brought the wagon in, which was down the hall and through the sliding glass door that opened the backyard up to the sitting room. She pulled on the handle and the wagon came reluctantly, the weight of Kimmie and the friction of the carpet making it difficult. She kept at it though, and soon was on the hardwood floor of the hallway. It was much easier going then, and after just a couple of Kimmie-giggle inducing bumps to get over the track of the sliding glass door, they were in the backyard.
Now the question was where to sleep, and Junior decided quickly that the tree fort was best. It was under the tree, because, well, a tree fort that was supposed to protect the tree house should be under the tree, and this sub-tree location meant that it was nicely shaded. It also had, as Junior had pointed out, a tent-like cover, which complimented the shade afforded by the tree and kept the bugs out. Junior pulled the wagon across the grass over to the tree fort. She knew she could pull the whole wagon into the fort, but that seemed pointless. She had brought Kimmie outdoors to be outdoors, not to be in some stupid basket in a stupid wagon. She sat down on the ground by the wagon to think and pout, when Rama nudged her with his nose.
"Hey, Rama, that is cold," she groused. He ignored her and nudged her again. "What?" she demanded, getting up and turning around towards the tree. Rama climbed the tree, disappeared into the tree house and came out a couple of seconds later with a hook resting in his mouth. He clambered down the tree and sat down. "Of course! The message and supply hook!" Junior said, coming over and rubbing her very smart leopard's head. Junior could spend literally hours in her tree house and her Nanas wanted to make sure that they could get things up to her without having to climb the tree. So, they had installed a pulley system that allowed them to send up notes, food or whatever else Junior might need. Junior grabbed the hook, opened it and put both of the handles of the basket inside. She locked the hook, as Nana Sheila had shown her how to do, so that the handles would not slip out.
She looked around the tree until she found the other end of the rope, but in spite of having a two-pulley system and pulling with all the strength she had, she wasn't able to move the basket very far. Without hesitation, she summoned her partner in crime. "Rama! Come see if you can pull this thing!" she ordered. He obliged, grabbing the rope in his teeth and walking in the direction opposite to the tree. He was stronger than Junior was, and soon the basket had levitated enough for Junior to pull the wagon out from under the basket. Rama slowly came back towards the tree and gently lowered the basket to the ground. Junior grabbed a handle and Rama did the same, and together they lugged a highly amused Kimmie into the tree fort.
"Now, hm, we have to leave her in the basket, but if I lie down, I can't see her anymore, which is probably a bad thing," Junior reasoned to Rama as they sat there looking at Kimmie. The only way Junior could see that would allow Kimmie to stay in the basket but would also allow her to be seen would be to have one side of the basket taken away, or at least taken out of the way. She wiggled the side of the basket and grinned. She grabbed Rama's paw. "Gimmie a claw," she requested. Rama unsheathed them all. "One claw," Junior clarified. He put them all away except the one on the farthest left of his right paw. "Thanks," Junior replied, and used the claw to slice two straight lines down the corners of the basket side facing her. The side collapsed at once, and there was Kimmie, still in the basket but able to be seen. "Heh," Junior chuckled, smirking. She covered the exposed basket side with a section of her blanket, and then grabbing her pillow, she bedded down next to Kimmie on top of it. The handle poked her a little, but she was right where she wanted to be, so she didn't care.
"Have a good nap, little Princess," Junior said affectionately. She was tired from all of the activity, and it didn't take her long to fall asleep. Kimmie, realizing that the fun part was over, decided that a nap worked for her and she fell asleep as well. Rama, never one to miss out on a napping opportunity, curled up on Junior's other side and fell asleep along with the humans.
"What in the world did Aunt Mim do when she found me out there?" Kim asked.
"Not much," Shego admitted. "Your parents came while I was sleeping and she took you away without even waking me up. That scared the shit out of me because I woke up and you were gone, and I knew if something had happened to you my ass was grass. I went tearing into the house and they were both sitting on the couch, looking completely unconcerned. Without raising her voice or even looking angry, Nana Mim informed me that I was busted and that I was going to spend the rest of the summer reimbursing your parents for a new bassinet."
"And did you?" Kim asked, snickering.
"Yup," Shego replied. "I did all kinds of crap chores around here to earn the money. And when I had enough, I had to write your parents an apology letter and send it to them."
"Did I ever come back?" Kim asked, wondering if there had been any more childhood adventures she was unaware of.
"No, at least not when I was here that summer," Shego said. Her face grew melancholy. "And that was the last summer I was here, so there weren't any other chances," she said softly.
Kim was instantly sorry she had asked the question. There was only one reason that the summer visits would have stopped, and it was obvious that even after all this time and even after sort of getting them back, the loss of her Nanas was still painful for Shego. She decided to change the subject and do it quickly. "So, Junior," she said, a teasingly speculative look on her face, "just out of curiosity, why'd you go through all of that trouble to get me into the backyard when you had only known me for like five minutes?"
Shego's mouth opened to form a retort, but it closed again when she found she had none. That was a damn good question. The whole plot had made sense when she was six, but now, it did seem a little weird. "Um, I don't know?" she admitted.
"I think you liked me, even back then," Kim teased.
"I was six; you don't 'like' anyone when you are six," Shego harrumphed. "And besides, you were a baby, a mostly-bald baby at that."
"Yeah, whatever," Kim countered. She laughed a little, thinking of what that scene must have been like in the tree fort. "I bet we made a cute picture," she said.
The room grew frigid, and a ghostly chuckle seemed to permeate the entire room. Something appeared over their heads and fluttered down, and as it landed in her lap, Kim realized it was a photograph. "It was a cute picture," she confirmed, smiling and handing the picture to Shego.
"We had better keep an eye on Mim-jay," Sheila advised as they walked from the kitchen back into the living room after lunch. "Junior is completely smitten with that baby and she determined that the baby is to end up out of doors."
"Mim-jay?" Mim questioned, and then she nodded, knowing how Sheila's mind worked. "Ah, Miriam Junior, I take it?" she confirmed.
"Just once I would like the opportunity to stump you for more than an eyelid flash," Sheila grumped, having thought that at least this once she might have been too clever for her wife and that she might have to actually explain something. "But yes, she is going to grow up to be the spitting image of you. You do realize that, of course?"
"She may, I suppose," Mim said reasonably. The baby yawned and Mim smiled down at her. "Come now, little one; we should put you to bed," she said, bringing the infant up to cuddle her. The baby burbled sleepily in agreement, and Mim chucked softly as she put her in her bassinet. The baby fell asleep almost instantly.
"So do we leave Junior to her plan or do we station ourselves on the couch to circumvent it?" Sheila asked softly, when she saw that the baby was asleep.
"Well, you know how I dislike stifling creativity," Mim replied with a smile. "And we can remain close to make sure that Kimmie-Ann is not in any real danger."
Sheila smirked. "'Creativity'; what an inordinately interesting way of phrasing it," she teased.
"I am ever the diplomat," Mim responded with a smirk of her own. Sheila chuckled and rolled her eyes. "Don't look at me that way, Lil," Mim chided. "You know perfectly well that we would not have made it through our first year if I was unable to appreciate the unique stylings of Goshen creativity."
Sheila looked offended briefly, then shrugged. "True," she conceded. She glanced around. "Shall we retire to the kitchen and let the show begin?"
"Why, yes, dear, I do think we should begin to tidy up the kitchen," Mim projected fairly loudly, knowing that little ears were somewhere within the vicinity. Sheila coughed, attempting to disguise an ill-concealed chuckle.
They had watched in amusement and admiration as Junior had managed to get Mim-jay out of the house and into her tree fort all without putting the baby in any real danger. Sheila had then fetched her camera, and when they were sure all three of them were asleep, she and Mim had crept out into the backyard to seize a golden opportunity. The cover on the tree fort was retractable, and when they had pulled it back, they both grinned at one another in sentimentality. Junior, mindful of Mim's admonition to keep the baby in her bassinet, had collapsed one of the sides and was now laying on that side. The baby, still very much in her bassinet, had instinctively cuddled up next to her and was sleeping soundly with her sweet infant face turned inward towards Junior's chest. Rama had gone for the other side of Junior, and had pressed his back up against her back, his paws flung akimbo on the ground. When Sheila was done getting the photographic evidence that she was sure would come back to embarrassingly haunt Junior one day, she and Mim replaced the cover and walked back to the house hand in hand.
Mim-jay's parents had come for her soon after that, and she and Mim had made apologies for the ruined bassinet as they handed her over. Her parents just laughed it off good-naturedly and as a result, Junior's punishment was minimal. Junior was usually none too happy about any type of punishment, but she took it fairly well, even though she was doing chores until she left them in August. That intrigued Sheila to no end, and it was an intrigue that wouldn't resolve itself until several years later when she met Junior and Mim-jay under vastly different circumstances.