With regards to E.M. Forster. If you've read Room with a View, you might recognize where the title of this chapter comes from.
. . . . . .
Six months ago she was an idiot.
Six months ago she sat on the couch, arms folded, and watched him come in the front door. "All right," she said as he hung up his coat, "you've made your point."
He blinked. "What point?"
"This—" she gestured at him in his collared shirt and tie— "and dating her. You made your point, okay? It bothers me. You win."
His brow remained furrowed. "I wasn't trying to—"
"Oh, you just happened to start dating someone else right after I turned you down? Look, I'm saying it worked. I'm jealous. So can we just pretend she never happened and move on with our lives?"
And then his expression cleared. "I see. When I want to date you, you shoot me down, but as soon as I'm not available, you change your mind. You're a little kid who only wants a toy when someone else is playing with it."
And then it was her turn to blink in surprise. He'd never talked to her like that before; having a girlfriend was giving him confidence.
He was continuing. "I'm not dating Diana to make you jealous. I like her, a lot. And yes, I was really hurt when you said that you'd been overly stressed so nothing that happened or almost happened during or after the invasion matters, because it did matter, to me. But like you insisted, I moved on, and I met someone else. And I'm dating her because I really, really like her, and for no other reason." And his lips pursed; he was annoyed. "This may shock you, but not everything in my life revolves around you."
She stared, and then turned and stalked up to her room, and the next morning she moved out.
. . . . . .
It's been six months, and Shego still looks back on that conversation and cringes. In her defense, she'd genuinely thought that he was trying to make her jealous, but that isn't much of a defense at all. She'd been arrogant, incredibly arrogant. She'd assumed that he'd never get over her; she'd assumed, as he'd accused, that his life revolved around her. Now—now when it's too late—she sees only too well how ridiculous she'd been. And sometimes it amuses her, in a humorless way, to think that her telling him no taught him confidence, while him telling her no taught her humility. Perhaps they couldn't be whole, healthy people when they were together, and it was only by breaking each other's hearts that they were able to both grow up.
He's still with Diana, as far as she's aware; she hasn't spoken to him since that night but sometimes when her defenses are low she Googles him, and whenever he's photographed at an event, that smiling blonde biologist is always on his arm. She'd like to hate Diana, but she can't. The woman's beautiful, but in an accessible way, and genuinely kind; she's smart and successful, but she uses that to help ill children. You just can't hate a woman like that. And Shego can't hate Drakken, either; once she'd calmed down she realized that he was only doing exactly what she'd told him to do: move on. So the only person she has to blame is herself.
And she does. She was an idiot for the way she spoke to him about Diana that night, but what she really regrets is that she turned him down in the first place. If she hadn't been so foolish, if she'd understood what she had in him, Diana never would have even been an issue. She would have the right to be with him now. And there's nothing worse than a muddle that's your own fault—one you could have avoided. But rather than wallow in regret, she tries not to think about it.
Until the day she sees him in the hallway of the Atlanta Marriott, sipping a coffee and checking his watch, and suddenly there's nothing in her head but him. She'd known, when her employer told her they were coming to this conference, that Drakken might be there, and even as she'd tried to talk her way out of coming—who needs a bodyguard at a professional conference?—she found herself wondering what she'd wear, just in case he was there. And here he is, looking rather handsome in a charcoal gray suit, and she's glad she went for the dress today; she knows she looks good in it.
When his eyes lift from his watch and see her standing there, she can see the emotions and thoughts flitting across his face: surprise, then pleasure, then the moment he remembers their parting, then displeasure, and then careful neutrality. Six months and she can still read him like a book.
"Hi," she says softly.
"Hi," he replies cautiously, and just the sound of his voice triggers a flood of memories and regret in her.
"You lost the lab coat," she observes, because something needs to be said.
He glances down at his pale green tie. "Yes, well," he shrugs. "I decided if I wanted to be taken seriously as a scientist, I'd better stop dressing like a supervillain." He pauses a moment, then gestures to her black dress. "No more jumpsuit?"
"My boss wanted me to blend in a little more." How strange it feels to use the word "boss" in front of him but not to refer to him. She wonders if this is how divorced couples feel when telling each other about their new spouses.
"Oh yes, I heard about your new position. Hemtech, right? How's Hardison as an employer?"
And she hates that they're standing here making small talk about their jobs when they haven't seen each other in six months. They used to be able to talk so easily. He wouldn't believe it, given how little she would tell him of her background, but he knows her better than anyone in the world. Certainly better than anyone in her new life in Miami.
"He's fine," she says tersely, and then wants to kick herself because she can see him pulling away from her as though a little hurt by her snappish reply. "How are things with you?"
"Great," he says. "My work is going well. Lots of contracts and commissions."
"Great," she says, then pauses, casting her mind about for another subject. The only one that comes is one that fills her with both hope and dread. "How's Diana?"
He's keeping his face carefully impassive. "She's back in Berlin. We . . . we're not seeing each other anymore."
"Oh," she says. "Oh." Then, "How are you . . ."
"It's fine," he interrupts.
"Good," she says, and then the tension and the small talk and the voice in her head screaming that he's free are too much for her. "This is too weird," she says, more forcefully than she meant to. "We're chitchatting like we're normal people. You're in a suit, of all things."
He's keeping his face carefully impassive. "I'm sorry my suit bothers you."
"It doesn't," she says quickly. "It's just—do you want to go get a drink? Catch up, reminisce about old times?"
But if she's expecting his expression to soften, she's sadly disappointed. "No time. I'm delivering an address in a few minutes, and I'm leaving straight from there for the airport." From his polite, bland tone of voice, he could have been talking to a cabbie or his dogsitter; you'd never guess he was talking to the person he'd worked with, lived with, shared all his plans and dreams with, for years. She feels the distance between them as though it's a tangible thing—a wall that keeps him at arm's distance.
But she gives it one last try. "Maybe if I'm ever back in DC?"
He gives her a tight smile. "Maybe," he says, but he sounds about as unwilling to see her again as a cat is to be bathed. "Well, nice to see you again." And this time it's him walking out of her life, and she feels like she's a movie cliche but she stands there and watches him go with her mouth hung open in shock.
She spends the next hour at the hotel bar. She has a rule about drinking alone but today she's happy to break it. She's imagined countless times how things would go if she saw him again, but she never imagined it being such an absolute failure.
She goes over and over in her mind what happened and how it could have gone better, how she could have fixed it, but she's not sure what would have helped, what he wants from her. And she's almost resigned to the fact that he's about to leave town and she won't see him again for months and months and it'll all be her fault. Everything that has happened has been her fault.
And in that moment, she knows what to do.
It's ten past four which means his lecture is over, and she runs to the lobby, hoping against hope she hasn't missed him. And yes, there he is, just climbing into a cab while the cabbie puts his luggage in the trunk and two young men she recognizes as his assistants discuss something on the sidewalk. And before she can talk herself out of it, she rushes forward and pushes her way through the doors.
"Drakken, wait!" she cries, and when he turns, she takes a deep breath and tells him, "I'm sorry."
Four faces wearing identical expressions of surprise look back at her from around the cab.
"I'm sorry," she repeats, and what she's saying is so unlike her that she's startled to hear the words coming out of her own mouth. "I was a jerk when I left. I was unkind and self-absorbed and everything else you said about me was true. And I'm even more sorry about before. I was scared of committing so I pushed you away and I want you to know that I've regretted it ever since. I've regretted all of it. Not working with you, of course—that was . . . the best years . . . but everything I did after that. If I could take it all back I would in a second because I miss you. I've been missing you for six months. And . . . I'm sorry."
And as her tirade ends, she's aware once again of the sounds of the city, the honking of cars and the chatter of the pedestrians, made all the more noticeable by the fact that he isn't saying anything. He stands there, half in the cab, for what feels like days. And then a look flits across his face—confusion and hurt—and slowly he speaks. "I've got a plane to catch," he says, and climbs in and shuts the door. The two assistants follow suit, stealing quick glances at her as they do, and the cabbie shuts the trunk and walks around to the driver's seat. Over the top of the cab he shoots her a sympathetic look, and then he's inside and for the second time that day, Drakken is leaving her behind.
. . . . . .
In a strange way, things are easier when she gets back to Miami. At least she knows now. At least she doesn't have to torture herself with wondering if she could fix things if she went and talked to him. Now she knows it wouldn't make a difference.
Work goes on the same as always; she supervises the security team and accompanies Hardison to events and public appearances and factory inspections, and she spends a lot of time sitting in Hardison's spacious office suite, reading magazines. It's not the same as her old job, though; Hardison never wants her opinions. Hardison doesn't smile goofily at her. Hardison doesn't consider her a friend.
A week and a half pass this way, and she's just about reached the point where she can think of that conference without too much internal discomfort when one afternoon, the secretary pages her. "Miss Go, there's a visitor for you in the lobby." Her mind immediately jumps to him, of course, but she tells herself not to do that; hoping is just going to make it that much worse when it's someone else.
But it turns out she could have gone ahead and hoped; it's him. He's in a dark blue dress shirt and black slacks, and it reminds her a bit of his old lab coat and that makes her smile. He's pacing up and down the lobby, but when he looks up and notices her, he stops dead, staring while his mouth struggles to form words.
"I'm sorry too," he finally manages, his words all coming out in a rush. "For being so rude at the conference. And for just leaving like that. I was so angry with you, for everything with Diana and everything before Diana." He hesitates. "And I'm sorry that . . . that I didn't come after you when you left after our fight, or even just try to contact you. I should have. Because despite everything else, you were my friend. But the thing was—I know this is terrible, but I was kind of glad you were hurt. I wanted you to feel . . ." He hesitates. "Like I'd felt." His lips twist in a self-deprecating little smile. "You did break my heart, you know."
She hasn't moved. "I know," she says softly.
"So when you came after me," he says, "I said I didn't care, and I left, and I spent all week trying to pretend that never happened and it didn't matter. But I couldn't make myself believe it. Or forget."
And now a tiny smile is quirking one corner of her mouth. "So what now?"
"Well," he says, fidgeting, "I believe you mentioned drinks?"
It sounds like he rehearsed that line, and the thought makes the smile bloom fully across her face. "And maybe dinner. I know a great place around the corner." And she has high hopes for that dinner. Maybe they couldn't be whole, healthy people when they were together before, but now that they've grown up separately, they can try again. Maybe they're both finally ready.
Drakken glances at the secretary, who's watching them with eyes starry and mouth agape; Shego wonders if they should have charged admission, because the woman seems to be enjoying the show. But she gets back in Shego's good books by saying briskly, "I'll tell Mr. Hardison you had a personal emergency, shall I?"
Shego smiles but doesn't answer as she and Drakken walk out the door. She's got other things on her mind: mistakes past to atone for, time lost to make up for. And the way his hand feels in hers.
. . . . . .