Drakken was trying on slick and sleazy when they first met. He oozed fake charm, and it was even more fake because it fit him so poorly. "I have to say, I like what I see so far, Miss Go."
"Just Shego," she said firmly. Oh, he liked what he saw, all right. The looks he'd been giving her since she walked in were evidence enough of that. That was something Shego had gotten used to, spending most of her life in skintight black and green, but it was still uncomfortable in a one-on-one situation. Especially in a job interview, and especially in her first evil job interview. Only the knowledge that she needed this job – and the suspicion that she could train the guy out of this kind of crap if she stuck around – had kept her from walking out the second he'd raised an eyebrow at her. And possibly kicking him in the teeth on her way out the door.
He smiled indulgently. "Shego," he repeated. "Your résumé is certainly interesting."
Her résumé was entirely fabricated. Her credentials would crumble under the barest scrutiny, and any references he tried to call would all have suddenly relocated and left no forwarding address. Shego figured that lying on your application probably wasn't a deal-breaker when you were trying to get a job as a professional thief, but all the same she was more nervous than she'd ever been in her life. Despite her long years of fighting against evil she'd never really realized how complicated it was. If she didn't get this job, didn't have someone to guide her through the sea of regulations and politics…well, she didn't know what she'd do. She couldn't go back to her brothers; the tower had stopped feeling like home months before she'd even started packing for her eventual escape. This job was her only hope.
"You seem to have a rather slim history," Drakken continued, "but it's not unimpressive. You will definitely be hearing from me for a field test."
She tried not to look too relieved. This wasn't a guarantee yet, and aside from that it would ruin the air of cool unconcern she'd cultivated over the years. "Naturally," she said, trying to sound bored as she examined her nails. She stood up with an effortless flourish. "Then I guess we're done here for the moment?"
"For the moment." He rounded the desk, holding his hand out. She extended hers in turn and he didn't shake it, just held it possessively for a moment. "You certainly are the most…appealing candidate I've looked at so far." He bent low and kissed her hand, ignoring – or more likely, not noticing – her sudden recoil. "I look forward to seeing you in action," he said with a wink.
She didn't make him wait.
His bruises faded within a week or so, but the impression she'd made never would.
For all that she'd been socially adventurous for a while in college, Shego had always been a cautious drinker with a clear understanding of her limits. But she didn't like other people enough to spend much time in bars anymore, and her alcohol consumption these days was limited to dates, vacations, and the occasional beer in the comfort of her own apartment. So it shouldn't have surprised her that on the rare occasion when she did hit a bar with her boss, her tolerance was lower than it once was.
At the moment she was just drunk enough to feel a warm, affable fuzziness in her head that slowed her reaction times and took the edge off her natural grace. The walk home was more of a stumble at times, and she was thankful for Drakken's arm around her waist. Not that he was any more sober than she was, but between the two of them they could keep each other more or less steady.
It had been a long evening of alcohol and conversation, antidote to a long week of failure and frustration. A long evening and a successful one; Shego hadn't had to buy a single drink all night, and she was pretty sure the phone number that brunette had given Drakken was real. "You gonna call her?"
"Of course I'm not gonna call her."
"Why not? She was cute, and she didn't freak out when you said you were in the global domination business."
"She thought I was kidding."
"You're just afraid of getting shot down."
"I am not. I'm being realistic."
"Whatever you say, Dr. D."
He tightened his grip on her as she lost her footing. "You getting tired of me or something?"
"You seem awfully eager to hand me off to someone else."
She drummed her fingers against his ribcage. "Maybe I just think that if one of us had somebody, we'd spend less time getting each other in trouble."
Drakken sounded wounded. "I don't try to get you in trouble."
"And yet you always seem to manage it."
He leaned his head against hers for a moment, more likely out of dizziness than affection. "I'd rather be in trouble with you than with anyone else."
Okay, maybe there was a little affection there. And probably more inebriation than Shego had realized. "There's always the option of not being in trouble at all."
"Don't tease, Shego. You know I don't like failure any more than you do, but I'd rather fail with you than without you."
Considerably more inebriation than she'd realized. "That was…almost sweet, Dr. D."
"Well, it's true." Drakken gestured vaguely with the hand that wasn't around Shego. "I don't really have…anyone, really. But working with you…it's kind of like having a friend."
They'd reached Shego's door by now – by unspoken agreement, she was quartered close to an exit in all their lairs. She pulled him to a stop in front of it, shaking loose of his grip and turning him until he was facing her. "You're wrong." She smiled, dimly aware that she'd never say any of this sober. "It's not kind of like having a friend. It is having a friend."
He laughed in surprise. "Really?"
She nodded. "I don't really have anyone, either," she said, rubbing her arm self-consciously and not making eye contact. "But I have you. And I like that."
Drakken's lips pressed gently against the corner of her mouth. It was shy and brief, barely enough to be called a kiss. Shego was taken by surprise, but more than anything she was surprised at how little she minded the attention. Even as obvious as it was that there was nothing stronger than friendship behind it, it was still the sweetest gesture anyone had made towards her in long memory. "Thank you," Drakken said, quiet and sincere. "That means a lot to me."
"Only 'cause you're drunk," Shego returned, trying to shake off the sudden warmth she felt towards him. "And I'm only saying it 'cause I am." She pushed him away gently as she opened her door. "Now go sleep it off." She started to close the door as he left, but paused and turned to scold him over her shoulder. "And call the brunette!"
Shego didn't understand it. The sun was shining, everyone was in a good mood, and she was out in the park for a romantic day with the guy she'd been in love with since… well, 'when' didn't really seem to matter. Which was good, because she couldn't remember exactly when she'd fallen in love with Drakken. Or what had triggered it. Or – considering the long list of his faults and failings that was currently running through her head – why. Every time she started to ask herself, her brain just seemed to slide away from the questions. All she knew was that she did love him, fiercely and fervently. So why wasn't today perfect?
Well, the way he tried to hide behind something every time she looked at him was probably part of it. His perpetual deer-in-headlights look was cute – everything about him was! – but it bothered Shego. She couldn't understand why he was being so recalcitrant! She knew he was attracted to her, considering that he was male, straight, and not blind, and now she was practically throwing herself at him! Even adorably oblivious Drakken couldn't be that clueless, could he?
She slid an arm around his back and got her answer when he flinched before gingerly patting her hand. Not clueless, then, just cautious. And if she was going to be honest with herself, she couldn't really blame him. As much as it hurt her, his uncertainty was a reasonable response considering her usual aggression. She'd just have to keep proving that she was sincere and wait for him to warm up. "Just relax, Dr. D," she murmured close to his ear.
The result was the exact opposite of what she'd intended as Drakken nearly jumped out of his skin. "I'm perfectly relaxed, Shego!"
She traced her fingers across the back of his neck, enjoying the little shiver the gesture sent down his spine. "Of course you are." It was actually a little bit funny, if she thought about it. He was more scared of her when she was being nice to him than when she was making threats. It was one of those things that they'd someday look back on and laugh.
Especially with photographic evidence. The photo booth caught Shego's eye as they rounded a corner, and she dragged Drakken towards it before he could form a protest. "Shego, I—"
"Come on, it'll be fun! Besides, don't you want a record of our first date?"
He made a strangled sound. "Date?"
She pulled him into the booth, ignoring his discomfort at the close quarters. "Well, sort of." She giggled. "Smile!"
He was cute when he smiled. He was cute when he didn't, come to think of it. And he was particularly cute when he gave her that look of nervous discomfort. Almost… irresistible.
The thought barely preceded the action. Without really realizing what she was doing, Shego leaned forward and kissed him. Well, not so much 'leaned' as 'vaulted,' the force knocking him backwards and out of the booth. She was dimly aware of the impact as they hit the ground, but Drakken took the brunt of it and she was too preoccupied to take much notice in any case.
He scrabbled against her in a way that threatened to become very personal before he managed to press a hand squarely against the center of her collarbone and pushed. It gave him just enough room to squirm out from under her. "Oh, don't go playing hard-to-get on me now," she purred.
They were still on the ground outside the photo booth, him flat on his backside and her leaning eagerly over him. "I'm not playing," he panted, shuffling back a little further. "Listen, Shego, you're a very…sweet young woman, and I'm quite fond of you, but…"
It was a horrible word that threatened to break her heart and tear her world in half. "But?" she repeated, her tone making it clear just how much she didn't want to hear the rest of that sentence.
His look of terror was eclipsed by a brief flash of inspiration before he smiled gently at her. He laid his hand over hers. "You're something special, Shego. I…want to take things slow. Talk about things over dinner, maybe."
She beamed. Drakken wasn't just being shy, he was being romantic. She tweaked his cheek. "You are the cutest thing!"
He heaved a heavy sigh, sounding relieved as she pulled him to his feet. It must be so liberating for him to finally be talking about where this relationship was obviously meant to go! She squeezed his hand affectionately. It might still take him a while to get used to this new romance, but she was willing to be as patient as it took.
After all the years she'd spent on the far side of the law, Shego had forgotten how heady a drug public approval could be. Sure, Drakken was the one getting all the credit at this little shindig, but she was up here on the stage with him – and looking good while she did it, if she did say so herself. They were in the public eye, under the gaze of a hundred cameras and half the world. And except for their fellow villains, who were reacting with varying degrees of boredom and betrayal, the crowd was cheering. Actually cheering! For good old Dr. D, and for her. That hadn't happened since her heroing days, and even then it had never been an accolade on this grand a scale. She couldn't ever remember feeling quite so…appreciated.
And then she glanced sideways, and there was a little surge in her chest. 'Good old Dr. D' was smiling at her, looking happy and confused and a little bit scared as he approached her. She wanted to say something, but her usual wit failed her completely. Drakken just kept giving her that hopeless look, and she couldn't stop smiling back. Not even when one of those stupid vines shot out around her waist, wrapping her tight against him.
The sudden closeness made her heart pound, and Drakken's abrupt blush said that she wasn't the only one affected. He rallied impressively, though, turning his smile towards the crowd. "Thank you all," he said, "but I couldn't have done it without my si—" He stopped himself, putting his hand on Shego's shoulder. "My partner."
There was that little surge again, sharper than ever and – she was starting to realize – not entirely new. Oh, God, she was going to blush, or giggle, or cry, or….
Or do something incredibly dramatic and possibly stupid. She gave Drakken a wicked look, subtly angling her body so both of them were lined up with the press table. "You wanna make the cover of every publication in the country for the next month?" she asked in a low voice.
He raised an eyebrow. "What did you have in mind?"
She didn't answer, just grabbed the ribbon around his neck and pulled him in for a kiss.
It was quick – Drakken didn't even have time to realize what was happening until Shego had already stepped back, the vine around her having gone slack in his shock – but still long enough to attract the attention of every camera in the room. It would be the perfect shot, if Shego had timed everything right: the world's newest hero stunned by the attention of an attractive woman, his medal dangling below her hand and framed by their bodies and the vines that had saved the planet. Photo of the year. And it would drive her brothers insane with jealousy.
Well. She'd caught the other villains' attention, at least. There were a few cheers, a lot of surprised mutters that didn't sound very approving, and a wail that could only be Cousin Eddie's signature riff. She fought not to bury her face in her hands, knowing what had to result from this. The loss of her privacy and a big chunk of her reputation to start with, not to mention at least one seriously awkward conversation with Dr. D. She couldn't look at him. Her eyes wandered unfocused into the crowd, looking for anything that might distract her.
Something did, although nothing she was expecting. Drakken's hand, warm and feather-light even through the gloves, bumped against her wrist and trailed down into her palm. His fingers laced into hers and he squeezed gently before pulling away. It was starting to feel like the swell in Shego's chest would never go down. She risked a sideways glance, only to discover that he was doing the same. Both of them snapped forward as they caught each other's eyes, but the moment of contact was enough to show her that he was positively beaming.
Shego tilted her head downward to hide her own smile. This whole adventure might just be worth a little awkwardness.
Another long evening, another walk home together. A little less drunk this time, and a lot less patient. It hadn't originally been intended as a walk at all.
"They offered a limo," Shego muttered as the two of them picked their way through the deserted and demolished streets, which were still littered with scraps of alien technology. "But no. You had to make an exit."
"The hovercraft should have been able to handle the trip," Drakken said. "She's a tough old girl, but apparently she and the plants don't get along so well just yet."
Shego rolled her eyes at the feminine pronouns. Drakken had practically whimpered when they'd been forced to abandon the little craft about a mile back. As if the hovercraft didn't have the best security system money could steal, not to mention the vines he'd left lurking around it. "I'm not exactly over the moon for them either, but I'm certainly dealing. And do you have to say things like 'she's a tough old girl' while you're standing right next to me?" By mutual understanding, they were both pretending that 'standing right next to her' was an adequate description, and that the arm he had wrapped tightly around her wasn't even worth mentioning. The night was cold and threatening to rain, after all, and she wasn't dressed for the weather. There was nothing wrong with seeking out a little warmth.
He laughed, the sound rumbling against her ribs. "Give me some credit, Shego. I wouldn't be stupid enough to call you a tough old girl. Even someday when you are one I won't be stupid enough to say so."
Shego tried not to be too pleasantly surprised at his assumption that they'd still be together by then. "I hope not," she snapped. "I'd be afraid to see what would happen if the guy who can't even keep up his basic hovercraft maintenance actually got dumber in his old age."
"Hey! I didn't hear you noticing that anything was wrong with her, either."
"Yeah, but I'm not the one who's supposed to be an evil genius."
Drakken's frustrated growl said that she'd beaten him on that point. "That's right," he muttered. "I'm the evil genius here, and don't you forget it."
It was such a smooth way to turn his loss around that Shego almost let him have it. Almost. "Right," she said, tugging gently at the medal still hanging around his neck. She suspected that she wasn't going to see him without it for a long time. "Evil. Like you've got any street cred left at all."
"You were right up there on that stage with me," he reminded her.
"Sure, but I'm not the one who was getting decorated by an international delegation."
"True," he conceded. "You were just the one who was kissing the guy getting decorated by an international delegation."
Oh, boy. She'd been hoping this conversation could hold off until tomorrow, at least. "About that," she mumbled, pressing her hand to her forehead. "You…you know that was just a heat-of-the-moment thing, right? Just me being a little crazy with celebrity and playing it up for the cameras?"
The arm around her waist loosened, Drakken's side no longer pressed against hers. "Yes, I know." His voice was soft and resigned. He did know, she understood. He'd just…hoped a little.
His hand was still warm against her back, although the rest of her had gone suddenly cold when he stepped away. She closed the distance between them again, slipping her own arm securely around him this time. She wanted to say more, to mumble all those stupid things about circumstances and timing and it's-not-you-it's-me. Just thinking of how she could explain it – that she knew she was feeling something for him, but not what, or what she wanted to do about it, and that she didn't want to start something until she did know, and knew what he was thinking about it, too – made her feel like an idiot. God, if she could have at least gone completely stupid over him somewhere private! Then maybe she could at least enjoy it without worrying that she really had just been doing it for the media's sake. She let out a frustrated little breath and laid her head against his shoulder.
From this angle, a little spot of pink floating above her caught her eye. Then another. Then a white one, and a yellow. Lifting her head, Shego saw an arc of vines stretching over her. And only over her, she realized as she noticed the dark spots on Drakken's back. "How long has it been raining?"
Drakken shrugged. "Ten, fifteen minutes. Why?" He followed her look upwards and suddenly stopped walking, staring at the vines in surprise. "I didn't tell them to do that." A pause. "Not consciously, anyway."
Well, wasn't that interesting. Shego was about to comment on that when a roaring explosion tore the air. The world blurred as an unidentified force threw her sideways under the roof of a half-demolished building, pinning her to the far wall. Oh, God, she thought as she tried to break away. They're back, and they've brought reinforcements, and we're going to have to have that whole fight over again, and the annoying one is going to make snide comments about me and Drakken, and…
Drakken. Shock drove back her instinctive combat response as she realized that he was the force that had pushed her aside, and now he was standing tensely over her, awaiting an attack. There was fear in his face, but a second blast turned it into angry determination. The vines climbing the walls had thorns. His grip on her shoulders tightened as he snarled a challenge to the sky. "Bring. It. On."
No alien attack could have taken Shego more by surprise. Drakken had pushed her out of the line of fire, and now he was shielding her from whatever was coming after them. He… he was trying to protect her. If anyone had ever tried to suggest something like that, she'd have laughed in their faces.
Of course, she'd also have laughed at anyone who said Drakken would save the world. Maybe it wasn't such an insane idea, seeing him looming like some kind of floral-themed avenging angel, ready to ride into battle against the oncoming horde of….
Drakken's intensity morphed into confusion at the sound of her voice. "What?"
Shego suppressed a burst of mad laughter. "Thunder," she repeated, relief washing over her as she finally recognized the sound. "You're challenging the weather to a fight."
The same relief that had taken hold of her gripped Drakken. "Oh, thank God," he said, his body relaxing. "There's only so much heroism I can take."
Shego gave in. The laugh that had been building in her throat burst out, strong and clear and genuine. Drakken looked insulted for a moment, and then he was laughing right along with her. His protective grip on her shoulders became an embrace as he slipped his hands around her back. She could only respond in kind. They held each other through the half-hysterical laughter, and when it finally faded they were still holding each other.
Shego nestled against Drakken's chest. They were finally alone, without any cameras or alcohol or weird technology. Nothing but the two of them together, and she was still absolutely stupid over him. "My hero," she said softly. "My incompetent, brilliant, fearless coward of a hero."
Later, they would argue about this kiss. Who had initiated it and who had just responded, whether it really counted as a first kiss or just the first one that counted. For now, though, the only thing that mattered was the knowledge that it wouldn't be the last.