Happy Hill of Beans
Summary: A little tale about confidence. Set post-Odds Man In, but doesn't rule out the following episodes. Drakken/Shego. General/humor/drama/friendship/romance.
Prologue: Burning Beans
"I really don't see why we can't just use the gym at the lair." Drakken grumbled. "This is embarrassing."
"Exactly." Shego said forcefully, striding towards the tread mills with determination. "We're using a public gym because it's embarrassing for you. It'll give you more incentive to lose that weight when you care what people think about you. That way you won't get all lazy and indifferent like you got when you were shovelling down cupcakes for weeks at home alone." She added, giving him a meaningful glance over her shoulder.
Drakken groaned. She was making a lot of sense, darn her. A harsh and unforgiving kind of sense, but nevertheless a lot of sense.
He squirmed and grimaced as he took in the rows of training equipment and saw the critical looks the members of the gym gave him as he and Shego passed by.
Shego had assured him that it was a private gym where none of the other members had a clean permanent record, either, and wouldn't ask any questions...but Drakken felt that this didn't make things any less humiliating. Working on getting rid of the results of his recent overeating in front of a bunch of potentially dangerous strangers wasn't exactly his idea of a good time.
Catching sight of himself in one of the many mirrors, he made another face. Surely the gym at the lair didn't have this many mirrors…!
He'd never wanted to come here in the first place, but after Shego had given him calculating, judging looks for a week, and when she'd finally made a particularly sly remark one morning— 'So, who's the father?' She'd asked dryly, poking his swollen belly with a sharp finger— he'd finally broken down and had accepted her offer— or order— to join her at the gym.
Also, she'd had a point when she'd reminded him that it would be hard for him to be Dr. Drakken, Evil Genius when he couldn't even fit into his lab coats anymore. She'd seemed to make a lot of good points lately, really. Why did she have to have such an annoying tendency to be so darn...reasonable?
On the less reasonable side, however, she'd said he was making her look ridiculous by association and would ruin her reputation as a villainess, attaching to the comment a very unsubtle threat that she might take up calling him 'Blueberry Belly' if he didn't pull himself together.
So...yes, she'd given him plenty of 'incentive' already that week, yet she seemed to think he needed more. The woman was merciless, was what she was.
Still grimacing, Drakken twisted and turned in front of the mirrors, and a dozen Drakkens complete with brand new spare tires grimaced back at him—
There was a loud sigh behind him. "Are you gonna stand there and admire your gut all day or are we gonna get on the tread mill?"
Somewhat self-consciously, Drakken let his hands drop from his stomach and glared at Shego. "Nag, nag, nag..." He muttered as he trailed after her.
Shego was glad her back was turned so he couldn't see the soft grin she was struggling to keep down at his grumpy comment. She had to appear tough if she was going to make him take this seriously. It was a little difficult sometimes, though; he had a tendency to be involuntarily funny.
Drakken dumped his towel and water bottle in the little space for them in the front of the tread mill and started choosing his program, punching in the difficulty level.
There was a delicate cough from beside him, and at Shego's pointed look, he sighed and increased the difficulty level by a couple more points. "So, no soft start, huh?" He remarked sarcastically as they started jogging.
"I just think you can do better, that's all," Shego replied, and it took him a moment to realize that she actually wasn't mocking. She was just stating a fact. He glanced at her in surprise, but she was busy jogging and wasn't looking at him.
A minute later, he reached out and increased the level by another point. He felt awkward running in the public gym, especially what with his recently acquired extra padding jiggling slightly in a humiliating way as he moved, but at least he wasn't alone. Gritting his teeth, he picked up the pace.
Twenty minutes later, Shego stepped gracefully off of the tread mill, dabbing at the fine sheen of sweat on her forehead with her small, light green towel...and Drakken got off of the machine as well, but stood hunched over, panting, his now purplish face practically dripping with sweat.
Okay...okay, so maybe he shouldn't have increased the level of difficulty that third time. Bad, bad, bad idea….
When Shego threw him his towel, smirking faintly, he realized that he'd actually been doing something as silly as trying to impress her. That was odd; sure, he loved to gloat to everyone and their mother about his plans, but he'd never tried to prove his fortitude when it came to anything physical. That was just so...so high school. Beneath him.
Except now...even he fell victim to attacks of juvenile macho-itis sometimes, it seemed.
Well, he thought, straightening up and wiping his face, feeling self-conscious again, it was no wonder he felt the need to prove himself when she'd mocked-- oh, wait, she hadn't, not this time. Crap. It was easy to forget when he was so used to her doing it. It had to be because she'd taunted him about his appearance earlier that week, then.
Drakken wasn't used to being insecure about his looks, because he'd never really cared much about them, even as a teenager— he knew he was different now, but the blue skin usually inspired fear, not ridicule, and if you squinted, fear looked an awful lot like respect— so he'd been easy to tease now that he was insecure. He'd never been overweight before— probably more like underweight, when he was younger— and that combined with the fact that Shego was exceptionally good at mocking, meant that he'd been easy for her to bend to her will.
But now he'd showed her, right?
Or...wait...hadn't he just done exactly what she'd wanted him to do?
Nnnnrrrghh! This was getting confusing. And it didn't help that, niggling at the back of his head, there was the thought that perhaps he'd done it because she'd been so sincere for once. She almost never told him things that showed that she had any confidence in him, almost never...
"Not bad for a Blueberry Belly," Shego said, smiling crookedly as she tossed him the water bottle as well, "but next time, maybe you should take it a little easier. No need to pull a tendon there, Doc."
Scowling at her, he took a long drink of water. Wiping his face with the towel again and tossing it across his shoulder, he was about to scold her for her rudeness when he heard someone growl behind him.
Slowly, Drakken turned around, and discovered that the other end of his damp, sweat-soaked towel had slapped somebody straight across their face. Somebody who, judging by the way they were tearing the towel away and throwing it to the floor, didn't appreciate it.
"Um, it was an accident," Drakken explained as a throbbing vein appeared on the other man's forehead.
The man didn't seem to be in a listening mood, though, as he grabbed Drakken's T-shirt.
"Hey! I said it was just an accident!" Drakken barked, suddenly getting angry. "I'm Dr. Drakken! You can't do that to me!"
"I don't care if you're the pope," the man scoffed, before he shoved Drakken into a column, hard, and he fell to the floor, overturning a waste basket and scattering its contents. "Keep your stinky towels and your ugly mug away from me."
Looking self-content, the man dusted himself off and turned around...and caught sight of Shego, his smug look becoming immediately appreciative.
Shego peered at the man with distaste, taking inventory. A big guy, taller than Dr. D, but not as buff as the other men in the gym...wearing a muscle shirt, outdated, baggy pants, sneakers that looked like he'd borrowed them from Bigfoot, and to top it off, a glaringly pink sweatband wrapped around a cheesy crew cut. Who was this guy? Or more like...who the heck did he think he was?
"Well, hi there. I'm Tony." The guy said with a hint of swagger and a leering grin. "Tony Braggadocio."
Shego didn't introduce herself back. She only looked down at her boss before dragging a hand across her face in aggravation. "Dr. D...you're pathetic."
Drakken returned her look with a poisonous glare, rubbing his side.
Tony's grin widened as he saw his chance. "That he is." He commented smoothly. "So how about you ditch this loser and keep me company instead right after I've finished teaching him a lesson?"
Without even waiting for an answer, Tony pulled back his fist and—
—instead of meeting a blue jaw, the fist slapped against a firm, green hand, holding it in place.
"Yeah, me keeping you company?" Shego said, like it was a casual observation about the weather. "Never gonna happen."
Tony opened his mouth to object, but never got a single syllable out.
"And this?" She went on, gesturing between the man's fist and Drakken's face. "Also never gonna happen."
Tony's eyes narrowed. "Hey, who do you think you—"
There was an audible crack as Shego increased the pressure on the man's hand, who made a choked little sound of surprise in the back of his throat.
Shego's other hand flared up, casting her face in a flickering, green light. "Who do you think I am?" She purred coldly, meeting his stunned gaze.
When he didn't answer, she let go and dropped him ungracefully on his ass with a thump. She barely had to push him at all; his knees had already given out from the shock.
"Come on, Doc." Shego said briskly, pulling him up from the floor by his hand and pushing him gently but firmly towards the other end of the gym, where the row of stationary bikes stood. "It's time to burn some more fat."
Drakken sighed, but padded reluctantly towards the bikes. Other men might have felt humiliated to be saved by a woman, but Drakken was used to it, and it had never bothered him much in any case. If he'd had gender issues, he wouldn't have hired a woman as his sidekick in the first place. It was just what Shego did, and he'd never enjoyed fighting. He was the brains, not the brawn, and had no desire to fight.
Still, he thought, his expression darkening a little, she didn't have to go and call me pathetic, did she?
Shego glanced at Drakken before turning back to the man. "You know..." She began, her voice dropping in volume as she leaned down into his face. "We're not even dating, he's just my boss— but even despite that, and even with the dozens of cupcakes' worth of fat currently lining his middle...he's still more than twice the man you are." She hissed, surprising herself. "Not that it would take a whole lot to be a better man than you," she added, snorting. "but still...back off, okay?"
Tony could only nod, completely flabbergasted.
Shaking her head as if to shake off the unexpected anger, she stopped to splash some water in her face from the sink on her way towards the bikes. As she dried her face with her towel, she let out a deep breath. Where the hell did that come from?
It did make some sense, though; she had a reputation to keep up! That was why she was even at the gym at all— she couldn't have people thinking she was working for some kind of fat loser!
People often got a bad impression of Dr. D— dorky, awkward, whiny, egotistical, nuts and bad-tempered were only a few of the adjectives normally used to describe him— but there was a lot more to her boss, otherwise of course she would never have bothered to work with him! Didn't people get that?
Still, the idiot she'd just taken care of was just some insignificant nobody, and she shouldn't have cared less what he thought, so why had it bothered her?
Rolling her eyes, she told herself to ignore it, and walked towards Drakken.
When she saw what he was doing, another eye roll was inevitable.
"Oh, come on, Dr. D— the bikes are not that hard to figure out." She said impatiently, flapping a hand at his unsure attempts to set the program. "Aren't you supposed to be the big scientist here?"
"Give me a break, Shego!" Drakken complained, trying to elbow her away. "They're different from the ones we have at the lair, okay?"
Shego persisted, elbowing him back. "Here, I'll adjust it for you so we can get started—"
"No, I've almost got it— just let me— there, see? I did it!" He declared victoriously as there was a beep, indicating that the bike's program had started. "You don't always have to butt in, you know," he added, casting her a reproachful glance before he straddled the bike and started treading on the pedals.
Shego eyes widened at that; then they narrowed into offended slits. Well, excuse me...! She thought irritably as she adjusted the seat on the bike next to his and started her program. Staring stiffly straight ahead, she pedalled a little harder than what was strictly necessary. Here I just kept him from having his face remodelled by some gym gorilla, and all he can do is tell me not to 'butt in'? It's not as if I'm even on the clock, I did that on my own time, and he can't even—
Her pedalling slowed down.
Why hadn't he simply defended himself? It had just been some jock jerk, not a world-saving teen hero vigilante versed in several kinds of kung fu, so what was the problem?
And why had she stepped in so quickly?
It had become a habit, that's what. It wasn't the first time she'd protected him from someone he might have actually managed to handle by himself. It was a bad habit. Yes, she was his sidekick, his fighter, his ninja bodyguard...but there was a limit to when and where she was supposed to do her job.
And sometimes, even when on the job, if they were outnumbered or if she was otherwise incapacitated, she wasn't always able to protect him, and it was a strain on her concentration to have to worry about him and his machines when she had to focus on fighting.
Like that time in Vegas three years ago! Okay, so it had turned out that she could handle Dementor's henchmen on her own, but when she'd been uncertain and had asked him if he'd be able to back her up, he'd just wimped out, not even offering to try to help her!
It's not as if she couldn't take care of herself…but it would have been nice to know she could at least have the option of asking for backup!
Shego let her pedalling even out and then absentmindedly picked up the pace again.
Maybe...maybe it was time to make some changes.
Glancing sideways at Drakken, Shego was slightly surprised to see him pedalling furiously, wearing the grim, tenacious expression he usually wore when, during the execution of a plan, he was met with resistance but was certain he was still going to win.
Shego took a quick drink of water from her bottle in a preoccupied kind of way before she let her pedalling match his.
That tenacity was definitely worth something.
She might be able to use that.
After Shego had gotten him started, taking him to the gym a couple more times, she left him on his own. To her relief, he didn't have a relapse and didn't start stuffing his face with cupcakes again— not that he could have since she'd convinced him to give the cupcakes to the remaining henchmen to boost their morale so they wouldn't quit as well-- or other kinds of junk food.
Three weeks later, Drakken was back to his normal weight, and Shego was actually beginning to consider her idea more seriously.
Author's note: Is it likely that Shego whipped Drakken back into shape after his cupcake binging? Considering her reaction to his weight gain, I'd say yes. Besides, who else was supposed to make him stop eating? XD Considering how his mom likes to practically force feed him, I'd rule her out.
EDIT (24.08.08): Added this sentence: "Not that it would take a whole lot to be a better man than you," she added, snorting, "but still...back off, okay?" It just seemed more IC for Shego.
This prologue is dedicated to Marvolo Cassius AKA Lon Wolfgood, who helped me decide exactly when in season four the story took place...which inspired me to write this prologue and made the rest of the story, which I'd mostly written already, seem a lot more logical to me. You unstuck my failing inspiration. Thanks, ass face. Also, thanks for the last advice you gave me before I published.
A big thanks once again to Charlotte C, who's agreed to be my beta for yet another story. Thank you for the funny comments, and thank you for giving me a heads up about my tendency to write endless sentences. I know I never seem to be able to resist those, and they can be murder on the syntax. I've been aware of the problem for about a decade, and now I'm finally making a proper, active attempt to remedy it. Thanks.