Disclaimer: Kim Possible is belonging to the Disney. This is but a humble work of fan-fiction.

Lingering

A Fan-fiction by Alcandre & Six-string Samurai

There was a faint tinkle of broken glass, and the contents of the display case were swept up into a velvet bag by a black glove. The shadow in the darkness of the store stilled suddenly, as light flooded in through the windows, then disappeared a heartbeat later. False alarm then, nothing more than the headlights of car passing by. Shego relaxed; lowering the arm she'd raised to preserve her night-vision.

She was only in St. Louis for the weekend, keeping an eye on Drakken while the scientist attended an annual lecture on isotoner, or something. The thief hadn't really been paying attention at the time, and since the job wasn't gofer work, she hadn't felt all that inclined to know the sordid details.

Drakken's little soirée had ended that afternoon and she'd gone on a little stroll once he'd dismissed her, telling her to take the rest of the time off the clock. So, she'd done just that and gone for a little sightseeing on foot downtown. At that's when she'd come across this tiny mom & pop antique shop.

Despite being the weekend, the place had been open fairly late into the day, and she'd spend a good deal of time sifting through odds and ends, trying to find something that caught her eye. Eventually, the pale woman made her way to the back of the store, where a huge case of jewelry stood in front of two large German cuckoo clocks.

The clocks were wonderfully carved, and looked pretty old, if she were any judge, but the thing that eventually pulled her curiosity was a piece of jewelry tucked away toward the back of the top row in the case. Her eyes were almost drawn to the string of nine tiny jade hoops strung through with a copper-tinted chain. Naturally, the case was closed and locked, and she hadn't seen the proprietor since entering the store fifteen minutes ago.

Pressing against the glass Shego could just make out the edge of a price tag. The first digit was scrawled in a scratchy hand, and looked to be either a six or an eight, but there wasn't any such discrepancy with the twin zeros at the end.

"Almost a thousand dollars for a piece of wire and a few rocks…please," the thief tore her eyes away from the necklace, scanning over the rest of the merchandise in the case. Maybe there was something else a little more in her price range. She hadn't gone out with the intention of doing any real shopping, and the most cash she had on her was maybe a fifty and a couple of twenties. She'd seen a sign in the window as she walked in, proclaiming the store was 'cash only.'

But, the necklace was too good to pass up. She had to have it. So she came back when the store hours were more accommodating.

Once she dropped Drakken off at his current lair, Shego parked the hovercraft they'd taken to St. Louis, and hopped into her own car to head home to the apartment that she'd been renting for the past year.

The roads on the outskirts of the city were slick with the recent rain, but the thief wasn't paying too much worry, since it wasn't actually raining at the moment. As she pulled up to a stop sign, she flipped down the makeup mirror and gave herself a once over, checking out the rings that rested in a line just above her cleavage. "Damn sexy, if I don't say so myself," Shego flashed her teeth, pleased with the hang and weight of the necklace. A loud honk from behind startled her, and she snapped the sunshade back up, muttering under her breath, "Jerk."

The car honked again, when Shego's car didn't move immediately.

"I'm going, damn. Keep it in your pants," she threw her arm up with a proffered middle finger so that the car behind her could see it through her rear window. "Some people, I swear," the pale woman groused, flooring the accelerator. She just wanted to get home and unwind from the trip, coupled with the irritation of impatient drivers; it was understandable that she completely missed the six-wheeler that skidded through the intersection, t-boning her coupe just to the fore of the driver's side.

For just a moment, Shego's world was without sound, the raindrops that had started to fall again were dancing through the air, aglow with the headlights of the truck that was doing its best to melt with her tiny sports car. And then there was a horrible tearing sound, all too bright lights, and the trickle of warmth and wetness from too many places. Vertigo took hold as her vehicle spun from the impact, sideswiping the irritable car behind hers, and coming to a final rest half-overturned in the irrigation ditch at the side of the road.

Glassy eyes stared back at her from the crooked rearview that dangled back and forth like a pendulum across her vision. Eyelids that carried the weight of the world slowly drooped, and the last thought that crossed her mind was an absurd one. Who saves the bad guy?

******

Chapter 1

******

The news of the villain's death came as a shock to some and a relief to others. To Kim Possible, it was the former. Not only was the one villain she could fully let loose on dead, but she had to hear about it on the news. And hearing the droll voice of the news reporter state, "In other news, sidekick to notorious Dr. Drakken was killed in a car accident today," made her stomach drop, her heart stop for just a second, and her eyes water.

At first, she thought it was a big practical joke. There was no way Shego could be killed so easily. Heck, Kim herself could barely lay a finger on her when they fought. How was it fair that something so, ordinary, would be the end of her rival? It was unbelievable.

But from the college student's viewpoint at the cemetery, it didn't look the least bit staged.

She didn't attend the burial, not in the open anyway. How could she? Not only would her friends and employers question her, the other attendees at the funeral would most certainly wonder. DNAmy, Monkey Fist, Dr. Drakken, and Duff Killigan would probably fight her out of the service.

So, she'd snuck into the cemetery and stood as far away as possible during the ceremony. And when everyone had finally left she made her way up to Shego's gravestone, and just stared at it.

"You're really dead," she finally whispered. "I can't believe it. You're dead." She slowly sank to her knees and ran a hand over the gravestone; the words "You will be missed," feeling rough under her fingers.

"I feel…I feel sad," she admitted. "You were a worthy opponent. And…" she paused and continued studying the gravestone. "And…I liked you." A smile found its way to her lips. "You had a weird sense of humor and your sarcasm could make anyone scream, but I liked you."

Sighing, she stood up. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to get to know you better. We would have made a great team if we had been on the same side. And I think we could have been something like friends." She dusted off her pants. "Maybe…next time, in another life."

And with one last glance at her arch-enemy's gravestone, Kim Possible left the Cemetery for Villains and their Sidekicks.

The drive home was uneventful, which was probably a good thing since Kim wasn't really focused on her driving. Her thoughts kept turning to Shego.

She pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex she lived in and sighed. It still seemed so… surreal. What was happening to her? Why was this affecting her so much? It hardly made sense, for her to be feeling this way over the death of someone she really didn't have all that normal of a relationship with. It wasn't like the two of them had been close. They hadn't even been friends for crying out loud!

Taking a deep breath, she shook her head and got out of her car. "Get over it, Possible," she muttered. "She's gone. There's no use getting all worked up about it."

She walked over to her building, her thoughts still clouded, but something lying in the bushes beside the stairs leading to her apartment caught her attention. A small black cat; and it wasn't moving.

"Kitty?" Kim asked softly, crouching down and peering through the bushes. The cat didn't move. "Kitty?" Kim said again, this time shuffling closer. Still no sign of movement, but Kim did catch a faint rise and fall of its chest. It was alive at least.

She cautiously stuck her hand into the bush, her mother's voice ringing in her mind about the dangers of strays. But, when her hand made contact with the soft fur, and it didn't illicit a reaction, Kim knew something was wrong.

The redhead quickly but carefully extracted the cat from the bush, softly whispering comforting nothings, hoping that if it did wake, it would be less inclined to sink its claws into her. When the cat was finally in her arms she stood up, and making sure not to jostle the little bundle, made her way to her apartment.

Once inside, she cradled the cat in one arm and pulled out a towel from her bathroom. After wrapping the still limp cat in the towel she placed it on the red leather sofa in her den and hurried to the kitchen to call her mom, hoping that a brain surgeon would know something about cat care.

******

Shego was fuzzy on a lot of things at the moment. Everything was all wrong, skewed. The thief wasn't positive, but she just knew something was wrong; she wasn't safe where she was. She had to keep moving.

"One foot in front of the other, yes, that's the way. Have to keep moving. Another step, you can do it…move damn you," it was all she could do to mentally prod herself just so she didn't collapse on the side of the road she was stumbling along.

It wasn't easy on the ex-hero; she couldn't explain it because her head was killing her. It was hard enough just to get a concrete thought across. Everything was all jumbled and even the simple act of getting her feet to listen was difficult. It pissed her off to no end. At least it did the few times she managed to muster up anything other than a sort of feeble weariness.

She'd decided that she must be sick, maybe with the flu. Her head sure felt like it was stuffed with cotton, and she was crazy short on breath. Everything felt squished.

Looking around, nothing was familiar, and things that appeared close in fact ended up being much farther away than she anticipated. She didn't quite know where she was headed, but she let the tight feeling in her chest guide the way.

Night fell by the time Shego made it to something she could recognize, an apartment complex that towered above her head. She knew this place, but the sight of it rising so high only made her second guess herself. What was it? Why was she here, of all places?

Because something in her gut told her it was safe here. "This is…this, Kim--" the rest of thought went unformed as her legs finally gave out, and she collapsed near a tree and a huge block of stone, exhaustion finally taking its toll now that she felt she was out of harm's way.

******

"Just keep it warm, Kimmie. It may just be exhausted, hungry, and cold." Her mother then laughed. "And find out the sex so you can stop calling it an 'it.'"

Kim hung up the phone, her forehead wrinkled in worry. Her mom basically had told her to just keep an eye on the cat, since the young woman couldn't find any visible wounds.

Kim walked back into the den, partly relieved and partly upset to see that the cat hadn't moved the entire time she had been on the phone with her mom. She sat down next to the sleeping cat and gently unwrapped it from the towel.

"Okay, first things first," she muttered, lifting the cat up. "Pardon me," she said as she moved the tail and checked to see if she had found a boy or a girl cat. "It's a girl!" She said with a grin. For some reason, she pictured a huge banner exclaiming just that in pink letters.

"Okay, now that that's done, let's get you warm." She wrapped the cat back in the towel and slowly lay down on the sofa, cradling the still limp body to her chest. "You can rest here while I watch the news."

She picked up the remote and turned on the T.V., barely moving an inch. And as the news played out, the cat slept on and was soon joined by Kim. Their combined steady breathing filled the air as the news played softly in the background.

******

Shego rested, floating through a lazy cloud of unconsciousness, enveloped as she was in a heavy curtain of warmth. It this latter, unfamiliar feeling that pulled and prodded, coaxing her back into waking life. Curtailing a wide yawn that cracked her jaw, she blinked herself the rest of the way out of the tendrils of dream that clung to the inside of her head.

High above, the ceiling was a strange thing, and shadows of blue flickered softly, licking at the light paint. There was a faint steady hum in the air, as unfamiliar as the rest of the room that her eyes crawled lethargically over. She took it all in and let her sleepy gaze drift, coming to rest finally on a flickering television set, far away on the opposite side of the room. The station it was tuned to, had ceased broadcasting, and it was the flicker of static that was dancing black and white with the darkened room, white noise providing the beat.

Attempting to stifle another yawn, Shego found her arms tangled in blankets, and looked down to find she was all but swaddled in soft cloth up to her neck. It was a struggle to free her, and she discovered that her body wasn't quite up to the task. The effort it took just to wriggle was monstrous, and she was totally unprepared to accept that a blanket would be getting the best of her. She willed her arms to move, but the blanket was tight against her, heavy. Get off of me! She grit out in frustration.

Her struggles did not go unnoticed. The space behind her shifted, and the wall of warmth at her back suddenly eclipsed the problem she was having with her makeshift bonds. Shego realized then that wherever she was, she wasn't alone. To make matters worse, she couldn't even turn her head due to the confining material; it was not a good feeling. Capping it off, she'd reached for the one constant in her life that she could rely on to never fail her; instinctively, she'd flared her power, knowing that even hampered, she was on the far side of helpless.

Nothing. No fire, no heat and no Green…

Bound and now feeling helpless for the first time in a really long time, Shego felt something tearing at her throat; it burned and wracked at her. A scream of frustration split her lips, weaker than she thought, but still loud to her ears. Could this be anymore humiliating?

******

Kim woke to the cat thrashing in her arms. Looking down, she noticed the struggling cat and frowned. She knew the poor thing was terrified, having woken in an unfamiliar place wrapped in a towel.

Poor thing, she thought as she gently brought her hands around to unwrap the towel.

A soft, weak mew proved how terrified the cat was and Kim felt her heart break at the frightened sound.

"Shh, it's okay, sweetie. Let me help you," she whispered while she pulled the towel away.

The cat seemed to stiffen at the sound of her voice, so Kim took the opportunity to free her all the way. Once the towel was off the cat, the red-head shifted around and peered into the wide green eyes of her visitor.

A feeling of familiarity settled over the college student but she shook it off and smiled. "Hey, sweetie. Are you doing any better? You had me a little scared earlier." The cat just continued to stare at her. "Are you hungry? I'm sure I've got some chicken in the fridge you can eat." She slowly picked the still cat up and walked into the kitchen.

As she opened the refrigerator she looked down at the cat and smiled. "You sure are a quiet thing, aren't you?"

And, as if on cue, the cat started mewing and struggling in her arms again, seemingly frantic to escape her grasp.

"Hey," Kim said in alarm. "Calm down, Kitty. It'll be okay!"

The cat continued to struggle. And suddenly, the claws came out.

The cat's right paw lashed out and caught Kim across the arm. The woman gave a yelp of surprise and pain and dropped the cat, which landed on her feet and darted between Kim's legs and back into the den.

"Ow," Kim muttered, eyeing the four bleeding scratches on her arm. She grabbed a paper towel and dabbed it on the cuts, wiping away the blood. "Okay," she said as she threw the bloodied paper towel in the trashcan. "I've got a cat to calm down."

******

For the first time since waking, the super-powered thief was forced to confront a vital bit of information. The niggling thing in the back of her head telling her things weren't quite status-quo had been shoved violently to the forefront with little to no regard for her sanity. And it flagged her will momentarily, long enough for her to be subdued.

The sight of her nemesis looming over her so suddenly had shocked Shego into silence, as she locked onto the little fact that Princess's face had dwarfed her own, as the red head towered high above, a warped sense of perspective.

Initially, the green skinned woman thought maybe someone had drugged her, that, or she was having one hell of a flash back. In her disoriented state, the thief allowed the hallucinatory giantess to manhandle her, at least until she could regain her equilibrium, and snatch back the scraps of wit that had so suddenly fled.

Then, she saw it, a perfect chance to get away, put some distance between her and the overgrown phantasm. A blast of cold air stirred her senses, and Shego struck out wildly, attempting to free herself from a soft but firm hold.

Which is what brought her into the current predicament that of having taken cover behind an inordinately large sofa. This was wrong, all of it. She fought against the growing impulse to cry out in frustration. There was just too many things wrong. Her perceptions were shot, distance, and perspective…everything blown way out of proportion. And it didn't end there. Her sense of touch was skewed; her hearing and sense of smell were being constantly bombarded, battered by a dozen things at once. God, she was in some kind of nightmare, and it was washing over her in hyper-color.

The rush only made her dizzy, compounding the headache that she felt knocking behind her eyes. Footsteps on the carpet, great muffled thundering things, told her the apparition was coming for her. Shego's stomach clenched and she fought a losing battle to keep the vertigo at bay. Her throat hitched twice, the sharp tang of bile hot on her tongue.

*******

The soft gagging sound alerted Kim to the cat's hiding place. And the gagging sound also alerted Kim to the cat's predicament.

"Oh, shit," the young woman muttered as she hurried over to behind the sofa. The cat was huddled there; eyes wide at first but quickly squeezing shut as its whole body lurched in an effort to try and keep down what little she had sloshing in her stomach.

Kim squatted close to the cat and laid a gentle but cautious hand on its back. "Sweetie," she said softly. "You've gotten yourself so worked up that you're sick."

The cat seemed to swallow and slowly get a hold of itself. But, under the soft fur, its muscles bunched up, and its whole body locked up at her touch.

"You don't have to be afraid of me," Kim said as she started to stroke the black fur under her fingers. "I won't hurt you. I promise. I'm just trying to help." She adjusted her position so she was sitting down beside the cat now.

Suddenly, the cat turned to her, the green eyes flashing with something akin to anger. And a low growl rumbled within the feline's throat.

"Whoa," Kim said jerking her hand back and scooting back on her butt away from the cat. "No need to get all touchy. I'm sorry if I offended you."

Oh, God. The red-head thought with a groan. I'm apologizing to a cat.

Kim held up her hands, as if to show that she wouldn't hurt the cat. "See," she said calmly. "Look, I won't hurt you."

Another growl came from the cat, a prickly warning toward the girl.

"Goodness, Kitty. You've got a temper." Kim smiled at the cat. "You remind me of--," she trailed off as her chest tightened and her eyes closed. "But she's dead," she muttered almost too soft to hear, as if reminding herself. Her hands dropped to her lap, and her shoulders slumped. "Shego's dead." And without Kim's permission, a lone tear fell down her cheek and hit her thigh with a faint plop.

Kim mentally shifted gears away to the trouble at hand, easing the pressure in her chest in the process. The red headed college student wiped absently at her cheek, blinking her eyes clear. "Now, what am I going to do with you, hmm?"

The black cat continued to stare fixedly at Kim, though the rumble in its chest slowly quieted just before it plopped back on its haunches, unintentionally mirroring the redhead. There was a moment of stillness, where the two regarded one another.

Then the cat turned its head, almost as if it was dismissing Kim entirely. It rose up and made as if to pad away, but came up short. The cat wobbled a moment then froze as it hacked a few more times, proceeding to personalize the carpet with a weak splash of cat puke.

*******

From the way her insides were twisting, Shego had little trouble coming to the realization that she wasn't just having a bad dream. This image of pumpkin that towered over her was as real as the bile that burned her throat. Something was terribly wrong here, and the moment Kim uttered the words, things started falling into place for the thief turned cat. "Shego's dead," a phrase she wanted to undo the moment they vibrated in the air, spoken with resignation, and a claustrophobic sense of finality. It was a tone that Shego never thought she'd hear from the hero.

And yet, even as distant memories drifted through her mind, indistinct but slowly clearing, the black cat understood one simple truth, Shego was not dead. Not when she was right here, feeling like shit.

Stepping away from the warm puddle, she stretched, trying to work out the soreness, the weakness she felt. It had been obvious from the moment she'd first regained consciousness out on the side of the road, miles away from Kim's apartment, the body she'd woken in was not her old self, but neither did it feel like someone else's. It was small, and constricting, and unbearably weak, but she still felt like Shego, and that's why her mind had refused to make any real connection with the changes at first.

But, in the face of a Giant Kim Possible, and appropriately super-sized living accommodations, Shego relinquished the point. Glancing down at herself for the first time, she wasn't surprised to find that her mental checklist wasn't far off. Her tiny body was skinny, undernourished, and her black fur was matted to some degree. It wasn't much consolation, but she decided that she looked worse off than she felt. Her stomach took that moment to notify her of its currently empty condition.

Well, if she was going to be doing this once again as a cat, Shego saw no reason not to play it to the hilt. Kim was still sitting on her duff, so the black cat drew herself up as much as her body would allow, and fixed the red head with a look that she assumed would send off waves of 'I'm ready to eat now' vibes.

*******

Kim sighed as she looked at the wet puddle of cat puke. "Lovely," she muttered. "Something to make my day even better." Her own stomach tried to rebel at the sickening smell that came of the puddle but she pushed her lunch back down with a swallow. Don't puke. Don't puke.

Movement from the cat made her look over and another sigh escaped her lips. "You're hungry, aren't you?" the hero said. She shook her head. "Okay, give me a second to clean this shit up and I'll feed you that chicken I was telling you about." The cat's eyes seemed to widen but Kim didn't really make note of it, she was too busy gathering paper towels, a bottle of Resolve, and a trash bag.

"At this rate, I'm going to go through a whole roll of paper towels before the week is up." She knelt down and started cleaning up the mess. It wasn't much but it was enough to be unpleasant. Then again, when was cleaning this kind of thing ever a fun?

As she finished up, Kim glanced over at the cat, which seemed to be studying her rather intently. Kim raised an eyebrow at the feline. "Yes?" she said sarcastically. "May I help? I'm a little busy at the moment, cleaning up your puke I might add, so if you are waiting on food, well, you'll have to wait a little longer. So sorry, your majesty."

And the cat continued to stare, green slit eyes never wavering.

The mess finally cleaned up, Kim stood, closing the trash bag on her way up. "Now, let me throw this outside and then we'll get you some food. I don't want this to stink up the apartment. Lord knows I want this smell to follow me around."

Kim gave an absent minded pat on the cat's head and walked outside, closing the door softly behind her, while those tiny eyes dogged her every step.

*******

Shego didn't have long to wait before Kimmie returned from taking out the trash, and after the red head put away her cleaning supplies, she'd fixed them both a little something to eat.

Honestly, the woman-turned kitten couldn't remember the last time she'd been so voraciously hungry, and tore into her meal, barely even caring that she'd been reduced to eating in such a manner. Not that anyone was around to point that tidbit out, well besides princess. And that hardly counted, because the red head had only appeared slightly bemused at the time, watching Shego out of the corner of one eye while she herself tore into a sandwich she'd haphazardly slapped together.

When the two of them had finished eating, Shego had made it plain she'd needed a second helping; the cat took it upon herself to check out Kimmie's place. She'd actually been here before, about a year ago.

It had been back when Kim's globetrotting had ground to a halt, almost out of nowhere. At the time, Shego had already been pretty much out of the public eye ever since the incident with the Lowardians. Being hailed as a world savior had put a bit of a dampener on her mood for a few months, not only hers, but Drakken's as well.

The blue dork decided to try and go legit, using his newfound public acceptance as a stepping stone to actually get into radio as he'd been telling his mother for ages. In Shego's opinion, it had been a venture doomed from the get-go, and Dr. D hadn't failed to disappoint. Only, this time, he let his mother know of his break with the radio station, at Shego's suggestion, just so the old woman would stop asking the thief every time she called, when she could hear her Drewbie on the Air again.

That didn't stop the crazy old lady from calling of course, since then she was always worried after Dr. D's job hunting. Shego had to replace three cordless handsets out of sheer frustration with the nosy old bat. Not to mention that the whole time her employer was disc-jockeying it up, he'd never gotten around to terminating her contract. While that had been a trifle annoying, since she wasn't free to go looking for a job elsewhere, she was still getting paid by direct deposit, mostly for sitting around on her ass all day long. It had been a good gig while it lasted.

But, with Drakken out of the picture, and between Señor Senior, Sr.'s stroke, and Monkey Fist off somewhere with DNAmy, waxing poetic, there was little in the way of villainy on a global scale for nearly a year. So it was small wonder that Kim Possible's absence from the stage was hardly missed. Shego had been too busy doing nothing to really think about it, and the few times the red headed hero had impinged on her thoughts, were also the times that Drakken's mother chose to reach out and touch someone.

Then, Drakken got into a little tussle with the FCC, and not wanting to further damage his current reputation, he bowed out, complaining to Shego when he told her the news about how if this had been the good ol' days, he'd have already been plotting his revenge. This in turn got her thinking about checking up on a certain Kimberly Possible, and how the mint-tinged thief found out that her Kimmie was no longer living in Middleton, having left earlier that year to go off to college.

Deciding a road trip was in order, if only to help alleviate some of her boredom, Shego took one of Drakken's old hovercrafts for a cross country spin. And like that, she'd gone off to Essex County, Massachusetts to do a little pumpkin hunting.

What she'd found had surprised the thief, to say the least. The young woman she tracked around the old university campus was a far cry from the brash and confident hero she expected to see. For almost an entire day, Shego watched silently from above while hovering in stealth mode, as a morose red head trudged from class to class, eventually leaving the campus as the sun dipped below the horizon.

It wasn't the first time that Shego had tailed Kim while the girl was at school, but this was hardly Middleton High, and Princess was by no means acting like her usual self. In fact, if the thief had been pressed to describe the formerly outgoing and take charge red head, she might admitted to making a mistake and had been following the wrong person. Everything about princess screamed depression and melancholy. It was enough to almost make Shego ill. Where was the fire, hell, where was Kimmie's life?

Maybe she'd just found out that ugly rat-thing died…or she'd finally broken up with her lame-o boyfriend, Stoppable. Shego left, flying back home after making sure she knew where Kim was living. She'd only been meaning to make sure the redhead hadn't gone off and died on some stupid save-the-world trip. But, now there were questions, more questions than she had easy answers to.

Of course, there was nothing preventing her from making her trip a little more personal, and asking pumpkin face to face, but Shego had been a little wierded out by the sudden one-eighty Kim had taken, and wanted time to make sure nothing shady was going on, especially if she didn't know about it first.

A few hours later found the thief in Middleton, wondering how she was going to go about getting the information she wanted. Assuming of course, that someone in the city even knew why the redhead was acting so contrary to the young woman she'd butted heads with so often in the past.

Debating the issue with herself on the flight over, Shego had decided to pay a little unobtrusive visit to Kimmie's folks, hang around for a while and see what was what, preferably using the Hovercraft's audio pickups in stealth mode. While she was no stranger, and had even stayed at the Possible residence for more than a couple of days, she still felt remnants of her stint as Miss Go, cropping up at inopportune times. It was a private source of acute embarrassment for the green-hued woman. She preferred to be reminded of it as little as she could.

It hadn't even taken ten minutes of eavesdropping, for the comet-enhanced woman to start piecing together Kim's puzzle.

*******

Kim watched with a grin as the cat wandered away from her bowl, probably to explore Kim's tiny apartment. Not that there was much to see. She glanced down at her paper plate and the remnants of her sandwich. That definitely hadn't been much. Her stomach growled as if protesting it's still relatively empty state.

"Yeah, yeah," Kim muttered. "I hear ya. Not much I can do about it but I do hear ya." She sighed and stood up, throwing her plate away and opening the refrigerator once more. "I need to go shopping." Inside the fridge was a small amount of chicken left for the cat, a carton of orange juice, some sliced ham, mayo, and something that resembled cheese, but Kim wasn't too sure of that. "I am so living the college student life. Throw in some ramen noodles and I'm set."

Her stomach spoke up again, agreeing with the idea.

"No, I refuse!" Kim said. "Ramen noodles can't be good for me." She chuckled. "But ham sandwiches totally are."

She closed the fridge and walked back into the den. She glanced around, trying to find the cat but didn't see her. She was probably still sniffing around, getting familiar with her surroundings.

The student grabbed her book bag from beside the sofa she had placed there before leaving for the cemetery earlier. "Okay. Homework. Gotta do homework." She plopped down on the sofa, pulled out her books and proceeded to start doing her reading for her classes the day after tomorrow. She knew she be working late tomorrow night and wouldn't feel like doing her reading after she came home.

Right as her Archeology reading was getting interesting, her phone rang.

Giving a frustrated groan and she put her book down and walked into the kitchen, already knowing who was on the phone.

"Hey, Mom."

"Kimmie!" Her mom said, sounding happy but tired. "How's the cat?"

"Fine. I fed her some leftover chicken and now she's wandering around the apartment."

"Good. You know, you should probably take her to the vet as soon as possible. Make sure she has a clean bill of health. Worms aren't pretty to deal with."

"Yeah, that's true." Kim looked over her shoulder, her eyes searching for the cat. Not seeing her, she turned back around, her mind focusing on her mom.

"So," her mom paused.

"So?"

"When are you coming to visit?"

Kim sighed. "Mom. You know how hard it is for me to drop everything and leave. Besides, I'm busy with school or work every day of the week but Sunday. And a trip to Middleton needs to last longer than a day."

"But you have a break coming up soon, right?"Her mom protested. "Can't you come then?"

Kim closed her eyes, hating to hear the desperation in her mom's voice. "I'll see what I can do."

The college student could hear the smile in her mom's voice. "Thank you, Kimmie-cub. Everyone would love to see you."

There was a pause before Kim asked the question she asked every time they spoke. "How's Dad?"

"He's…good. He had a good day today; wasn't so down in the dumps." Her mom chuckled. "He made me put in a home video of you from grade school."

"What?" Kim felt her face flare up in a blush. "Why?"

"He misses you just like I do. So do the boys."

Kim took a deep breath and managed to keep the smile in her voice, even though her throat was tightening up from the memories flooding her brain.

It all started right after she graduated from high school. An explosion at her dad's work threw him across the lab and broke his back, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down. The whole family seemed to go through a very dark time, battling depression and fear of the future. What was going to happen now? Her dad obviously couldn't work and his worker's compensation only went so far toward paying the hospital bills.

Her mom stepped up and started working double shifts at the hospital, Kim retired from the world-saving biz and got a part-time job at some crummy fast food chain that wasn't Bueno Nacho, and Jim and Tim started helping around the house. But it wasn't enough. James had to be cared for full time.

It wasn't until Kim came home one night in July when she realized how bad everything had gotten. Her mom was sitting on the sofa in the den, sobbing into her hands while her dad just stared at his wife with a frown on his face.

"Mom? Dad? What's wrong?"

Her mom sniffed and hastily wiped her eyes. "Nothing, sweetie. Nothing at all."

Kim sat beside her mom and looked over at her dad, who still hadn't moved his wheelchair any closer to comfort his wife. "Dad? Why is Mom crying?"

Her dad looked away.

That's when it hit Kim. Her mom was completely worn out and her dad was depressed. And she had a feeling that their financial situation wasn't good; at least not like it used to be.

So, plans for college went on the back burner for Kim. She started working full time but opposite shifts as her mom so Kim could be home with her dad while her mom was at work and vice versa. Well over half the money Kim made at her job went into a special account she had set up just for the family.

Jim and Tim did what they could, but being freshmen in high school and quickly working their way to graduating early, took away most of their time. That in of itself was another worry to tack onto the camel's back. The boys were looking at a few academic scholarships, but not full rides by any stretch of the word. That the both of them were aiming to attend top notch Universities, it just wasn't something that the Possibles were going to be able to afford without taking up extra work, not without James and Anne's combined income.

Moreover, with a good chunk of the savings tied up in medical bills, there was little to go toward Kim's continued education, especially when she didn't have the prospective financial aid that her brothers were now going to be counting on.

The teen hero saw this, and made her decision. Saving the world was one thing, but family was just as important. If she could put her life at risk stopping the likes of Drakken and Dr. Dementor, then how could she do less for the sake of those close to her? For the time being, she would just have to shelf her education, at a small cost. School would always be there, but her father might not.

Her parents didn't realize that Kim actually decided not to go to college until one day in late September when her dad suddenly looked up at her as she was moving him from his wheelchair onto his bed.

"Kimmie-cub, why aren't you in school?"

Kim shrugged it off and said that he was her priority now. But he wouldn't accept that as an excuse. He even insist that she call her mom and put her on speaker so they could all 'discuss' this.

They told her that giving up her dream to take care of the family, while an honorable venture was not what they wanted for her. She argued, but they brushed her selflessness aside and eventually got their way.

She left the next fall for Miskatonic University in Massachusetts to study Archeology. Her parents paid what they could, which wasn't a whole lot. And since they couldn't afford her room and board on campus, Kim got yet another job and ended up renting a small single room apartment off campus, it wasn't much, but it was better than just a studio.

She never acted like a normal college student. She didn't beg her parents for money, she didn't party, and she had no real friends to speak of, only acquaintances. It was a lonely life, but necessary. At least, that's what she told herself every morning she woke up.

"Did he go out at all today?" Kim said, continuing the phone conversation as she moved to the table and sat down.

"We went to the park," her mom answered. "That's really the only place he likes to go. Being in the sun lifts his spirits."

Kim smiled. "How does he like his new wheelchair?"

"Loves it," her mom said with a chuckle. "Being able to move it himself makes how expensive it was all worthwhile."

Kim smiled and finished the conversation with her mom. After a long goodbye, with multiple promises to visit on her break, Kim hung up and stared at the phone. Her mom sounded good; tired but good.

"I wish I could do more to help," she said. "I still feel selfish being all the way over here and not with them." And silence fell over the kitchen as Kim let more memories overtake her.

*******

Shego padded around the small apartment, finding it was pretty spartan; which might have surprised her two years ago, but not so much anymore. Aside from the living room, there was the small kitchen off to the side, barely divided from the living space by a formica countertop. The kitchen was simple, and aside from the small table Kim had been eating at, there was a gas range, the fridge and a microwave below the cupboards above the dividing counter.

In the living room, Kim was lounging on the sofa, talking to someone on the phone, but Shego wasn't really interested in eavesdropping just yet, so she slinked past the wood and glass entertainment stand that held Kim's TV set and an a cheap knockoff brand DVD player.

To the rear of the living room, the cat found two doors off of a small hallway, barely even deserving the name. The first door was shut tight, and there was no way she could reach the knob, even if she had a way to turn in. Sniffing in disgust, Shego flicked her tail at the door, and moved to the opposite side of the hall, to the door that was cracked open a few inches.

Nudging it with her head a few times, she managed to widen the gap enough to squeeze through.

Kimmie's bedroom.

In such a tiny apartment, she really hadn't expected much else, which meant the closed door, was probably the bathroom.

Shego sat on the carpet a little off to one side of the door, just in case Kim came looking for her and pushed the door open. She didn't particularly care to get accidentally smashed. The room, like everything else, had little in the way of furnishing. There was a small closet, a plastic clothes hamper next to it, and a cheap looking desk that might have been second hand, or from IKEA. The one thing that caught the kitten's sharp eye, however, was the bed. That alone was familiar to her. For all she could tell, it was the same one that had been in Kim's old room back in Middleton. And better yet, it was just low enough for her to climb up if she took a running start.

So she did, and clambered across the unmade blankets, making her way up toward the pillows, where she knew it would be. It was too much to hope Kimmie had left her ugly plushie behind. The damned creepy thing was sitting there, smiling its twisted smile, and looking just as freaky as Shego remembered it. Those stupid Cuddle Buddies only ever reminded her of DNAmy, DNAmy and her fat face and horribly rotund body. It made her sick just thinking about the few times she'd had to work with the woman at Drakken's behest. Luckily, the blue dolt didn't seem to care to be around the geneticist any more than his comet powered assistant.

With a swipe of her paw, Shego sent the offensive thing tumbling from its perch, and batted at it until it fell off, onto a more fitting place, down on the floor back behind the headboard. Feeling a little better, and slightly smug, Shego plopped down on the pillow, stealing the dethroned Pandaroo's seat.

*******

A soft, almost unheard thud reached Kim's ear, dragging her back to the now and leaving her past where it belonged, in the past.

She blinked and looked around. "Kitty? Where are you?" She shook her head as she started toward her room, noticing her door a little more open than before. "You really need a name, cat. I can't call you Kitty the rest of your life. How boring is that?" She pushed her door open all the way and felt a grin tug at her mouth.

The cat was on her bed, or more specifically on her pillow, taking what could be best described as a cat nap. Looking, for the world, wholly content. Kim chuckled. "Maybe I'll do my reading in here. I could use some company."

Not two minutes later, Kim was lounging on her bed, her textbook in her lap, her right hand gently stroking the cat's back and her left hand turning the pages of her book when needed.

It wasn't until she finished her reading when she noticed the soft purring coming from the napping cat.

"Ah, so maybe you do like me," Kim said with a grin. She closed her book and set it on the floor, making a mental note to put it in her bag later. She continued petting the cat with a contented sigh. "I think you and I are really gonna get along, Kitty. Even if you are temperamental. But hey, who isn't these days?"

The purring got a little louder as Kim scratched under the cat's chin, causing the cat to lift her head, eyes still closed. "Maybe I'll go shopping tomorrow before I go to work and get you a brush, some toys, and some cat food. Oh, and a litter box." She frowned. "Actually, I should probably just go take care of all that. You may have to use the litter box sooner rather than later. And my carpet, no matter how ugly, is not gonna be the place for cat pee. I'd like to keep my security deposit, thank you very much."

The redhead jumped off the bed, making the cat open her eyes when the petting stopped. "Sorry, sweetie," Kim said as she pulled on some shoes. "I can't keep petting you, or I'll never get to the store. Just hang tight right here. I'll be back in no time." She glanced at the digital clock, "7:07 pm," she muttered. "Good. Not too late to have the weirdoes out."