I don't own these characters; Disney does. Well, I do own Trin and Tatsu, but everybody else belongs to Disney.

10: Growth

The apartment was quiet and still. The apartment, usually the scene of more activity than most places, seemed lonely without the typical chaos. The sole occupant was on the couch with a laptop resting on her tanned legs. A wrinkled brow focused solely on the computer screen until a sigh escaped troubled lips. The frustrated expression could be blamed on the lonely feel of the apartment.

"I'm gonna hafta wait for them to come back. Trin knows how to do all of this stuff…" Joss muttered to herself. Of course, she had to work up the courage to ask Trin for help.

The young teen had not spoken much to her cousins since she ventured out of her room after the weekend was up. She interacted with them, but in a very limited manner. She treated them like lepers and they sort of returned the favor. She felt a tug inside of her, trying to urge her to do better, but she really did not know where to start and it did not seem like her cousins were going to meet her at that point. She had to make a move.

"I don't know what to do. I don't know why I even care," Joss said to the air. She did not know why the guilt was still eating at her. She knew that if things had been only weeks earlier, she really would not give a damn. Why was she so different now with her feelings?

She did not have the answer to that question; not something that she could put into words anyway. She just knew that she felt extremely bad and she missed her cousins, even though they were right there in the same home as she was. In fact, she felt worse whenever she looked at them and could not figure out what to say to them to make things better.

The sound of keys in the door got her attention and she looked up with some hope shining in her eyes. She thought that it might be one of her cousins, come to save her from the insanity that was her math homework. They would help and she considered that she might finally figure out a way to make her horrible feelings lessen or go away completely. She jumped when she saw that it was not one of her cousins or even one of their girlfriends.

"Aunt Anne, what're you doing here?" Joss asked as the neurosurgeon stepped out of the hallway into the living room.

"I'm here to see my daughters, but judging by the silence, I doubt they're here," Anne answered while slipping off her shoes at the door.

"No. Trin and Tatsu went grocery shopping. Kim had to run out to buy a book for class that she needs tomorrow," Joss explained in a near mumble, looking away as she spoke. She could not believe the shame that she felt in the presence of her cousins' mother. She could not understand the feelings since she knew this would not have happened not too long ago.

The doctor nodded. "Oh, so they should be back soon?"

"I suppose."

"Good." Anne took a sit in the armchair that was closest to the young woman. "So, Joss, what have you been up to?"

"Schoolwork," Joss answered while motioning weakly to the laptop in front of her.

"How's it going?"

"Challenging." More so than she expected. She did not mind the challenge, but she was being troubled by other things while she should have just had to focus on her schoolwork.

"I'm sure you're enjoying it then." The surgeon paused as her niece nodded. "I hope that your cousins are helping you where you need it."

Joss was quiet for a moment and her eyes drifted from the sofa to the floor. "They do…" she replied in a low tone.

"Do you like staying with your cousins, Joss?" Anne asked curiously. She supposed it was a blunt question, but she really did want to know. Right now, it did not seem like Joss was enjoying her stay and she did not see why Joss should have to stay with Trin and Kim if she did not like it. She would like to save all three younger ladies the pain that they could cause each other if the Montana girl did not like it there.

Joss ran her hand through her hair and turned perplexed green eyes to her aunt. "I dunno, Aunt Anne. I'm real confused." After admitting that, her eyes returned to the floor.

"What's to be confused about?"

"It's just…I didn't know what to expect from them and I still don't, especially with Trin. I don't understand your daughters," Joss answered, eyes remained glued to the floor.

"There's not much to understand, Joss. Have they been being good to you?"

"Yes," the teenager confirmed.

"Then why is it so confusing? Would you prefer that they treat you horribly or indifferently? They're your cousins and they do want to look out for you. So, what's so confusing?" Anne asked as she leaned forward to make sure that she did not miss the response.

Joss rubbed her head with both hands, trying to figure out how she should put things to her aunt. Her brow wrinkled as she searched her mind for the right words. "I just didn't think they would like me. I was pretty mean to Kim because she's queer and with Shego of all people. I mean, come on, Shego was like her arch nemesis and now they're dating! It's just crazy!"

Anne nodded, looking quite understanding. "It is rather wild, yes. But, has Shego done anything to you since you arrived that led you to believe that she's still the way that she used to be or that she's wrong for Kim?"

Silence reigned for a long moment. Joss' eyes moved, like she was searching the floor for an answer. "Shego…looks like she really cares about Kim. I thought maybe it was a trick, but looking at them, it doesn't seem like it. Kim seems really happy too…"

"And she's no different than she was before she was dating Shego?" the doctor continued on.

Joss nodded. "It's the same old Kim. That's one of the confusing things, you know? I figured that she would change when I found out that she was dating Shego, like somehow Shego would corrupt her. It's just weird."

"But, if Kim is the same and you're treating her as if she's changed, you're really the one being weird, right?" Anne reasoned in a patient tone.

Silence again before another nod. "Yeah, I guess I am."

"So, I think that you should go back to treating Kim as you did before. Since she is the same, you should be the same, right?"

And yet another nod. "I guess I should. What about Trin, though? She's really weird."

The doctor smiled a little. "Well, let's find out what's weird about Trin. I know you've always been a little shy around Trin, not knowing where you stand with her. So, what's weird about her?" she inquired in a gentle tone.

"Well, my mom and Nana always said that she's bad. She seemed really scary to me when I was little…" the young woman confessed, even though that was not hard to tell. Joss used to avoid Trin like the plague when she was a little girl.

"And now that you're older and you've been living with her the past few weeks?"

"That's where it gets weird! She's not really scary at all. She's kinda normal! She cooks really good and makes everybody's favorites all the time and she does all the cleaning, even for Shego, who's always mean to her! Even for me…" Joss rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. "…who's always mean to her…"

"You feel bad about it, huh?" Anne leaned over to put a hand on Joss' shoulder.

"Staying with her, I was scared at first. I thought she was going to be so mean to me, so I guess I showed up with a chip on my shoulder. But, she wasn't mean. It was all my fault and I hurt her and Kim so much and they're still being nice to me. I don't know what to do!" Green eyes glistened with unshed tears. She rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand again, successfully keeping the tears at bay.

"Apologizing would be a good start," Anne pointed out.

"I don't think that would cover it. It wouldn't even start to cover it. I mean, I was so bad that I actually made Trin run away. I never thought I would see something like that. When I thought about, I knew she should've killed me. My mom and Nana made me think that she'd kill me for less than that, but instead she ran away," Joss explained, sounding in total shock.

"Joss, I know this might shock you considering some of the things that you've heard through out your life and Trin's behavior a lot of the time, but she really cares about you. To Trin, family is very important and she knows it's something that you take for granted, so when you open your heart and let her in as family, she'll treat you as such because she knows how precious you are. While you're here and you see her do all of those things for you, for Shego, and such, that's her trying to come into your heart. Now, you might find this hard to believe, but Shego is already in there. Everyone that's here has let Trin in. You should too. You won't regret it."

"Aunt Anne…why did you adopt her?" Joss asked curiously.

"Because she needed me and now I need her. Joss, how she got here doesn't matter. She's here and she's going to be here. She's a Possible, as much as I am, so you need to accept that. You accept me as your aunt, so accept her as your cousin. Love her and let her love you in return."

Joss nodded. "Can she love?"

"You've seen her do it. You've seen her take care of Kim."

"Yeah, but that girl…that girl…her girlfriend…She's not very good to her. They don't even hug or nothing."

"They've been going through a bad patch. They'll get better. Try not to give them a hard time. I know you're not used to homosexuals and you're not used to your cousin Trin or her girlfriend Tatsu or even Shego. Give them all a chance, Joss. They haven't done you any harm yet, so try to extend them the same courtesy. Your dad really wants you to get along with your cousins."

Joss glanced away, shame coating her face once again. "I know."

"But, more so, your cousins really want to get along with you. They want to like you and they want you to like them. You have to meet them halfway. There's only so far people are going to go before they feel their effort is not being appreciated."

"You're right. So, what do I do, aside for apologizing?" the younger female asked curiously. She tilted her head, as if that would insure that she did not miss anything.

Anne laughed. "Act better. Be friendlier and don't try anymore preemptive strikes. They're not here to pick a fight with you and you shouldn't assume they are or this is just going to happen again. I know you don't want to feel this bad again."

Joss shook her head. "No, ma'am. I don't like this feeling at all. I will certainly be better as soon as they come in. I'll be really friendly," she vowed.

Anne smiled; she could not wait to see her niece in action. She hoped that Joss was being serious and did want to change. She thought that Joss would get along well with her daughters if she just gave them a chance. She also knew that it would make her daughters feel very good if Joss connected with them.

"Um…Aunt Anne…you wouldn't happen to know how to do calculus, would you?" Joss asked curiously, giving the redhead a sidelong glance.

Anne could not help laughing and moved closer to Joss to get a look at the math work that was giving the girl so much trouble. They were taken from their work when they heard the door open and they were joined by Tatsu and Trin, whose hands were full of grocery bags. The couple turned their attention to the living and blinked hard, shocked by Anne's presence.

"Mom, what're you doing here?" Trin asked curiously.

"I wanted to talk to several people, all of whom happened to be here," Anne remarked with a smile.

"Well, we need to put these away then you can talk to whichever one us you might happen to need," Trin replied.

"I'll help. That way I can talk to you in private," Anne answered and then she looked over at Tatsu. "It's nothing bad," she added, knowing how deeply the mechanic worried.

The mechanic had no problem with backing off now that she knew her blonde bombshell was not going to be getting bad news. She put her bags down in the kitchen and then went into the living room while the mother and daughter occupied the kitchen. For a moment, Tatsu was at a loss for what to do and then suddenly she found the remote in her hand. She looked at the arm giving her the remote and was seriously stunned to find out that the limb belonged to Joss.

"I'm not really watching nothing, so I figure you might want the TV," Joss explained with a small smile.

Tatsu could only nod. She mumbled her thanks and took the remote. She turned to a movie while Joss went back to her homework. They were both surprised to find that they could existent in a comfortable silence.


"It's mighty quiet out there. I hope Tatsu didn't make too much of a mess when she killed Joss," Trin remarked dully.

"I doubt that's the cause. I think that Joss is actually going to try to get along with you all. She does like it here," Anne replied.

"I thought as much since she didn't call home crying yet. Still, her attitude leaves much to be desired."

"I'm sure it does. Give her time. I'm proud of you for having this much patience with her. You're growing up so well," Anne teased with a bright smile. She reached out and caressed Trin's cheek a couple of times.

Trin blushed ever-so slightly. "It's not a big deal, Mom. Joss is making an effort too, even if she doesn't know it. She's changing little by little and that's why I don't mind having her around." She noted that Joss was not as bad now as she had been when she threw her tantrum, but she also noticed that Joss did not seem to notice her own change in behavior. While the girl was a bit subdued and withdrawn, she was not as mean, nasty, or rude anymore.

"That's good, dear. I'm still proud of you. That's one of the things I wanted to tell you. The other thing I wanted to tell you was that Angelos is going to be fine. His parents have been hounding me to find out how his operation was paid for, but I wasn't sure what to tell them. Do I tell them anything?" Anne asked.

"No, that's unnecessary. I would actually appreciate it if you could lie to them. Tell them they won a sweepstakes or something," the blonde answered while turning to take out the groceries.

"And why is that, Trin? You don't want you brother to know—" Anne was swiftly cut off.

"He's not my brother, Mom," Trin stated in a soft tone. "I don't know any of those people. I'm just glad that he's going to be all right."

Anne held up her hands to show that she gave up. "Okay, okay. That's your decision."

"I don't want to disrupt their lives. The boys, they're happy. They have a decent father and they have friends. It's best I stay a nonexistent element in their lives."

"You know, she spoke about you, a few times. She saw you the day you came up there and recognized you, if only for a moment. She spoke of you as if you were still in her life. I think she wants that," Anne said.

"Yes, well, sometimes we want things that we'll never get. I'm quite happy with the mother I have and I have nothing to say to her."

Anne had to force a smile from coming onto her face. Somewhere deep down, she felt ashamed to be pleased to know her daughter preferred her to her birth mother, but over all of that, she just felt joy. Trin loved the family that she was in and had no desire to seek out any others, even if she had a right to.

"I met her a few years back," the blonde suddenly confessed.

"You did?" All of those joyous feelings sank for a moment. Anne wondered if she had done something wrong a few years back, something that drove Trin to seek out her birth mother.

Blue eyes focused on the redhead. "I only went to see her to confirm that she was a stranger to me, Mom. No one could ever replace you. You should know that." A smile topped it all off.

Anne smiled too and then was caught off guard when Trin came in for a hug. "You're going to make me cry with all of this special attention," the mother commented.

"You are special, Mom. I could live for a million years and I doubt that I could express just how special you are to me. You and Dad make everything possible for me. Everything in my life is because of you two."

"You make us so proud, Trin. Not a day goes by that we don't think about how great you are," Anne promised.

"Thank you. Stay for dinner?"

"Of course. I do love your cooking."

Trin smiled like a child that was given candy. Anne chuckled a bit for a second and then regarded her daughter with serious eyes. Trin waited for whatever else her mother had to say.

"How are things between you and Tatsu?" the neurosurgeon asked.

"Much better. She wants to live with me. I've got to run the idea by Shin, but I'm looking forward to it."

"I suppose I should tell your father that he needs to have a talk with Tatsu. She's going to have to make an honest woman out of you soon," Anne remarked, but there was some truth to her words.

Trin blinked, but she did not say anything. A light blush stained her face and she turned to continue putting things away. Anne helped a little, but she left before a minute was up. She went out into the living room and requested that Joss go lend a hand in the kitchen. Joss hesitated for a moment, but then she got up and jogged into the kitchen.

"Um…your mom said I could help…" Joss explained to Trin.

"I have no problem with that. Just ask if you don't know where something goes," Trin replied.

Joss nodded and got to work. Meanwhile, Anne sat down next to Tatsu. The mechanic glanced over at the doctor and grinned nervously.

"Trin tells me you're going to move in," Anne said.

"I want to…" Tatsu admitted in a mumble.

"That's good. You know she's very happy about it. I want you to know Tatsu that we want you two to work. You make her happy and we, me and my husband, like that. As long as you keep doing that, we'll root for you, okay?"

"Okay…" Tatsu replied, not sure what else to say.

"Tatsu, you're part of our family too, okay? So, you can come to us if you need anything. We want to help," Anne informed the mechanic.

"Thanks…I'll be sure to remember that. It's…um…it's good to know that you want me to be with your daughter," Tatsu admitted with a shy smile.

Anne smiled back and decided to hold off saying anything about Tatsu making an honest woman out of Trin. She figured that later on she would drop hints to let the mechanic know that she was there to help whenever Tatsu worked up the courage to propose. Although, she thought that Trin might beat Tatsu to proposing considering how shy Tatsu always seemed.

They sat quietly while Trin and Joss worked in the kitchen. Joss remained in there, even as Trin started cooking. The teen watched her cousin work without a word passing between them. There was some tension, but it was not crushing or intense.

"Trin…" Joss started.


"Can I talk to you and Kim together later on?" Joss requested in a low voice.

"I've no problem with that."

Joss smiled a bit. Dinner was served as soon as Kim and Shego came in. The couple was stunned to see Anne sitting at the table as they came in. They took their usual seats while watching Anne as if they expected her to pull a gun.

"Mom, what're you doing here?" Kim finally asked.

"I came to visit my daughters. Is that all right?" Anne countered with a smile.

"Of course!" Kim grinned, very happy to see the older redhead.

Shego glanced at Anne suspiciously for a moment, but let it go since she knew that the Possibles rarely had negative ulterior motives, at least when it came to each other. They had dinner with everyone providing intelligent conversation. For the first time in what seemed like forever, dinner was about more than food and teasing.

Shego took in what she was seeing while eating and adding to the discussion whenever she could. Joss was smiling much more than she had been in the past few days and seemed to purposely be directing her attention and words to everyone at the table as much as possible. Trin also seemed to be making an effort to pay attention to Joss, which made Kim unconsciously do the same. Shego shook her head and smirked at Anne. The doctor shrugged.

After dinner, Anne left the apartment, wanting to get back home before midnight. The group of five were left alone and went to unwind with a movie. Shego yanked Tatsu off into the kitchen, announcing that they would get the snacks. Tatsu did not argue and the Possibles were left alone.

"About as subtle as a sledgehammer your girl is," Trin said to Kim.

"I suppose, but why did she do that?" Kim asked.

"Joss has something that she would like to say to us," Trin answered. The sisters then turned their attention to the Montana native.

"Um…" Joss laughed nervously. "I'm…I'm sorry about everything before. I was being a brat. You guys have been so nice to me and I've just been a burden. I'm going to try my best to be better, you know?" she apologized.

"If you put forth the effort, we'll definitely do the same, cousin," Kim promised.

"I will," Joss vowed. "I'm really sorry for the way I acted."

"No need to repeat it. You've apologized with words, now show that you mean them with your actions," Trin said.

Joss nodded and her effort was almost immediately recognized. When Shego and Tatsu returned with popcorn, they curled up with their girlfriends and Joss did not even make a face. They were able to watch a couple of movies without a bad word or feeling between them…well, except for Shego and Trin anyway. The first step toward normalcy and now it just had to be maintained.

----(New day)

Joss sighed as she grabbed her bags and shouldered the duffle bag. Her expression brightened considerably when she saw a tall cowboy waiting by the airport exit. His face lit up at the sight of Joss.

"Dad!" Joss called before jumping on him and hugging him tightly. She did not realize how much she missed him until seeing him. Talking on the phone just was not the same thing as talking face to face!

"Hey! I'm so glad you're back! I missed you the whole summer!" Slim said while holding onto his daughter tightly.

"It's nice to be back," Joss replied as her father put her down.

"Yeah? You always sounded like you were having such a good time while you were away," Slim pointed out as they started out to his truck, which he had parked illegally. Luckily enough for them, the truck was still there and no one had written him a ticket just yet. Joss chuckled a little, thinking about how Trin had done the same thing when she drove Joss to the airport earlier that day.

"I was. I met a lot of people while I was there and we all got to be pretty good friends. I have to email so many people when I get in. A couple of people actually live close to Kim and they said it would be all right for me to visit. Trin and Kim said it was okay for me to come back whenever I could to stay with them, so I could see them and my friends. Oh, and wait until you see all of the new, free stuff I got from the program! I should get my grades next week and I know I passed everything with high marks! I'm going to have college credits!" Joss raved all the way home and her father could not help smiling all the way through.

Joss did not stop talking through out the whole car ride home, going on about the program, the university, her classes, her friends, and her cousins especially. Slim just listened; he was quite happy to do so since his daughter was so excited. Joss did the same with her mother when they arrived at the ranch. Her mother matched Slim's emotions until Joss started going on about her cousins and their girlfriends, but Joss did not notice her mother's change in demeanor. After talking nonstop for almost three hours, Joss went to put all of her things away in her room.

When she entered her room, she was assaulted by her many posters of Ron Stoppable. She felt a twinge in her heart and then she recalled her cousins' words. A crush was called so because they hurt, but they promised her that she would get over it and someday she would meet a boy that would have mutual interest in her. It was time to get over the hurt, so she took down all of her posters.

After her posters were down, she started putting away her books. She put her new calculator in her desk and then started putting pictures up on her walls and on her desk. There were some pictures of her new friends that she promised to stay in touch with. She placed the last picture on her desk, where she spent much of her time. The picture was of her and the two couples that she stayed with over the summer. She then grabbed the phone and dialed a now familiar number.

"Hi, Tatsu, it's Joss…I got home fine," the teen reported. "Trin and Kim aren't there right now? It's okay. I'll call back later. You be good."

"You too," Tatsu replied with an amused smile. The call was disconnected, but Tatsu was certain that Joss would reach out again soon to connect with her cousins. It had just been that kind of summer.


The end.

If you would like to see more of Trin, Tatsu, and Shin, check out: Pariah, Forsaken, Memoirs of the Malcontent, Night Terrors, Crypic, Underdogs, Black Hole Philosophy, and The Beast Within: Special Edition.