So. . . this is the conclusion. Before anyone freaks out, I want you all to know it's more of a "What if?" fic that anything else. It's also very sappy and slightly corny, but I couldn't think of any other way to end it.
Oh, and even though it's now complete, I'm keeping the "Work in Progress" in the title. Anyone care to guess why? (I'll answer at the end if you're really stumped.)
He mutes the Discovery Channel and looks down into the wide green eyes of his niece. It's his day to watch her for a while after school, since he gets off work early on Thursdays now. He likes those days, and so does she, because he always picks her up in the hovercraft. "Yeah, kiddo?"
She spreads out a skinny little paperback book on the coffee table in front of him and stabs a finger toward a word on page 21. "What's that word say?" she asks, looking up at him with the cutest little wrinkle between her eyebrows.
He leans in to study the word in question. She's learning all kinds of new words every day, and he's learning with her - words still aren't his strong point, but they are fascinating in their own way. Just a few weeks ago, he learned about how to tell whether someone means something "literally" or "figuratively." For example, he can figuratively climb the walls when he gets really, really excited, but he can't literally do it - he's not Spider-Man, after all.
Hmm. Totalitarian. Nope, nothing clicks in his brain for that word. Heck, he's not even sure how to pronounce it!
He gives his niece a playful scowl. "What are you doing, reading books with such big words in them?"
She rolls her eyes at him, just like her mother. "Du-uh. I am six years old."
Doesn't he know it. It's the perfect age - old enough to walk and talk and go to school and, most importantly, be out of diapers, but still young enough to be cute. And still young enough that she doesn't question why he has such a weird name, or why he's so much older than her mother and her other four uncles, or why his hands don't glow when he uses his powers the way theirs do.
"So -" she plants her hands on her little hips - "you don't know what it means, do you?"
He grins down at her. "No, not really. But that's why God made dictionaries."
That's good for another eye-roll. "God didn't make dictionaries, Uncle Drakken." She giggles a little. "You're so weird."
She says that like it's a fact, not an insult. His neck prickles don't go up, and his shoulders stay wide-apart and proud. "Thanks."
He retrieves the dictionary from the top shelf of the bookcase - man, it's heavy - and flips over to the T's. Tot, total, total eclipse - ah, there it is!
"A system of government where the people have virtually no authority and the state wields absolute control of every aspect of the country," he reads out loud, around a throat that gets tighter with every word, "socially, financially, and politically; for example, a dictatorship such as -"
He cuts the explanation off there; no little girl needs to know about the Nazis in first grade. "Did you catch that?" he asks, swallowing a super-sized lump. Because if she didn't, there's no way he's reading that again.
"Sorta." She shrugs casually. "Like if someone took over the world or something."
Oooh. His stomach feels like he just swallowed a cooler's worth of ice. It all comes rushing back at a speed only slightly slower than light.
With this Doomsday device -
Gigantic killer robot -
Brain-switching device -
Genomic sequencer -
Stolen cybertronic technology -
I will take over the world!
Take over the world! MUA-HA-HA!
He curls himself up tight on the couch and closes his eyes. When those memories come back, there's only one way to shoo them away. Replace them with new ones.
Your bravery was greatly appreciated the night of the alien invasion.
You're the reason your old cell mate reformed, ya know.
Well, well, well. I leave for college for a few months and come back to find my arch-nemesis a whole new man.
Actually, I want you to give me away.
"Uncle Drakken?" His niece snaps her fingers two inches away from his face. He never could figure out how to do that. "Yoo-hoo. You okay?"
"Uhhh - yes." He manages to grin, and his lips don't even tremble that much. "I'm fine."
But for a minute, he's not so sure that he is. She looks so small and innocent, standing there with her head cocked and her pale little lips all bunched up. So precious that he doesn't want anything even remotely evil to ever be within twenty-five miles of her.
He bends down and cups her chin in his hand, tilting it up so she has to look him in the eye. "Promise me you won't ever try to do anything like that, okay?"
"What? Take over the world?" She wrinkles her nose. "Why would I do a dumb thing like that?"
Phew. That's a good sign. Then again, he probably would have said the same thing when he was six. . .
"Just promise me, okay?" He hears his voice crack a little, but he doesn't care. For a minute, nothing matters except making sure she never has to go through what he did - ever.
"Okay, I promise." She snickers under her breath. "You're so silly."
"Oh, really?" He gets up on his hands and knees on the couch and smiles at her teasingly, relief pouring through him. "Am I?"
"Ye-ah." She gets down on her hands and knees and returns his smile. "Mom says when the nurse at the hospital came out to tell you I was born, you asked -" she puts on her best man-voice, which isn't that good - "'Am I an aunt or an uncle?'"
Pink rises to the tips of his ears as he remembers that. "I meant to ask if you were a boy or a girl!"
"I know that!" she squeals back. "But it just proves my point." She sticks her head and shoulders under him to poke his belly button. "You're silly."
Ohhh, but there are other things he remembers about that day. He remembers holding her in his arms, marveling at how perfect she was, the way her eyelashes, which were so dark, rested against her cheeks, which were so pale. . . and the way his throat lumped all up and he kind of let a tear splash out of control onto her little pink blanket and Shego didn't even make fun of him. He's only her uncle, and that's not even biologically. She has none of his DNA, but the instant he laid eyes on her, he knew she was part of him and she always would be. "It's okay," he whispered to the tiniest face in existence. "I won't let you fall."
Ohhh, but there are other things he remembers about that day. He remembers holding her in his arms, marveling at how perfect she was, the way her eyelashes, which were so dark, rested against her cheeks, which were so pale. . . and the way his throat lumped all up and he kind of let a tear splash out of control onto her little pink blanket and Shego didn't even make fun of him.
He's only her uncle, and that's not even biologically. She has none of his DNA, but the instant he laid eyes on her, he knew she was part of him and she always would be.
"It's okay," he whispered to the tiniest face in existence. "I won't let you fall."
But for now, all he says is, "Yep, that's me. A silly goose." And he turns her over, hikes up her shirt, and blows a raspberry - why is it called that, anyway? - on her bare belly.
She squeals and giggles and bats at the air, and that little vulnerable place under her arms is just begging to be tickled. So he does, and then she attacks the bottoms of his feet until he's about purple from laughing so hard.
He's not sure quite how long the tickle war goes on, but it ends when she suddenly spreads her palm across his, fingertips stretched out to compare their hands. "Look, Uncle Drakken," she says proudly. "My hands are already almost as big as yours."
He can't help but chuckle. "Well, that might not be saying much. My hands are. . . pretty - uh - small."
"I know." She rests her head on his belly and sighs. "That's what my mom told me. She always says you've got little bitty hands and a great big heart."
Shego says that? He feels himself glow.
His niece reaches up and places her hand on his eyebrow. "Make it crinkle," she commands.
He grunts at her. "What do you say?"
"Ple-ease?" She sticks out her lower lip and gives puppy-eyes.
Pretty hard to resist. He makes it crinkle, and it folds up into rows under her hand. She grins that twitchy smile that's so much like Shego's.
He puts one hand to his chest, because his heart is suddenly so full of happiness and love that he's sure it's going to explode. Sounds uncomfortable, but it's really not.
But it definitely needs some form of release. He bends down and brushes a strand of black hair away from her face. "I love you, kiddo," he whispers - his throat is feeling all thick again, and he doesn't trust it to talk louder.
"You're random," is her reply. "But I love you too."
Those are words he'll never get tired of hearing.
She snuggles herself up under his arm and tugs at the sleeve of his lab coat. "Can I watch TV with you now?"
"Sure," he says. "I guess so - wait a minute," he interrupts himself as a thought strikes him. (Is it rude to interrupt yourself?) "Have you finished all your homework?"
"Most of it," she shrugs.
Uh-uh. Most is not all. He presses his mouth into a straight, serious line. "What do you still need to do?"
She scowls at the rug. "My science homework."
That's perfect! He feels his face light up into a huge grin as he jumps off the couch and grabs her hands. "I'm pretty good at science, you know. I bet I could help you!"
"Really?" She raises one eyebrow, Shego-style.
"Yes, really." He hauls her off the couch and starts to drag her toward the kitchen, tumbling over his untied shoelaces. "Come on, let's go get started!"
Back when he was still a villain, he never imagined life could be this wonderful on either side of the law. One of Global Justice's recent studies said the organization's efficiencyhas gone up three hundred percent in the last ten years. He doesn't want to be arrogant and claim all the credit, but a lot of that's due to his baby, the Immobilizer 2000.
Dr. Director definitely appreciates his help. On his latest yearly report, she wrote, and he quotes, "Dr. Drakken is definitely getting a handle on his temper and is a valuable asset to Global Justice. His amazing intellect has made him one of our top scientists, and his childlike exuberance makes him a joy to be around." That was one of those moments when his heart almost burst out of his chest with joy.
He found a gray hair in the mirror the other day. Its name is Charles.
Mother, of course, is just happy that she finally has a grandkid. He's happy that she's happy (and secretly glad that he didn't have to be the one to have a kid).
And when someone called him a loser at Smarty Mart the other day because he was X-ray-scanning the cereal boxes to see which one had the best toy inside - well, it hurt. It hurt a lot. But he didn't feel the need to laser-fry the man into submission and show him who he really is, because most of the world already knows. Even more importantly, he finally knows who he really is.
A hero. A scientist who uses his amazing intellect and childlike exuberance to help make the world a better place. A person who loves his family and friends and knows they love him back. He wouldn't give that up for the world.
So, that's my story, thanks for reading.
No, the niece does not have a name - heck, I'm still trying to figure out who her father is! But I will take suggestions (name suggestions, not daddy suggestions).
"Work in Progress" is staying in the title, because it's not the story that's a WIP - it's Drakken himself.
X-ray-scanning cereal boxes to see what the prize is comes from an episode of Phineas of Ferb.
I want to offer up my biggest thanks to everyone who left a review for their kindness, their encouragement, and their all-around awesomeness. God bless you all.
And if you read and didn't review. . . well, feel free to drop me a line if you want, but if not - thanks for reading anyway, and I hope you enjoyed.
Take care, guys.