Chapter 12

Ann Possible was a brain surgeon, but not a psychologist. Even so, she tried her best to gauge her daughter's mental health during Kim's teenage years in case the stress of school, teenage hormones, and saving the world became too much for her. The habit stayed with Anne after Kim went off to college. It was a little harder to monitor Kim since Middleton University mandated that all freshman live on campus for freshman year - in what James denounced as a vicious money making scheme - but when Kim came home on the weekends, Anne could tell that there was something not right about her.

Kim had always been serious about college, but now it seemed that she was throwing herself into school work in an attempt to hide from something. She had barely come out of her room this weekend, staying up there around the clock. Whenever Anne tried to drag her daughter out, Kim would invariably start talking about American history reading assignments or multivariable calculus equations, or organic chemistry reactions - anything to avoid leaving.

A knock at the door interrupted Anne's thoughts. Did Jim get off of work early again and forget his house keys, she wondered as she went to get the door.

If she didn't know better, she would have said that Kim had been traumatized by something, though what could possibly traumatize someone as strong as her daughter she did not know. Perhaps it would be a good idea to call in a few favors and have one of her psychologist friends come over for a talk.

Ann opened the front door to see a green woman dressed in civilian clothing and leaning against the door frame casually with a hand in the pocket of her jeans.

"Shego!" Anne explained in surprise, not expecting the former supervillain to show up on her doorstep. "Look, Shego, I don't want any trouble..."

"Hey, I'm not here to fight, Mrs. Possible. I just thought I'd drop by and see how Kim's doing. The computer geek's been worrying about her like a mother hen, and I guess it must be contagious."

"Wade told you about Kim?" Ann was skeptical; Wade Load was not the kind of person to reveal sensitive information to Kim's enemies.

"I was very persuasive," Shego replied casually. "Anyways, I'm here as a concerned... acquaintance. I promise you I'll leave the instant you or her want me to, ok?"

"If you don't mind, I'll ask her if she wants you before I let you in." Ann shut the door in Shego's face as politely as possible given the circumstances and quickly ran up to her daughter's room.

"Kim?" Ann knocked on the door softly, hoping that she was not disturbing her daughter. "Kim, Shego says she wants to see you. Should I call the police or...?"

"Shego?" Kim's voice was somewhat muffled by the door, but it sounded almost as if she had been crying. "I... I don't want to see her right now, Ok? I'm... busy, can you tell her to come by some other time?"

"Sure, Pumpkin," Ann replied, with an uneasy feeling in her stomach. It grew worse as she walked to the door and tightened into a knot when she saw Shego again.

"Have I been granted an audience with the Princess?" Shego asked, still leaning against the door frame.

"She said no," Shego expected the door to close, but Kim's mother held it open for. Shego raised an eyebrow, confused at the apparent invitation.

"However," Ann continued, "I'm not quite as confident in Kim's judgment as I used to be. I think she could stand to talk to someone."

Under normal circumstances, it would have been very difficult for Shego to sneak up on Kim, even allowing for the fact that the Possible family carpets were extremely soft. It was perhaps a sign of the severity of Kim's problem that Shego managed to make it to Kim's door and open it before being noticed.

"Mom! Knock before you -" Kim startled as Shego stepped into the room and shut the door behind her. "Shego! What do you want?"

"To talk, doy." Shego pulled Kim's chair away from her desk and straddled it, arms crossed on the back. "Didn't you pay attention to what your mom said?"

"I said I didn't want to see you." Kim's eyes narrowed as she sought out a line of attack. Perhaps if she jumped off of the bed and used the springs to propel her at Shego...

"From what I hear, you don't want to see anyone," Shego observed, locking eyes with Kim. "People are starting to worry. Got anything you'd like to say about that?"

"Nothing that's any of your business," Kim snarled. "Look, I don't have the time for your games -"

"Because you're busy with reading assignments?" Shego swept her arm around to emphasize the lack of books, papers, or any other study material in Kim's room. "It's been a while since I was in college, but I wasn't aware that tissues were a part of the curriculum."

Shego paused just long enough to let it sink in before moving on. "Look, I know you're going through a hard time right now, and you probably feel like crap. You're bottling everything up, all the guilt, all the anger, all the sadness... it's not doing you any favors, you know. Now, are you going to keep sulking around in your den or do you think you can open up about what's going on inside your head?"

"Why?" Kim's voice was strained, barely able to contain the surge of emotions flooding her system. "What is to you? Why do you even care?"

"Hey, can't a super-criminal be concerned about her archenemy?" Shego's joke fell flat and she quickly moved on. "Look, you saved my life by getting me off the launch pad, and I appreciate that. Figured I owe you one."

"Don't remind me," Kim mumbled. "I get enough reminders about that... I dream about it, you know. It's always the same; the screams of people being roasted alive as I run away, because I didn't save them. I couldn't save them and they died."

Kim sat on her bed, knees up to her chest and cradling her head in her arms. "God, I feel so... useless. Twenty soldiers and all the hostages dead, along with who knows how many terrorists... and some got away."

"On the plus side, you stopped for nuclear missiles from devastating America," Shego pointed out. "You know where they were going to hit?"

"D.C. and other major cities?" Kim guessed. "Everyone seems to target them."

"That's because most terrorists want to make a statement, and attacking a major city sends a very potent message, but that is a form of psychological warfare. If you really want to hit a country where it hurts, you go for critical targets like agricultural sites. The grain belt, for example. Can you imagine what would have happened if America's food production areas got irradiated, given the output of American farms? It'd be a nightmare... and you prevented it, so why do you have to keep focusing on what went wrong?"

"Because it shouldn't have turned out that way!" Kim yelled, fists clenched in anger. "No one should have died! People deserve to live, even the criminals, but they all died. Good, bad, innocent... I was there, and I should have done more to save them."

"Who are you, Jesus Christ? Superman? Dammit, Possible, I know it says 'Anything's Possible for a Possible' on your website, but you don't seriously believe that bullshit, do you? You're only human, and you've got your limitations. I know you've fought evil before, but there's worse people than me and Drakken running around; psychos who want to take over the world even if it means catching the rest of us in the crossfire and razing everything until the world is reduced to rubble with them standing on the largest heap. You've been lucky enough to avoid running into them so far, but it had to happen some day. Welcome to the real world, Possible; it's hell but it still needs saving like it always did, so either you get your act together or I'll beat it into you."

Kim pounced on Shego in response, breaking the chair and pinning the older woman to the floor. A stream of blows rained down on Shego, gradually softening until there was only Kim sobbing into her chest. Shego kicked herself mentally and hugged Kim, stroking the girl's hair to calm her down.

"I'm an idiot," Shego whispered. "Shouldn't have gone R. Lee Ermy on you."

"Yeah, you suck as a therapist," Kim agreed, hugging her back. Several minutes passed in a comfortable silence. Shego almost regretted it when Kim spoke again.

"Sorry for attacking you. I shouldn't have lost my temper." Kim could not quite bring herself to look Shego in the eyes as she said it.

"Heh, the curse of adolescent hormones and an underdeveloped prefrontal lobe," Shego joked. "Hey, want to hear a story, Princess?"

Kim nodded yes, and Shego adjusted her position so that Kim was lying beside her, with Kim's head on Shego's shoulder.

"You asked me why I was here. Well, truth be told, you've always reminded me of myself - only without the annoying brothers. You've gone through a lot of the things I did, including a harsh introduction to the real world. Did you ever read GJ's records of me? They should have mentioned a hostage incident at Go City Hall that took place in my freshman year at college. We tried to rescue the mayor, but... things went bad. Hostages died, policemen got show, the major ended up with a bullet in his spinal cord, and I severed someone's arm with plasma before kicking him out of a window onto the ground three stories below. I don't think I'll ever forget the smell of burning flesh and I haven't done anything like that since until I hit Yang. Honestly, I was too afraid to use my powers for months afterward, and even now I never fight with them at full blast just because."

Shego lit her hands up and let the warmth of the plasma spread over Kim's body. It was very soothing.

"But here's the thing I learned; our world is one where death is a very tangible aspect of life, and where not all stories have happy endings, not even for people like us. Especially not for people like us; we fight and we die fighting. That's our fate, and the best we can do is enjoy life when it's good and suck it up when it's bad."

"Is that why you quit Team Go? Were they getting in the way of having fun?" Hego had cited a growing fascination with evil as Shego's primary reason for leaving, as had Global Justice's psychological assessment.

"Nah, if that was the problem I'd have left before I graduated college. I quit when Hego's insufferability reached a sort of insufferability singularity which threatened to suck his head up through his ass. Tried doing the hero thing by myself, but it turned out that that stealing things paid a hell of a lot better than freelance hero work. Not everyone can get free rides like you, Princess."

It was true; Kim had friends, allies, and a position at Global Justice lined up for her since high school. Shego was likely completely on her own after she had gone independent. Was that the difference between a hero and a villain, the amount of love and support a person received? If so, could things ever change?

"Hey, Shego?" Kim craned her neck up to look at the older woman. "Thanks for being here. I really appreciate it."

"What can I say? One is defined by one's enemies, and I have to make sure mine are up to scratch." Shego ruffled Kim's hair affectionately and stood up. "Come on, Pumpkin, you've been cooped up inside for God knows how long. You need to go for a walk outside and see your friends or whatever it is you kids these days do."

Shego extended a hand to Kim, who was still on the floor and uncertain about accepting.

"I'll buy you some ice cream if you come. You like Cornettos, right?"

"More than life itself," Kim laughed, taking Shego's hand and pulling herself up.