A/N: Follow the story.
Summary: A boy. A girl. Two coffees. And the world's most awkward-but-necessary conversation.
Rating: Probably PG-13 or the site-relevant equivalent. For mature non-sexual themes.
Disclaimer: Disney owns everything; I own nothing.
He was picking at the cardboard cupholder as carefully as a safecracker trying to get into Fort Knox. Kind of made her wish they were somewhere where the coffee cups had handles for him to mess with instead. Normally, she would have given him about half a second to quit it and get to the damn point before decking him, but she owed him one.
"So..." she drawled.
He chuckled weakly. "Yeah... um, weird, right?"
"Not where I was going with that, but sure. Sorry you suggested it?"
"Ye-" Eyes jerking up from his paper cup to give her a wild-eyed stare, he began shaking his head wildly. "No! I mean, sort of... not... please don't hurt me," he whimpered, covering his face with his hands.
She smirked. "Relax, sport. You're safe." As an afterthought, she flexed her hands experimentally. "For now."
With a loud squeak, he slid under the table.
"Joke..." she said impatiently, kicking out with her left foot.
"Quit being a dork. I'm not going to hurt you. In case you forgot, I'm on kind of thin ice right now." Was this what the cheerleader had to deal with all the time? If that was the case, she could keep it.
He stuck his head out from under the table and gave her a disarmingly apologetic grin. "Yeah, I kinda did forget. So... it's official?"
"As official as these things get," she replied with a small shrug. "My fingers aren't as light as they used to be, and Dr. D's working with some government dudes geekier than he is. They're trying to figure out some of that alien tech stuff. I say why bother, right?"
"I know," he said, sliding back up into his seat and nodding his head vigorously. "I mean, KP's brothers have been messing with that stuff for weeks and all they've managed to do is blow up a bunch of cars. Although, I have to say I never thought I'd hear you agreeing with me about D&D."
Sometimes Drew was right; they needed to make a freakin' translation guide for teenagers. "What?"
"Death and destruction," he said enthusiastically. "I just always figured you'd come out on more of the pro side."
"Not when it's happening to me personally," she told him, popping the lid off her own coffee so she could run a finger along the cup's edge. "I'm not completely soulless, you know."
"Forgive me for struggling with that concept," he said, and was she seeing things or did his eyes just flash from brown to blue? "Especially given that I've watched you beat the crap out of my best friend for four years now."
"In my defense, if I'd wanted to really hurt her, I could've done it any time." Her finger didn't even pause as she spoke, just kept making those even circling motions. Good. Control was important. Especially when being forced to be honest about Kimmy.
He tilted his head, and for a brief instant, she caught a glimpse of the man he was turning into, and she got it. She didn't want it, but she got it. "I know that now."
"And here I was, thinking you weren't so bright," she said dryly.
"Kim doesn't know."
That took her by surprise. Not that the princess was as clueless as she'd always suspected, but that he didn't take her bait. No flustered babbling or angry yelling. No... buffoonery.
Drew would have to find something else to call him in the middle of a fight.
"Pardon?" she asked, more to keep him occupied than out of any genuine curiosity.
"Kim doesn't realize that you hold back," he elaborated. "And that's not a bad thing, either. She needs confidence, and you give her that. It's like some messed-up training program."
A hand went to her temple. "It's not."
He grinned. "Oh, I know that, too."
"Well, aren't you just full of useful knowledge today, kiddo?"
The grin widened into a smirk that she debated slapping off his smug little face. "Hey, I'm the Monkey Master. Knowledge is, like, my thing."
She folded her arms across her chest. "I'm not even going to take a swing at that one. Too easy." Although it was probably one of the few things she'd tell Drew about this little conversation; it would be harder for him to get angry at her when he was laughing too hard to talk.
He wilted, but only briefly. "Anyway," he said, sounding put-out. "I was trying to say that I didn't mean that you and Drakken aren't twenty pounds of evil in a ten-pound bag."
We're not, she thought but didn't say.
"The others," he continued, "are really in it to hurt us. They're bad at it, but nothing says I want to put you in the hospital' like an exploding golf ball being launched at your head."
She'd always wondered why there were so many supposed supervillains' running around with crazy-awesome evil technology but none of them ever seemed to get the upper hand over so much as a playground, much less a city or country. Kimmy and the buffoon were good, but they weren't great.
Well... they didn't used to be. Saving the world from nine-foot-tall killer aliens kind of bumped you up to the next bracket on the hero-chart. What that said about her and Drew didn't bear thinking about.
Fortunately, she didn't have to. He was talking again. "With you and Drakken, though, it's different. It's like we can't just let you get away with stealing stuff, but you kind of know that. You don't like it, but you kind of respect the balance of good and bad."
Stupid ninja training. His and hers.
She hated it when she got called on that kind of stuff.
He blinked and his eyes were blue again. "I've spent the last few weeks thinking about it," he admitted. "About balance and humanity and you know what?"
"Obviously I don't," she growled, still tweaked.
Coming really close to knocking his cup over, he leaned over the table. "You don't hurt people. Not really. Even when you and Drakken made all the lil Diablos go psycho, they caused a lot of property damage, but no one got particularly hurt."
"So?" she asked defensively, sliding her cup sideways, away from his disastrous potential hand-flailing. Nothing was safe near this kid.
She was also really, really wishing his eyes would go back to normal. In general, she didn't give a flip if his eyes were blue, brown, or purple, but there was this weird... crackly feeling in the air accompanying the color change.
"I thought maybe you knew, too," he muttered, flopping back in his seat with a sigh.
And the air changed. The dangerous feeling was gone.
When he opened his eyes, they were back to brown, and she felt an inappropriate level of relief. "Knew what?" she asked in a cautious voice.
"I... I know they were evil, and they were going to kill everyone, but still..." he whispered, grabbing his coffee cup and cradling it to his chest like a... well, like a stuffed toy or something.
Deftly, she leaned over and plucked it out of his hands. "You're going to spill that," she said in a neutral tone.
Everything in his posture screamed pout,' but he looked way too miserable to trivialize it with a word like that. For a split second, she almost gave the cup back.
But there was no way out. Now that she knew why he'd shyly called the lair and asked her to meet him for coffee, she was going to have to have this conversation. A conversation she'd avoided for years. Mostly because there was no one else who would understand.
It sounded like he would, though.
"So it finally occurred to you, huh?" she asked.
He shrank further into his seat, if possible. "I... it was kind of obvious that they were dead," he said, voice going flat. "But no one really said... everything just happened so fast. What was I supposed to say, anyway?"
"When did the nightmares start?"
His mouth dropped open. "How did you...? Never mind. Pretty much that night." And every night since, the pinched expression told her, even though he didn't say it.
"And of course you haven't mentioned it to anyone."
She didn't phrase it as a question, but he answered it anyway. "Oh, yeah, cause that would have gone really well. Hey, KP, you know those aliens who I saved you from? I'm really guilty about it and having horrible nightmares about being a murderer,'" he mimicked in a cruelly bright tone.
The cheerleader would've understood. She'd bet money on it. But he was beyond that now.
Oh, well. "I was twelve when the comet hit our treehouse," she said without preamble, knowing explanation was unnecessary. Wide-eyed and innocent, the kid was clearly hanging on her every word. "It was... difficult."
Huh. How hilarious that she could cram seven months of agony into one little word. Difficult didn't even begin to get there.
"Anyway..." She waved her hand, pushing her past away like it was an annoying mosquito. "Two years later, my brother decided we should quit trying to fit in with everyone."
"The hero thing," he said hesitantly.
"The hero thing," she confirmed. "One of our first gigs was recovering a stolen electro-thingy from a guy called the Bookworm."
He wrinkled his nose. "A math villain and a reading villain? What is it with Go City and lame bad guys?"
With a humorless smile, she shook her head. "Focus, sport. I don't even remember what the guy's plan was. But I was the one who went for him. The boys were all tied up with the henchmen, and I went for the Bookworm."
She might not have remembered the plan, but she remembered that day. The smoke, the screaming, the henchmen flying through the air.
And the Bookworm. To a fourteen-year-old girl, he looked like a terrifying giant, holding a device that crackled with electricity, lighting up the whole room.
"I didn't know what I was capable of," she said, not caring what the admission might cost her. "I managed to get my hands on him, and I... I let him have it."
His eyes were as round as his open mouth, but what she would never tell him was that he didn't know what it' meant. No one did. And as long as she kept her control, no one ever would.
"Have you ever seen someone burn to death?" she asked quietly.
Wordlessly, he shook his head.
And she was. The part of the story the kid didn't get to hear was that mission was the last one she ever did for Team Go. Two weeks of screaming nightmares, watching the Bookworm burn alive in her green fire, and she packed her bags, went to Japan, and fought to master her powers. She emerged from the dojo five years later, in control but fully aware that a killer like her could never be a hero. She signed on with Drew, and the rest...
Well, you know what they say.
"I couldn't talk to anyone," she said. "When I tried... you know my brothers."
"Exactly. After all, I'd saved the day, bagged the baddie. Who cared how?" she said in a bitter echo of Henry's words. "And now... well, I'd rather be bad than good, but that's my choice. You gotta do what works for you, kiddo."
"I didn't mean to kill them," he said, hanging his head.
"I know that," she replied without malice. "But you did. And you have to figure out how to wear that, just like I did."
"Yeah." But it was listless, without life.
After a long pause, she decided to throw him another bone. "You've got stuff I didn't, though. You've got people around you who will listen."
With a hopeful expression, he gazed up at her. "You think so?"
She rolled her eyes. "Are you or are you not dating a living saint?"
Snorting, he picked up his coffee cup and drained it in one go. "KP's going to freak when I tell her you called her that."
"Well... whatever," she said dismissively. "My point is: talk to her, you moron. She'll get it. Not like I do, but enough."
"I don't know..." But it was weak. He'd talk to Kimmy; it was only a matter of time. "Have you ever found anyone you could talk about... it with?"
She thought about Drew. About his evil' plans that seemed more about getting recognition than anything truly malicious. About the way he let her irritate him until she felt better, and how he seemed to understand the importance of... control.
They'd been talking about a lot of things lately. Uncharacteristic things.
Maybe this should be one of them.
"None of your beeswax, brat!" she snarled.
And the grin was back. "Oh, so is that how it is?"
A line of green plasma appeared around her pointer finger and she flicked it toward his empty cup. "Yeah," she said loftily. "That's how it is."
He brushed the ash off his undamaged hands. "You know, I could totally hook you up with a mad good-ninja connection if you were interested. I'm sure they'd like meeting you... as long as you didn't try to, um, steal anything of theirs."
Ten years ago, that would have been the offer of a lifetime. Even with the no-stealing edict.
But ten years ago, there was no homemade hot cocoa by her bedside or clumsy flower bouquets in her life. Somehow, ninjas, good or evil, didn't hold the appeal they used to.
"I think I'm good," she said, standing up and stretching for good measure. "But on that charming note..."
"Yeah," he agreed, standing in kind. "So... I guess I should say thanks for meeting with me. You, um, you've given me a lot to think about, Shego."
You have, too. "No problem, sport. That's why I get paid the big bucks." But he just looked so earnestly, dopily happy that she relented. "You're welcome, Stoppable. Ron."
He spread his arms wide. "Tell me you're feeling the hug-moment, too."
"Just because I don't want to hurt people doesn't mean I won't if there's no other way," she threatened, putting a palm against his chest and giving him a gentle shove.
"Aww... hug denied." But his eyes sparkled with humor.
"Don't you have someone else to pester?"
Whistling, he shoved his hands in his pockets and made his way to the door. "I'll tell KP you asked about her."
She blinked and was abruptly enveloped in a bear hug that smelled disturbingly like teenage boy. "Thanks, Shego," Stoppable whispered as he pressed soft lips to her cheek.
And before it even really registered, he was out the door, jumping up and down outside. "Who's got the mad ninja-hug skills?" he shouted so loudly she could hear him through the glass. "Booyah!"
With a rueful shake of the head, Shego collected their trash and made for the door herself. Sometimes, that kid was more trouble than he was worth.
But then again...
A smile tugged at her lips. Sometimes, he was exactly enough trouble.
A/N: A bit of a nod to the kid's-show aspect of the violence on Kim Possible. Somehow, I feel like it would make sense for someone like Shego, who could so obviously wipe the floor with Kim, to hold back for a specific reason. The D/S is almost canon, anyway, so I figured that would add a layer of interest. Shego calls him Drew because... well, it is his name. Think of it as another layer.