I slipped coming out of the shower this morning and nearly broke my skull on the toilet.
I feel like I'm pushing sixty with these stupid casts and slings and damn rules about how to move and stand. I'm not even thirty yet! Why the hell do I have to put up with this?
The Princess had a near conniption fit when she found out. I should have hid it, I know. This whole relationship thing is sort of like rusted gears with me. I forgot how girlfriends are more panicked and less impressed when you tell them you nearly avoided death earlier that day. I suppose I could have been more careful, but I also could be a totally different person who gives a damn about any of this. This injury is temporary! I'll be back to full specs in a couple weeks and all this will be quickly filed away into foggy memories.
I'm sure of it. Doubly sure. Super sure.
*** KP – KP – KP ***
"Put that down," demanded Shego as she headed for the door. She was glaring at Kim as the latter held a black cane with green fire adorning its sides. "I don't need it."
"You nearly died this morning," insisted Kim, holding up the cane.
"I nearly bruised myself, Princess," said Shego. "It's happened before, it'll happen again." She pointed down at her leg. "This is, as has been told to me by medical professionals, a walking cast. Hence, I will be walking on it."
"It doesn't hurt to be safe," said Kim.
"I'm not going to coddle myself over this. I'm getting better, I don't need that damn thing." Shego pointed sharply at the cane. The sudden movement shifted her arm in the sling and she winced at the pain.
"See? You are gettingbetter but you aren't better yet," said Kim. "You could hurt yourself and then your recovery will take longer."
"I can be careful without a cane."
"What's so bad about this cane?" asked Kim, she looked at the rod in her hand for effect. "It's very pretty. I picked it out just for you."
"It's very pretty," said Shego in a condescending tone. "And I'd be glad to use it if I needed a cane, but I don't."
"Then why did you fall this morning?" asked Kim.
"Because I was wet!" shouted Shego. "I was wet, the floor was wet, everything was wet. That happens after a shower regardless of the presence of canes, casts, or slings!"
"So why now?" Kim said, her own voice raising. "If nothing was different?"
"I don't know! Why the hell does anyone fall over? Because I wasn't paying enough attention!"
"What were you paying attention to?"
"Jesus, what is this? The inquisition? Get off my back!"
"Then take the cane," Kim stepped up and held it out.
"I don't want it!" snapped Shego. "Stop putting that thing in my face or I'll shove it up your ass!"
"Tell me what's wrong!"
Shego stared at her, blankly. "What's wrong? What the hell do you think is wrong? You keep trying to push a cane on me that I don't want!"
"That's not what wrong," dismissed Kim.
"Oh, so you get to decide what I'm thinking now? Well, screw you! Maybe you don't know me as well as you think you do." Shego turned on her good leg and started hobbling towards the door.
"Maybe not," said Kim, in a more restrained tone. "But I know when you're lying to me."
Shego put her hand on the doorknob but didn't turn it. "Yeah, and how do you figure that one?" she said towards the door.
Kim frowned. "Tell me why you were crying in the shower."
Shego snapped her head around to stare wide eyed at Kim.
"Go on," Kim said, looking back evenly. "Tell me."
Shego's eyes searched Kim's face for something it couldn't find. Then with a blink, she looked back towards the door, turned the knob a couple seconds later, and was gone within a minute.
Kim watched her go with a frown, and bit her lip when she was alone.
*** KP – KP – KP ***
"You're wrong," said Shego firmly. "I don't feel like that."
Dr. Ann McKullen shrugged and leaned back in her chair with a nod. "It's outside of my area of expertise, and I would recommend seeing a specialist to be sure."
Shego shook her head and shifted her position in the chair across from the doctor's desk. She found it hard to find a comfortable position with the leg brace. "I thought you still hadn't figured out what was going on with the scarring in my brain."
"I haven't," acknowledged Ann.
"Then everything could be part of the accident," said Shego.
"It could be," said Ann.
"Then I don't understand why you're telling me this."
Ann sighed as she leaned forward and rested her hands on her desk. "Shego, the problem with a differential diagnosis is that it requires a relatively reliable timeline to effectively use. We know about your accident, and what's been happening to you since then, but I don't really understand the symptoms that could possibly predate that and when they fall into your medical record."
"I told you, it all happened when I was a kid," said Shego. "Like five or six or something."
"From your perspective," said Ann, "that is probably accurate. But there are some symptoms we can't recognize in ourselves, to say nothing of the exact nature of the damage to your brain that caused the scarring. You don't have x-rays or MRI's on file from whenever this accident occurred, so I have no idea if it really happened then or if it's completely unrelated to your sleep disorder."
"So you don't know anything," said Shego, frustrated. "Why am I even here?"
"Because until I can determine the root cause of your condition," said Ann. "I think it's best to treat the symptoms. And right now, I see the symptoms of a condition that can be treated."
"You can tell my condition but not the cause?" said Shego, skeptically.
"There are a lot of medical diagnosis' that are that way. Pneumonia, for instance, is a diagnosis that can have dozens of causes, some of which are bacterial, some are viral."
"Doesn't that change how you treat it?" asked Shego.
"It does," nodded Ann. "And how it responds to treatment helps identify what the cause might be."
Shego looked down at her lap. She had her fingers interlaced and was slowly flexing them around her knuckles. "And you think that might be the case with me?"
"I'm not sure," said Ann. "But I think it's worth finding out. If it can be treated classically, then we know these symptoms are not part of the underlying cause of your scarring." She made a small, sympathetic smile. "Also, if it can be treated classically, you can start to feel better sooner."
Shego looked up at Ann and tried – but failed – to feel comfort in her smile. "How do I get better?"
"See a specialist," said Ann. "And sit down and talk to Kim about it."
Shego shook her head. "I can't do that."
"Why not?" said Ann, softly.
"She… won't understand."
"I think she will," said Ann.
"I can't anyway, she… we're fighting," admitted Shego.
"This. All this. Everything that's going on in my life right now," said Shego. "She keeps treating me like I'm weak. Some little child to be coddled." Her voice got louder and she started to frown. "She wants to be my 'hero' like in the old days." She breathed deliberately to calm herself. "I don't want to be saved."
"You need to be," said Ann.
Shego glared at her.
"Don't get that way at me," said Ann with a warning tone. "Every person needs their heroes. Sure, they may not be larger than life all the time, may not move mountains, or fly into the heavens, or even drop a million dollar purse on you when you're broke, but that doesn't make them less important. The everyday heroes, the ones who are there for you for small things… those are the heroes we need to get by in life."
"That's not being a hero," said Shego. "That's just being… civil."
"And why don't you think Kim wants that?"
"You don't know," said Shego with a dismissive wave of her hand. "The things she used to do I can't even talk about because nobody would believe it. She does nothing in small amounts."
"You are right that I don't know much about Kim," said Ann. She leaned forward slightly. "But I do know what it feels like to be in love."
Shego rose her head to look at the doctor.
"I know what it's like to be the biggest part of someone else's world," continued Ann. "I know what it's like to be afraid that you can't live up to that expectation. The fear of that disappointment and whether it will lead to loss. Loss that hurts so much you'd rather throw away everything now instead of risk it hurting more later." She leaned back into her chair again. "Love and life aren't that different. You lose your love and it leads to heart break. You lose what makes your life whole, and it leads to—"
"Depression," said Shego, letting the word escape her lips.
Ann nodded. "The good news is, you're going to get better from this. A few week of healing, a few weeks of rehab, and everything taken from you is restored again. Unless you do something silly during this time and destroy something that has nothing to do with your accident."
Shego had nothing more to say.
"Here," Ann handed her patient a card. "You can talk to this person. Trust them. I know them quite well. Take Kim with you if it helps. And in a few weeks, let me know if your sleep cycle returns to its normal, irregular pattern. Then we can cross those symptoms off the list. Okay?"
*** KP – KP – KP ***
Kim was sitting by the window of the apartment, looking up at the evening sky when the door opened again. She turned to see Shego standing there, her hand on the door jamb keeping her balanced as she held the brace-covered leg off the ground.
"Shego," said Kim softly. She slowly crossed the dimly lit apartment to come right up to Shego as the woman lifted her head to stare. Kim stopped short of reaching out towards her and looked into her eyes for consent.
After a moment, Shego nodded slightly. Kim reached under her shoulder to help lift and guide her away from the door. They walked slowly, in step, to keep weight off the leg and to avoid moving the arm tied under the sling. A few coordinated moves later they were seated on the couch and Kim was gently lifting the lame leg to rest it on the coffee table.
Once settled, Kim sat back, shifted slightly apart from Shego on the couch, and waited. They stayed that way for several minutes.
"You can talk," said Shego eventually.
"I've heard you before," said Kim, slowly but deliberately. "In the shower. That's how I knew."
Shego nodded again. "I figured." She grimaced. "After I left, anyway, I figured it out."
"Why won't you t-talk to me?" asked Kim. She felt her voice catch but tried to bear through it. She didn't want to lose this chance at conversation in a flurry of pointless emotion. That was her rationalization, anyway. Like how cold it was being the reason she was shivering.
"I'm afraid," said Shego, breathlessly.
Kim felt the shock cross her face despite her efforts to hide it. "Of me?" she asked.
Shego shook her head back and forth widely. "No, no, of course not of you. I'm not afraid of you." She reached out with her good arm and gently pulled Kim closer. She brought the smaller woman to her chest and rested her head against her. "I'll never be afraid of you."
Kim felt the warmth of the embrace and could already feel her worries start to fade. "What are you afraid of?" she asked into Shego's neck.
Shego's lip quivered far out of Kim's sight. "I don't know what I'm becoming."
Kim pulled herself back to look into Shego's eyes again. The latter's conflicted expression told her exactly how scared she really was. "What do you mean?"
"Look at where I am," said Shego. "I'm living in an apartment in California. I'm working for a eccentric tycoon who wants me to plan a sporting event. My rig is in lockup in Boston. My baby girl is in pieces in some garage. I haven't seen a shipping manifest in months. And you…" she trailed off and looked back and forth between Kim's eyes. "I haven't been important to someone else in years. I'm not even sure I've ever been. Everything that made me who I am is … gone. What am I now?"
Shego shuddered in Kim's arms and the younger woman pulled her closer and tighter. She'd never seen the brash and fearless Shego like this before, and that was more than a little scary. But she also knew that the brash and fearless Shego wasn't gone, no more than the heroic Kim Possible had vanished when she was displaced from her world.
"Those things aren't what make you who you are," said Kim softly. "You're not your job, or where you live or even your favorite hobby. Who you are can't be taken from you."
"What if I stupidly gave it away?" asked Shego.
"I don't think you would," said Kim. "You knew what you were doing. What happened on the track was just an accident, not fate. You wanted to be closer to racing, closer to where you could stand out and be seen. You resigned yourself to trucking, but I don't think you ever really wanted it. If anything, who you were was the shell, and now, here, you're getting closer to who you really are."
Kim reached down and took Shego's hands into hers, being careful around the one sticking out of the sling. "And I'm here to help, if I can. But I don't think you need me. You're Shego. I don't define you." She smiled. "I just gave you a name."
Shego looked at her gently held hands and then up at Kim's smiling, confident face. She did need her, more than she'd ever admit. The path she wanted to walk was terrifying, and she never would have tried if Kim had not pushed her to. No, Kim wasn't her hero, as she insinuated to Ann, she was her rival. She didn't lead, she pushed. And pushing was what Shego needed right now.
Slowly, Shego released one of Kim's hands and reached into her pocket. With a touch of her fingers she gently laid a business card in the palm of the younger woman's hand. Kim looked down at the text on the card.
Terri Talstead, Psy.D
Kim looked back at Shego and nodded slowly.
"She said I should to talk to someone," said Shego eventually. "Dr McKullen did. She said I might have depression."
"We'll make an appointment tomorrow," said Kim.
A/N: Terri Talstead is an original character created while I was writing Apocolocyntosis to be Kim's therapist. I'll be reusing part of her characterization here, though she'll, at best, be a minor character going forward.
Dr. Talstead in Apocolocyntosis, well, she was destined for bigger things. Still destined for bigger things, in fact. As soon as Hitchhiker 4 is done.