When Shego returned to the Shanty, Kim was seated before the television once again. She flipped through the channels rapidly, taking but a moment to ascertain the identity of that channel's owner before speeding along. Raising an eyebrow, Shego set up the card table she had been lugging under one arm and arranged the other procured items on top.
"What are you doing?"
"Looking." Kim had her manual beside her open to the page for notes and a pen in her hand. Where the pen came from, Shego had no idea. The notes page housed neatly scrawled names.
Shego stepped in front of the television set. "What sort of people, Pumpkin?"
Finally distracted Kim set the remote down and held Shego's gaze. "I'm looking for the channels of my family members."
"You do realize just how many channels there are?"
"What else do I have to do while I wait?"
Shego turned the television off and silenced Kim's forthcoming complaint with a stern glare. "They'll still be there later. For now, come check it out."
At first Kim remained stationary, but after Shego took a threatening step in her direction, Kim jumped to her feet. Shego quickly bounded behind Kim and draped her fingers across Kim's eyes. Kim's hand immediately flew to her face and Shego clucked her tongue at the attempted interference.
"What's going on?"
"Just relax, Princess. I'm not going to hurt you."
Kim thought back to their fights and chuckled. Shego was more than capable of hurting her, even when she fought back – so she relaxed into Shego's grip. Whatever was going to happen, was going to happen, she thought. It was such a drastic change from her old mindset that she nearly set herself off into a panic attack. Kim Possible was not supposed to let things be, yet there she was acquiescing to the demands of a super powered ex-villain.
"I trust you." Surprise rippled through Kim's body as she realized that her statement was more than just fluffy words meant to show her acceptance – they were true.
"Keep your eyes closed."
Shego guided her redheaded charge to the table she had set up. Atop the table was a candle, yet unlit, and a pile of uncooked spaghetti. Commanding Kim to wait just a moment, Shego dragged the two easy chairs to the table and settled Kim into one before taking the other. Flaring her hand, Shego lit the misshapen candle and was quite pleased with her efforts.
"You can look now."
Kim pried one eye open slowly, and its partner soon followed. A silly grin spread across her lips. "What's this about?"
Shego shrugged. "I know it's not perfect, but those damn light balls would give you the wrong thing even if you showed up with the dictionary definition of what you were after."
Kim picked up a stick of spaghetti and waggled it between her fingers. "Is this supposed to be some sort of romantic dinner?"
The shameless response from Shego made Kim blush. The smaller woman set the spaghetti back down again and fiddled with her hair.
"I don't understand."
"Look." Shego reached across the flimsy table and took one of Kim's hands between her palms. "We could make this work for us. This could be a life for us."
It took less than a few seconds for Kim to process and understand what Shego really meant. She meant for Kim to remain with her in Shanty Town, indefinitely. She meant for Kim to never get her body back, and she meant for Kim to want to stay. While Kim could definitely understand the impetus of not wanting to be alone, this went too far.
"Stop being underhanded."
"I'm not." In an instant, Shego's hackles had risen.
"You know how I feel about you, and you're trying to subvert that to your own purposes."
"Contrary to what you may think, Princess," Shego dropped the nickname with such acidity that Kim almost rethought her approach, "I have no idea what your real feelings are for me – and beyond that I'd have to be some sort of super villain to trap you in this hell."
Is that what she thinks of me? Kim pondered, After all, I did trap her here… She snapped a few strands of spaghetti between her fingers.
"Then what is this about?"
"You're making yourself crazy with the waiting. I just wanted to get your mind off of everything. I didn't know you'd be such a bitch about it." Kim watched, horrified, as Shego dipped her fingers down to extinguish the candle. "Whatever. Go back to your television."
Shego's fingers paused around the flame and Kim found she couldn't drag her eyes away from the image – why wasn't Shego getting burned? Although the curious side of her wanted to test if she too could handle the flame, she tucked her hands under her thighs and pouted.
"What's wrong now?"
"I'm sorry." Kim replied meekly. "I didn't mean to jump down your throat."
"Feh." Shego's hand dropped away and the candle flickered on.
"I mean it."
"Do you really think you can find your family?"
"I think so. There're billions of channels, yes, but I have billions of minutes." Kim reasoned. "And nothing better to do."
"We could, I don't know… Talk?"
Kim considered the possibility. When Shego had been honest with her before, it had actually been one of the better conversations she'd had in a while, but she wasn't sure that was what Shego had in mind now.
"Whatever you want – within reason, of course."
"About Bonnie?" Kim watched the flicker of anger that flashed across Shego's face and was curious who it was directed at.
"I'd rather not." Shego finally responded, her words firm and even. "But if that's what you really want…?"
"No. But I guess it's meaningful that you'd agree to it anyways."
"So you'll stop with the channel flicking?"
"For now." Kim flicked a broken piece of spaghetti at Shego and watched with growing delight as it tapped the tip of Shego's nose. The green woman harrumphed loudly, but Kim understood it was just a show.
"It feels so weird to be home." Kim traced her fingers along the walls of her apartment. Her other hand cradled her phone to her ear.
"But good, right?"
"I'm not sure, Daddy." She sighed. "It's hard to think."
"That should clear up if you give it time."
"That's what the doctors said… It just feels like my head is full of fluff and none of its mine."
"Maybe we should ask for different medication?"
"I'm sure it'll clear up."
"Kimmie-cub… I know this has been a trying couple of days, but your mother and I – we're here for you if you need us."
Kim smiled and closed her eyes. "That means a lot to me, Daddy."
"Just take your time. You'll feel more like yourself in no time."
She paused by her desk and leafed through the papers there, all copies of portions of her application to medical school. A frown pushed its way onto her face. This didn't feel right – yes, she loved helping people and there was a certain fascination with medicine, but perhaps it wasn't really what she wanted.
"You still there?"
"Sorry, Daddy – I spaced out."
"Need me to let you go?"
"No, that's not necessary." She pushed the papers off the desk and leaned against the cleared surface. Her eyes fell on her bookshelf and she walked to it, perusing the titles. One of the thicker books was a beginner's handbook for robotics. Now that, she thought as she flipped through it, she could really see herself getting behind.
"We just worry about you."
She realized too late that he had been talking and she hadn't been listening properly. "I know you do. But I'm going to be taking care of myself. I'm actually on my way to bed right now to rest up."
"That's my girl."
"Would you mind doing me a favor?" She settled the book back on her shelf and meandered towards her bedroom. When he assented, she smiled and continued. "Would you have the tweebs call me tomorrow? I promised them I'd call today, but I just kind of want to go to bed."
"I'll let them know."
"Has anything ever happened to you before, Daddy? Where you feel like at the end, you have a chance to do things right? Like, when you're a kid and have a bad turn while playing Monopoly?"
He scratched his head. "I can't say that I have."
"That's what I feel like I have now. I want to figure out what I'm doing, and what I want to be doing – and what I can be doing." Kim flopped down onto her mattress and let her eyes close. "Maybe that coma was just what I needed. I got to wake up."
"You know what I do miss?" Shego stretched out onto the lawn chair and stared up at the sky.
"Probably a lot of stuff."
Kim chuckled and took her place on the other chair. "You would miss darkness."
"Not the darkness, squirt. I miss it being summer at dusk, when the stars just start coming out and the fireflies are just lighting up."
"And the mosquitoes are still out." Kim groused. She loved being outside, but mosquitoes loved her blood no matter the amount of bug repellant she lathered on.
"Don't be a killjoy." Shego chided.
"I miss the drop in temperature." Shego's hands wrapped around her upper arms as she tried to remember how it felt to be truly cold.
"Do they ever turn the light bulb off?"
"I haven't seen it happen in ten years, so I'm going to say no."
"So the darkest it gets is when you cover the window up and hide in a shack." Kim laughed, though the thought wasn't actually funny. "You know what? I'm going to go ask them."
Shego sat up and cocked an eyebrow. "Ask who what?"
"The help desk. I want to ask them to turn the light off."
"They won't do it."
"Have you ever asked?"
Shego watched as Kim bounced to her feet and bounded down the way. Good, she thought, at least the pipsqueak isn't still moping. She turned her gaze back to the sky for a moment before realizing that sunbathing wasn't as fun without company.
Kim clambered atop Shego when she returned and ducked her nose into the crook of Shego's neck. For a moment, Shego thought to grumble, but decided it wasn't worth the effort – or the complaining that would no likely result.
"So are they going to turn the light off?"
"I put in a request." Kim's voice vibrated across the skin of her throat. Had Shego been ticklish, and less gruff, she might have giggled.
"I'm surprised they let you get that far."
"They told me who took my body."
A silence bubbled up and remained for several minutes. Shego hesitated a moment before reaching up and hugging Kim closer to her. "Who?"
"The soul used to belong to Vivian Porter." Kim reported quietly.
"They wouldn't tell me any more than that. And I only just got her name after pretty much begging them for an update."
"So they didn't have anything to tell you about when you'll get your body back?"
Kim inhaled slowly, allowing Shego's scent to pervade her senses. It was much nicer thinking about how the other woman smelled than her current situation. Eventually, Shego pinched her side and she squeaked.
Shego drew her arms up behind her head and propped her noggin up so that she could look down at Kim's face. Kim seemed completely at ease snuggled against her, which sent a fresh wave of guilt through Shego. I can do better, Shego thought. Kim was an opportunity to do better.
"How are you doing?"
The sincere concern in Shego's tone drew Kim's gaze to Shego's face. "I'm dealing with it, I guess."
"Is there anything I can do?" Though the words felt like they were giving her tongue paper cuts as they slipped out of her mouth, Shego was unsettled to note that she actually meant them.
"Just let me be here right now." Kim ran her fingers along Shego's side and pressed her face to Shego's neck. "That's all I want."
"Do you think Bonnie's in a better place?"
"You know as much as I do."
"I didn't ask what you knew." Shego snapped. "I asked what you thought."
"I think that she's found peace now, if nothing else."
"But what if this is some sort of Socratic bullshit."
"What do you mean?"
"The idea that there's always a world beyond what we currently know." Shego clutched the cot. "We were in reality and then we reached the level beyond. But there's places even further than here."
"Like the cave thing, right?"
"The cave thing." Shego chuckled. "Horribly put, but yeah, that."
"I mean it's possible."
"So Bonnie left here for another hellhole."
"I don't think so." Kim insisted. She let a slow smile onto her lips. "Besides, I don't think it gets worse than here."
Shego snorted. "I guess you have a point."
"If you want to talk about her, I'll listen."
"It was just a passing thought." Shego denied. She arched her neck in a rush of affection and kissed Kim's forehead. "But I guess it was alright of you to offer."
"Yes it was." Kim sniffed. She slithered up Shego's body and hovered near Shego's mouth. "Is it still a bad idea to kiss you?"
"Probably." But Shego closed the distance between them anyway. Thoughts of Bonnie made her pull away, however, after a few sweet moments.
"Are you sure about this?" Ron stared at the screen of Kim's laptop. "What about medical school?"
"I'm just exploring my options." She assured him. "Casting a wide net, you know?"
"Yeah, makes sense." But really it didn't. For the past half a year, medical school was the only thing Kim had really wanted to talk about – who her references were going to be, if she had done enough work in the field, what school she wanted to end up at – and yet she was showing him her applications to other graduate programs.
"I get it, Ronny." She ruffled his hair. "I know this is, like, a mega big change for me. But I just want to make sure I'm doing what I really want to do. I only get one shot, you know?"
"You could always do the medical school thing and then the robotics?"
"That would waste so much time." She chided. "Besides, I'm not making a rash decision, am I? I'm just applying and seeing if I can get in."
"You would like the challenge of that, wouldn't you?" He shook his head. "I'll never understand you smart people."
"You're just smart in other ways, Ronny."
"Have you talked to Monique yet?"
"No." Kim catalogued the instantaneous droop in his expression. "I just – I don't want to meddle. This is between you and her."
"Kim Possible doesn't want to meddle?" He threw his hands dramatically into the air. "Now I know something's wrong. Did they do some kinda experimental brain surgery-transplantation at the hospital?"
"Don't be dumb." She flicked his forehead. "I've got enough on my plate right now. Think you can pick up your own messes for a while?"
"It's not a mess."
"Your defensive tone definitely says otherwise."
"Totally does not." He groaned. "Okay, totally does, but that's not the point. Please, Kim – do the Ron-man a favor and help."
"I'm not getting involved. You two are both good friends and I don't want to be seen as on someone's side." She argued.
"There's no side to take! I just need you to do some girly digging. Like, whatever it is you two would do at sleepovers when we were kids."
"Man up and ask her yourself." Kim maintained. "I've got to go. These applications aren't going to fill themselves out."
He slumped down over his arms and picked listlessly at his nachos. Kim was right, which was normal, but it didn't make it easier to swallow. But talking to Monique was pretty much out of the question. It would seem like he was looking for a relationship, he rationalized, and she was bound to shy away from that. No, he'd let things go on as they were, and hope for the best.
"Just do it." Shego grunted. Kim gazed at her with large, frightened eyes. "Go ahead."
"You know you want to. You've wanted to for ages now."
Kim's fingers trembled. "I don't know…"
"Just be quiet." Shego nabbed the remote and turned the television on. "You're curious, so sate yourself."
The voice that was Kim and was not Kim issued forth. "Ron should really grow up about these things. How does he expect to have an adult relationship with Monique – with anyone really – if he can't just open his mouth and say something? I wish I had said something…"
Kim's finger jammed down on the mute button. "I think we can do without my inner monologue, yeah?"
Shego smirked. "I get enough of your worries without having to listen to more. I'm not complaining."
"It's so weird to see myself doing stuff that I would do. But without me doing it."
"Eloquent as always." Shego teased.
"Do you think she's being me better than I could?"
"That's ridiculous." Kim clutched the back of her head after Shego swatted it. "Stop being ridiculous."
"I'm just saying it's a possibility. I'm not necessarily the most qualified… driver? Operator of my server?" Kim clutched her head. "I feel like there's so much wrong with what I just said."
The pace of Shego's heart increased incrementally. "What are you saying?"
"Hm?" Kim turned her head slightly, though shadows hid most of her expression.
"Are you thinking – maybe of…" Staying here with me, Shego couldn't bring herself to finish.
"I don't know." Kim cut in quickly, effectively saving Shego from saying anything emotionally charged. "That's the problem, you know? I've just always known things. I never made charts or pro-con lists. I used to be so good at split second decisions. But here – I feel so… Petrified."
"The choices mean more now." Shego offered weakly. "You decided to offer me your body?"
"That was what was right. You earned it, you deserved it. But this… I don't know. Nothing feels right now."
"What feels wrong?"
"Nothing. This place is outside the realm of right and wrong, I think. Morality doesn't really play a part here, does it? It's not quite a stasis, but…"
Shego swallowed past a lump in her throat and drew back. Her fingers had previously been tangling themselves in Kim's hair, but they fell to her sides. For what she had to say next, she needed distance. "Princess. You don't need to factor me into your decisions."
The use of the nickname dropped Kim's eyes to the floor. A sudden emotional schism seemed to have ruptured between them. "There's a lot to consider before I make any sort of decision."
"But count me out, okay?" Perhaps, Shego thought, Bonnie would have appreciated such a statement, back when it might have counted for something.
Kim pawed at her face, trying to clear her head by cleansing her face. Shego watched passively, unsure of what to say or do next. She'd done her best already and this was new ground for her.
Kim ended the call with her brothers, though she honestly couldn't say what the conversation consisted of as both brothers talked over each other, and returned to the small table where her friends sat waiting.
"Gotta say, girl, I'm a little nervous about how things are going to go tonight."
"Oh hush, Moni." Kim chided. "One coma does not a pattern make."
Ron leaned back in his chair. "But seriously, you're going to crash at my pad, right?"
"If it'll make you feel better."
Monique balanced on her elbows and stared across the restaurant. "Kim, you see that guy who just came in?"
Kim scoured the group of fraternity boys waiting by the hostess. Her finger dipped momentarily into her water glass and when she spotted the tall, dark, handsome one hiding in the back, the finger splattered water at her friend.
"Did spotting him mean you're calling dibs?"
Ron nearly fell out of his chair. "You're dibsing a guy?"
Kim stood up. "I'm going to use the bathroom, I think."
"Me, too." Monique made to follow, but Kim pushed her shoulders until she sat again. "Or not."
"I'll be back in a few."
"What was that about?"
Ron rubbed his neck. "She thinks we need to talk."
"Yeah, that was my question, too." Ron's voice squeaked, but evened. "Nope, we're just fine."
"You don't want me looking at that hunk over there, do you?"
"You can do whatever you want." Ron shrugged. "We're not, like, official or exclusive… are we?"
She folded her arms over her chest, "What do you think, Naco-boy?"
"We've never talked about it."
A sly smile loosened Monique's tense expression. "And suddenly it's clear what Kim wanted. She's meddling by not meddling. That's an odd approach for her."
"She has been a little off, hasn't she?" Ron lunged onto a safer topic, as if it was a floating door and he was in the middle of the Atlantic with a sinking cruise ship behind him. "But it's just different, right? Not… bad?"
"It was probably a wake-up call. Like, what am I doing with my life? Plenty of people say things like that."
"Just didn't think it would happen to Kim." Ron fiddled with his fork. "She's done so much with her life already, and she was already on her way to doing more."
"I guess we can always want more." Monique stared at him, silently asking him to pick up their earlier conversation.
"I just can't imagine what more she could want." He tossed the fork aside. "That's problem whenever it gets around to her birthday. What do you give the lady who has everything, and earned it herself?"
"Are you going to pussyfoot around this?"
"Then say something."
"Listen – we've got a good thing, don't we? Do we have to change things and talk about it?"
"Not if you don't want to. But if you're going to have a problem with me scoping out dudes, you better lay your claim now?"
Ron hesitated and, upon noticing Kim slinking slowly back towards the table, shook his head. "I don't want you scoping out other dudes."
"Was that so hard?"
"No. Are… are you going to make everything this difficult?"
Her grin widened. "Only if you don't learn you lessons the first time through."
At Ron's smile, Kim allowed herself to return to the table. She pretended that nothing had occurred in her absence and merely picked up the menu and scanned it. Under the table, Ron reached over and took Monique's hand. When their fingers were laced properly together, he squeezed softly.
"She even gets along better with my friends." Kim bemoaned.
She was about to change the channel when the television shut off. Simultaneously the world went dark. Although it embarrassed her to admit later, she let out a muffled scream – muffled only because she managed to slap a palm over her mouth. Shego sat in silence.
"What do you think is happening?"
Kim scuffled through the dark, nearly tripping on an easy chair on her quest to Shego's side. "I have no idea. The apocalypse?"
"Does that mean we get to rise again?"
Shego wrapped her arms around Kim's shoulders and pulled the redhead to her side. If things were indeed ending, she at least wanted Kim where Kim belonged. Kim offered no protests.
"Attention." A disembodied voice echoed overhead. Or perhaps behind, Kim wasn't too sure on the logistics regarding the presence of omnipresent audio. "Please do not panic."
"They could have told us that before."
"Sh." Shego clamped Kim's mouth shut with her fingers.
"We apologize for the inconvenience this may have temporarily caused you. Power to the televisions will be restored within the hour."
"Like anyone but us is actually watching them."
"You'd be surprised." Shego snorted. "People may not walk around much, but television is brainless – which entices everyone. I think, if zombies did ever happen, they'd probably give up on killing and eating people and just watch the telly."
"Due to a patron request, the light bulb has been terminated for a temporary allotment of time." The voice continued. "In an attempt to simulate the world you will shortly return to, we have decided to make this a daily occurrence."
Kim's jaw dropped open, but she closed it promptly. "They actually listened to me?"
"I guess this means we'll have a way of timing the days now."
"Thank you for your understanding."
"Do you ever get the feeling that they say that sort of stuff, but don't actually mean it?"
Shego was silent and, indeed, hadn't heard the question. Kim had enacted such an enormous change on their environment. She'd never even bothered to think about changing anything. When Bonnie had arrived, it had rocked her conceptions for the first time – Bonnie, who'd demanded some sort of assistance from the help desk, which had until that point merely been decorative in nature. But Bonnie's changes were topical. Kim dug beneath the surface and did something that mattered, that affected everyone.
"Are you listening to me?"
And maybe that's what made them different, Shego realized. Why she felt like she could open up on some level to Kim, when she had tried to remain somewhat reserved with Bonnie. Kim would never settle for a topical relationship. She'd always pry her way into matters that the rest of the world thought were impenetrable.
It was really a matter of scale. Bonnie was domestic, Kim global. Shego rested her head between her hands – could Bonnie ever have been enough for her? Had she been wasting the brunette's time on a pipe dream? Kim's hand on her wrist dunked her back into the present.
"Are you okay?"
Shego found Kim's face with her hands and cupped the smaller woman's cheeks. "I was okay losing Bonnie. It was hard, but not because she was gone – but because I hadn't been able to keep her longer."
"What are you talking about?"
"But you – I don't think I…" She leaned in, her lips ghosting over Kim's. "You're contrary and rambunctious. You're the liveliest woman to come through here in ten years. I don't know if I can keep living if you leave me. Your loss would be too much."
"You're not losing me?"
Shego kissed the corner of Kim's mouth, then the other corner, and finished with a small peck to the tip of Kim's nose. "I'm not used to this. I speak my mind whenever the fuck I feel like it. But – my heart… I can't express – words just aren't right for that. But somehow…"
"It's okay, Shego." Kim insisted, a little worried by the tumble of verbal vomit spewing forth from Shego's lips. "I get it."
"I don't think you do. I'm trying to tell you. I couldn't ever tell Bonnie why I wanted her to stay – and maybe that's because I wanted what's best for her, and I never thought being around me was really what was best – but really, it's probably because I'm an asshole. But I don't want to be an asshole to you. At least not all the time."
Any further attempts at conversation from Kim were effectively cut off as Shego kissed her. Shego backed her up slowly, fumbling in the dark to ease the petite woman down onto the cot. Kim wriggled to get comfortable, but neither was willing to part their lips. Wanting more, Kim sucked Shego's lower lip into her mouth and nibbled on it. Little punk, Shego thought, always demanding more from her and delving deeper. Not that she was complaining.
A/N: I know this is a little shorter than usual, but I figured this was better than nothing after I left y'all hanging. If someone is willing to go to Contracts for me, I'll gladly write more. I'll take a volunteer for Civil Procedure as well. Don't go to law school and expect to have copious amounts of free time to write. I haven't had time to edit this extensively yet, so it will probably be updated over the course of a few days.