Shego arrived early to look for traps. She circled the exterior of the building a few times before going in. Most of the faces looked vaguely familiar after a couple weeks, so the place with not stuffed full of undercover officers. She paused for a minute to stare at a chess game where a dark-skinned, middle-aged man was beating a pale grad student. Shego knew enough about chess to know they were both beyond her. Towards the back several tables had been pushed together and a number of women and a few men sat there.
“What is this?” Shego asked during a lull in their conversation.
“Legal Lesbians,” a woman with a pink hat answered.
She laughed, “We're a study group from the law school. I noticed you here with a cute girl the last couple weeks. Are you and she…”
“God no. Just friends. Not even friends. Just sort of, I don't know.”
“Ohh, The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
“Hamlet, act three.”
“Really? Cool. So, you a lit major?”
“No, I just… Hey, sorry to disturb your study group.”
Shego quickly retreated to her booth, afraid she had drawn too much attention to herself while checking the room. There was still a chance Kim might arrive with a squad of police or Global Justice agents, but there was too much risk of someone getting hurt in a fight and it didn't seem like Kim's style. Now the question was whether Kim would come at all.
Shego found an abandoned New York Times in the booth. It was dangerous for her to be here she kept telling herself. She had worked for years to avoid anything that could help an enemy find her -- and she had even told Kim she would be here. She kept fidgeting, staring at her watch every couple minutes until she located the crossword puzzle and did her best to lose herself in it. She kept telling herself the nerves were only troubling her because of her fear of recognition, that she didn't really care if Kim showed up or not. But she couldn't wholly convince even herself.
“Will she come or won't she? Should I visit her website if she doesn't show to ask if she was on a mission -- or would that look like a sign of weakness? How long should I wait? 10:15 is the latest I'm going to be here, okay 10:30. I won't go all pathetic if she doesn't show up.”
But Shego's watch only read 9:52 when Kim entered the coffee house. Shego's heart started beating a little faster, Kim was here simply because she wanted to be here. She couldn't help herself, she gave Kim a quick hug when she got back to the booth. Kim tensed, and Shego quickly released her, “Sorry Cupcake, wasn't thinking.”
But Kim was staring open-mouthed at Shego.
“Oh, shit, I've scared her.”
“Great sweater, Club Banana?”
It took a second to register, Shego had been so glad to see Kim she had not realized they had worn identical black cotton sweaters, Kim over blue jeans, Shego over dark green ski pants. Shego took it as a good omen.
Tony came and took their orders as soon as they both sat down. Shego tried to regain control, but was having difficulty. She couldn't remove the smile from her face in response to the fact Kim was there. She finally limited herself to, “Nice you could make it.”
“But, this doesn't change our relationship. I'll stop you the next time you and Drakken pull anything.”
“You'll try and stop me Pumpkin, and I told you -- I wouldn't have it any other way. I enjoy fighting you. Remember our promise, I'm not asking you to change who you are -- you aren't asking me to change who I am. That's simple respect. If I didn't regard you as an equal I wouldn't have asked you out for coffee.”
Kim enjoyed being called an equal. “What do you mean ‘try’, to stop you, I always come out on top?”
“Get real Kim, you lose three out of four times we meet.”
“Oh cut the crap, Shego, I always win eventually.”
Shego stared at Kim, “Princess said a ‘c’ word, Princess said a ‘c’ word. Do you talk like that to your Mommie?”
“Come on Sheila, get serious. You win three out of four?”
“Sure, you try and stop a robbery, we get away. We win. When--”
“No, stop right there. So last month, when Drakken tried to take the miniature ionic accelerator and the two of you had to run off without it you count that as a victory for you?”
“Absolutely. I'm not just a thief -- it's also my job to protect Drakken. You tried to capture us, we got away, one for me.”
“But you didn't get what you came after, that's one for me! It only counts for you if you steal what you came for.”
“Kimmie, Kimmie, ah, the innocence of youth. Do you have any idea how much I've gotten away with that you'll never even hear about? The crack in the Liberty Bell -- mine. Sinking the Titanic -- one of my greatest acts of evil. Donald Trump's hair -- yes, there are no depths to which I will not sink.”
“But we're only talking about when we go mano a mano… Uh, do I mean womano a womano?”
“No Pumpkin, exactly right the first time, it means hand-to-hand.”
“I knew that… Okay, I didn't. But that's what I mean. And when we fight, I win.
“So are you counting the times getting out of one of Drakken's deathtraps as one for you without chalking up the fact you were in a deathtrap to begin with as one against you?”
The deathtraps had preyed on Kim's mind for a week, “You claim you didn't want me killed when we were first fighting, just hurt so I'd go home?”
“So why did you let Drakken put me in those death traps.”
“Oh come on, Princess! What danger were you really in? You slip out of Drakken's death traps like I slip out of jail. There's only one or two prisons in the world that can even hold me overnight -- unless I decide to stay for a good night's sleep.”
“Some of those traps were pretty scary.”
“Yes, but they were all planned by Dr. D -- who has grand ideas and never pays enough attention to the details. I've always had fun with you Kim, win or lose.” Shego's tone turned serious, “But if I wanted someone dead there would be no complicated death trap. I'd put a gun to his head and pull the trigger.”
The conversation ranged over various topics until a half hour later Kim offered, “I'll tell you my deepest, darkest secret if you tell me yours.”
Shego smiled, “I don't think so. I'm not into ‘sharing’ or true confessions. But if you want to talk about yours I'm willing to listen.”
“Oh, pweeeze,” Kim begged, assuming the puppy-dog pout.
“Gah! Stop that!” Shego ordered as Kim's lip started to tremble. “I'll make an offer -- if your secret is deep and dark enough I'll consider telling mine.”
Kim smiled and looked around the room, seeing no one close she leaned across the table. Shego leaned over also, her head almost touching Kim's, so she could hear the whisper, “You promise never to reveal this to anyone?” Shego nodded yes. Kim continued, “I gave Ron two hand jobs while we were dating. Once in the movies, once in my car.”
Kim looked over; Shego's mouth was open in amazement. “Didn't know that about me, huh?”
Shego chuckled, “God, I'm amazed you consider that your deepest, darkest secret. I'm not even going to ask where Stoppable's fingers were while that was going on.”
“Come on,” Kim pleaded, “that's my darkest secret. Tell me yours.”
“As dark secrets go I'm not even sure yours is a medium gray. My secrets are so black they would suck all hope from the very marrow of your being and leave you a broken shadow of yourself.”
“Of course not. But come on, a hand job is --”
“Still nothing. Your innocence still exceeds your naïveté, and I will do nothing to spoil it with blood curdling tales of monstrous depravity.”
“You're no fun. You know that.”
“I'm no fun? I could give you references,” Shego offered, “but it's not considered polite to name names.”
Kim wasn't sure why she had brought up the dark secrets, but the thought stayed with her as they continued to talk. Finally she had to ask, “Have you ever killed anyone?” Kim's voice sounded a little shaky as she asked, not sure if she really wanted an answer.
Shego took a sip of coffee before answering. “There seems to be a little difference of opinion on that,” she answered slowly. “I would say no. Hego said I did. It was part of the fight that led to the breakup of Team Go.”
“How can there be a difference of opinion on that?”
“Maybe you remember the story, about six years ago or so, two terrorists blown up in Go City?”
“I think I remember.”
“Well, those two had some wonderful little time bombs they planned to attach to half a dozen school buses. Had them set so they would go off just before the buses reached school -- when they'd be fully loaded with kids. Only, gee whiz, someone re-set the timers. One of them threw a switch to arm a bomb and it went off immediately instead of 7:55 a.m. Is that murder Kimmie?”
“I… I think so… couldn't another way have been found?”
“Arrest them? Give them a one-in-a-million chance to walk or escape and try and kill two hundred other kids?”
“But you killed them!”
“Did I, Kimmie, did I? Did I make the bomb? Did I turn it on? The sons of a bitch did it to themselves. If they decided not to go ahead with mass murder it wouldn't have happened. They threw that switch thinking about all the kids they would kill.”
There was a long pause as Kim digested Shego's words. Was the older woman splitting hairs or did she have a point? Finally, sensing a need to say something, Kim managed a fairly neutral, “I don't remember anything about you in the paper.”
“No, no there wasn't anything. Would any jury in Go City… Would any jury in the country have convicted me Kimmie? There wasn't a cop in Go City who would arrest me. They wanted to give me a medal. The judge set bail at one dollar -- paid it for me. There was never any trial day set, it all just disappeared.”
“Wait, how could you be in jail if no one would arrest you?”
“Thank Hego for that. He said I had no business calling myself a hero. He said I had no place as a Go. He was the one who put me in jail Kimmie, my own brother.”
“But shouldn't the papers or television still have said something?”
“The US media? Owned and operated by the rich and powerful who only want their side told? They want to pretend we're so much more virtuous than everyone else in the world. How many details do you read in the press about the hundreds of prisoners held for years at Guantonamo and never charged with any crime? How about Abu Ghraib and CIA detention centers in Kazakhstan? Those tiny bits that slip into the news aren't even the tip of the story. I could tell you… No, back to ancient history, it's safer. They wouldn't let the Go City story run anywhere except as ‘happy accident.’ I wanted the story to run. I wanted to make a statement.
“Mego disagreed with me also. Of course, he said he'd have questioned them, breaking one bone at a time until he knew there wasn't another terrorist cell working in Go City. He said he'd have told the police they put up a hell of a fight. Maybe his response was better than mine, but I think Mego doesn't know his history. Torture only works on TV and in the movies. People can lie under torture. Hell, they'll tell you whatever you want to hear to get the pain to stop."Hego didn't like that either. The team broke up… You know there is no black and white, Princess. It took me a long time to realize that. Nobody is all good. Nobody is all evil. Even those shit-for-brains terrorists imagined they were doing God's will as much as the televangelist in this country who prays for Jesus to assassinate the president of Venezuela. And nobody is going to look out for you, so you damn well better look out for yourself. I got nothing from my days of standing in Hego's shadow. So now I look out for number one. I'm often stealing from bigger crooks than me, they've done more damage to society than I have. But a lot of them are still regarded as respected pillars of the community and leaders of society.”
The conversation turned seriously philosophical. Kim realized she was seeing a facet of the other women she had never known
“We all make our own sets of rules, our own code.” Shego remarked later. “Have you made your own yet -- or still using the one your parents and high school gave you? Most of the people I've hurt deserved it. They all lived. Besides, hurting gives you a faster rep than killing. Any idiot can kill you. If you hurt them, they remember -- and they tell others. Machievelli said we will betray those we love before we betray those we fear.”
“I believe you. But you're an exception. No, I think Niccolio got it right, fear is a more effective weapon. That's why I'm on this side Kim, I can do what I want, when I want. Bad guys don't cry. We don't have the burdens to carry you do.”
“Sounds a lot like freedom--”
“That's exactly what it is Princess, freedom.”
“That's not what I meant. I was thinking of a line on one of my Mom's CDs, something like, ‘freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose…”
Kim was afraid she had offended Shego, but after a long pause she answered softly. “You may be right Princess. Maybe I don't have anyone or anything to cry over. But it was my choice to make, and I made it. Have you made your choices? Could you kill if you had to? You're a hero. Would you kill to save a life?”
“I don't know. Killing is wrong.”
“Here's a gun Kimmie,” Shego said, tossing an imaginary weapon to Kim. “I'm Monkey Fist. I'm fucking crazy.” Her left arm circled an imaginary captive. “I've got your buddy Stoppable. He's my shield, the only shot you have is at my head. I'm going to break his neck.” She moved her right hand to where Ron's head would be, then pressed slowly. “I'm hurting him Kim, I'm hurting him. I can feel those vertebrae stretching.” From the corner of her mouth Shego groaned Ron's lines, “Help me Kim! He's hurting me.” “You want to hear his neck snap, Kimmie? You want to see your best friend die?”
Shego looked over, Kim had her hand pointing at Shego, the sights on the imaginary pistol leveled straight at her head. There were tears in Kim's eyes. “Don't cry Pumpkin, you made the right choice.”
“Killing is wrong.”
“Then get the hell out of the do-gooder game,” she whispered softly. “All the choices aren't easy. If you keep putting yourself and your friend in danger one day you will have to make the choice for real. You've got three choices. Get out now, before you have to decide --if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen. Or you can decide now whether the world is a better place with Stoppable or Gemini alive. You can keep your moral virginity and watch Stoppable die. But, if you decide Stoppable will do more good for the world than a lunatic like Monkey Fist or a megalomaniac like Gemini then you save his life, and you never, never regret doing what you thought was necessary.”
“But what if I'm wrong.”
“We all make mistakes Princess. But never regret loyalty or saving a friend. Never regret doing what was necessary.”
Shego repeated an offer at the end of the evening, “Want a ride home Kim?”
“Thanks for the offer, maybe next time, but after tonight I really want to think. And Sheila, I hope there is a next time.”
Shego couldn’t stop smiling as she followed Kim in the hovercraft. The redhead had come by her own choice. “She likes talking with me!” Shego tried to remember the last time she had been this happy. The memory came back like a blow to the stomach, it had been sitting beside Kim in a photo booth as the two of them mugged for the camera.
She broke off following Kim and returned directly to the Lair. “Damn it! I do not like Kim. We're enemies. I just want someone I can talk to.”