Shego stared up at the bedroom ceiling. “I wish we could go to Mexico for Spring Break, just the two of us. I think we need to lie out in the sun during the day and drink daiquiris and dance at night.”
“You know we can't leave the girls.”
“Oh, yeah. Whose idea were they again?”
“Fine, you can go to Mexico by yourself. Have a good time. Get a lot of sleep and come back here in a better mood. I'm sick of listening to you complain. I give you permission to enjoy yourself.”
“I don't need your permission to enjoy myself.”
“Fine, you don't have my permission then.”
Shego stared at the ceiling for another minute before speaking. “Kim? … I'm sorry. It just wouldn't be any fun without you. And you know I love the girls. I just want to have some more time for the two of us. I guess it's selfish of me--”
“No, it's not selfish. And once the girls aren't nursing we'll go off to Mexico or wherever. I know your Mom would love to have them for a week, maybe my folks too. We do need time together. Can you start working with me? I probably can't do anything right now but try and get in walks with you -- but it's a start and we'll have a chance to just be with each other.”
“That sounds great.”
But her voice lacked the enthusiasm for Kim to believe it really sounded great. Shego seemed restless. For years her world had been so much larger than a partner, kids, and classes that Kim worried that Shego was bored with her. She was afraid Shego would do something stupid or dangerous just for excitement and land back in prison.
Whoever picked up the mail first left it on a small table in the entryway. As the residents of Casa Possible got home they searched through the pile for letters addressed to them, throwing junk mail into the circular file dedicated to the task. Kim worried her fears were justified when Shego came into the kitchen smiling after classes. There had been a letter addressed to Shego with the return address of Hench Co. in the mail. Kim had fought the temptation to steam it open or to 'lose' it in the trash. She guessed this was why Shego was happy.
“Anything interesting in the mail today?”
Shego guessed Kim had seen the letter. “My third offer for a MasterCard this week - not bad when you consider I'm a convicted felon in Canada and out on bail here.”
“A reminder to see my advisor.”
“No, nothing really interesting. Oh, almost forgot, an offer for a temp job I'll probably take. It only requires one night's work and comes with a meal.”
“Is it illegal?”
“No, almost completely legit.”
“I don't like the sound of 'almost completely.'”
“And I don't like how deeply in debt we are to your parents. And you seem to think my money has some taint on it. Jack Hench wants me to escort him to the Villain of the Year award ceremony. I'm going to take it.”
“An escort for Jack Hench? Is that another way of saying call girl? You're out on bail. What if you're seen with a group of criminals?”
“It's a way of saying bodyguard, Kim. And it's more honest than working for the Agency. The control freak in you is starting to get on my nerves. We've taken way too much money from your parents. I'm having the bathrooms redone the way I want, and you'll know this is honest money.”
The conversation went steadily downhill from there.
“Let her go, Kim. Don't try to fight it.” Monique advised. “She's changed her life around a lot because of you and you have to trust her.”
“I love her, I'm worried she's going to get hurt.”
“If you suffocate her she's going to feel like she's back in prison. She's here with you because she wants to be here with you. I'll say it again, you've got to trust her.”
But Shego had made too many mistakes in her life for Kim to trust the pale woman's judgment. She wanted more information on this awards banquet, and went to her source for every kind of information.
Eventually Wade answered the Kimmunicator. “What's up Kim?”
“I need your help. Can you find any information on the Villain of the Year Awards?”
“The one that will be held at the downtown Hilton in St. Louis a week from yesterday and scheduled to begin at seven-thirty and last until one or the cops arrive -- whichever comes first? I think the price is five hundred dollars a plate for dues-paying members of the Villain's Guild, a thousand dollars a plate at the door if you haven't paid your dues, and two hundred dollars a plate for body guards -- but you're only allowed one. Kim, your mouth is hanging open.”
“How did you know that off the top of your head. Did you get an invitation?”
“Maybe I just made it up.”
“Wade, have you joined the Villains' Guild?”
He smiled, “Nah, but Drakken pays his dues and still gets a lot of mail here. He has me open it and forward what I think he wants to see. Hey, weren't you on their mailing list?”
“Well, Ron got me on the mailing list, he thought it was a drawing for a tank. I usually just throw the newsletter away. That's an awfully expensive dinner.”
“I think the hotel wants a big deposit in case of damage.”
“Do you know if Drakken is planning to go?”
“I think so. I was checking out the website and saw he was one of the pre-registered guests.”
“They have a website?”
“Doesn't everybody? There's a lot of discussion about you in the forums. Why do you need to know?”
“Jack Hench wants Shego to be his bodyguard that night.”
“Cool! I want to ask her about the dinner.”
“Wade! I don't want her to go.”
“What's the problem?”
“He wants her as an escort. That's so… so…”
“You don't know much about the Villain of the Year Banquet, do you?”
“Hey, I read the forums. It usually ends with a big fight. They've banned bringing in weapons and only allow one bodyguard per member to try and tone down the level of violence.”
“That's supposed to make me feel better?”
“Think about it Kim, Shego can't check her plasma powers at the door. Hench is probably paying her a big premium 'cause she carries her natural weapon.”
“Whose side are you on?”
“I think you need to trust her. Do you want me to send you the URL so you can see what its all about?”
“Please and thank you.”
“Oh, you'll need a password. I'll send you Drakken's along with the web address.” Wade quickly typed the information out for Kim.
“You know, Wade, sometimes I'm a little suspicious of you. You did delete that webcam video you accidentally took of Bonnie dressing last year, didn't you?”
“Gosh, Kim. Look at the time. My mother needs me home. See ya!” and the screen went blank.
Kim drummed her fingers on the table as she weighed her options, none of them appealing. She even considered calling Dr. Drakken and asking him to spy on Shego for her. Kim gave up the idea more for practical than ethical reasons. The two had such a long history of covering for each other that she wouldn't be able to trust the report.
Kim explored the Villains' Guild website with the password Wade sent her, and her suspicions were raised even higher when she noticed something odd on the confirmed reservations. Jack Hench was confirmed as planning to attend -- with bodyguard. But Shego was also listed as a dues paying member with a confirmed reservation. Shego could not both be there as Hench's bodyguard and in attendance. Had Shego already registered for the dinner without telling Kim? There had been no late nights without explanation since Shego had finished work on the Volvo and the babies were born -- but Kim worried that Shego had planned to go without telling her even before Jack Hench provided her with an excuse.
Kim raised another howl when a dress arrived for Shego from Hench Co. If it is true that expense and material are in inverse proportion to each other it must have been a very expensive garment.
“You can't wear that. You look like a hooker.”
Ron put a hand over Kim's mouth and dragged her from the kitchen. Monique went with them to give her a lecture.
Shego turned to Bonnie, “It is skimpier than I like. Don't tell Kim I said that. And I don't want anyone seeing 'Shego' dressed like a tramp. I've got some skin dye I used before; it makes me look like I've got a deep tan. Can you give me some makeup help to make me look less like me?”
“Kim, the whole idea is totally whack,” Bonnie complained.
“Look, I'm really worried about Shego. I'm scared she is seriously interested in going back to crime. Please, can the two of you just do it for me?”
“I don't know KP. Won't Shego get a little suspicious when she sees Shego walk in?”
“Okay, I'll admit that's a problem. But I don't have twelve hundred dollars right this minute to pay for two dinners. Shego was already confirmed so I just need to pay two hundred dollars for her bodyguard. Bonnie said she's going to help her disguise herself so people can't tell she's Shego. I've seen the floor plan for the ballroom. There's lots of room. Zorpox can scout the room first for the real Shego, then the two of you can find a spot behind a potted fern or something where she can't see you.”
“Wait a minute,” Ron complained. “A bodyguard is lower than a sidekick.”
Bonnie grinned, “His job is to watch my body? I'm in.”
“Why don't you just trust her, Kim?” Ron asked.
Ron went to the Lair for some basics in hovercraft operation.
“Remember, start the gyrostabilizer before you turn on the anti-gravs,” Wade warned him.
“Why didn't Drakken make them so they started together.”
“I don't know. Maybe he thought it would keep a thief from hot-wiring it. Shego says he forgot about half the time himself and ended up dumping himself out. Oh, here's a neat feature I added -- a retractable roof. You'll need it for the trip to St. Louis. And bring it back with a full tank or I won't let you borrow it again.”
“I'm only doing it for the money,” Shego repeated herself as she waited for her ride to the airport. “And he'd better give me a bonus for wearing this outfit.”
“I'm looking for a woman named Shego,” the driver announced.
“That's me. Only you can call me Señora Sombra.”
“Uh, they told me what this Shego woman looked like, and you don't match.”
“Fine, I'll knock you out, steal the keys and drive myself to the airport. When you wake up you can claim your limo at the no parking zone in front of the airport where I left it.”
“Maybe it is you. They described your temper too.”
As soon as the limo pulled away from the house Kim was on her cell phone, “Bring the hovercraft, Ron. Time for Zorpox and Shego to leave for the banquet.”
Ron let out a whistle as Bonnie came down the stairs. Shego's green and black costume showed off every curve.
“You're looking good, Shego,” Ron told her.
“I'll say,” Kim added. “I want to jump on top of you and smother you with kisses.”
Bonnie moved behind Ron, “You're my bodyguard. Protect me.”
Kim put on a jacket and accompanied the two out to the hovercraft. “Just make sure she's okay,” Kim pleaded. “I don't trust Jack Hench. But see if there is anyone else she talks with a lot. I don't want her going back into stealing.”
Jack Hench glared at the dark woman in front of him. “I offered the job to Shego.”
“Well no one with that name goes out dressed like this. You just got another fifteen percent added to the bill for this sexist outfit. I'm going by Medianoche Sombra tonight.”
“But you're really you?”
“You're getting what you pay for. And nothing more, remember that if you want to end the evening with both your hands.”
Jack Hench's arm candy drew the appreciative attention of almost every man in the room when they walked in. Or was she arm candy? Every other power broker in the villain world was there with serious muscle by his or her side. A rumor started at one table that the woman with Hench was a Mexican assassin, and the story spread quickly through the room.
Shego scanned the room for potential problems before sitting down. She started when she noticed Dr. Drakken sitting half the room over -- seated beside Shego. Shego peered closely at the fake. Drakken must have hired an actress, but the fake looked remarkably young -- perhaps about Kim's age when she first met Drakken. “Drakken must have bought the cheap body make-up, her skin looks a little plastic,” Shego thought. The skin color was off too, a little too green, but anyone who hadn't looked her green self face-to-face in the mirror for more than fifteen years wouldn't know that.
Hank Perkins stared at the couple in front of him, then down at the list of confirmations. “There seems to be a problem here. I remember a woman named Shego coming in about half an hour ago.”
Ron couldn't believe that Shego could have gotten here that quickly before them. And hadn't Kim said Shego was attending as Hench's bodyguard? At the moment, however, his concern was keeping his promise to Kim. Fortunately he had bulked up enough for Zorpox to be intimidating. “It looks like you made a little mistake. The boss lady is here now. Have you heard about how she plays with fire?”
“Yes, sir,” Hank replied in a small voice.
“Well, unless you want to see it, I suggest you let us in now. And be more careful about checking off the names of paying guests.” In his moment of triumph with Hank Perkins Zorpox forgot to check the ballroom out to locate Shego before going in.
Shego Sombra and Hench made small talk and watched the new arrivals as they came in. “Look who's wearing falsies,” Shego snorted.
“Leg falsies. Professor Dementor is trying to look seven feet tall. He can't even walk right in those things.”
A minute later there was an edge of anger in Hench's voice, “If you're the real Shego, who is that?”
“It's a fake Shego sitting with Dr. Drakken,” she hissed.
“No, I mean the Shego coming in the door with the funny-looking guy. Are you the real Shego or am I being ripped off?”
Shego stuck up her middle finger and gave him a burst of plasma flame that shot up two feet. “Why don't you go ask either of those fakes if they can do this?” Shego stared at the new arrivals. Could that be… Kim was going to be in a lot of trouble when she got home.
Zorpox, meanwhile, had realized he made a mistake and quickly found seats for Bonnie Shego and himself at a large table with lots of space. He hoped it was far enough to the side that Shego wouldn't notice them -- if she hadn't already. They were on the opposite side of the ballroom from Dr. Drakken and the other Shego and didn't see them.
Two more latecomers noticed Bonnie Shego, and headed for their table. “Here comes trouble,” Ron warned her. “Señor Senior, Senior once hired Shego to tutor his son, Señor Senior, Junior in the criminal arts.”
“What do I need to know about them?”
“I think they know her too well for you to pull it off. They're really rich and the father took up crime as a hobby.”
“Really rich? Oh, and Junior is cute.”
Junior sat in a chair by Bonnie Shego. Senior glared at Bonnie, apparently nursing some sort of grievance with the real Shego. Junior rambled on about a new club opening in New York and Bonnie engaged him in small talk. His father listened in and stared at Bonnie.
“Damn, he knows she's not Shego,” Ron thought.
“Why don't you ask her to accompany you to the club,” the father suggested to his son.
“May I, father?”
“Certainly my son. While I have had objections towards Shego in the past she seems like a changed woman. You need to go out more and have fun.”
Junior and Bonnie exchanged phone numbers as Ron looked on in disbelief and Señor Senior gave a smile of satisfaction. It often concerned him that Junior didn't seem more interested in pursuing attractive young women.
After the dinner the lights dimmed for the audience as an official of the Villains' Guild took the stage. “We will begin the presentation of awards in a minute, but we start this year's ceremony with a posthumous award to the Eliminator for his demonstration of why anti-matter bullets are a really bad idea.”
Zorpox wondered if he should take off his helmet in memory of the departed, but noticed no one else had removed a head covering.
“Our first award this evening is in a new category. We honor the villain who has done the most in the past year to present a sense of style in the world of crime. And the first recipient of the award is, Señor Senior, Senior!”
The loudest applause came from the table where he was sitting as Señor Senior moved slowly to the platform to accept the award.
“Father thinks style is very important for villains,” Junior explained to Bonnie Shego. “He believes it is so important he even funded the creation of the award himself. He must be very proud to be the first to receive the honor.”
The Evil Eye trio cheered wildly as a villain wearing one of their designs won in the best costume category. Bonnie and Ron couldn't see the stage well enough to see the winner in the category best sidekick in a supporting role, but he must have been tiny. They did, however, hear a loud “Narf” as he collapsed under the weight of the trophy. The list of categories appeared endless -- or at least the thank you speeches of the winners… They gave out the Edward G. Robinson award for tough dialog, a lifetime achievement award, and then Wacky Wally's Weather Machines had a promotion which brought a sigh from Señor Senior Senior. “It is a pity villainy has become so commercialized.” The awards continued with a presentation for Rookie of the Year, followed by an award for original escape, and then Hench Co. had their own promotion -- stressing a full range of services available for the professional villain.
The nominees in the category Best at Defying Gravity were all called on stage and asked to jump up and down a few times. It was a very impressive display.
“Put your tongue back in your mouth or I'll pull it out by the roots,” Bonnie Shego warned Ron.
Even Junior seemed awestruck. “If you were a truly dutiful son,” his father sighed, “you would buy me one of those for my birthday.”
“I believe they only come in pairs, father,” Junior replied, staring hard at the stage.
“I know that, my son.”
“Oww! Why did you hit me with your cane?”
“Because you must pay attention to that which is important.”
“I thought I was,” Junior sulked.
The awards continued. Bonnie Shego was flirting openly with Junior, to Ron's discomfort. Zorpox turned his attention to the talking cactus whose pot had been placed on the chair on his other side, “When do they get to the Villain of the Year award?”
“Oh, no one cares this year. We all know the Alien Brain is going to take the prize.”
“Why is everyone so sure?”
“Don't you read the forums? He kidnapped the committee in charge of counting ballots.”
“Damn, I wish I thought of that.”
“Yeah, we all do. So he probably deserves it.”
Zorpox was only half listening as the announcer droned into the next presentation. “As you know, the annual award for beating the system usually goes to the villain who has used the flimsiest technicality to escape prison time. This year we honor a man who has made more money while in the custody of the state than he ever managed in his life of crime. The trophy for beating the system goes to a man who will never receive the villain of the year award… “ But Ron took notice as the winner's name was announced, “Dr. Drakken.”
Dr. Drakken moved to the stage with a scattering of applause from the audience. “If he's making good money maybe he can pay back some of his IOUs,” Jack Hench grunted to Shego Sombra.
Having played poker with him, Zorpox and Bonnie Shego applauded loudly enough as Drakken moved to the stage to catch his attention. Drakken turned to wave, then stared at the Shego seated there -- and quickly glanced back at the Shego at his own table.
Neither Bonnie nor Ron had noticed Dr. Drakken, sitting on the other side of the room, when they came in. The announcer mentioning his name had drawn Bonnie's attention -- and she noticed the other Shego as Drakken stood up. Her eyes moved back to the dark woman she and Ron had been watching. What was going on?
Dr. Drakken held his trophy high with one hand and waved to the crowd before stepping to the microphone.
“I would like to thank the United States for providing the best legal system money can buy,” he began. “And also my team of lawyers. I've developed a great plan to take over the world once I'm done with my spa treatments. In the meanwhile I'd like to thank the little people who had nothing to do with my being here -- especially Professor Dementor. I don't think the little people get any shorter than that.”
The insult did not go unchallenged. Prof. Dementor pulled off a leg extension, pointed the tube-like calf toward the stage, and pressed the toe of his boot -- firing a concussion grenade at Drakken. Dr. D. ducked quickly from years of practice with Shego's plasma attacks and before Dementor could fire a second grenade Drakken's Shego came out of a tuck position as she somersaulted over the crowd and crashed feet first into Dementor's back -- knocking him to the floor. She pulled off the second leg extension, and threw it halfway across the room -- where it slid under the Alien Brain and exploded, knocking the rolling canister off his wheels.
The explosion seemed to trigger a spontaneous riot among bored diners.
“FIGHT!” the cactus yelled, “Time to rumble!”
“Come Junior, let us depart. Such violence is unseemly.”
Bonnie Shego looked like she wanted to follow the Seniors, but Ron touched her arm. “I'm going to help Shego. Her table is right in the middle where the action is going to be. You can wait in the hovercraft.”
“No, I'll stay with you.”
As Ron and Bonnie worked their way to the middle of the room Ron saw Drakken's Shego fight her way onto the stage, throwing anyone who got in her way with amazing strength, and escort Drakken to an exit at the back.
The dress for Shego Sombra had been designed for no more strenuous exercise than normal breathing. She quickly gave up on any attempt at modesty and concentrated on not getting hurt and protecting her employer. She decided it probably made her job easier, it reduced potential attackers to the role of voyeurs. “I need to tell Kim they thought there was nothing wrong with my distractions.” Her irritation with Ron and Bonnie disappeared as the two charged to her aid, with their backs to the table the three formed a defensive perimeter around Jack Hench. Without speaking Ron and Shego put Bonnie between them, so they protect her from either side. Shego's reputation encouraged many attackers to use a flanking approach rather than facing Bonnie head on, and Shego avoided the use of plasma to keep the illusion in place.
Bonnie surprised them both and defended herself well.
It wasn't clear whether the fight concentrated itself around the quartet because of their central location, or perhaps some villains resented the large fees Hench charged, or their determined stand may have made the beating the trio an attractive goal. Certainly the fact Jack was throwing wine bottles, plates, and silverware at the attackers only seemed to increase their rage.
“You aren't helping, Jack,” Shego complained as she blocked a kick.
“Hey, for what you're getting paid you can let me have fun”
The fighting raged as hotel staff ran to call the police.
“Bitch,” Pink Swashbuckler hissed as he reached for his sword -- then remembered that he'd turned it in at the door.
He couldn't back fast enough and Bonnie Shego's foot caught him in the crotch and he went down, screaming soprano. “Oh, sorry, that ain't no way to treat a lady.”
“That was cold, Bon-- Er, Shego,” Zorpox said.
“I recognized the voice -- he's a senior in the Theatre Department at Middleton. I always hated that guy.”
The next twenty minutes were a blur to everyone, until the sound of sirens dispersed the crowd.
“You three were great,” Hench told them as he reached into his jacket pocket. “Let me give you a little something for your effort.”
Worry about Shego kept Kim from sleeping well, and the noise from the kitchen brought her downstairs at two in the morning. She threw open the door, expecting to scold them and remind them of sleeping babies, but stopped when she saw them. Shego wore an odd looking purple coat, Zorpox's outfit was in shreds and the lens was gone from one side of his goggles, and Bonnie held a piece of raw steak over her left eye. “What happened?”
The trio kept interrupting each other as they told Kim about the night. Ron was giving a particularly graphic description of Bonnie taking down Duff Killigan when Bonnie broke in, “It was really no big. You take away his balls and he's got nothing. I really want to thank you both for covering me.”
“No, you were really good Bonnie,” Shego assured her, “all that Tai Chi paid off. I couldn't believe it when you took out the big guy with the blue fur.”
“I think it helped a lot that I was sober and he wasn't.
“Oh, Oh, and Señor Senior, Junior is taking me to a club next week in New York!”
“Does he know you're not me, or does he think I'm going with him?” Shego wanted to know.
“At first he thought I was you, but I finally admitted I wasn't. He almost seemed relieved. And I think it made his father happy. He seems like a nice man.”
“Careful, Bonnie,” Shego warned, “he's a pincher.”
“No, he just wants to dance. The old man is a lech though.”
“Hey, KP,” Ron interrupted, “we all got job offers.”
“Seriously. Just henchmen positions, but I got a sidekick offer.”
“Is he serious?” Kim asked Shego.
“For real. Jack Hench offered to place us all in nice positions for a small percentage of any signing bonus.”
“All three of you are in trouble,” Kim muttered. “Who took villain of the year?”
“I heard some guy called Alien Brain was going to get it. I've never heard of him,” Ron said.
Shego suddenly laughed.
“What's so funny” Ron demanded.
“It just hit me. Professor Dementor will be in a hell of a lot of trouble next year for smuggling in weapons.”
“Will they ban him from the dinner?” Bonnie asked.
“If they're thinking they'll do something a lot worse to him. They should put him in charge of counting ballots. After the stunt Alien Brain pulled this year that's going to be a dangerous job.”
While Ron and Bonnie told Kim more about the night's activities Shego began to inventory the contents of the purple coat she was wearing. After discovering a bunch of exploding bananas, a fountain pen filled with disappearing sulpheric acid, and a 10,000 volt joy buzzer she decided the garment should not be left in a home with small children. She took off the coat, “Here, Ron. Hold this. Don't stick your hand in any of the pockets.”
“Shego! You're topless.”
“Thank you for your grasp of the obvious. I'm going to get dressed and run that coat over to the lost and found at the Villain's Club. It belongs to the Impractical Joker and it's dangerous. I'll take the hovercraft and bring it back to Wade when I'm done.
“Oh, and Kim, when I get back you're going to tell me the real story of why Ron and Bonnie were there at the awards ceremony.”
Everyone pitched in for the pre-Passover cleaning. After a particularly long afternoon of cleaning after a full day of classes Bonnie and Monique collapsed in the living room.
“This is why I'm a Christian.”
For first Seder everyone in the house went to the home of Ron's parents.
Shego and Ron hosted a second Seder at Possible Manor, the first time either of them had taken on the responsibility, although Ron had a better sense of what he was doing from years of attending them. Not counting the babies there were eighteen in attendance.
The morning after the second Seder Ron called a special meeting at breakfast.
“Some of you have eaten Seder meals before this year. But none of you have gone through the eight days of Passover. For the next week there will be none of the regular products made from wheat, rice, barley, spelt, or oats in the house. You will eat, drink, and sleep matzah. As a survivor I know the key to getting through this dangerous time.” Ron reached into a cabinet and pulled out a white plastic container with a blue lid and set it on the table in front of them.
“What is it?”
“Prunes are the secret for surviving Passover?”
“Trust me, Kim. You can start eating them now and have a trouble-free Passover. Or you can wait a few days until you learn the true horror of a matzah diet. And when you come crawling to me for relief you're going to have to listen to a lecture which begins with, 'I told you so.'”
“Are you serious, Stoppable?”
“Shego, there is a reason we call it the bread of affliction.”
Translation: Annus mirabilis - Year of wonders
Author's note: An alternative end to the chapter got cut because I felt like Monique.
“Prunes are the secret for surviving Passover?”
“Trust me, Kim. You can start eating one prune with each meal and have a trouble-free Passover. Or you can wait a few days until you learn the true horror of a matzah diet. And when you come crawling to me for relief you're going to have to listen to a lecture which begins with, 'I told you so.'”
“You said, 'one prune with each meal' I hope you meant different prunes and not the same one.”
“Gross. Kim, make her stop.”
“Oh, Bonnie,” Shego laughed, “what's a little scatological humor among friends.”
“More like eschatological humor,” Monique told the pale woman.
“You make jokes like that and it's going to be your end times.”
No one even smiled. Monique sighed, her best line in weeks and no one got it.