“C'mon, girl, wake up.”
Monique had squatted lightly in the back room of Club Banana, patting at Bonnie's cheeks. Not getting a response, she drew back a hand and delivered an actual slap, causing the other woman to yelp and sit bolt upright, hand flying to her cheek, looking around wildly.
“Good morning, sunshine,” Monique said dryly, standing up and resting her hands on her hips.
“What the hell happened?” Bonnie moved the hand up to the side of her head, fingers searching amidst the artfully disarrayed folds of her hair to find the slight bump she'd been left with. She hissed a little and drew her hand away, checking it for blood (of which there was none).
“A customer caught you shoplifting. Guess you stumbled and hit your head on the wall,” Monique explained, now folding her arms over her chest and scowling down at her subordinate.
“… Oh.” Bonnie bit her lower lip, then slowly got to her feet as well, smoothing out the front of her shirt. She raised her head and started to smile ingratiatingly, mouth opening to deliver some whimsical excuse, but her face fell at Monique's unchanged expression. She rubbed at her upper arm with her hand, looking off to the side.
“We'll discuss this at the -very- start of your shift tomorrow,” Monique said firmly. “For now, your shift's over, and I don't want to see you in this store or around it until then. Understood?”
“Yes ma'am,” Bonnie murmured.
Bonnie let her head hang a bit with both despondency and a dull throb of pain as she unlocked the apartment door and stepped inside, absently hanging her purse from the coat rack beside it. She stood just inside the door for a few minutes, staring back and forth across the small but extremely tastefully-decorated living room, before finally heading into her bedroom to change clothes.
It was her night to make dinner, but once the Meat Mentor was simmering away on the stove, she went ahead and cleaned what clutter there was in the apartment and vacuumed as well. She was in the process of putting dishes in the dishwasher when a key rattled in the lock, signaling her roommate's arrival.
Monique hung her own purse up beside Bonnie's, then paused to take in the apartment. Without comment or any real change of expression, she went to her own room and emerged a few minutes later in slacks and a dark blue button-up shirt.
“Hey,” Bonnie said genially, trying for a bright smile that wilted rather quickly in the face of Monique refusing to look at her. Instead, she bustled about, preparing two bowls of the supposedly Asian-style beef and rice concoction and setting one down on the table in front of the other girl, before sitting down with her own.
They ate in silence for awhile, before Bonnie cleared her throat. “Uh, listen, about-”
“Do NOT want to talk about it, girl,” Monique muttered.
“…” Bonnie bit her lower lip again, but nodded.
Once she'd finished the bowl, Monique stood and carried it to the sink, then turned and headed back towards the door. “There's a lab tonight, I'll be home half an hour later than usual.”
“Okay,” Bonnie said softly.
Monique paused at the door, stealing a glance at where Bonnie was sitting at the table, shoulders slumped and head bowed. Then she made a little sound of vexation low in her throat and stormed out the door.
Bonnie sat at the table for awhile, staring at nothing in particular, then finally got up and went in to sit on the couch, resting a pillow on her lap before drawing her legs up to hug them. Then she pressed her face against the pillow and wept.
“Honestly, tryin’ ta sweeten me up by cleaning the apartment,” Monique grumbled, stabbing her parfait with her spoon. “Girl, it was so messy because she skipped the last time it was her turn!”
“Maybe she actually felt bad?” Chantelle suggested. Monique had met her in her chemistry college class, and the two black women had hit it off. Chantelle's hair was pulled to the back of her head and done in innumerable small braids, and the blue contacts she wore made her eyes seem to glow amidst her dark skin.
“Please, as if,” Monique snorted. “The only thing she feels bad about is that she's gonna lose her job NRNST.”
“No reference, no second try.”
“Hey, ‘Nique, why'd ya move in with th’ girl in the first place, if ya can't stand her so much?” Chantelle asked, tucking a bite of her brownie in her mouth and chewing thoughtfully.
Monique shrugged a little. “Ionno, she offered when she found out we were both going to UU. Was a lot nicer than a dorm or anyplace I could afford on my own.” She ate a bite of her parfait, then sighed and allowed, “And she's usually not a BAD roommate, I guess. And she kinda reminds me of the-”
“Old days with Kim?” Chantelle cut in, grinning.
Monique frowned. “Girl, you getting psychic or something?”
“Nah, jus’ that every conversation with you hasta include Kim Possible's name at least once.” Chantelle considered for a moment, then waggled her fork at Monique. “You said th’ girl's a huge bitch, right?”
“Biggest in Middleton, an’ give Upperton and Lowerton a run for their bitchy money,” Monique agreed.
“So wha'd she ever do to you?”
“Well she…” Monique trailed off, frowning a bit harder as she thought. “There was this one time… I think… she made fun of my… shoes?”
“Obviously the rare and detestable Klanswoman,” Chantelle said wryly.
“I think she bitched about me hanging out with Kim a few times,” Monique said defensively.
“Worse an’ worse.” Chantelle rolled her tinted eyes, then pointed her fork at Monique. “Girl, I think you're just carryin’ on Kim's rivalry with th’ girl without even thinkin’ about it.”
“What's THAT supposedta mean?”
“She and Kim were rivals ever since first day of high school or somethin’ like that, right?” Receiving a slow nod of confirmation, Chantelle continued. “So ‘course they're gonna take whatever they don't like ‘bout each other and blow it up twenty times. I ain't sayin’ Bonne ain't a bitch, mind, but maybe not as big of one as y'think. Maybe you're still viewin’ her through Kim-colored glasses, if ya know what I mean.”
Monique's frown was thoughtful now. “I dunno, maybe. Still doesn't excuse her stealing.”
“Ain't sayin’ it does. But if you're gonna fire her, fire her over stealing, not because you finally get to kick Kim's rival Bonnie out on her ass.”
Monique had nothing to say with that, and instead dragged her spoon around the edges of the glass. Had she really been looking at Bonnie through the tint of Kim's dislike of her all these years? And had she really been so quick to leap right to firing her because of it? Shoplifting was of course a firing offense, but still.
But if that was the case, why had she lied and said she'd be out later, just to avoid having to look at her? Why not gloat?
Monique was still thinking about the whole issue as she returned to the apartment that night. She took a glance around, and spotted Bonnie laying on her side on the couch, halfway curled up around a pillow. Sighing, Monique closed the door and walked over, leaning down to shake Bonnie's shoulder gently. “Hey.”
Bonnie gasped and jerked a bit, her eyes snapping open. She stared at Monique for a moment, then slumped a bit. “Oh. Hey. How was class?”
Monique shrugged. “Fine.”
Bonnie sat up and settled the pillow in her lap, smoothing out the top of it as if worried about wrinkles. Monique watched her for a few moments, then finally sighed and lowered herself to sit beside the other woman on the couch.
“Girl, why the heck did you do it?”
“I don't know,” Bonnie muttered bitterly.
“Oh, that ain't gonna cut it!” Monique snapped, feeling anger bubbling back up. “Your parents pay your rent and tuition, the only reason you even work at Club Banana is to have more money to spend on yourself! And you're stealing -socks-?!”
“I don't -know-!” Bonnie snarled back, thumping a fist against the pillow.
Monique recoiled a little at the sudden vehemence, but said nothing. After a moment, Bonnie's shoulders slumped again.
“I just… feel bad all the time,” she whispered, tears brimming in her eyes. “I'm unhappy almost every minute of every day, and… I just wanted to feel better.”
“You…” Monique stared, feeling her mouth hang open a little. Oh, of course there'd been some vague thought that no one was such a bitch without there being some problem there, but the depth and sincerity of what Bonnie had said was shocking. “… And taking things made you feel better?”
“No. Worse.” Bonnie hung her head, sniffling a little. “There was a tiny little thrill in grabbing it and sneaking it out, but then I just felt guilty, like I was an even worse person. Except that I couldn't stop, because even that one little thrill was better than…”
“… And that's why you broke up with Brick,” Monique murmured.
Bonnie laughed bitterly, tears starting to stream down her cheeks. “I barely ever got back together with him to break up with him! He'd had a whole year to date college girls, and by the time I… t-tried to win him back…”
It wasn't even a contest. Monique had never seen someone need a hug so badly in their lives, and the surprising thing was that Bonnie hugged her back without reservation. In fact, she seemed to be doing a lot of bawling against her shoulder.
“C'mon, girl, ICBW,” Monique murmured. “I guess of all the crap you coulda done, some stolen socks and shirts aren't exactly the end of the world.”
Bonnie sniffled, straightening up a little. “Yeah, you're right that it could've been worse, I guess.”
“'Course it could ha-” Monique blinked, drawing away to arm's length and looking at Bonnie. “Wait, you got that?”
Bonnie wiped a hand across her eyes. “Um, well, duh.”
“No, I'm not kidding you, of course I understood it. What's the big deal?”
“Just startin’ ta wonder if I've been a bigger bitch than I was thinkin’ someone else was,” Monique murmured, glancing off to the side. Then she looked back at Bonnie and shook her head. “Girl, I'm sorry. I never even thought about what your life was like.”
“My sisters are bitches who hate me, my parents don't give a crap about me, and I'm desperately lonely,” Bonnie supplied flatly.
“… Ouch.” Monique tapped a fingertip against her cheek, then sighed. “Listen, I'll have to figure out something to do, but I can try and swing it so you can keep your job. As long as you promise me that this is the -end- of all this stealin’ crap, AITC?”
“As crystal,” Bonnie agreed, nodding her head vigorously.
“'Kay. From now on, talk to me if you're feelin’ that bad. I… know I haven't been a friend, an’ I think it's time I changed that.”
“… Really?” Bonnie blinked a few times.
“So, um…” The brown-haired girl squirmed a little in place, pressing her hands against the pillow in her lap. “… -Just- friends, right?”
“Well, you know. I kinda figured you were… y'know…”
Monique stared. “I was what?”
“… Qualified to help the butch lesbians pick stuff out for their girlfriends?” Bonnie supplied tentatively.
“Why the hell would you think that?!” Monique demanded, more in shock than outrage.
“Because in the entire time I've known you, I've never seen you go out with a guy. Well, except that time you and Kim fought over that Japanese exchange student. But since that involved Kim, I just figured you were jealous.”
Monique's jaw dropped.
“… So you're not gay?” Bonnie's voice had gotten rather tiny, and she scooted a bit further away on the couch.
“… Well, I just figured I was bi,” Monique said after a few moments. “But come to think about it, I haven't looked at a guy in over a year, so, uh… yeah.”
“… That's it?”
“Well yeah, that's it. What did you expect?”
“I dunno. Teasing, shocked looks, wondering if I'd ever peeked on you in the shower.”
“Just that one time when I didn't know you were in there and came in to get my toothbrush.”
“Oh yeah.” Bonnie rubbed her chin a bit, apparently remembering. Then she grinned, voice falling back into the sultry, superior tone Monique was more used to. “So did you like it?”
“Did you like what you saw? Even with the shower curtain in the way?” Bonnie leaned closer, smirking a bit.
“Girl, here I was feeling sorry for you!”
“No, c'mon,” Bonnie pressed, edging in, her nose almost touching the other woman's. “I'm serious. Did you like it?”
“You have a very nice silhouette, is that you wanted to hear?”
“It's nice to hear, yeah.” Bonnie's eyes grew heavy-lidded, her smirk mellowing into a rather sultry smile. “You wanna see more than a silhouette?”
Bonnie dipped her head, dark pink lips pressing against the soft chocolate color of Monique's neck. Monique gasped, eyes sinking closed, and for a few seconds she was very, very tempted, especially as she felt Bonnie's tongue drift in a tiny, hot lick across her skin. Then she grabbed Bonnie's shoulders, pushing her away… but firmly, not shoving her.
“Bonnie… I'm not gonna be your replacement thrill,” she said softly.
Bonnie's face fell, her entire expression showing just how crushed she was. Choking out an apology, she got up and bolted for her room. But Monique was on her feet and after her, grabbing her by the wrists and holding on. Bonnie bucked and squirmed, yanking rather feebly on her arms, before slumping back against the other girl.
Monique rested her head against Bonnie's, closing her eyes and whispering, “But if you wanna start dating, TOBM.”
Bonnie turned her head, looking at Monique in bewilderment. “Dating?”
“Yeah. Dating. What you do if you're attracted to somebody and wanna find out if you like them? Dating?” Monique opened her eyes and smiled gently. “Girl, I just wanna get to know you, instead of bein’ your new drug to get you by. Dating's as good a way as any, I guess. If you really do like me instead of just thinking it'll make you feel better…”
Monique nodded, still holding onto the other girl, letting Bonnie lean on her. After a few minutes, she asked, “I've been wondering… why'd you ask me to be your roommate in the first place?”
“… I guess… because of Kim,” Bonnie admitted softly. “It seemed like she was the only person who ever treated me just the way she felt she should. Everyone else, I never knew if they treated me the way they did because I was popular or looked good or had money or what. Kim treated me like a bitch, but at least I knew I'd earned it. When she left, without her I felt like I didn't know who was real and who wasn't. I guess I figured if you were her best friend besides Stoppable, maybe you… maybe you'd be like that.”
Monique heard a lot of what was said and what wasn't in that. She nodded a little, then admitted, “I guess I agreed for the same reason. You were the last thing that was a big part of Kim's life I really had left. Maybe I thought that without that, it'd be too tough to bear losing one of the best friends I ever had, like she'd just be… totally out of my life.”
Bonnie was silent, but the time it took her to nod agreement told Monique that she'd heard what wasn't said as well. Finally, Bonnie said, with a bit of forced bravado, “So. Next Friday, dinner and a movie?”
“Sure, girl. SLLF.”
Bonnie straightened up, Monique's hands releasing her wrists, and gave the other woman a quick smile before heading into her room. Monique walked back over to the couch and sat down, leaning back against it and staring at the ceiling.
This was probably the stupidest thing she'd ever done, deciding to date her roommate. And someone with deep emotional problems at that. The one saving grace was the unspoken knowledge between them… that they were both going into this knowing that their hearts had once belonged and still did in some small way to someone else, and the same person at that. Monique, however, was the only one who knew that any hope of that person coming back and being available was not going to happen.
Kim loved Shego. She'd left her life and even some of her ideals behind for the villainous woman, and she wasn't coming back. Even if things between them ended somehow, Monique had seen the look in Kim's eyes when she'd looked at the other woman. Her expression may have been exasperated, but there was absolutely nothing but love in her eyes. Kim would love Shego for the rest of her life, no matter what else happened, and no one would ever take her place.
And so it was left to Bonnie and Monique to finally move on with their lives. And if they could help each other do it… well, anything was possible.