“What the fuck are you doing here?” Shego hissed, shoving the younger girl off of her. She quickly got to her feet and turned to face the irate redhead, automatically flaring her plasma up.
“I told you this wasn't over,” Kim warned, instinctively dropping into her defensive stance. “You just up and left without a word, Shego. Did you really expect me to just let it go?”
The agent stopped short and blinked slowly. She noticed their postures and started laughing. Giggles became chuckles which turned into guffaws and she leaned down, holding her sides. Shego was laughing so hard a few tears even rolled down her face.
Kim, on the other hand, was not amused and felt her temper prick at Shego's mirth. She failed to see anything humorous about the situation they were in. Though she was struck at just how much younger the double agent looked when she laughed. It's too bad she doesn't laugh, or even smile, more often. The stray thought caught her by surprise and she hastily pushed it aside. She was here for answers and Shego was going to give them to her, one way or the other.
“What's so funny?” she demanded.
“We are, Princess,” she chuckled, wiping her face free of moisture. She caught her breath and grinned at Kim. “Oh come on, it's funny.”
Kim huffed and crossed her arms. “Whatever.”
Shego shook her head, “You gotta lighten up, Possible. It was humorous, our whole ‘let's fight’ thing. Some things never change.”
“Except now I know you're a good guy working for Global Justice instead of the big, bad villain you've been pretending to be.”
Shego shrugged, “So? It doesn't change anything. I told you, we still have a job to do. You do your part, I play mine.”
Kim shook her head, “It changes everything, Shego. I know the difference now. You really expect me to just go back to thinking you're my arch enemy?”
The pale woman scowled, “It's not about what you want, Princess. This is what has to happen. You could ruin everything we've worked for if you open your big mouth. What part of that don't you get?”
Kim immediately seized the opportunity to ask one of the questions she'd been dying to know. “Just how long have you been doing this?”
“Forever.” Shego smirked at the sour look directed at her. “It's true. I've been doing the hero thing since I was 16 and hooked up with GJ two years after that. Been with them ever since. Like I said, forever.”
Kim mentally calculated for a moment. I always wondered how old she was. “Why'd you disappear last night?” The question had no real bearing on anything but for some reason, it had bothered Kim when she couldn't find Shego after foiling Drakken.
Shego rolled her eyes and leaned against the nearest tree. “I didn't. I followed orders. Infiltrate and retrieve, remember? So that's what I did. I snooped around for a bit, got the junk back to the drop point and left. Why, did you miss me, Pumpkin?” She grinned, slyly.
“Ego much, Harper?” Kim retorted, raising her eyebrow.
Shego's grin fell and her mouth settled into a thin line. “Don't call me that,” she said, flatly. She pushed off the tree and came to stand in front of Kim. “If you're done wasting my time, you can see yourself back home. Don't come back here unless it's for a mission, got it?” She gave Kim a hard look and turned to leave.
Kim immediately reached out and grabbed her arm, “Stop walking away from me.” She had only meant to halt Shego's leaving and was unprepared when Shego jerked her arm free and and swiftly closed the distance between them. They were inches apart and Kim found herself staring into angry green eyes.
“You don't have any kinda say here, Cupcake and the sooner you realize that, the better off we'll all be. I don't need any more ass chewings because of you,” she growled. Her temper had been piqued. Kim was one of the few people who could really set her off sometimes. The last thing she needed was someone screwing up all the hard work and effort she had put into this mission. She needed to keep Betty happy if she was ever going to get a chance for the vengeance she had been yearning for all these years.
“What's that supposed to mean?” Kim wasn't going to back down this time. The time for half-truths and hiding had long since past. She and Shego were going to have it out, even if it meant they had to come to blows to do it.
“It means shut up, get over it and go home. You realize what will happen to you if you don't start following the rules, Kimmie? You only know the nice side of Bets. You really don't have any idea of what she's capable of in the name of ‘the greater good‘,” she said, letting her disdain for the term show. She needed to make clear the consequences of continuing to disregard orders. Betty would only give so much slack before she would pull the reins back in a choke hold there was no escaping from.
Kim's eyes narrowed. “Are you threatening me, Shego?”
Shego laughed derisively, “I wish. At least then you might have a chance.” She shook her head and grabbed Kim by the shoulders, shaking her lightly. “You can't keep fucking around like this. Harassing Frost, tracking me down here, she's gonna find out, Princess. And when she does, she's not gonna be happy. Keep doing it and she'll start playing hardball with you. You don't want that, I promise.”
“Then give me some answers and I won't have to keep doing this. No one will tell me anything. I don't like being kept in the dark,” Kim shot back.
Shego groaned in frustration and dropped her hands, “You don't know when to quit, do you?” The two women stiffened simultaneously as the familiar words registered. She had said the exact same thing to Kim when they were fighting at Bueno Nacho headquarters. Remembering that night, she dropped her eyes, face tightening for a moment, then smoothing into a blank expression. This conversation needed to end before she said too much.
“Neither do you,” Kim replied quietly, repeating the words she had said as well. She had been watching intently and saw the change come over Shego. Her mind raced with questions. The older woman looked almost ashamed before retreating behind a mask of aloofness. It was time to change tactics. “Shego, please?” Her bottom lip pushed out and her eyes grew wide with pleading. Desperate times called for desperate measures.
A warning sounded in her head at the change in Kim's tone. Something about it screamed danger and she realized her error the moment she lifted her head to meet the saddest looking pout known to man. Unprepared, she couldn't resist the soulful gaze being directed at her and felt her resolve crumbling. “GAH! You…you stop that. I mean it,” she said, valiantly trying to recover. Internally she cringed, she should have seen it coming, should have known that Kim would use whatever weapons available to get her way. Little brat.
Shego turned her back and tried to ignore the feel of two eyes staring mournfully at her, at two full lips turned up into a pretty pout that had her ready to spill every secret she had. Moments passed and the silence grew oppressive as the look continued to press down on her. “Aw hell,” she muttered and stared off into the distance for a moment before sighing heavily. “Thought heroes were supposed to play fair, Princess.”
“Do you?” Kim countered.
She turned and smirked, “Bad guy, remember? We don't play fair.”
“You and I both know that's a lie. Why can't you just answer me?” Kim's exasperation was beginning to show. She was sure Shego was deliberately talking in circles to avoid revealing the truth.
“Because the less you know, the safer you'll be,” Shego said slowly. “Doy.”
“If that's the case, then why were you so eager for me to know in the first place?”
“I…” The question caught her off guard and she found she had no explanation, at least none that wouldn't open up a line of questions she really didn't want to answer. Shego cast about for something, anything that would satisfy Kim's curiosity and steer her away from dangerous topics, such as exactly why she was adamant about Kim knowing her true identity. “You ask too many questions,” she complained. It was fast becoming apparent to her that Kim wouldn't stop until she had her answers.
“And we're back to square one,” Kim's aggravation was evident. “Are you trying to be this irritating on purpose?”
She had the temerity to grin, “I could ask the same of you, Kimmie.” Shego paused and made a quick decision. “All right look, 3 questions, then you high tail it back home and forget we had this conversation.” She held up a hand to silence the teen's protest, “That's all you're getting. Take it or leave it.”
Kim frowned; it wasn't what she was wanted but something was better than nothing. “Fine. Why are you doing this?” She waited and scowled when it became apparent Shego wasn't going to answer her, yet again. “C'mon, you have to - “
“Ask something else.” The stubborn set to Shego's jaw let Kim know the futility of pursuing that question.
The redhead rolled her eyes but asked, “Why me? Why pick me to know the truth?”
The double agent shrugged, “Because you and I are the ones risking our lives. Kinda stupid to keep you in the dark about it, isn't it?” Her tone was condescending and it irritated Kim.
“Then why now?”
“Seemed as good a time as any,” she replied, flippantly. She crossed her arms and stared at the ground, waiting for the last question.
Kim paused as realization struck her. Shego was lying; both Dr. Director and Frost had made it clear that the masquerade would have continued with Kim none the wiser had it not been for Shego's stubborn insistence otherwise. Why are you lying to me?, she wondered silently. You don't have to hide things from me anymore, so why are you? A peculiar notion crossed her mind that she almost dismissed out of hand. Could Shego be afraid?
It would certainly explain her talking Kim in circles, refusing to answer certain questions, keeping her at arm's length when they could be sharing information and working together. The more she thought about it, the more it seemed to make sense. Kim contemplated the raven-haired woman for a moment, watching her body language, replaying her choice of words. Everything had been perfectly said or done to keep her off balance and away from uncovering more of the truth.
“What are you afraid of?” she asked softly. She hadn't meant to ask it aloud but the die was cast. She inhaled sharply as Shego slowly raised her head and met her eyes. Their gazes held as moments ticked by and something potent passed between them. Kim shivered involuntarily at the heated look in Shego's eyes. They stood silently, regarding each other intently and she almost didn't hear the hushed response over the sudden pounding of her heart.
“Letting you in.”
“Why?” she breathed, the air between them was thick and heavy with something Kim couldn't put her finger on. She felt as if time had stopped and only Shego's response could set things back in motion again. It was suddenly the most important thing in the world for her to know why the woman standing in front of her, piercing her with her rapt gaze, was afraid of allowing her closer.
The intense look in Shego's eyes softened and a hint of vulnerability flickered on her face. She opened her mouth to speak when she quickly realized her mistake and resettled her features into its customary smirk. “Sorry Kimmie, by my count that's 3. Be seeing ya,” she sneered and started to walk back to the lair. Just before she left the clearing, she threw a cursory glance over her shoulder, ignoring the stab of regret the crestfallen look on Kim's face caused her. “Go home,” she said scornfully, giving Kim a disdainful look.
The moment she turned away, her face fell and she quickly made her way back to the lair.
Shego entered her private room and locked the door behind her. She didn't bother to turn on the lights and made her way in the dark to the bed situated in the corner of the room. Bedsprings creaked in protest as she threw herself across the mattress. She turned onto her back and stared into the darkness. The sound of her heavy breathing was jarring in the silence. It had been too close of a call back there in the woods with Kim. The carefully constructed barriers she had erected in order to pull this mission off were cracking and groaning under the stress one inquisitive Kim Possible was causing.
She shook her head at how tenuous her grip had been. The look in Kim's eyes, the breathy tone of her voice, Shego shuddered slightly as she remembered the warm pools of green meeting hers, silently pleading to be let in. It was dangerous, just how easily Kim had been able to disarm her of the sarcasm she used to keep everyone at bay. Betty's harsh warnings from the night before echoed in her ears, “Operational security must be maintained, Agent Galloway. Stay away from Kim Possible and make sure she does the same. If you cannot ensure that happens, make no mistake, I will. I think we both agree that it's best that doesn't happen. You wanted her to know the truth, Harper. Now make sure she follows orders.”
She clenched her teeth in frustration; this was quickly becoming more complicated than she had planned. Keeping things simple was the way she lived her life now. Shego had learned the hard way what happened when you let things like friends and family complicate things. Unbidden, her mind wandered back to the past.
“Stop it! Please, you're hurting her.” A small blonde girl was surrounded by a group of older boys, tormenting her. The oldest boy held a doll just out of her reach, taunting her, bringing the doll tantalizingly close then cruelly snatching it away.
“Aww what's the matter, wittle baby want her dolly? Gotta pay the price first, shortie,” he sneered, enjoying the snickers of his friends. On the playground, he was king. Just out of sight of the teachers, he lorded over the smaller children, reveling in their terror. Being bigger and stronger was good for something besides getting picked first for kickball.
“I don't have anything. Please, she was a gift from my Nanna. Please, don't,” tears welled up in her striking blue eyes, fear beginning to overtake her. Her mother had warned her not to bring her beloved doll to school, cautioning it might get confiscated or worse, taken by bullies on the playground. She'd brushed the warnings aside, proud to bring her favorite possession to show her friends. Now it looked like her mother's words were coming true and she was faced with the possibility of losing something she cherished forever to this tyrant.
“If you don't have anything, I'll just take your dolly. I'm sure she'll make a good ball for batting practice later.” He laughed cruelly at her protests and at the tears that were spilling down her cheeks. It was good to be king.
“Maybe you ought to leave her alone and pick on someone your own size, Robertson.” He spun around to see a dark-haired, pale-skinned girl sitting against a tree, not far away. He narrowed his eyes at the would-be savior, eager to put her back in her place. If some goody goody wanted to play hero, he'd show them what happened when you interrupted in things that didn't concern you.
“Who's gonna make me? You?”
The girl gracefully climbed to her feet and calmly walked over, taking in the small, sniffling blonde standing behind him. She pierced him with a cold look. “Yeah, actually. Give her back her doll and apologize for being a jerk.”
He laughed and drew himself up to his full height, towering over her. “How about I don't?”
She opened her mouth to say something and thought better of it, choosing instead to firmly plant her fist into his stomach, bringing him to his knees. He coughed and clutched his torso, gasping for breath. A smile not unlike his earlier crossed her features and she stepped behind him, bringing his arm up painfully behind him, gradually increasing pressure. “I bet you're having a change of heart, aren't you?”
At his silence, she jerked his arm back sharply and he yelped in pain. “I'm sorry, okay? OW! I'm sorry, give her back her doll. Hurry,” he barked at his friends when the girl again yanked his arm, sending jolts of pain through him.
One of the boys hurriedly shoved the doll back at the little girl, who cautiously took it and eyed the bully now on his knees, whimpering and sniveling. She glanced up at her savior, frightened by the look of savage joy on the other girl's face. She tentatively walked up to the dark-haired girl and laid a small hand on her arm. “Don't hurt him,” she said, softly.
The older girl looked at her in askance. “He was gonna take your doll and probably beat you to a pulp and you want me not to hurt him?” A dark eyebrow raised up over a pair of glowering green eyes.
The littleblonde girl shook her head, “He gave it back. Daddy says that the difference between being bad and good is that good people know when to be better.” She looked up and her blue eyes beseeched an appeal.
Moments passed until she finally released him and came to stand in front of the smaller girl. “You're lucky she's smarter than you. If I ever catch you bothering anyone again,” she let the threat trail off, but clenched her fists and took a menacing step forward. The boy cradled his injured arm and nodded before picking himself up off the ground and beating a hasty retreat.
She turned to face the smaller girl, “Are you sure you're okay? They didn't hurt you?”
The blonde shook her head, “I'm okay, so is Lizzie.” She thrust the doll up towards the taller girl and stuck the doll's arm out. “She wants to say thank you.”
The pale-skinned girl's lips twitched but she kept a serious face and brought her hand up to shake the tiny hand. “You're welcome, Lizzie.”
The little girl then thrust her own hand up, “I'm Jess. What's your name?”
The older girl stared at the small hand, then smiled and brought her own up, “I'm Harper. Nice to meet you.”
Shego sighed heavily and turned on her side. Remembering didn't do any good and didn't change the fact that she had a real problem on her hands now. There had to be a way of making Kim see, of making her understand that keeping things as they were was for the best. “Why am I afraid of letting you in, Kimmie?” she whispered into the darkness. Moments crawled by until she finally let herself have a moment of weakness. “Because you could make me feel again, that's why.”