Kim floated on her back in the pool, staring up at the stars. It wasn't quite her favorite patch of grass but it was one of the few places she'd found while in Cleveland that gave her enough privacy to think. The Council tended to frown on any slayers not on the duty roster aimlessly wandering around Cleveland at night, especially ones like herself in town for initial reserve training. That she wasn't actually a reserve slayer didn't make a difference.
It was a Saturday night and the other women in her training group had either gone out to a club or headed to a bar owned by the Council that was a favorite with the Cleveland slayers. But she wasn't old enough to drink and she wasn't really in the mood to dance. She had too much on her mind.
Maybe if Monique had been there, she would have considered going dancing instead. Or doing something with Ron, if he hadn't gone out with Yori again. She was in Cleveland for the next week and Ron was making the most of the opportunity before they had to head back to Middleton. He'd invited her along, but not only did she have no interest in being a third wheel, but Yori had given her such a pleading look that she had turned him down. Ron might claim that he was just friends with Yori, but Kim could read the signs. She suspected that Yori was going to become an unofficial member of Team Possible before the end of the summer, if not sooner.
Kim wasn't sure how she felt about Ron and Yori. And that was part of her current problem. Seeing them together or thinking about them caused a sour feeling in the pit of her stomach and occasionally the urge to cry, though she'd managed to avoid that so far. The only person she'd told had been Monique who, in her usual bracing fashion, claimed it was just regret that she and Ron hadn't worked out and that Kim really needed to move on.
The encounter with Shego the night before was something else she couldn't let go. It had been different somehow. The first time they'd really fought since she'd become a slayer, there'd been a different feeling to their fight that she hadn't noticed before. And hints that Shego was looking for something from her. She'd been so absorbed in their encounter that she'd almost forgotten about their audience until the end. She really needed someone to talk to about Shego but didn't know who she could trust.
“What's bothering you?” Vi's voice carried across the water. Kim sank under the water in surprise, sputtering as she resurfaced.
“Nothing.” Kim said, swimming over to her. “Just wanted to be alone.”
“I can see why you don't want to join us full time,” Vi said, grinning at her. “You and the green girl have something special going on. You'd have to give her up.”
“Shego? There's nothing special there,” Kim protested, though she wondered if anyone else had noticed whatever Vi had seen. “We fight whenever Drakken tries to take over the world. I win, she runs away. Usually.”
“If that's how you want to see it…” Vi snorted. “If you have a chance, watch Buffy and Faith fighting some time,” she added with a small grin.
“Why?” Kim asked. The legendary Faith had been used a number of times by some of her instructors, including Buffy, as an example of both the good and bad aspects of the slayer lifestyle, but Kim never expected to actually meet her.
“You'll have to see them going at it. I can't explain it.” she shrugged. “You and this Shego have the same sort of vibe. It's not really fighting.”
“It feels like fighting to me.” Kim mumbled, idly running a hand through the cooling water.
“If you weren't a slayer I might agree. But we all know what fighting does to us.” She smirked at Kim. “The two of you were dancing. And not like you just met.”
“We've been doing it for years.” Kim said, not comfortable with the idea that there might be something more to her reaction to Shego when they fought, even if she'd begun wondering herself. That other people seemed to see something she was missing made her even more uncomfortable.
“The fossils make wonderful examples.” Vi told her. “For all sorts of things. Talk with Dawn some time about the semi-reformed bad-boy thing her sister has.”
The faint sound of her kimmunicator interrupted any reply Kim might have had. “Excuse me.” she said before slipping back into the pool and swimming over to where she'd left it.
“Hey, Mom! What's up?” She said, shaking her head at Vi in response to her shouted suggestion that she join them at the Council bar downtown.
Shego wasn't sure why she'd stayed in Cleveland after escaping from the rather pathetic excuses for holding cells they'd put her and Drakken in. Once she'd freed him, Drakken had gotten out of town as fast as possible. She'd been in no mood to listen to his complaints about Kim's new playmates, who'd knocked him out less than a minute after appearing with Kim, not even giving him a chance to go through his traditional villain speech. She'd been tempted to knock him out herself and send him off in the hovercraft after only five minutes of his whingeing.
She was curious about them herself. It had been a strange experience. The older of the three women, a redhead like Kim, had kept up a running commentary as they fought. From the way she'd critiqued every move both of them made and had given Kim advice, Shego'd felt like she and Kim were exhibits at the zoo. Or that she was the practice dummy for some new training program. Not a comfortable idea. It didn't help that Kim was able to seamlessly put the advice she was getting into action.
And as they fought, Shego had begun to notice a distinct change in Kim's style. The finesse she'd always found so fascinating was still there but Kim now seemed to have a lot more strength to back up her hits. Add in more than a few new moves that could have been lethal to anyone except herself, and after an embarrassing ten minutes she had been the one who had begun to fade, not Kim. She'd been thinking about nothing else for the last few hours.
Either Kim was a lot stronger than she used to be or she'd taken her training to a much higher level since they last fought. Either way, Shego knew that if she wanted to keep the advantage she currently had over the teen from narrowing, she would have to step up her own training regimen.
From her corner at the end of the bar, Shego covertly looked around. She been in the bar once before, right before Drakken's latest plan was foiled by Kimmie and Co. She hadn't really noticed the atmosphere in the bar then but she did now. In one corner near a dartboard, an oddly dressed, blue and white woman was holding court, talking to some creatures who would have been at home working for DNAmy. At a table near the door, another creature that looked like the result of a botched gene-splicing accident with a beagle was discussing something with someone dressed like a mime.
She'd been in other bars where she wasn't the strangest person in the room but this was the first one where she actually felt safe. She hadn't had to defend herself even once since walking in the door. She wasn't sure if it was because of some kind of futuristic security system but she'd noticed when several patrons had started fighting that there'd been a flash of light and they'd disappeared, though she thought she could hear their argument continuing outside. After that she could see why this bar had a reputation for neutrality if it could enforce its no fighting rule so efficiently.
She wasn't in the mood to get drunk, not when half the city police force was probably out looking for her. She'd been nursing her drink for a while before she noticed the bartender's odd behavior. Whenever someone came in he would glance over at one of several small screens mounted below the level of the bar top. She wasn't sure what it was telling him but she could see it glowing a faint color. For the next hour it became a game as she tried to figure it out. After he asked one new patron to leave their weapons at the bar, she suspected it was a sophisticated version of a weapons detector.
She changed her mind when her redheaded critic from the night before walked in and the detector flashed a deep red. Several other young women walked in minutes later, causing the detector to flash with a lighter red. She watched curiously as they joined several women at a table in a dark corner. There was something about their bearing as they walked by that looked very familiar, though she couldn't quite pinpoint what it was.
Shego watched people come and go for a little while longer before becoming bored with the whole thing. But she wasn't ready yet to head to the lair of the week and Drakken. Sighing, she took out her small iPod and scrolled through her collection of videos. It was only a small portion of her collection. At some point, she couldn't remember when, she'd started collecting short videos of Kim Possible fighting various foes, including herself.
Some of them were grainy shots from security cameras that had somehow made their way onto the Internet. Others she'd retrieved from the security systems in different villain's lairs destroyed when Team Possible had stopped the occupants in some failed world domination scheme.
But her current favorite was the one video in her collection where Kim wasn't fighting anyone. She wasn't sure what had prompted her to do it, but she'd snuck a remote control camera into her favorite teen foe's school and had filmed her graduation. She couldn't use the excuse that she needed to study Kim's moves for their next encounter.
It was like watching the end of an era. She was certain that at the end of the summer Kim would be off to college, dropping the whole teen hero gig. She wasn't sure what she would do with herself at that point, who she would have to challenge her, to make jobs exciting. Getting Drakken to relocate his operation to wherever Kimmie was going to college had possibilities, as long as it wasn't Go City, but it was just delaying the inevitable.
“Interesting little video.” An unfamiliar voice said over her shoulder.
Growling, Shego turned off her iPod and shoved it into a pocket. Turning around, she found herself looking into the cold hazel eyes of a short blonde woman. “It's none of your business.”
“Someone stalking one of my girls? That's my business,” the blonde said.
“I'm not stalking anyone.” Shego said, mildly affronted. “And she's not yours, she's mine.” Standing up, Shego attempted to stare down the woman, fighting the urge to light up her hands. She'd put a lot of effort over the past four years into Kim Possible and no one else was claiming her.
“No, she's one of mine,” the blonde said, not giving an inch, her cold eyes sending shivers down Shego's back. The annoying critic stood next to her, winking at Shego before whispering something in the blonde's ear. The blonde laughed, shaking her head, her expression changing to a more friendly one. Turning to the bartender, who'd been anxiously watching their encounter, she said, “Xander, give her another one of whatever she's drinking. Put it on the Council's tab.”
“I'm leaving.” Shego muttered, not interested, unsuccessfully attempting to step around her. It was like running into a wall. But that wasn't going to stop her. She was a world renowned thief and some short blonde bimbo, no matter how strong, wasn't going to tell her what to do.
“You're staying.” Blondie told her with a small smirk. “Vi and the girls here will keep you company until I get back. And no tricks.”
Shocked, Shego watched her stride purposely out of the bar. Remembering how the bar's security system kicked out anyone who was fighting, Shego started to shift her weight, trying to find the best position for her plan. All she had to do was get outside and she was free.
“That won't work on us,” Vi told her, almost as if she could read Shego's mind. She and the others fenced her in. “It's our bar. Just be glad the boss isn't a Betty Director fan.”
‘Cough’ The bartender put a drink down in front of her.
“Sorry, Xander,” Vi said, grinning at him. “It's Xander's bar,” she said, correcting herself.
“Just don't break anything. Again.” He told her, shaking his head before going down the bar to help another patron.
“So, what else do you have?” Vi asked cheerfully, guiding Shego back onto her stool with a tight grip on her shoulder that she couldn't get out of without more than a little violence. Deciding to wait and see what was going on, it didn't even occur to her until that moment that she could have used her plasma to escape.
Walking around back to the Council's outdoor pool, Buffy ran several ideas over in her head, not sure yet what she was going to say to get Kim to go back to the bar with her. She couldn't tell her who was waiting there. She probably shouldn't even tell her where they were going. Kim, if the reports were to be believed, had no real vices. She didn't smoke, swear or drink anything stronger than coffee. The only drug, other than cold medicine, that she'd probably ever taken on her own was caffeine.
Buffy was sure that Giles wouldn't be too happy with what she was about to do. Willow, on the other hand would be cheering her on, if she wasn't in London for the rest of the month. Dawn had taken an early flight to London to join her and could find out when she told Willow. She just hoped this didn't blow up in her face. But this opportunity, one that she wished she and Faith had been given years ago, was too good to miss.
Kim Possible and this Shego obviously had issues to deal with and they needed some neutral location to start the dealing. She didn't really care what the issues were or how they resolved them as long as Kim was stilling willing to work with the Council afterward. They had to find some way to come to some sort of professional understanding. If they didn't, now that Kim was a slayer with all of the competitive, territorial, and aggressive baggage that came with it, one of them would most likely kill the other if they kept fighting the way Vi had reported.
If Kim accidentally killed Shego, Buffy suspected it would destroy her. According to Vi, there was an obvious connection between them. She really needed Dawn to finish her research on the prickly green woman. Buffy suspected there was more to her than her obvious fighting skills and disdain for property laws. There had to be some reason why Betty thought she could use Kim to keep Shego contained. Something they weren't seeing yet.
Buffy looked around the pool area. Kim was there somewhere, she could feel her. Hearing a small splash from the pool, Buffy looked down in surprise. Swimming across the bottom of the pool was Kim Possible.
“Is it working?” She asked when Kim came up for air several minutes later and swam over to where she was standing.
Kim breathed deeply for several minutes before answering. “Is what working?”
“Burning off all of the extra energy.” Buffy said. She'd already gotten reports that Kim could be found late at night either out here swimming or running herself to exhaustion. She hadn't been too surprised. Take someone like Kim who was already very active, throw in the mystical energy that powered a slayer and you ended up with someone who verged on manic, with more energy to burn than most would consider safe. Keeping her cooped up for the past two weeks, except for the trip to the Hellmouth, probably hadn't helped.
“Getting there.” Kim said, climbing out of the pool, water pouring off of her.
“Get dressed. We have places to be.” Buffy told her, stepping back when Kim shook her head, spraying even more water everywhere.
“Go? Where?” Kim asked, even as she started towards the locker room.
“You'll see.” Buffy said.
Kim couldn't keep the grin off of her face. She was sure there was something wrong with her for enjoying the mayhem of the short tour of the Cleveland demon underground Buffy had taken her on, but she couldn't help it. They'd worked their way through three cemeteries and a demon bar. She'd even staked two vampires herself. Sure, they were newbies but they'd put up enough of a fight that staking them had been more than a formality.
The demon bar had certainly been an eye opening experience. The smell was something she certainly wouldn't forget any time soon. The way the bar had become deathly quiet as Buffy stepped through the door had been impressive. Seeing demons scatter as they approached the bar had been amazing. The bar, more than anything, impressed upon her the power inherent in being a slayer among what could only be described as their prey.
But she wasn't going to delude herself. If she'd been alone it would have been suicidal. Buffy had a dominating presence she couldn't begin to imitate. The success of her missions often depended on her ability to get along with almost anyone, not something she suspected Buffy had to worry about. “What's next?” she asked, matching her stride to the shorter woman's.
“I need to stop for a minute at ‘Nights’ and see someone.” Buffy told her. “You can get something to drink while we're there. Xander has a large selection of post-patrol non-alcoholic drinks.”
Ordinarily she would have declined but she was with Buffy Summers, and she was wired. At this point a real bar wasn't going to phase her. “Sure,” Kim said, still grinning.
Shego wasn't sure when she'd lost control of the situation. It was like being surrounded by a bunch of gossipy girls. Girls who were at least as strong as she was. She'd managed to retrieve her iPod but not before they'd gone through all of her videos. While some of their comments had been amusing and they'd gleefully pointed out some of the same flaws she'd noticed in Kim's fighting style over the years, she could only take so much of the cheerful perkiness.
So now she was back to watching people and other things come in the front door, trying to figure out what the colors on the monitors meant, and pretending to ignore her guards. At least that's what she'd quickly assumed they were. There was always at least one of them on either side of her and several others nearby trying to act casual. But if she made even the slightest movement towards the exit they were almost on top of her.
Finally giving in to curiosity, Shego motioned the bartender over. Pointing at one of the monitors, “What do the colors mean?” she asked in a low voice, hoping her guards wouldn't notice over the noise.
“It's a mood ring. Kind of. I like to know what to expect when someone walks in. Are they happy, sad, that kind of thing.” He told her. She snorted at the obvious lie.
“It's part of a system to detect the mystical abilities of any creature that walks through the door.” An older man said, sitting down at the bar next to one of her keepers.
“Hey Giles. We weren't expecting you back this week,” the bartender said. “Your usual?”
“Yes, thank you Xander.” He turned and looked at Shego and then glanced at the women keeping her there. Shego wondered why her keepers, especially the annoying Vi, were looking at him so nervously.
“Who's idea was this?” He waved at Shego and the women surrounding her.
“It wasn't mine,” Shego said, wondering if this was her escape.
“Buffy's up to something.” the bartender said with a shrug.
“I'm not surprised.” He said, sighing. Removing his glasses he carefully cleaned them before turning to Vi. “Where is she?”
“She had an errand to run. She should be back any minute now.” Vi said, the others nodding in agreement.
“And Miss Shego?” He looked at her, making it clear that he recognized her.
“Just Shego,” she told him. He nodded in acknowledgement.
“Buffy said to keep her here until she got back,” Vi said.
“I see.” He looked over at Xander. “Is the back room available?”
“Yup, it's an off night.”
“Good, we'll take this back there when Buffy returns,” Giles told him.
“Do you want me to get Willow?” Xander asked. “I can set up the speaker phone.”
“No need to disturb her. I'm sure Buffy, Vi, and myself can take care of this without involving her talents.” Giles said. “Your input would be welcome if you can join us.” He added.
“I'll have to catch you later for an explanation,” he said regretfully. “I don't have anyone to watch the bar for me tonight.”
Stepping through the door, Kim looked around curiously. She'd been in clubs before, there were several good ones in Middleton and she and Monique were definitely going to check out a few they'd heard about in Go City when school started in the fall. But going into a bar, a place just for drinking, was a new, adult thing for her. It seemed very clean. She let out a sigh. She'd taken a deep breath before entering, hoping to avoid choking on the smoky air she'd always assumed filled a place like this.
“Crap.” Buffy muttered, staring towards one end of the bar. “Come on.” She grabbed Kim's arm tightly, almost as if she were afraid she would run away.
“What's wrong?” Kim asked. When there was no response, Kim took a closer look at the group of people they were heading towards. There were an awful lot of slayers in the bar. She was being inundated by the slight tingling feeling she'd gotten used to back at the school. But underneath it was something else. Something she'd felt the night before. Kim stared in surprise. Surrounded by a group of women, some of whom she recognized as slayers she'd met that week, was Shego. And she didn't look happy.
“Can we go now?” Kim asked, tugging hard, trying to get Buffy to let her go. Before Shego noticed her. “I need to make a phone call.”
“No.” Buffy said, tightening her grip. “You and she have unfinished business.”
“No we don't!” Kim said, tugging harder, to no avail, not even wondering how Buffy knew why she was trying to leave. “I stopped her last night, she escaped. Nothing unfinished there. Happens all the time.”
Kim looked everywhere except at Shego as Buffy dragged her to the end of the bar, desperate for any excuse to stop and run away. Spying the distinctive head of the Council sitting at the bar, Kim dug in her heels, bringing Buffy to a stop. She greeted him, hoping to delay the confrontation with Shego. “Hi, Mr. Giles.”
“Miss Possible. Buffy.” He said, addressing both of them.
“What brings you here?” Buffy asked, attempting to shield Kim from Shego and the slayers obviously guarding her. “I thought you were going to be in London all month.
“I was expecting to speak with Miss Possible on Monday. We need to discuss a few things before she heads home next week.” Removing his glasses, he rubbed his eyes.
“Okay. Run along,” she said dismissively. “I'll make sure she sees you then.” Buffy turned towards Shego.
“Buffy,” Mr. Giles said, “With both of them here, I believe now would be an excellent time to discuss some of our other plans.”
“But…” Buffy grumbled, turning back to face him.
He held up a hand, stopping her before she could continue. “I'm sure you have a very good reason for bringing Miss Possible here. However, it can wait.” He turned to the bartender, whom Kim recognized as one of the legendary ‘Scoobies’. “Xander, we'll take the back room now. If you can get Miss Possible something to drink and bring it back with you?”
“Sure.” He said, turning to Kim expectantly.
“She'll have a glass of warm milk.” Shego said loudly as Vi and several other slayers herded her past them. “The kitten's not old enough to drink.”
Kim blushed in embarrassment. She hadn't planned on anything stronger than a diet soda but she didn't need her nose rubbed in it.
“Root beer. Please and thank you.” Kim told him primly, pretending she hadn't heard Shego before she followed Buffy and Mr. Giles to a door at the back of the bar. Entering the room, she could see Shego already sitting at a large round table in one corner.
“So, what's the deal, Gramps?” Shego asked, not waiting for them to sit down. “Why is Kimmie here after curfew instead of at home in Middleton in bed?”
“I don't have a curfew!” Kim protested, picking a seat as far away from Shego as she could get without directly facing her.
Sighing, Mr. Giles put his drink down in the spot directly across from Shego. “I'm not aware of the reason for her presence here, though I'm sure I'll find out later. However, her presence in Cleveland was at our request.”
“And you are?” Shego asked, with all the enthusiasm Kim had seen her give Drakken when one of his plans had done just what she'd predicted, blowing up in his face.
“Rupert Giles,” he said. “And I believe you've met Buffy, and Vi. And Xander,” he added as he placed Kim's root beer in front of her.
“We weren't formally introduced,” Shego said.
“Ah.” He looked disapprovingly at Buffy, who seemed oblivious. “We are the Council of Watchers,” he told her.
“Hey! Didn't you guys get blown up in some ‘terrorist’ attack a couple years ago?” Shego asked, frowning in thought.
“You've heard of the Council?” Kim blurted out.
“Bunch of English guys sitting on piles of priceless or useless artifacts in the middle of London?” Shego shrugged. “It was Fort Knox and Aladdin's cave all rolled into one.”
“Did you ever break in?” Vi asked eagerly. “What! You all wanted to know…” she muttered at the glares she received.
“Do I look stupid?” Shego asked sarcastically. “A challenge is one thing. Guaranteed suicide? Not my thing.”
“The old Council did treat attempts to break into the London office rather harshly,” Giles agreed.
“So… what do you guys have to do with the Princess here?” Shego asked, leaning back until her chair touched the wall.
Looking around the table, Kim wondered if they would actually tell her. She suspected that Mr. Giles had a different reason for speaking with Shego than Buffy's reason for bringing her here.
“It's up to you, Kim.” Buffy told her. “I would recommend we tell her, it'll save you problems in the future. But if you don't think it's a good idea…”
Kim could feel Shego's eyes boring into her. She wasn't sure she wanted to give up any advantage she might have over Shego if she didn't know she was a slayer. Especially without knowing why Buffy felt she should be told.
“Why?” Kim asked, hoping for something insightful. She couldn't quite suppress her disappointment when Buffy just shrugged.
“Just a hunch.” Buffy said, though from the look she gave Vi, Kim suspected there was another reason they were keeping from her.
“Go ahead.” Kim took a large drink of root beer in an attempt to hide her anxiety.
“What do you know about vampires?” Mr. Giles asked Shego.
“They're pests. They like to infest unused lairs.” Shego said, holding up a glowing hand. “A little shot of plasma usually takes care of them.”
“You know about vampires?” Kim asked, her surprise causing her voice to squeak.
“I know a lot of things.” Shego said, smirking. “I even know your bra size.”
“Shego!” Kim yelped, sure her face had turned red.
“Not helping.” Buffy said, glaring at Shego.
“What!” Shego muttered. “She's easy.”
“I'm not!” Kim protested. “I'm not the one who dresses like…like… that!” Kim finished lamely, unable to think of something suitably catty in response.
“Ladies, if you don't mind saving that for later,” Mr. Giles admonished them.
“Sorry, Mr. Giles.” Kim said, not surprised when Shego remained silent.
“So you're aware of demons and other things then?” he asked.
“You hear rumors,” Shego said, shrugging. “But I've never seen anything to prove they exist.”
“There were a couple out in the bar,” Kim muttered. Even she'd noticed that.
“How about magic?” Buffy asked.
“You mean that mystical mumbo jumbo Monkey Fist and Stoppable are into?” Shego asked.
“That is one type of magic,” Mr. Giles said. “There are more powerful kinds.”
“Okay… still not seeing the Kim connection,” she said, rhythmically tapping her fingers on the table.
“Are you sure you like her?” a bemused Buffy asked Kim. “She's sarcastic, violent, and a bit dense.”
“I never said I liked her,” Kim protested. “But she does have her moments.”
“I'm not asking her to like me,” Shego muttered.
“We're getting ferociously off track here,” Kim said, starting to get angry. “It's really simple, even Ron got it.” Kim stood up and glared over at Shego. “Whether you've ever seen one or not, there are things out there, things that are truly evil, not supervillain evil like Drakken, Monkey Fist, or Dr. Dementor. And they want to wipe us from the earth. Vampires may seem like pests to you but they are right up there on the evil scale, though more because they are soulless, ruthless, impossibly strong killers who look mostly human and multiply like rats.”
“And?” Shego said, appearing bored, which made Kim even angrier.
“And, thousands of years ago a bunch of old men decided that the best way to stop demons from wiping out humanity was to take a girl and force the power of a ruthless demon predator into her and send her out to kill vampires and other demons. It must have driven her mad.” Kim said, forcing her voice to remain steady. The story of Sineya had struck her as very tragic. “And when she died the power went to one girl and then another. And somewhere along the way those old men turned into the Council of Watchers. They called the girls ‘slayers’, because that's what they did.” Kim started pacing back and forth, not sure where the anger was coming from but she knew she needed to get it under control.
“Vi, why don't you take Kim for a walk?” she heard Buffy say. “Bring her back when she's calmed down.”
“I'll be fine.” Kim said.
Buffy shook her head and pointed towards the door. Getting up, Vi took Kim by the arm and guided her towards to door.
“She took you hunting before coming here, didn't she?” Vi asked in a low voice when the door had closed behind them.
“Yes.” Kim said, grinning slightly as her anger started to subside. “I had fun.”
“I bet.” Vi shook her head. “She should know better. You're going to be on edge for hours. Let's see if we can get Xander to give you something stronger than that pop he was serving you.”
“Sorry, Giles, that was my fault.” Buffy apologized.
“You took her out tonight?” Giles asked, wiping his glasses.
“She was bouncing off the walls. She needed it.” Buffy said. “The only real action she'd had all week was when the two of them went at it last night.” She nodded at Shego. “Vi says she's doing really well learning our techniques, but she needs more of a challenge at the physical end.”
“What do you have planned?” he asked. “Her emotional control seems to need a bit of work.”
“That's not completely her fault.” Buffy said. “But we're working on it.”
“What are you doing to Kimmie?” Shego asked, having stayed quiet longer than Buffy thought she would.
“You heard the story,” Buffy told her. “The Council of Watchers guides demon hunters with special abilities who happen to be young women. They are faster and stronger than ordinary humans. The old Council managed to get rich while doing it. The new one, the parts that survived that ‘terrorist attack’ isn't so rich but still does the demon hunting thing.”
“The Council had been around for a long time before the London office was destroyed,” Giles added. “They had power, and as you should know from your profession, power leads to wealth. All of those objects in the Council's treasury were paid for with the blood of girls like Kim Possible.”
“You've made her into a demon hunter, one of these slayers?” Shego frowned at them.
“We didn't make her one.” Buffy protested. “It may not have been conscious but it was her choice. One of our slayers died and whatever picks new slayers chose her.”
“It was your fault.” Kim said to Shego, walking into the room at that moment. Vi followed her, slipping quietly into her seat.
“My fault?” Shego stared at her. “My fault that you are stronger?”
“Your fault that I'm this way until I die. Until something bigger and stronger tears me into tiny little pieces.” Kim said, sitting down again. “Because slayers? They don't live too long.”
“We haven't asked you to be an active slayer.” Giles protested.
“You know that doesn't matter,” Kim said. “I travel all over the world helping people. Eventually I'm going to run into some demon while I'm doing something else that'll go after me because I'm a slayer and it's going to beat me. I guess I could go live in a monastery but even that wouldn't be safe and I've put too much into Team Possible to abandon it now.”
“What does that have to do with me?” Shego asked.
“We were stuck in that stupid lair.” Kim said. “I thought you were going to die so when a voice asked me if I wanted to be strong… I foolishly agreed. That's when I became a slayer. Because of you and that glue trap.”
“What do you want me to do about it?” Shego asked. “I didn't ask you to save me.”
“Nothing.” Kim whispered, staring down at the table. “I don't want anything except to stop feeling guilty that someone died so I could be like this.”
“Kim?” A gentle voice broke the painful silence.
“Yes, Mr. Giles?” She looked up.
“Could you call your friend, Mr. Load? I have several questions for him.”
“Sure.” Kim pulled out her kimmunicator and flipped it on, glad for a distraction.
“Hey Kim! What's up?”
“Mr. Giles has several questions for you.” She propped up the kimmunicator so it had a view of everyone at the table.
“Kim? Is that Shego?” Wade asked. She could hear his keyboard clicking.
“Yes.” Kim said, not feeling like explaining her arch foe's presence.
“Okay…” Wade mumbled.
“Mr Load?” Giles said.
“Wade, please.” Wade corrected.
“Wade. How did you know Shego was in Cleveland yesterday?” He asked, staring over the top of his fingers.
“An anonymous tip on Kim's website.”
“Hmm…” He murmured. “You've been given access to the full Council archives. Correct?”
“Almost everything you have online.” Wade agreed. Kim wondered what he still couldn't access. She'd have to ask him later.
“The agreement between the Council and Global Justice. I assume you've read that?” Mr. Giles asked.
“There should be a list of locations around the world that the Council is responsible for. Global Justice has agreed not to interfere with anything that happens in them unless we request their assistance. What does it say for Cleveland?”
“There are three.” Wade's fingers moved so fast that Kim could barely follow them. “The Council training center, some kind of bar, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Council owns the first two but is also in charge of security for the Hall of Fame.”
“Correct.” Mr. Giles said. “And, no offense Miss Possible, but the Council would not have contacted Team Possible to deal with a simple matter of theft.”
“So who contacted us?” Kim asked.
“Someone who knew you were going to be in Cleveland and keeps track of Shego?” Buffy suggested. “I think I smell a Betty.”
“A Betty?” Shego stared at her.
Kim tried to hold in a laugh. It had been such a stressful night that she knew if she started laughing she wouldn't be able to stop. Buffy's dislike of the head of Global Justice was a badly kept secret among the slayers.
“Betty Director, the head of Global Justice.” Vi said.
“Global Justice doesn't track me,” Shego said, protesting.
Kim was a little more cynical, remembering things Wade had discovered about past Global Justice activities. “Wade?” she asked. “Assuming it was Global Justice, how did they know where Shego was last night?”
“Umm… there's a good chance she's been chipped.”
“Chipped?” Shego said. “There's no way, nerdlinger.”
“It's either you or something you always have on you.” Wade said. “You'll need to stand up.”
“Scan her, Wade. Please and thank you.” Kim said.
A blue beam moved up and down Shego's body several times.
“Well?” Shego asked, impatiently tapping her foot.
“Looks like they managed to tag you.” Wade said. “It's one of their early designs. From that and the type of signal… it was over four years ago.”
“Where is it,” Shego demanded.
“Your right hip,” Wade said.
“Kimmie, give me that knife you've got hidden in your blouse.” Shego ordered, holding out her hand.
“Why?” Kim asked, surprised Shego had spotted it. Everyone in her group had gotten one at the end of their first trip to the Hellmouth. It was supposed to be invisible, even to metal detectors.
“Need to do a little surgery.” Shego said, rubbing her hip.
“Wouldn't it be better if Wade just turned it off?” Kim asked, not thrilled with the thought of Shego's blood on her new knife. “That's how the one in Ron works.”
“Kim, I designed Ron's chip myself. This one has a nasty self-destruct. Zapping it might kill her.” Wade said.
“We do have an infirmary,” Giles told them.
“I'm not going anywhere until it's out,” Shego said, glaring at them.
“I'll do it,” Kim said, “Just tell me where.”
Buffy sighed. Shego was reminding her of a certain Boston resident right now. She was probably just as stubborn. “Vi, go get the first aid kit out of Xander's office. The big one. And Giles, you should leave. If this is Betty's work you shouldn't be here. No need to be a rebel.”
“Understood.” Giles said, grimacing. “We still have several things to discuss. Let me know when you're finished.” Standing up, he left the room, almost colliding with Vi as she rushed back in.
“So how do you want to do this,” Buffy asked. “And that's gonna have to come off.” she waved at Shego's signature outfit. “Or we'll have to cut a hole in it.”
Ignoring the throbbing in her hip, Shego stared at the small plastic object sitting on the table. She couldn't believe it had been in her for so long. Someone was going to pay, as soon as she found out who put it in her.
The look on Kim's face when she'd started to strip had almost been worth the brief pain of having it removed. Too bad the other redhead had stopped her fun when she'd given her the large flannel shirt she was now wearing.
“So, now what?” she asked while they waited for Vi to return with the old man, who seemed to have wandered out of the bar.
“Giles does his thing and then you two need to talk,” Buffy told her.
“We don't have anything to talk about.” Shego grumbled, glancing quickly at Kim.
“The elephant in the room doesn't agree with you.” she said. “Before you leave Cleveland, you and Kim need to do more than dance around each other. I'll keep you here the rest of the week if I have to.”
“Buffy…” Kim started to say before being interrupted by Vi and Giles returning. “Why do people keep interrupting me.” She grumbled under her breath.
“So? You have something else, Giles?” Buffy asked.
“One more thing, the rest can wait until Monday.” He said, sitting down. “The Council has a need for Shego's services.”
“Her services? She's a thief!” Kim said, choking on her drink. “You want her to steal things for you?”
“Exactly.” Giles said. “It doesn't happen often but there are times when, for whatever reason, we can't retrieve a dangerous artifact legally and must use other methods.”
“What are you proposing?” Shego asked. “I already have a full time job baby-sitting Drakken.”
“We would like to put you on a retainer.” Giles said. “I understand that you have other commitments so I would also like you to train some of our people for those times you aren't available. There are several whom I believe would make excellent students.” He tilted his head subtly in Kim's direction.
“Shouldn't you ask the rest of us before you hire her? If something goes wrong Betty's going to try to throw us all in jail.”
“It was her idea,” Giles said, “though I expect she's forgotten about it.”
“Doctor Director told you to hire Shego.” Kim said, her disbelief clear.
“She actually suggested that Shego would make an excellent training partner for our slayers.” Giles said.
“That has possibilities.” Buffy said. “What do you think, Vi? You've seen Shego in action.”
“Maybe.” Vi said. “Teaching isn't the same thing as fighting.”
Shego watched Kim. She suspected that if it had been physically possible, her head would have been spinning at the idea that her new friends were interested in employing someone like herself. But maybe, just maybe, this was what she needed when Kim retired Team Possible to become one of those slayers. Which she could see coming a mile away.
“What are the benefits?” Shego asked. “Why would I want to do this? I'm not exactly underpaid now.”
“You would have access to the full resources of the Council for any jobs you do for us. Including our lawyers. We have a similar agreement with Team Possible.” Giles said. “But there would be several conditions.”
“Of course. Should I get a lawyer?” Shego asked, half jokingly.
“If you wish,” Giles said.
“What are the conditions?” she asked, adopting a poker face.