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The Aftermath

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            “Marry me, Shego,” Drakken said.

            Shego stood in the doorway of the kitchen.

            Marry him?  Marry him?  Was he seriously asking her to marry him when all she said was that she wanted a damn hug from him?  Her heart might have been beating out a samba, but she was sure that she stood paler than usual in front of him, face stricken with fear.

            She started taking deep breaths.  Surely this was one of Drakken’s idiotic jokes—the man had never even had a girlfriend, as far as she knew.  He wouldn’t be proposing marriage to her of all things, right?  Yeah, probably just a joke. 

            A poorly-phrased, ill-timed joke.

            “Shego?” he asked.

            “What, Doc?” she returned, not even wanting to consider answering that ridiculous question.  She was not the marrying type, and Drakken—even being the fool he was—had to have known that.

            “Y-you seem to be trying to calm yourself down, Shego,” he responded.

            She scoffed, trying to convince herself that he didn’t mean it—he would never mean it.  Not with her.

            If he wanted to marry someone that badly he could go back to DNAmy.  With Hairy Hands out for the count, maybe he would have a chance with her.  She, for one, wasn’t the settling down type.

            (Because even Drakken had to know that you don’t just ask someone to marry you out of the blue.  And even if he didn’t… how did he always manage to so, so badly botch up being normal about things like—like feelings?)

            “Calm myself down, Doc?” she repeated back to him, putting up a façade in an attempt to not take him seriously.  She turned away from him and walked back into the living room/laboratory to find her “Vacation” box.  The gods knew that she needed one right now.

            She heard Drakken scurry after her as she leisurely browsed through the boxes to just find something to distract herself from Drakken’s idiocy. 

            If they hadn’t been trapped in the middle of the Amazon jungle with people probably trying to hunt him down to award him for saving the world (or some shit like that), she would have gone and robbed a liquor store.

            “Shego, will you answer me?!” he shouted from the other side of the room.

            Gods, he was worked up over a—a joke.

            “Yeah, Doc,” she started, not bothering to find him as she still tried to escape amidst the large pile of boxes.  “I’ll marry you.  I’ll marry you when Kimmie goes evil.  When my brothers conquer the world.  When Commodore Puddles chooses you over your mother.  Capisce?”

            She went to turn and look through another side of the pile of boxes when she saw Drakken standing firm in front of her.  Feet planted, his eyes were crazed as his eyebrows were turned upwards with a hint of confusion, pain, and that one emotion that she couldn’t name from last night.

            Gods, had they first started talking about all of this only a few hours ago? 

            He looked at her, and she stared back at him for a moment before crossing her arms.

            “What, Doc?” she asked. 

            His eyes shifted frantically as he looked at several points on her face, only twice daring to look her in the eye before darting away again.

            “But Shego, I—I mean we—we said—I mean you—you wanted—I lo—I want—”

            Shego’s eyes widened as her body fell slack.

            Oh no.  This was dangerous.  Screw fighting world-conquering aliens.  This—this would be the death of her.

            “Dr. D., what are you doing?” she asked quickly, cutting him off before he could form a coherent thought.

            Drakken’s eyebrows furrowed, and Shego watched as he balled his fists and stamped his foot on the ground.

            “Hnng, Shego!  Let me speak, damn it!” 

            Shego simply pursed her lips in response and crossed her arms again, glancing up at him with raised eyebrows, hoping that the fear in her eyes and her trembling heart would be masked with a look of annoyance.  “So—for the books—you admit that you weren’t speaking just then, right?”

            Before her, Drakken scowled as he clenched his fists at his sides.  He stared her down for what felt like an eternity before speaking again, and Shego struggled to not let the mask of annoyance drop.  “Hnng, nevermind.” 

            In a flash, he turned around and walked away from her.

            Shego still stood amongst the boxes, the pile before her obstructing her view, but she could hear Drakken stomp out of the room.  Not daring to make a noise, she quietly let out a breath as she heard him slam the front door of their tree house (“Tree lair, Shego”).  She listened for a moment, afraid against reason that he would take the hovercraft and fly away for a bit (he wouldn’t actually leave her—this was Drakken she was concerned about), but she didn’t hear the telltale sound of the antigravity engine coming to life.

            The sound of Drakken muttering as he violently pulled out some grass from beneath the tree house, however, made her roll her eyes as she finally let relief wash over her after having dodged that tricky, messy bullet.

            For now.

-------

            Drakken kicked the ground as he stood outside of their tree, muttering to himself as he replayed the last half hour in his head.  He began to walk around the area, making sure not to stray too far, lest he then be lost in the jungle, but he still needed time alone to think.

            Think.  What else could he do, but—but just…

            Well, what had he been thinking?!

            He shook his head and growled to himself.  That seemed to be one of the only questions he could ask himself at the moment.  That and just… why?

            Why had he asked Shego to marry him?  Why couldn’t he just tell her that he liked her?  Why had he made her angry in the first place?  Why didn’t he say more to her last night?  Why couldn’t he express his emotions like a normal human being?  Why couldn’t he not be weird?  Why hadn’t he said something to her after they won?  Why hadn’t he said something to her when they were still betting on whether they would be alive in twenty-four hours (that way he could be blaming fear and insanity instead of himself right then)?

            Why hadn’t he just hugged her?

            He stopped in his tracks next to a tree and dejectedly beat his fist against its trunk before sighing.

            He hadn’t done anything because he had been afraid.

            Drakken scoffed.  I was more afraid of my feelings than I was of dying, he thought to himself.  With dejection, a final thought came to mind (still am), only for anger to bubble up in his heart at the thought of fearing anything, least of all his own self and how he betrayed and continued to betray himself by even getting his hopes up with her (despite the fact that the feelings themselves seemed to be more or less mutual—because even if Shego cared it didn’t mean that she cared enough to do anything about it).  He felt his fingers drag against the bark of the tree as his other hand formed a fist and his teeth clenched.

            He punched the tree once with his right hand as he used his left hand for purchase.  Then he punched it again.  And again.  And again and again until he could feel his skin break as it made contact with the trunk through his glove.

            He growled.  It was time to stop, he knew, even though his heart, in all of its pain, told him to keep going.  The repetitive motion had been cathartic, in a twisted way.

            Twisted catharsis for a twisted man.

            Shaking out his fist, he started to take a step back towards the tree lair before he shook his head to himself and collapsed in front of the now-bloodied tree.  Gently, he took off his glove and began gently sucking on his knuckles in an attempt to get them to stop bleeding, only to find the iron in his blood too much for his senses in the moment.

            He spat out the vile taste and sat back against the tree, resting his hands (one gloved and one beat-up and exposed) folded against his abdomen.

            Shego had said no.

            Granted, she hadn’t actually said no, so he supposed he should be grateful for that, but she had all but said it outright in her sarcastic answer.  Maybe the nanosecond of false hope that had blossomed in his heart when he heard the word “yes” (only to have it taken away when his mind processed her inflection) was the best case scenario.  It was Shego, after all.  Even if she had considered starting something up with him of all people, she would never have said "yes" to that question.  Not really. 

            Would it help if he apologized?  Or would that just make it worse?

            He couldn’t turn to Mother for advice—he still couldn’t tell whether she hated Shego or expected them to be married when she saw them next. 

            What was a man to do?

            He brought his knees up to his chest and leaned his arms against them.  His chin resting on his arms, he closed his eyes and beat his fist on the ground next to him for good measure, hoping that that would take the edge off of his overloading heart.

-------

            Shego stood in the doorway of the tree house (“Tree lair, Shego”) as she watched Drakken go for a walk.  Her eyebrows furrowed and her lips pursed, she looked away as she heard him continue to mutter to himself in the distance, although she found it impossible to move her feet away from their position.

            When she saw Drakken leave her peripheral vision as he entered the jungle, she finally turned back to the unpacked boxes resting in the tree house.  She slumped at the sight.  Would it really pay to unpack everything?  The kitchen was already destroyed, thanks to a certain someone, and it wasn’t like the tree house was the ideal lair.  She looked around.  There was running water, but the only outlets she saw were the ones in the kitchen and bathroom.  The rest of the tree house was austere, and she doubted the level below them (the bedrooms, she assumed) would be any better. 

            How did Drakken expect to accomplish anything, let alone evil (or whatever he was planning in the aftermath of this invasion) in that lair?

            She paused, though.  Would they even need a lair after this?  What would become of them once Kimmie tracked them down?  It was only a matter of time until that happened, Shego realized.

            Because now she understood the teen hero.  The time she had spent with her as friends when the Attitudinator made her good had given Shego insight into Princess’s life. 

            Too much insight, Shego thought.

            Kimmie wasn’t just dating the sidekick—they had been best friends before and since, and that scared Shego more than she cared to admit.

            Because Shego had also realized that Kimmie had been like her, before she had converted to villainy.  The only difference?

            Monkey Boy.

            Kimmie had had a friend when she started up the whole “teen hero” thing.  When Shego had started up the whole “hero” thing as a teen herself, she hadn’t even had a chance to choose heroics.  Hego, the righteous oldest brother that he was, had decided for all of them that they ought to become heroes, save the city, do good, et cetera.

            And Shego hadn’t really had it in her to fight him on that point (not that she wanted to at the start).

            Except Shego had originally had a secret identity, and no one to share her troubles with as the troubles inevitably came and came and came.  And her brothers, the idiots, hadn’t understood the pressures and problems that accompanied having a secret double life.  It had somehow been easier on them, and whenever she had tried to get them to sympathize with her, they had always responded just so cruelly, she thought, for being heroes. 

            The twins hadn’t understood at all—they were just toddlers at the time of the incident.  Too young of an age to ever know any different, and as they grew up, heroics became such an integral part of their personality that the thought of being anybody other than “Wego” was horrifying to them.  Mego—self-explanatory.  He wanted the glory that came with it all.  And Hego had just been so selfless about wanting to give his life to the city that he hadn’t realized he was being selfish in asking her to do the same.

            But Kimmie?  Kimmie had always had the sidekick at her side.  Someone to properly share the burdens of both lives with—someone who understood.  And to boot, she never had to worry about secrets.  (From what she could tell, Stevie—uh, Barkin—wasn’t too kind on the kid for all that she did, but the people around her knew and gods, that had to make a world of difference.)

            Shego had had none of that.

            Looking back, she was surprised that it had taken her as long as it had to turn to villainy, given her pains and struggles.  Villainy had offered her a way out—one life to live, no secrets to hold, no fucks to give.

            It had been easy to choose that life, when she thought about how charming a seducer it had been.

            But now?  Now Shego had Drakken—someone to share the burdens of her life with, even if he wasn’t always understanding.   (She supposed she wasn’t much better, really, but when it came down to it, neither really dismissed the other, she thought.)  Sighing, she walked over to her beach chair and sat as close to the edge as possible without it toppling over on her, only to lean on her knees with her elbows and rest the temples of her head in her gloved fingers. 

            Kimmie had been the ideal heroic version of herself, she reluctantly admitted, and Shego groaned when she thought about how often Monkey Boy had acted like Drakken, or when Kimmie and Monkey Boy’s relationship had so often paralleled her own relationship with her mad scientist.

            If Kimmie and Monkey Boy were that similar to herself and Drakken, and they had been friends before they started up their relationship…  Well, she and the doc were friends (somehow), right?  And—and if that were true, then had she really needed Drakken’s life to be threatened to realize that she—that she cared, or would it only have been a matter of time before something changed?

            Shego started clenching her teeth.  Couldn’t they—ugh, couldn’t she and the doc just get their shit together?  Did they really need things like death and heroics complicating what was already a fucked up situation between them? 

            She got up from her beach chair and began pacing frantically.  Scowling as she clenched her fists at her sides, she felt her hands heat up with her fire, only to take out her rage on the walls of the tree house. 

            Green fire blasted through the entire south wall, effectively destroying it in its entirety, and by the time that she processed that she should stop (because, knowing Drakken, it was very likely that the whole thing was structurally unsound and would freakin’ collapse on her), she was seething.

            If they could just stop fucking dancing around each other—

            Shego shot one more round for good measure before she cooled down her hands and began pacing again.  Surely Drakken would have heard her rampage of destruction.  If he’s not too pissed at himself maybe he’ll come back, she thought bitterly.

            She stopped in her tracks only to growl.  Of course, her thoughts would drift back to Drakken’s attitude right then.  She walked over to the window that looked out over the area in front of the tree house where the hovercraft was parked and braced herself on the windowsill, feeling suddenly stifled in the small area that was the tree house. 

            All she could do right then was hope that the fresh air would do her some good.

            When she looked at the scene outside, however, she felt her face go slack and her heartbeat calm down.  The sun was slightly above the treeline, and the leaves seemed to be glowing in the sun’s rays.  The sounds of the jungle indicated the start of the day, as well—the animals and birds were starting to pick up more chatter as time wore on, and the atmosphere felt more serene the longer she took it in.  In fact, the view before her was… well, it was actually beautiful.  She scoffed, an incredulous smile forming on her face as she began to think back to, oh, I don’t know, every single one of their other lairs.  Alpine lairs.  Mountain lairs.  Cliff lairs.  Time-share lairs.  Hell, even that underwater lair that went so horribly, horribly wrong.

            But this one…  Shego glanced back behind her to the box-filled room, only to realize that the boxes practically filled the whole space.  Her eyebrows furrowed, and she turned to face the view outside the window again.  The tree house wasn’t even big enough to be a lair, and she was left wondering why Drakken had even brought her there in the first place.

            As she watched the sun continue to slowly rise before her, the thought suddenly came to her that the view was… romantic.  That the whole place (sans the humidity and the recent destruction) was romantic.

            And Drakken had explicitly said that this was just supposed to be a temporary lair until their new one in the Sahara was ready…

            Her face softened as she was left wondering whether this was supposed to be a lair at all.