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The Aftermath

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            Drakken listened as he heard Shego blasting her fire in the distance, and he sighed while shaking his head.  Still sitting beneath the tree, he rubbed his eyes with his fists as he tried to cheer himself up.  So she had said no.  What difference did that make?  She was still there, when she very easily could have taken the hovercraft (or even her newly acquired spacesuit) and just left.  She was staying, which he supposed he should take as a good sign.  Anything—anything to cheer him up and get him out of this rut he could feel himself falling into.

            Maybe her going around blasting things would help her feel better.  God knows she’s blasted at me enough times, he thought bitterly, stretching out his back.  He wasn’t feeling any better, but if she felt better maybe that would be enough.  Because Shego didn’t talk about feelings!  He—he didn’t know why he had even asked that, when he knew deep in his heart of hearts what the answer was. 

            He tried to laugh it off—tried to make himself feel normal about the whole situation (about her), when he felt something wet fall down his left cheek.  Taking his right thumb, he brushed his cheek only to see the residue of glistening tears.

            He cursed his own heart.  Dammit.  Dammit!  DAMMIT! he screamed internally, as he felt the tears continue to fall down his face.

            He sat up, hoping that he could trick his brain into thinking that he was going back to the tree lair (tree house, he reminded himself—the whole lair thing was for Shego’s benefit and her benefit only.  God save him if she ever found out he had bought it a few months ago on a whim hope against hope that he could use it for a romantic getaway with her one day).  He hoped that it would brace him to see Shego again, but he could feel his shoulders start to convulse as the tears kept falling, and he punched the tree a few more times.

            The physical pain was distracting him from the emotional pain.  Not much, but just enough to get him to stop crying.

            Because, really—why was he getting upset over this?  Drakken leaned against the tree as he lightly kicked its base.  He had never, never thought about starting something up with Shego before.  Sure…he—he knew that he had feelings for her.  But even those were a recent development!  When had been in prison after the whole failed “Lil’ Diablo” incident, he had just… well, he had missed her.  Horribly.  And then when he had been told that a green woman was coming to save him—!

            Despite being terrified out of his wits to find Warmonga waiting for him (and how excited he had been to discover the technology she had been prepared to give him), Drakken had been keenly disappointed that it hadn’t been Shego there on the other side, waiting for him.

            But then… going back to work with her had just… been… normal.  He had missed her so much, and she had just… left him there.

            It was enough to break a man’s heart.

            Maybe that was why he had been so happy to see her on the spaceship.  Maybe that was why he had let his heart get the better of him when he ran for her.

            She had come back.

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            Shego stood at the window, still trying to mull over what the meaning of this—this romantic excuse for a lair meant.  Had Drakken actually tried to be… romantic?  (You know, accidentally.  Drakken being romantic?  Intentionally?  Absolutely not.)

            “Damnit.  Dammit!  DAMMIT!” she heard him scream in the distance.

            She scoffed at his antics.  “Whate—”

            Shego found that she couldn’t finish the word.  (She couldn’t not care.)  She beat her right fist against the frame of the window and hissed while her left hand gripped the base of the frame.  She—she couldn’t even leave him to be an idiot anymore!  Damn it, she was going soft.

            She listened again, hoping that he would still be cursing, but when she heard only the sounds of the rainforest, she clenched her jaw.  They only served to remind her of the possibility that Drakken was trying to be romantic. 

            But it was Drakken that she was thinking about!  The man wasn’t “romantic” or whatever.  She had seen him “with game”—the man made more of a fool of himself than usual.  With her, he wasn’t even flirting… or, you know, whatever you want to call that ridiculous attitude of his that he adopted when he was trying to woo DNAmy. 

            Shego turned back towards the living room/laboratory and kicked one of the air mattresses still laying on the ground.  (The fact that they hadn’t even been up an hour yet—and that it wasn’t even seven in the morning yet—hadn’t eluded her.)  Drakken wasn’t acting with her like he had with DNAmy.  W-what did that mean?  Did it mean that Drakken was just—just joking, like she had made herself believe not a half an hour ago?  Because, well… The idiot had—had actually liked that horrible excuse for a woman.  She called him “Honey Bunny” and made him cookies.  She coddled him.  Shego didn’t do shit like that.

            Shego sighed.  She thought that she had gotten over this fact before—the fact that Drakken didn’t go for women like her.  “I guess not,” she admitted to herself in the solitude of the living room/laboratory.  She collapsed onto one of the mattresses and rested her right hand on her abdomen.  Her scalp was itching, and she could tell that her catsuit was starting to get grimy, but she couldn’t bring herself to get up and take a shower.  For the first time, she didn’t want to ignore her thoughts.  (The cricket in her head was frantically suggesting that staying with Drakken depended on it, and while she was reluctant to accept anything that little insect had to say, she was more reluctant to let its suggestion be a possibility.)

            So she didn’t deflect.  She didn’t ignore it.  And she didn’t fight it.

            If Drakken liked women like DNAmy so much, just… w-why had he proposed to her?  Had he been that afraid of losing her?  Hell, she had just thrown a coffee machine at his head! 

            She groaned as she turned on her side.  She just wanted things to go back to normal (or whatever twisted sense of “normal” that he and she shared).  Why was that so difficult?  Why was he making it so difficult? 

            Because, really, even if Drakken was trying to be romantic (and she really hoped that he wasn’t, for both their sakes), then he obviously didn’t know her well enough to know how to go about doing it the way she liked.  (And for some reason, the thought that he didn’t know her… it hurt.)  She punched the pillow in anger, for she knew deep down that she couldn’t really blame him for that, either.  The man didn’t know what he was doing with relationships (or with women in general)—that was obvious. 

            A smile graced her lips as she briefly wondered whether he was getting his cues from that dumbass archaeologist Joss from Pals.  (The smile quickly turned into a frown.  Surely Drakken was better than that.)

            Shego let her head collapse into the pillow and took a deep breath.  It helped, somehow.  Her breathing was starting to slow down, and she could think straight.  The whole situation was calming, and Shego could feel some of the tension leave her body.

            Maybe… Maybe Drakken was just being an idiot about the whole “saving the world” thing, and was acting so strangely with her because he didn’t know how to react in the face of the real problem.  She breathed into the pillow again.  Yeah, that had to be it.  He had been upset about it the night before, after all.

            Maybe he was afraid she was going to leave, and his whole “marriage proposal” was his way of asking her to stay

            Gods, the whole thing was a clusterfuck!  Didn’t he know that she was never going to leave him?!  Didn’t he know how much she cared?!  She would have thought that it would have been obvious by now!  (Even Kimmie had noticed it, not that Shego wanted to admit that the teen was right.)

            She had asked herself the same question many times before over the last several hours, but was Drakken just that oblivious?

            Yes, she answered herself, he is.  Because the fucking idiot couldn’t even tell that I wanted him to hug me.

            Shego was still frustrated and, gods, so confused, but she beat her fist against the pillow as she buried her head into it further, and she closed her eyes as she tried to comprehend why she was feeling so comforted so suddenly, despite all of the turmoil that was invading her mind.  A small smile lifted the corner of her lips as she took in the familiar smell.

            Suddenly her eyes shot open.

            She leaned up on her left arm so that she could look down at the pillow.  The pillow—that damn pillow—smelled like Drakken, motor oil and all.

            Damn him.

            With this new information reeling in her head (she was comforted by Drakken’s scent—sheesh, and she thought he was the weird one), she kneeled up to go to the door and bring Drakken back to the tree house (“tree lair, Shego”), hoping to avoid the reality of her situation yet again.  She gave herself the excuse that only the gods knew what kind of weird pain he was inflicting on himself (or some small creature) out there all alone.

            Except… except she was still trying to accept the fact that maybe she could have cut Drakken some slack, that maybe he wasn’t being an idiot on purpose.

            And maybe she wanted to indulge herself for a little while.  In her aggravation left over from this morning, when she had let her anger get the better of her in the one situation when she shouldn’t have, she had forgotten how terrified she had been—not that she had let anyone see that.

            So she lay back down on the air mattress, finally processing that she had chosen Drakken’s over her own in her haste to process everything, and she determined that Drakken would be alright out there for another five minutes.  Five minutes of self-indulgence and she would go back for him.

            She always did.

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            His teeth hurt.  And his hand.  And his heart.

            And he didn’t know which one to deal with first.

            Drakken seethed as he shook out his hand, freshly bleeding once again from punching the tree several more times.  He winced as he felt blood trickle down his fingers.

            And he prayed he didn’t cause permanent damage as he unclenched his teeth and opened and closed his jaw to stretch out the jaw… muscles (whatever those were called).

            Yet, he thought about all the crap he had put his body through over the years.  From severe sleep deprivation to all the explosions he had suffered… this was probably nothing.

            Which just left his heart.

            Yes, he had stopped crying a little bit ago, but the wound was still fresh, and he wasn’t sure that he was ready to go see Shego yet.  What would he even say to her?  “I love you?” 

            Yeah, because “Marry me” went over so well.

            He couldn’t apologize—he wasn’t going to apologize, thank you!  He was proud of his feelings!  …Even if—even if they managed to get him into some serious juju with Shego.

            She shot at him before, and she would probably shoot at him again.  A botched marriage proposal wouldn’t change that aspect of their dynamic.

            Drakken slapped himself on the forehead with his busted hand, wincing as the shock of the impact made his knuckles sting.  Dear God, he had proposed!  He couldn’t even confess right!

            What a horrible excuse for a man!

            He ran his exposed fingers through his hair, and he sucked on his lips as strands got caught in the open wounds on his hand.

            Brilliant

            He shook out his hand again and let his mind wander to determine what he should do next.  He wasn’t ready to face Shego!  And if he were being honest with himself, he was slightly disappointed that she hadn’t come to get him.  It had become a comfort over the years, knowing that someone cared enough to come back for y—

            Drakken morosely kicked the ground as he came to his realization.  Shego always came back for him.  She had never had to—when had the contract ever mattered to her before (except when it protected her)?  Maybe he had had her all wrong.  He knew that she wasn’t going to leave—she had all but told him that even if she left she would come back—that it wouldn’t be permanent.  So why—why didn’t he just leave it?  Why had he felt the need to ask her to marry him? 

            It certainly would be a story to tell one day.  Yes, I proposed after she threw a coffee machine at me out of anger for not hugging her.  (What a crap story.)

            Shego believed in him.  Nobody had ever really done that before.  Even with all his failed attempts at taking over the world, she stayed.  Even after he had defected to Warmonga in his fit (and his fear for his life), Shego had come back.  He had always thought her loyal to him, as out-of-place as it looked to outsiders.

            Maybe loyal was the wrong word for it, in the end.

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            Drakken walked back to the tree house in silence.  Oh, he had known that she cared (her words from the night before still echoed through his head), but… knowing that the one you loved cared about you and knowing that that one you love might—might just love you back were two different things.

            How else could he explain Shego’s decision to stay with him?  He supposed he had been an easy-going boss, but still, she had had plenty of other job opportunities that would have been so much better for her than him.  He had always figured that she liked working for him (with him—from day one, it had been more of a partnership, regardless of its label), but now…

            Now he was reconsidering it in light of the Warmonga incident.  She had no reason to come back after he had betrayed her like that.  Granted, he had thought that she betrayed him first, but that didn’t mean that she saw it that way…

            He shook his head, trying to clear his thoughts before he went upstairs and had to face Shego again, after all of his new insights.  Taking a deep breath, he gripped the railing and climbed the stairs to the living room of the tree house and decided to—well, first, bandage his hand—but then just talk to Shego, whether she liked it or not.

            He couldn’t take her deflections, anymore, and he had to know just where they stood.

            He walked through the doorway, prepared to defend himself against whatever onslaught of words or fire or miscellaneous objects he figured would come his way.  But there was nothing, and, from where he was standing, Shego was nowhere to be seen.

            His eyebrows furrowed.  “Shego?”  He glanced to his left (no sign of her), and then to his right (no sign—)

            He saw her lying on one of the air mattresses that they had never cleaned up from the night before, and he chuckled quietly.  This whole thing had started because he had woke her up prematurely.  It only seemed fitting that she go back to bed.  Maybe when she woke up, he could finally just… tell her.  (Hopefully she would be less grumpy.)

            Drakken took the few steps necessary to reach her in the cramped space and grabbed the nearest blanket to cover her up with.  It was hot, he knew, but he also knew that she didn’t like to sleep without one. 

            Kneeling down next to her, he draped it gently over her shoulder, and her words from last night once again echoed in his mind.  “You could have been killed, Andrew.” 

            She hardly looked like the vengeful goddess he knew her to be when she was sleeping, but rather she looked quite like the woman he had fallen in love with—the one who mocked him about his plans (but stayed by his side as he implemented them), the one who was able to quote literature (when she was being smug and trying to one-up him), the one who read those disgusting fashion and gossip magazines (but would laugh with him over whatever utterly ridiculous thing was deemed worthy of the tabloids).

            She looked like home.

            And he was so caught up in the fact that she was there, that he wasn’t really thinking about anything else except dear God, I love her.

            So Drakken, caught up in his overloading heart, softly leaned over her, and kissed her cheek, remembering his bravery from last night, when they had collapsed laughing about the invasion.  (It was easier to laugh than to panic, obviously.)  As he pulled away, however, he went to brush her hair from her face when his hand froze and his heart stopped.

            Shego’s eyes were open.