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The Aftermath

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            Shego stood on the battlefield staring at the two embracing teenagers, still flabbergasted by the sidekick’s display of monkey powers.  She heard the hovercraft move down beside her, and Drakken’s voice cut through the still air.

            “Wait, what happened?  What did I miss?” he asked her.  Although her back was still turned to him, and she was still staring at Monkey Boy (the sidekick’s new nickname), she could practically see Drakken looking about frantically while perched in the hovercraft.

            “I don’t know,” she started.  The reality of the situation hit her—the sidekick just fucking became a hero.  “But I think the sidekick just stepped up—monkey style.”

            “Monkey style?!” Drakken shouted.  Used to his antics (and his misplaced jealousy, although she could hear the genuine confusion in his voice—God, when did she become so aware of his inflections?), Shego didn’t bother turning around.  “Hnng,” he uttered.  “What’s that?” 

            “You had to be here,” she deadpanned.  Shego felt her face and her posture drop at his question.  She was aware of the supernatural in the world—hell, she was proof of it!—but her mind was reeling from the buffoon’s display of monkey powers, as Drakken so often called him, and she found it easier to intrude on the teens’ moment than to think about her own buffoon and what had just transpired in the last fifteen hours.

            It seemed that the sidekick wasn’t the only one who stepped up.

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            The teens made their way to their graduation ceremony, and Drakken and Shego were left alone—truly alone for the first time in what felt like years, although in reality, it hadn’t even been a full day.

            And, God, was Shego fucked.

            “So, what now?” Drakken had asked after Kimmie flew off in Monkey Boy’s arms bridal style.

            Shego sighed.  She was tired, first off, but more than that, she was drained.  Within the last forty-eight hours, Drakken had managed to mutate himself, the two of them had moved halfway across the world (again), he’d been abducted by aliens, and aliens had invaded and conquered the earth.  (Shego already knew that she was never going to hear the end of it from Drakken that aliens had succeeded in world domination before he did.)  And to top it all off, she’d teamed up with Kimmie’s family and the sidekick, been to space, almost hugged Drakken, fought said world-conquering aliens, (almost hugged Drakken), helped save the world, (almost hugged Drakken), and witnessed the birth of the sidekick’s new powers. 

            Oh, and she almost hugged Drakken.

            Sue her if she just wanted to sleep for forty-eight hours.

            “Um, Shego?” he asked.  She was still attuned to him, somehow—she supposed that was the result of working for someone and co-habitating with them for four years (it didn’t make the realization any easier on her, though)—and in her mind’s eye, she could tell that he was tapping his fingers together waiting for her lead.  It was strange, their dynamic, but after everything that happened, it was comforting to know that not everything had, in fact, changed.

            And it was this dynamic that led her to say her next words.

            “Uh, sleep, Doc.  Let’s go sleep,” she told him, turning around and facing him for the first time in about a half hour, and when she made eye contact with him, his face turned purple.

            It took Shego a moment to realize what had just happened.  Drakken was blushingBlushing!  For the first time in all the years she had known him, the man was blushing

            “Uh, Doc?” she called, putting her hands on her hips and cocking them as she stared up at the new sight.  “You okay?” she asked innocently.  He shook his head rapidly—less in answer and more in an act of breaking himself out of whatever stupor his mind had placed him in—and began to lower the hovercraft towards the ground, but Shego noticed that he didn’t make eye contact.  She sighed and muttered a “whatever” to herself as she jumped in before he started flying away from the scene, but her subconscious began nagging her, and Shego was finally forced to admit during the silence of their hovercraft ride that she was pleased that he noticed a change in their dynamic, too, however small the shift was.

            They rode like that—in silence, stealing glances at the other when they thought the other wasn’t looking—for the entirety of the trip back to South America, where all of their earthly possessions still remained. 

-------

            The hovercraft touched down on the grass next to the Lorwardians’ beacon, and the two of them just stared at it.  Well, Drakken stared at it.  Shego stood next to him as he glared holes into it and took the opportunity to observe him.  It wasn’t often that she actually wanted to do that, but… A lot had happened in the last twenty hours, and he almost died.  She was allowed to be self-indulgent.

            The beacon had stopped blinking, thankfully, but Drakken looked pissed.  His eyebrows furrowed, a scowl present on his face, he looked angry—and not his usual brand of anger either.  No, this was not his usual I-just-got-defeated-by-Kim-Possible-again kind of anger.  This was not Kim-Possible-stopped-me-from-world-domination-again kind of anger.  This was rage.

            And Shego was kind of turned on.

            But Drakken didn’t (thank the gods) notice that.  Instead, he stormed towards their tree house (“Tree lair, Shego,” she heard him say in her head) and began climbing the steps up to the balcony.  With her distraction gone, Shego looked up at the beacon herself and thought—truly thought—about what the Lorwardians did to them—about what the Lorwardians did (almost did, she corrected herself—he was fine) to Drakken, and she found herself scowling as Drakken had done before, only to suddenly grin.  Evilly

            The beacon in front of their tree house was no more.  She shot her green fire at it several times, and the explosion from the contact sent pieces in every direction.  Including some towards the tree house.

            “Shego!” Drakken shouted from the balcony of the tree house (“Tree lair, Shego,” she heard him say again in her mind).

            Shego rolled her eyes as she grinned again at the spot where the beacon used to be.  “Yeah?” she shouted back as she made her way towards the steps.  When he didn’t respond, she simply rolled her eyes again, waiting instead for his reaction to unleash itself upon her when she entered.

            And, man, Drakken did not disappoint.

            “What were you thinking?!” he screamed.  “You could have blown up the lair!”

            “Yes, and then the pattern that you managed to break up in the Himalayas would be fixed.  Is that what you want?” she responded.  She cocked her hip out as she gestured her right hand towards him.

            He seemed to calm down a tad, and Shego took that as an opportunity to make her way towards her beach chair.  She really needed to sleep, or at least get out of the spacesuit.  God, that thing was getting hot—because of course they were in the Amazon jungle.  Of course.

            “Well, at least warn a body next time!” he called after her.  She rolled her eyes again, but he didn’t seem… full of rage anymore, so that was good, at least.

            As reluctant as she was to admit it (for decidedly personal reasons), she was glad that he didn’t seem to be as visibly affected by it anymore.

            Shego kept her back to him as she took off the spacesuit and flung it to the ground, finally allowing herself to collapse into the beach chair.  With a relaxed sigh, she closed her eyes and willed her body to sleep. 

            Unsuccessfully, of course, because that’s just how the world was working right then, apparently.

            She contemplated laying there for a while, in order to determine whether the chair would get more comfortable with time, but she heard Drakken swear as something shattered in the next room over, and she resigned herself to making herself function for a little while longer.

            Getting up, she walked over to him and the scene of the accident.  His head—still surrounded by flower petals—hung defeated.  A quip on her tongue, she had to remind herself of just how much had happened and instead decided to play nice.

            “Dr. D., you’re tiredI’m tired, and the beach chair is horrible for collapsing and crashing.  Let’s just find the air mattresses and do the rest tomorrow.”

            But Drakken didn’t respond.  His head was still hung low, and the fact that he hadn’t even been trying to remove the petals alarmed Shego.  “Uh, Doc?”  No answer.  “Dr. D.?” she called, trying to reach him even though he was only a few feet away from her.

            “We saved the world, Shego.”  His whisper was so soft that she almost hadn’t heard it, but they had always been able to hear what the other said.  How many times had she heard his quiet curses when he was working?  His growls when he couldn’t get an invention to work?  His humming when he was baking?  And how many times had he looked at her with a scowl when she muttered pointless comments about how foolish he was being under her breath?  How many times had she pretended not to see him frown when she came home complaining to herself about another botched date?  How many times had she seen him smile when he caught her moving her lips and whispering along to whatever magazine she was reading?

            Fuck, they were domestic.

            Shego was surprised to realize that the thought wasn’t as uncomfortable as she had once figured it would be.

            Drakken suddenly looked up at her, and Shego was startled away from her train of thought.  “Say something, Shego,” he whispered again.  He was leaning against the counter in the kitchen, and Shego noticed for the first time that he was trembling.

            “Doc, so we saved the world.  So what?  At least we’re not slaves right now.”

            Drakken’s fist rammed through the counter.

            “You made the counter out of twigs?” she asked him.  His action, as comedic and out of place as it was, was a small reminder that the man in front of her was still the Drakken that she knew.

            As Drakken struggled to remove his hand from the wrecked counter, her subconscious chastised her for trying to get out of talking about it, for trying to avoid talking with him, for trying to return to normal when the definition of normal—both for them and for the world—had just changed forever, in no small part because of them.

            She envisioned herself stepping on an anthropomorphic cricket to shut her train of thought up.

            Finally, he freed his hand from its small prison, and glared at her.  In response, Shego simply leaned against the counter (which hadn’t completely broken, thank God) as she tried to laugh his antics off.

            The cricket in her mind threatened to speak.  Her mind’s version of herself simply twisted her foot against the ground.

            Drakken shouted her name again, but his voice held emotions she hadn’t known he was capable of, and the introduction to them scared her, primarily because she didn’t know that she knew what they all were. 

            She took her weight off of the counter slowly as she took in Drakken’s posture.  He was hunched over and panted heavily, and while his eyes held anger (not rage, but still of a different brand than she was used to), they also held sadness… and… was that fear in his eyes?

            She couldn’t deal with fear right now.  They were safe.  Drakken was alive.  They were home.

            Since when had their shared lairs become home?

            So Shego crossed her arms in front of her chest as she stared Drakken down.  “Whatever it is you have to say, Doc, spit it out.  I desperately need to sleep and I still have to find the air mattresses.”

            “Don’t you care at all?” he shouted.  Drakken placed one foot forward, and the cricket in Shego’s mind informed her that she was disappointed that Drakken didn’t do it to walk towards her, instead utilizing the change in position for a better stance.  “Don’t you care about what just happened?”

            The cricket in her mind did not tell her to get mad about it, however.  Unfortunately, that’s just what she did.

            “What?” she shouted back at him.  “What just happened?  So we stopped some aliens with damaged pride from turning our planet into their hunting grounds.  Big whoop.  ‘Oh, look at us!’” she mocked, stomping and rotating around in a circle where she stood.  “‘Look at us!  We saved the world!  Fiddle-dee-dee!  What do I see?  A man and his sidekick, as good as can be!’”

            She stopped her rotating and crossed her arms in front of her chest to look at him again.  Drakken’s anger had faded away during her mock-victory cry, and he stood in front of her, eyebrows upturned, and eyes… eyes actually gleaming.  Gleaming with sadness along with one of those other emotions that she couldn’t name from before.

            “What?” she spat at him.  Did they have to do this right then?

            The cricket laughed as she realized that she was, in fact, trying to delay the inevitable.

            But, damn it, Drakken was being ridiculous!

            “You’re not—” he started, and Shego softened when she realized that he was still… not mad.  “You’re not my sidekick.”

            Her heart fluttered at what that might mean, but it was Drakken in front of her.  The man went for sugary, sweetly sickening women like DNAmy.  What in the name of the gods would he actually want with her?  He made his lack of interest clear enough when he didn’t hug her (a measly hug, of all things) on the Lorwardians’ space craft.

            “I’m not your sidekick,” she repeated back to him.  He nodded, and she laughed.  “No, no, I get it,” she told him sarcastically.  “I’m your assistant.  I’ve been promoted from lackey.  Thanks, boss!” 

            Shego had to hide how wrong it felt to address him that way.

            “Hnng, Shego!”  The man tore off the petals from around his neck and stomped one foot (like a petulant child, she thought) before he clenched his hands into fists at his side.  “Can’t you figure out what I’m trying to say?”

            “Gee, Doc, if you would invent a mind-reading machine, maybe I could!  Why don’t you get your blue ass on that!  It sure as hell would make this conversation a lot easier!”

            When had their bickering… turned into fighting?

            Drakken calmed down at that and relaxed.  With a sigh, he rested his left arm across his torso, leaning his right elbow against it, and placed his head in the fingertips of his right hand.  “Why are you making this more difficult than it has to be, Shego?”  His voice was laced with exhaustion, but she noticed a hint of teasing in it as well.

            Fighting the urge to grin, she teased him back.  “Well, where would be the fun in that, Doc?”

            He started laughing, and she found it difficult to not join in as the pure ridiculousness of the day caught up with them.

            “We just saved the world, and to think that two days ago we were lamenting over my botched killer plants!” Drakken said, tears running down his cheeks.

            It was first then that Shego realized how beat up they were—his tears of joy left clean streaks down his face covered in dirt and sweat—but she didn’t care about that.  That was a mere observation.  No, Shego was simply (oddly enough) happy that they were together and that he was alive.

            They stood in the kitchen for a few minutes, just repeating the events of the last couple of hours in a (surprisingly effective) attempt to normalize everything and just calm themselves down, when Drakken touched upon the one subject that Shego had been trying desperately to avoid remembering since it happened.

            “And then when we almost mimicked the teens when they ran to hug each other on the spaceship!”

            Shego abruptly stopped laughing, as all the hurt and the fear and the (dare she name it?) heartbreak suddenly returned in one fell swoop, and she was not equipped to deal with any of it just then.

Chapter Text

            Shego stormed out of the kitchen towards the living room/laboratory (or what she presumed would be the laboratory once they were unpacked) and began ransacking boxes for an air mattress.

            She heard, rather than saw, Drakken scuffle out of kitchen, his turtle’s pace a sure sign of his sheepishness.

            “Sh—Shego?” he quietly called out to her.

            She didn’t answer him.  She just needed sleep.

            “Shego?” he said a bit more boldly.

            How dare he? she asked herself.  Because, yes, how dare he make light of that?  Of that almost-hug?  Sure, she had rescued him before—she was contractually obligated to do so.  But this was different.  He hadn’t done something stupid—well, actually if he hadn’t decided to call himself the “Great Blue”, then the aliens wouldn’t have been pissed off in the first place—but he was actually kidnapped, as opposed to just… being Drakken.

            She teamed up with the sidekick for him!  Didn’t… didn’t he realize what that sort of thing would do to her pride?  That… that he

            Shego couldn’t tell what was in the box—tears threatened to spill over her eyelids and obscured her view.  And she sure as hell couldn’t have Drakken see that after all.

            She didn’t cry.  She didn’t cry over men and she sure as hell didn’t cry over heartbreak.

            One tear fell onto the flap of the cardboard box in front of her.

            (...Maybe Drakken was the exception to all of that.)

            Except she couldn’t let him see her cry, because it was Drakken, the oblivious fool.  So she grunted in anger as she threw the box across the room and watched as glass spilled out of it.

            (Okay, maybe she should have been paying attention to what was in it after all.)

            “Shego, are you okay?” Drakken asked again, his voice still small but louder.  Shego didn’t need to turn around to know that he was closer to her.

            “Yeah, just dandy, Dr. D.,” she responded, grateful that her tears hadn’t made their way to affecting her vocal cords, but she couldn’t make her way to another box to look for the air mattresses.  If she did, Shego knew that something (or someone) would get blown up by her green fire.

            There was silence in the lair as both parties refused to make a move.  Refused to give in. 

            Refused to take a chance.

            “Did… Did I say… Did I say something wrong?” he finally asked, breaking the silence.

            Shego sighed.  This was Drakken, and if there was one thing that she knew about Drakken, it was that he didn’t know how to act with people.

            It didn’t make his oblivious (and obvious) attitude towards her sting any less.

            “No, Doc, you didn’t,” she whispered.  Feeling the strength to move once again, Shego made her way towards the stack of boxes marked “emergency”, and, of course the top box in that stack contained the air mattresses.

            She pulled two out and threw one at him without looking towards him.  (She did note, however, that his flower petals hadn’t grown back around his neck.  At least that was an improvement.)

            The air mattress hit him square in the face and knocked him over, and after he toppled to the ground, he sat up and let the air mattress remain deflated in his lap for a minute without looking back up at her.  Shego took his silence as an opportunity to pull out the old bike air pump they used for such “emergencies” and began working on her mattress as he sat on the ground, the only sounds in the room being those of the air pump and a slowly inflating mattress.

            “I don’t tell you ‘thank you’ enough, do I?”

            Shego stopped mid-pump, and the sound of a slowly deflating mattress filled the silence.  She stared at him for the entirety of the time it took for the mattress to stop squeaking, but even when silence entered the room again, she still was at a loss for words.

            “Is that why you’re mad?  That I didn’t say ‘thank you’?”  Drakken looked up at her, and Shego recognized that same gleam in his eyes from before—the one filled with sadness and that feeling that she couldn’t name.

            It still wasn’t something that she knew how to handle, but Drakken wouldn’t let it go, no matter how many times she tried to deflect it. 

            The cricket in her mind was grinning suggestively at her.  She mentally flicked it away.

            So she finally settled on something nonchalant.  “Doc, I’m just tired.”

            He got up at this, leaving his deflated mattress on the floor.  “Do you need anything?” he began asking her as he scurried over to a box marked “Childhood Toys”.  Shego furrowed her eyebrows at his antics, but they shot up as he began pulling out particular items.  “Heating pads?  Painkillers?  Pillows?  Chocolates?  Um… otherfemale things?”

            Shego’s mouth gapped open like a fish.  Just what the hell did Drakken think was going on?!

            “Uh, Dr. D.?” he looked up at her, and she found herself trying not to blush at Drakken—Drakken!—holding a box of tampons in his hand.  “Uh… wh-why do-do you have all of that?”

            He blushed for the second time that day as he looked down to what he was holding in his hand and promptly threw the box of tampons back into the box.  “Um… well, you see, Shego… I… I didn’t-didn’t want…”  He trailed off, refusing to look her in the eye as he twiddled his fingers together. 

            “Yeah?” she prompted him.

            Drakken hung his head and sighed.  “I didn’t want you to be uncomfortable.”

            Shego was taken aback at this.  She knew that Drakken was a homebody (read: homemaker) deep down (you know, once you got past the mama’s boy and the mad scientist and the crippling fear of rejection), but this?  This was sickening.

            Sweetly so.

            But Shego didn’t know how to do sweetly sickening, so she scoffed and told him that she was covered—anything to get him to put that box away.

            “Do you have some kind of kink I don’t know about?” she asked as he sealed up the box, trying to lighten the awkward mood that settled over them.  He looked at her in confusion, to which she merely gestured with her foot at the label.

            He blushed again.  “Oh, it’s—it’s the only thing that I could think to mark it to… to make sure you-you didn’t go snooping around.”

            And just like that the awkwardness was gone.  (Okay, so it was still there, but the banter seemed to be back, and that was a good thing… right?)

            Shego shoved his shoulder in response.  Granted, the shove she gave was hard enough to properly jostle him, but it was just light enough that she knew that he would know that she wasn’t serious.  She fought the urge to grin alongside him as he regained his footing.

            The two of them set to work on blowing up the air mattresses and pulling out blankets and the like.  It was like clockwork, and they managed to get everything (read: the bare minimum) ready in less than a half hour between the two of them.

            -------

            Drakken and Shego collapsed onto their mattresses in sync, both exhaling at the same time as their bodies finally truly relaxed for the first time in over twenty-four hours.  Shego lay on her stomach, her face against the pillow, when she heard Drakken laugh.  She turned her face towards him, only to see that he was already looking at her.

            “Thank you, Shego,” he whispered to her.  Shego’s eyes widened.  Just why did he keep insisting on bringing this up?!  He must have seen her freeze, because his eyes widened as well and he began frantically waving his hands, only to prop himself up sideways on his elbow to face her.  “I know you said that that—saying ‘thank you’, that is—wasn’t the issue, and I know that you want sleep, but… Thank you.  Thank you for coming back for me.”

            Shego turned her body over to face him as well, although she was too tired to prop herself up as he had, and instead she opted to just push the side of her pillow down to look at him better.  “Geez, Doc, what’d you think I was going to do?  Leave you up there to die?”

            Because that had been what she was most worried about.  She had been worried that he was going to die.

            And he almost did, the fool.

            Drakken looked at the ground between them, his lips pursed as he tapped his gloved fingers repeatedly against his lab coat.  Shego knew that face—that was his thinking face.  Not his “mad-scientist-world-domination” face, but the face he used when he was trying to understand people.  He was thinking about someone.

            Drakken was thinking about her.

            “Hmmm… well, they had invaded the planet, and there was a high chance that they could have won, Shego.  Then all of that hard work would have been for naught.  You can’t really keep a contract with a mad scientist in a dystopia if the dystopia isn’t controlled by the mad scientist himself.”

            “Your logic is truly dizzying, Dr. D.,” she responded after a moment.  But she knew what he was saying.  She always knew what he was saying.  And what killed her then and there (not that she could show it—not when it seemed like she and Drakken were actually getting back to normal) was the fact that he had brought up that goddamn contract. 

            Did he honestly think that I would have just up and left when he could have been killed?! she asked herself.

            “Tell me what you’re thinking, Shego,” he whispered.  But how could she respond to that?  She mulled over her options.  She couldn’t snap at him (not when they were starting to fix… well, them).  She couldn’t… she couldn’t tell him the truth… Could she?

            “Shego, until I ‘get my blue ass’ on making a mind-reading machine, I really can’t know what’s going on in that head of yours,” he teased.

            This was Drakken in front of her.  When did she ever lie to protect him?

            … When did this become about protecting him instead of protecting herself?

            She inhaled in an attempt to sigh, but only a yawn came out instead.  “Did—” Another yawn.  “Did you hon—” Another yawn.  “Honestly think that I would have just abandoned you?” she said with a tired voice.  Shego’s eyelids began to droop, and thus, while she thought that she saw Drakken open up his mouth to respond to her, she couldn’t be sure.  Either way, he didn’t vocalize anything, so that was good.

            But her filter was just shot to hell.  Even though she was exhausted, she knew that she probably shouldn’t have been speaking. 

            Yet that knowledge wasn’t enough to actually stop her from speaking, mind you.

            “You could have been killed, Andrew,” Shego muttered.  Sleep was taking over her fast, and she couldn’t even be sure whether she said those words out loud or to herself in the fog of her haze.

Chapter Text

            Drakken’s eyes widened.  Since when did Shego call him… call him “Andrew”?

            “Shego?” he called to her.  No answer.

            “Shego?”  Still nothing.

            Great, he thought to himself.  Oh, he knew better than to wake her up to discuss it all.  He knew that she was just avoiding a conversation that he so desperately needed—no, scratch that—that he so desperately wanted to have with her.  But… she was tired, and she did just go through all that trouble to save him—him, of all people. 

            One of the people that she probably despised most in the world—he kept her back, he kept her from living up to her full evil potential, and now… now this fit he had where he had to go and save the world probably just ruined any chances she had of becoming any figure of importance whenever he or one of the other villains finally did take over the world.

            But could he actually take over the world after that hell of a day they just had?  It had been exhausting.  (The Diablo plan had been exhausting, he reminded himself.)  And he just wasn’t sure he had it in him for a third go. 

            He—“go”.  “Sh—” he started, hoping to get her opinion of his pun.  Granted… she always hated them (well, his jokes in general), but… but her eye rolls were becoming less… less malicious and more… more, well, tolerant?  More… affectionate? Or was he just… hoping too much?

            Oh, who was he kidding?  Shego would never go for a man like him!  The woman went on vacations to Greece and drank whiskey neat.  She was known for having a string of lovers even before she started working for him—lovers who were far above any league he could even ever hope to be in.  Meanwhile, he… he hadn’t been… he hadn’t ever been…

            Drakken shook his head rapidly.  It wouldn’t do to go on pitying himself.  He was a homebody—a mad scientist first, but a homebody second.  He… he drank cocoa moo and made cupcakes.  Shego didn’t do that.  Shego was neon lights and that black lipstick of hers and that perfume that gave the illusion that she was a countess from bygone days, and he… well, he was motor oil and chocolate and he counted it to be a good day if he didn’t smell like a car shop after a day’s work.

            No, what would she want with him?

            ...Well, it was late, and she was sleeping.  He didn’t have to cross that bridge now, he supposed.

            He looked at her sleeping form and gently tapped her shoulder to see whether she would respond.  Nada.

            So, Drakken took a risk, and prayed to God that if she were awake that she wouldn’t blast him to smithereens. 

            He quickly gave her forehead a kiss before turning over on his air mattress with his back to her to be alone with his thoughts, feeling his face heat up like a teenager’s whilst doing so.

-------

            When had it come to this? Drakken thought as he lay in the night.  He could hear Shego breathing next to him, and the fact that she was right there and he couldn’t even hold her was killing him.

            What had he been thinking when he was on the Lorwardians’ space ship?  Had he really thought that she just… wasn’t going to come and get him?

            He lay there for a few minutes, trying not to think for once, but just… feel.  Wasn’t that one of the things that Shego was always telling him?  To stop over-thinking things?

            Well, he couldn’t help it if old habits die hard.  When was he not thinking?  Usually, he used this time in the night to dream up new plans—think of new ways to conquer the world, defeat Kim Possible, the whole she-bang.

            But now… Now all that he could think about was Shego.

            Shego

            Drakken groaned as he slapped both of his gloved hands on his face and dragged them down.  (He also tried not to think about how much Shego would have a field day if she saw how he was pulling on the skin under his eyes.  Something about “taking care of yourself for once, Dr. D.”  Or something.)

            So, yes, when had it come to this?  When had he started treating her like… like his partner, in every sense of the term?

            Because that’s what it all had come down to, wasn’t it?  He was afraid that after all that they had endured together that she still saw him as her boss (an unorthodox one, he supposed, but then, yet again, they were in an unorthodox field, regardless of what modern business schools were telling their students). 

            Drakken sighed deeply as he realized what he had been thinking on the Lorwardians’ space ship: he hadn’t been afraid that she wouldn’t come and get him.  He knew that she would—against his better judgment, he trusted the woman with his life.  No, he had been afraid that he would have never had the chance to see her again.  He had been afraid that that green giantess would have killed him or probed him or… or done something to him before Shego arrived.

            And then she came, and his fool heart just ran for her like she was his lifeline—

            He must have really been delusional, to think that she was running for him, too. 

            Drakken sighed again and rested his arm against his forehead.  Shego would say that he was being melodramatic, but he didn’t care.  He had a right to!  He had just saved the world!  He finally had his clear cut victory!  And... and now he didn’t know what the future was going to hold for him.

            He knew—he just knew that Kim Possible would try to do something good and reward him (or some garbage like that) for saving said world.  But how to respond?  He supposed he should run it by Shego, but she would say (and he could hear it in her voice, too) “Fuck it, Dr. D.  Princess and Monkey Boy give you enough shit to deal with.  Fuck it.  Fuck it and them.”

            He chuckled quietly to himself in the silence of the night, worried that he might awaken Shego from her desperately needed slumber (but also knowing somewhere deep down that if he hadn’t woke her up with that peck on the forehead—what was he thinking?!—then his voice probably wouldn’t wake her either).

            But what about him?  Why couldn’t he sleep?  God knew that he was exhausted.  Was he just that worked up over Shego?  About his life?  His future?

            Drakken turned over on his side (the side not facing Shego), and closed his eyes, deciding that he didn’t want to do decide on anything until he talked to Shego. 

            She was, after all, the woman he loved, regardless of whether he would ever have the guts to tell her so.

-------

            The sunrise didn’t come soon enough for Drakken.  He hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before, fluctuating between over-thinking, well, everything, and keeping an empty mind lest he panic.

            It hadn’t helped that the lair was sweltering to the point where it was too uncomfortable to sleep, and he had been too exhausted (ironically enough) to get up and look for lighter clothes to wear. 

            So when the sun came peeking through the window at 5:30, all he could do was groan with the knowledge that Shego would yell at him for not sleeping again.

            Could he help it if he had an overactive brain?

            He lay there for a little while, whilst mustering up the energy to begin the day, not even having a semblance for once of what it would bring.  Drakken supposed getting kidnapped by aliens and having your modus operandi forcibly changed for you would do that to a man.

            Oh, gosh darn it!  Why couldn’t he have been born a hero?!  That would have made his life so much easier in that moment!  His victory then could be celebrated across the world, and not relegated to the shadows as he was certain it would be—the villain who only cared when he needed to save his own blue skin.

            But he supposed then he would never have met Shego, or if he had it would have been as enemies, not as allies, or associates, or whatever-the-hell they were at the moment.

            He sighed as he realized that he would accept whatever graces or rewards that fate would throw his way.  He deserved them.  (Yes, he did deserve them, dammit!  He just saved the world!)  It was just Shego’s reaction to it all that worried him.

            For now, though… should he just… pretend it didn’t happen?

            Yes, Drakken thought, pretend it didn’t happen!  Normal day!  Good plan.

            It was with this final resolution to just ignore his problems for the time being that led him to make his way to the kitchen, a skip in his step with the light feeling of forced, blissful simplicity, and pull out the coffee grinder to make a pot of coffee for them.

            At 5:45 in the morning.

            Drakken hummed an old Oh Boyz song as he put on the coffee after the grinder came to a stop, only to turn and see a very disgruntled Shego standing in the doorway (or, you know, the open space where a door would be).

            And, dear God, she did not look happy.

            “Do you have any idea what time it is?!” she shouted at him.  “Do you have any idea how exhausted I am?!  Get your blue ass in gear and let me sleep, damn it!”

            Drakken stared at her with open mouth (he was certain that he looked like a fish), before he decided that he had had enough of her yelling.

            Except, he didn’t really have it in him to be yelling either.  Not after the literal hell that was his thought process the last night.

            He finally decided on playful banter.  That was what they did, right?  The bickering and the teasing and the fights… it was all just… banter, deep down, right?  Or was that just him?

            Drakken shook his head furiously.  He couldn’t think about that.  He couldn’t think about what they were.  He was too close to having a breakdown and just… taking her in his arms and holding her forever. 

            She would kill him if he even tried that.  He invades her personal space, and it’s all “Oh, you’re harassing me!”  She invades his space, and it’s a free-for-all!

            Well, not anymore!  He might still be her boss (as loathe as he was to admit it—he wanted more, okay?!), but she was the one mistreating him!  He deserved better!

            Just then, he heard the coffee begin to pour in the pot and turned his attention to the brown liquid offering itself up to him for consumption.  (God, where do some of these thoughts come from? he asked himself as he bent down to smell the aroma.)

            Hence, he wasn’t really paying attention to anything other than his several deluded trains of thought.  “You seem to be focusing a lot on my blue ass in the last few days, Shego.”

            That was most certainly not what he had been intending to say.

            Needless to say, he froze when he realized what had come out of his mouth, and he winced when he heard Shego took a step towards him.

            But the fire never came.

            The floor, however, rushed to meet his “blue ass” very, very quickly, and Drakken was left staring up at a Shego with a steaming pot of coffee in her hands.

            “Drakken!” she screamed.  The coffee came towards his face and he yelped as he quickly rolled to the side, the liquid seeping through the twig floor next to him.

            “Shego, what are you doing?!” he screamed in turn.  “You could have burned me!”

            “No shit, Dr. Dumblock!”

            He scrambled to get his footing before she threw something else at him, or worse, kicked him while he was down (literally) for pulling that stunt.  What was he thinking, saying that to her?!

            “What do you want from me?” was what he managed to get out instead as he leaned against the counter behind him.  (The other counter, he reminded himself—he had perched the coffee machine in a very precarious place next to the hole he made in the one Shego now stood in front of.  God, he really had been out of it.)

            “Oh, I don’t know, Dr. D.,” she said in a sweetly sarcastic voice, the empty coffee pot still in her hand.  “To not fuck up and just treat me like an equal?!”  The coffee pot was thrown, and, as Drakken ducked, the cabinets behind him were broken, much like the counter across the room.

            Well, at least now the décor matched, he supposed.

            “Equal?  Equal?!” he shouted back from his position on the floor.  She had the upper hand, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t angry.

            Oh, he might have been in love with that woman, but she was also being a meanie!  (Or maybe he was simply a masochist.  He had never really had time to discover all that, what with trying to conquer the world and all.)

            “Yes, equal!  You have been treating me like your subordinate for too long!”

            Drakken stood up at this.  “Subordinate?!  Need I remind you, Shego, who signs your paychecks?!  You are my subordinate!” 

            Also something that he had not intended to say to the woman he was in love with.

            “Oh, that’s right,” Shego drawled.  “I’ve been promoted!  Promoted to whatSlave?”

            “Wh—?” Drakken started.  Just what was she going on about?  “S-slave?!  When have I ever treated you like that?  Hell, when have you ever done what I asked?  What I pay you to do?!”

            Shego gaped at him.  That was never a good sign, he mentally said to himself.  “I’ve fought Kimmie for you!  I’ve helped you with your harebrain schemes!  I’ve saved your ass thousands of times!  I’ve stolen doomsday devices for you!  Robbed banks for you!  Lied to your intrusive mother for you!  I even drove away those crazy aliens for you, and brought your ass back from space when the world went to hell!  And you have the audacity to say that I don’t do what you ask?!  That I’m just a ‘subordinate’?!  You’re never grateful!  You never show appreciation!  You couldn’t even fucking hug me!”

            And with that, the coffee machine also made its way across the room.

Chapter Text

            Drakken easily ducked out of the way of the coffee machine as it flew where his head once was—reflexes from his several fights with Shego.  That was one of the worst, certainly.  (Usually she didn’t throw heavy objects at him.)  But, he was at a loss for words upon realizing what she had said.

            “You couldn’t even hug me!

            She… she had wanted him to hug her?

            Shego panted across the room, seething as she stared him down, but all Drakken could do was look at her with widened eyes as he tried to figure out what that meant.

            Was… was it just-just possible—just the tiniest bit possible—that-that he… that he hadn’t been deluded?  That she had run to him too?

            “Say something before I rip out your vocal chords, Dr. D.,” Shego snarled.

            Drakken blinked.  Right.  She’s angry.          

            But that didn’t seem to matter in the moment.  The scientist in him took this new information and reevaluated his thoughts from the night before—and this new hypothesis which was forming in his mind seemed too good to be true.

            “You—you wanted me to hug you?” he finally asked, his face still a mask of surprise, afraid to reveal the happiness that threatened his composure (or what was left of it).

            Shego dropped her stance as her eyes widened, and Drakken was certain that she hadn’t realized she had uttered those words.  Those beautiful, glorious words.

            “I-I didn’t—.  I-I mean—” she stuttered.  Drakken’s eyes widened even further as he felt his face go slack.  Was Shego… actually getting flustered over this?

            He could feel the gears in his mind turning as he tried to determine her reaction to his reaction, and he looked towards the floor before he began pacing, for a moment ignoring how she stood before him.

            What did this mean?  Why was she upset?  He knew that Shego wasn’t an affectionate woman.  Hell, the only things in this world that he knew she cared about were her tanning bed and her brothers (despite knowing that she would never admit affection for the latter).  Why would he be included in that exclusive list?  The woman was as guarded as a… as Fort Knox!  (Assuming she has something to guard, of course.  And for once it seemed like she did.)

            What if Shego actually did lo—have feelings for him?  Then what?  What would they possibly do?  He knew damn well that Shego wouldn’t become a homebody and make a home for him.  Even if she were willing to settle down he would be the homemaker.  Which was fine by him, honestly, but where did this thought of settling down come from?  Sure, he wanted children, but he always assumed he would get to that once he conquered the world.  Then, he had figured he would have his pick of women to take as his queen and go about it that way.  But now…  He knew damn well that even if he managed to conquer the world (a prospect which seemed more and more distant with every passing second and every new realization that he came to, really) he wouldn’t want anybody by his side except Shego, who was also appearing further and further away from him, even now when she seemed to be so close to his grasp.  

            Shego’s biting voice brought him out of his revelry.  “Doc, just what the hell is going on?”  He startled, looking up at her.  She seemed to have regained her composure (despite still being miffed) in the time he was mulling everything over, but he still wasn’t satisfied.  Will I ever be? he thought.  Will I ever be satisfied with myself without Shego?

            “I—I was t-thinking, Shego,” he told her. 

            “Yeah, Doc, I can see that.  You’re starting to wear a rut in the floor.”

            Drakken cracked a small smile at that, but his heart was still fluttering, and he had no idea what Shego was thinking, now that she wasn’t stuttering or flustered anymore, and, yes, she was still speaking to him a bit sharply, but she more or less seemed to be back to normal (well, at least her version of normal).

            “Shego…” he started, unsure of whether he should utter the words on his tongue.  What if this was all some kind of sick joke?  What if she didn’t actually want his lo—his affection but just was pretending to try and get something out of him?  A raise or extra vacation or something?  What if this was her way of torturing him for saving the world?  Or worse: what if he went and told her of his feelings (and botched it up in the process, because when has he ever caught a break?) and she reacted… well, negatively (to say the least)?  What if she burned him or threw something at him again or laughed in his face for even thinking that he had a chance with her?  What if… what if she just—just left?

            It wouldn’t be a surprise if she did that, he thought.  After everything that happened…

            Except her words from the night prior came back to him as though echoing through mists on a moor (which sounded very Scottish, Drakken admitted, somewhere in his mind.  Very… Duff Killigan). 

            “You could have been killed, Andrew,” she had said.  Drakken slapped himself on the forehead.  In his own exhausted state, he had been focused on the fact that she had called him “Andrew.”  Even his own mother never called him Andrew!  Of course he would be taken aback by the proper use of his name!

            But now he could see that he had completely ignored what had preceded his name—how could he have been such a fool!  That was Shego who had uttered those words.  And Shego, damn her, was never an affectionate person.  For her to say that spoke volumes of her true feelings, even if she was in a sleep-induced state! 

            She… she must have been running to him on the ship!  And—and then—!

            … And then he went and pulled away, thinking he was deluding himself and afraid of then humiliating himself in front of her.  

            Drakken sighed as he rested his head in the tips of his gloved fingers.  Oh, damn it all, he thought.  When have I ever cared about humiliating myself?  He sighed again as he wondered why this was so difficult all of a sudden.

            Because it’s her.

            He supposed that it all had something to do with the fact that he had never truly been in love before, and the woman he had chosen to give his heart to was possibly the one woman on earth who didn’t have a heart.  Or so it seemed, his mind supplied. 

            Drakken punched the counter next to him in frustration.

-------

            Shego couldn’t take it anymore.  Just what the hell was Drakken thinking?!  So she made a fool of herself in front of him by mentioning that fucking hug.  So what?  Like he hadn’t humiliated himself in front of her before?  What was so strange about the roles being reversed for once?

            Was she that alien to him that he couldn’t believe that she could—could have feelings

            He had run for her on the spaceship!  But had he been that deluded that he thought that she would be mad at him for—for a measly fucking hug?  Was the revelation of these—these fucking feelings so strange to him that he had to go and start pacing, muttering to himself as if he was trying to decipher the world’s most difficult code?

            So she wasn’t heartless.  So she wanted lo—affection, the damned thing.  Was that so hard for him to believe? 

            Shego thought back to all of their fights—all of the times when she humiliated him in front of the henchmen, in front of the other villains, in front of Kim Possible… even in front of his own mother.

            She even thought back to when he told her that he asked DNAmy to… to go out with him or—or… something…  And how she mocked him for that...  

            But damn it, it wasn’t in her nature to be kind! 

            What did he expect from her, some kind of confession or something?!  Because he sure as hell wasn’t going to get it! 

            And then he went and punched the counter.  Again.

            Drakken stood in front of the newly made hole, and somewhere in the back of her mind she made a note to take control of all future decorating in their lairs.  If Drakken was going to keep punching the counters in their kitchens, at least he wasn’t going to be able to break them.  (Hurting his hand in the process would be a—a simple bonus.)

            But in the moment, she stood and watched him as he apparently made efforts to destroy their kitchen yet again, his antics a good distraction to the rapid beating of her heart as she tried to ignore what she had said to the man not five minutes prior.  At what he had heard her say not five minutes prior.

            “Doc, at this rate, we’re going to have to move.  Again.  And if we do that, I’m taking a three month vacation, and leaving you to do the hard work on your own.  Comprende?”

            Drakken looked up from his stupor with wide eyes again, and as his breathing calmed down, Shego could have sworn that she saw a hint of a smile grace his face.  And not an evil grin, either.  A genuine smile.

            It was sickening.

            Sweetly so.

-------

            Drakken’s eyes widened when he heard those words.  If Shego was going to go on vacation, then…  Then that meant she was coming back!  That she wouldn’t leave him! 

            Oh, but what to do about what he now knew?  Now that he knew that she did care for him (even just a little bit—and a little bit was enough for hope to develop).  He had thought the night prior to just ignore his thoughts.  To ignore that he had saved the world and to ignore the fact that he knew now at long last that he was truly, madly in love with Shego. 

            But now?  Now that he knew that he hadn’t been completely deluded?  That Shego had run for him on the ship?  That she did worry about him and care for him (in her own way, of course)?  What now? 

            He didn’t want to lose her—that was for sure.  He couldn’t.  Or rather, he didn’t want to.  Not after he thought that he was going to lose her forever.  Except… would they enter villainy again together?  As partners this time?  Would they be forced to become heroes after all that had happened?  His subconscious reminded him that none of the other villains had made any attempts to stop the aliens from becoming their overlords.  What did that mean for him?  Did it mean that he was… (damn it) good deep down?  That Shego was also good for helping him?  Or did she do it just to save her own hide?  (But that couldn’t have been the case.  Even the other villains didn’t do that.) 

            Did she do it for him?  Did this mean that they really were riding the same wavelength in their lives?  That they were finally, truly in sync?

-------

            Shego watched with a hint of awe as the man in front of her began to think to himself for the umpteenth time that day.  She was used to his antics, at this point in their lives, but usually he acted this way when constructing a new doomsday plan—not when he was trying to respond to her.  Her of all people.  Usually they would just… bicker, and then laugh it off while watching a movie or TV or something.

            Of course, she would make him confused when all she wanted to do was hurt him, like he hurt her.  The cricket in her mind suggested that he wasn’t aware that she was hurting, and she yelled at it in her mind to stop.  Damn him.  Damn him and his—his buffoonery!

            (And now she was picking up his lingo, and adapting his grammatically incorrect forms of said lingo into her own vocabulary.  Fuck, she spent too much time with the man.)

            The anthropomorphic cricket reemerged in her mind, and dared to utter the words she didn’t want to admit to herself.  “Is it any wonder that you’re in love with him?”

            “No,” her mind supplied, in response to her subconscious thoughts.  She just wasn’t sure whether she was saying it because she was denying the sentiment, or answering it.

-------

            Drakken stood in front of Shego, mirroring her.  Both of them, he realized, seemed to be caught in their own thoughts about the other without really recognizing that the other was in front of them.

            Gosh darn it!  If he hadn’t been so focused on showing all of his peers all of his life that he was better than them, maybe he could express what he was thinking to Shego now.

            But as he and the situation stood, he realized that blaming his isolated past self for not being more outgoing wasn’t going to help his problems with Shego now.  (And somewhere deep in the depths of his mind, he realized that recognizing that would make any therapist proud.)

            Yet that didn’t change the fact that he didn’t know how to communicate his feelings to the woman in front of him.  And he knew that.  He knew that his current train of thought couldn’t possibly be the way to go about doing things.  But he knew that she wouldn’t leave—that she wanted to stay.  He also knew that she wasn’t mad at him for saving the world (the thing he thought would have finally been the straw to break the camel’s back, so to speak). 

            And he knew that she did care about him.

            So he said them.  He said those three words that he figured would solidify their feelings for each other and their places in each other’s lives.

            “Marry me, Shego.”

Chapter Text

            “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.

Chapter Text

            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.

-------

            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.

-------

            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.

-------

            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.

Chapter Text

            Fuck, she just had to go and react to Drakken being an idiot, didn’t she?

            She didn’t move when she heard him call out for her when he came back in the tree house, and she even managed to stay still when he did that—that… sweet thing-where-he… put the… blanket on-her-shoulder or—or something…

            But he goes and kisses her on the cheek like they’re in kindergarten, and she has to go, open her eyes, and just… react like she’s in kindergarten.  All… all flustered and everything.

            It didn’t help that the man in question was still leaning over her frozen—his right hand still reaching out to her.  (She noticed that it was lacking his usual black glove, and she filed the fact away for a later time, when she wasn’t so… so… something.)

            Dear gods, what was this man doing to her?

            Drakken’s face softened, slowly and gently, and hesitantly, warily, uneasily, he lowered his right hand to rest on the other side of her.  His torso was entirely over her own, she realized, and it took all of her internal strength to focus on the fact that he wasn’t… wasn’t doing anything.

            “Sh-Shego?” he asked, his voice small and… meek.

            Shego, for her part, didn’t respond.  Didn’t know how to—how was she supposed to act, when this man kept pulling her for a loop?  Kept—kept giving her reasons to… to—

            Gah!  She was going soft—all his fault, damn him.

            “A-are you all right?” Drakken asked her finally. 

            Sure, Doc, she thought.  Just peachy.  Not at all thinking about how much I want you to kiss me right now…

            She raised her eyebrows instead, pretending to be unimpressed, hoping that her… (Desire?  Affection?  Lo—Whatever.)—for him just appeared as her being nonplussed.  His eyes kept darting their focus between her own, and it made her skittish.  What was he searching for?

            “Why?” she finally got out, when she couldn’t quite take it anymore.

            “Well…” he started.  His eyes shifted downward, not—not looking down (unfortunately), but, really more like he was trying to avert her gaze, oddly enough.

            “Come on, Doc.  Spit it out.”  They were her usual words, but she couldn’t find it in her to say them with her usual venom.  She didn’t know what the fuck she was doing anymore, but it—it felt right, somehow.  This felt right.  She managed a quick and shaky smile, but just and quickly, she dropped it.  It… she… he…  Ugh.

            Drakken’s eyebrows knit together, and then went slack.  Repeatedly.  Like he was actually knitting or something.  Shego squinted, and at that, Drakken’s eyes widened monumentally, his mouth slightly ajar, his breath rapidly becoming shallow.

            “You’re not firing at me,” he whispered.

            Shego smirked, but in her heart, her words felt playful.  Not her usual brand of snark, at least.  “And you’re complaining because…?”

            Drakken scowled.  “Hnng.  I’m not.”

            “Then what are you doing, there, Doc?”

            Drakken’s head dropped, and Shego had to focus on his weird-ass hairline to avoid thinking about how sinful he looked in that moment, hovered above her…

            Pop!

            Shego pushed her head back further into the pillow she was still laying on, the onslaught of Drakken’s flower petals suddenly in her face.  She reached up to try and push them out of the way, spluttering and muttering curses under her breath, but as she lifted her arms out from under the blanket Drakken had draped over her, she realized that Drakken… was still… over her.

            Her hands came to rest on his chest (through his blue lab coat, unfortunately), and Drakken raised his head, and his eyes connected with hers.  Shego caught a fleeting glimpse of anger, frustration, and humiliation—the three most common emotions she associated with the man—but they soon were replaced by that feeling that she still didn’t dare to name, and by… by happiness?  Mirth? 

            Shego didn’t have time to comment on the change in Drakken’s demeanor before he was laughing.  Laughing more earnestly than the night before, laughing more heartily than she had ever heard him laugh before. 

            She had to admit, she was kind of annoyed.  Drakken (Drakken!) had somehow both put her mind in the gutter and made her heart flutter in the span of five minutes—a feat that no man had ever accomplished before, and instead of finally getting his shit together and making a move (any move), he was laughing.  Laughing like he didn’t have a care in the world. 

            It was a strange sound, to Shego’s ears.  She couldn’t remember when she had ever heard him laugh like this.  Like he was… happy or some shit.  Had she never witnessed him be happy before?

            No—wait.  Yes.  Once.  During that Christmas fiasco when they and the Possibles (plus Monkey Boy) had that short truce and sang carols together around the fire in the escape pod.  He had been happy then… hadn’t he?  Had it been that long since she’s seen him happy?

            Well, his smile when they reunited on the spaceship certainly surpassed each and every smile she had seen before…

            And then Shego realized that Drakken was looking at her.  Intensely.  Passionately.  He was still smiling, but it was a gentler smile.  Peaceful.  Content.  And the actual look in his eyes—oh, gods.  Hopeful.  So fucking hopeful.

            It was… something Shego had never experienced before.  Men had looked at her with passion and intensity before, but… not like the way Drakken was looking at her in that moment.  Not like she was the reason for his existence.

            But, then again, no other man was Drakken.

            He leaned down, and Shego swallowed against a dry throat.  Her hands were still pressed against his chest, except they didn’t belong there.  They belonged on his cheek, against his neck, in his hair—anywhere that didn’t seem like she was pushing him away.  (Only the gods knew how fucked up it was that she had, before—that she had pushed him away other times in what felt like another lifetime.)

            Her hands were stopped by the petals around his neck.

            “Whoa, slow up there, Doc,” she heard herself saying when she realized that the furthest place to which her hands could get was his shoulders.  Drakken pulled away, blinking, again searching for something in her eyes, and Shego winced, realizing her mistake.  “Fuck, I mean—I just—”

            Drakken scoffed, shaking his head as he started to push himself away from her.  Shego panicked.  Fuck, she fucked up.

            Except her hands were still confined to the small space between their bodies, still on Drakken’s shoulders.  She grabbed on, holding him in place.  She felt her filed nails (some of them probably broken, actually, but whatever) dig into his skin, but she couldn’t care.  The fucking idiot wasn’t listening.  Again.

            Drakken’s eyebrows shot up, and Shego grit her teeth.  There was no way—no fucking way—that she was missing out on this moment.  Okay, she still might not have gotten her goddamn hug, but—but—!

            Shego’s grip slackened when she saw Drakken’s pupils dilate.  That’s what he likes? she asked herself.  She smirked, and Drakken gulped, his Adam’s apple bobbing.  Shego avoided flicking her gaze down, but the look of fear in Drakken’s eyes—

            “Fuck,” she whispered.  She had ruined the moment.  Drakken was scared of her.  It had been a tender, and, uh… romantic (yeah, romantic, right? … Yeah) moment, and all she wanted to do was fucking kiss the man without seeing petals around his neck, and she ruined it. 

            She let go of Drakken and collapsed into the pillow, scowling at her fuck-up.  Her gloved hands (which were covered in grim and had her realizing all over again just how much she needed to shower) were pressed against her temples.  “Ugh, damn it,” she said to herself.

            “Shego, I’m—I’m not going to hold this against you.  A…Any of it,” she heard Drakken say.  Her eyes opened and glanced over to where Drakken was.  He had propped himself up about a yard away from her, one leg bent underneath him and the other bent towards the ceiling.  He was leaning his weight on his left arm, with his right resting against his raised leg.  Those—those fucking petals were still around his neck, but he looked so forlorn and hopeless that Shego couldn’t find it in her to be concerned about the petals.  (She was starting to think that they were never going to go away completely, but… she was more concerned about the man than the flowers at that point.)

            She sat up herself, pulling her legs towards her chest and placing her arms around her knees.  Sighing, she asked him: “You’re not going to hold what against me, Doc?”

            Drakken’s mouth was pinched, his gaze averting her own, and the heads of his eyebrows were slightly raised.  He… he was sad, Shego realized.  He tapped his fingers against the floor, and Shego’s attention was drawn to the sound.

            “This,” he said softly.

            “You’re gonna have to be more specific there, Doc.”  Her voice was also small, her words spoken from habit, her emotions unfamiliar to her.

            But she did not look up from the ground where his hand lay.

            The tapping stopped, and Shego looked out of the corner of her eye to see Drakken’s gloveless hand fiddling with a loose thread on his blue lab coat.  He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose with his gloveless hand.  He startled, glancing at his hand.  Shego knit her eyebrows together.  Drakken just shook his head and continued rubbing small circles into the bridge of his nose.  (Apparently Drakken wasn’t used to the feeling of his own skin.  The right side of Shego’s mouth curled up a bit at that.)

            Drakken sighed once more.  Shego bit the inside of her cheek to keep from rolling her eyes or throwing a snarky remark at him.  Instead, she looked away, unable to meet his gaze.  He was being idiotic—a buffoon in his own right.  But… Shego knew (she fucking knew) that it was her fault this time.  She fucked up that perfect (tsk, nearly perfect) moment, and now Drakken was the one left to suffer. 

            “Hnng, Shego!  Are my feelings a game to you?!” he yelled.

            Shego whipped her head back toward him, her hair hitting her face from the speed of the turn.  Her eyes widened, and she raised the heads of her eyebrows slightly.  She was still sitting atop the mattress, but her heart, which had slowed down somewhat during the aftermath of their ruined moment, was rapidly picking up speed. 

            “Are you kidding me right now?” Shego snarled.  She got up and began marching towards Drakken.  “Your feelings?  Your feelings?  What about mine?!  What about all the fucked up things you did to me?”  She was standing above him, leaning over his sedentary position, her hands clenched tightly into fists.  There was no fire.  “What about where you refused to hug me on the Lorwardian ship?  What about when you made me seem like a fool for wanting that—that fucking hug?  What about that—that—” Shego flushed, but she kept yelling.  It was cathartic, surprisingly enough.  “—that marriage proposal?”  She swallowed to try and clear her dry throat.  “What about—”

            “I meant that, Shego,” Drakken whispered.

            Shego leaned back.  She was still standing above him, but it was only when she momentarily removed herself from the situation that she realized that he hadn’t cowered, he hadn’t shuffled backwards, hadn’t done anything.  Almost like he was accepting whatever fate she decided he deserved.  If it hadn’t been Drakken sitting in front of her like that—if it had been any other man, she would have claimed it was pathetic.  That he was pathetic. 

            She was feeling kind of pathetic herself right about then—how was Drakken (Drakken?!) the first man she ever fought with about—about feelings?  How was a man who looked like a kid in a school play the one man she ever wanted to—.  Hold that train of thought, Shego.

            Why the hell would he have meant it?

            “Yeah, right,” she said, crossing her arms in front of her.  She looked away.  Drakken was an idiot.

            Drakken’s head snapped up to look at her.  “And why shouldn’t I have?!”  He scrambled up to stand in front of her. 

            “Because you look like you’re five, Drak!” she yelled back.

            Drakken took a step back.  His eyebrows were high on his forehead, and he looked upward and grimaced when he saw the petals.

            Tearing them off, he let them fall to the ground and stomped on them.  “Is that what this is about?!” he screamed.  He was facing her, and seething.  Shego simply blinked, trying to resist the urge to scream back at him once more.  “That I’m a mutant?!”  He started pacing in the small space between the spot where Shego stood and the wall (the wall with the window—the one where she thought that Drakken might have been trying to be, of all things, romanticYeesh, she had problems).

            “Yeah, Doc.  Nothin’ gets the ladies all hot and bothered like plant powers.”

            Drakken stilled, blushing for the second time in as many days.  He had his hands folded behind his back, and Shego watched him with a keen eye as he turned and rested his weight against the window frame, the same one where she came to the realization that had somehow come back to punch her in the gut. 

            “You don’t believe me, do you?”  His voice was at a whisper, once more.  Gods, Shego couldn’t take his roller coaster of emotions anymore!  She took a few steps.  There was enough room at the windowsill for her to join him, but she wasn’t ready for that.  Not yet.

            She clenched her jaw and crossed her arms in front of her chest.  She felt like they were just going around in circles.  That was kind of their thing, though, wasn’t it?  Doing the same thing over and over again without any change in pattern.  Maybe the two of them really were insane.

            “Doc.”  She addressed him more gently than she meant to; she was still pissed at him for the stunts he pulled, and, she supposed, she was still angry at him for almost getting himself killed and, in the process, making her realize just how much she cared.  “I think we’ve established that you don’t, uh…”  She cleared her throat.  “You don’t really… ‘have game.’”

            Drakken scoffed.  Shego looked down at his hands, which were clenched into fists rammed against the window frame, and for the first time since he came in, she saw that his gloveless hand was cut, dried blood already having worked its way into the imperfections of his skin.  When she glanced back up, she saw that he was shaking his head.  “You don’t get it, do you?” he asked her, nearly silent.  Shego wondered whether the noise of the world outside of their little abode carried away some of the traces of sentiment she caught.

            She sighed, and made the decision to lessen the space between them, joining him.  “Doc, why can’t you just explain it?”

            He grunted, his eyes glassy as he refused to meet her gaze.  “Can you?”  His voice was laced with frustration and… and something Shego didn’t want to name, not for lack of knowledge or… or fear.  Just—just…  She turned towards the view from the room.  It was just too much for her right then.

            “Doc…”  Shego leaned her elbows against the frame, her hands folded together as she appreciated the rainforest just beyond her reach as her fingers tapped against the frame.  Nerves made themselves at home as she struggled to find the words to say to… to… ugh… to make him want to stay. 

            “You can’t just propose, Doc.”

            “Why not?”

            Shego gave an exasperated sigh.  “We’re—we’re not dating, Doc.  We’re—we’re…”  She sighed again, softly.  “I don’t know what we are.”

            “You’re not my slave, Shego, that’s for sure.”  Shego’s eyebrows furrowed, but before she could turn to him he bumped her shoulder with his own, and when she did turn, she saw a bittersweet smile upon his face, and in his eyes, a resigned look.  Neither sad nor happy, neither content nor upset, but… well, acceptance probably was the best word for it. 

            She gave him a lopsided smile, her words from that morning already haunting her and shadowing her with their role in the impending shift in their relationship.  Her eyes caught a bird with bright blue feathers fly past them and land on a branch nearby.  “I didn’t mean that.”

            “I know.”  A pause.  “What did you mean?”

            “I was pissed at you, Doc.  Pissed and tired.”  Shego took a deep breath.  “Still am.  Uh, tired, that is.  Not… not pissed.”  She cleared her throat.

            Drakken shook his head.  “No, no.  I meant—”  He stood up straighter, stretching out his back as he ran his gloveless hand through his hair and winced.  Shego guessed it—whatever he did to his hand—still hurt, despite the dried blood.  She would ask him about it later.  “I—I meant—”  He took a deep breath, like he was preparing himself for something.  “I meant what did you mean by… by what you said—said with the whole… hug thing?”

            Shego turned away from him in an attempt to hide her blush.  She had caused this rift between them.  She was also… also kind of embarrassed that a hug set her off in a fight with a man, of all things.

            But then again, not every man was Drakken.

            Drakken stood still besides her, and she pinched her lips as she decided how to respond.  “Tell me why you didn’t, first.”

            “Didn’t what?”  Shego refused to look at him, but by the sound of his voice, he was very confused.  “Didn’t hug you?”

            She didn’t respond.  Just look ahead, Shego.  Look ahead, she told herself.

            “I thought I was being delusional, as usual,” he responded, matter-of-factly. 

            “Delusional?  You?  Wow, Doc, never would have guessed it.”

            “Hnng, Shego.  Can’t you take this seriously?”

            “Can’t you?”

            “I am, Shego.  I am the senior partner, here.”

            Shego did look at him, at that remark.  “‘Senior partner’?  What, are we working a law firm now?”

            “Hnng, you know what I mean.”

            “I never know what you mean.”

            “You always know what I mean, Shego.”

            “Unfortunately,” she drawled.  Partners.  In the sense that she was hoping for?  She only gave him a playful smirk, however, which he caught out of the corner of his eye and acknowledged with the turn of his mouth.

            “So you admit your defeat, then?”  He turned his entire body towards her, leaning against the window frame with his left elbow. 

            “I admit you’re a major doofus,” Shego conceded.  “There isn’t any shame in that.”

            He chuckled, nearly silent, but when he looked up at her, the… resignation in his eyes dissipated, and there was a fondness there—something that she had only noticed recently in their work—that she immediately realized that she had missed. 

            “I was afraid you were going to shoot at me.”  His words were honest, open, free.  The fondness was still there in his eyes, though, along with that unnamable emotion first noticed in a moment that felt like a lifetime ago.

            “Do you honestly think that I would risk my ass to bring you home just to hurt you?”

            Drakken’s eyes widened, and Shego felt her heart speed up.  “Home?” he asked her.

            She suddenly got the feeling that she had let slip something important, but what was so strange about that?  About bringing him home?  (The words “to her” echoed in the back of her mind, but she ignored them.)

            “Uh… yeah?  Home.  Home, you know—the word that the Hallmark Channel always uses to promote whatever corny new rom-com they filmed?  Home.”

            Drakken’s breathing grew shallow, and Shego wondered just what the hell was going through his mind.  His… oddly unique mind.

            “And… just where is ‘home’, Shego?” he asked her.  His voice had softened, making that the, oh, millionth time that day, yet Shego couldn’t put her finger on the actual question he was asking her.  It wasn’t the first time that she watched Drakken’s mind work around hers, instead of with hers, but it never ceased to take her by surprise when he did.

            “Um… our lairs?”  Her response was more of a question than a statement.  She was too confused to correct herself, second-guessing her own understanding of it all at his prodding.

            “But—but we keep moving,” he countered.  His voice was eager now, leaping towards something Shego couldn’t make out quite yet.

            “So?”

            “So, Shego.  Home is a constant place.  What is constant about constantly moving?”  He was standing tall, and it seemed to Shego that all of his being was centered on her—his attention, his movements.  Everything.

            “Uh, the consistency of moving, I guess.”  She shrugged.  “What does it matter, anyways?  Home is home.  It’s… It just is.”

            “Hnng, I think you’re the only person in the world, who isn’t sentimental about the concept of ‘home’, Shego.”

            “What’s there to be sentimental about, Doc?” 

            Drakken grabbed a hold of his hair, and Shego took a step backwards in surprise.  “If you had to pick out one place, or one thing, or one… one…”  He exhaled sharply.  “If you had to pick out one something, and say ‘This is home,’ what would it be?”

            Shego turned away from him and walked towards the kitchen, where the shattered remnants of the thrown coffee machine from earlier that morning still lay.  “Can you not be weird, Doc?  Please?”

            She heard Drakken scurry after her and stopped mid-step when she felt his hand on her shoulder.  “Shego, please.  This is important.”

            She turned around, still confused by his antics.  “Okay, I’ll bite.  Tell me why and I’ll answer your question.”

            Drakken pulled his gaze away from her, looking down to his right as he twirled his thumbs in front of his torso.  Without the twirling, it almost looked like he was begging.  Or praying.

            Maybe he is, she thought absent-mindedly.

            “It—it has to do with… with…”  His eyes caught a hold of something behind her, and Shego followed his line of sight until her own rested upon the coffee machine. 

            So it had to do with their heart-to-heart (or whatever semblance of one they were having), after all.

            “Rephrase the question.”

            His gaze shot back to her.  “What?”

            “Rephrase your ‘home’ question, or—or whatever…” she trailed off.

            “Um…”  He took a deep breath, and Shego had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach that the next words out of his mouth would set in stone whatever changes they—as a unit—were undergoing. 

            “Why did you say ‘home’?  Why not… why not say, suppose, ‘back’?  Why ‘To bring me home,’ not ‘to bring me back?”

            Semantics?  Drakken was going on about semantics?  “Fine, Doc.  I didn’t risk my ass to bring you back to me just to hurt you.  Are you happy now?”

            Drakken’s eyes lit up at… something, and Shego searched her brain for what was so different in her statement that it made Drakken’s spirits lift like a kid on Christmas morning.  Then it hit her like an oncoming train. 

            “To me.”  She had added the words “to me.”

            Shit.  Maybe she shouldn’t have ignored those words when they came to her in her mind earlier.

            But before she could correct herself, before she could even open her mouth to try and save herself from the humiliation that was admitting all of this to him, something actually did ram itself into her, and it took her a moment to realize that the thing was actually Drakken, wrapping his arms around her and engulfing her in a hug so tight that it seemed to her that he was holding onto his lifeline. 

            It was so stifling, and constraining, and so—so—so Drakken, that even though she had to blink for a few moments while she acquainted herself with the feeling of his body perfectly melding into hers, with the comforting feeling of his face pressed into the crook of her neck, she eventually wrapped her arms around him and held onto him just as tightly.

            She guessed it was a good moment as any to admit that he was her lifeline, too.