AN: The other day I was thinking, "Do you know what we need more of? Drakgo historical AUs." So I decided to write one, imagining how Drakken and Shego might have met if they'd lived in the late 1800s, and what their lives would have been like at that period.
This was influenced by my reading arguments for and against PT Barnum's portrayal in The Greatest Showman. The concept of a sideshow has long been rather controversial, especially sideshows in the past, when they were largely a collection of human oddities. Some find them demeaning and exploitative; some commend them for providing employment for people who might not have found it otherwise. I'm not going to settle that argument here, but I hope you enjoy this anyway. :)
. . . . . .
There's a sick sort of anxiety roiling in Drew's stomach the closer they get to the sideshow tent, and for the hundredth time since arriving at the circus, he pulls his hat down a little more firmly over his head. He knows the face paint he's wearing is not easily wiped away—he developed the formulation himself—but the old fear dies hard. He still remembers how people had reacted to him before he started wearing the face paint, and he still remembers how much he once feared that the sideshow was the only place for him, and now being so close to one brings those old feelings dangerously close to the surface.
He shoots a glance at his mother; much as he loves her, he resents a little that she insisted on coming to the circus and dragging him along. But she was so excited at this circus coming to town—not much of interest happens in the little New Jersey hamlet where Drew grew up—and so excited that it coincided with her son's visit, so they could go together. Mrs. Lipsky, bless her heart, is exactly the sort to gawk and point at the bearded ladies and tattooed men of the sideshow, then head home to gossip over them with her neighbors. He can only imagine what she'd do if she ever found out that these days, her only son would fit in perfectly with the human oddities she's here to stare at.
That's unfair of him; she loves him, and he loves her, and he ought to believe she would love him still if she knew the truth. But he doesn't believe it enough to show his true face around her.
They're in the tent now, and Drew is as tense as a coiled spring. But maybe he's overreacting; when he finally forces himself to look around, he finds that the expressions on the performers' faces are mostly neutral. The Fat Lady looks perhaps a little bored, the Thin Man perhaps a little resigned, but the Bearded Lady is either genuinely enjoying herself or is a very good actress, and the conjoined twins appear to be in relatively good cheer. Perhaps their various medical conditions have made it impossible for them to find employment elsewhere, and they're grateful for the positions they've found at the circus.
All he knows is, he couldn't do what they're doing. He couldn't stand in front of a crowd and endure their stares.
Which is perhaps why his gaze is drawn to the young woman looking through a gap in the wall on the far side of the tent. Or perhaps not. All he knows is that their eyes meet, and he becomes aware of three things in rapid succession: first, that behind her placid expression, he sees the same disgust he feels at the proceedings. Second, that she's the most beautiful woman he's ever seen. Third, that her skin is pale green.
"Just ten more cents!" the showman announces, and the spell is broken; the woman moves out of sight in what Drew now realizes must be a second chamber in the tent. "Ten cents to see a show so astonishing that kings and queens have personally invited them to perform in court. Ten cents to see a family . . ." He pauses for dramatic emphasis. "With superhuman abilities! Abilities you will see demonstrated right on the stage before you!"
"Oh, let's see it!" Mrs. Lipsky gushes, and digs out two dimes to pay the showman. Drew trails after her, still slightly stunned, and they find themselves in a small chamber, with a row of benches on one side and a low stage on the other, concealed with a curtain. Ten or twelve other people have also decided to pay the extra money to see the show.
The showman leaps up on the stage as the small audience takes their seats. "The five siblings you are about to see are a true unexplained marvel. They were as normal as you or I until a strange comet crashed near their home and granted them incredible abilities . . . and changed their appearances forever! Prepare to be amazed by . . . the Go Family!"
The curtain opens, and Drew is shocked to see not just the woman, but four young men with unnatural coloring: one with blue hair, two with reddish skin, and one whose whole person is shades of purple. The brothers—if indeed this is truly a family, and not just a lot of sideshow flim flam—mostly look pleased to be there, but the woman is still staring down at the audience with barely concealed disdain.
The showman has been rambling about the amazing feats they are about to see, but Drew is barely listening, his gaze still fixed on the woman. And it's not because they've dressed her in a shockingly revealing leotard, no doubt to show off as much of her green skin as possible.
(Well, maybe it's one reason he's staring at her.)
At a word from the showman, the two young men—boys, really—with the reddish skin step forward and strike a pose; suddenly there are four of them. They do a quick tumbling act, and then two disappear and only the original two remain. Drew is not wildly impressed; he knows how these circuses work, and surely this is just clever illusions and identically-dressed lookalikes.
Then it's the purple young man, who appears to shrink; Drew has a harder time explaining this one away.
Then the blue brother steps down from the stage and toward the first bench; although there are four people seated on it, he picks it up with one hand and lifts it over his head as though it weighs nothing.
And Drew's eyes widen. He has seen strong men before. They have never been this strong.
And finally it's the woman's turn. She lifts her hands, and suddenly they are glowing; they look as though they are encased in a bright green material that is somewhere between a liquid and a gas. The blue brother holds out a board, and she reaches out, almost lazily, and presses her glowing hand to it; it burns and crumbles away.
And Drew stares.
The blue-haired man steps forward. "Our abilities are great indeed," he intones—the first time any of the siblings have spoken— "but you have nothing to fear from us. We believe it is our duty to only use our powers for good."
The woman is staring blankly over the crowd again. Her gaze locks with Drew's for a moment, and in that look he sees something he very much recognizes. She does not agree with her brother's words, or with the idea that she owes something to society. In fact, he'd wager she believes quite the opposite.
The curtain falls.
. . . . . .
Drew finds himself unable to think of anything else for the rest of the visit to the circus—nothing but the beautiful woman with the immense powers and the life she seems to hate, and of his own forthcoming plans. He thinks of it as they view more of the circus, as his mother grows tired and asks if he's ready to leave, as she bids him a fond good night and goes up to her room to sleep, as he lays awake in his childhood bed and stares at the moon outside his window.
The clock downstairs has just struck midnight when Drew gets up, changes his clothing, and sneaks out of the house. He can't entirely explain to himself why he's doing what he's doing: is it purely selfish? Or was it something in the woman's expression?
It's easy as anything to sneak back onto the circus grounds; the last few years of his life have involved a great deal of sneaking, for one reason or another, and he's become something of an expert. At the back of the site, where the animal pens and the wagons and the sleeping tents are, he blends into a particularly dark patch of night, and waits.
It doesn't take long; the green woman appears only a few minutes later, leaving one tent and heading in his general direction. She's no longer in the leotard from before, but in a man's shirt, breeches, and boots, cut to her figure. The effect is . . . stunning.
Drew reminds himself to focus.
"Miss Go," he says when she's close, and the woman jumps about a foot in the air before lashing out with astonishing speed. Drew barely has time to blink before he's shoved up against a tree, one of her hands at his throat, the other glowing dangerously green and dangerously close to his head.
The glow from her hands illuminates her face—her expression hard and threatening—and it must enable her to see his face as well, because after a moment he sees recognition enter her eyes.
"You were at the show earlier," she says.
He manages to nod.
"And now you're sneaking where you're not meant to be and accosting women in the dark," she says. "Give me one good reason I shouldn't blast you to kingdom come."
And it finally occurs to Drew that he has gone about this the wrong way. "No!" he manages to rasp out around the hand on his throat, "I'm here to offer you a job."
"Ah!" she says, all sarcastic understanding. "A middle-of-the-night, clandestine job offer from a man who was ogling me in a leotard earlier. It's my lucky day."
"I was not ogling you!" he hisses. (He was, really, but only a bit.)
She lifts a perfectly disdainful eyebrow. "You were staring."
He's starting to feel a little lightheaded; if she doesn't move her hand soon . . . With the last of his breath, he gasps out, "I was staring because you were the only person there who hated the sideshow as much as I did!"
That does the trick. The woman loosens her grip on his throat and instead grabs the lapel of his jacket. Her suspicious expression is softened by the tiniest bit of curiosity. "You think you know me?" she demands.
"I think I know you better than your blue-haired companion," Drew says, rubbing his sore throat and hoping that, if he bruises, his collar will be high enough to hide it from his mother in the morning.
The woman examines him a while longer. "Fine, I'll bite," she says. "Why do you think you know me better than Henry?"
"What he said about how you all feel it's a duty to only use your powers for good," says Drew. "I saw your face. He doesn't speak for you, does he?"
The woman's expression hardens again, and she brings her glowing hand close enough to his face that he can feel the heat. "What are you insinuating?" she demands. "Are you a policeman?"
"A scientist," Drew corrects her. "Rather a brilliant one, if I may boast a little. And you and I have something in common: I don't feel I have a duty to use my abilities for good either."
And for the first time, the woman relaxes, retracting her hand away from his (uncomfortably warm) skin; perhaps in Drew she is coming to see a kindred spirit. Just as he sees one in her. "Then what do you use them for?"
"My own gain," he says simply. "And, if my plans come to fruition . . . power."
"Power?" she repeats. "What kind of power?"
"Oh, I'm starting small," he says. "But someday . . . who knows?"
She examines him a long moment, and he sees he was right about her; she's not put off by any of what he's saying. "So what do you want with me?"
"To offer you a job, as I said," says Drew. "I've been meaning to hire someone to handle certain . . . more physically demanding aspects of the job. And someone with the ability to form fire with her hands . . . well, that could come in handy."
"And what do you need this person to do?"
"Act as bodyguard," Drew says. "Take part in my plans; an extra pair of hands is always helpful. Help me obtain hard-to-get items. Sometimes with the owner's knowledge or consent."
Outwardly Drew is all cool confidence, but inside he is squirming. This is the point where she very well might start shouting for someone to fetch the police.
But she doesn't do that. She doesn't do anything, not for a long time. She just stares at him. And then she says finally, "Why would you trust me for something like that?"
"I told you," he said, "I saw you at the sideshow. I saw you hate it there. I saw you don't have your brother's unfortunate love of law and order."
Her stare is getting a little unnerving. "And why should I trust you?" she says after a few moments.
Here it is, the moment he lays it all on the line. He takes a deep breath. "Because you and I have something in common," he says. "Is there somewhere I could find a bit of water?"
Clearly he's earned at least some of her trust, because after a moment, she nods, releases his lapel, lets her other hand go out, and leads him over to a bucket of water standing near a tent. It's better lit here, which is exactly what he needs. But it also means that he looks around very carefully to be sure they're alone before he proceeds.
From his pocket he produces a handkerchief and dips it in the water. And then he begins to scrub at his face.
He can tell from her expression the moment she sees blue appear from under the face paint: there's surprise, and then a bit of confusion, and then she just looks intrigued. He feels an overwhelming sense of relief that he was right about her: her own condition lessens her fear of his.
"Do you have abilities?" she asks. "Like us?"
He shakes his head. "This is the result of an experiment gone very, very wrong," he says. "And before I started covering it up, people reacted . . . very badly. I lost my job and couldn't even get anyone to consider me for a new one. This world is not kind to people who are different. Who don't look the correct way."
"No, it isn't," she murmurs, still staring in fascination at his skin.
"Which is why I chose my current career path," he says. "And which is why I think you and I can trust each other. I know what it's like to be in a situation where allowing people to pay to gawk at you, like you're a monkey in a zoo, seems like the only way to survive. But I found a way out. And I'm offering it to you as well, because unlike everyone else I saw today, I believe you're willing to take it."
The woman stares a moment longer, and then her lips curve into a hint of a dangerous smile. "I believe you may be right," she says.
"So," he says, putting the handkerchief back in his pocket, "Are you interested in the job, Miss Go?"
She hesitates, and then her smile blooms fully. "I believe I am, Mr. . . ."
"Lipsky. Dr. Andrew Lipsky. But in my profession, I go by the moniker Dr. Drakken."
"And I'm Sheila Go," she says. "But I've always rather liked the nickname Shego. I think a 'moniker,' as you call it, might suit me well in this new line of work."
"I believe you're right," says Drew, and extends his hand. "So, then, will you join me in this endeavor, Shego?"
She grips his hand firmly. "I shall, Dr. Drakken."
And they shake on it.
. . . . . .