Please let her be here tonight, Shego thought, please don't make me wait another day. I don't think I can.

Shego waited behind a tree in the parking lot of Bueno Nacho. She had been waiting for Kim to show up for the last three evenings, and she was at the end of her rope. If Kim didn't show up tonight, Shego didn't know what she would do. Well, she did... but she didn't want to think about it anymore. She'd thought about that enough. I just want to see her again, one last time. Just see her!...

Shego had long since ceased to be amazed, and had never been embarrassed, by her attrraction to the red-haired teen hero. Because I've always known, I think. I just never knew how much. The first time I ever saw you blush, Kimmie... , Shego sighed, I knew I'd never get over it. Over you.

The idea of lesbian attraction, and lesbian sex, didn't bother Shego in the least. She was rather proud of it, in fact. It fit so well with her self-image as "Mystery Bad Girl". She wasn't lesbian, actually, she was bi-sexual, but "lesbian" had a much more... erotic... ring to it. Had she ever been asked, she would have talked, and talked, and talked about her lesbian desires, and lesbian fantasies, and anything else she could think of with the word 'lesbian' in front of it. Such a deliciously dirty word.

On the other hand, had she ever been asked who those fantasies were about... well, that was private.

And if she'd been asked if she loved...

That was the place she didn't dare go. Even now. Because love made you vulnerable. Shego was not vulnerable. Well, I didn't used to be, anyway..., she thought.

As Shego looked up at a branch of the oak tree two feet over her head, a painful, longing expression came over her face. Once, I would have been crouched on that branch to do this, she thought. But that was a long time ago. No way I can make it now...

In fact, she could have made the jump only two months ago, but her condition had deteriorated fast since then. It was two months ago she had found out that she - Shego, Master Thief who didn't kill because she was so good she didn't need to – had been responsible for over 2,000 deaths... and counting. And those were just the ones she knew about! After she'd found out, the dreams came. Not dreams of horror, but heart-wrenching dreams of things that might have been, and now wouldn't be, because they were dead! Not tied up in a cell, or knocked out with gas, or chained to a dungeon wall, but dead! And the dreams kept getting more and more frequent... She had tried to handle it with arrogance at first: she didn't even know these people. Wrong place, wrong time. Shit happens. But finally, it had been no use. The dreams... showing her things – people whose options had been stolen, forever denied. Dead people. Killed by her! Thousands...

For the last five days, she hadn't slept at all. The thought of food was obscene, and the smell of it had become sickening. Shego was fading fast, and she didn't really care. Not about herself, anyway. There was only one way out, now. Stupid stupid stupid!, she thought for the thousandth time. Oh well. It'll be over soon. Funny I used to think that I was the smart one, and everyone else was an idiot. Stupid! And what did I hate about Kim? Yeah, that she was just so sickeningly good... STUPID!

While Shego scolded herself, Kim and Ron, together as usual, walked out the door of Bueno Nacho. They were stepping off the curb, crossing the parking-lot entrance when Shego broke out of her reverie and saw them. She quickly ducked behind the tree - but not quick enough.

-----

"Did you see that, KP?", Ron whispered.

"Yeah. Obviously an amateur. If he'd just kept standing there, it would've been no big. But to hide after you know you've been spotted... or at least he should have known... well, just amateur." Kim snickered. " "Okay. You take the left, I'll go right, and let's see what the sitch is."

"How come I always have to go left?", asked Ron.

"Ron...", Kim huffed in exasperation.

"Go left. Got it.", Ron turned to the left, then turned back. Ron was feeling what might best be described as "perky". Getting Kim "huffy" was the main perk of being with her, as far as he was concerned. He really enjoyed playing the buffoon, and was good at it. "Uh, Kim... my left or 'camera' left?"

"RON!", Kim tried to yell, but quietly.

It felt good to be back at the game with Kim again. Their friendship had almost ended after Rufus' accidental death. Kim was still grieving over the loss of her father. Ron had taken Rufus' death harder than Kim thought reasonable. Things had been said... the "sitch" deteriorated... The whole boyfriend/girlfriend thing they were attempting at the time hadn't helped. Both Ron and Kim had felt like they were only playing a part they were expected to play, and they had eventually begun to resent each other for it. They'd "officially" broken-up last week, and in the emotional turmoil since, they had both, alone, realized the truth of their relationship:

Best Friends for Life, but that would be all. They were both too young to realize just what that meant, and thought of "Best Friends" as something less than "Lovers", a second-class relationship, and this made them sad. And when Ron (or Kim) felt sad, he (or she) turned to Kim (or Ron) for comfort. And so it goes.

They'd met at Bueno Nacho tonight to try and re-build the bridges they thought they'd burned. Turned out, those bridges were more far more substantial than either of them had thought.

-----

Shego didn't know she'd been spotted – her "thief senses" were all but gone. She'd just caught just a glimpse of Kim's face in the distance, and even just that was more than she could bear. Shego thought she would wait until they had passed, and watch Kim walking away. That would be enough. That would, actually, be about all she could take. Too bad she had to be with Ron, but it wasn't unexpected. What do you see in him?, Shego thought. Well, I guess you could do worse, as lovers go. You could have no one at all, not even friends, let alone a 'lover'. Shego sighed. Like me. She wondered if Drakken counted as a "friend". Didn't matter. Drakken was also part of that other world, the one where Shego could jump straight up two feet without even trying.

"GOT! ... cha?", Kim and Ron spun around the tree trunk simultaneously to confront the mysterious stranger.

Kim's mouth hung open in shock. "Sh – Shego?", she stammered.

Shego had not been a part of Kim's life for over a year. It was as if the green and black vixen had dropped off the planet. No news headlines, no impossible thefts of super-valuable and/or super-dangerous objects... nothing. At first it had been like a vacation, an (almost) welcome relief. But eventually, Kim had felt there was something missing. Now in the summer before her Senior year, she didn't have time to dwell on it. Much. But alone in her bed at night, where there's no one to make excuses to, or be embarrassed in front of, Kim had thought about Shego. Fondly. But she would have never said that, even to herself.

Kim stared openly. The green and black cat suit was gone, replaced by a black turtle-neck and bluejeans. Shego's eyes were sunken back into her skull, leaving dark, puffy bags underneath. Her cheekbones stood out alarmingly, giving the pale greenish woman an almost skull-like appearance. Her hair, once so luxuriously silky and jet-black, looked stringy, thin, and matted. Shego looked like a starving black cat with mange. Kim's stomach dropped in horror at at the sight of her. Then she looked into Shego's eyes, and her heart sank in despair. She could see that Shego had given up. Kim didn't know what, but whatever it was, Shego had just – flat-out – given it up. Some time ago, it looked like.

"DON'T LOOK AT ME!", Shego cried. For her, watching the expressions play across Kim's face was unbearable. Shameful. Humiliating. She tried vainly to break Ron's grip on her arms, but Ron didn't budge. She tried to flame up, but only managed to get thin slivers of the green plasma to flicker across her closed fists. So, that's gone too... she thought, watching the pitiful fireworks. She stared at the ground. Ron felt her stop struggling, but kept his grip on her all the same. Shego was nothing if not tricky. You could never tell, with her.

Could you?

For Shego it was just too much. She was too tired, too humiliated, too hopeless, and too ashamed. Looking back into Kim's face, she thought, she's so beautiful... and began to quietly sob. Ron released her arms awkwardly, not sure what he should do next. She's so weak!, he thought. And crying?

Kim was watching as the older girl's shoulders began to hitch. She's crying, Kim thought, Shego's actually crying! Kim thought about all the verbal barbs, smart-mouthed comments, and dirty innuendos she'd endured from her enemy. Arch-enemy, she corrected herself. Best of the best. Undefeatable.. well, without help. Or luck. Or Ron. Kim suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of loss, because she knew something was changing tonight, and all Kim knew was that she would miss the way things had been. She would never – could never - fight Shego the way she used to. Shego's verbal abuse and snide comments would never sting like they did. Her smirk would never infuriate like it used to. And along with each of these thoughts, Kim added, without realizing, I'll miss it.

A lump began to form at the back of Kim's throat and her breath began to involuntarily shudder. Shego crying like that... Kim felt something rising within her, something powerful, even threatening in its intensity. Empathy? Pity? Compassion? No. Yes. But different. More. Shego looked so... forlorn, weak, and – for the first time Kim could recall, - vulnerable. Kim's heart went out to the other girl.

"Help me, Kim", Shego's voice squeaked between sobs, "I'm so scared..."

Not 'Kimmie'. Not 'Princess'. Not 'Pumpkin'. The teenage girl recited the list. Just 'Kim'...

And then Kim's arms went out to her, as well.