Sky

Avery tapped her fingers absently on the stone next to her. Below, the city glittered with white lights, gems in the desert air, illuminating the low sky and painting it sparkling silver. She did admire humans for their creativity, and the city at night was another example of that overpowering need to create, to reach for that very sky they polluted day in and day out. Up here, she often felt like she could cup all of it into her hand, capturing it for her own personal delight.

The roof seemed to be her favorite place these days, a safe hiding place against the team and the people they protected. A solitary sanctuary. She could think here, make the thoughts as crystal as those artificial stars. She shivered, bringing her knees up to her chest and weaving her arms into a tight band around them protectively. Once in a while, in the wind, and cold, and sometimes rain, with no one around, she became afraid. It was delicious, fear. Something she barely ever felt, a treat when experienced. Made her feel alive, for once. Made her feel sharp, like ice.

"Avery?"

The woman didnít answer, bitterly cursing the sound of the trap door behind her swinging open, clattering on the roof painfully. Duke just had to come, didnít he? Felt it was his bloody obligation, to wonder where she was, to pretend to care. "You shouldnít sit too close to the edge. You might fall." He said, settling down next to her, bracing himself against the harsh breeze. She smiled ruefully, a vicious slash across her normally pretty face.

"I donít think that will be a problem."

Duke said nothing else, disquieted, and silently watched the cityscape with her. Cars zipped below, and, in the distance, heat lightning flashed. Looking up, pollution-faded stars shined weak light. The wind howled like coyotes, piercing, wiping away the sounds of the urban life below them. The buildings seemed to shrink in that gale, pale away from it as if it would strip them of their walls. Duke briefly wondered which facade hid the Raptor.

"Do you ever wish you were one of them?" Avery muttered hatefully, breaking the hush between them.

"One of who?" Duke answered haltingly, not taking his olive eyes off the dancing glister below, for fear of meeting her own sapphires, and finding something unbearable there. The same something that warped her voice.

"Them. Normal People. One who doesnít have to worry about evil, one who doesnít have the world sitting on your shoulders. Just you, a few other loved ones, in your bubbles of perfect safety." She snarled the words, making it evident that she dispised these people they protected, and baffling the duck beside her. Why was she acting like this? Where was the inherent kindness she had always readily bestowed on those same ĎNormal People"?

"Once before, maybe. Yeah, once before. I got over it." The words were shallow, and he felt her glare on his shoulder.

"Lies." Was the simple reply. Duke finally looked up desperately, searching her.

"Fine. Lies, then. But whatís the point of fighting it?"

She laughed once, shortly, harshly. Duke winced, and the barrier went back up. They waited for years/minutes, until Avery spoke suddenly. "You know what, Duke?" She said, her voice changed again, now weary. "Iím tired. Iím tired of having these Ďpowersí. Iím tired of watching my family, friends, even enemies wither away and die, while Iím stuck, stagnating. Iím tired of not having a life, dammit! What in the hell am I here for? Others have theyíre lives, their destinies, their karmic paths. I outlived my usefulness thousands of years ago."

Duke was struck silent. Heíd always known that Avery couldnít die, no matter what. That she could, probably would, live till the end of time. But he hadnít ever *known* it. Hadnít thought about it, until now. How was that possible? She must die. Everything died.

Everything.

He glanced up, and saw her eyes filled with bitter, sad tears, which surprised him. Sheíd never cried in his presence. Never. He finally moved, wrapping an his arm around her shoulders and drawing her closer to him. She struggled for only a minute, the sagged against him, giving in. He mumbled stuff into her ear, nonsense, mainly. What could he say that would help? What did he know about how she felt.

Something about this reminded him about a night heíd spent as leader of the Brotherhood. Heíd just received news of a major heist heíd ordered that had gone bad. 4 of his best thieves had died. 3 others were arrested. All of them had been close friends. The worst part of the whole experience, however, was knowing that all of them could have returned safely. But it would mean leaving behind evidence for the cops. Evidence that pointed to Dukeís whereabouts. 4 friends had sacrificed themselves to save their leader, who abandoned the Brotherhood not long after.

He felt an old self loathing hissing in his ear, but shook it away. What happened, happened. He couldnít change that. And, he thought, glancing down at the woman leaning against him, neither could she. But they could work at forgiveness for their mistakes, couldnít they?

He wondered if she knew what laid beyond life for them.

Averyís breathing had clamed, her crying stopped, and now she looked up at him, the mad glint washed out of her eyes. She seemed embarrassed. "Sorry." She muttered, looking away with flushed cheeks. "I guess I needed that."

"We all do sometimes." He paused as she brushed her hair back, and smeared the wet off her face. The streetlights glittered on the tear tracks before they were wiped away, making her face glow.

"Duke?"

"Mm?"

"I think, just by being there like this, youíve shown me a few things. Like, for one, I know you donít know what itís like being like me. And I also know that you never will. But that doesnít mean you arenít as real as me. Doesnít mean youíre emotions arenít as real. Itís gotta be hard, knowing that Iím going to outlive you and the others, almost as bad as it is for me."

Pause.

"Aw, jeez, how do I say this? Iím not really mad at you or the others, or the humans. Iím just projecting. In fact, I think the only things that are keeping me from finding some hole in dimensional limbo to curl up in *is* people. You all are inspiring. You donít live in a constant shadow of death. Being around normal people gives me strength."

"Then why have you been spending all your time away from them, up here?"

"I guess, as part of my legacy, once in awhile I have to pay a tithe to despair." Avery smiled softly. "Either that, or Iím gonna be on my period soon."

Duke chuckled. "Or maybe youíre pregnant."

"Damn, I sure hope not. I fuckiní hate being pregnant." She said teasingly, making a face. "I feel like one of those people in the Aliens movies. Oh, god, its eating me!"

They both laughed, then, denying the depression thatíd been eating them. In each other they found solace. Together, under the faint stars, and the wind, and the sky.