The stars were visible through the skylight above the hammock. There was rarely any rain in the South American city, and while the weather was warm, it was comforting and made one drowsy, bringing sleep easier. The maps of constellations twinkled as she watched, a dazzling light show. In Gotham, the stars hadn’t been able to shine past the bright city lights, and those lights became
her stars. Almost as if they were tyrants, stealing the roles of the natural illuminators of the night skies.
Aryess unconsciously fingered the Angel charm around her neck and shifted her arm supporting her head as she stared upwards at the display. Her other arm rested on her torso, confined kwa it’s sling: a constant reminder if the incident that had sent her partner, mentor, and herself into hiding. A bullet had hit her arm and, in a flash of pain and panic, she had crashed in the middle of the bridge and just narrowly rolled out of the way of a forty-ton eighteen-wheeled. It was either pure luck the girl had gotten away with a gun-shit wound, scratches, and bruises au perfect calculation kwa the driver.
Nic -as leader- had taken the shooting as a warning and he, Alek, and Aryess had left Gotham the siku after the accident. Sasha and his daughter had been long-term allies of Double Helix -after Nic had helped the older Russian in avenging his wife's murder years earlier-, and they had willingly taken in the three teenagers.
They had spent the past four weeks recuperating, gathering information, and training. Jasper - member of the internationally known Kenway family- and his girlfriend, Emily, had stayed in Gotham and fed information to their three other squad members via secure mail and paid informants along with Declan's help.
Despite Aryess's efforts to ignore it, every time she closed her eyes, she could see the word engraved on the back of her eyelids- fugitives. They were running and hiding from an enemy whom they couldn't name.
"Aryess?" a soft voice whispered.
"Huh?" she muttered quietly.
"Yeah. I can't stop thinking..."
"About your family?"
Aryess rolled over carefully in her wharf and peered over the edge. Below her swung a sekunde hammock where Vika lay, her golden eyes glowing softly as she stared upwards. Her snowy white hair, night gown, and even her pale skin seemed to reflect the light of the moon-rays that seeped through the open skylight.
"Yeah, my family. But also my Marafiki and school and the city. It's so quiet and peaceful here. It's nice, but..."
There was silence between the girls for a moment. The waves crashed on the beach, pwani just outside. No car horns honked, no helicopter rotors thudded as the massive aircrafts flew between the buildings. No teenage heroines yelling at speedsters to stop stealing their food.
The door creaked open and the girls turned their attention to it as Alek walked in quietly.
"Can't sleep either?" Vika asked. Alek shook his head. She smiled and motioned to the air chair beside the door. Alek took it gratefully and contributed to the silence.
"What do wewe miss most about uigizaji as heros?" the shapeshifter asked softly.
"That's a hard one," Alek replied quietly.
"Miss M's homemade, half burned cookies," Aryess said, "Messing with the newbies that showed up at least once a week."
"Delta's blackmail," Alek said. "The bila mpangilio paintball fights that would break out in our base."
"That's because wewe were never the target of them," his partner muttered, a smile gracing her lips.
"Sweeping the streets for criminals in the crime-infested city." Nic had come in so quietly the three jumped at his voice. He leaned against the ukuta beside the doorway. "Catching them and kicking their asses. wewe guys are having a party and didn't invite me?" he added; the humor relaxed the others who had tensed at his sudden appearance.
Vika alisema in a dreamy tone after a moment, "What about the ones wewe love?"
They all looked down.
"Sorry," she alisema quickly, "I didn't mean-"
"My girl," Alek said, his voice obtaining an almost unidentifiable hint of pain, "she is the one I miss most of all. She seems to be full of secrets, distant maybe, but," a smile graced his lips, "her intentions are good, her moyo is pure. My own moyo aches to see her again."
Nic set a hand on the younger boy's shoulder in the silence that followed.
"B," Aryess alisema so quietly the others almost missed it. "I keep wondering how he's doing, where he is, if he's okay. He acts so quiet and sad around others, but he's stronger than they know, than maybe he himself knows. I just want to see him one zaidi time, hear his voice, feel his arms around me." She stopped and rolled onto her back as tears filled her eyes.
"You will," Vika said, "Both of wewe will see your loves again. That's why you're here, right? To make sure they'll be safe, until wewe go back."
"It's late," the eldest pronounced, "let's go back to our room, Alek, and leave the ladies to sleep."
Alek nodded and stood. "Goodnight, girls," he said.
"Goodnight, Alek," they alisema in unison. Nic nodded to them and closed the door behind him and the other boy.
"Goodnight, Aryess," Vika whispered.
A few moments later, Aryess heard Vika's breaths even out below her. It was a awhile until she succumbed to sleep herself; until it did she continued looking up at the night sky, the stars reflecting off her sparkling grey eyes. It was the steady, rhythmic heartbeat of the ocean that finally delivered her to the land of dreams.