Asphalt and Ablution (Pt.3)

Sharon waited till it was evening to move them out of the high rise. It wasn’t a choice she wanted to make, it was relatively secure all things considered, but it was also a good place to get trapped, and she was definitely still on a wanted list.

The day hadn’t been wasted, of course. Early morning, she left a small note that she pinned with a nail to the inside of their shelter stating she was going to get food and clothes, so don’t go anywhere, and that expedition had been rather straightforward. Descend forty some odd flights of unfinished structure, cross several blocks of monitored and patrolled city streets, cut through a few alleys, and break in to a store that hadn’t opened yet, one that looked to be without alarms or security. She didn’t like the fact that she had to steal, but it was a basic part of what she was now. Her appearance identified her as an enemy of the state, Luthor’s state, and she couldn’t trust every civilian under LexCorp's dominion to keep their silence on her activity.

She got to see that first hand on her way back, hoping to clear the streets before the sun was up.

Merely two blocks from the construction site, she spotted several armored vehicles and a good number of soldiers mingled with law enforcement, casing the alleys she had first come through the day before. No surprise, she also saw the homeless man she had practically fallen onto during… during that episode. In all honesty, she couldn’t blame him. What was he supposed to do, living under conditions like these? It was the reason why the teams never got too involved in the States.

It took three hours and hiding in an abandoned apartment nearby, watching from the fourth floor, before she could see the soldiers pack up and clear out. Some of the law enforcement stayed, but not for long. She did a rooftop sweep of the area before crossing back to her skyline hide.

When she returned, she found herself relieved that the girl had stayed put, sitting up and waiting for her to return, staring with big eyes as she slid over the wall of crates and dropped her sack of loot. They shared a real breakfast that morning, a cold breakfast, but it was better than food pulled from the trash. That’s when she finally got a response out of her.

“Casey,” she had said, having finished her breakfast first.

“What?”

“My name. Its Casey.”

Sharon had stopped eating, realizing for the first time that she hadn’t even bothered to ask ever since picking her up. She set the food aside. “Casey, that’s a very nice name,” she held out a hand, “I’m-"

“Mila,” Casey beat her to the response. “I remember.”

That got her to smile. “Yeah, about that…” she reoriented herself and sat up straight, “My first name is Sharon. Mila is… a sort of nickname, drawn from my middle name, Milana. It’s a sort of Russian tradition or something close to that anyway. You can still call me that, if you like, I just use that name when…” when she was dealing with children, or extremely traumatized victims that aren’t up to using six letter words.

Casey didn’t say anything in response, or at least nothing Sharon could hear. Probably for the best at the moment.

Sharon gave her some space to change, and to have first pick of clothing. Sharon figured she’d probably end up wearing most of her current clothes, which she suspected to possess an awful smell but was beyond the point of noticing it herself. Were a laundromat available for her to use without risk of being arrested, she’d use it.

What came over the wall of crates however was an encouraging sight for certain. She had layered up, chosen the khaki cargos she’d brought back and probably one of the pairs of yoga pants underneath that she had looted without counting. She had donned a russet brown hoodie and, to Sharon’s slight disappointment, also claimed the leather jacket. She had been hoping to wear that one herself.

When Sharon clambered over, she swapped her toxic smelling under-layers for new ones, only realizing now how truly frigid it was so far up. Socks were in surplus, but the shoes she brought back for Casey hadn't been taken. She mulled on it as she drew an oversized black hoodie over her head and plate carrier. Had they been the wrong size?

Sharon clambered back over and held up the extra hiking shoes. “Did none of them fit? Thought I had your size nailed down.”

Casey pointed to her feet. Sure enough, brand new hiking shoes of half decent quality adorned her feet. “I’ve… had these for a short while now.”

Sharon smiled, of course she had decent shoes already. Girl had been surviving Gotham hellscape for what could easily have been two thirds or even half of her life by now. Should have expected her to have something already. Turns out it was the shoes.

In any event, she was sort of easy to miss on the street now, and tossed Casey a spare backpack with the rest of the clothes, her own pack being reloaded with her standard loadout of medical and both rifles broken down to their base parts. Her fifty action express stayed holstered, but now the holster was on her chest rig rather than her hip.

They left under the cover of night. Sharon wasn’t exactly sure where she wanted to go, but she was sure she didn’t want it in the heart of the city. In all honesty, she should have made a plan. Something that involved a lot of rooms maybe, lots of egress, maybe some upper floors with routes to ground. All things that their makeshift penthouse didn’t have. She wouldn’t pass on something with underground either.

In the immediate moment, Sharon basically had to hold Casey's hand as they walked Gotham’s streets, and it was a walk rather than her usual pace. With hoods up, they meandered down alleys, shuffling into shadows like the other ghosts of the streets, averting their eyes from the searching gaze of LexCorp’s police. It was easy, sort of, for Sharon, as she had plenty of years in acting like she belonged in a variety of places. Casey though she could tell was having a far harder time, every pass of searchlights resulting in her burying herself in Sharon's back, gripping her hand and arm like she ran the risk of being ripped away at any moment. And maybe that wasn’t entirely untrue.

At two points they came near conflict, both times being bold headed vultures picking among Gotham's carcass for easy marks to satisfy their hunger. Both times she backed them down with a show of her gun, far bigger and more dangerous than the crooked knives they threatened them with. One man they came across appeared to be the victim of such circumstances. Sharon knelt down by his body, turning his head and checking for breath or pulse. Both were gone, and his body was ice cold. She let the fallen lie, and kept moving onwards.

She tracked the hours as they passed, keeping her mind focused on the task at hand. One alley surprised her with a layer of black ice, which Casey recovered her from.

“I’m okay,” she had said, “just a slip, nothing broken.” She went to stand and for the briefest moment her mind wandered to how it was good that this was just ice and not another Crane induced episode. The moment she thought it, the head pounded came, and her knees took leave of their posts supporting her load, leaving her to crumple, dragging poor Casey with her. Her vision melted into vague darkness, and time passed her by. When she came to, Casey was shaking her, and probably saying something but Sharon couldn’t hear it. She only stopped when Sharon took control of her arms.

“Mila?” Casey asked in that whisper level voice she had.

“I’m okay,” Sharon repeated, focusing very hard on two sentences in her mind. Breathe in. Breathe out.

“You’re not okay,” Casey replied. “You need rest. Real rest.”

“We can rest when we’ve found someplace safe,” she replied.

Casey stared long and hard at her before asking her next question. “Where is safe, Mila?”

Couldn’t pretend like she had a plan forever, but what other choice was there? “Someplace with lots of ways to escape, but few ways to enter. Preferably,” she rubbed her beating head, “someplace without as many levels to it. I’m a little sick of stairs.”

Casey's gaze went beyond her into the horizon, waiting a moment before speaking again. “Would you be okay outside Gotham?”

“More than okay, actually.”

“Like a manor?”

Sharon turned to follow her gaze, and sure enough, the silhouette of a distant hilltop could be seen with a lonely looking set of structures together, above the carnage that Sharon had crossed through into the city so many nights ago.

“I think I could go for that,” she answered.

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