Disclaimer: Not even remotely mine. Bugger.
A/N: Written for the prompt 'A female villain in a story whose title includes the word "Sky"'.
Continuity: Post-Lightspeed, but before Titans Together.
Feedback: Reviews valued beyond measure.
-Pie in the Sky
© Scribbler, August 2006.
"If you're going to follow me, the least you could do is stop leaving me roses."
"If you say so." His voice isn't a laugh. It's not even close, but it still feels like one. Everything he says feels like it's said with a smile, even the really corny heroic stuff.
"It's not like I've got anywhere to keep them."
"And besides, I don't even like roses."
"No, I don't. I like …" She fumbles for another flower. Botany was never her strong suit. "I like orchids. Actually."
The back-draft rustles the hairs on the nape of her neck. She takes another few determined strides before she finds the little smoked-glass vase with a spray of yellow flowers in it. She has no idea if they're orchids or not, but suspects they are, and so kicks it over and keeps on walking.
It's too much to hope for that this tiny gesture would dissuade him.
"You hungry? Because I know a great little place not far from here that does the best apple pie this side of Gotham."
"No, I'm not hungry." She bites off each word as if it's an insult. She's still smarting, and he's an easy – and above all available – target.
"Sure you are. You're skin and bones. And I know you didn't eat anything back at your headquarters. All this walking on an empty stomach is totally bad for you, sweetheart, no matter what the fashion magazines say."
"I don't want any pie. I don't even like pie," she snaps.
"Oh come on. Everybody likes pie. My personal favourite is short-crust pastry base, puff pastry shell, with banoffee, vanilla, coconut, peanut butter, jelly, and strawberry puree filling, topped with whipped cream and a lemon glaze, and all covered in chocolate and mocha sprinkles."
She can't help herself. Her nose wrinkles and she sticks out her tongue. "That sounds completely disgusting."
"When you have a super-fast metabolism, you gotta ingest all the calories you can, as fast as you can. Especially when you're as active as me. There's this little café on the outskirts of Metropolis that makes that pie for me. Heavenly. Just like you."
She doesn't send the message for her feet to stop, but they do. They turn of their own accord, too, and even though she told herself she wouldn't look at him again she finds she's searching him out while the anger bubbles in her throat.
He leans against a streetlight, perfectly nonchalant, like he hasn't just followed her all the way out of Jump City and along the embankment of the freeway. Originally she stuck to unoccupied areas so she wouldn't be caught by overzealous law enforcement, but gave up that idea when she reached the forested hills and stepped in three consecutive mounds of animal dung. It added time onto her journey to cut through the forest to the freeway, but she has the reassuring crackle of hexes between her fingers to tell her that she doesn't care about that. Really, she doesn't.
She lost track of exactly how far she's walked a while back, right about the time he told her in excruciating detail why he prefers Man in the Iron Mask to The Fast and the Furious.
"Will you stop. Fucking. Saying stuff like that" It isn't a question, and she doesn't make it sound like one, but he still tips his head back and looks at her with those baby blues of his.
"Um, how about no?"
She clenches her teeth. She could just hex the ground, zap up some underground cables to electrocute him. Odds are he's not faster than electricity.
But she doesn't. Instead, she glares ferociously. It's the kind of glare that used to reduce Mammoth to a weeping huddle, but all it does is bounce back into her face like one of those tiny rubber balls you can get for a nickel from machines in supermarkets. "Why the hell are you following me, anyway? Did I say I wanted company? No. Did I ask you to escort me somewhere? No. I just want to be left the hell alone."
"Can't do that, babe. Soul-searching is tricky. Especially when you're making the transfer from bad to good. Consider me your guardian angel until further notice."
"Like I need one," she sneers. "I'm the thing angels are afraid of. And I thought you were supposed to be looking after Jump. Fuck off and do your job, already."
"I burn back every so often to make sure everything's copasetic. All the evil dudes are lying low after that thing with Madame Rouge. You actually did me a favour by bringing her in. They're all scared spitless, and my job's a lot easier, which means I can spend all the more time with you."
He grins. She wants to smack it off his face for what it does to the pit of her belly, and for the horrible, conflicting feelings the memory of Madame Rouge brings up. She's not, actually, ready to deal with all that right now. If ever. Maybe she'll just keep walking until she collapses from exhaustion. Then she'll never have to think about what comes next for her.
She looks away, and it's not a sigh. It's not. "Just leave me alone. Please."
Hot anger. It boils beneath her skin. Back to snarling. "Fine then." She spins on her heel and marches off, even though her legs ache and sleep might be a good idea soon. She hasn't slept in over forty-eight hours, her clothes feel icky, and she probably reeks of B.O. She didn't swing by headquarters before she left. The guys might've been there, and she was even less ready to deal with that than she is to deal with everything else.
"You never told me what your favourite pie is." His voice slides around her like a comforting arm.
"Ha ha. Seriously. I don't believe you don't like it. Pie is life."
"I'm not going to go crazy and start killing people," she mulishly informs him.
"I never said you were," he replies. You could look him up in the dictionary under 'glib'. Also under 'rat bastard'.
"And I'm not going to go on a crime spree to prove I'm still a villain, either."
"Glad to hear it, babe."
Frustration etches her like a flick-knife. "Why are you doing this to me? Why can't you just leave me in peace?"
He doesn't even hesitate. She wonders what it's like to know things – know how you feel about things – so fast that you don't have time to second-guess yourself. Maybe a lot of her life would've been different if she could snap off her thoughts at the base and turn them over in better light; or put her finger on more of herself than she can.
Then again, maybe not.
Do superheroes have self-doubt issues, or are they all perfectly well adjusted? She can think of some really heinous shit that so-called 'superheroes' have done, but they always bounce back afterwards. Or seem to, at least. Is she capable of the same, like he thinks she is? Is she –
No. Not dealing. So not dealing right now.
"Because you need somebody."
Just that. Nothing else. And she's no closer to figuring out why he does stuff, why he believes in her when she can feel herself getting so close to the edge there's almost a breeze from the drop below.
"No I don't," she mutters, and steps in something that squashes under the hard toe and sole of her boot. Oh great. More shit. Except that this doesn't smell like it did in the forest –
A rush of air. She lists crazily to one side, and then falls back into place; and suddenly there's a white dish in front of her with a fresh piece of pie and a spork on it. Her brain makes the connection when she smells hot apples and cinnamon. There's even a blob of ice cream on the side that hasn't had time to melt. Her boot is sparkling clean.
"Someone once told me this is a greatest pie in the history of pie," he says from somewhere behind her. She can feel his shrug like she did it herself. "Seemed a safe bet."
On impulse, she raises her foot to stamp on the offering. No thinking required, destructo girl at your service.
Then she hears Madame Rouge's mocking voice reverberating through her skull: Life is full of disappointments, and you are one of them. And she's nowhere near coping with recent events, but a body is still a body, even if it's aimless and wanted by the authorities and constantly being watched by a wannabe guardian angel that's actually more like a stalker. She'll tell him that when they get going again. She will.
But for now she picks up the dish, settles down with her back against the 'Welcome to Jump City' sign, and eats what truly is a damn good piece of pie.