He leapt over the gap between the buildings, cursing under his breath. The thug who had thought to rob his favorite Chinese grocer had put up a fight and Raphael's wrist ached for it. He had left the man lying in a pool of his own blood as sirens wailed. The thug would live, Raphael knew, minus a few teeth. Raphael acknowledged his own pain and pushed it aside to be dealt with later, if necessary. He had to concentrate for he had heard muffled shouts and a woman's scream—abruptly interrupted—coming from another alley. Raphael smiled a slow smile. Tonight was going to be a busy night.

His smile faded, however, as he neared the Lucky 13 bar. He knew before his keen eyes confirmed it that the bartender who worked the late shift had been the one who screamed. He cursed himself this time for being late. It had become his routine four nights a week to see the woman home in his own way—silent and unseen—and the one time she needed him, he wasn't there.

Raphael sped up, streaking across the rooftops with uncanny speed and silence. He saw them, in the dim, hot light of the alley and it was worse than he thought.

They already had her subdued, they were already tearing at her clothes—three of them, one pinning her against the wall and the other two waiting their turn. Raphael shimmied down a lamppost while simultaneously drawing his sais. He landed on the ground with the smallest of muffled thuds, directly behind the two men who stood nervously joshing one another and cheering the third man on. He swept the heads of the two together and they crumpled to the ground in a heap, likely never knowing what hit them. The third, fumbling at his belt, didn't see Raphael either until it was much too late.

His brothers, specifically Leonardo, had frequently commented on Raphael's temper. They called him 'hotheaded' and 'fiery' if they were being nice and 'reckless' and 'a bastard' if they were not. Raphael was okay with that. He took the comments like one takes a tacky gift that you know you're never going to use. You say 'thank you' politely and then discard it. To Raphael, they were silly little words that barely scratched the surface of the emotion that welled in him like a pool of molten rock.

The depth of his anger, the white-hot force of it, his brothers never knew.

They were glad for it in battle, when Raphael dispatched an enemy who was getting the best of them, to be sure. But they would never know the pure rage he felt that someone would dare try to hurt his family. There was a secret behind his anger, one that not even Splinter understood… Raphael killed as he did, with his anger fueling his every movement, only for the simple reason that he had to die before anyone else he loved did, and when an enemy tried to take that away from him, Raphael had no mercy.

He had no mercy for the thug either that pressed the woman against the wall—she beyond fear so that she only whimpered like a wounded cat. The thug wasn't a real threat to him and didn't deserve death, not yet, but if Raphael had come a minute later, he would have.

But the would-be rapist was already treading very thin ice. The woman was not Raphael's kin, but there was nothing in him at that moment to make that distinction. He grabbed the thug, a young man in a dirty shirt and three days worth of beard on his narrow face, and spun him around, so that Raphael's green visage, alien and fierce, was inches from the his.

"Give me one reason I shouldn't end you," the turtle hissed, clutching the man around the throat and laying the prong of his sai to his gut.

The thug went pale with fear, but his lips curled in a twisted version of a smile. "Wait your turn, freak," he returned with a croak of a laugh.

The man's face contorted with pain and his rasping laugh died away as Raphael squeezed the hand clutching his throat. "Wrong answer," he grunted, as a red haze descended over him. He drove his steel weapon into the man's stomach. Like a thick pillow, he punctured flesh and skin and Raphael felt his hand washed hot and sticky with blood.

The life in the man drained out, and so he slid down the wall and Raphael let him go. Almost as quickly as it had come, his anger faded and he breathed heavily for a moment. One hundred and seventeen.

A crunch of glass and a strangled cry brought him around. He looked and saw the woman, her clothes in tatters around her, was crawling away. She had knelt in a nest of broken glass; her knee trailed uneven stains of blood on the dirty pavement, but she did not stop.

Raphael sheathed his sai. It was not safe to stay out. Death in the street, no matter how quiet, seemed to be sensed by others, and soon the wail of yet another set of sirens would be heard. Raphael almost left then, to make his escape before he had real trouble to contend with. Instinct told him to go, but this woman was no regular victim. She would not stand in the glare of any TV crew describing how she thought she was a goner but some heroic stranger had saved her and hadn't even stuck around for a 'thank you.' She was in a bad way. Her breath was coming in short, truncated gasps and her clothes, torn and dirty, exposed her enough so that even Raphael felt a redness in his face for looking at her. And besides that, he had killed for her and so now—somehow— she was his responsibility.

"Hey," he said softly, gently touching her shoulder.

The woman whimpered at his touch but did not cease her agonized crawl down the alley. Raphael glanced around quickly, assessing the situation.

There came a time in the lives of he and his brothers when the choice whether or not to reveal themselves to another came. It didn't happen frequently—there was no great collection of grateful shop owners and blind old ladies who counted the four mutants as their secret friends. But some instances, born of necessity, showed themselves as they had with April, as they had with Casey. And this was one of those times.

Quickly, Raphael removed his long trench coat and knelt beside the woman. She was still trying to escape, one hand clutching at her torn top, the other scraping along the littered ally. She stopped and let out a little cry as his coat fell over her shoulders and she looked up at him with wide, wild eyes.

"It's okay," Raphael soothed awkwardly, wishing suddenly that Michelangelo were there. His little brother was much better at this sort of thing than he—always ready with a small joke to take the sting out of the inevitable freak-out that was coming. But the woman did not scream, she only looked at Raphael. She took in his face under the red mask—his wide, green mouth and brown eyes that were the most human part of him and she did not scream.

"Wha—wha…you?" she gasped.

What are you? she asked and Raphael, feeling time speeding past him, only shrugged.

"Help," he said.

The woman took this in and seemed to approve. She nodded weakly and Raphael took a quick inventory of her. Aside from a few bruises the thug hadn't hurt her, but her knee was a mess—a pincushion of jagged glass and dripping blood. Without thinking, without wanting another moment that belonged to his escape to slip away, Raphael helped her draw on his coat, covering her nakedness, and then lifted her easily in his arms. She was a small thing, not much taller than he, and very light. She clutched the trench around her protectively and astonished Raphael by leaning her head against his plastron. He held her tightly for a moment, wanting to hold her together, wanting her to not feel as undone as she probably did. And then he took off.

He didn't know where to go, but away was the only real destination. He held her easily and raced down one alley and then another, sticking always to the shadows.

"Where do you live?"

She looked up at him, her rapid breathing easing slightly and told him, without hesitation, her address. Raphael nodded, inwardly cursing for he had gone—of course—three blocks in the exact opposite direction. He started to move and she clutched at him.

"Are… they c-coming after us?" she whispered.

Raphael shook his head. "No. You're safe."

The woman nodded and pressed her face against him and that's how he ran with her to her apartment.

There was no going in the front door, of course. He climbed the fire escape with agility, not at all encumbered by her slight weight in his arms. The window, he was glad to see, was open, no doubt to let some of the stifling July heat vent out. He shoved it open and crawled inside, still holding her tight against him.

The room was dimly lit, and very small. In three strides he was at the couch and he gently laid her down. She shrank into the cushions, still clutching his trench coat around her protectively. Raphael stood for a moment, unsure.

"That needs looking at," he said, indicating her knee. But the woman shook her head vigorously. She was in a shock, a mild form of it, but Raphael had seen it enough times to know that she wasn't about to get up and call a cab to take her to the hospital. She was looking at him with her wild, frantic eyes but the meaning in them was clear: This is between you and me now. Just you and me…

Raphael nodded. "Okay."

He crossed to the kitchen and rummaged around in her cupboards. He found a bottle of vodka in one and a dirty glass in the sink. Vodka was not his first choice but it would do. He poured a fair amount of the clear liquor into the glass and returned to the couch. She was fumbling to light a cigarette from a pack on the table but her hands trembled so badly, she kept dropping the Zippo.

"Here, drink this," Raphael said, pressing the glass into her hand. She sipped at it and then he lit her cigarette for her.

"Thank you," she whispered brokenly and tears suddenly filled her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. She wasn't sobbing, not really. It was as though her eyes had simply sprung a leak and that was shock too.

"No problem," Raphael said. He knelt beside her. "I have to clean this up," he told her.

That's what he said. What he meant was that he had to push his coat up to her thigh, that he had to touch her with his green, three-fingered hands. But she only nodded.

He slowly lifted the coat and assessed the damage. Now he wished Donatello were there, for his brother knew best how to clean and dress wounds. But Raphael had seen his fair share and had watched Don work on himself or his brothers countless times over the years. He nodded once to himself, and rose from his crouch.

"You gotta first aid kit?"

She shrugged and then shook her head no, taking a shaky drag off her cigarette and spilling ash down the front of his coat.

"Well, I gotta go rootin' around your place, then," Raphael told her. "Hope you don't mind."

The woman made some sort of noise the turtle took for, "That is perfectly fine by me," and he went to her bathroom to gathering supplies.

Under her sink, behind the tampon boxes and dozens of bottles of dark nail polish, he found a manicure set. He dumped the contents into the sink and pawed through them until he found a pair of tweezers. He also found a roll of gauze, never opened, behind some sort of hair-drying contraption. He snatched that up, along with a bottle of hydrogen peroxide. Then he returned to the kitchen where, under that sink, he found a wiry brillo pad. He doused the pad in vodka, then tucked the bottle under his arm and returned to the couch.

The woman was breathing better, but her wide-eyed gaze went here, there, and everywhere.

"What's yer name?" Raphael asked, kneeling beside her and laying out his tools on the coffee table.

"Jaime Rhodes," she said, her voice slightly stronger.

Jaime. It's perfect on her. "Hey, Jaime," he said. "I'm Raphael."

She managed to look at him for half a second—to take in his distinctly non-human shape and color—before looking away again. "That's pretty," she said.

"Yeah, it's pretty all right," he muttered, studying her knee. Slowly, he laid one hand on the smooth skin of her calf and took the tweezers in the other. "You a bartender, Jaime?" he asked. Stupid question, he thought, but once when Michelangelo had dislocated his shoulder, Donatello had kept asking questions to try to keep their little brother's mind off the pain while he prepared to reset it. It seemed to work okay then, so Raphael kept going. "You work at the Lucky 13, right?"

Jaime nodded.

"How long you worked there?" He was deftly plucking shards of glass—some long and nasty and some short—from the flesh of her knee, but if it hurt her at all, she showed no sign.

"I don't know," she murmured. "A while. W-where do you come from, Raphael?"

Raphael didn't look up from his work. "Around."

"What are you?" she asked again.

"It's a long story, Jaime," he told her. The skin of her calf was soft under his hand. He glanced up from his work and she quickly looked away. "Sometime, maybe, I'll tell ya."

He didn't mean it, of course. It was strangely nice to be in her apartment, this woman he had watched from afar for so longl. And touching her leg was an added bonus, but he held no illusions that she wanted him there. Not really. She was in shock and he was helping her, and if things went as he hoped, the adrenaline in her veins would run its course and she'd suddenly become supremely tired. She would sleep and he would leave and that would be the end of it. Better for her that way; Raphael didn't have the luxury of wondering if it was better for him.

"Raphael?" She seemed to like saying his name.

"Yeah?" he replied, laying aside the tweezers. The large shards of glass were out but she had gravel and glass dust scraped into her knee. He took a break and poured her another bit of vodka because the next step was going to hurt like a sonofabitch.

"Raphael, what happened to… to those men?"

To buy time, the turtle took a swig of vodka straight out of the bottle. She didn't know, not yet, but she had a suspicion. Even out of her mind with terror, she must have sensed the death. A living being just knows, but Raphael wasn't so sure she was ready to hear it spoken aloud.

"They're not going to hurt you anymore," he said and her lower lip began to tremble.

"I'm usually ready," she said, her sobs starting to catch up to her crying eyes. "I h-have pepper spray, b-but they were too fast."

"Sshh, hey, it's okay," Raphael said. He hated to see women cry. Whenever April teared up that was his cue to leave the room. He patted Jaime awkwardly on the shoulder.

"If you hadn't come…"Jaime was sobbing openly now, rough shudders shaking her body. Raphael took the vodka glass out of her hand that was one sob away from dumping its contents down his coat. He continued to pat her on the shoulder, feeling like an ass the whole time. When April was upset, Donatello hugged her until she felt better. Raphael wondered if he was supposed to do the same. I sure as shit wouldn't mind…

Then as abruptly as they had begun, her sobs ceased and she fumbled for another cigarette. She seemed suddenly angry, and Raphael recognized the ping-ponging emotions as part of the shock too. She's more shaken up than I had thought. 'Course, can you blame her? I'm probably not exactly the knight in shining armor she envisioned…

As though to prove his words, she took a drag off her smoke and snapped, "But just what the fuck are you? A big…what? A turtle?"

"Yep," Raphael said, gritting his teeth. Her derision—shock-induced or no—stung him more than he liked or had expected.

She snorted and took another shaky drag. She wasn't looking at him and tears were welling in her eyes again—the anger was slipping away as quickly as it had come. He could see she was unnerved by her rampaging emotions and more than a little bit frightened at her inability to control them. Raphael forgave her immediately. "You got family?"

She nodded and said rapidfire, "Yes. A grandmother. She's nice. Sends me money."

"Sounds good."

"What about you?" she ventured, slower now. "You have a…family?"

Are there others like you? is what she meant. Raphael nodded. "Yep. Father, three brothers."

"And your father?" she asked. "Is he…the same?"

"No…uh, no," Raphael replied. So far, she had done okay with the fact that there was a mutant turtle scraping glass out of her knee, and that he wasn't the only one in the city, but in her delicate condition he thought he'd be pressing his luck if he told her Splinter was a giant rat.

But Jaime either saw his hesitation or was too out of it to press him further. Or maybe she just doesn't want to know that badly. Hell, I can't blame her.

But she surprised him by asking gently, "Are they…like you?"

Raphael nodded. "Yeah. My brothers are like me."

"What are their names?"

"Leonardo, Michelangelo, and Donatello," he said, and dabbed her knee with gauze dampened by hydrogen peroxide.

"Why? I mean, what's the, um, story?" Jaime asked. She took another sip of vodka, no doubt in an effort to smooth her words that were coming out choppy and broken.

"Our father found an old art book lying around and thought they sounded good, I guess. I'm not really sure. I never asked him."

"He's right," Jaime said. "They do sound…good."

Raphael shrugged. He began folding a strip of gauze into a square to serve as a bandage. "They're all right. Mikey says all the good ones end in 'O'."

"I like your name, Raphael," Jaime said quietly.

Raphael didn't say anything and he didn't look up at her. He laid the square of gauze over her knee and began winding another long strip over and around her leg to hold it in place.

"Tell me about them. Your brothers."

All the old cautions coming back—the ones that Leonardo was forever harping on; warnings that they should never, ever tell outsiders more than they needed to know. It was one point Raphael actually agreed with Leo about so he was surprised to hear himself answer truthfully.

"Well, Leo's the oldest and our leader, I s'pose. Donnie's the smart one and Mikey is always out for a good time."

"What about you?"

Raphael shrugged again, his eyes on his work. "Not much to say about me. I'm the one that picks fights and stays out too late."

"I'm so glad," Jaime said with a sigh, "that you stay out too late." He glanced up at her then. She was looking not at him, but at the wall beyond, and he could tell by the shine in her eyes that her shock was wearing off and her mind—her rational mind—was starting to confront what had happened.

"Tell me more about them, your brothers," she said, fighting back the tears. "It's too quiet and then I start thinking of other things, you know?"
"I don't know what else to say about them—"

"Anything."

He thought for a minute before speaking. It wasn't often someone asked him to talk about his brothers—April and Casey had been around long enough. But once he started talking, he just kept going, for he was suddenly proud for them, and the affinity he felt for them, the kind words he could never say to them, he said to Jaime.

"Well, Michelangelo is the youngest. He gets picked on a lot, especially by me, because he pulls pranks and can be a pain in the ass. But he's always happy, that guy. He's always smiling and making jokes and finding the best in things and people. You might think he's soft and weak for it, but I think he may be the strongest one of all of us sometimes. I mean, how can you knock a guy who faces all the shit life throws at us with that goofy laugh of his? Mikey's a much better guy than we give him credit for. He's a much better guy than me, that's for sure."

"Uh huh." Jaime took a deep breath and a less shaky drag off her cigarette.

"Donatello is real quiet," Raphael continued. "Not like he's shy or anything, he just kind of blends into the background sometimes 'cause he's always working on his computer or his lab or something. You sort of forget he's there until you need him and then you're real glad he's there. He's a damn genius and if we weren't how we are, he'd be working for some huge company, making piles of dough and livin' the good life. His mind was born into the wrong body, I s'pose. That's Don, anyway."

"And the other one? Leonardo?" She was listening intently now and the glassy shine of fear in her eyes was finally starting to dim.

"Leonardo…" Raphael agreed "He's our leader, like I said, and he sure takes a lot of shit for it. Again, mostly from me. But he doesn't complain. He's like the guy at the bottom of the totem pole, you know? He's got all of us on him, weighing him down, but he just takes it. He takes all our shit, all of my shit….We fight a lot, him and me. That's on account of how we don't see eye to eye on a lot of stuff. But when it comes down to it, when the shit hits the fan in the end, he's going to be left standing, I just know it. And that's how it should be."

"You mean, you'd die for him," Jaime said dully.

Raphael glanced sharply at her. "Right, well, you're all set," he said. He tied the end of his makeshift bandage so that it was secure around her knee. "That should hold you until tomorrow at least. You should see a doctor though. You probably need some stitches and maybe a tetanus shot, or something. Hell, I don't know."

She nodded but he saw that she wasn't really listening anymore. Her eyes were still on the wall and the ash on her cigarette was growing longer and starting to droop. Raphael stood up from his kneeling position beside the couch, intending to leave.

"I'm so tired, Raphael," Jaime said without looking at him, "but I feel like there is something I should say to you. Not 'thank you'. That sounds weak and…poor. But something…"

"You don't have to tell me anything," Raphael said.

She shook her head in disagreement, but her eyes were closing against her will, just as he knew they would now that the shock had ebbed from her. "I hate being afraid," she murmured. "And I was so afraid of what was going to happen, afraid of them, that I wasn't afraid of you." She met his eyes and smiled thinly. "Does that make sense?"

"Yeah. It does."

Jaime nodded, satisfied. "I just…I'm really glad for you, Raphael. No matter what. No matter that you seem unreal to me. I'm so glad that you're not. You are real…"

Her eyes closed again and Raphael thought she had fallen asleep, and he felt the time had come for him to leave. But my coat…His trench was wrapped around her and there was no way to remove it without, at the very least, waking her up. And at worst, she's going to think I'm a pervert like those assholes who jumped her.

Raphael stood for a moment, pondering his dilemma, when Jaime flinched suddenly and her eyes flew open.

"Dammit," she whispered. "Goddammit to hell." Her eyes were filling up again and she looked at him. "You need to go, huh? You need your coat back and you're going to leave and I probably won't see you again. Shit, I'm too tired to do this right. I want to talk to you but I can't keep my eyes open and when I close them I see those men. Will you stay with me, Raphael? For a little while? I'm not like this, really. I'm not a chickenshit, but…Stay with me. Please."

Raphael said nothing for a moment. She seemed so ashamed of her fear but he wanted to tell her he would stay with her as long as she needed him, that he had wanted to ever since he stepped foot in her tiny apartment. He knelt beside her again, this time closer to where her head lay.

"Yeah, I'll stay with you, Jaime," he said in a low voice. "Get some sleep, will ya? I'll be here when you wake up."

She nodded weakly, and her eyelids fell shut again and this time they didn't open again until the morning. It was then, with the sunlight creeping into her tiny livingroom and onto his green skin and glinting off the hard shell of his back, that he thought she would awake to find her oh-so-bizarre nightmare was actually real, and then she'd scream and cry and fly into hysterics. But she didn't.

Jaime smiled at Raphael, she on the couch and he curled uncomfortably in the chair across from her, and offered to make him some coffee. Like it was nothing. Like I was anyone. Raphael looked away quickly and shrugged.

"Yeah, sure. Why not?"

And that's how it happened.

Jaime wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and said into the silence that had descended thickly after Raphael had finished, "You should have kissed me."

"When?" he asked, and set his beer down before she could see in his hands how her question had thrown him. Holy shit, here it is. After all this time. But instead of feeling happy or hopeful, a sour bitterness settled over him. She wasn't declaring her love or lust for him, she was merely resentful he hadn't ripped the bandage off the wound a lot sooner. This is not how it's supposed to go.

"When should I have kissed you?" he repeated. "When you were lying there, all fucked up and scared? You think—"

"No," Jaime cut in. "Tonight. Last night. Any night you been here since fucking July," she said, her voice rising with every word. "You think you can just go and do something like that? Kill some guy and then we're just…what? The same as everyone else?" She rose up off the couch to stand over him. "That we're normal?"

"You don't want me to, Jaime. Believe me."

"Maybe. But if you had, then it wouldn't be a fucking issue anymore. It would just be done and that's it."

"Yeah, right. And every time you flinch away, I'll just take it. I'll just pretend I can't feel how much you wish I was just some guy and not what I am."

"It's not like that."

"I'm not stupid, Jaime. And I'm not going to let you torture me because you feel like you owe me something."

"It's… not… like… that," she said again, speaking each word slowly and distinctly through clenched teeth.

Raphael whirled on her. "It is like that!" he seethed, gripping her forearm hard enough to make her flinch. "You did it tonight and you'll do it again. You think because I helped you that night that you owe me? Maybe you like me, and maybe you could force yourself to kiss me or fuck me or whatever, but it'd mostly be out of pity or duty. Well, no thanks." He released her arm and pretended he didn't see the red marks he had left on her pale skin.

"Duty?" Jaime spat back. "Just what the hell do you take me for? That my thanks for saving my ass would be to sleep with you?"

"No, you'd do it because maybe you like me enough, but it wouldn't last," Raphael retorted. "You don't like me well enough to make a habit out of it, that's for goddamn sure. And even if you did, I would know the truth. I would know every time you got invited to one of your precious parties that I couldn't come to. I'd know any time one of your friends dropped by and you shoved me in the closet like some kind of dirty secret. And you'd feel embarrassed and all that shit. I'd know. And I'd hate it and that's why I never kissed you no matter how badly I wanted to. Because it's not up to me. It's up to you, Jaime. You gotta decide if you can handle this, 'cause there's not a goddamn thing I can do about it. And you know what? I shouldn't have to. I don't want to."

Raphael felt as though, but for the night he told her about his brothers, that he'd never spoken more words in a row in his entire life. His penetrating gaze—the one Mikey called his 'death glare'—was fixed on her and unrelenting. She met his gaze…for a time and then slumped. She wiped her hand over her eyes and shook her head, her mane of curls falling over her shoulders.

"It's not fair," she cried. "No goddamn fair. What am I supposed to do? I'd become a liar to everyone I know. And I would have to hide you, Raphael, for the exact same reason you can't step foot outside without that trench coat! So don't talk to me about how poor, poor Raphael doesn't get to play with my friends when you know perfectly goddamn well that it's impossible."

"Others have done it," Raphael spat. "We have friends. We—"

"Good for them. I'd like to meet these enlightened and honorable friends of yours," Jaime returned, her tone soured by sarcasm. "I'm sure they're saints, each and every fucking one of them, but don't tell me they parade you and your brothers around their friends and family, because I know they don't."

"That's right, they don't," Raphael said, his voice trembling with rage. "They don't tell anyone to protect our safety, not because they're fucking ashamed."

Jaime opened her mouth and then snapped it shut again, an angry retort dying in her mouth. "I'm not ashamed. I'm not."

Raphael looked at her a moment, held her gaze. "I don't believe you."

A silence descended that grew long until he sighed. Tears filled her eyes then and Raphael felt his anger melt away. He stepped closer to her, touched her arms. "You have a choice, Jaime. You can make it fair, if you want." If you want me enough. He held his breath, waiting, and when she looked up at him, hope flared at what he saw in her eyes…and then died.

He saw her take him in and then retreat. If she held his eyes, if she locked on to his brown-eyed gaze, she might make it. His eyes were the most human part about him, but they were not enough. Her own trailed slowly over the rest of him, down to the green, three-fingered hands that were touching her. He saw himself in her own brown depths and didn't like what he saw. I am not that, came a thought and suddenly it became so much easier to turn and leave.

"Okay, then," he said, his voice low and gruff. He turned and picked up his sais, put on his coat and cap. "At least I know."

"Raphael…" Her voice was pleading but only half-hearted. That stung him almost as much.

He moved to the window and hauled it up. Cold air swirled in and Jaime hugged herself. Raphael cursed at the urge that still lived in him to go to her and protect her and keep her safe from cold or any goddamn thing at all. But it was dying too. He loved her, and he could understand her aversions, but he was not about to let those aversions tear him up.

Raphael had one leg out the window and one leg in. He stopped and turned to her—her cheeks streaked with tears she wasn't bothering to wipe away. "This is me," he said. "The way I am is how I saved you that night."

"I know," she said in a small voice but nothing more.

A tight smile touched Raphael's wide, flat, and green mouth. "Yeah, so do I."

And then the windowsill was empty.

He watched her home for the rest of that week before she moved away to some unknown part of the city. She walked fast, kept her eyes on the ground, and didn't run into any trouble. The vengeful part of him almost wished she would have so that he might prove how much she needed him.

Maybe she could have learned to overlook the differences that separated them but Raphael didn't want to endure the time it would take for her to do it. And so he said a silent goodbye as she rounded the corner to her apartment that final night and he didn't look back. He bounded silently over the rooftops and didn't hear the soft step of her footsteps come back around, nor did he hear her whispered words, tinged with regret and ice and swallowed by the frigid air. If he had, he might have stopped and reconsidered, just for the rarity of hearing such words from the mouth of a beautiful woman.

But Raphael was already gone, swallowed into that same cold, and Jaime stood alone in the shadows and asked again and again for the night to give him back.

END