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He forced himself to look down. He had to see the streets as they were now, not as he remembered them from before. The differences were small. So small, in fact, that the untrained eye might not notice them at all. But Davidson had been playing this game long enough to see the world as it truly was and not the way he thought it should be.

The city had always been dirty; it was just an unavoidable side effect of so many people living in such a small space. It amazed him that their apartment building wasn’t in worse shape than it was, but he chalked that up to an unusually low occupancy for the space.

A part of him thought the planet was taking an opportunity to cleanse itself of its filthy inhabitants, leaving only enough humans that the planet knew it could sustain. Another part of him thought the musing absurd, to give a body of rock thoughts. He entertained these thoughts, back and forth in his mind, because he had nothing else to do. He perched, he watched, and he let his mind wander. Day in and day out, over and over again.

His military training tried to play all the angles, test what little information he had to see if he could draw any sort of logical conclusion. The childish side of him explored the conspiracy theories that his brain cooked up when left to its own devices. The romantic in him woke up every day with a hope of change, for a day that would be better than the ones before, that would break this monotonous chain that held them stuck in time. The pessimist in him assured him things would, in fact, only get worse.

The creak of the rooftop door, compliments of its rusted hinges, jarred him from his thoughts. He welcomed the interruption when he turned to see Lenore slinking through the slot in the doorway. They weren’t on duty today, so he knew she came either to take her ration early or to escape the walls of their confinement.

“Hey,” she greeted him softly as she approached. Everything about her always seemed to come in half measures. Her voice was soft, as if she wasn’t sure if she should speak at all. Her feet dragged as she moved, as if her body and mind couldn’t make the decision of where they wanted to go and when. Even her appearance seemed like it was starting to melt away. Every time he saw her, she looked worse and worse. He wondered, though he would never ask her aloud, if she only carried half a will to keep on living these days. He would never be able to live with himself if he gave up like that.

“Morning,” he called, though it could have been closer to afternoon for all he knew. Probably the only one in the building who still owned a wrist watch, he had decided to stop wearing it about a month ago when time became even more relative and abstract than it had been. If he couldn’t even remember what day it was, did it matter the time?

“Join me at the ledge?” he knew his offer would not be taken, but he offered it every single time with the hope that she would one day change her mind. It was one thing to doubt and criticize or blame and hate, but you had to at least accept your situation in order to survive - even the bare bones of his training had taught him that. But he saw the way she eyed the ledge at the edge of the roof, the twinkle of fear in her eyes. She refused to look, because if she didn’t see it with her own two eyes, then she never had to truly accept the situation. False hope, he called this belief, and he pitied her for it. He knew she wasn’t the only one clinging to it though. They each did in their own ways.

She answered as she always did, “I think I’ll pass.”

“At least have a seat with me,” he offered up as a compromise. Turning to face her, he sunk into a squat. Resting his back against the ledge, he moved the pressure from his feet to his butt as he sat on the hard ground. He saw the hesitation still clear as day on her face, so he sweetened the offer as he began to pat the ground next to him. “I promise I don’t bite,” he raised his eyebrows suggestively, “unless you request it.”

This comment at least earned him a smile and perhaps a chuckle, though she stood too far away for him to be sure. His only reward, however, was a shake of her head as she declined his offer yet again.

“Come on,” he continued to pat the ground with one hand while he beckoned her toward him with a repetitive curl of his index finger. Lenore relented in the end, but he could tell she was not entirely happy with the decision. Her posture hunched as she approached his spot on the ground, no doubt in an attempt to keep her eye level lower than the ledge. By the time she reached the spot next to him, she was practically crawling. A lesser known acquaintance would guess she had a fear of heights or suffered from vertigo. Davidson knew her fear stemmed from the sights rather than the height.

Her sigh of relief was audible as she turned and sat down beside him in the proffered spot.

He took a second to really study her appearance. Up close, she looked much worse than he thought. In the two days since he had last talked to her, her jawbone looked even more pronounced. Her thighs showed the same heft as her lower legs, and all presence of fat and muscle went undetected. He would have to have a talk with Sebastian the next time he saw him. He wondered if she was even eating at all anymore.

Once he finished his assessment he leaned towards her and nudged her with his shoulder. "Nice outfit.  Did you dress up just to impress me?  Because I've told you already, your methods will not work on me, young grasshopper." Ironically, his humor was his latest utility to break uncomfortable situations. A year ago, he didn’t even realize he had a sense of humor.

Davidson watched as the blush climbed across her cheeks. She had to know he was joking, and yet she actually looked ashamed at what she wore. Her fingers played with the frayed fabric at the bottom of the shorts. He pondered if she had been a fashionada in her real life, and if it pained her to wear the same dirty clothes day in and day out without much hope for a better alternative. He was so used to his uniform on missions that he hardly noticed the difference in his own attire now.

“Hey, relax,” he said as he reached out to quiet her still fidgeting fingers, “I was just teasing you.” She pulled on the bottom of her shorts once more before dropping her hands into her lap. He let his hand continue to rest atop of hers.

“How’s your brother doing?” he asked with a quick change of subject, though it was perhaps the stalest subject of all. How were any of them doing? Not well, but alive, which was all they could ask for right then and there. Talking seemed to help mellow her out, though, so he stuck with the tried and true.

“About as well as can be expected, I suppose. Believe it or not, I think he jokes around about it more than you do.” Getting Lenore to talk about Sebastian was exponentially easier than getting her to talk about herself. They stuck together on water duty, and usually had a relatively similar schedule, so they had gotten close the past few months since they were both the only ones still in the building that hadn’t actually lived in the building. Outcasts always tended to seek each other out and stick together, and he and Lenore were not exceptions. But even with the majority of his time spent with her versus any of the other residents, he probably knew the least bit about her. It troubled him and intrigued him at the same time.

“I don’t believe it for a second, but go on.”

This statement warranted a light chuckle from her, as well as a quick roll of her eyes. “I think he uses sarcasm and humor as a way of coping. I do the same thing.”

With the subject of Lenore breached, he took a stab in the dark at the opening, “And how about you? How are you doing?”

“Besides not being able to sit on the ledge of the roof?”

His thin smile was a sad one. He leaned to the side slightly until his shoulder brushed lightly against hers. After a gentle shove of shoulder against shoulder, he straightened his posture once more. “Besides that.”

They remained silent as she pondered her response. "Honestly?” He nodded in affirmation. “I don't know.  I wake up some mornings and I have completely forgotten, you know?  And then it takes a while for everything to seep back into my brain, and then I think I go into a bit of shock.

"And then when I realize where I am and remember what has happened, it's like someone punches me in the gut.  Every single time.  It takes a while, but then I pull myself back together, and it is what it is." It was perhaps the most she had spoken to him at one time, and he was pleased with the progress.

“Yeah,” he replied. “I know what that’s like.” Sometimes he woke up and it took him a moment to even realize he was in a bed at all. He would wake and still believe he was overseas, sleeping in a tent or in the woods somewhere. The shock caught him every single damn time.

They sat in silence for a moment before he turned the focus to her presence on the roof. “You out for fresh air or you looking for water?”

“A bit of both, I guess. Mainly the water though. The sink doesn’t have a cupful left.”

“Think it will rain today?” They both glanced up at the morning sky as he asked. Clouds hung overhead, though the blue sky peaked through in spots. They could hope for rain today, but it was never a guarantee.

“I wouldn’t bet on it, but I certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up at it either,” she replied.

“Well, I think I shall return to my quarters and start my rain dance. If I smell the coming rain, I’ll meet you up here?” She nodded the obvious reply. While all duties were supposed to be shared evenly throughout the group, over the past month or so they had all started to take on specialties. It was a given now that he and Lenore would meet on the roof as soon as a storm started to approach or on the first drop of rain. “Until later then,” he gave her thigh a reassuring squeeze and then stood up, trying to give her the privacy he knew she ached for.

He doubted they would be going anywhere any time soon, and they would have plenty of time to catch up on the minimal activity they were fortuned later.

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