Even though it's been a while, Isaac still recognizes her.

Miss Butterfly. Where have you been?

"This is – your friend?"

At first he's not sure if she's heard. But then she turns, tear-filled eyes.

"Yeah. This is him."

And maybe in another life, us too.


You really know how to piss people off, don't you?


He got used to going by that spot. Almost every night, without fail.

"My mom told me not to get involved with the Reapers. She said it'd be trouble."

Well no one said you had to.

"What – what the hell are you doing?"

"I'm just making sure your head's all right." She taps it.

After all this time?

"It's good to have check-ups."

I'm not that fragile.

"Is it all right?"

It's not broken.

"Is it all right?"

She keeps up with him.

"Is it all right?"

Even if he walks faster.

"Is it – "

"Yeah. Now piss off."

"You sound funny," she laughs. "You sound funny when you swear."

"What's that –"

"Like you're not used ta doing it."

Practice makes perfect. He shuts his mouth.

"Like," she grins up at him, "'All these changes won't change me, the gold-hearted boy I used to be.'"

"Go away."

"Aw." She smiles. "Why you gotta be so serious?"

It's like dealing with a kitten. As she comes up, walks beside him. As time goes by, another side of her comes out.

"I'm on patrol."

"All by yourself?"

"That's all we need around here."

"I'm working too – delivering mail, I mean." That satchel flaps lightly at her side, nearly empty.

"I've got a letter for you."

He glances at it warily. "Where's that hellcat of yours?"

"Sunshine? Dunno. Off hunting mice or something."

So you're all by yourself. "So you're all by yourself too."

"No, not exactly."

Isaac lifts his eyes.

"I've got you, silly." She lightly punches him.

"But shouldn't you be afraid?"

"Of what?"

"Of me."

"You?"

"I am a Reaper after all."

"You? A Reaper?" She laughs. "You're just a big teddy-bear."

It's like music, after a long silence.

"I know you." She punches him again.

"No you don't." Again, right in the same place. "Stop that."

"Assault?" She tries again, but this time he moves out the way.

"Practice."

Shadow-boxing, haven't you ever played that game?

"Stop it," Isaac laughs. "I'm not your damn bodyguard."

He wins this time, catching her arms.

They stop at a corner under the street light.

"Of course not." She smiles. "We're just two strangers. That happen to walk by, at the same time of night."

For a moment it's still. Her smiling brown eyes, so light, so trusting.

He lets her go.

She skips off. "See you later, stranger!"


The medic frowns after hearing their story. "It's nothing, really."

Garrett breathes a small sigh of relief.

"But why didn't you search him?" His aide puts a few light touches on the bandage. "Watch him?"

"Makes life more exciting." Venn smirks. "AmIright?"

"Not that it'll make a difference," the medic goes on. "But it'll satisfy those – rat-catchers – "

"Rights activists." His aide pipes up.

"Right." The medic nods. "Make them happy."

"As long as you give 'em a reason."

"After all, you don't attack a Reaper." Venn adds.

He ignores Venn, like he's used to these quips.

"Yeah, this one we can give them a reason for."

"Shouldn't we see – the Lieutenant?" Garrett hazards. "After all, he fit the description – "

"Nope." The aide shakes his head. "You don't want to see him."

"No one wants to see him."

"Why not?"

"He's on the rampage." The aide supplies. "Gonna start breathing fire any minute now."

"Yeah. You guys better scram quick."

"Why's he mad though?" Venn shrugs. "Makes his job that much easier."

"It's putting everybody on edge.".

"But the fires aren't even close to here – "

"You don't know what it's like. You only see it from a distance."

"Oh, come on. It's not like – "

"It is. Worse, even. It's like those old tales."

"What old tales?"

"You know. The ghosts."

"You'd better go." The medic cuts in. "This is about the time he comes around here."

Venn seems about to argue. But then spots something.

"Sure, we will."

Garrett glances at him, surprised.

"Come on, Ger."

Tugs him along, to a figure standing alone.


Isaac, she said. That's a nice name.
It fits you.


"Hey, Isaac."

"How's life treating you?"

The young Reaper doesn't even seem surprised to see them.

"Hey." He greets after a moment.

"Huh." Venn leans down. "This the right guy?"

Isaac doesn't respond.

"Seems like an old man to me."

"Get the fuck outta my face."

"Woah."

"'zac?" Garrett looks at him, confused. "It's us."

"Yeah, remember?" Venn leans back. "Or art thou too high and mighty now."

"Sorry." After a moment, Isaac sighs. "I haven't slept for like – days."

"Ivanov's running a tight ship."

"No, not particularly. It's just – " Isaac trails off, looks away. "How's the old squad?"

"The dead-end beat." Venn shrugs. "Just the same."

"We're lucky, our area's pretty quiet."

"Yeah. Alex would know how to handle them."

"Everyone's jealous. That you got picked out."

"Yeah," Garrett adds, "looks like you're going to go far."

"You're gonna fly, you're never gonna die."

"You're going to make it, if you try."

"They're going to love you."

Isaac doesn't even smile.
But maybe it's just those voices approaching in the distance.

"It's time. You guys should go, really." Isaac sighs. "Before Ivanov sees you."

Neither of them moves.

"Seriously."

"Seriously, dude. Get some sleep."

"Yeah. I will." Someone yells; Isaac walks off slowly. "After this, I've got the day off."


Call me Butterfly, she said.


"It's doesn't do, to get jaded on life like that."

Garrett hears the words but doesn't quite understand.

"Do you want to go along?" He asks Venn.

"To watch the show?" Venn shakes his head. "No. We should listen probably." The look on his face is far-off. "Or Ivanov'll have ours too."

"Souls – ?"

"Don't worry about it, Ger. Come on."


"How old are you, anyway?"

"How rude." She pushes him. "You don't ask a lady how old she is."

"Lady? You?"

Maybe it's that Courier outfit that makes her look that way. Her hair looks like it was cut by a hacksaw.

"I – am – a lady." In an affected accent.

But there's more than one type of angel.

"Am I'm a goddamn knight."

True radiance always shines through.

"Indeed." She makes a mock bow. "The Order of Dark Arts."

Speaking of knights –

"Oh yeah." She shuffles around in her satchel.

"Here. Here's your letter."

The cat pokes its head out, stares at him grumpily.

"Thanks."

"Come along pretty regularly, don't they?"

"Yeah."

He looks down at it, that familiar hand-writing.

"Are you being a good boy?" She grins. "Eating your vegetables? Staying out of trouble?"

Pretty much. "Shut up."

"He's getting red." She laughs. "He's getting red again."

That's good though. It's good to have someone out there, caring about you. Family. Make sure you write back, okay? Always.

He shoves it into his pocket. It's starting to get colder these days. The trees look like something else, all bare like that. It's the lack of green that gets to you really.

"There's this – dance thing. Going on."

"Really?"

"Yeah. Like next week."

"Are you invited?"

"Yeah." Isaac smiles weakly. "I'm sort of the golden guy around here."

"That's nice."

Love-struck Romeo, sang the streets a serenade.

"It should be fun, right?"

Between them – stillness, for a moment. Can you dance? No – does it matter? Kind of like the eye of a storm.

Then the revving sound of a cycle, a helmeted Courier waves from the curb.

"See ya, then."

She runs off. "See ya later, stranger!"


Sometimes they shout. Sometimes they scream. But this one's quiet. Looking around, blinking. Maybe he just doesn't realize yet.

"Why."

Isaac grins. That's the best part. Watching for that moment to happen.

"Why."

"That's what they all say."

You've got an interesting backstory too, haven't you. A halo of blue hair, out for a couple of days. It's too bad you didn't wake up earlier.

"Do you want to pray?" Isaac laughs. "Pray to your flames, to save you now."

He doesn't seem to understand. Maybe he's got amnesia too. Just hanging onto that little word.

"Pray to whatever sick god you have."

"Quiet down." Another Reaper growls.

Isaac doesn't understand why everybody around him's so silent. Why they insist on treating this like some kind of ritual, sacred ceremony. When after all it happens every day.


"And what's up with this cat?"

Sitting in the sun. It doesn't attack him this time at least. But bristles under his touch.

"What about 'im?"

"Sunshine?" Black as night. "I mean, what is that?"

"A reminder. Of happier times."

That's the saddest he ever sees her. When she thinks like that, with that far-off look.

"He came into our lives, right after something terrible happened. Chased away the shadows, made everything a little better. His smile. That's why I think that name stuck."

"Do cats really care that much?"

"Not the cat, stupid. My friend."

"Oh."

She wouldn't shut up about him, once she got started. The things he did, the things he though, the things he said. Made him out like a superhero or something.

"Should you really be telling me about this? Any of it?"

"Why not?"

"Because of – what I am."

It's like there'll always be this wall between them.

"But I don't care about what you are. I only care about you."


Even though it's been a while, Isaac still recognizes her.

Miss Butterfly. Where have you been?

He's seen her standing around, of course. Watching. How many times?
He's the one that approaches the couple first.


Miss Atomic Bomb.

Of course, he knew she was gone. When she didn't show up that one night.

It was raining, of all things.


"This is – your friend?"

At first he's not sure if she's heard him. But then she turns, tear-filled eyes.

"Yeah."

A long half-minute's silence.


An eternity.

A look passes over Isaac's face, then it's gone.


His eyes harden.

"Then you can join him."

He shoves her back, into the rest of the group. The blue-haired kid comes alive, kindles, but the Reapers form a tighter circle around them. Herd them to the center of the square.

"Another one?"

"Hey, twelve today."

Walking past the little crowd standing by. Becoming steadily larger.

(Nobody notices a figure dart off from the outskirts, run out of the square.)

Twelve. That seems like a good number to him. A lucky number, Isaac smiles.

"And then there were twelve."