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Twice Their Hearts Set Ablaze

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1992
Brick shattered across Misty as she pinned the woman to the ground. She covered the slighter body with her own, hoping her vest would take most of the shrapnel. Rifle she thought, though she hadn't heard the crack above the small-arms fire across the street. Rashidi popped up long enough to squeeze off a couple shots across the hood of their squad car, then dropped back to the pavement. They exchanged glances over the flash of red hair showing through Misty's fingers, the same thought in both their minds: Don't be a hero.

"You okay?" Misty realised she was yelling, and repeated herself in a lower voice, lips next to the woman's ear. She nodded, and Misty ordered, "Stay down."

Hand still on the woman's shoulder, knee brushing her hip, Misty peered around the back of the cruiser. She couldn't see anything like a target. Muzzle flash had been marking her targets, but they'd stopped shooting for now. "What'd dispatch say?"

"Three minutes."

Misty nodded. "We stay down." That rifle worried her.

"Fucking right."

They'd been checking out a noise complaint and walked into something with a lot of guns. The civilian woman had been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Though what she was doing in this part of the West Side at this time of night, Misty did not know.

"You still okay?" Misty asked, squeezing the woman's shoulder. She was wearing a white knee-length dress, now scuffed and torn, but Misty didn't see much blood. She'd barked the skin off her knees when Misty took her down, and now blood trickled down her shins. It looked black in the flashing lights of the squad car.

NYPD showed up in serious force right about when Misty was taking another look at the situation around the back of the car. She and Rashidi let them have it and backed the civilian out past the perimeter.

"I'm Knight, this is Rashidi," she said as the paramedics checked them over.

"Ms Wing," the woman told her. She perched on the edge of a gurney, seeming to be uninterested in the medic prodding her knees. "Ms Colleen Wing." She had a light but distinct Asian accent, and when Misty looked past the red hair and shitty light, she saw high cheekbones and epicanthic folds. And clear blue eyes. The woman was either wearing coloured contacts or had drawn the oddest genetic hand Misty had seen in a while.

"We should check in," Misty said, but she couldn't seem to break the hold of Ms Wing's gaze. Finally, Rashidi tugged on her arm, and she turned to find the officer in charge. When she made her report, she didn't mention the scrap of paper that Ms Wing had pressed into her hand. Whose phone numbers she collected was her business.

 

2010
In the two months since Colleen and her assassin friends had taken off for Tokyo, Misty's life had gone straight to hell. She'd found herself out a best friend, a fiancé, a foetus, and, if things didn't shape up pretty soon, a job. She drummed her fingers on the edge of her desk, and looked at the numbers again. They added up about the same as they had the first seven times, which didn't much surprise her. Misty's math wasn't the problem.

Nightwing Restorations had, as its name implied, always been a two-person operation. Misty hadn't had the heart to hire someone after Colleen had dissolved their partnership, and their relationship along with it. She didn't even know where she would start to try and replace that. How could you find someone to fill the hole left by a woman who had been your best friend, your sometime lover, and the better half of your business sense all at once?

If it came to it, she could probably get in on one Avengers team or another. They seemed to be taking just about anyone these days. She couldn't see herself working for Luke though, and Tony Stark was out of the question. "That's how we got into this mess," she said aloud.

Talking to herself probably wasn't going to lead anywhere good, she realised, but at least it filled the space. She'd been living in the office since she'd moved out of Danny's. She kept telling herself that she'd start apartment hunting soon, but looking for a place in New York was too damn depressing.

Misty dropped her face into her left hand and hoped that when she opened her eyes, the entire universe would have vanished. Stranger things had happened, and recently, too.

No such luck. Instead, half her papers blew off the desk, scattering like leaves.

Misty reached for her gun. She hadn't opened the window; she never did this time of year.

Colleen Wing was in the room before she had a chance to look up. She was dressed in black, even her hair tucked away. Her grandfather's katana was stuck through her belt, a tantō resting behind it. Misty knew vividly exactly where Colleen concealed each of the additional weapons, could envision peeling away layers and finding each of them.

"You even look like a ninja now," she said. She hadn't meant it to sound accusing, but Colleen's lips pressed together. "Sorry," she added, which didn't make anything better.

"I don't have time for this." Three steps and Colleen was across the room, pulling at her arm. "We need to go. We're both in danger."

"Just like old times," Misty said. She paused long enough to jam a couple clips in her jacket pocket and holster her sidearm. Then she followed Colleen out the window. The frigid night air felt like pure relief as they dropped.

 

1992
Misty called Ms Wing the next day, and, not twenty-four hours since she'd first laid eyes on the woman, they were tucked into a back booth in Misty's favourite Chinatown watering hole.

Colleen was wearing slacks that clung to every curve of her hips and ass and flared loose at the bottoms, a white wrap-around t-shirt, and, as far as Misty could tell, no underwear. Misty couldn't take her eyes off of her. Which was fine, as Colleen's eyes never seemed to leave Misty's face save to flick down across her leather button-up vest. Colleen let Misty order four dishes to share. For such a slight woman, Misty noted, she sure could pack away the food.

"I'm in town meeting my father," Colleen explained, "I haven't been to America before. It's an interesting city you have, Misty."

"Exciting, too." Misty reached across the table for a piece of broccoli. She made sure to catch Colleen's eye before sucking the sauce off her chopsticks. Neither of them seemed very interested in wasting time. "You having any trouble finding your way around?"

"Not really. It's difficult to get lost in a city made entirely up of numbers."

Grinning, Misty nudged Colleen's ankle with her toe. "You say that after last night."

"I knew exactly where I was." Colleen waved her chopsticks, ginger beef and all, for emphasis. "It just turned out to be the wrong place." She'd said in her statement that she'd been running down some academic connection for her father, though what she'd been hoping to find in that part of town Misty couldn't guess.

She let it go. For now. "Maybe you need someone to show you around."

Instead of dabbing with a napkin as she had been all night, Colleen licked the bright sweet and sour sauce from her lips. Slowly. "Maybe I do."

Misty bit her lip, but couldn't help the grin spreading across her face. "I have Friday off. I could show you the sights."

"What about tonight? After dinner."

Colleen ducked her head in pretence of studying her plate, then looked up at Misty through her lashes. Misty swallowed. Damn. "Can't see much in the dark."

"Is the power out at your apartment?" Colleen asked, making Misty laugh.

"No, girl. It's all good." She waved at Mr. Lu for the cheque and a to go container. "How about right now?"

Colleen leaned across the table and kissed Misty quickly. Her mouth was sharp and sweet from the sauce, and Misty didn't have time to do anything before Colleen was sitting down again. She wasn't quite smiling, but Misty could see laughter in her eyes.

"Now is good."

 

2010
An icy, driving rain had started by the time they managed to hole up. Misty recognised as a bolthole that neither of them had used in ten years, third story walk up in what had been a crappy neighbourhood before gentrification got to it. Danny technically owned it, but probably didn't know and didn't care that it had tripled in value in the last five years. Misty had always liked the place regardless. It sat not three blocks from where she and Colleen had first met.

It had seen some use recently. The sheets were rumpled, and the edges of a duffel bag poked out of the bedroom doorway. Colleen immediately switched on the kettle.

"What's going on, Col?" Misty asked.

Their circuitous dash across the city hadn't allowed any time to ask any of the two-dozen questions running through Misty's mind. How could you leave me? and does thus mean you're coming back? had pretty much topped the list, but she kept those to herself. She was pretty sure she didn't want to know the answers.

Colleen pushed back her hood, spilling loose a cascade of red hair. She still used that jasmine conditioner and the scent flooded the cramped room. Misty swallowed and looked away, until what Colleen said made her attention snap back. "Someone's trying to kill me. I think they want to use you to draw me out."

"So you came running straight back to New York. That's great."

"I couldn't let them hurt you." She was looking at her with such intensity that Misty's heart almost stopped. Until she remembered who had done the leaving.

"I can take care of myself," Misty snapped. She'd folded her arms so tightly she could feel diamond-laced vibranium digging into her left forearm.

"I know you can. It's just," Colleen hesitated, fussing with her sword belt. "Well, I thought with the baby, and." She shrugged, falling silent.

"Clearly that's not a problem. Is it?"

"No." For a moment, Misty thought Colleen would reach out and touch her arm, but instead she dropped her eyes and whispered, "I'm sorry."

"Yeah. Well." There was no way Misty was getting into any of that right now. Not what had happened to the baby. Not what it had felt like to go through that without either Colleen or Danny to lean on. It took her as far as the letter "R" in her black book to find someone who'd been out of touch long enough to fuck her without feeling sorry for her. After, she'd written, owe her one, next to Annabelle's name.

"So who's got it in for us this time?" she asked, hoping the subject stayed dead.

The outer wall of the apartment disintegrated in a fireball before Colleen could answer.

 

1992
The elevator was working for once, but it still took a hundred times too long to get to Misty's floor. She slid her hand across to curl around Colleen's ass, but that was the best she could to with Mr. Kirkpatrick in the lift with them. Colleen wiggled back into her hand and flashed Misty a grin that was all teeth and promises.

Misty had her hands all over her as soon as they got to the hall. Everywhere she touched, she felt lean muscles and smooth skin. Misty had always been an ass girl, and got in another squeeze before sliding up under Colleen's shirt. She definitely wasn't wearing a bra. Colleen's lips didn't taste as sweet as they had before, but she took a long, slow kiss just to make sure.

As she turned to deal with the locks on her door, Colleen found the buttons on her vest and popped the bottom one open, then the next. Her fingers fluttered over the leather, smoothing it down against Misty's skin before tracing the edges back up. Colleen didn't actually touch her, but Misty could feel the heat of hips half an inch from her ass.

They tumbled into her studio apartment together, coming up against the couch, where Misty twisted to kick the door shut, and to kiss Colleen too. She could feel their hearts pounding together, a rhythm fast and steady even through their clothes, and she leaned in. Colleen responded softly, almost tentatively, and Misty wrapped her right hand around the back of Colleen's neck to pull her in. She moved with Misty's direction, and licked Misty's lips as she opened them. The contact tore Misty between wanting to touch everything all at once, and just focus on this one point: her lips against Colleen Wing's.

She savoured the sensation. The kiss felt like the last few feet of climb before the roller-coaster plummeted and looped upside down. Even so close, she could see the flush on Colleen's cheeks, and knew she wanted more as much as she did, but Misty still couldn't break the moment. The back of the couch dug into her hip; her hand held Colleen's neck, and they kissed.

Misty might never have let go, but Colleen pulled away and asked, "You want to play a game?"

Hell, yeah, said Misty's brain, along with a good number of more southward influences, but her mouth managed, "What kind of game?"

"I like The virgin country girl and the tough big city cop." The wideness in her eyes almost convinced Misty that this wasn't really a game at all. She was a hell of a kisser, if so. Her hands rested lightly on her hips, and Misty just wanted them to be moving and somewhere else.

"I'm the cop, right?"

Colleen nodded.

Misty couldn't really see a downside, but clarified. "No sheep, no pretending to be sheep, and no saying 'no' when you mean 'yes.'"

"Yes, Officer Knight." She'd stepped back enough to fold her hands in front of her, and now looked down at the floor. A blush crept up her cheeks, and Misty wanted to laugh, hug her, and pick her up and carry her to the bed all at the same time.

"How about you finish taking my vest off?" Misty suggested. She wasn't sure how strong Colleen wanted her to come on, or how much of this was actually a game. She'd follow and see where it led.

Slender hands toyed with the edges of her vest again, nails skimmed her belly as they followed the seam up to the third button. Colleen kept her eyes down and twisted the button free with maddening precision. Then she moved to the next at the same pace. Watching her work, Misty could see her own heartbeat fluttering against the leather. The last button slipped free, and she shrugged the vest to the floor, leaving her best black lace bra exposed. The sudden flush of air on bare skin made her feel a little dizzy, and she put a hand on Colleen's shoulder to steady herself.

Colleen dropped to a crouch.

Instinctively, Misty held on with the other hand, pushing Colleen down until her nose was level with Misty's belt.

The low-slung belt was gone in seconds, leaving room to unbutton her fly, then Colleen's fingertips slid under the edge of Misty's panties. They felt cool against her skin as they followed the line over her hips and around to the curve of her ass. The jeans fell away as she moved. The buckle clanked against the linoleum.

Misty stepped free, kicking her sandals off as she did. She only had a second to brace before Colleen pressed her mouth against the black lace, and blew hard. "Sweet Christ," Misty gasped. Her nails dug into Colleen's shoulders as another breath seemed to touch every nerve in her body. Colleen's tongue slid up the inside of her thigh, and sharp teeth nipped at the skin just under the edge of her panties. "Virgin country girl my ass," she said, and Colleen laughed.

"I am from the country."

"Get on back to bed, then. I want to check you for ticks."

"What?"

"It's a country thing."

"Not in my country," Colleen protested, but she let Misty pull her to her feet and lead her over to the double bed under the skylight.

No matter how much of a bitch the place was to heat, looking up at the handful of stars that made it through to the middle of New York City was worth it. So was watching the reflection of Colleen's back as she sprawled across Misty. She'd kicked off her shoes somewhere along the line, but otherwise hadn't shed a stitch. The edge of her silk shirt fluttered across Misty's hip as Colleen pushed herself up to sit astride her. "Now, Officer Knight, how about you show me around Manhattan."

 

2010
Colleen dove for Misty's chair at the same time as Misty pitched her weight backwards. The whole thing went down, and they rolled to their knees behind its dubious shelter.

"Down," Misty said, and Colleen nodded sharply.

The wall was flat out gone, only drifting ashes where it had been. Misty couldn't see anything in the surrounding night, which only made her more suspicious. She'd ended up with her gun in her hand, and scanned for a target. Beside her, Colleen turned and prepared to launch for the interior door. Her ass pressed against Misty's hip, and Misty couldn't help remembering the other times she'd felt that. Colleen had lost weight.

Colleen nodded sharply and Misty popped up and fired two shots into a girder. Five seconds later, she bolted for the door, following Colleen.

Even hard on Colleen's heels, Misty didn't see what Colleen threw at the elevator doors. She just saw the flash and the space left behind. Colleen dove in head first, wrapping her legs around the cable to slow her fall. Misty held on with her bionic arm and followed. The cable hissed and heated as it streaked through her grip, and the drop left her stomach somewhere three floors above. Slivers of light flashed by with each floor, the only thing she could see other than Colleen's flag-like hair below her. The hair swirled and flipped to one side, and Misty twisted to the other. She actually snapped the cable by squeezing to dump velocity, but they'd hit the top of the elevator by then anyway. Colleen already had the access hatch open.

They dropped down into the elevator, and from there Misty ripped up the floor and let them get into the crawl space beneath. When they'd first found the apartment, they'd made sure it had several backdoors, one of which led to Mole country. Once down the crawl space and through another hatch down into tunnels below the streets, Misty paused. Colleen was taking care to reseal the doors, and hopefully conceal their egress. Misty wondered how far they'd need to run before they had a chance to figure out what they hell was after them. It reminded her of the vampire chase when Angie Freeman had had first really taught her about acrimonious break ups. By now they'd gotten better at planning boltholes. She hoped.

They took off down the downhill path at a steady lope. A small red light in Colleen's palm illuminated the passage as it transitioned from cement corridors to tunnelled bedrock.

"Left," Misty snapped at the second junction.

Colleen kept going right. The old tunnel had led deeper into Mole Man's kingdom then eventually to the sewers under Alphabet City, where they had a second safehouse.

Misty sprinted four long strides and caught her arm. "The tunnel's changed. Left."

They went left, but the feeling gnawed in Misty's gut. Not even two years ago Colleen would have followed her without hesitation. They'd seemed to fall into such perfect sync earlier that the discordance now stunned her.

Five minutes later, they started to hear running water. Colleen glanced back, eyebrows drawn together doubtfully. Misty nodded and they pressed on. At least, even with the double-checking, Colleen trusted her some of the time.

The tunnel opened up suddenly, though their path continued on. Colleen's light flashed around them, finding the roof of the cavern twenty feet above. Ten feet down from the path flowed a massive underground river. Mole Man's people paddled up and down it, using long poles to keep clear of the sides, and ropes to pull against the current.

"This is new," Colleen said mildly.

"New York for you, baby." How the cavern let alone the river existed so far below the water table left Misty baffled, but NYC had been hit by so much mystical alien whammy over the years that she'd stopped asking. At least their truce with the Mole People seemed to be holding. They got a few cautious looks, but no one interrupted. "Don't you miss it?"

Her tone had been joking, but Colleen's lips thinned, and she turned away sharply. Misty felt like screaming, but Colleen just jerked her head the way they'd been going and raised an eyebrow in inquiry.

Misty rolled with it as best she could, shaking her head and pointing across the river.

With a running start it was easy enough to bounce off one of the large Mole Kingdom rafts and scramble up the far bank, From there, Misty took the lead and twisted through half a dozen cross corridors before winding up in a sub-basement. Colleen picked the lock on the boiler room, and they at last rolled to a halt.

"At least it's warm," Misty said. She'd been thinking she was forty-two years old and shouldn't be running around in damp underground tunnels in November. Maybe she'd save that for when she was looking for a real guilt pull. She had a couple of heavy hitters in that arsenal.

"Yes." To her slightly guilty gratification, Colleen curled up next to the boiler like a heavily-armed cat in the sunshine.

"So." Misty didn't know where to go from there. Eventually she asked, "You take any damage, Col?"

Colleen shook her head. She held out her hands palm up and then palm down, as though she were proving they were clean. "And you?"

"Oh, I'm fucking fine." She spun on her heel, thinking she'd like to pace, but ended up facing a wall, and turned back. "Colleen. Who the hell is after you?"

"Misty." Colleen's blue eyes were wide as they stared up at her. She looked scared which wasn't something Misty had seen in a long, long time. "I think it's the person who killed my mother."

 

1992
Laughing, Misty leaned up and stole a kiss. She stole another, and lingered, pressing her breasts against Colleen's. A third kiss, long and savouring, and she fell back to the bed. "So we're leaving off the Heights and Inwood and shit, but this," she took Colleen's hand and pressed it to her lips, sucking on her finger tips for a moment, "This is Harlem. If it was worth saying in New York, someone said it in Harlem first." Or in the Bronx, and occasionally Brooklyn, but Misty wasn't going to last all five Boroughs. "Now if you'll follow me down, Harlem butts up right into Central Park." She wait until Colleen trailed her damp fingers down her neck and rested on her breast bone. "And on either side of that is your Upper East Side and your Upper West Side. Which you should investigate. Thoroughly."

"As you say, Officer Knight." The clever woman had figured out the front clasp on her bra and flipped it open. Her hands cupped Misty's breasts stroking her thumbs across the nipples. Misty shuddered under her touch. "Oh, I see what you mean," Colleen commented, and took the West Side between her lips. The sudden heat after the cool air felt stunning, and the sharp chill as Colleen blew on it made her whimper.

"When you're done there, and you don't, ah," Colleen sucked at the other nipple, "You don't need to hurry. But when you're done, you get onto Broadway, and head Downtown. Or there's that Roosevelt Parkway along the rivers too," she said feeling hands run down her sides to rest at the bottom edge of her rib cage, thumbs inward. "And now you're Downtown, more or less. Flatiron in the middle there, right?"

"Mmm-hmm." Colleen pressed her mouth to her navel. Misty tensed, expecting her to blow a raspberry like Angie always used to, but Colleen just kept moving down.

Misty took a few breaths to steady herself. "Now you're in the Financial District." She frowned, feeling the analogy had gone a little off somewhere around Five Points. She had no desire to compare her neither regions to the Stock Exchange, let alone Battery Park.

"And what is there?" Colleen asked. Her chin rested at the edge of Misty's cropped bush, and she looked back up along Misty's body, blue eyes shining with amusement.

"Not much," Misty admitted, "but if you go south a bit, you'll find Liberty Island."

"I've been meaning to go there," Colleen said before collapsing on Misty's hip in a fit of giggles.

Chuckling, Misty patted Colleen's hair and waited for the laughter to subside. Desire coursed through her, and having that beautiful lithe body shaking right on top of her wasn't helping anything. She flipped onto her side, dumping Colleen off, and shimmied out of her panties. She reached for Colleen's wrists, planning to pin her to the mattress and kiss some sense into her.

Instead, she found herself flipped on her stomach, arm twisted behind her back, with no clear idea what happened.

"Sorry, Misty." Colleen said. She let go but kept her body draped on top of Misty's. "You startled me."

"Guess I did." She twisted and rolled until they were face to face, Colleen's body once again stretched over hers. Colleen was looking down at her with such a serious expression that Misty kissed her nose just for the hell of it. That made her laugh again, and Misty felt an overwhelming wave of affection sweep over her. It left a glow in her heart that precluded asking from whence the ninja moves, and instead pushed her into spreading her legs and saying, "Weren't you in the middle of something?

Colleen kissed her briefly and snaked down her body. Without her panties in the way, Colleen pressed her face right in, her tongue finding Misty's clit in seconds. Misty gripped the sheets and arched into the flash of pleasure that seemed hit the tips of her toes and her brain stem at the same time. Colleen's tongue flicked against her again, and she cried out, "Christ, girl. Keep doing that."

The hum that danced across every nerve made Colleen's reply. She had Misty's clit between her lips, and was vibrating against it. Misty shook in response and begged for more sensation. Her hands patted and stroked and pressed a the red hair covering her thighs. She spread her legs wider still and hooked her heels into Colleen's shoulder blades.

Colleen's tongue was moving faster against her. Her lips pulled and sucked, and Misty screamed again. Her hands left Colleen's hair so they could pound the mattress. Unbearable pressure built inside her. It felt like too much to be focused so tightly in so small a place, but all she wanted was more. "More now. Oh, Colleen, baby, please." The words rolled out of her, the same thing over and over again in a hundred variations.

At last, Colleen brushed her teeth across Misty's clit, just the edges, but it was enough to push her over. All the built up anticipation washed over her, and all she could do was hold onto the quilt until it passed.

When she felt like she could touch Colleen without convulsing against her, Misty stroked her hair again, and Colleen looked up, grinning smugly.

"You suck at the 'blushing virgin' game," Misty told her.

Colleen crawled back up her body, sloppily kissing each breast on the way by. "I hardly learned anything new about New York." She kissed Misty's mouth, lingering so she could taste herself.

"I think you need to study in more detail."

"Maybe later." She rubbed against Misty's hip, clearly indicating what she wanted to do in the meantime.

Misty was beginning to suspect that the burst of warmth she kept feeling amounted to more than lust or even sexual satisfaction. The words that wanted to burst from her were, "I'd do anything in the world for you, my love." She kept them to herself. The scared the hell out of her, and she couldn't imagine what they'd do to Colleen.

"Come here, you." More careful this time, she flipped them both over onto their sides where she had a better angle to slip her hand down the front of Colleen's slacks. "We've got to get some of those clothes off you."

 

2010
"What kind of firepower are we looking at here?"

"I don't know."

"How about how many?"

"I don't know that either."

"What the fuck do you know?"

"Yelling at me isn't going to help."

"I know. I know. I'm sorry, Col." Misty could feel her frustration building toward the point where usually someone started shooting. "It's been a hell of a night." A hell of a year, really. Broken hearts all around.

Colleen stayed where she was, curled next to the boiler soaking in the heat like a cat. A month ago, she would have gotten in Misty's face. Now she was just watching her with a serious expression and wide, scared eyes. "We went to Kyoto, my team and I, looking for a missing girl. We found her not long after. She'd had a big fight with daddy and wanted to make him worry. He thought his business rivals had kidnapped her." She ticked off the story easily, casually, but Misty could see the tense lines around her mouth. Something was damn near choking her. What it was soon became clear. "We had some free time, so decided to look for our mothers. The Nail was about all that was left of the Hand after Daredevil imploded. The whole organisation was at odds, and we thought we could use the chaos to slip in."

"Could you?" Misty prompted after a pause, though Colleen had already made the answer clear. Tired of looking down at her, she slid down the wall until she could wrap her arms around her knees.

"We thought so at the time. We must have hit a digital tripwire, looking for our mothers' files. The next day we got a letter. It was posted on a stake in the middle of the pile of ashes where Yuki's brother's house used to be. It said," Colleen swallowed before she could continue. "It said we were to pay for our mothers' sins. That since we'd chosen to be like them, we'd die like them and so would our families."

Misty followed the logic to Colleen showing up at her window in the middle of the night. "Are the others dead then?"

She wasn't sure where the relief came from when Colleen shook her head. She hadn't especially liked the little band of cutthroats, but then, they seemed to be good for Colleen. She couldn't bear the thought of Colleen enduring yet another loss. Even if she didn't want Misty, at least she'd had someone.

"I made them take their families and run," Colleen told her. "All in different directions. I made damn sure they were headed this way, too. I'm sorry for risking you. I hoped they wouldn't make the connection."

"Fuck that," Misty snapped. "We were partners for fifteen years, you think everyone doesn't know that you're the only family I have?"

"I'm sorry," Colleen said again. She dropped her head onto her knees, and Misty thought she saw a tremor run over her body. "I never wanted to put you in danger. I couldn't risk the girls. They don't..." the rest of the words were muffled as she curled in on herself.

She must have run straight back to New York. Misty wondered if she'd even slept on the plane. It seemed that now in the warmth and relative safety of the boiler room, she was starting to run out of go. "When all our lives were at risk, you didn't trust them to have your back," Misty supplied. She did her best to keep the jealous triumph out of her voice.

Colleen peered at her over her knees. "I didn't trust them to have your back," she said simply.

"Oh." For months, Misty had wanted her to say exactly that. That she trusted and valued Misty above everything else, that what ever process she'd needed to work through were over and done, and she was coming home. Now that she had admitted to the first part at least, it mostly struck Misty as sad. What a lonely way to live, riding with partners you couldn't completely trust.

"They felt the same about people they cared about," Colleen continued. "Except for Marko, who went with Cherry Blossom. She doesn't have anyone else."

"They'll be okay." Misty wasn't sure where they conviction came from, except damned if she was going to let Colleen lose anyone else. "They've come after us, and they have no idea of half the shit that's going to rain down on them now that we're together. We'll stop them short before they can go after anyone else. Daughters of the Dragon, baby."

Colleen raised her head just enough to smile at her, eyes crinkling. "The Daughters of the Dragon are hiding in a hole right now."

"We're regrouping."

"Then what?"

She wanted Misty to take charge, Misty thought. Colleen was at the end of her strength, and she just wanted to curl up somewhere warm and let someone else make it all go away. Misty suspected that she should feel some kind of resentment, but mostly it felt like a relief. "We need rest, information and a plan. In that order."

"Okay."

Misty wondered if it might be okay to offer to let Colleen sleep against her, for comfort, but by the time she opened her mouth, Colleen was out like a light. She sat for a few moments, watching, wondering how many nights they'd spent like this over the years. All those stakeouts, all that time on the run, or hunting people, or even just crashing where they could after a long case, it must have been thousands of nights over the years.

Her back creaked, and she once again wondered if she was getting too old for this. This wasn't where she'd thought she'd be a month ago. That would be curled up with Danny trying to figure out how to sleep comfortably now that she was showing. A couple years ago, she would have thought stakeouts with Colleen would never end, that they'd be curled up together in some back alley when she was ninety. Together was key.

Colleen's eyelids fluttered, and Misty wondered what she was dreaming about. She remembered the nightmares that immediately followed the Hulk/Brood/Moon Boy disaster, the first few nights when Colleen was too beat up to be on her own. She and Danny had swapped off sitting by her, before Colleen had come to and screamed at Misty. She'd screamed until her Misty was afraid she'd make herself sick.

Tears had filled Danny's eyes when Misty had left Colleen's apartment for the last time. They'd had at most a half-dozen conversations since then, and most of them had involved Colleen accusing Misty of murder, of making her a murderer, of being a cash grubbing mercenary no better than Paladin.

If anyone had asked Misty Knight of two-years ago if anything in the world could make Colleen Wing hate her, she'd have laughed.

Now Misty leaned her head against the wall and closed her eyes.

 

1992
"This city is very dangerous," Colleen announced as Misty was making coffee.

"You're just figuring that out now?" Misty's terrycloth robe covered just about everything, so long as she didn't move. She made sure that Colleen was in line of sight before she bent to dig through the crisper drawers for mushrooms. "Did you get eggs?"

"I'm serious. A car almost ran me over when I was walking back from the shop on the corner."

Misty turned, mushrooms in one hand, bundle of thyme in the other. "Are you okay, honey?" Her eyes ran up and down Colleen, searching for signs of injury, but other than barked knees and some bruises from a few days ago, she seemed fine. She was wearing an old yellow summer dress of Misty's, which should have looked too big but, belted in, it ended up draping elegantly. Misty thought it all too likely to be concealing internal injuries.

She let out a breath when Colleen said she hadn't been hurt. "I don't know what happened," she continued. "It just ran up onto the sidewalk and hit a pole. If I hadn't seen its reflection in a window and jumped out of the way, it would have killed me. Someone said the driver passed out."

At least this morning Misty was able to do what she'd wanted to two days before: spread her arms and wrap Colleen in a hug. "I'm sorry, baby," she murmured. "It gets pretty rough around here." To the tune of three hundred car/pedestrian fatalities a year, though Misty figured now was not a good time to mention that.

Colleen clung on for a moment. Her lips pressed against Misty's cheek before she pulled away. "I hope I'll be able to get through the next few days without almost dying."

"Pour yourself a coffee and sit down, and I'll make you my famous mushroom omelette." Misty waved the thyme at the couch. "Guaranteed to cure near-death experiences."

 

2010
"We need to go."

Misty blinked. She hadn't heard Colleen getting up, and in this underground room, she had no immediate sense of how much time had passed. Her watch said it was near dawn, so she'd slept for five hours, and felt like shit. Colleen looked like she'd spent a weekend at the spa. She had the colour back in her cheeks, and her muscles moved like poured oil. Misty blinked again and tried to swallow the lump in her throat.

Colleen didn't extend a hand to help her up, and Misty's knees creaked as she pushed off the wall. The only part that didn't feel like it was trudging up hill in the snow was her bionic arm, which powered up as smoothly as always. She hit the wall with a small pulse just to get her the last few degrees to vertical. "Where are we going?"

"Avengers Mansion. We need to warn Danny and the Cages."

"Someone just blew up one of Danny's safe houses. I'm pretty sure he's warned." She stretched carefully, starting from her right shoulder and working down her back. "Who knows if they're even there? The Avengers are off fighting magic aliens half the time." Mostly she had no desire to run to the Avengers at the first sign of trouble, even the low-key team run by one of her best friends. "Last time I went by the Mansion, the whole place was glowing orange."

"When was that?" Colleen's eyes had narrowed marginally, enough to let Misty know that she felt more on edge than she appeared.

"Couple of days ago, I guess." She didn't see the need to mention that she'd been slinking by to ask Luke how Danny was doing. "It's probably stopped by now," she admitted.

"It probably has." She was still frowning, and Misty didn't know why. "Can we still get there through the tunnels?"

"We can get to Central Park at 70th."

Misty let Colleen lead as they retraced their steps back into Mole Man's kingdom. As she lit her flashlight and half-vanished into the tunnel ahead, Misty wondered why she was second-guessing Colleen's suggestions.

 

1992
"I feel like I'm missing some kind of cultural context."

Misty rolled her drink between her palms; a trickle of condensation rolled down her wrist. She was doing her best to pretend that she wasn't actually hearing what was going on on stage. "No, he's just terrible."

"Oh."

"Sorry." She was trying to remember the thought process that had gone into inviting someone who had, until a week ago, lived her entire life in a remote mountain village in Japan to an amateur "emcee" battle in South Harlem. It had, if she recalled correctly, mostly involved already having tickets and knowing that the club had air conditioning and relatively cheap booze.

On stage, a weedy Puerto Rican kid that Misty suspected wasn't nearly old enough to be in here, warbled half off the off beat: "Ya can't make me if I don't wanto/cause I got a dick hard like Tanto."

Colleen choked on her beer.

"That enough context for you?" Misty took the pained hand wave and repeated coughing to mean the affirmative. "Want to get out of here?"

Misty knocked back the last of her long island ice tea while Colleen was getting control of her breathing, then they blew the joint

A little colour still hung in the west but the night air had cooled to almost bearable.

"Sorry about that, I thought–" Misty started, then paused again as Colleen collapsed against her in a gale of laughter.

She held her hands about four inches apart and said something in Japanese, from which Misty was only able to pick out the word for penis. She snorted, filling in the rest.

"My guy Davie gave me the tickets; he's usually down with the whole scene. I'm starting to reconsider about how he felt about that break up. 'Still friends,' my ass."

They were headed south west toward the subway. An angry scuffle broke out behind them, surrounding the club entrance. "Good timing," Misty commented, suppressing the cop instinct telling her to go back and break it up. She was off duty, and this wasn't her precinct. The local boys were welcome to it.

"Do you have a lot of angry ex-boyfriends that I should be worried about?" Colleen asked. She looked sideways at Misty, odd blue eyes amused.

"I didn't think I had any," Misty said. "I'm usually an easy come, easy go kind of lady. Less trouble that way."

"As you say." Colleen grinned at her made to walk away as if dismissed. She laughed as Misty snagged her arm and dragged her back in. They'd been walking at a plausibly deniable distance, but now Misty linked arms. "Oh, so you're not finished with me yet?"

Misty bumped their shoulders together and promised, "Girl, I ain't even started with you."

 

2010
Misty swore as they came into view of the Avengers Mansion.

Colleen folded her arms, staring at it pensively. "I think that's more yellow than orange."

The wall of light had grown more intense since Misty hat last seen it. Now it rose up in an opaque dome starting inside the iron fence and enclosing the whole mansion.

"I think they have more problems than colour wheels," Misty snapped. "Or whoever's trying to kill us."

"Do you think we should try to help?"

"I'm open to suggestions," Misty said, which made Colleen snort in derision. Ignoring her, Misty continued, "This is the kind of problem I look at, and think decide I should call the Avengers. "

"You've never called the Avengers, and you never will." The amusement that should have made that teasing sounded bitter to Misty. "Come on. It's too open here."

"Where to?" Misty pressed, but fell into step a pace behind Colleen as the jogged deeper into the Park. They cut the shortest diagonal across, coming out at Columbus Circle. After that, they veered downtown, but on the surface this time.

"I've got an idea," was the only think Colleen would say, so Misty kept following.

She felt like she had a target painted on her back, being exposed like they were. Between her braids and Colleen's hair–not to mention Colleen's ninja get up and Misty's grubby jeans and red leather jacket–she knew the combination stood out even in New York. She hadn't worked out how the bad guys were following them, but she figured it somehow involved keeping tabs on Colleen, possibly even using magic. Whatever it was, it didn't seem to work underground. Unless they were toying with the two of them, playing cat and mouse. The thought only increased Misty's desire to tackle Colleen and drag her somewhere safe. If only she knew where that was.

A few blocks later, she realised that they were headed towards Hell's Kitchen. "You know Matt's gone right? He pulled a vanishing act after we exorcised him. Kingpin's moved into his ninja castle."

"They have news in Tokyo." Colleen picked up the pace, moving in long fluid strides, even if Misty could see the annoyance bunching in her shoulders.

"Okay, Captain Mysterious," Misty grumbled, but kept plodding after her. At least it was still early enough on a Saturday to navigate the sidewalks easily. The rain had blown through overnight, but the Arctic wind remained, funnelling up 7th. Misty put her head down and tried hitch her jacket up around her ears.

At the edge of the Kitchen, Colleen turned abruptly and bounced up a brick wall to cling on to the bottom of the fire escape. In her younger days, Misty might have been able to match that; now she used a kick from her arm to make the difference. God bless StarkTech, when it was working anyway. Colleen ran three flights up then waved though a window. By the time Misty caught up, she was already climbing inside. Misty followed.

 

1992
"This is exactly what I meant!"

Misty dropped her gym bag and looked the place over, trying to see what Colleen meant. Rashidi had recommended it as a no-frills, uncompetitive dojo, where they just let you do your thing so long as you didn't tear up the place. It certainly had the "no frills" part down. Grey cement stretched from grey cement wall to grey cement wall, interspersed with mats, and a couple of punching bags in a corner. It didn't even have a boxing ring. The walls were devoid of posters, the mats of other human beings. If there hadn't been an open sign in the door, Misty would have thought they were in the wrong place.

"Glad you like it," Misty said, watching her peel off her shoes and pad barefoot to the nearest mat. Colleen's warm up stretches showed off more reach and liquid grace than most dancers did mid-performance. She was running through some kind of Tai Chi thing, and for the first time Misty could see why it was a martial art, not just a mild callisthenics routine for old people. Each move had balance, and purpose, and the kind of carefully restrained power that could punch someone through a wall.

She'd meant to track down whoever ran the joint, but found she couldn't take her eyes off Colleen. A voice behind her startled her into spinning around.

"Who the hell is that?"

Misty blinked, then tilted her head back to take the man in. He topped her height by a good eight inches, blonde, broad-shouldered white dude who hadn't changed his hair style since the original Star Wars movie came out. A jade tiger's paw dangled from a leather cord around his neck. "Who's asking?"

"She's good," the man said, ignoring the question. "Very good. No one's that good in this city, and I don't know about them."

"She's not from New York," Misty admitted, but found her gaze drawn back to the woman on the mat. Misty could handle herself in a fight, and knew smooth when she saw it, but hadn't had much to do with the formal martial arts community. "Again, who are you?"

"Bob Diamond: owner, manager, mopper of floors," the man said absently. "Do you know who trained her?"

Misty shrugged, but Colleen said, "Ozawa Kenji." She'd stopped, feet shoulder width apart, hands resting at her sides in the same pose in which she'd started. "My grandfather."

"Oh," Diamond said, as if that explained everything. He folded his arms over his muscled chest and sucked on his teeth for a moment. "Well, the only-known student of Ozawa Kenji can practice here for free."

"You do my grandfather great honour," Colleen started in what appeared to be a long dance of polite refusal. Misty thought she could see a little colour brushed across those exquisite cheekbones, and guessed that she was pretty pleased. She used the negotiation to find the ladies' room, and it had settled by the time she got out.

"Come spar with me." Energy seemed to shimmer off of Colleen, and she bounced on the balls of her feet. She tossed her long hair, and it swirled around her in contravention of every rule that real world hair was supposed to follow. Misty kicked off her shoes and stepped onto the mat, knowing that she was about to get pounded, but unable to resist that smile.

"I have to work tonight," she said, leaving the go easy on me part implied. She didn't really do sparring so much as brawling, and the formal setting was giving her police academy flashbacks. She copied Colleen's bow, then backed up enough for breathing room and waited.

Colleen reached out almost lazily, a big old-fashioned roundhouse coming at three-quarter speed at Misty's face. Even as she weaved and deflected, Misty had to laugh. "I thought your grandfather was the ninja equivalent of ol' Satchmo," she remarked. "What's with the boxing?"

"Samurai, not ninja." Colleen's mouth thinned into a tight little smile, which Misty felt boded nothing but ill. "He taught me many things." She pivoted to fire a kick at Misty's hip, which Misty again dodged past. "Not everyone is going to come at me sword in hand."

"I wouldn't count on it: New York is fucking weird." They circled, each foot placed with care and balance, eyes fixed on each other. The edge of the mat had gotten too close, so she sidled left, trying to get more room again.

She tried an open-palmed jab at Colleen's clavicle, but found it brushed aside. She'd barely seen Colleen's hand come up. She didn't see the foot that snaked around her ankles either, not in time to keep from tumbling onto her butt. It was easy to roll to her feet from there, though not to push back the urge to cover herself in case Colleen kicked her when she was down. This wasn't a street fight, or a sparring match with that idiot Jackson; Colleen had stepped back to let her get up.

"You lead with your right too much," Colleen said the third time Misty's ass hit the mat. "You almost always only feint with your left."

Misty's forearms and shins were starting to ache from blocking, and she knew she'd have to make her move fast. "Usually," she replied, "I don't let a fight last long enough for anyone to figure that out." She dove forward full force, and though Colleen twisted aside, Misty snagged a leg on the way by. They went down in a heap; Misty bucked her hips to flip Colleen onto her back and rolled on top of her to pin her hands.

"You end all your fights like that?" Her voice sounded cheerful enough for Misty to wonder if Colleen had just taken a dive, then decide she didn't care.

Their noses almost touched, and Misty could smell black licorice on Colleen's breath. She could feel every inch of her body through their work out gear, Colleen's ankles under hers, a hipbone along Misty's inner thigh, tight breasts against hers, strong wrists twisting in her grip. Misty dropped a kiss onto her nose, and said, "Wouldn't you like to know?"

Colleen rolled her hips under her and arched her back to press their chests together. "I think I would find a demonstration very instructive."

"I thought we agreed that you sucked at that game," Misty said, despite the flash of lust that comment–and Colleen's hip now pressing right up between her legs–aroused. Lying full across a beautiful, writing woman practically in public wasn't turning her off either. Diamond had retreated to his office, but in theory anyone could walk in, and it sure didn't look like they were sparring anymore. Misty kissed Colleen hungrily, playing her teeth and tongue over Colleen's lips until she went satisfyingly still under her. Then she rolled off. "I'm going to be late. I need to go home and change."

Misty's handle on languages that weren't English or Spanish mostly extended to profanity, which is how she knew exactly what Colleen muttered under her breath in Japanese. She tossed a wink over her shoulder on the way out the door.

Behind her, Colleen stood poised like a crane, already moving through another set of exercises. There really was not, Misty reflected, anything about that woman that wasn't perfect.

 

2010
Misty blinked when she saw whose apartment it was. "Echo," she said, surprised, though now that she thought of it, it made sense. "I guess you're the one to go to about organised crime in Japan."

"Who's alive, not glowing yellow, and willing to talk to us, yes," Colleen added, though Misty could tell she meant "willing to talk to you" when she said it.

"I'm not in the game anymore," Echo said, and it occurred to Misty that she knew neither her civilian identity nor anything else about her past what Danny had said post-Japan. Other than that she'd slept with Clint Barton, but it'd be faster to make a list of people who hadn't. Colleen seemed to know her, though, and hadn't hesitated to burst in on the woman while she was still in her bathrobe and slippers. She looked scarily mundane without the white paint and black leather. "The Skrull invasion was the last time I want to fight aliens, and with Matt gone–" she shook her head. "No."

"We're not asking you to fight," Colleen persisted. "We're just looking for information." She circled to stay in front of Echo as she turned to go into the kitchen. "Someone's trying to kill us, and all I know is that they have connections in your old Kyoto circles."

"All we need is a lead," Misty said, then remembered that wouldn't do her much good from the other room. She followed them into the kitchen and caught Echo's eye before repeating herself and adding, "We can handle it from there. Despite how we look right now, we're good at this kind of thing."

Echo fussed with the coffee machine for a moment before answering. "If you tell me what you know, I'll tell you if I can help you." She watched carefully as Colleen reiterated her story, not just focusing on her lips, but seeming to take in the whole of her body language. At the end of the story, she stood silently for a time before asking, "Your mother was Ozawa Azumi?"

Colleen nodded shortly.

"Your list of enemies is not short."

"I understand."

"With good cause." Echo gave every word a deadly weight.

Misty looked to see how Colleen would react, but her face looked like a death mask. All she said was, "I am not my mother."

"Perhaps not."

A light flashed on the coffee machine, and Echo turned away. The rattle of china as she brought down three mugs made Misty start. Misty and her parents had rarely seen eye to eye, about anything, but at least neither of them had been a mass murderer. She wondered if Colleen wished she hadn't found out, but knew that was another thing she couldn't ask. She reached across to rest a hand on Colleen's shoulder.

As soon as they touched, Colleen shrugged her off and stepped away. Echo caught the sharp movement and turned, and Colleen tried to turn it into a reach for coffee, but Echo frowned anyway.

"You haven't said if you'll help us," Misty said, trying to draw in Echo's uncanny focus. "Or if you can help us."

Echo passed Misty a mug, then took her own. She blew on the surface, watching the black ripples reflect off the sides of the cup. "No, I haven't said," she agreed. "But I still have contacts in Kyoto. I'll see what I can find out."

"Thank you," Misty said sincerely.

She jerked her chin up, half nod, half acknowledgement of respect. "I owe Iron Fist for Japan."

"Great," Misty said. She ended up owing the Avengers after all, worse, owing Danny. "Well, we appreciate it."

"I can't let you stay here," she said. "I tutor kids these days." For the first time, Misty took in more details of the apartment then layout, probable hidey holes and possible escape routes. Most of the walls hide behind shelves of books and VHS tapes and what wall space was left Echo had covered in art. Misty assumed it was her own. A pile of textbooks teetered on the edge of a coffee table, with an open exercise book beside.

It always felt odd to see one of the costumed set go civilian, and stranger still when they seemed to actually manage it. This women had been an Avenger, and she seemed to be perfectly able to set aside the Type A adrenaline junky life style in favour of what? Comfy academia?

Misty tried to imagine it, and couldn't. She'd been hunting ninja four-months pregnant. Make her stop and she'd turn into the unholy mess that Jessica Jones used to be. Here she was, a forty-two-year-old mercenary with a bionic arm and a best friend who hated her. There Echo was, in a nice apartment in the Garment District apparently studying linguistics and tutoring school kids.

"No ninja battles in your living room," Misty said, and asked to use the bathroom. She sat in the cool quiet with her fingers pressed to her temples for a few minutes more than she'd meant to. When she got out, Colleen and Echo seemed to have decided on their next bolthole.

Echo gave Colleen a bundle of food as they climbed back through the window.

"Where to?" Misty asked. She meant it to sound committed and proactive, to show that this day wasn't grinding her down. It came out more weary and demanding.

The sour twist of Colleen's mouth indicated that she was getting pretty tired of Misty's shit, but all she said was, "There's a burned out factory a few blocks form here. Maya said the Shadowland riots gutted it, but that the structure's fine."

Once again Misty followed, once again feeling like a giant walking target. She didn't understand why they weren't going back to ground, as that had seemed to work the night before, but every time she questioned Colleen it pissed her off. Misty was tired of fighting with her, and was getting pretty tired of running. "We don't even need intel," she complained. "We could just lead them into Shadowland and let them all kill each other."

"We'll make that a back up plan." Colleen retorted. "For our back up plan."

"It's a relief to hear that you think we have a plan in the first place."

Colleen didn't answer that, and Misty swore under her breath.

The reached the factory not long after, a fashion-industry outcast in the edge of the Kitchen. Misty followed again as they scrambled to the third floor, then Colleen stood aside and she punched through the boarded up window. The cavernous room had once held banks of sewing machines and presses. Now row after row of bare, charred work benches and cabinets remained. They crossed to the centre of the room, trying to see what they could by the daylight shining through the cracks in the boards.

When their eyes adjusted to the dark, Misty realised they were surrounded.

 

1992
Misty had had the kind of shift that made her want to either punch the shit out of something or curl up under a blanket and never come out. It hadn't been one particularly terrible thing, no great unspeakable evil, no mass murder. Rather, it had been ten hours of one small indignity after another, the crushing weight of hopelessness and surrender in the faces of everyone she met. Nowhere, it had seemed, had anything she'd done made a damn bit of difference to the whole.

Mostly, she just felt tired.

A week ago, Misty would have gone home, eaten left overs and beer and gone to bed before something else happened. Today she found herself folded around the squad-room phone in an attempt at privacy, punching in Colleen's number. She didn't even completely understand why until she heard the soft, accented voice on the other end of the line. Her shoulder's dropped a quarter inch, and something in her spine eased, as though a cool hand had stroked down her back.

"Hello," Colleen said again.

Misty swallowed. "It's me."

"Misty. I was thinking about you, and then you called."

She knew she should go through the preamble that one did when calling a lover out of the blue in the middle of the night. Instead she asked, "Can you come over? I know it's late, but–" She didn't know what she was doing to say then, but Colleen interrupted, saying it was no problem, of course she'd come. She'd be there soon. The pure relief of it brought Misty's shoulders down the rest of the way, and she felt close to smiling when she hung up.

"Hot date?" Rashidi asked on their way out.

"Bet your ass," Misty said, and she did smile then. She was going to see Colleen. Things would be better.

The last horrific thing of the night was a cab sideways on the street and half on the pavement in front of her apartment, half surrounded by onlookers. She could see a flash of bright blue in the middle, a motorcycle cop's helmet, and the red of Colleen's hair.

The intensity of the shock made Misty stop breathing for a moment. She felt her hands go cold in the summer night, and tucked them under her arms, then shoved sideways through the crowd.

The officer, she recognised him as Claudio Bartolli now, was just flipping his notebook shut, and saying, "I'll get a description out, but if no one saw a plate, there may not be much we can do."

The cabbie, a lanky white man in a green slouch cap and fake-looking moustache, shrugged. "No harm done in the end."

Misty got close enough to see past the bystanders and again found herself assessing Colleen for injury. The electric-blue dress didn't cover a hell of a lot, and what she saw, mostly legs, looked fine. "Colleen, honey, you hurt?"

She caught Bartolli's nod out of the corner of her eye before she also caught an armful of Colleen Wing. She wrapped both arms around Misty's waist, and kept one looped trough her arm even as she turned to say, "I'm fine, thanks to Mr. Lockley's driving. Someone tried to hit us, and he got his cab right out of the way."

"Ran us off the road," the cabbie said. "Dunno what his problem was." He slumped back against his car, hands jammed in his pockets. "Road rage."

Misty had to wonder. Getting shot at on the West Side, fine, the city had had an all-time record number of gun deaths the previous year. Almost getting run over was even more common then that, and Lord knew the city had aggressive drivers. However, all three at once, in such a short period had caught the attention of Misty's suspicious nature. She promised herself she'd make sure Colleen was okay, then follow up with Traffic in the morning. If it turned out to be a coincidence, fine. If something was up, she wanted to see it coming.

"I hope you gave that guy a hell of a tip," Misty said once Bartolli released them, and Misty got Colleen safely into her building.

"Oh yes," Colleen said fervently. She still hadn't let go of Misty's hand. Misty hadn't let go of hers either.

They didn't say anything throughout the slow elevator ride to her floor. Once Misty had set the locks on her door, she took a deep breath, placed both hands on Colleen's shoulders, leaned in and kissed her.

Everything about the contact felt reassuring, the light play of Colleen's lips, the puff of exhalation from her nose, a hand climbing up under her shirt, the other sliding under her belt. Long hair brushed across her hands, and she buried them in it and pulled Colleen closer. When their bodies resting against each other didn't feel close enough, she turned and pressed them into the door. Colleen's hand curled around her ass, nails digging into her skin, and the pain urged Misty on. She focused every conscious part of herself on kissing Colleen, how she tasted, how she felt. Her hands cupped the sides of Colleen's face, holding her perfectly still for examination and exploration. At the same time, Misty's hips pushed flat into Colleen's and trapped her between Misty and the door. Colleen didn't seem to mind.

She kissed back with equal ferocity. Her hips twisted enough to make a space for her hand between them, and she palmed Misty through her uniform pants. Misty hissed through her teeth and ground down on her.

"Here, turn around," Misty said, and Colleen wiggled around until she faced the door. Her skirt already rucked up her hips, and Misty slid her panties down and slid her hand around and down between her legs. Her other arm wrapped across her ribs below her breasts, holding them both away from the door to give Misty room to work. Colleen's heeled sandals almost evened their height, so Misty could easily rest her chin on Colleen's shoulder, or kiss the back of her neck. "You've got no idea the things I want to do to you," she murmured into Colleen's ear.

"Show me."

Misty's hand found nothing but slick and wet. She thrust a couple of fingers up inside Colleen while brushing a thumbnail over her clit. When Colleen gasped, hands pressed flat against the door, Misty snaked up to pull the front of her dress down. Her breasts popped free, pale and swollen against the electric-blue nylon. Misty palmed one and then the other, roughly, and Colleen pushed her ass back against her. She was breathing hard already, and Misty kept her rhythm up, fingers thrusting inside her, while her thumb played across her clit, now pressing with the pad, then flicking with the tip or nail, sometimes pulsing against it.

"Please, please," Colleen begged, and Misty felt a possessive grin curving across her face.

She bit the junction of neck and shoulder, hard enough to leave a mark, but not drawing blood. At the same time she pinched a nipple between her fingers and sink her fingers as deep as she could, curling up to drag on the way out. Colleen begged again and moaned, her whole body trembling in response. Misty knew that if she weren't holding them both up, Colleen would have collapsed to the floor long since, her legs unable to support her.

This was what Misty needed, to touch someone and have them want more, to make herself the centre of their universe and have them glad for it. "Tell me what you want," she whispered and Colleen sobbed.

"More, your fingers on me. Go faster." Then another broken "Please," as Misty slid both hands down and drove Colleen's chest flat against the door. She knew the pressure of the smooth, cool wood must feel almost unbearable, especially when she pulled her fingers out and jerked them back and forth across Colleen's clit. She panted roughly and shuddered under Misty's touch, and Misty moved faster. Her fingers swirled, and rubbed and squeezed, one hand alternating with the other, until Colleen's body stiffened under her and emitted an involuntary half scream.

She fell limp against the door, and Misty pulled her back into her arms, easing them both to the floor. "You okay, sweetie?" she asked.

"Mmmmm." Colleen buried her face in Misty's breasts, and murmured something indistinct. It sounded reasonable positive in tone, and Misty would take it. Her own body was humming with desire, but she wasn't sure if Colleen was going to wake up, or if she should handle it herself. "Bed, please," Colleen said when her breathing quieted.

Misty laughed and hauled them both up. When they got to the bed, she found out she didn't have to help herself after all.

 

2010
They weren't ninja after all. Misty could make out two dozen figures in army fatigues and combat helmets, mostly on the ground, but a couple snipers up in the rafters. They'd obviously been set up and waiting, though how they knew where to be Misty didn't know. Echo wouldn't have sold them out, and even if she had, there hadn't been time.

She calculated the odds, didn't like what she figured, and shoved Colleen behind her. With a steel cabinet on one side and Misty on the other, bionic arm raised to shield and left arm to shoot, she'd be mostly covered whatever happened next.

"Misty, don't." Colleen started, but Misty shook her head. Whatever happened next, she was done running, and done worrying about Colleen's safety. They'd either talk it out here and now or go down fighting back to back, like Misty had always thought they would.

"This circus have a ringleader?" She called into the shadows.

"I believe that would best describe myself." The man's voice sounded light, seemingly young, but had the timbre of a man of the world. Misty followed it to the shadows, watching as two of the solders advanced, machine guns levelled, and a third man followed behind. He stopped when he found his light, as shaft of sunshine from an upper window. The placement lit him so perfectly that Misty had to wonder if he'd had one of the goon squad go up there and take the boards off, or if he'd just taken advantage of an existing gap. He was a small Japanese man, shorter than Misty and slender, with the same wiry grace as Danny'd had when he was young and underfed. His straight silver and black hair hung loose to his waist, and, as he turned to survey his troops, Misty saw a white scar running from his left ear down along his jawline. Something about him struck her as familiar, but she couldn't place what. "Do you have any final words?" he asked.

"You bet I do," Misty snapped. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

The man blinked, taken aback, but then his mouth tightened and twisted as if in distaste. "I need not to justify my actions to a defender of assassins."

Misty barked out a laugh. Behind her, Colleen groaned and let her head fall forward into Misty's back. "We should be just fine then. Colleen Wing would sooner die in agony than betray her precious morals or harm a non-combatant. When she thought I had, she ended twenty years of friendship; dropped me like a hot coal." She could feel Colleen take a sharp, betrayed breath, but didn't have time to divide her focus. "She's every inch her grandfather, and nothing like her mother."

It occurred to Misty that with the light in his face, the man probably couldn't really see them in much detail. He had soldiers for that kind of thing, anyway. "Yet she joined the Hand, and resurrected the Nail, following in the very footsteps of her mother. I put down her group once before, and I will again. They poison everything they touch."

"That does look pretty bad," Misty muttered, but pressed on. She wasn't getting the feeling that they were going to talk their way out of this, but at least the fight would start with the record straight. "Colleen didn't resurrect a thing, a demon controlling Daredevil did. Once she found out about it, she liberated the group, kicked out the murderous member, and started rescuing people. No assassinations."

She was losing him, she could see it. He glanced at the soldier next time, and unclasped his hands. She saw another survey of the room, ensuring that everything was in place.

Desperation made Misty say, "Kill her, and you'll be the assassin. Whatever Ozawa Azumi did to you will be nothing next to that. I've worked with Luke Cage and original Human Torch and Captain America, and maybe I'm just a mercenary, but there's something special about Colleen, something good. I would do anything in the universe for her, if she'd let me."

"Ozawa Azumi killed my father," the man said, and he raised his hand.

As Misty activated her shield, she felt Colleen slid out to stand beside her. She hadn't drawn her sword, but Misty didn't try to push her back. She had the right to fight where she wanted. She wished she had faith in their old ability to move in perfect sync. Maybe it would come back when their lives depended on it.

Their cover wasn't bad horizontally – they could get down behind the benches – but the snipers worried her. She suddenly remembered that rifle crack the day she'd first met Colleen, a gun they'd never accounted for. Suddenly, where she'd seen the ringleader, as well as a number of other events long past, clicked into place.

The lead soldier's finger tightened on the trigger, awaiting the signal, and Misty knew that every other solder in the room was watching her with equal focus. She held him in her sights, not willing to start the fight, but prepared to shoot him between the eyes when someone did. She'd rather have nailed the ringleader but his soldiers had stepped in to block him.

As the ringleader's mouth opened, presumable to say, "Kill them," three things happened at once. Misty switched her target to the nearest sniper; the sniper tumbled to the floor, though Misty hadn't fired a shot; and Colleen tackled her to the ground. Then everyone started shooting.

"Wha–" Misty started to say.

Colleen, arms still wrapped around her waist, said, "My team."

"Lets go help them." She twisted away to poke her head around the edge of a bench.

The soldiers had fallen back to the west side of the factory, surrounding their employer. A woman in a trailing white kimono drifted between them, seemingly unconcerned by bullets and flying work stations. A woman who looked like a combination of Psylocke and Doc Ock ripped another bench off its mountings and spun it into the soldiers. Misty noticed the angle was low and at their legs, enough to take them down, but not meant to kill. Some J-rock punk was crawling down the far wall, apparently unnoticed, though she'd inadvertently flipped her skirt down over her hips.

"Or not," Misty added, as it looked like they were doing pretty well on their own.

Colleen was on her feet anyway. In one short, searing moment, she pressed her mouth to Misty's, tongue flicking against her lips. Then she tore herself away and ran into the fight. Misty followed.

Bullets ricocheted off her shield, but she saved her own fire for closer to the fight. Ahead of her, Colleen had bounced off a bench and flipped into the air, arms wide, a blade in each hand. For a handful of seconds, she looked like a deadly diving swan, then she touched down behind the lines. The woman with pink hair dropped to her side, and Misty had only a bare second of irrational jealousy before she too was in the thick of things.

She landed behind a filing cabinet a dozen yards from the real fight, at right angles of approach to the machine-woman throwing shit. In the midst of the carnage it took them far to long to see Misty as a threat, when they did they got a desk tossed at them. When they looked back at the thrower of desks, Misty started putting rounds in legs and gun hands.

Her eyes were inevitably drawn to Colleen, the red hair so easy to pick up in the fray. Her katana flashed, reflecting rays of sunlight all around it. The ringleader held her off with a pair of curved short swords, while the pink-haired woman cleared space around them.

Misty moved in, taking a rebounding table top as cover to slide up and clock the nearest soldier. She hit the guy next to him for a good measure. That and hitting things felt pretty damn good at this point.

She caught of flash of Colleen out of the corner of her eye, katana raised, her opponent on his knees in front of her.

"Now would be a good time surrender," Misty shouted, but the only people close enough to hear were already unconscious. "Stand the fuck down!" Her voice blended with Colleen's, and somehow carried through the carnage. Moans of downed men filled the silence that might have followed.

"You win again," the ringleader told Colleen. His eyes were defiant, for all that there was a blood-edged sword at his throat.

"Yes," Colleen said. "I do."

 

1992
Colleen's head rose and fell with Misty's breath. She seemed half asleep, idly tracing patterns on Misty's stomach and almost purring as Misty stroked her hair.

A glow filled Misty's chest that she didn't think had anything to do with endorphins or good sex, or with being too tightly curled together on too hot a night. The urge to possess Colleen has passed, but the desire to touch her and hold her and make sure nothing bad ever happened to her remained, stronger than ever. She wasn't used to this, all the emotional entanglement that came with serious relationships, it didn't mix well with her usual easy come, easy go strategy. Even the idea of Colleen leaving made Misty's hand clench on her hip, as if she could hold her in place forever. Colleen wiggled closer when she did, rubbing her cheek against Misty's clavicle like a cat.

"You doing okay there, Col?" Misty asked, kissing her forehead.

"Yes." Colleen took a deliberate breath, then let it out, words unsaid, and Misty cursed herself for breaking the peace.

"What?"

"Why did you call me tonight?"

"I wanted to see you," Misty said honestly, knowing she was leaving something out as well, something she wasn't sure she was ready to say.

Colleen rolled off enough to prop herself up and look down at Misty. "Why me? We've known each other less than one week."

"Does it matter?" Misty asked, eyes fixed on the ceiling. "I called; you came; we had a good time." Discounting the near-death cab ride.

"I'd like to know."

Misty took a long breath and let it out in a sigh. "I had a rough shift, and the only thing I could see making my day better was you." Colleen nodded seriously, and Misty asked, "I called pretty late. Why'd you come?

"You sounded like you needed me."

 

2010
The cops took the lot of them in for questioning, and Misty couldn't say she blamed them. When Cherry Blossom, speaking through a translator, turned up a video cell-phone video of the whole conversation in the factory, and Colleen connected them with the Osaka arson investigation, they became less interested in Misty and much more in the ringleader.

"His name is Maruyama Hayato," Colleen said several hours of statements later. They were walking uptown, though Misty wasn't sure either of them knew exactly where. She'd told her team to find a hotel. "Forty years ago, the Nail killed his father, and he swore to bring them down if it took the rest of his life. With his family's resources, it only took six years."

Misty shivered, pulling her jacket more tightly around her. She wasn't a fan of the inside of police stations, generally not since her arm, and Rafe's betrayal had only made it worse. "When that demon in Matt brought the team back, he went after you again."

"He'd been keeping track of some of us for years, ever since I came to America. He almost killed me then."

"Yes. I remember." Misty's stomach knotted all over again at the idea that she could have lost Colleen before she even got to know her. Surely that would have been worse than being alone now, twenty years without her or Danny or Luke. What in the world would she be without any of them? "And then he decided you weren't worth bothering with?"

"He must not have known about Black Lotus, but yes. Not until we all came together."

Misty looked sideways at her, wondering again what it felt like to have that kind of heritage, how Colleen was dealing with it, but still unable to ask. They didn't talk about their feelings anymore. Instead, she said, "And you know all of this all along."

"Yes. I knew who he was, and that he'd come after you next. We needed to lay a trail and draw him out. He hired a mage to stick a listening spell to me. I've not said things I wanted to, since I've been back."

"I understand," Misty said. "It was a good plan, and it worked. You saved my life." It cut deeper knowing that she hadn't been able to read Colleen, to tell what she was planning, then it did knowing that Colleen had lied to her in the first place.

"I'd never let anyone hurt you," Colleen promised, and Misty wondered if she picked up the irony in that.

 

1992
How Colleen had dragged her out to Liberty Island, thus squandering one of her precious days off in a sea of summer school kids and fanny-packed tourists, Misty did not know. However, now that she stood behind Colleen, hands gripping the rail on either side of her, chin on her shoulder as they looked out over New York Harbour, she had to admit it wasn't bad. She hadn't been out this way in years, probably not since she was the same age as the sixth graders crowding the bow. She remembered eating too much ice cream and being sea sick on the way back, and that the view from the top of the statue making her love the whole of New York, not just the West Side of Manhattan, for the first time. Now she just enjoyed the warmth of Colleen pressed against her and contrasting chill of the salt air.

"We should get a boat," Colleen said, and Misty just catching the words before the wind carried them away. "My grandfather taught me to sail; we could come out here all the time."

Misty's grandfather had taught her to repair diesel engines and curse, and she struggled with a way to say, too rich for a beat cop's salary, without sounding dismissive. "I don't like anything with less than two hundred horse power," she said. "Might try your dad."

"We should get a speed boat then," Colleen amended, seemingly unconcerned with logistics. "That would probably be more fun."

"Okay, baby." Laughing, Misty kissed the side of her neck. "I'll get right on that."

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw an older Asian man watching them. His long hair fell in a braid to the middle of his back, and an ugly red scar cut across his cheek. Normally Misty would have flipped him off, but there were kids there, and he had an odd intensity in his expression. It seemed like more than just a passing man getting an eyeful of two women making out. He didn't look away when she caught his eye, and she shuddered, wrapping her arms around Colleen's waist.

"–out tonight?" Colleen was asking.

"Huh?"

"For dinner."

Misty glanced back, but the man had disappeared in the crowd. "Not thinking that far ahead. We could get a pizza and stay in." Colleen nodded and snuggled back against her.

It had been surprisingly easy to slide into spending every free moment with Colleen. They ate together most nights when Misty wasn't on shift, and slept together too. What she'd thought had been an infatuation she'd burn out of her system in a weekend or two had started to slide into something more serious.

If Misty didn't yet know quite what to make of that, several of her friends certainly did. Dre–who had once quoted at her, "I shall see thee, ere I die, look pale with love"–was mostly laughing into his sleeve, and the knowing looks from the whole pack of them had started to wear thin. She'd made sure to fuck the smirks off a couple faces, especially Dre's. It had been fun; it always was, but she still seemed to drift back into Colleen's company regardless. Since then, she'd decided to ride with it and see where it went. She'd been right a couple of weeks before. She wasn't even started with Colleen.

When the ferry pulled into Liberty Island, Misty waited until most of the kids and tourists had off loaded before heading for the ramp. The man who'd been watching them had been standing by the gate. Misty eyes narrowed, but he looked past her to Colleen and said something in Japanese.

Colleen's cheeks flushed, and she bobbed a small bow before replying.

"What did he say?" Misty asked as they stepped off the bottom of the ramp.

She ducked her head, still blushing. "He said we were a beautiful couple. I told him thank you."

"Yeah," Misty said. "I guess we are."

 

2010
Walking generally uptown turned into collapsing into a booth at the first quiet dinner they found. Misty didn't know why Colleen hadn't ditched her to join her team at the hotel, but she wasn't complaining. Unless it was about the diner being unlicensed, because she could use a double of vodka, two in the afternoon or not.

Jammed in a back booth, they had about as much privacy as they could get on neutral territory. Misty kept her voice low as she asked, "So, what next?"

Colleen rolled the bottom edge of her water glass on the coaster, leaving an arc of condensation. "It depends."

"You don't have any new cases lined up?" Misty pressed. "Nothing on the go in Japan?"

"We were between jobs when this hit." She had said that before, only Misty wasn't sure how much of what she'd said was true, and how much playing to the listening spell. At least she was almost sure that the part where Colleen wouldn't let her near had been part of the cover too. "I need to stay in town; follow up with the police."

"Right." She took a long breath and told herself that all that mattered was that Colleen was doing well. She'd been getting out and doing something, fighting for something she cared about, even if it wasn't always with Misty, and that hadn't happened for too long. Misty shouldn't say anything that would risk that: she'd been a star at that before, letting Colleen go with blessings. Only now, after months of loneliness, and sitting across from the woman she loved more than anything else in the world, she wavered.

"What about you?" Colleen asked, and Misty shrugged. She didn't want to think about what would happen next, going back to living in her office and struggling to make ends meet because she didn't want to change. Not when she could sit here and focus on Colleen's tired, bruised face, find new wrinkles around her eyes, and breathe in how beautiful she was. Not with that kiss so close in her memory. "Misty, are you okay?"

"I miss you, Col," Misty said. She looked down at her hands, folded tightly on the table, and swallowed past the lump in her throat. "I'm glad you're doing well, and you've found your people, but... I miss you."

Colleen's slender, calloused hand rested on top of Misty's. "I miss you too," she said, and something knotted in Misty's chest. "I didn't want to leave you behind, but I needed to fly. I couldn't stand any of the old things, not after what happened."

"I understand," Misty said. It had been her fault that the Brood had tortured Colleen; she had been the one who handed Moon Boy over to S.H.I.E.L.D.. Not an ounce of her blamed Colleen for wanting to get away, even when all of her wished was that she hadn't, or that Misty had been able to go too.

"But I missed you," Colleen said again. "You were right: finding my own way. I don't feel so angry anymore."

"Do you think you'll ever come back?"

"I'm back now." But for how long she wouldn't say.

"I could come with you," Misty offered. As long as she was being pathetic, she might as well go all out. "I can't match your team in a fight, but I'm a hell of an investigator. Isn't the Nail supposed to be five women?"

Their food came then, and they paused, but Colleen looked thoughtful. Maybe this had half a chance of working.

"We're thinking about changing our name," Colleen said once the waitress was back out of earshot. "Something less terrifying."

"Heroes for Hire?"

"Daughters of the Dragons."

Misty laughed. "That works."

"You don't mind?"

"Of course not." Even if Misty didn't join, Colleen had as much right to the name as anyone. "Do you have room for another daughter?"

"I want to say, 'yes,' but I'll have to think about it, talk to the others."

"Okay." Her voice felt small, and she swallowed again. "I'll be fine if I don't go," she said with more confidence, almost surprised at how much she meant it. "Whatever you choose, don't do it because you're worried about me."

Colleen squeezed her hand again. "So," she said, tone brightening as she changed the topic, "How has New York been? Tell me what I've missed."

 

2011
"Ready to go?"

Misty looked around their old office, scanning for anything that she might have forgotten. It looked like she'd got it all. The files and office equipment had gone into storage, along with most of her personal stuff, while the furniture had come with the place and remained here. Danny had said he'd have someone look after the lease. It wasn't the first office she and Colleen had rented, it wasn't even the sixth, but standing in the middle, duffel at her feet, Misty wondered if it would be their last. "We're good to go," she said at last. "I guess we should have moved the furniture in the back too; that's mine."

"You don't have room in your storage locker," Colleen told her. She was standing by the door, dressed down in slacks and a clingy white v-neck sweater. From the way she was shifting her weight from foot to foot, Misty figured she had something she was trying to work out how to say. She gave her time, rechecking all the drawers, until Colleen suddenly said, "Misty, that cot in the back, do you want to want to give it a proper goodbye?"

"Huh?" It took a minute for Misty's brain to tick around to what that could mean. When it did she said, "You sure?"

"Yes."

"Then hell yeah I am." She crossed the room and cradled Colleen's face with her left hand. "Mind if I drive?"

She took Colleen's kiss as a, 'yes,' and scooped her up with her bionic arm. Colleen's legs locked around her hips, holding her steady as Misty shouldered through the door to the back room. Her knee gave a twinge at the extra weight, but didn't give out before she dumped Colleen on the cot. Colleen laughed as she crawled across her to pin her shoulders and kiss her properly. She knew by now that Colleen didn't like her wrists grabbed, but that Misty sitting on top of her turned her on. She put some of that forcefulness into the kiss, nipping at Colleen's lower lip, pushing hard enough their teeth bumped before they got the angle right. Her tongue flicked against Colleen's, then ran across her teeth and lips.

Colleen matched her intensity in returning the kiss. She'd buried her hands in Misty's braids, holding them together. Misty could feel her sharp breaths, already getting faster, and an urgent little moan building in the back of Colleen's throat.

When she broke the kiss, it was only long enough to sit upright astride Colleen's hips and peel out of her top and bra. That gave Colleen enough room to prop herself on her elbows and wiggle out of her sweater. Misty bent forward again their breasts pressed together, all warmth of bare skin and smooth, soft sensation. Misty ran her left hand down Colleen's side, revelling in the slide of her skin.

She kept her bionic arm out of the way, bracing her weight mostly. No matter how much neural feedback Stark built into the thing, he could never make it feel exactly like the real flesh and blood. Colleen used it as a handhold to lever herself up so she could kiss Misty long and slow.

The feeling of bare skin against bare skin only made Misty want more. She rolled off for a moment, their bodies only just fitting side by side, and kicked out of her jeans and panties. The last of Colleen's clothes joined hers a moment later. They rolled onto their sides, Misty bracing on her elbow to get the right angle, and kissed again.

It felt like ages since they'd done this. Neither seemed to have a lot of time while the old team had been in operation, and it had mostly been quickies in the shower or sleepy fumbling too late at night. She'd missed the slowly building intensity of making out. Each touch built on the last until a casual stroke across the ribs became impossibly erotic. When she sucked at the hollow just below the ear, Colleen moaned. The renewed contact as their chests touching made her hips buck and her leg curl over Misty's ass to hold them together.

Misty moved her leg up to rub against Colleen, feeling a smooth slide across the front of her thigh. When Colleen tried to press down against her, she drew away and only allowed gentle pressure.

"Tease," Colleen said, and nipped her ear. She squeaked when Misty slapped her ass, and moaned when the smack turned into a grab and Misty dragged her body down and into contact again.

They rolled together, and Misty ended up on top again a knee planted between Colleen's spread legs. It just touched her bush, close enough for Colleen to grab her hips and grind down. Colleen sucked her breath in sharply, and Misty gritted her teeth. Every inch of her skin felt flushed and overheated, and she knew she'd already gotten wetter than Colleen. The urge to ask Col to go down on her died under the need to drag out every moment over contact. They could lie here and touch each other all day and into the night before anyone missed them. Misty might not have been going without, but she'd missed Colleen.

Some of that longing must have showed on her face, as Colleen's face stilled, lips pursed in thought. They both stayed frozen until she said, "I missed this."

"I missed you," Misty replied. She shifted to sit astride Colleen's hips, and reached between them to brush her knuckles across Colleen's clit. She had to ride up as the body underneath her bucked, balancing on her bionic arm when Colleen almost bounced her onto the floor. Falling forward pressed their bodies together, and ran the back of her hand against her own clit as well as her knuckles on Colleen's. She savoured the sweet jolt of pleasure, swivelling her hips to repeat it.

They gasped in unison. Misty could feel Colleen's heart pounding and her breath huffed in her ear. When Misty opened her palm and teased her fingers at Colleen's entrance, her mouth opened in a soundless O. Exhilarated, Misty kissed her lower lip, then the corner of her mouth, then the edge of her jaw. She shifted her balance to hold rock steady as Colleen thrust against her hand. Misty could feel how close she was, and every vibration seemed to transmit straight to Misty's own clit. She wanted to roll onto her back and finish herself off, but knew the loss of sensation would about kill her.

Colleen knew what she needed. A slender hand slid in next to hers, and flicked across Misty's clit with the edge of a nail. Misty screamed and instinctively pushed her hand down and in in response, and Colleen moved in reply to that. Their wrists knocked together awkwardly and there wasn't quite enough room, but it didn't matter. Every move sent a shiver of lust up both their bodies, which reverberated and reflected back on itself. Misty buried her face in Colleen's neck, glorying in the sound of Colleen panting and screaming for her. She had to bite Colleen's shoulder to keep from screaming herself.

Finally, when Misty thrust and twisted her fingers and rolled the side of her hand across her clit, Colleen broke and came. She pressed her face into Misty's braids, a high whine coming from somewhere in the back of her throat.

Her fingers stiffened against Misty's clit, bringing her off a moment later. Only her vibranium-steady right arm kept her from collapsing on top of Colleen and squishing her flat as the crescendo of mind-numbing desire and fulfilment rolled over her.

Misty rolled off, and they lay shoulder to shoulder, holding hands, and listened to each other's breathing even out.

At last, Colleen said, "Goodbye, Bed," and Misty laughed.

"Do you want to say goodbye to that giant bathtub in the Avengers Mansion, too?" she asked.

"Maybe." Colleen said. "I think I'd need to say hello to it first. I wasn't dating an Avenger."

The thought didn't hurt as much as Misty thought it would. The loss of Danny seemed a little more distant now, like another of their many fallings out, one that they both know would eventually mend. It always did. In the meantime, during the time they made up, and even after they broke up again, she had Colleen. "I could join the team, get you visitation rights."

"You're already on a team." A surprisingly sharp edge marked Colleen's voice. She pulled away from Misty's hand, propped herself up on an elbow, met Misty's eyes, and added, "The Avengers can't have you."

"Whatever you say, baby," Misty agreed, grinning up at her.

"You got that right."

If Misty had been ten years younger, she would have rolled them both onto the floor for that. Ten years before that, she'd have fought anyone who tried to lay a claim on her. Now, she pulled Colleen down and kissed her again.


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