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With you at my side

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The sight of Karolina Dean’s skin glistening with sweat, her chest heaving with a labored breath, hair disheveled, cheeks slightly red with exhaustion, is something Nico Minoru has come to appreciate, greatly, in the past couple of months, she thinks there is no sight more enticing and beautiful in the whole world, she could stare at Karrie like this for hours every day.

 

But not now, at this moment, Nico hates it, she hates it all, not only the sight of Karolina but her voice too, and her clothes and Nico’s and Nico herself. Everything is garbage and everything hurts and all this pain is pointless and she just wishes it to end. Nico collapses onto the floor, grimacing in pain, she can’t do this anymore.

 

“- C’mon, Nico! Just five more reps!” Karolina shouts.

 

“- You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!”

 

It’s been two months since the Runaways were accepted into the Avengers Initiative, and since day one it was clear adapting to their new life was going to be hard work. The first step was the gym. With the exception of Karolina, they all needed to improve their physical condition, this only includes Molly because, being a mutant teenager now, she’s starting to develop her true level of strength.

 

Nico never needed a gym before, she was blessed with good genes and thus, her physique is always on the thin side. But that’s not enough anymore. Captain Marvel told her that, even when her magical powers were outstanding, she needed good physical condition, she needed to build stamina and muscle mass. That was part of their training. So, to the gym she goes.

 

After a long debate, the Runaways decided to split in two teams for their sessions, Molly and Gert go to the self-defense class in “The Gauntlet”, the special facilities Captain Marvel told them about. In there, Molly could train with teachers appropriate to her strength, so she agreed immediately. Gert refused at first, arguing that she would not abide to societal rules about body type, she only agreed when she found out she could bring Old Lace to an open-air obstacle course that the dinosaur seemed to like and an instructor told her they could teach her sixteen different ways to kill a man in self-defense class.

 

That leaved Nico, Karolina and Chase on the other team, they decided to go to a regular gym for the time being. The first few days weren’t that bad. Nico went with the enthusiasm of trying something new, it also had the benefit of spending more time with her girlfriend and Karolina made it even more enticing by wearing gym clothes (Nico was so in love with her toned abs… and muscular back… and defined arms… alright she was in love, period) but as time progressed, it got harder and harder.

 

Nico is exhausted. There’s so much on her plate she doesn’t have time to remember what not being stressed feels like. One of the conditions to join the Avengers Initiatives was for all of them to return to school, and everyone has. Nico is not particularly happy about that arrangement, she hasn’t missed school. Part of it is because she was always the outcast, she was either the Asian nerd or, later on, the weird goth chic. She’s even less happy now that she has to balance her job (as boring as it is) the Initiative training, school (home school, but still) house work and she needs to take care of her personal life, she has a girlfriend now and she takes it very seriously.

 

All of it is beginning to take a toll on Nico. Today she got home from work and wanted nothing more that take a bath and rest, but she couldn’t, first, it was her turn to do the dishes, then she needed to write a paper for her Community Engagement class and, of course, physical training. That’s where she is now, collapsed in the middle of the gym, physically and mentally incapable to keep going.

 

“- You can do it, Nico, just five more” Karolina keeps encouraging her.

 

“- Karrie… I really can’t” Nico’s muscles have given up, she’s been in the gym for an hour already.

 

Karolina frowns and kneels beside Nico “- Are you hurt?” She says, her gaze full of caring and worry. Nico shakes her head. “- Okay, we can leave it here, no big deal”

 

Nico looks at Karrie and sighs, she needs to finish this. She’s sure someday she’ll need to push past her limits again and life will not give her a time out. “- No, I have to go on” She says and picks up the 50 lbs. barbell “- Help me here, please?” Karolina grabs the barbell and helps Nico putting it over her shoulders.

 

Nico squats, as slowly as she cans, she wobbles a little and Karolina puts her hands over Nico’s hips to stabilize her, she gets up and lifts the bar with a grunt, completing a shoulder press. Repeat four more times.

 

“- Okay, what’s next?” Nico says throwing the barbell to the floor, breathing heavily.

 

“- You sure?” Karolina asks.

 

“- Yeah”

 

“- Alright” Karolina pulls out her phone and checks her gym app “- There’s still two more series for both of us. Back for you and arms and legs for me”

 

“- Fine, I’ll get it done. Could you check on Chase, please, see if he’s ready to leave?”

 

That’s another thing that annoys Nico. Chase isn’t bothered by the chore of going to the gym, that doofus actually enjoys it, and seeing his dumb smile plastered on his dumb face while doing pull ups, pushups and who knows what other kind of ups, is unbearable.

Nico goes to do her series of rows. She finds these to be not so bad, she has a fairly strong back and has a good range of motion, who would have thought? Nico throws a glance to where Karolina and Chase are talking, after a few amicable words, Karolina starts to walk back to her when a gorgeous girl, Nico is sure is one of those Instagram fitness models and that she already talked to Chase first, approaches Karrie and begins to chatter her up.

 

Fine, that’s another thing Nico gets annoyed with in this damn gym, half of its patrons blatantly flirt with Karolina, and to be fair the other half flirt with Chase; there was even a particularly gross couple that, when Karrie and Chase told them that they were siblings (a half lie that they’re been using to avoid the comments of how hot their boyfriend/girlfriend is) they responded with a “That doesn’t bother us!”. Ew. And of course Nico isn’t worried that Karolina might take one of those offers, not one bit, what it’s really annoying is that nobody acknowledges her as Karrie’s girlfriend. It’s not like they’re being subtle or something, the arrive and leave together, they hold hands, they kiss all the time, they call each other pet names, like “babe” and “honey” ¿What does Nico have to do? ¿Fuck Karolina in the middle of the gym? And surely not even that, some gross dude or girl would ask to join. Fucking people.

 

“- Another girl asking for your number?” Nico asks humorlessly stepping out of the machine she’d been using.

 

“- Nha, she actually asked me for my brother’s number” Karolina says, taking a barbell and adding some weight to it. She notices the look on Nico’s face. “- Don’t be mad, we talked about this”

 

“- I’m not mad, just annoyed, no one seems to know the definition of boundaries, that same girl already went and tried to board Chase”

 

Karolina begins to do curls with the barbell, after twelve repetitions she put it back down and shakes her arms and stretch a little, then she starts all over. “- Yeah, I hear you, I mean, what do we have to do? Have sex right here?”

 

“- I know, right?”

 

“- I mean, I would be down with that, but I bet someone would ask to join, the creeps” Karolina says nonchalantly.

 

It doesn’t escape from Nico that Karolina would be okay with… that… the room feels really hot all of a sudden.

 

“- Oh, by the way, Chase said he wanted to check the boxing area, I told him we leave in twenty minutes” Karolina drops the barbell and places the weights back in the rack she found them, she has perfect gym etiquette.

 

“- Okay”

 

“- You mind if we grab a shower here? I feel all sticky” Karolina says.

 

“- Sure”

 

They don’t usually shower in the gym, Karolina is always adamant they don’t waste any more water than the strictly necessary, so, they bathe at home.  Nico and Karolina retrieved their bags from the lockers, when they reach the showers there’s only another woman in but she didn’t pay any mind to them.

 

Karolina leads Nico to a secluded corner in the far end of the showers room, she pulls a bar of soup and a small bottle of shampoo from her bag, then, in a swift motion she takes off her Janet Van Dyne collection sports bra and throws it towards the bag. Nico stares only for a moment until she remembers they are in a public place, she retrieves her things from her bag too and peels her clothes off with as much grace as her sore muscles and exhausted state permit.

 

Nico turns the shower on and soaps her body without much trouble until she reaches for her neck and back, or you might say, tries to reach for her neck and back, her arms feels like they’re made out of rubber and couldn’t, for the life of her, move them far enough. That seems to amuse Karolina because Nico can hear her giggling softly.

 

“- Need any help?” Karolina offers.

 

“- Yeah, I’m gonna regret this in the morning” Nico says turning her head slightly to see her girlfriend coming closer to her, Karrie is wearing only flip flops and her suppressor bracelet.

 

“- When we get home, I’m gonna give you a nice and long massage, how’s that sound? Karolina says

 

“- I will love you forever… ” Nico tried to say more but she was cut short when the expert hands of Karolina grabs her at the shoulders and begin to apply her body wash. A loud moan escapes Nico’s lips, she didn’t mean it, really, but she couldn’t help it either.

 

“- Nico! We’re in public” Karolina says jokingly.

 

“- I’m sorry, is just that I’m really sore”

 

Karolina keeps washing Nico for a couple more minutes filled with soft moaning and whimpering. Nico doesn’t mean anything sexual about it, she’s just enjoying the attention, she thinks of it as a teaser of the massage Karolina promised. Too bad Karolina didn’t get the memo. She looks around and see they’re completely alone for the moment. Nico notices Karolina pressing her body against her back, eliciting another moan that turns into alarm when Karolina hugs her and a hand travels down her navel. “- Karrie!” Nico almost shouts.

 

“- It’s okay, we’re alone” Karolina says and turns Nico around to face her planting a searing kiss.

 

Karolina kneels in front of Nico, who just stares at her with shocked expression.

 

“- What are you doing!?” Nico asks in alarm.

 

“- What do you think? Now relax, we got to make this quick before someone comes in”  

 

Karolina pushes Nico to the wall and scoots closer lifting one of Nico’s legs, hooking it up over her shoulder.

 

Nico gasps when she feels Karolina’s tongue entering her “- Oh god, Karrie…!” Nico needed this, it has been a few weeks since they were able to have sex, their lives were simply too busy, sometimes was Karolina who had to stay in her dorm in campus to finish some project or a meeting with her lawyers  trying to fix the issue with her parents disappearance (a whole issue that she prefers not to dwell on it) and other times Nico was so tired she fall asleep as soon as her head touches the pillow or there was homework to do, whatever the case, their sex life has suffered.

 

Nico is being held in place by Karolina grabbing her by the hips. She knows Karrie can be a very sexual person but, having sex in a public place? Even if they’re secluded, it seems a little out of character. Nico is not about to complain, though.

 

“- You need to let go, baby, we don’t have much time” Karolina says taking a moment to breath “- And I really want to see you cum”

 

That is something Nico is not particularly good at, letting go, she always wants to stretch every single intimate moment with Karolina, every kiss, every caress, every look, she wants them all to last as long as possible. But Karrie is right, they don’t have much time, anyone could enter the showers at any moment. Nico finally let herself relax and enjoy her girlfriend’s attention. In just a few moments she’s breathing heavily, unable to form coherent thoughts anymore, the only thing her mind is registering is Karrie’s face between her legs.

 

It’s over all too soon, Nico feels her orgasm building far too quickly for her liking but there’s no way to stop it now, all she can do is grasp Karolina’s hair trying to ground herself. She shudders when it finally hits her, Nico forces herself not to scream, she arches her back and tugs firmly at her nipple, her legs give up and the only reason she doesn’t fall on the shower floor are Karolina’s strong arms.

 

“- Easy, babe, that’s it” Karolina says, planting tender kisses on Nico’s pelvis and helping her regain her footing.

 

“- Oh my god, Karrie, that was…” Nico can’t find her words, barely can even breath.

 

Karolina gets up and plants a last lingering hot kiss on Nico’s lips. “- Now, behave, let’s actually shower”

 

Easy for her to say.

-

 

Nico and Karolina finally walk out of the gym sporting an ear-splitting grin, Chase waiting for them at the reception looking not the least amused.

 

“- Shoot, I forgot my water bottle, be right back” Karolina says before going back inside the gym.

 

Nico gives Chase a soft smile “- How did you like the boxing area?” She says.

 

“- Uh?”

 

“- The boxing area, you were gonna check it out?” Nico asks again, there’s something wrong, she can feel it.

 

“- I didn’t?” Chase answers.

 

“- Karolina told me”

 

“- No” Chase retorts “- She told me to wait for you guys… oh… you guys were…” Chase gestures with her hand crossing her index and middle finger.

 

Nico blushes like crazy. Everyone knows she and Karolina have a very active sex life (on a particularly heated night Gert banged on their door shouting a friendly shut the fuck up!!) but is one thing that your family are aware that you have a sex life and another one entirely that they know, like, really know.

 

Karolina returns to them saving Nico to any further embarrassment “- All set guys” She looks at her friends, both of them blushing and avoiding eye contact “- Are you two okay?” She asks.

 

“- You used me, Karolina, I’m hurt” Chase says.

 

“- What are you talking about?” Karolina says feigning ignorance, she spots a perfect chance to tease both Nico and Chase.

 

“- You used me, you lied to me so you could…” Chase says gesturing towards Nico, who’s face is as red as a tomato.

 

“- Yeah, you’re the best wingman, Stein!” Karolina gives him a quick hug and a sly smile to Nico. The ride back home is a little awkward.

 

-

 

The next afternoon Nico found herself in a rare situation, she was at home with some spare time. Karolina was staying at campus to finish a project, Chase was doing some over time, Molly had band practice, even Gert went out on her own to watch a movie, in fact, Nico manufactured this situation on purpose, that leaves Vic, Old Lace, Rufus and herself alone in the Hostel. A couple of days before she requested a meeting with her sponsor for this very same day, and she wanted to have some privacy to speak with her. Luck was on Nico side when a message on her phone notified her that Captain Marvel was ready for their weekly report, turns out there’s an Avengers app for members of the initiative.

 

“- Vic, I’m gonna be in the corner for a while, you need anything?”  She says to Victor, who was, as usual, just watching reruns of old shows on the TV, he’s the only one of the team Nico couldn’t make to leave the house but he wouldn’t bother her.

 

“- Nope, I’m fine” Victor responds.

 

The “corner” is the nickname that stuck to their “control corner” where the Runaways keep their Portable Control Center, a couple of screens and some chairs, their own humble version of a control room.  Originally the corner was nicknamed like that because it was located in a literal corner of the living room but they had it moved to one of the empty rooms of the Hostel after one of Molly’s friends visited her and asked if they could use their sweet home cinema.

 

Nico enters the room and turns on the Control Center, logs in and grabs a seat in front of the screen, after a few seconds, the image feed shows Carol Danvers in civilian clothes. That’s been a recurrent thing, even when the weekly reviews are official business with the Avengers Initiative, Carol always wear informal clothes. Nico isn’t sure if it’s a weird power move, or something designed to lower her guard or Captain Marvel’s way of saying I don’t even bother pretending this is official or what. It’s also possible that Carol Danvers likes to be comfortable.

 

“- Hello, Nico” her sponsor says.

 

“- Good afternoon, Captain”

 

“- Where are your friends?” So far, in the majority of meetings with Captain Marvel, the Runaways were all present.

 

“- I wanted to talk to you in private this time”

 

“- About?”

 

“- About the Doombot situation, has been any advance on that yet?”

 

In the first remote meeting with Carol Danvers, Nico told her about the attack they suffered at the hands of a Doombot. It surprised everyone that the Avenger hadn’t heard anything about it. The appearance of a hostile AI on American soil is not exactly the kind of things that go unnoticed, especially when Doctor Doom was involved, but apparently, the attack was never reported, which was odd, Karolina told them that Julie had filled the report herself with the LAPD. When they asked Julie about it, she confirmed she did file the report, and that should have been enough for the Avengers to know about it.

 

Nico went to the LAPD precinct a couple days later, and found that they had no record of any robot attack but one officer did confirm that Julie Power had been on the station that night and that she filled the report, but there was no trace of it in the police system.

 

There hadn’t been another attack, still, the Avengers sent a team to the Hostel to scan the remains of the Doombot, they scanned it, took some readings and pictures and then left. Nico was worried sick that freaking Doctor Doom was after them, until Carol told her that was impossible, Victor Von Doom disappeared more than six months ago.

 

“- Well, I can confirm you that Doom is not involved in this” Captain Danvers says “- The Doombot that attacked you is an old model, Doom stopped using that technology years before his disappearance. We still don’t’ know who’s behind this”

 

“-  Captain, I was thinking, aside from Doom, who has access to Doom tech?”

 

“- You suspect of someone? That’s why we are talking in private, right?” Carol asks.

 

“- I don’t want to scare my friends with guesses, but maybe it was some old enemy of mine when I was with you and Jennifer, or maybe one of Victor’s, he used to be an Avenger too” Nico explains.

 

“- Hmmm, it’s unlikely some villain out there has a Doombot just laying around. Doom wasn’t particularly fond of sharing”

 

“- Perhaps it was stolen, there must be somebody else with access to Doom Tech”

 

“- Well, yes, the Avengers, but we keep all that stuff in our vaults, they’re impregnable”

 

“- Nobody else?” Nico tries again.

 

Captain Marvel thinks for a moment before answer “- The Fantastic Four and the Future Foundation, surely, but their security measures are as strict as ours”

 

A chill creep up Nico’s back. “- Could you still ask around, Captain? It would mean the world to us”

 

Carol Danvers makes another pause “- You’re right, it’s not like our systems hasn’t been compromised before. Alright, I’ll look into it, that’s good thinking, Nico”

 

“- Thank you”

 

“- Is there something else?”

 

“- That’s all, Captain, I really appreciate what you’re doing for us”

 

“- No problem, I’ll see you in couple days, have your report ready for our weekly review, okay?”

 

“- I will” Nico logs off after that feeling uneasy, she doesn't move for a long time.

 

You see, people don’t give the Runaways enough credit, they are still alive (mostly) for a reason. They are survivors, and the key to survival is always be on your guard.

 

In her short life, Nico has been through a lot, and one of the first lessons she had to learn is how to identify threats. It became a sort of new sense for her, one that is even more heightened now that she has her family back.

 

Since the Doombot attack weeks ago, Nico felt something was awfully wrong, there were many questions that went unanswered by the sheer relief of everyone being alive.

 

The first question that popped into her mind was, why? Why would someone send a Doombot to attack the Runaways and kidnap Victor? It makes no sense because, when they were attacked, the had no strategic value, they weren’t a threat to anyone, they weren’t even a team.

 

It makes even less sense because, it may sting her ego a little bit, but no one knew that they were back together, or even who the Runaways were. How did they find out? How did they know where to find them?

 

Furthermore, who could send a Doombot? To her knowledge, very few people has access to that kind of technology.

 

And, what benefit could someone get by attacking the Runaways? Again, they are nothing, they have nothing. Going after Victor would be useless, he himself may be a wonder of technology, but Ultron created him with so many fail safes designed to prevent anyone to exploit him, every attempt to do that has been proved to be a fool’s errand.

 

The first clue Nico had was the timing of the attack. It came at an odd time, when they were together, and at broad daylight. It was completely the wrong move If the objective was to snatch Victor.

 

Even more, the Doombot used non-lethal weapons against them. It seemed like a ruse, like someone really wanted to fright them, not harm them.

 

Nico also found very weird that they were attacked only once, if they wanted Victor it would be normal to expect more attempts but there were none.

 

Nico had her suspicions and slowly, carefully, the facts backed her up. It was at work when it hit her, there was a possibility… it was farfetched but… maybe… Nico needed confirmation.

 

That’s why she asked a meeting with Captain Marvel, that’s why she had to act meekly like a good recruit around her (it killed her to do so) Nico needed information and she got it.

All the pieces fit together.

 

Nico did know someone who, since day one, knew the Runaways were back together, someone who has a motive for staging an attack, who, at the time, could benefit from inflicting fear in them, who has very obscure knowledge of Doombots, who is close friends with people with access to Doom tech and more importantly, someone who, now that Nico and Karolina are together, has a reason to stop.

 

Julie.

Chapter Text

“- Nico, no, just… no”

 

Karolina Dean never thought she could love someone as much as she loves Nico Minoru. Not really. She loved Xavin, maybe not at first but eventually. It hurt when they were forced to leave the planet, still, Karolina always knew that relationship was doomed from the start so she never let herself fall completely for them. Then, there was Julie Power.  Julie was everything you could wish in a partner, she is the kind of person that drives you to be the best version of yourself, she’s kind, selfless, funny, committed, gorgeous looking, accomplished, the list goes on and on. Karolina loved her, she did her best to love her, and then she didn’t.

 

And now there’s Nico. For many people, Nico doesn’t seem the type of girl you’d die for, but that’s because those people are idiots. Karolina knows that Nico is loyal and caring beyond belief, and she is so selfless and brave almost to a fault, after all, Nico did join the Avengers and put her life on the line to help others. Nico is also so funny in a sarcastic and self-deprecating kind of way, okay, it’s also that she is so gorgeous and stylish, ever since they were kids Karolina had a fixation on her that only grew stronger when she started with her goth aesthetic; Karolina normally has to stop herself from drooling every time she sees Nico whether she’s wearing clothes or not (especially when she’s not)

 

But for all of Nico’s qualities that doesn’t mean she can be an infuriating ass sometimes, like right now.

 

“- Think about it Karolina, it actually makes sense” Nico pleads with her girlfriend.

 

“- No, it doesn’t, it’s ludicrous”

 

Karolina came to the Hostel to spend some time with her family, in the past days she barely saw them and only on the gym at that. What she found at home was a very nervous Nico with the most asinine notion in the world, that Julie Power is responsible for the Doombot to attack from a few weeks ago.

 

“- It adds up, she has means and motive” Nico says like she’s in some corny TV show.

 

“- Now I know you’re not serious, how in the hell does she has means and motive?” Karolina says.

 

“- She knows a lot about Doombots” Nico begins to count using her fingers “- She’s good friends with Franklin and Valeria Richards, people with easy access to Doom tech, the attack came when she was around…”

 

“- And why would Julie do something like that?!” Karolina asks.

 

“- You told me she was trying to convince you to move to New York, right? And you wouldn’t move since you got us all back…”

 

“- So, what?”

 

“- If we were scared out of our minds we, potentially, would run to New York for protection, and problem solved for Julie”

 

Karolina pinches the bridge of her nose and frowns, this conversation is already giving her a headache “- You are really over reaching for this, Nico”

 

“- Then why we haven’t been attacked again? Now that you’re with me she has no more reason to try to get you to New York” Nico says.

 

Karolina could clarify that Julie doesn’t really know that Nico is her girlfriend that Karolina never told her, she has the chance to come clean. She doesn’t. “- That’s impossible” She says.

 

“- Why?” Nico asks her.

 

“- Because I know Julie, she’s a good person, she would never do something like that” Karolina explains.

 

“- Well, I still think we need to follow this through”

 

“- Nico… it’s not necessary, I’m telling you, Julie would never do that”

 

“- Maybe you think it’s not necessary, but I do”

 

“- And it seems like you don’t trust me”

 

“- What? Of course I trust you”

 

“- Then trust me on this, you’re on the wrong track, Nico, I get that you’re scared but Julie has nothing to do with this, stop it”

 

Nico doesn’t answer.

 

“- Okay” Karolina continues “- Since you’re not thinking straight and don’t give a crap about my judgment, then I’m gonna go.

 

“- Karrie…”

 

“- Don’t” Karolina says and turns to face Nico “- You can go find me when you come back to your senses, okay?” Karolina takes her bag and leaves, she can her Nico saying something else to her but she’s pissed and ignores it.

 

When Karolina reaches her car, she expects Nico come to her and apologize. She turns her head and sees nothing. So much for wanting a quiet afternoon.

 

On her way to campus Karolina can’t stop thinking about Nico’s words, she has a point, not on the Julie part, that’s probably the dumbest shit Nico could come up with. No, it was another thing. Why we haven’t been attacked again? That is a very good question.

 

When the Runaways were, well, running away, Karolina developed a keen sense for danger. It may be one of the reasons she’s in therapy but it also kept her alive. That sense is flaring up like crazy once again. Suddenly she can only see cars that are following her and all the people in the street have something suspicious about them.

 

Focus Karolina, focus” She tries to calm herself, she’s overreacting, that’s all. No wonder Nico was all worked up, even Karolina gets jumpy with all this situation. And yet… She can’t shake the feeling that something is wrong, she needs to talk to Nico even if it means swallow her words. At the first chance, she makes a U turn heading back to the Hostel. Karolina notices another car takes the same exit as her.

 

Karolina keeps driving for a couple minutes and takes a wrong turn on purpose, the same car takes the same wrong turn. That’s no coincidence, someone is following her. Most likely it’s just paparazzi, her parents were famous and then disappeared mysteriously, that’s tabloid gold. Damn. It’s weird but she wishes some shady individual connected with the Doombot attack would be following her, that way she could prove to Nico that Julie has nothing to do with it. Oh well, she has dealt with paparazzi before.

 

Karolina stops her car in a very transited street, the car that follows her stops too, she exits her car and begins to walk toward the paparazzi, this tactic works most of the time, just go, confront them, let them take a couple of pictures and they’re done.

 

Before Karolina could get too close the car drives off.

 

Those were definitely not paparazzi.

 

-

 

In retrospect, Nico shouldn’t be surprised, what did she expect? That Karolina just took her word? It would have been nice though “- That went well” After Karolina leaves, she sits in the sofa not knowing what to do next. The buzzing of a familiar Roomba brings her out of her stupor.

 

“- You did accuse her ex girlfriend of supervillainy” Victor says.

 

Much to Nico’s dismay, Victor opted to use a modified Roomba to move around the Hostel instead of the robot body Chase fixed for him. In fact, Victor’s attitude has been a source of worry for Nico, he doesn’t attend their meetings with Captain Marvel, he barely leaves the house, he didn’t sign for school (he can’t sign at all!) and refuses any and all offers to help. Still, neither Nico nor anyone else forces him to do anything.

 

Nico sighs, she’s frustrated and upset and is clear Victor has been eavesdropping but she’ll humor him nonetheless. “- What do you think, Victor? Could Julie be behind that?” She asks lowering her gaze to meet his.

 

“- Imagine I’m shrugging” Victor says “- I actually don’t know, I mean, you’re right, it’s clear I wasn’t the target”

 

Nico thinks for a moment before continuing “Vic, did you notice anything weird when you were, uhmm, plugged into that thing?”

 

“- Well, I knew Doom didn’t send the bot after me the second it plugged me in”

 

“- How so?” Nico asks.

 

“- It’s hard to explain, uhmm, you see, Doomtech has a very particular signature to it, the software is weird, the power source is weird. But that bot didn’t have any of that. It was scrubbed off”

 

Nico is beyond pissed to hearing this just now, but again, she will gain nothing if she starts yelling at Vic. “- What you mean scrubbed off

 

“- It means that, at some point, the Doombot was captured and repurposed, deleting all trace of Doom in it, which is a very difficult thing to do”

 

“- So it has to be Julie, right? She has friends with the resources to do that” Nico says.

 

“- Well…”

 

“- Vic? What are you not telling me?” Nico asks again.

 

“- I have a friend who could help us… he’s an expert on Doomtech and I suppose he could identify where that robot came from” Victor gives Nico his best puppy dog eyes.

 

Again, Nico is pissed, he didn’t say anything back then and just now happens to remember a friend who could help them?

 

“- What the fuck, Vic? Why didn’t you tell us before?” Nico snaps at him. She can see how Victor’s gaze lowers and how he flinches, as much as someone without a body can, but Victor hasn’t turn around and left. Nico tries again with a gentler tone “- Vic, please, if you know anything that can help us…”

 

“- Alright, Nico, I’ll… I’ll contact him”

 

“- Thank you, Vic” Nico says, she makes a mental note to try to talk to Victor more often, it’s curious but they are the two runaways who had similar life experiences, both were Avengers in the past, both of them had died and, thanks to odd chances, both came back to life. They should form a club. “- Do you need any help with that?”

 

“- Could you plug me into a computer, please?” Victor says.

 

“- Sure, is the Control Center okay?” Nico asks.

 

“- No need, just a regular computer is fine”

 

Nico picks Victor up, unplugs him from the Roomba and takes him to her laptop. There’s a lot of history between them but they have avoided each other. It’s beyond awkward trying to make small talk to your brought back to life-ex Avenger-ex boyfriend.

 

Nico plugs Victor to her laptop, again, the whole process feels weird and unnatural, tilting Victor’s head up to search for an entry (seriously, Ultron should’ve have built him with an USB port) and placing him in front of the screen.

 

“- So, what? Do I open Google for you?” Nico asks.

 

Victor laughs humorlessly “- I can actually control the operative system now. I’m sending an encrypted message via web, my friend has a private server and should pick it up easily. This will only take a few minutes and then we wait” Victor says.

 

“- Cool, cool”

 

Tense silences were always Nico’s specialty, but somehow, she begins to get uncomfortable, which is unfair, Victor has done nothing but keeping to himself and, in his own words, avoid being a burden, he has been a sweetheart to Gert and Molly and Chase, although he has barely spoke to Karolina or her. Nico suspects he might be jealous.

 

“- I’m very happy for you, you know?” Victor says when the silence was becoming unbearable. “- Karolina and you are a great couple, despite your different opinions on her ex. You look happy”

 

Just like that, that sweet, awkward, coke loving, spicy food enthusiast of a boy has done it again. The tension in the air is gone finally and Nico can breathe a little easier.

 

“- Thanks, Vic, I am happy, and yeah, I think I should have managed that better” Once things have cool it off a bit, she will call Karrie to apologize.

 

“- And relax, I’m not looking for the nudes you send Karolina while I’m here” Victor winks at her.

 

Nico laughs and, damn, she did miss her family.

 

“- Joke’s on you, perv, I keep those in my phone”

 

They banter for a little longer, then, out of the blue a ping sound comes from the computer even when Nico couldn’t see it doing something.

 

“- Okay, it’s done, I sent my friend a message and attached every bit of info I got from the Doombot. He should call back soon.”

 

“- Who’s this friend of yours by the way”

 

“- Another Avenger from when I was running with them, we were in a sweet group of AI individuals there. We kept contact after we disbanded but he’s… shy. Maybe I’ll introduce you some day” Victor smiles at the memory of his former team. Good times.

 

“- I heard about your group, you did good things there.” Nico wants to probe further but doesn’t. She’s sure Victor will tell them all when he’s ready.

 

“- Hey, since you’re home, John Carpenter’s The Thing is on TV, wanna watch it?” Victor asks.

 

“- Sure” Nico smiles at him and takes him to the living room to enjoy a well deserved 80’s style horror filled couple of hours.

 

-

 

Karolina doesn’t want to run away again. She has a family, a girlfriend she loves (and who drives her crazy sometimes, but that’s beside the point) This time she will fight. If some rando follow her on its car and threaten her or her loved ones she will blast them to oblivion. It was probably reckless but, for the past half hour, Karolina tried, and failed, to locate the car that stalked her, she even flew over the block a couple times, but to no avail.

 

“- Shit” Karolina says out loud once she gets back to her car, it’s getting late and she needs to go the Hostel to tell everyone about this.

 

When Karolina arrives, she finds Nico and Victor amicably watching a movie, like nothing has happened. “- Well, it’s good to see you were so worried about me” She says.

 

“- Karolina!” Nico jumps out of the couch and goes to her. Karolina notice Nico is approaching her cautiously raising her hands as to pacify the situation in advance. “- I was just giving us some time to cool off, I swear”

 

Karolina sighs for like what it feels the hundredth time this day, she leads Nico to the sofa where Vic could also see her. It always feels bad to leave Vic out of a conversation simply because he can’t turn his head around.

 

“- Hi, Vic” She says to the android.

 

“- Hi… uhmmm… would you guys like some privacy?”

 

“- It’s okay, I wanted to talk to everybody. Where’s everyone, by the way?”

 

“- The usual” Nico shrugs “- School and training for Molly and Gert, and Chase took Old Lace and Rufus to the vet”

 

“- Okay, well, since you’re already here” Karolina takes a deep breath and then she continues “- I don’t want you guys to freak out, I was followed today”

 

“- Followed as in… ?” Nico asks her.

 

“- Straight up followed, stalked, a car was tailing me when I left earlier, and it wasn’t a run of the mill paparazzi”

 

“- How could you know?” Vic asks this time.

 

“- Sometimes when paparazzi follow me I just give them the chance to take a couple of pictures, they get satisfied and I get to go in peace; but today I stopped and went to the car but it drove off before I could get close”

 

“- So they didn’t want pictures” Nico says.

 

“- No, and maybe I’m being paranoid, but…” Karolina sits in the sofa next to Victor. “- I’m wondering if this is connected to the Doombot attack, we’ve been asking lately and now I’m being followed.”

 

Victor and Nico look at each other, they look worried. “- I do think is connected to the Doombot” She says

 

“- How do you know?” Karolina asks her.

 

“- Vic told me he has a friend who could help identify the responsible for the Doombot, we send him a message earlier today” Nico tells her. “- It’s too much of a coincidence that you were tailed the same day.”

 

“- And before you blame me” Victor interjects “- I used every security measure available and every encryption and code I know off. But if the same people who hacked a Doombot were monitoring us, it’s possible they hacked into my message too”

 

Karolina thinks it’s true, she has a good sense for when someone is following her and she’s sure nobody has done that for months, she would have noticed. This also means she was right on something else. “- Okay, Nico, you have to admit this doesn’t sound like something Julie would do”

 

Nico nods slightly at her “- It does seem out of place” She concedes.

 

“- It does, so can we forget about it for good?” Karolina asks.

 

“- Karrie, I’m thinking she might be involved by accident, she’s an Avenger and she’s bound to have enemies, maybe she joked about it and someone took it seriously or she’s wired and doesn’t know…”

 

“- Where are you going with this, Nico?”

 

“- Let me talk to her, I just need to know for sure and maybe she can help us figuring things out.”

 

It looks like Karolina would have to call her ex and ask her if she’s a secret super villain or something. “- Fine”

 

This is a bad idea.

Chapter Text

Someone followed Karolina.

 

Some motherfucker followed Karolina.

 

Some fucking piece of shit with a death wish followed Karolina.

 

Nico is seeing red. The moment Karolina told her and Victor she was being followed Nico could focus on nothing else but her desire to kill the bastard that was stalking Karrie.

 

“- Okay, Nico, you have to admit this doesn’t sound like something Julie would do” That’s what Karolina tells her, she doesn’t buy if for a second. This is Julie’s doing, she doesn’t know how but she got people following Karolina, probably following all of Nico’s family.

 

“- It does seem out of place” No, it doesn’t. Nico has known people willing and able to do crazier, more damaging shit for lesser reasons.

 

“- It does, so can we forget about it for good?” Karrie wants to forget about this? Like hell, it’s high past time to up the situation.

 

“- Karrie, I’m thinking she might be involved by accident, she’s an Avenger and she’s bound to have enemies, maybe she joked about it and someone took it seriously or she’s wired and doesn’t know…” That harpy is knee deep in this shit, she got someone following Karrie, what would have happened is she got hurt? This is out of hand and Nico is going to put and to it.

 

“- Where are you going with this, Nico?” Preventing anyone from hurting her family, what else?

 

“- Let me talk to her, I just need to know for sure and maybe she can help us figuring things out.” She’s going to force that bitch to confess!

 

“- Fine.”

 

-

 

Alright! That went better than Karolina expected. She knew Nico would be reasonable. The only problem will be breaking to Julie the news of hers and Nico relationship. She should have done it earlier, Julie meant a lot to her, still does, if she were a decent person she would let Julie know, its basic courtesy. Ideally, Karolina would prefer to do that in private… or never, and let Julie find out some other way. But if Nico is willing to eat some crow about this, then, she’s capable of telling Julie she was, basically, replaced… This is gonna be bad.

 

“- So, I still have her number, do you want it? You could call her whenever you want, or maybe text her, that would be better.” Maybe Nico would be satisfied with that, yeah, why not? She could call Julie at other time.

 

“- Actually, I want to call her on the Control Center, if we’re gonna talk about super villains and Julie’s enemies, I think it’s better to do it on a secure channel. would you mind logging in while I put my coat on?” Of course, Karolina thinks Nico has, as she always does, put on her professional façade before even speaking to any Avenger, but she doesn’t know that Nico is already forming a plan. She wants to use the Control Center because it has a recording function and, maybe, Julie will let her guard down if she sees Karolina first, she will need everything in her favor to set Julie up.

 

“- Alright”

 

“- Hey guys, can I come with you? Maybe it will help if I tell her everything I know” Victor says.

 

Oh, great! More audience “- Sure” Karolina picks Victor up carrying him in her arms and heads to the Control Corner with Nico. Now Victor will witness how much of a bad person she is.

 

Karolina puts Victor on a chair facing the screen and turns the Control Center and logs in, about a month ago the Avengers Headquarters created a shared account for all The Runaways to use, that account links to their personal Avengers App for their phones and uses biometrics, so, when one of the Runaways logs into the Portable Control Center anyone on the Avengers network can know which individual of The Runaways is calling, it’s with this account that Karolina calls Julie.

 

Julie answers almost immediately.

 

“- Karolina! Hi!” Julie answers in the perkiest tone possible “- This is such a surprise, how are you doing?” She doesn’t seem to notice Victor at all.

 

“- Hi, Julie, I’m fine, thank you, uhmm, listen, I…”

 

“- K, I have great news! the Avengers are planning to establish a team in Los Angeles! We still don’t know who’s going, but I’m thinking in applying, and if I make it, maybe, I don’t know… distance was an issue for us, but it could be not anymore…”

 

Oh god, Julie hasn’t get over Karolina, far from it, it’s obvious she wants another chance. Karolina feels like shit; how many time does she have to break the heart of this amazing girl.

 

Nico finally comes into the room, Karolina notices she didn’t just grab her coat, she changed her outfit completely, now wearing a long sleeved black laced shirt, grey fitting pants and, most curios of all, a pair of sturdy boots that Karolina recognizes are the same ones Nico uses every time they have a combat drill. What’s more, Nico’s posture is changed, shoulders squared, chin up, it’s not meant to intimidate or anything, it’s how she behaves when she’s about to argue about something with Captain Marvel, a pose carefully designed to be taking seriously. What the hell is going on? Is Nico expecting to fight someone? No, it must be that she want’s Julie to know she’s serious, that this is formal business. Right?

 

“- Hello, Julie” Nico says positioning herself at Karolina’s side.

 

Julie’s expression falters, hard, the second she sees Nico “- Oh, hi, Nico”

 

“- Julie, we have a… situation, and we might need help with it.” Nico says.

 

“- Okay, I’ll help with what I can”

 

“- It’s about the Doombot” Karolina says to Julie.

 

“- What about it?”

 

“- We have reason to believe the person behind the attack is closely attached to us” Nico says.

 

What the hell? This isn’t what Nico told before.

 

“- Someone who knew where to find us” Nico continues. “- And who had motives to scare us and now that Karolina and I are together, this person has a reason to let go”

 

Oh shit, of all the ways Karolina wanted to Julie found out about her relationship with Nico this certainly wasn’t it. Nico just spilled it out! And, is she still accusing Julie? They were over this, what is happening?

 

Julie doesn’t say anything. For a couple of seconds, she just stares at them from the other side of the screen.

 

“- Wait… are you guys… together?”

 

Now is Nico’s turn to look confused.  Karolina throws a glance at her and Nico returns it, silently asking for some explanation.

 

Karolina takes Nico’s hand, she can’t help the coy smile that plasters onto her face.

 

“- Yeah, I mean…” Well, cat’s out of the bag, might as well try to feed it too “- Yes, Nico and I are together now, Julie” Karolina says. It feels so wrong to tell that to the person that, merely months before, she loved so much, but at the same time she feels elated every time she states out loud that she and Nico are an item.

 

“- Oh, I see… that… actually makes sense” Julie says.

 

Blessed the heart of this amazing, selfless, caring girl, Julie Power. She understands! Even Nico is taken aback at Julie’s words.  Karolina beams at her girlfriend and squeezes her hand. Everything is going to be alright. Nico may have started the conversation a little rocky but now they can have a civilized conversation and start figuring out who wanted to hurt her family.

 

“- I’m so glad you understand, Julie” Karolina says still holding Nico’s hand. “- I’m sorry that I didn’t tell you sooner, I didn’t want to hurt you and…”

 

“- No, it’s not that” Julie interrupts her. “- It’s just… our problems began the second she stepped back into your life”

 

Shit, Julie is not taking this well at all. Karolina turns to Nico with a semi-panicked expression. Nico is just staring at the screen.

 

“- No, Julie, it’s not like that… we…” Karolina tries to explain but she gets cut short by Julie again.

 

“- I finally get it, why you can’t keep away from her. She bewitched you…”

 

“- What the fuck did you just say?!” Nico almost shouts, now she’s pissed.

 

“- You heard me, witch, you must’ve cast a spell on Karolina and now she’s stuck with you!”

 

“- Julie!” Karolina yells, trying to stop this before escalates further.

 

Nico scowls, this can’t go unanswered “- Fuck you! You can’t get over that Karolina broke up with you.

 

“- Nico!”

 

“- Even more evidence of your witchery! Why the hell would Karolina choose you over me? I’m calling Doctor Strange and he’ll undo your fucking spell and Karolina will finally be free from the likes of you!”

 

“- Guys, enough!” Karolina yells again, but this has become a shouting match and neither Julie nor Nico acknowledges her.

 

Nico had enough of this. “- You sent a Doombot to attack us and put our lives at risk out of jealousy! You wanted Karolina close to you and you would do anything for it. I should have you arrested!”

 

“- Are you serious!? I would never do something that idiotic.”

 

“- And now you’re sending your people to stalk Karolina!”

 

Julie looks truthfully surprised. “- Someone is stalking Karolina and you’re blaming me? Are you a fucking moron? Go deal with that shit, call the cops or something!”

 

“- I’m gonna prove you’re behind all this and then the Avengers are gonna have your ass!” Nico points at the screen furiously.

 

“- When your spell gets undone everyone will finally be free of you, witch!”

 

The transmission interrupts abruptly, the screens get shut off. From the look on Nico’s face she was about to shout something else but Karolina acted first. She turned the Control Center off and is now staring directly to Nico.

 

“- What the hell was that?” Karolina asks as calmly as she can.

 

Nico takes a moment to respond, she is visibly shaken and her breath is labored. “- Well… you saw how she accused me…”

 

“- Not that, Nico!”

 

“- Okay… yeah… I got angry when you told me someone was following you.”

 

Karolina relaxes a bit, she knows this is how Nico operates. If her family is in danger she will lash out, sometimes with disastrous results. Karolina is mad, but now is not the time to scold Nico.

 

“- I get that, but you started throwing accusations…”

 

“- You heard what she said to me!” Nico interrupts her.

 

“- And it was uncalled for, but you were pretty aggressive too.”

 

“- I know… I lost it”

 

At the sight of Nico looking so deflated Karolina takes her hand and leads her out of their homemade control room towards the living room. She makes Nico take a seat and begins rubbing the back of her hand until she looks a little calmer.

 

“- Look, Nico” Karolina says. “- I don’t wanna fight, I just wanna now if you’re okay” Karolina gets slightly shook at the vulnerable look of Nico, she squeezes her hand a little tighter.

 

“- I’m scared, Karrie… awfully scared. Of you or anyone of the guys getting hurt, it’s driving me crazy and today has been tough already… and… I don’t know.”

 

Karolina hugs her girlfriend as tight as she can, she can feel the ill disguised sobs coming from Nico. After a few minutes, she breaks the hug and gives Nico a quick kiss on her forehead.

“- I am too, you’re not alone”

 

“- Yeah, but you handle everything so well and it kills me that you have to take care of all of us.” Nico retorts.

 

Karolina gives a sad smile. “- I don’t, really, I…  I know I sometimes avoid conflict, I was three seconds from flying all the way to San Francisco back there” She says pointing to the control room. “- But I’m getting help. Nico, I don’t want to overstate, but, have you considered therapy?”

 

“- Yeah” Nico nods slightly “- For a while now, I think I will go soon. There’s still the issue of the attacker and your stalker though.”

 

“- Right, maybe we should wait for the others” Karolina says.

 

“- Yeah”

 

Karolina opens her arms towards Nico, who immediately takes the hint and practically melts over her.

 

“- Thank you for understanding” Nico says. “- And for not yelling at me”

 

“- No problem, you still think Julie is out to get us?”

 

“- No, I get it was just paranoia”

 

“- She was out of line, but, you’ll still have to make amends with her, you know?”

 

“- Yeah, I actually want her to call Strange, I’d love to see her face when he tells her there’s no love spell between us or anything.” Nico smirks.

 

Karolina kisses Nico’s temple, she hears a soft giggle and, oh god, how she loves making Nico giggle. “- I need to apologize to her, it’s gonna be awkward but I owe her that much.”

 

“- Karrie, can we stay like this until the others return?”

 

“- You’re such a cuddler” Karolina says knowing well she could never refuse, nor that she ever wanted to. “- You know, I got the feeling we’re forgetting something”

 

“- Beats me” Nico says snuggling closer.

 

-

 

“- C’mon, Vic, it was an accident” Nico pleads.

 

“- No” Victor says.

 

“- We didn’t mean it, pretty please?” Karolina gives him some puppy dog eyes for good measure.

 

“- No!” Victor repeats.

 

“- We’ll let you pick the next movie” Nico offers.

 

Victor falters for a second but don’t concede. “- Not enough”

 

“- It was like half an hour, Vic” Karolina says.

 

“- You forgot me! I was left in that dark room, forgotten and alone not knowing if I ever see another friendly face again”

 

“- Okay, how about this? You get TV privileges for three days” Karolina offers him.

 

While Victor beams at the prospect, Nico face fall.

 

“- Karolina, no! We’ll be watching three days straight of Chapulin Colorado!”

 

“- Too late, done! You’re forgiven, I love you both again” If Victor could, he would be wriggling in excitement.

 

The door opens and Molly, Gert, Old Lace and Chase enter the living room. A very sleepy Rufus is nested on the back of Old Lace, the dinosaur moves as steadily as she can to avoid waking him. They seem to have taken a like to each other.

 

“- Hey, guys!” Molly gives both Nico and Karolina a bone crushing hug and sits beside Victor. When all the greetings are done Karolina urges everyone to take a sit.

 

“- We need to talk” Karolina says.

 

Twenty minutes later they are all up to speed, there’s a sense of shock in the air.

 

“- Alright, what’s our plan?” Gert asks.

 

“- We don’t have one, yet” Nico says. “- We don’t even know if what happened today to Karolina is connected in some way” Nico feels silly, earlier in the day she saw everything so clearly, it was Julie’s fault, but slowly all her arguments crumbled down.

 

No one speaks for a long time, there is a suggestion no one is making, one that would mean dismantle all the progress they have made in the past years, they’re all afraid that if it’s even whispered their lives could be ruined all over again. They could run away.

“- We should go to the movies”

 

Everyone turns their head towards Victor.

 

“- What?”

 

“- Vic, we have a serious situation here” Chase admonishes him.

 

“- We actually don’t know squat” Victor interjects. “- A couple of weird things, and not even that weird all things considered, happened and now we’re spiraling into paranoia? C’mon! We now better. We should wait until my friend calls me back and we all could use some down time”

 

Again, silence, Nico and Karolina exchange looks briefly and nod to each other.

 

“- He has a point” Nico says.

 

Chase nods too “- I actually could use the rest.”

 

“- We Deserve it! And there’s a ton of movies I want to watch!” Molly says excitedly, since she’s a teenager now, she watches any PG 13 movie that comes her way.

 

“- You want to get out of the house?” Gert asks Victor. It’s a fair question since Victor is not exactly fond of getting out. Most of his days are spent in front of the TV or plugged into a computer.

 

“- Y-Yeah, I think we spend too much time holed up in here, and that’s coming from me”

 

Probably nobody buys it, they all know how much Victor likes being secluded at home, how he avoids more human contact that the strictly necessary, but they all also recognize when someone is making a sacrifice for their family.

 

“- Okay, Back to the Future is in the cinema nearby, what do you say?” Chase asks and everyone agrees.

 

“- Could we grab some take out on the way back? I kinda skipped lunch” Karolina says, earning a frown from Nico.

 

“- Karolina! Why didn’t tell something sooner? I could have made you something” Nico chides her.

 

 “- Sorry” Karolina gives a loving smile to her girlfriend.

 

“- Enough said, we’ll smuggle some food into the cinema, let’s go!” Gert says.

 

Everyone grab their things and leave the Hostel excited to have some down time. It’s been tough to balance school, Avengers stuff, work and their personal lives.

The movie is great, the food too, and really easy to smuggle into the movie since everyone was paying attention to the huge dinosaur that accompanied them. When a little girl noticed there was a cat wearing a bowtie riding on the dinosaur’s back, the Runaways became a bit of a sensation. It dawns on Nico that, if the world someday pays them any mind it would be thanks to a very cool gift from Gert’s overprotective, kind of imaginative, murdering late parents and the remaining of the experiments of a Molly’s evil grandma.

 

The decide to call it a day after the movie and go straight home feeling relaxed and with their minds a little clearer. Nico feels silly for her earlier behavior, in retrospect she was stretching a bit much about Julie, and speaking of which, she owes the girl an apology. Julie’s words were inexcusable for sure, but Nico will be the bigger woman and offer an apology first, it’s really for Karolina’s sake… so maybe she isn’t the bigger woman after all.

 

“- You know, maybe we should take Old Lace out more often, people loved us” Molly says.

 

“- Yeah, they even wanted my autograph!” Chase says smugly.

 

“- I’m pretty sure that they tolerated your autograph for a pic with Lace” Gert says and scratches the dinosaur’s chin.

 

They are about to enter the hostel when Victor, being carried by Molly, stops them in their tracks.

 

“- Errr, guys, did we leave the door open?” Victor says.

 

Everyone looks at each other for a brief moment, of course they know they didn’t let the door open, it’s a blast door for crying out loud, and thanks to Chase’s continues effort it closes automatically once they all leave the house.

 

“- When blood is shed let the Staff of One emerge” Nico summons her Staff, she can feel how it slithers out of her chest, she hates calling for the damn thing.

 

Instinctively, they all know what this means. There’s a fight coming on. Karolina takes her bracelet off and walks beside Nico.

 

“- Stay behind me” Nico says and walks toward the open door of the hostel. The few steps of the walkway connecting the blast door to the inner building seems to have outstretched for a thousand miles. Nico can feel her heart pounding with fear and adrenaline. Her palms are sweaty. She’s so not ready for whatever comes next.

 

They finally clear the hallway reaching for the inner door, it’s also propped open. Nico pushes the door and enters the living room first holding the Staff of One in front of her. Right in the middle of the room is another Doombot. It’s about to attack.

Chapter Text

“- Stay behind me!”

 

Nico is sure they can take the Doombot. It shouldn’t be that hard, they are very powerful, at least she thinks so. Yet she’s terrified, what if they lose? What if someone gets seriously injured? What if someone dies? What if it’s not her?  So, she jumps in front of everyone, to cast a spell, sure, but also, if that thing fire at them, with some luck, she’ll be the only one to go.

 

“- Brute force!” Nico cast the spell whipping her staff towards the bot. The spell doesn’t’ have the effect she wanted, she meant something that could send the Doombot flying against the wall, instead she only manages to push it a couple feet.

 

It’s strange but the Doombot doesn’t immediately retaliate, it looks like is seizing another opportunity to attack, or rather, to finally attack since it hasn’t had the chance to do so.

 

Before Nico could think any further, she sees Karolina at her side firing a powerful blast. The Doombot was expecting it and deflects it to the ceiling. What the bot wasn’t expecting was Old Lace and Molly running full speed at it.

 

With a roar, Old Lace jumps, claws first, with the clear intent of maiming something. She’s so fast, but so is the Doombot, it dodges Old Lace who lands inches from smashing the TV in the living room. Nico thinks is silly to worry about property damage when their lives are at stake. The Doombot traps Old Lace with a net taking the dinosaur out of the fight, this is beginning to look bad, in a matter of seconds one of their brawlers is incapacitated.

 

Old Lace opened the opportunity for Molly to step in, if this was the Molly from months ago she would have gone for her signature move, a good kick in the shins. Her self defense classes seem to have had effect on her, she swipes at the robot legs effectively bringing it down, she gives it another kick for good measure.

 

From the corner of her eye Nico can see Chase leading Gert, with Victor on her arms, out of the room while Karolina flies to get Molly out of the Doombot’s reach. That’s it! That’s all the opening Nico needs, she can end the fight with a single spell. She needs to think fast; the robot is already standing up. Nico only has a second, maybe less. “- Expl-“

 

“- Stop! Everyone! Stop! He’s my friend!” Victor yells at the top of his figurative lungs.

 

Everyone does stop, the Doombot included.

 

“- What? Friend? What?” Nico turns to Victor, still in Gert arms, so fast she almost sprains her neck.

 

“- He’s my friend! He’s the one I messaged to” Victor says.

 

“- Indeed” the Doombot says, weird that these things have a voice. “- I came to retrieve Victor, Doom’s best and only friend, from this inadequate dwelling.”

 

“- Victor, explain” Nico says. “- And you, don’t move!” She says pointing at the Doombot with her staff.

 

“- He’s not just any doombot, he’s Doombot, my friend, we were together in the Avengers AI, I asked for his help” Victor says.

 

The doombot, no, scratch that, Doombot walks towards Victor, and takes him from Gert’s hands, she doesn’t offer resistance for some reason.

 

“- And not a moment too soon, it seems.” Doombot continues. “- Your living conditions are a tribulation; do you have any belongings you wish to take with you? Where are your appendages?”

 

“- You’re not taking Victor anywhere tin can!” Chase plants himself in front of Doombot trying to grab Victor back.

 

“- Guys!” Victor says. “- As much as I love being fought over, this is not necessary, I like it here”

 

“- Ha! See? He’s not going anywhere” Chase says.

 

“- You need a body, Victor” Doombot replies, practically ignoring Chase.

 

“- I really don’t” Victor says.

 

“- And, besides” Chase interjects “- I build him a body already, and I’m improving it”

 

“- Bah! show me this body, young imbecile, I will ridicule it and strip it of any value”

 

 Doombot releases Old Lace, leaves Victor on a nearby chair and follows Chase still bickering about who knows what. That gives some time for the rest of them to start making sense about what just happened.

 

Nico is shaking with adrenaline and shock, she grabs the Staff of One as hard as she can in an effort to steady her hands. Of all the people in the room she’s the most visibly affected, not even Lace looks as beaten as her. Lovely.

 

Karolina hugs Nico lightly, making sure she’s alright. It amazes Nico how easy is for her girlfriend to read her. There are times when Nico is stressed out of her mind and Karolina would almost physically drag her for a walk or to the beach and spend a couple hours away from everything, or when Nico comes home after a grueling day at work, tired and hungry, and, more often than not, she finds Karolina came with a box of take out for her. Or like now, Nico is still trembling with fear, and now she’s angry and at a loss of words. Karolina’s simple gesture grounds her back.

 

After taking a very deep breath, Nico finally finds her voice and turns to Victor. “- So, your friend is a Doombot” She deadpans.

 

“- Not any Doombot, he’s Doombot, He’s sentient but he was modified to render him harmless, he talks big but it’s a big softie”

 

“- You didn’t think it was important for us to know you are friends with a Doombot?” Gert asks.

 

“- Yes! And I was gonna tell you, I just didn’t expect him to visit… Listen, guys, I’m sorry, alright? But he can help us, could we not yell at each other for now?”

 

“- Fine, I’ll yell at you later” Nico says.

 

Doombot and Chase returns, still bickering. “- Well, Victor” Doombot says, pointing at Chase “- This poor parody of a scientist seems to have stumbled upon something interesting, by mere accident I’m sure.”  For all the indults Chase looks particularly smug.

 

“- Listen, Doomy, I suppose you got my message” Victor says.

 

“- I did”

 

“- Then, could you help us, identifying where the doombot that attacked us came from?”

 

“- That would be rather simple, that Doombot was my own doing”

 

That’s a way to kill the mood. After the initial seconds of shocked filled silence followed a chorus of indignant voices.

 

“- What the fuck?!” “- You tried to kill us!” “- This is all your fault, Victor!”

 

“- Everyone shut it!” Victor yells and surprisingly the rest of the Runaways do shut up. “- Doomy, please, could you explain yourself”

 

“- Doom doesn’t explain himself! But I think you should be briefed. I sent an inferior model of Dommbot to retrieve you”

 

“- But, friend, we could get hurt” Victor is on the verge of tears knowing all this is his fault.

 

“- Nonsense! The instructions in that automaton were very specific, he was only using non lethal weapons to incapacitate any and all obstacles to his objective, none of the cretins that imprisoned you were in any danger” Doombot says.

 

“- It blew up when we defeated him! You almost killed us!” Chase says.

 

“- As I said, it was an inferior model and it could not fulfill Doom’s standards for quality” Doombot says. “- That is why, when you call for my aid, I decided to come personally”

 

It’s a lot to take in for Nico. Out of the blue she has the answer to so many questions that plagued her mind for months and made her crazy day and night, that drove to paranoia episodes and she ended up accusing Julie Power for it. You always hear how relief feels, like a heavy weight lifts of your shoulders, for Nico is more like she’s finally able to breath after being trapped under a rock for days.

 

“- Let me get this straight” Nico says pinching the bridge of her nose, she can feel a massive headache coming. “- You sent a doombot for Victor, then, when that plan failed, waited for an opportunity until today when Vic sent a message, all of it because you were worried about him”

 

Doombot throws a glance to Victor, the she says “- Fundamentally, incorrect, my plan didn’t fail, it just encounter unforeseen resistance, but other than that, yes, your assessment of the events is passable.”

 

“- Now that you see he’s in no danger at all, you would not represent a threat to us, right?” Nico asks holding her staff tighter, if she finds the robot’s answer unsatisfactory, unavoidably the fight will resume, no one is taking her family away from her.

 

“- Again, fundamentally, incorrect, I never posed a threat for you lot, my only objective was, and it will be, Victor’s wellbeing”

 

“- Doombot, compa” Victor says “- You can see I’m fine, you will not keep trying to snatch me, right?

Doombot responds almost immediately “- While our definitions of fine differ greatly, I concur you are not in danger, so yes, I will cease my attempts to pry you from… here. But that doesn’t mean I will give up upon your improvement. You need a body, I will think of some alternatives. I’ll take my leave truants, keep Victor safe.”

 

“- Wait” Nico says to Doombot “- By any chance, did you, or any of your Doombots, followed Karolina in a car earlier today?”

 

“- No, I do not have the need for such a primitive transportation nor to track any of your whereabouts.” Doombot leaves the Hostel after that.

 

“- So that’s it, right?” Karolina says “- Mistery solved”

 

“- You were still followed, Karrie” Nico says wearily.

 

“- It probably was just paparazzi who got a bit jumpy, it wouldn’t be the first time” Karolina responds.

 

Nico’s mind is a turmoil, one part of her is convinced this is something more and wants to tell Karolina so, another part isn’t as sure since she accused Julie Power, without solid evidence, of messing with them. It sounds bleak, but Nico has learned not to trust her own mind all the time; at the moment she’s kind of unhinged, emotionally exhausted, tired, worried… it’s not the best time to push forward.

 

“- Your most likely right” Nico says to Karolina “- You know your paparazzi”

 

Karolina walks to Nico, wrap her arms around her shoulders and places a kiss on her forehead, Nico practically melts at the affection. “- We’ll be fine” she says.

 

“- Guys, I’m so sorry for all this mess” Victor says from his place in the table.

 

“- It’s not your fault, Vic” Karolina says “- You couldn’t know what your friend was going to do”

 

Everyone tries their hardest to reassure Victor. Much for Nico’s dismay he doesn’t look all that convinced. The last thing she wants is for him to recluse any further. She’ll talk to him when the time is right. For now, it’s late, and she could use some sleep.

 

“- Do you wanna stay the night?”  Nico asks Karolina. It comes out more like a plea.

 

“- Sure” Karolina answers.

 

-

 

The next week is spent in cleaning the living room, fixing the doors, work, school, gym, The Runaways get as busy as it gets. It seems like the days got a lot shorter and the number of hours in them are not enough e anymore. One afternoon finds Nico again in the awkward position of being alone in the house. She was having dinner with Karolina, but her girlfriend had to bail because, with all the recent stuff, she fall behind on some reading reports and other school projects. Chase was at work, Molly and Gert went to their self defense class, which Nico would think is so good if not for the fact that Gert likes to brag a little too much about her knew found abilities to kill a man barehanded. Even Victor was out since Doombot came back and asked him if he will be available to take measurements for a new body. Victor accepted, though a bit begrudgingly.

 

Having the entirety of her social network away from home Nico focus on some chores that need to be done, she takes Old Lace and Rufus for a quick walk outside, just enough so they don’t get angsty, and gives both a bath. Old lace gives her no problem, the dinosaur seems to enjoy being soaked in fresh water and scrubbed thoroughly, it’s not the easiest task since Lace is almost seven feet tall and well over 300 pounds, but she’s very docile. Rufus on the other hand, is pure evil sometimes, Nico swears the psychic cat gives her a migraine on purpose every time she bathes him. Fortunately, Rufus is something like a hygiene freak and keeps himself clean as much as he can.

 

Nico never thought she would end up cat and dinositing but she wouldn’t change it for the world. She likes her life is a tad weird.

 

After she takes a bath herself she flops on the couch in the living room, hell bent on watching whatever on Netflix for a blessed couple of hours of mind numbing entertainment. She barely has pushed the On button of the TV when her phone chimes with the distinctive tone of the Avengers app.

 

“- Fuck!” She exclaims loudly before pulling out her phone and seeing what the this is about.

 

“- Shit fuck”

 

Captain Carol Danvers is requesting a meeting as soon as possible. Why now? Of all the days she could choose, she had to pick today? Since their conversation the day things went south with Julie, Captain Marvel and Nico hadn’t spoken face to face, in fact, there has been zero messages or calls from her.

 

Slowly, painfully, Nico extricates herself from the couch and walks to the Control Corner, she’s so not properly dressed for a meeting; wearing a couple of loose black shorts and almost equally loose black shirt, barefooted and clean faced; but she couldn’t bring herself to care, if Captain Marvel complaints about her attire, well, fuck her.

 

Nico turns the Control Center on and waits the couple of seconds it takes to connect her call.

 

“- Hi, Nico” Captain Danvers say on the other side of the screen.

 

For a moment, Nico is taken aback by Captain Marvel’s looks. Her long blond hair is cut and she’s sporting an undercut on the right side of her head, much like Nico, she´s not wearing any make up whatsoever and she’s covering herself with an oversized jersey from some college Nico doesn’t recognize, the neck is so loose that lets a shoulder bare, a black bra strap showing; it’s easy to forget that Captain Marvel is still kind of young, she’s only in her thirties and by all accounts she can be considered very beautiful.  It also surprises Nico the place from where Carol is calling her, she’s not in her New York apartment and obviously she’s not on the Avengers headquarters or in some other of their facilities, she’s sitting on a wooden porch of some old house, and Nico can see the darkening skyline over the ocean less than a mile at her back.

 

The whole scene disarms Nico, she had half a mind to be a bit of an ass, acting all offended, maybe even playing a little victim telling how exhausted she was. But seeing Carol Danvers like this, looking maybe even vulnerable, well, Nico has a heart, damn it.

 

“- Hello, Captain” Nico says.

 

“- Are you okay? I don’t want to overstep but you look… tired”

 

“- Just a rough couple of days” Nico answers scratching the back of her head, she could say something very similar about Captain Danvers.

 

“- Oh, I’m sorry for bothering you, maybe I should better just write you” Carol says.

 

Nico feels retroactively like shit, the mere thought of being rude to Captain Marvel now leaves a foul taste in her mouth, after seeing the concern in Carol’s eyes. “- It’s ok” Nico reassures her.

 

Carol takes a steaming mug from somewhere at her side and nurse it between her hands, adding to the vulnerable vibe she’s been projecting “- Well, you were clearly getting some rest, so I’ll make this quick. I received a message from headquarters, your evaluations have been satisfactory, and you guys are officially getting added to the initiative roster, you will be called next time a crisis response team is needed, and don’t worry, I personally requested for to not be called for combat situations.”

 

A chill crawl up Nico’s spine, the understandable apprehension of breaking a comfortable routine. She knew this day will come eventually, she did convince her family to sign up for semi-heroic crap. She supposes it’s only fair, they have received a bunch of stuff that, without the Avengers, couldn’t possibly get; continuous education, health and veterinary services and insurance, legal assistance. This is what public service looks like. Time to buckle up.

 

“- Alright, perfect, we’ll be ready” Nico says “- Er—There’s something I think you should know, if you don’t know it already”

 

“- Yes? What is it, Nico” The Captain replies clearly interested.

 

“- It’s about the Doombot attack…”

 

“- Oh shit! I’m so sorry, Nico, I know I said I’ll look into it, things have been crazy and- -” Captain Marvel says while looking genuinely remorse.

 

This is definitely something out of character for the Captain Marvel Nico knows, she did forget about this? Something big must be happening to her. “- It’s okay, Captain, we actually figured it out, is all good now” Nico responds.

 

“- You did?”

 

“- Yeah, turns out a friend of Victor thought he was in danger and sent the robot to rescue him”

 

“- Wait, it was Doombot, right? I mean, The Doombot, the Avenger AI one”

 

“- Yeah”

 

“- That makes so much sense. Well, that pretty much closes it. Dou you need anything about it?”

 

“- No, Captain, the thing is…” Here comes, Nico thinks it’s better to let her sponsor how she accused an active member of the Avengers for a conspiracy, shit, this is gonna be bad. “- I accused Julie Power for the attack on us and got into a fight with her, nothing physical I mean…”

 

“- Okay” Captain Marvel says.

 

“- That’s it? You’re not gonna scold me or something?”

 

“- No, why?” Captain Marvel even smiles at the thought. “- We heard all about it in HQ, Julie and you said some mean things to each other, big deal” She waves a hand dismissively “- You’re both adults, you’ll figure it out. Do you know how many times things have come to blows between Stark and me, or Jennifer and me?” She throws a smile to Nico for good measure.

 

The door opening makes Nico’s and Captain Marvel’s head turn.

 

“- Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt” A chastised looking Chase is halfway into the room, a hand still on the door knob and half mind to get out of there immediately.

 

Captain Marvel smiles warmly and waves chase to come closer to the screen “- It’s alright, Mr. Stein, I was just briefing Nico, I assume you read the message I sent too?”

 

“- Yeah, I came as soon as I could, sir, ma’am” Chase says pulling out his phone with the Avengers app open.

 

“- Don’t worry, it’s nothing bad, I’ll let Nico fill you in, and is just Carol, Mr. Stein” She reassures Chase, giving him a disarming smile. “- Well, I’m off then, do you have any questions, Nico?”

 

Actually, Nico has a lot of questions, is Captain Marvel okay? Does she need anything? Can Nico help her? Does she want to talk? They may have their disagreements, but Nico respects her, and whatever is happening in Carol Danvers’s life doesn’t look too good, but maybe she’s reading the situation wrong and maybe they’re not as close as Nico would think and maybe she’s just projecting; whatever the case, Nico just shakes her head “- No, Captain, it’s all good, have a good evening”

 

There it is again, that look Captain Marvel sometimes gives her, the one that softens all her features and makes her look, human. Nico doesn’t quite know what triggers it most of the time, but it gives her pause, she’s sure she should’ve showed more concern for her.

 

“- Thank you, Nico, you too, and to you Mr. Stein”

 

“- Yes, thank you, sir, ma’am, Carol, but err- it’s just Chase, ma’am, Carol, sir” Chase says one second away to give Captain Danvers a military salute.

 

Captain Danvers laughs heartily “- Alright, then good evening to you too, Chase” She says and gets up from her seat to logging off.

 

“- Ooof” Chase exclaims.

 

“- What?” Nico turns her head to him trying to read his expression.

 

Chase face is tomato red and is avoiding Nico’s gaze.

 

“- What, Chase?” She tries again.

 

“- Nothing, it’s just…” Nico keeps looking at him, urging Chase to continue. “- C’mon, Nico… she’s… you know…”

 

Nico crosses her arms and stands in front of Chase.

 

Chase gives up “- She’s, like, super hot, okay? I don’t mean to objectify her or anything, but you have to admit, she’s … wow”

 

“- Gross, Chase!” Nico says and slaps his arm not so playfully “- Have some respect! she’s my mo-menthor!”

 

“- Ow, okay, sorry, it was just an observation” Chase says rubbing at his arm.

 

“- You’re such a guy sometimes” Nico tells him.

 

“- Sorry, I meant nothing by it” Chase says “- She means a lot to you, I see”

 

Nico shrugs “- She put her faith on us, you should be grateful too”

 

“-  I am, trust me” By the look Nico gives him, she’s not satisfied “- Okay, as an apology, how about I cook you something”

 

“- Grilled cheese?” Nico asks

 

“- You got it”

 

They make their way to the kitchen where Chase begins to collect all he needs for his, now famous, grilled cheese sandwich “- So, what did Captain Marvel wanted?”

 

The thought makes Nico smile, is such a weird idea to think about it let alone say it, it’s something that years ago, when their normal, mundane lives were shattered, and they were forced to band together, they joked around a make shift table while eating cheap microwave dinner in whatever safehouse they could find. Now it’s a reality. “- We’re on the Avengers roster, The Runaways are going into action”

Chapter Text

We live in a world of stress, tension, anxiety. It’s no secret to anybody who lives in modern society; you have to keep moving, every day is a constant stream of problems need fixing and, more days than not, you could very well be Sisyphus, except you’re not pushing only one rock, you’re pushing two, blindfolded, with a hand tied to your back, while balancing a budget.

 

Karolina Dean feels having her family back is the most amazing thing in the whole world. She didn’t dimension how much she missed them. Or rather, she didn’t allow herself to even think how much she missed them. The heartache was too much, the pain and sense of loss was too much. And she might not admit this herself, even now, but the loneliness, oh yes, the loneliness in particular was too much.

 

It’s not that she didn’t have wonderful people in her life, her roommate, Steph, is an amazing person to have around and a very close friend, and she did have Julie Power, outstanding girlfriend back then, both of them accepted what and who Karolina is. But that’s the issue, she was accepted, without any question, sure, but she was not exactly understood. That’s where her family comes in, no other people in the world gets what she’d been through, what is like to be an alien, in more ways than one. Karolina would give up her life willingly and happily for the people she loves. And for the looks of it, that is what she is doing right now.

 

It’s barely midmorning on a Friday, since it was a slow day at school, Karolina decided to go the Hostel to spend some quiet time with Nico, who, after ten days straight of work finally got a day off. When she got home, a different reality settled in. For some reason everyone was at home, Molly was looking miserable standing by the kitchen, reaching for a muffin, her clothes were soaked in water; Chase was near the stairwell taping his foot, shouting something about getting late with a scowl on his face, another voice, sounded like Gert, answering him to shut up from somewhere deep into the Hostel.

 

“- Hey, since I’m here, can I skip practice today?” Molly asks Nico.

 

“- No, Molls, you’re not skipping anything, just let me…” Nico trails off when she, finally, sees her girlfriend standing at the door “- Hey, babe” She rushes to Karolina, Staff of One in hand, and gives her a quick peck on the lips.

 

“- Hey” Karolina answers “What’s going on”

 

“- Molls, go change for goodness sake, and yes, you can take the muffin” Nico says to Molly before turning again to Karolina “- Molly broke a faucet or something at school”

 

“- I didn’t mean it!” Molly yells on the way to her room.

 

“- We know! Seriously, go change!” Nico shouts back at her. “- She didn’t really mean it, but she’s getting stronger by the day, I guess she would have to get used to it”

 

“- Right” Karolina says.

 

“- Since you’re here, would you help me? Victor got stuck in a vent shaft” Nico says taking Karolina’s hand and leading her to a hallway.

 

“- What? How?” Karolina asks.

 

“- He was playing with Rufus and that cat got excited, I guess he dragged Victor’s cartwheel into the vent? Something like that”

 

“- Are you gonna use a spell?” Karolina asks pointing at the Staff of One while tailing a little behind Nico.

 

“- What? No” Nico answers “- I’ll try to dislodge him with the Staff, I tried a broom, but it didn’t reach.

 

The couple finally reach the end of the hallway where a vent shaft is open at ground level.

 

“- Vic!? I think this will reach!” Nico kneels in front of the vent and sticks the Staff of One inside it.

 

“- Okay!” Comes a response form the vent.

 

After a couple minutes of unsuccessful attempts Nico stops and sits on the floor.

 

“- It’s no use, Vic, it doesn’t reach to make a lever, but maybe I can pull you off?”

 

“- What’s the plan, Nico? Does your Staff can get attached to things or something? It’s not like I can grab it” Victor says.

 

“- Maybe you can bite it?” Nico says.

 

“- What? Gross! That thing has been inside your body!”

 

“- It’s a magical staff not a dildo! Now don’t be a baby and bite into it!” Nico leans further down to angle the top of the Staff in front of Victor’s face.

 

A muffled “- Ophay” Comes out of the vent, Nico takes it as her cue to start pulling. After a few moments, the Staff comes loose.

 

“- Ow! Nico, that hurts, I’m gonna chip a tooth” Victor says.

 

“- Yeah, sorry, but I think I pulled you close enough so I can reach you now” Nico says and crawls inside the vent, it’s a very tight fit, even for her. “- Hey, Karrie?”

 

“- Yeah?”

 

“- Could you pull me off? I got Vic, but I can’t crawl back…”

 

“- Sure” Karolina says and sits directly behind Nico’s legs and, awkwardly, starts pulling.

 

“- That’s, it, thanks, babe” Nico says when her torso is visible, she wriggles out the rest of the way, carrying Victor’s cartwheel with her.

 

“- Damn, Victor, how did you get stuck?” Karolina asks him.

 

“- I was playing with Rufus and he went into the vent, I thought I could follow him but, well…”

 

“- Anyway, one crisis adverted” Nico says.

 

They return to the living room in time to find Gert and Chase still arguing over something, at the very least Molly has changed into some dry clothes and is already at the kitchen wolfing down another muffin.

 

Karolina gets worried at the expressions both Chase and Gert are sporting, it’s clear that whatever they were discussing was an unpleasant subject. “- Hey, guys, what got you all so worked up?” She asks.

 

“- Chase is dragging me to some stupid lawyer about me not being dead or something” Gert says.

 

“- Gert got word of some advancement on the whole legal reviving thing” Chase says turning to Karolina “- It’s important”

 

“- And I’m telling you it’s not, they just informed me about that it might be a little easier and that they will let me know if something comes up, and you got all nervous and want to go running to the lawyer” Gert says.

 

Karolina understands Chase’s reaction perfectly, dealing with lawyers and social workers is, at best, a pain in the ass, and at worst, well, they didn’t lose Molly or Clara (that’s a whole other bag of awful that she might not want to revisit ever again) to a supervillain, they did to social workers and the foster care system.

 

“- Gert” Karolina says quietly, she needs to play this right, the very existence of her family could be in danger if she doesn’t “- I think you’re right, they most likely want to keep us in the loop and nothing else, but it would be a good idea to go to our lawyer in case there’s some more paper work involved, I could check it out if you want”

Gert turns at her with a quizzing look “- Could you drive me there, I mean, since you’re offering…” She trails off.

 

Going to the law department of the Avengers Initiative to deal with paper work, bureaucracy and her personal anxiety over loss, is as far as can be of what Karolina wanted to do with her day. But fuck it, it needs to be done.

 

“- Of course, I’d be happy to” Karolina says “- Do you mind?” She says turning to Nico “- I’ll be back as soon as we can”

 

“- No problem, babe, you’re the best” Nico says and kisses Karolina cheek “- Besides, Chase still needs to take Molly to her bunch of practices and I need to find Rufus and Lace”

 

“- What!? What happened to them?” Karolina asks.

 

“- As I said, I was playing with Rufus, but I lost him in the vents and Old Lace got out of the Hostel, probably looking for him” Victor tells her.

 

“- Oh my god! We need to find them, give me a few minutes to charge up in the sun and I’ll fly around—”

 

“- One problem at a time, Karrie” Nico interrupts her “- You go deal with Gert’s, I got this covered”

 

“- Ok, yeah” Karolina says, she is not convinced at all, but Nico has a point “- Ready to go, Gert?”

 

“- Sure” Gert says.

 

“- Thanks for driving me” Gert tells her once they’re in the car, on the way to the lawyer “- I… I can’t stand Chase bossing me around… like I’m some child or something”

 

Okay, that’s something Karolina couldn’t possibly understand, in Gert’s perspective she’s still the same Runaway that stood her ground against underground chaos gods, but to anyone else, she’s a lost child that is lucky to be alive. There’s not much Karolina could say to make her friend feel better.

 

“- Okay, whenever he starts to get on your nerves, just give me a nod or something, and I’ll make sure you get some space, alright?” Karolina says.

 

“- Yeah, okay, that works, thanks, K”

 

The rest of the trip they remain in silence. Turns out the lawyer gave them good news, sort of. Legally, Gert is not dead, since they didn’t bother to file a decease report when she died, but she’s legally a missing person, it may take some time, but Gert will be among living citizens soon enough, or rather, as soon as Karolina finishes the little mountain of paperwork the lawyer gave them.

 

They reach the Hostel early in the afternoon, that means Karolina’s morning was spent in an office stressing about the prospect of losing Gert while being fed document after document for them to review and print duplicates. Lovely. She’s spent, mentally exhausted, and wants only to go to bed and rest, and maybe cuddle a little with Nico, or cuddle a lot.

 

“- We’re home!” Karolina announces and places the oversized stack of documents on the coffee table.

 

“- Hey!” Nico comes into the room, broom in hand, wearing what Karolina knows she refers as chore clothes, worn out pants and the oldest shirt in the history of hot topic. “- Everything alright?”

 

“- Yeah” Karolina answers with a sigh “- It was just about Gert’s old missing person report, we can close it, but it requires a bunch of paperwork” Karolina takes a seat and points towards the stack on the table and begins rummaging some papers “- I need to get this done, I don’t want to be unprepared if there’s a hearing or something;  how were things here?”

 

“- I found Rufus, he was playing outside with Lace, I don’t know how those two got out, I put Vic on cleaning duty, you know he’s better than a Roomba, and managed to shoo Molly away with Chase in time for her practices” Nico says and collapses on the couch “- I just finished cleaning upstairs”

 

“- Busy morning” Karolina says.

 

“- Yeah”

 

“- We need to get better at this, Nico” Karolina says “- We can barely keep up and we don’t know when are gonna be called for Avengers stuff, I don’t think we’re ready, and, oh god! There’s so much paperwork, I’ll have to stay up late this weekend just to have it done, and I have homework! Nico! I have freaking homework!”

 

“- Let’s go on a date” Nico says.

 

That stops Karolina’s spiraling down in its track. “- What?” She asks.

 

“- A date. Go out with me” Nico clarifies.

 

“- Bu… the lawyer… and… the cat… what?”

 

Nico shrugs and gives her a smile “- I don’t know, I just realized I have never taken you on a date”

 

“- A date” Karolina says.

 

“- Yeah, I think it would be fun, getting out of this madhouse for a while”

 

“- A date” Karolina repeats, this time with a dashing smile on her face.

Nico returns the smile “- What do you say? Go out with me tonight?”

 

“- Yes! Of course!” Karolina looks at her own clothes and sorry state and stands up from the couch “- Wait, right now? Shit, fuck, I have to change, give me five minutes, or fifty”

 

“- I was thinking, how about you go to your dorm room to rest a little and change and I pick you up at eight?” Nico says.

 

“- Okay, yeah, oh my god! We’re having a date, at eight, sure” Karolina takes her keys and is almost to the door when she runs back to Nico and gives her a searing kiss “- At eight, I won’t be late, love you, bye”

 

She has a date with Nico, a real date, it’s lucky Karolina is wearing her bracelet, otherwise she would be glowing bright enough to put the sun to shame.

 

-

 

The second Karolina is out of the door Nico knows she made one of the best decisions in her life and one of the most nerve wracking. Her initial intent was just to do something nice for her girlfriend, Karrie has been so stressed lately and a date seemed like a good excuse to distract her from the ordeals of everyday life. She looked so overjoyed at Nico’s suggestion. This date needs to be up to the hype.

 

-

 

A few hours later, after several failed reservations at a myriad of restaurants, two items declined on her credit card, three switches of movie theaters, and many, many more outfits discarded, finally, Nico is outside Karolina’s dorm room, she has the whole date planned, she dressed in some of her best clothes,  black fitting slacks and a black draped jacket over her favorite white crop top,  the one that leaves most of her back bare and she noticed Karolina drools over,  and… and a lot of doubts about her own fashion sense, her ability to make Karolina happy and existing as a functional human. Still, she manages to knock on the door, although the knocking itself sounded wrong in her ears.

 

“- Nico!” Steph, Karolina’s roommate, opens the door and engulfs Nico in a bone crushing hug. In the months passed since their first, awkward, meet, they have become fast friends, it’s not even difficult because Steph is a delight, friendly but not obsequious, open minded and incredibly supportive, she actually has a soft spot for Nico. “- You look gorgeous! If you guys weren’t already married, I’d tell you ditch Karo and date me instead” Steph says.

 

“- You’re out of luck Steph, I’m a one gal kind of gal” Nico says “- Is Karrie here?”

 

“- Yeah, she’s finishing up in the bathroom, come on in”

 

Nico enters the room and seats on Karolina’s bed, she doesn’t have to wait at all, Karolina steps out of the bathroom still fixing her earrings. “- Hi, babe, give me a minute and we can be off” Karolina says.

 

Karolina is a sight, a light gold blouse with a generous cleavage over a white tight fitting blazer and light blue-grey linen shorts (with pockets!) that in combination with her high heel shoes make her legs looking miles long.

 

“- Okay, let’s go” Karolina says “- Steph, I’ll be back tomorrow.

 

“- Sure, have fun, just not too much fun, bye, Nico”

 

“- So, where are we going?” Karolina asks once they’re outside the building.

 

“- Okay, I just planned the cheesiest, corniest date ever; romantic dinner, movie, the works, I hope it’s not too cringey”

 

“- Sounds perfect” Karolina says and starts walking towards the parking lot.

 

“- Where are you going?” Nico asks.

 

“- To my car?”

 

“- Karrie! I’m taking you out, transportation is up to me”

 

“- Did you bring a car?”

 

“- Lyft exist now, babe” Nico says pulling out her phone waiting for their car to arrive.

 

The ride to the restaurant goes pleasantly, with both Karolina and Nico exited to spend some quality time together. Nico chose the venue carefully, taking into consideration her girlfriends tastes and dietary habits, that is to say, she had to look for a place that served fermented mushroom cheese, a wide array of nut based pastes, flowers (the variety that you eat), charcoal (Jesus fucking Christ) and kimchi and kombucha and a lot other stuff whose name started with a K. It wasn’t cheap, but it was surprisingly easy to find such a place, after all they live in LA; three of the five most searched places in town had the kind of menu that Nico was looking for. Getting a reservation was worth the trouble when they arrived the restaurant and she could see Karolina’s reaction.

 

“- Nico! This place is way too fancy, you didn’t need to!” Karolina protest.

 

“- It’s our first date” Nico shrugs. She only register her own words when they are seated and looking at the menu, it’s their first date, at least, it’s their first date as a couple, sure, since the Runaways were formed (for lack of a better word) Nico and Karolina have always spent a lot of time together, when they were fugitives they offered to do the grocery runs, or doing watch duty together, or maybe staying up late just chatting about nothing in particular, even in the past weeks, they stay home a lot getting to know each other better, and when they go out of the house is to serve some purpose, like when they go for a walk to relieve some stress or have breakfast when Nico stays in Karolina’s dorm. But this is new, this is the first time they go out, to some place in public, with the explicit intent to… Nico is not sure what, but she guesses they should be doing romantic stuff… whatever that means.

 

“- This place is nice” Nico comments after deciding she would order something on the low end of the price list in the menu, who would have thought a platter of veggies, some humus and a glass of mineral water cost that fucking much?

 

“- It is” Karolina says “- I heard good things about this place”

 

It really is nice place, nice décor, soothing lights, although the music is a bit too loud for Nico’s tastes (Chase loves to remind her she sometimes sounds like she’s in her fifties) and maybe they could use a little more privacy, the tables are too close together since she can hear the conversation of the couple at their side.

 

Mercifully, a very attractive waitress comes to take their orders, and to hit on Karolina of course, so Nico can have a moment to calm herself and gather some confidence, she has faced alien invasions, physical embodiment of entropy, evil cat ladies… so damn it! She will show her girlfriend a good time.

 

“- So… how’s school?” Nico asks. Fucking hell, how in the world did she got a girlfriend?

 

“- Good, everything is fine, lots of work and all” Karolina answers.

 

“- Yeah, I get it” Nico doesn’t get it, but what do you answer to that?

 

“- How are things at work?” Karolina asks her.

 

“- Fine, well, you know, it’s retail, the personal hell for so many souls” Because talking shit about your job it’s the way to jump start a conversation.

 

Karolina gives her a small smile and takes one of the complementary bread sticks the waitress left them. Now Nico is sure Karolina is as nervous as she is, under normal circumstances her girlfriend would never take a bite of some random pastry without checking if it is organic or something.

 

The waitress arrives with their food and, at least, Nico can be a little quieter while she eats. Judging by her plate it wouldn’t be a terrible long time, I mean, the portion is rather small, and it’s just roasted veggies, how long can she stretch the silence without being uncomfortable?

 

“- Hey, how, umm, how are things with lawyer looking?” Nico probes with another question, and a great one, nothing like legal jargon to set up a romantic mood.

 

Karolina immediately focuses on the issue and gives Nico a worried look “- I honestly don’t know” She says. “- We’re lucky social services hasn’t come for her yet and I don’t know how we’re gonna solve the two years gap in her age, god, what if they come for Molly too?”

 

Yep, this is great start for their first date.

 

“- We’ll figure it out” Nico reaches for Karolina’s hand and gives it a reassuring squeeze.

 

They eat in silence for a while, Nico’s dish is… good, she thinks, it could use some seasoning though. She notices Karolina barely picks at her food. Nico is about to say something, anything, when Karolina’s phone buzzes.

 

“- It’s Steph, we’re in a project together, I need to take this” Karolina says.

 

“- Sure, no problem” Nico responds.

 

Nico stops eating opting for waiting for Karolina to return. It was a mistake, Karolina takes her sweet time and both of their dishes get cold.

 

Finally, Karolina comes back “- Sorry” She says apologetically “. Steph needed some files I left on my laptop. All done now, where were we?”

 

Nowhere, Nico thinks, they barely said two complete sentences to each other, and their food is cold, and Nico is hungrier than ever and annoyed. “- Oh, I was thinking maybe after dinner we could go see a movie, I don’t think we’ve ever been to the movies just the two of us”

 

“- Oh, that would be great! What movies are available?”

 

“- Let me check” Nico pulls out her phone and starts looking for something to watch. “Mmm, there’s no seats in the theaters near us, but maybe downtown?” She keeps looking but it seems the entire population of Los Angeles are out watching movies at this precise moment.

 

“- Any luck?” Karolina asks her.

 

“- Just a minute” Nico says, frowning her brow.

 

“- It’s okay, we can catch something on Netlix when we get home”

 

“- I suppose” Nico says, she takes another bite of her food looking unaffected, but she feels defeated, Nico wanted to show Karolina a good time, but so far, she can add that intention to her long list of failures. Nico is about to suggest they leave the restaurant when she notices Karolina keeps tugging at her suppressor bracelet. “- How long has been since you’ve taken that off?” Nico asks.

 

“- Uh?

 

 “- Your bracelet” Nico clarifies pointing at the offending piece of jewelry.

 

“- Oh, I, uhmm, I don’t know, long”

 

“- I thought you didn’t like to use it all the time”

 

“- I don’t” Karolina says “- But things have been crazy busy, and I barely had any time to take this off”

 

Alright, Nico can work with this.

 

“- Do you miss flying?” Nico asks.

 

“- Oh my god, yes! When the semester is over I swear I’m just gonna stay home with you and lock this thing in a drawer for a month or something”

 

Nico smiles at that, finally she has an idea, there’s something that she can do for her girlfriend. “- Let’s finish our meal, I want to try something” She says.

 

They finish dinner in good spirits, not even the constant flirting of the waitress can upset Nico, after paying an outrageous check and leave a generous tip (the waitress might’ve been way too flirty, but Nico was raised right, she always tips, no matter what) they exit the restaurant and Nico leads Karolina to a small alleyway.

 

“- Whoa, Nico!” Karolina exclaims, smiling like crazy.

 

“- What?” Nico asks.

 

“- Here? I mean, alright, but, it’s kind of too in public”

 

Nico looks quizzically at Karolina, it takes her full five seconds to connect the dots “- Oh my god, you perv, no! It’s not that” She still makes a mental note because it’s always useful to know the extent of your girlfriend’s kinky limits, and apparently, Karolina is a lot kinkier that Nico expected, not that it’s a bad thing, of course.

 

It’s Karolina’s turn to look confused “- Then what—?”

 

Nico doesn’t give her time to finish that question, she twists one of her rings to uncover a small pin, it’s not meant as a weapon, it’s far too small for that, but it is enough to draw blood. Nico pinches the tip of her thumb with it.

 

“- When blood is shed let the Staff of One emerge

 

“- What the hell are you doing!?” Karolina’s alarm is justified, Nico summons her staff when is strictly necessary.

 

Nico is not looking appalled in the slightest, she just smiles coyly and extends her hand “- Would you fly with me?” She asks, her voice is sweet, trying to convey every bit of allure in that invitation.

 

“- What?” Karolina gives as a response.

 

Nico lifts the Staff slightly, she raises a few inches, just enough to be above Karolina’s eye level.

 

“- How?” Karolina manages to ask.

 

“- I can fly as long as I have this thing” Nico says pointing to the Staff of One “- Long story, I’ll tell you everything some other time, so, what do you say?”

 

Karolina smiles and takes off her bracelet putting it in one of her pockets, she lifts up the ground effortlessly.

 

“- You, know” Nico says “- I’m curious exactly how fast you are” She doesn’t wait for an answer and takes flight, leaving faint purple light in her trail. Maybe the Staff of One is more a curse than anything else, maybe the price she paid for it was too high, maybe she’s not clever enough to figure out how to use it properly, maybe she hates and fears it most of the time, but sometimes, just sometimes, it makes her smile.

 

Nico gains altitude and speed, it’s so easy to lose yourself while flying. She turns her head and sees a rainbow colored trail following her. More than following her, Karolina is gaining on her, fast. Nico speeds up a little, enough to be a little more of a challenge for Karolina to catch up, still, she doesn’t push too hard, the Staff of One has its limits, Nico doesn’t know exactly what those limits are, but they exist, after some time of continuously using the Staff it reenters her body, Nico thinks the most logical explanation is because it depowers and needs to recharge. She prays it is the case.

 

When Karolina catch up with her Nico finally stops “- Damn, you’re fast!” She says.

 

“- You too! I didn’t even know you could fly!”

 

Karolina looks truly excited and happy, a huge smile plastered on her face, breathing a little heavy from the exertion, and even in her Majesdane form, Nico can see the light blush on her cheeks. It has been weeks since Karolina has looked as full of life like now.

 

“- I have a few more tricks left, here, hold this” Nico says and beacons Karolina to get closer, and hands her the Staff. The second Karolina grabs it Nico lets go of it, plummeting to the ground.

 

“-Nico!” Karolina reacts immediately, rushing down to save her girlfriend.

 

Nico stops midair with a little pirouette, smiling at the very confused look on Karrie’s face.

 

“- What the fuck!? You ass! Don’t scare me like that! Didn’t you say you could only fly with the Staff?” Karolina slaps Nico’s arm playfully.

 

 “- I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist, and I can float, but I need the Staff to move around, oh, and I can do this” Nico extends her arm and opens her hand towards the Staff of One and it flies to her.

 

“- You really are full of tricks”

 

“- They make me fun at parties” Nico says, she wanted to keep flying but Karolina cuts the plan short when she approaches Nico and kisses her.

 

What do you feel when you’re already weightless? Does a kiss meant to lift you up lose its meaning if you’re already flying? Well, according to Nico Minoru the answer is fuck, no, if anything, she feels soaring higher and higher. Elating in Karrie’s lips, Nico throws her arms around her neck deepening the kiss, she’s sure, in all the years she has left in this earth, she will never get tired of this, Karrie’s lips are so soft, and warm, and intoxicating, there’s no comparison to any other kiss she’s given to any other person, maybe it’s a Majesdane thing, maybe all of that race feels and tastes as this good. No, that’s asinine, it’s not a whole race, it’s just Karolina, she alone feels this good, this warm, only she can make Nico’s heart beat as hard and fast like this.

 

Instinctively, Nico starts spinning around, she feels Karolina’s arms tightening around her waist, there is barely any space between them and Nico still wants to get closer. Suddenly, she remembers she needs to breath, why can’t her lungs stop annoying her with that breathing stuff when she’s kissing the most beautiful person on earth? Whatever, Nico, very reluctantly, breaks the kiss and opens her eyes, she learned, then, one of the hazards to date Karolina. She could go blind. Karolina is glowing so bright that Nico has to squint “- Babe, you’re way to bright right now” She says.

 

Karolina opens her eyes and giggles “- Oh, my god, I’m sorry” She takes a deep breath and dims her glowing a little, it’s still bright, enough for people on the street to start wondering if they’re been attacked by some powerful gay alien. “- See what you make me do?”

 

“- Wait ‘till we get home, I’ll make you glow then” Nico means it as a joke, but the look Karolina gives her indicates that she just made a promise, on she intends to fulfill.

 

“- Anyway, follow me, I still want to show you something” Nico takes Karolina’s hand and flies off. She already loves this new dynamic of them, so far, she had so few reasons to be glad to have magical powers, but looking at Karolina, at how happy she can make her, well, maybe it’s time to reconsider, at least a little.

 

They fly west, Nico wanted to keep the destination a surprise, she succeeded up to a point because as the got closer Karolina caught on where they’re headed.

 

“- Are you taking me to Mount Hollywood?” Karolina asks.

 

“- Yeah, it’ll be fun” Nico answers.

 

The keep course towards the south part of the park, it tips Karolina off. “- The observatory…” She mutters mostly to herself.

 

“- Correct” Nico turns towards Karolina and smiles.

 

Karolina looks at her watch and then turns to Nico “- It’s already closed”

 

“- Sure, that’s why we’re here, c’mon” Nico says and lands in one of the outer fields of the observatory and she ushers Karolina to come closer. “- Just let me see if everything’s clear” Nico disappears briefly, making a brief fly to check for any guards or late night working employees. No sign of anyone. “- We’re good” She announces and takes Karolina’s hand, she leads them to a maintenance shed, Nico opens it, quite easily, which grants her concerned and questioning looks from Karrie, and takes a small telescope and a tripod.

 

“- Don’t give that me look, we’ll return it” Nico says.

 

They fly to the rooftop with the borrowed telescope, Nico pics a spot near the ledge and sets the tripod, she sits down and pats the spot besides her.

 

“- How about some old, cliched, super corny, star gazing?” Nico asks.

 

“- With you? Always” Karolina sits and rest her head on Nico’s shoulder.

 

They watch at the stars with and without the telescope for the better part of an hour, the weather is perfect, it’s a warm night and the skies are clear; Nico shares a surprising amount of information about constellations, and clusters and planets, Karolina tells her a bit about what is like living in space and some funny anecdotes about extraterrestrial life.

 

“- I used to come here a lot, you know?” Nico says.

 

“- Really? When?” Karolina asks her, and it’s a fair question, in all the years they’ve known each other Nico never shown much interest in astronomy or even science in general.

 

“- When you were up there” Nico answers, a hint of melancholy in her voice, she keeps staring at the sky, unable to look at Karolina right now, she leaves out the words with Xavin, it’s a touchy subject for Karolina and truth be told, Nico doesn’t like to think about it that much either “- Back then I would sneak out from whatever hide out we were holed up and come here, I liked to look at the stars and imagine that I could see you, that one of those stars was actually you, glowing bright; I know is dumb because those stars are millions of miles away and there was no way it could be you, but it made feel less alone” She finishes shrugging.

 

“- Nico…” Karolina scooches closer and takes her hand.

 

“- Those were the loneliest weeks of my life, with you gone, I know it’s selfish because I can’t even imagine what was like for you, but I missed you so much” Nico is on the verge of tears, this is the first time she talks about that period in her life, in fact, Nico doesn’t talk about a lot of her past, for someone so young she has had more than her fair share of pain.

 

“- It was hard” Karolina says “- I wasn’t ready and everything in my life was here, and…” She hesitates, it’s clear this is a sensible topic “- And… there was you…”

 

Nico turns and smiles weakly, ayes rimmed with tears “- I knew it then, you know? That I love you”

 

“- You did?” Karolina asks.

 

“- Yeah, the second you got in that space ship and took off… I beat myself over it over and over again, how could I be so stupid, right?” Nico wipes her tears away carefully enough to no smudge her eyeliner “- The girl of my dreams wanted to be with me and I screw it up, to think we could be together since then…”

 

“- I don’t know, Nico, we were in such a bad place then, maybe we I would’ve screw it up myself if you’d say yes, maybe we wouldn’t be together now” Karolina says.

 

“- Maybe…” Nico says.

 

“- And just so you know, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been right now” Karolina says.

 

“- Really?”

 

“- Yeah really, I have my family back and we’re thriving, the love of my life is finally my girlfriend, and she throws the corniest, sweetest dates ever, even when she takes me to eat weird food in overpriced places”

 

“- What? You didn’t like it?” Nico asks “- I thought it was just like your cooking”

 

“- Are you kidding? I cook meals with a little thing called flavor, and I’m pretentious but not that much”

 

“- Well, I think it was great” Nico laughs “- And soooo cheap”

 

It’s Karolina’s turn to laugh “- Yeah, next time I’ll pick the place, something more suited for us”

 

“- If you take me to a Japanese place I’ll dump your ass”

 

“-I won’t” Karolina says, she replaces her head on Nico’s shoulder and takes her hand back, interlacing their fingers. “- Hey, Nico?”

 

“- Yeah?”

 

“- Today was great, I loved it, even with breaking and entering, thank you”

 

Nico laughs and gives Karolina little kiss on her temple “- Anything for you, Karrie”

 

Chapter Text

Okay,

I apologize for this, but I have nowhere else where I can vent... so...

 

Spoilers....

...
...
...
...
...
...

DID YOU READ THE NEW ISSUE OF RUNAWAYS!?!?!?!?! OH MY FUCKING GOD!!! FUCKING CALLED IT, I KNEW IT, WHY WOULD ANYONE WANTED TO WRITE ANOTHER RUNAWAYS SERIES IF THAT WASN'T GONNA HAPPEN?!!?!?!

 

DEANORU IS CANON!!!!!!!!!!

IT'S CANON!!!!

MY BABIES ARE TOGETHER, AND HAPPY AND IN LOVE!!!!!

15 FUCKING LONG YEARS... AND TODAY IT FINALLY PAID OFF, IF THAT IS NOT SLOWBURN I DON'T KNOW WHAT IS.

Seriously, Deanoru was my first OTP before I knew what a OTP was. I don't know, it's beyond silly but it means a lot to me.

Also... also...

Fuking Rainbow Rowell... she beat me to my great reveal... yep, I was gonna introduce Alex Wilder at the end of With you at my side... I mean, I'm still gonna do it, too late to change that, but damn. Don't get me wrong, I'm very excited for the comic of course, it's just that... damn.

Anyway, that is all. Back to writing for me and happy 20gayteen to everyone. Love you all.

Chapter Text

Being a superhero is not glamorous at all. No matter what people might say or think, is a very dirty, very dangerous, very ungrateful job. Hell, most of the time it’s not even a job since real jobs have this little thing called payment and many (so many) heroes have died without even think of getting a dime.

 

And then you have the Runaways. Simple as this, they’re heroes, not in the super- wear-tights-and-a-cape-with-a-cheesy-codename kind of way but in a more traditional type of hero. Every single one of them has made enormous personal sacrifices to protect other people, arguably, saving the world, and losing their blood family in the process. Some of the paid even the ultimate price.

 

All of this is well known to Nico Minoru, maybe a little too well. So, it’s not a surprise that the first time the Runaways were called to assist in a crisis she was a bundle of nerves.  With what they would have to deal? Captain Marvel promised Nico not to send them to a combat situation, but still, what if that wasn’t a choice? What if the world was in danger again? What if some powerful supervillain came their way and they were forced to fight?

 

As it turns out, Nico didn’t need to worry. The first time the Runaways were on the field was to help transit officers to put signals along the highway warning about a blockade due to some accident. The second time, although the circumstances were weirder, something about an invasion of landsharks in Santa Monica, the job itself was fairly simple, they were required for crowd control in Hollywood Boulevard helping people evacuate the zone for some other team to deal with the landsharks. Still, Nico asked Karolina to fly over to spot any shark that might come their way; Nico was ready to fight, but none came.

 

On one of those lazy late afternoons that Nico loves an earthquake shakes Los Angeles and all the areas around the city. The Runaways are called a third time, a message appears on Nico’s phone. This is serious. A few buildings collapsed, and their help is needed on Burbank.

 

The whole situation caught Nico completely off guard, furthermore, she was at work, and the quake toppled some racks and spilled a few bottles, she will need to clean the mess before even think of leaving with no chance to go at the site for the moment. She called Karolina as soon as she could.

 

“- Nico! I’ve calling you like crazy, but the network is jammed, are you okay?” Karolina answers “-

 

“- Yeah, I’m fine, but did you see the message?” Nico doesn’t wait for a response “- I’m at work and cannot bail, could you go home and see who’s ready to go?”

 

“- I’m already home, I picked Molly up from band practice, she’s changing, Gert is also here, but Chase called me and said he was stuck at work and couldn’t make it”

 

“- Damn” Nico says “- And Vic?”

 

“- He’s with Chase, something about picking spare parts”

 

“- Okay, you three have to go, take Old Lace with you, use Chase’s van, I’ll meet you there as soon as I get out”

 

“- Sure”

 

“- Be careful, Karrie”

 

“- I will”

 

It takes Nico half an hour to wrap things up and get out of work, once outside of the store she doesn’t even bother to change (other than stacking the awful Hawaiian shirt in a locker) she summons her Staff and flies away. There’s an air of nostalgia about this whole ritual, preparing herself to face an unknown challenge, sometimes even Nico misses this feeling, like she’s doing something bigger than herself.

 

Even from a hundred feet in the air Nico can see the collapsed building, the structure is completely leveled. She only hovers for a few seconds before she sees Karolina talking to a fireman on the ground, Gert is next to her, arms crossed and looking extremely annoyed, Molly is nowhere to be seen. Nico goes straight to them.

 

“- Sorry I’m late, what do we have?” Nico says when she’s within earshot, she flashes a smile to Karolina but nothing more, now it’s not the time.

 

 “- Nico!” Karolina acknowledges her “- Captain Gomez here was briefing me”

 

“- Evening, miss” Captain Gomez says, he’s a hulking man, about 6’6 and the physique of someone who carries people and breaks walls for a living, still, his treatment of Nico is nothing short of respectful “- Are you leader of the team?”

 

“- I am” Nico says, it’s so weird for her adopting the role of leader after so much time passed since the Runaways were together and resemble something like a team, they’re not, Nico wants to clarify it, but pretending to be one has its perks.

 

“- Right, so, miss Dean here tells me you are experts in search and rescue?” The Captain asks.

 

The outright lie almost makes Nico smile, she remembers Karolina being really good at appearing all formal and official, in the past that ability saved them from foster care to dealing with overbearing super heroes, and for the looks of it Karolina has honed her skill  enough to fool an actual expert on search and rescue “- Indeed” Nico says “- So, the Avengers called us here for a reason, what can we help you with?”

 

“- With everything you can, the fire department is stretched thin with the aftermath of the shake and battling a fire up north” Captain Gomez says.

 

“- Were there any people inside the building” The old habits of being a C-list Avenger kick in, Nico knows she always have to look for survivors first.

 

“- Yes, this was an office building, it was during working hours when it came down. We’re sure there are survivors, they’ve texted their friends and family, but we haven’t been able to locate them”

 

“- You can help with that, right Nico? Using your Staff?” Karolina asks.

 

Nico can help with that, easily, she’s sure she can cast a specific enough spell that could locate any person trapped in the rubble “- No, I used that spell already” Nico tells her girlfriend, then she feels an explanation is owed to the firefighter “- I’m a wizard, I can do pretty much anything but only once, my magic is weird like that, and I was with Avengers for a couple of years, I used to do a lot of this stuff back then” She actually haven’t used a spell like that, but fear and anxiety have a tight grip on her, what if some day she needs that spell? What if it’s her family who is in danger that time? What if it’s Karrie the one who is trapped, and she has mere minutes to save her and she needs that fucking spell, what if…?

 

“- That’s a shame” the Captain says “- Maybe you could help once the dogs arrive? I asked for k-9 units a while ago, but none have come yet”

 

“- You need dogs right now?” Nico asks and the fireman nods, this gives her an idea. “- Gert, could you please bring Old Lace?”

 

Gert’s eyes light up, she seems to get the idea too “- Fucking brilliant, give me a second” She says and goes to the van; after a minute, she returns with Molly and Old Lace at her heels.

 

“- Whoa, you girls have a Deinonychus” Captain Gomez says. There’s awe in his tone but also a healthy amount of fear and deference, he takes a couple of steps back from the dinosaur.

 

Nico laughs in good spirits at the bulking man’s reaction, it might never cease to amuse her the treatment they receive once Old Lace is out. “- Yeah, this is Old Lace, she’s Gert’s and you don’t need to worry, she is super friendly and perfectly trained, and her nose is better than any german sheppard” Nico pats Old Lace head to prove her point “- Just point us in the right direction”

 

The lieutenant nods again and turns to the small crowd of firemen around the collapsed building “- Everyone, listen!” He bellows in a commanding voice “- The Avengers sent help and gave us their best sniffer” He says pointing to Old Lace and Gert “- You give the lady enough room to work and mark any spots with survivors!”

 

While the firemen begin to work, Nico hears her girlfriend say to her “- That was impressive” Karolina says “- Lace is perfect for this job”

 

“- Yeah, we might be cut out for this” Nico says and gives Karolina a quick smile, then she turns to Molly “- You ready for this, Molls?”

 

“- Sure, I forgot what it felt to be hero”

 

It’s good to see Molly this excited, maybe Nico could learn a thing or two from her, she also forgot, long ago, what it feels to be a hero if she ever was one.

 

Old Lace and Gert continue to work, leading firemen through the rubble, so far, Old Lace hasn’t detected anything, the crew asks for silence. This stops two of the firemen that were preparing a drone.

 

“- You need help with the drone?” Nico asks, lowering her voice as much as she can.

 

“- We’re good, we need to take some footage, so we can know where to dig but can’t fly the drone when the sniffing team asks for silence, you know, the noise” One of the firemen says.

 

Again, Nico smiles, they also have the perfect solution for this. “- My girlfriend can fly without making any noise, maybe she can help”. The firemen agree and a few moments later Karolina hovers over the wreckage. Nico is beginning to feel, well, good, proud of her little family, of the work they’re doing, and even of their decision to join the Avengers Initiative. That last part is a surprise, perhaps it was actually a good idea to join in, and not only for themselves but for the people they can help too; it’s becoming clearer and clearer for her that, despite everything else, Julie Power was right about them.

 

Nico was lost in thought when someone yells “- We got one!” No one says anything else, they just mark the spot with paint and move on. Minutes later they have marked another two spots. Old Lace and Gert have made several runs looking for more spots with people trapped, but they don’t find any more.

 

It’s time for some hard work and start to clear rubble, everyone helps, Molly proves once again the value to have the Runaways on the field, with her help they remove big chunks of concrete and steel, she only gets reprimanded once when she wanted to lift a heavy beam from the top of the rubble pile. It’s not that she could not do it, but all that weight concentrated on a tiny spot could bring the, already feeble, structure further down. They reach the first group of survivors within an hour.

 

There are four of them, trapped under what once was the stairs cube, cleaning crew and a maintenance guy, they are alive, beaten, bruised, one of them with a compound fracture and in risk of crushed syndrome, he’s the first leaving the site.

 

As time passes, the night falls, heavy flood lights are set in place to help the search. The second group is less fortunate. When digging their way to it, the rescue team can hear faint sounds coming from under the wreckage. They are screams. It takes another hour, even with Molly’s help and a crane to reach them, when they are close to the trapped group, one of the firefighters stops the operation.

 

From where she is standing Nico can’t tell what’s wrong, she’s about to ask the person in front of her when she sees Karolina hurrying to take Molly away, preventing her from coming to the front. This can only mean…

 

Nico takes a step on front, she doesn’t get a full view of the scene, but the glimpse she got is enough, there’s a human foot sticking out of some ruble, sock on but no shoe, a heavy slab pressing down over it, dark liquid pooling beneath it, she knows it’s blood, but under the bright floodlights it looks impossibly red, like cheap paint or the fake stuff they use in movies.

 

It’s not her fault, this person didn’t die because of her. She wasn’t selfish in not using her powers or too dim witted to not thought about an alternative spell, considering the state of the corpse, this person died instantly when the building came down. It doesn’t make her a bad person.

 

The search reassumes only when a team of forensics remove the body. They go a little faster but wary of any more victims they might find. It seems like an eternity, but they finally reach the other group. They are in a sorry state, three people, clearly, they are office workers given their clothes, one of them keeps repeating she needs to find her bag, even when they take her away in an ambulance. Shock, that’s the word Nico hears describing her condition.

 

All the searching efforts move to the last spot Lace found, it’s almost midnight and Nico can see the toll of the past hours reflecting on her family’s faces, especially on Molly’s, she should be asleep by now, she has school in the morning after all.  But Molly, being the absolute angel that she is, keeps going, fueled by the conviction on being a hero.

 

Nico doesn’t react quick enough, she is exhausted, the weariness is finally setting in, she can barely keep her eyes open anymore. It’s because of this that she didn’t know that something was wrong, she didn’t register the absence of sounds, to be more precise, the absence of people screaming. That was the cue for when they were getting close to survivors, some were screaming out of relief or to let the search party to let them know they were close or maybe out of desperation to get the hell out of there. There are none this time.

 

When it finally hits her, she rushes to the front of the line where she knew Molly was still working tirelessly. She finds her just before the rest of the crew lifts the final slab to reveal a small chamber with other five people in it, five people that are not moving.

 

“- We got one alive! Bring a medic!” Someone shouts. Only one more survivor, a young girl, not much older than Nico herself, unconscious, the other were not so fortunate, loss of oxygen, they were trapped for far too long “- Hell of a way to go” Another medics mutters, Nico hears her loud and clear.

 

Nico feels numb, it’s not like she never saw a dead body before, she has lost people, some were even her fault.

 

“- We did all we could”

 

Nico hears the words, but she can’t process them. A strong, dirty hand grasps hers. Karolina is at her side offering some comfort.

 

“- Yeah” Nico says.

 

“- I can hear the gears grinding in your head, Nico” Karolina says “- There was nothing we could do”

 

But there was, she could have save them, cast a spell to locate them and maybe even bring everyone to the surface but, again, ¿What if she needed that spell some other time? if only she knew how to use her own damn staff, or were more imaginative with her spells, or a better human being, less selfish, less scared. If only she was a hero.

 

“- Your girlfriend‘s right, miss” Captain Gomez says, walking towards the couple “- Sometimes we’re just not fast enough, it’s part of the job” He gives them a tired smile and beacons Molly, Gert and Old Lace to come closer “- We’ll wrap this off, it’s very late and you girls need to go home, your help was invaluable, thank you, you super people really live up to the hype”

 

“- Thanks Captain, you sure need nothing else?” Karolina asks.

 

“- I’m sure, drive safely”

 

They walk to the van, when they’re about to reach it Nico hears someone calling her name, she turns and see Captain Gomez half trotting towards her.

 

“- Miss Minoru! May I have a word?” The Captain says.

 

“- Of course” Nico only wants to go home and process the emotions of the day with a long shower and some sleep but she humors the fireman nonetheless.

 

Captain Gomez waits until everyone else is inside the van before he starts speaking “- I just wanted to say… I… I knew your parents, the Minorus and also the Wilders” He says.

 

Great, the legacy of their murdering parents has no end, now it will come to tarnish every single one of Nico’s effort to do some good.

 

The fireman continues “- And I wanted to say that there are a lot of people in the force who remember them” He must’ve cached Nico’s panicked expression because he hurries to say “- It’s all good, I know you kids are gonna take over the city someday, I just, I don’t know, just please keep in mind those who remained loyal when you do it” He smiles at Nico and walks off to where the rest of the firefighters were.

 

“- Everything alright?” Karolina asks her.  Nico didn’t hear Karolina getting out of the van nor hear her approaching.

 

“- Yeah” Nico responds “- He just wanted to see If I was okay”

 

“- And, are you?” Karolina asks her again.

 

“- I don’t know, let’s just go home” Nico answers.

 

It takes the a little while to get the Hostel, they stop to get some gas and donuts for Molly (she wanted muffins but anything sugary will do for now) Nico dozes off as soon as she steps into the van, she wakes up at a slight shake from Karolina.

 

“- Nico, we’re home”

 

Nico opens her eyes; her mind still feels cloudy, it’s past midnight and she really should be sleeping. “- Yeah, okay, where’s everyone?”

 

“Gert is in bed already, Molly is wolfing down her dinner”

 

“- Dinner?” Nico asks and takes Karolina’s hand helping herself to get out of the van, she hadn’t even think of food the whole evening, but at the mention of it her stomach growls, sleep be damned, her stomach comes first.

 

“- Chase left us a tray of sandwiches and muffins, there’s juice too it you want” Karolina says.

 

“- Wow, really nice of him, I’m starving, you coming?”

 

“- I ate earlier in the day, I’m not hungry, I just want a shower, go on, eat, I’ll join you guys later”

 

With that Karolina go upstairs leaving Nico on the way to the kitchen, Molly is already making a dent in the pile of snacks Chase left them and Nico joins her gladly.

 

-

 

It was long day. A hard day. It has been years since Karolina felt this spent. She manages to feel a little more human (it’s just a figure of speech) after a couple of minutes under the shower feeling the grime, dust and sweat wash away from her body. It’s also like the water helps clear her head and makes her feel a little better about the ordeal of the day.

 

They did good today. They saved lives, something that means the world to someone, literally. That’s the good part and Karolina tries her damnest to focus on it. But also, people died. Somewhere, someone lost their loved one, someone is worried sick about a person that will never return home, someone is crying their eyes out their heart heavy with grief. You can’t save everyone, it’s a hard truth to swallow, but it’s part of the job.

 

What really troubles her is something else. Since she was followed, Karolina has been hyper vigilant of her surroundings, today, when she was flying around taking pictures for the fire department she saw it, the same car with the tinted windows that followed her weeks before, parked just out of the view from the vicinity of the collapsed building. When they left the site, Karolina stopped for gas that they didn’t need and donuts they didn’t want just so she could check if the same car followed them. It did. It only stopped following them once she took the last exit towards the Hostel. She needs to tell her family about this, just not tonight, everyone is tired and wary enough as it is, at the very least, this can wait until the morning.

 

Karolina dons her sleepwear, sweatpants and an oversized shirt that was Nico’s and Karolina loves, and steps out of the shower expecting Nico to be already fall asleep on their bed but the room is empty, she hears some chatter coming from downstairs and decides to check it out.

 

Molly and Nico are perched on the kitchen bar chatting between bites, from the looks of their plates, Molly has wolfed down at least two sandwiches and going for thirds and the same number of muffins while Nico seems to be on her second sandwich. Karolina walks towards them and grabs some juice for herself.

 

“- Hey” Karolina greets them. “- I thought you guys would be already passed out, aren’t you tired?”

 

“- We are” Molly answers “- But food comes first”

 

Karolina smiles lovingly at both of them and sits in the stall next to Nico resting her head on her shoulder. Nico responds by giving a sandwich full kiss on Karolina’s temple. It’s such a relief seeing Nico and Molly are okay, of all the group attending the emergency they were the ones who look the most shaken.

 

“- We did good today, right?”

 

The questions take Karolina by surprise, Molly stopped eating and spurted it looking expectantly between Nico and her.

 

“- Yeah, we did” Karolina answers reaching for Molly.

 

“- Even if, you know, we couldn’t save them all?” Molly asks again, the same question everybody asks themselves at some point.

 

“- We did save at least one person, right Molly? Nico asks her back.

 

“- Yeah” Molly answers.

 

“- Well, think about that person” Nico says. “- Tonight, someone has the chance to see their loved ones once again, we helped that happen”

 

That seems to satisfy Molly for the moment and gives Nico and Karolina a smile followed immediately by a huge yawn. “- I think I’m going to bed now” Molly finishes her sandwich and walks to Nico and Karolina hugging both of them.

 

Karolina takes a little longer hugging Molly, she’s her self-appointed big sister after all.

 

Molly goes to her room leaving Nico and Karolina alone. “- You’re still very protective of her” Nico says.

 

Karolina shrugs “- She didn’t have a normal childhood and she won’t have a normal puberty, the least I can do is being kind” She says.

 

Nico gives Karolina a quick kiss on the cheek “- Are you sure you don’t want something eat? She asks Karolina.

 

“- I’m good, really” Karolina says and stashes the tray in the fridge. She sees Nico grabbing the used plates and glasses and washes them in the sink. “- I thought you were gonna be dead tired by now”

 

 “- I was! But Chase’s food works miracles, I feel a lot more awake now” Nico stretches with a very audible pop coming from her back smiling at the look Karolina gives her “- I still need a shower though”

 

“- Yeah, you reek” Karolina says and Nico slaps her arm playfully. The couple heads to their room making silly jokes all the way through.

 

As soon as Karolina locks the door for the room Nico undresses unceremoniously throwing her discarded clothes in a corner of the room and steps into the bathroom. On one hand Karolina loathes Nico’s little habit of leaving her clothes all over the floor, it’s not like Nico is a messy person but that particular attitude drives Karolina crazy. But on the other hand, Karolina can’t get enough of Nico’s propensity to parade herself naked in front of her, and she knows is only partially to tease her, it’s also because in Nico’s own words if there’s no one around, why I dress up? Yes, you heard that right, the styliest goth that ever styled doesn’t care much for clothes in her spare time.

 

The sight of Nico wearing nothing lights something in Karolina. For some time, after she began dating Nico she thought that that lust and want she feels every time her girlfriend was around would, eventually, diminish; it hasn’t, Karolina’s day is always a struggle against her urges, under normal circumstances she controls them, dulling them enough to be satisfied with being close to Nico, either holding hands, or playing with her hair, just touching Nico in any way or form, but there are times when, well, take today for example; long day, longer night, a turmoil of emotions; Karolina is almost desperate for something that can ground her.

 

She sits on the bed, resting her back on the wall and spreading her legs a little, it starts almost automatically, she takes her hand down her pants and just grazing her fingers over playing with herself, in no time Karolina closes her eyes and inserts one finger, then another into her, pumping them in and out, her surroundings begin to blur and loses all sense of time. Nico’s voice finally makes her open her eyes.

 

“- Woah! Sorry, you want some time alone or do you need help with that” Nico says covering herself with a towel while using another to dry her hair.

 

In the other occasions when Nico caught her masturbating (it happened probably more times than you think) Karolina immediately stopped, blushed like hell and stammered an awkward apology of some sort, not today, today is different. Instead of stopping and blushing, Karolina continues and locks eyes with Nico “- Yeah, you can start by throwing that fucking towel away” She says.

 

Nico gets caught by surprise, she likes this side of Karrie (she actually loves everything about Karolina, of course you know this but it’s worth to keep it in mind) but after a moment she obliges and removes her towel, something in Karolina’s tone made It clear that there’s no room for discussion and she must wait for further instructions, so she places a hand on her hips and gives Karolina a suggestive look without moving from her spot.

 

“- Now come here” Karolina says.

 

Nico steps towards her, smiling widely and enjoying the show; Karolina hasn’t sopped masturbating and, if anything, she looks more focused than before, when Nico is within arm reach she takes her hand leading her to the bed and plants a passionate kiss.

 

“- I want you to fuck me, now” Karolina says after breaking the kiss.

 

“- Yes ma’am” Nico responds.

 

Karolina takes her clothes off in record time, she might have torn her underwear a little but the important part is that nothing as mundane and annoying as clothes are bothering her now.

 

Nico wastes no time and pulls Karolina closer, she positions between her legs spreading them a little further. “- I love you so much, Karrie” She says and then kisses her girlfriend’s neck, the exact spot that elicits in Karolina the most delicious sounds.

 

“- God, Nico, I want you now” Karolina bucks her hips upwards begging to be touched.

 

“- Sure, relax, babe, just tell me how you want it” Nico says, not in vain Karolina is her best friend, her favorite person, she knows her, she can read her. The events of the day must have wearing her out and Nico understands, she craves give some release to Karolina.

 

“- Kiss me” Karolina instructs.

 

Nico obliges, kissing her passionately, Karolina can’t get enough and takes Nico’s face between her hands.

 

“- You liked watching me masturbate?” Karolina asks breaking the kiss.

 

“- I loved it” Nico answers.

 

“- You wanted to touch me, didn’t you?”

 

“- Yes”

 

“- What are you waiting for?”

 

Nico complies, her hand travels down Karolina’s body, only stopping on a few places where she knows will be appreciated, a light caress on Karrie’s ribs, her navel, a not so gentle squeeze of her hips, and finally, Nico reaches her girlfriend’s entrance, she’s not surprised to find it already slick, after all, Karolina did a number on herself.

 

“- My god, Karrie, you’re breathtakingly beautiful” Nico says keeping eye contact with Karolina.

 

“- Tell me you love me, Nico”

 

“- I love you, I love you so much” Nico complies again, she finally, unceremoniously, inserts two fingers inside Karolina.

 

“- Yes! Nico! Please, fuck me!” Karolina’s wishes are answered, Nico begins thrusting her, speeding up the rhythm. “- Fuck! I’m so close! Don’t stop!”

 

Nico, abruptly, stops.

 

“- What the fuck? Nico!” Karolina screams, she’s whimpering, breathing heavily and suddenly feeling very exposed.

 

“- Sorry” Nico says “- But there’s no way this is gonna be quick, I’m gonna make you moan, I’m gonna make you squirm, I’m gonna make you scream my name while you cum” Nico lowers herself, positioning in front of Karolina’s pelvis “- And I’m gonna enjoy every second of it”

 

Nico hooks her arms around Karolina’s thighs and begins sucking on her clit, no previous warning, no foreplay involved, the effect is immediate, Karolina throws her head backwards and lets out a scream.

 

“- Motherfuck!” Karolina exclaims.

 

That’s more than enough to keep Nico going, she uses one hand to enter Karolina once again, stretching her with a couple of nimble fingers.

 

“- Look at me, Nico!” Karolina orders her girlfriend.

 

Without stopping ravaging Karolina, Nico looks up.

 

“- Don’t you dare to stop now!” Karolina says.

 

Nico alternates between using her tongue to enter Karolina’s folds and sucking on her clit, and Karrie is loving this, Nico is so skilled with her tongue, swirling it once it’s inside her, licking just at the right angle.

 

When they started their relationship oral sex was a point of stress for Karolina. Nico admitted to her that she may have made out with a woman once but until Karrie, never had sex with one so she was not accustomed at all. Karolina tried to tell her that it was alright that there was no rush, of course, Karolina was dying for Nico to go down on her, deep down it was one of her fantasies, one that helped her getting off on so many lonely nights; but she knew that it might take some time for Nico to develop a taste for oral, if at all. Turns out Karolina didn’t need to worry, the first time Nico ate her out, albeit a bit nervously, she became addicted, now, Nico never wastes an opportunity to make Karolina cum.

 

“- Fuck! Nico!” Karolina gasps. “- Make me- Make me-“ Her sentences come out ragged and incoherent.

 

As if on cue, Nico adds a third finger and thrust inside her faster.

 

Karolina feels herself being stretch further and Nico’s expert mouth focuses on her clit with more intensity.

 

“- Oh god, baby, I’m gonna cum, I’m gonna cum!” Karolina is starting to lose it, she tangles her fingers in Nico’s hair, keeping her mouth in place. “- Look at me, Nico! Fucking look at me!”

 

“- Ahhh, fuck!” Karolina is so close, the pressure in her lower abdomen is becoming unbearable, she locks eyes with Nico and loves what she sees. Nico’s gaze is full of lust, love, desire, pleasure, life.

 

“- I wanna- babe, please-“ The border between pleasure and pain is a mere blur to Karolina “- Make me- feel- alive! She rocks her hips up and down, matching Nico’s movements, her release is inevitable at this point.

 

“- I’m gonna—fuck!—Love you!—fuck!!” She relaxes just a bit and her orgasm hits her hard, wave after wave of pleasure wash over her. Nico helps her ride her orgasm, with both her fingers and mouth, caressing Karrie’s inner walls, planting sweet, sticky kisses on her pelvis, occasional inserting her tongue back.

 

Karolina collapses on the bed, spent and tired, sure, but feeling rejuvenated and relaxed.

 

Nico finally gets up and wipes her mouth, a wicked grin plastered on her face “- God, Karrie, you’re so beautiful when you cum” She says.

 

Karolina smiles joyfully and extends her arms towards Nico. Her girlfriend catches on and cuddles her, resting her head on her shoulder.

 

“- I love you, Nico, I love you so damn much” Karolina says, her eyes watering a little.

 

Nico looks up, and wipes a tear from Karolina’s face “- I love you too” Nico doesn’t say anything else, she knows when to give Karrie some space. “- I hate to say it, but I think we need another bath”

 

Karolina laughs, a real, honest laugh. It was an emotional day, there are a lot of unresolved issues and Karolina has to warn her family about a possible treat, her first real mission as a team didn’t go as expected, Karolina had to face, once more, death and loss and the reminder of her own mortality. Nico was right, she needs to shower again, but for now, in the arms of the person she loves the most, the world is at balance again.

Chapter Text

“- Are you sure there’s nothing?” Nico is having a complicated day.

 

“- We didn’t find anything, neither did S.H.I.E.L.D.” Captain Marvel tells her apologetically.

 

Nico told her family about the little incident with Captain Gomez of the LAFD, how he, and some unknown part of the entire fire department, was involved with The Pride. That was an awkward conversation. I led to asking Captain Marvel for help, to know if the Avengers could find something about it. It was time for their weekly review via Control Center and Nico asked her sponsor about the issue again.

 

“- But no one associated with our parents was even remotely good, there must be something” Nico blurts out.

 

Captain Marvel sighs and runs a hand over her now shoulder length hair “- That’s the thing, Nico, we did find many information about Cpt. Joseph Gomez, but nothing incriminating, in fact, he’s considered as a role model in the force”

 

“-What?”

 

“- Spotless record in the LAFD, he was arrested once but it was during a protest of the department a couple of years ago” Carol takes a pad and reads her findings to Nico “- Two of his comrades died battling a massive fire and the City Council was withholding the pension for the families of the deceased, in fact, he was awarded a medal of valor in that same fire.”

 

“- Fuck!” Nico exclaims “- But it makes no sense, why would have my parents wanted to do with someone like him?”

 

“- Well, I never met your parents, Nico” The way Captain Marvel says parents leaves no room to doubt that she loathes the persons who brought Nico into this world and then abandoned her “- But we  do know the Pride were highly strategic thinkers, Wilson Fisk’s level, so it makes sense for them to be surrounded by people with an outstanding reputation and credibility. If the Pride were ever get caught, imagine how a statement of a hero like Cpt Gomez could favor them in a court.”

 

It does makes sense, things like that is why her parents were able to murder innocent people for so many years without being brought to justice. Not for the first time the hatred Nico feels towards her own parents resurface.

 

“- All right, fuck’em” Nico says earning a curious look from Carol “- What about the plate?”

 

That was another awkward conversation her family had. Karolina told the about her spotting the car that followed her before and kept following them when they respond to the collapsed building. Nico’s first response was panic, then Karolina had to physically restrain her to prevent her from summoning her staff, fly around the city looking for that damned car and blasting it to fucking pieces along with its occupants.  Karolina offered a less blood soaking curse of action, she memorized the plate, so they could file a report or something, again, Nico asked Captain Marvel for help,

 

Captain Danvers sighs and directs Nico her oh shit look “- The number you gave me is registered to a plate from Massachusetts, Jess helped me track the plate and, at the same time, that car was following you another car with the same plate was parked in an Oregon residential area.”

 

“- How did you track it? I mean...” Nico asks in confusion.

 

“- Jess hacked a surveillance satellite or something, there was some blackmail involved… look, the less you know the better… the point is, you are being stalked by someone who is trying really hard to cover their tracks and has resources to do it” Captain Marvel pauses and gives Nico a concerned look, she also fidgets with the hem of  her shirt, a tick Nico has noticed Carol does every time she gets nervous (why would one of the most powerful beings on the planet could be nervous is beyond Nico) “- Nico…I was thinking, well, I’m worried about you, all of you, I think it would be best for you to relocate”

 

So, that’s what got Carol Danvers nervous, she must know how poorly Nico reacts to things like that, well, past Nico did, it’s time to show her sponsor that Nico has grown up, at least a little.  “- Captain, I appreciate the suggestion, but we don’t have anywhere else to live” Nico says in a calmed and controlled tone.

 

“- Maybe you could move in with me?” Captain Marvel tries again.

 

Ok, Nico is not made of stone, and Carol should really stop melting her witchy heart. The offer is sweet, more than Nico would ever suspect. Captain Danvers words actually do move her, it dawns on Nico just now how important the person on the other side of the screen has become for her.

 

“- Thanks, Captain, but we have our lives here, Karolina and Molly can’t drop out of school and Chase and I need to keep our jobs, we’ll be fine, just need a few extra security measures” Nico doesn’t really believe they would be fine, but this is something they should be able to deal with on their own.

 

“- Alright” Carol says “- Maybe you could sync your CCTV with the Avengers app? I would feel better knowing that you have the entire network support in case something happens”

 

“- That I’ll do, oh, Captain?” The words come out of Nico before she even registered them, there is an issue that Nico wanted to address but wasn’t sure if there ever was a proper moment to do so “- I’ve been meaning to ask you, are you alright?” The question is blunt, ill phrased and it sounded a thousand flavors of wrong to Nico “- I mean, lately I’ve noticed that you’re not living in New York anymore and, well, you seem different…” Nico looks up to the screen, she feared she was crossing a sensitive line, asking for personal stuff is not something neither Captain Marvel nor she does. “- Sorry” Nico continues “- I overstepped, I shouldn’t have asked…”

 

“-It’s alright” Carol says “-  I’m fine, juts taking some time off, I’m staying with my Ma and my brother, there’s things to be done back home, family, you know how it is” Nico is speechless, she never thought of the mighty Captain Marvel as a person who has something as mundane as family,

 

“- Oh, shit, sorry, Nico, I didn’t mean-” Carol says looking alarmed for some reason.

 

Nico struggles figuring out what prompted her mentor to apologize for, probably it was Nico who would have been apologizing since she stopped talking a couple minutes ago, so, what has Carol so worked up? Ah, of course, the ever-present stigma of the orphaned child of supervillain parents. “- Oh, don’t worry Captain, I may not have a mom anymore, but I know how it is with a family, my bunch of idiots keep me on my toes” Nico replies in good spirits “- I was just worried about you”

 

“- Thanks, Nico, I appreciate it. So, I don’t want to impose, but if you need some extra security…”

 

“- Of course, I’ll talk with the guys and figure something out, I’ll keep you in the loop”

 

“- Take care, Nico”

 

“- You too, Captain” Nico logs off feeling surprisingly well, she never thought she would come to civil terms with Carol Danvers, we’re talking about the same woman who wanted to arrest Nico, before she even do something in the first place, to prevent her from killing some poor girl, who actually wanted to do the same to a lot more people, all of it based on the unstable power of a clearly confused inhuman with a misguided read of his own abilities, what an asshole. But now? Let Gert never hear her say this out loud, but Nico enjoys her conversations with Captain Marvel.

 

For all her good mood, there’s still the fact that her late parents still have influence in the city’s power infrastructure and there’s an unknown stalker out there that’s targeting her and her family. Nico can’t decide which situation is worst.

 

Her family. Yes, Nico has her family back, after months of solitude and almost a year since they were something even resembling a family her Runaways are together again. She will defend them to death if it comes to that. Still, her free days off work, like right now, are a blessing, as much as she loves being surrounded by people who lev her back, Nico relishes on her quite days, times where she can rest, unwind and even meditate, although she hides that from the rest, I mean, an actual witch that meditates? That could be taken the wrong way.

 

Nico woke up this morning alone, she may not have liked it, but Karolina had to stay at campus studying for a midterm, she expected Gert and Vic be in the house but when she went downstairs to fix her breakfast she found a note from Gert saying she took Victor out for some time.

 

So, aside from an enormous Deinonychus and a psychic cat, she had the Hostel for herself.

 

Or so Nico thought.  She exits the control room and notices the front door is open, that stops her in her tracks, then, the noises coming from the kitchen, it sounds like someone is digging through the freezer. That tips her off, it’s not Old Lace or Rufus, those two never raid their freezer, someone else is inside.

 

Nico pinches her finger with the pin on her ring, she notices somethings is different when she summons the Staff. It always has been a burden, summoning the damn thing, but nowadays is even more terrible, it physically pains her, and today it drains her, leaving her dizzy. It’s thanks to adrenaline alone that she doesn’t pass out. Carefully, she approaches the kitchen, avoiding making any sound. Not for the first time she wonders where the perfect killing machine of Old Lace gets herself into when she needs her, this situation could be improved with a little dinosaur inflicted maiming.

 

The noise from the kitchen stops. So does Nico. Most likely she’s spotted, it’s time to act. She rushes to kitchen grasping her Staff and concentrating on lighting, this little trick has worked before, she thinks of an offensive spell, if she manages to electrify the Staff a swing from it can blow a head off. A couple paces from the kitchen she sees bulking figure going her way.

 

“- Go Electro on your a—!!” “- Wait, Nico it’s me!!”

 

Nico stops inches away from Chase face, some part of her didn’t want to stop.

 

“- Fucking shit! Chase”

 

Chase fell to the ground out of sheer surprise, the contents of the bowl of whatever he was having, some overly sugary cereal Molly likes, spilled on the ground, Nico helps him up and grabs a mop to start cleaning the mess, Chase stops her and takes the mop himself.

 

“- One of this days, Stain, I’m gonna blast you for real, you gotta stop sneaking into the kitchen like that”

 

“- Sorry, I got off work early and I was just getting something to eat” Chase gets a bucket and mops the cereal away.

 

Nico huffs  and  crosses her arms trying, without much success, to calm herself, it may seem like a trivial situation, just a spook, but summoning the Staff of One is becoming more and more taxing, and having it out for a false alarm is a great way to sour her mood “- What a re you doing here so early anyway?” She asks.

 

“- Well, I wanted to talk to you”

 

“- About?”

 

“- I’ve been thinking about our stalker situation, and I’m sick of it, we can’t go to the police, they are still in our parents’ pockets and the freaking Avengers can’t help us. We have to do something”

 

“- What you have in mind?”

 

“- Smoke them out, take them out in the open and hit them”

 

“- Alright, I’m on board, how?”

 

“- Really? Just like that? I thought you would need a lot more convincing”

 

Perhaps, in any other day, Nico would. She avoids any kind of superheroing as much as she can, and, listen, when you’re a wizard, superheroing is much more difficult to avoid, but she’s sick of this too, and Chase is right, they need to take care of themselves.

 

“- I want this to end” Nico shrugs “- What’s the plan?”

 

“- Okay” Chase says “- I installed some cameras and a monitor in my van, Vic helped me with a visual recognition software, it’s quite impressive, it can tell you if you’re being followed tapping into the security cameras all around the city and tags the car via satelite, all we have to do drive around and bait those fuckers out”

 

“- Alright, and once we have them out, then what?” Nico asks.

 

“- I was thinking maybe you and Karolina could go airborne and wreck their day?”

 

Nico nods “- Sounds like a plan” It’s not much of a plan, really, but it’s something “- I’ll call Karolina and fill her in, you call Gert and see if we can get Molly out of school for today, we might need her”

 

“- Sure” Chase says and goes to his shop, no doubt to get his fistagons.

 

Nico grabs her phone and calls Karolina.

 

-

 

One hour later, Nico is sitting in Chase’s van waiting for Karolina. They already got Molly and Gert and managed to conceal, to some degree, poor Old Lace in the back with a blanket, even Rufus put his mean face, or like Nico like to call it, his normal, everyday face.

 

“- Look, I hate sexist stereotypes, but your girlfriend sure takes her sweet time to get ready” Gert slumps in her seat and taps her foot impatiently.

 

“- Yeah” Nico says keep looking out the window searching for Karrie in the crowd gathered outside Pomona College. She knows, like really knows, Karolina can take an outrageous amount of time getting ready to go out, and she loves it. It’s weird, she actually loves that Karrie takes too much time applying her makeup and fixing her hair and picking her outfits; she also loves all of her other quirks and odd behaviors, like how Karolina pulls her laptop whenever they are watching a movie or something on Netflix and starts doing homework ignoring Nico (she argues the background noise helps her) or her weird tastes in food and even her pickiness or her propensity to clean absolutely every surface on sight in inappropriate moments. It’s not like those don’t annoy Nico, they do but Nico loves them anyway, they’re part of Karrie (even when Karolina is working in getting rid of those quirks she knows are harmful) and she loves everything about her.

 

And it hits Nico finally, she loves Karolina, fully, unconditionally, like she has never loved someone else before. God, Nico is a lucky woman.

 

“- Sorry! Class got extended” Karolina says tapping on the window, breaking Nico’s chain of thoughts.

 

“- It’s okay, get in” Nico says opening the door of the van.

 

“- So, how are we gonna do this?” Karolina asks.

 

“- I’m gonna drive like we’re heading home, we’ve noticed that’s when they start following us” Chase says.

 

“- I’ll be checking the monitor” Vic is placed on Gert’s lap at eye level to a salvaged screen attached to the van’s dashboard “- The second my software detects them we’ll head to the abandoned service road near the Hostel, you and Nico fly to them and stop them anyway you can, after that, we’ll see what we’re dealing with”

 

“- And then we kick their asses” Molly says.

 

For half an hour seemed like their plan wasn’t going to work, no creepy stalker in sight of Victor. Nico is worried about the last part of the plan, she told Karrie to shoot at the tires, but what next? What happens if the person following them is some powerful old enemy of them or some alien seeking revenge on Karolina or the agent of some shady organization that hates mutants-aliens-wizards and or others?

 

“- I got it! Vic says “- It’s the same car, green, dented grill, but with a different plate, and it’s definitely following us, three cars behind us”

 

Nico can’t keep pondering anything, her doubts are replaced by fear, adrenaline and anticipation.

 

“- Okay, let’s do this” Chase says “- I’m gonna lure them”

 

Ten filled with tension minutes pass, nobody in the van utters a word, Nico and Molly feign being asleep in case they were watching them closely.

 

“- We entered the service road” Chase announces

 

“- Where’s the car? I don’t see it” Gert says looking at the rearview mirror. The service road was the best choice for an ambush, the trees are densely packed providing concealment for the Runaways, but that also meant the other car could keep out of view.

 

“- We got the son of a bitch!” Victor says “- They’re hiding eighty feet behind us, behind a tree”

 

Chase takes the van to the side of the road, doing his best to conceal it “- Okay, Nico, Karo, you’re up”

 

Nico opens the side door and fly towards where the other car is hiding. From the air they spot it quite easily. The stalker must have seen them too because it’s already backing up.

 

“- Cut their retreat, Karrie!” Nico shouts pointing at them.

 

Karolina flies to the back of the car and fires a blast aiming to the rear tires, the car anticipated that and accelerated forward.

 

Nico and Karolina fly behind the car, so far, the plan is working, whoever is inside it didn’t expect this.

 

When the car passes Chase’s van he goes after it at top speed, the stalker acts even more panicked, they accelerate further.

 

It’s hard for Nico flying at a high speed amid the trees, she’s not really used to that kind of flying, but for Karolina, flying is a second nature, and can perfectly keep up with the green car. Suddenly, it dawns on Nico what that car is doing.

 

“- Karrie!” Nico shouts “- It’s heading past the Hostel!”

 

Karolina turns slightly and nods, Nico realizes she caught it too. The green car is trying to escape trough the only way available, passing the Hostel there are is an easily accessible new housing development, and past that, a mall with a big three store parking lot. Perfect place to lose a chaser.

 

The green car keeps going and accelerates, it’s so fast, it must be modified somehow, it leaves behind Chase and even Nico is falling behind, the entrance of the Hostel is now on sight, they need to stop them now or they might lose them. Fortunately, Karolina is fast, faster than the car apparently, Nico sees her leveling to the side of the green car and descends near the back tire.

 

It all ends in quickly, Karolina fires at the tire, and the green car loses speed immediately, the driver must’ve think they still got a chance, they turned hard left in a desperate attempt to shake Karolina and Nico off, but it only manages to lose control. It’s headed to the blast door of the hostel, if they don’t do anything is gonna crash, hard, against a three feet wide steel door.

 

“- Cushing impact!” Nico manages to conjure.

 

The ground in front of the car turns into a bump of dirt high enough to protect the Hostel, the driver turns left abruptly but it’s too late, it crashes sideways against Nico’s dirt barrier and stops completely.

 

It’s over.

 

Nico flies to where Karolina is floating, her hand is shaking badly and seeks for the comforting grasp of Karolina. Her girlfriend returns the gesture and squeezes her hand, finally Nico can breathe a little more normally.

 

Chase arrives at last and everyone else gets down the van, fistagons already on and pointing at the crashed car, Molly and Old Lace get ready to fight.

 

“- Everyone, back off!” Nico shouts “- Tore door!” She conjures and with a yank from her Staff the front door of the green car comes off its hinges. The Runaways approach cautiously.

 

Inside the car is a young man, his head resting in the deployed airbag, a streak of blood running down his forehead, his thick rimmed eye glasses are broken in the middle, he is battered, bruised and perfectly recognizable.

 

Alex Wilder is in front of them “- Hey, Nico” He manages to say.