"Squirrel Girl." Kraven took a deep breath. "I need your help."
"You're dying." Doreen covered her mouth. "No, wait, you're pregnant. No! You're—"
"I'm going to a party," said Kraven. "And I need a plus one."
Doreen switched gears. "You need my superhot superhero rankings? You need me to help you set up a Tinder profile?"
"I need you to come with me." Kraven held out a hand. "As my date."
Doreen tried to switch gears again, but her brain just ground to a halt. "No."
"Nope, sorry, no. You're like a hundred years old—"
"One hundred and one, you came to my birthday party-"
"—You're wearing animal print yoga pants—"
"—And your abs are chiseled out of steel, but—"
Kraven snapped his fingers in front of Doreen's face. "Squirrel Girl. Listen to me. It's the National Geographic one hundred and thirtieth anniversary gala."
Doreen's jaw dropped. "Oh my god."
"It would be my honor to escort you—"
"Oh my god!" yelled Doreen.
"And I would also appreciate any assistance you can give me in improving my public image and deflecting protestors—"
"Kraven," hissed Doreen.
"I've been preparing for this moment my entire life."
"What kind of date is this?" asked Nancy. "Like a date date? Or a friend date? Or a kissing-type—"
"It's a National Geographic date." Doreen twirled in the dress she'd picked out for exactly this ocassion when she was twelve. Unfortunately she'd grown a bit since then, so she'd taken out the seams. And broadened the shoulders. And re-done the darting. It was basically a new dress, actually, because she'd run out of seams to take out and had made a whole new skirt for it.
"That looks great on you," said Nancy. "I've never seen a brown velvet evening dress before."
"I'm going to get autographs from all my favorite photographers." Doreen sighed happily. "Erika Larsen. Michael Nichols. That lady who took the photo of the grizzly bear face-planting in a snowbank."
"What do you think Kraven is going to wear?" asked Nancy.
"I dunno." Doreen twirled again. "Probably a suit or something."
It was a suit. It was a bright orange and black tiger-striped suit. It could be seen from the Kree homeworld, and nobody actually knew where that was.
"I thought I was prepared," said Doreen. "I thought I could handle it when you showed up half-naked. I spent a lot of time thinking about that, actually, just so I could be perfectly ready."
"I can be classy when required," said Kraven.
"This is. This." Doreen looked him up and down. "This."
"It is a print," said Kraven. "Not real skin. I did not want to cause further confrontation with the PETA people, after they have already thrown paint at me fourteen times. Also, leather suits are inappropriate for light evening wear."
Doreen was still struggling to finish the sentence she'd started two minutes ago. She couldn't figure out how to convey why it was okay to dress up as a squirrel to fight crime, but not okay to dress up as Tony the Tiger for the world journalism event she'd always dreamed of attending. She could have just said that, those words exactly, but she had the feeling that Kraven wouldn't understand.
"It's silk," said Kraven. "Would you like to feel?"
Doreen felt Kraven's sleeve. She slightly revised her opinion on the tiger suit.
Doreen loved the red carpet. She loved the canapes. She loved talking to absolutely everyone, with her heart in her throat and also in her eyes and also making little hearts with her hands while she talked to Erika Larsen who was the nicest person in absolutely the entire world.
All in all, Doreen was having a surprisingly nice time. Kraven was being very gracious, even though all anyone wanted to talk about was hunting.
"We also fight crime," she told Alex Trebek. "I mean, Kraven also causes crime, sometimes, but lately he's been more on a crime preventing kick. Hey, that could be a good question on your show, you know, Who is—"
"I don't actually write those questions," said Alex Trebek. "Now, Kraven, I do want to ask—when does wildlife management become killing for killing's sake? Can we really redeem a person who revels in blood?"
"Yes," said Kraven. "Did you know, Alex, that Squirrel Girl has defeated Victor von Doom and seen him kneel at her feet?"
"Fascinating," said Lucy Liu. "Do you use every part of the animal, Kraven? Do you use every part of yourself?"
"Of course," said Kraven. "Squirrel Girl is the reason you are all alive, by the way. She convinced Galactus, the planet eater, to turn away from Earth and sate his hunger elsewhere."
"Violence for violence is the rule of the beasts," said Barack Obama.
"Mr. President," said Kraven. "My greatest disappointment in your administration is that you did not give Squirrel Girl a medal of honor."
"Belka," said Kraven, when they'd pulled themselves from conversation and were getting expensive drinks at the fancy cash bar. "I am sorry for this. I am ruining your childhood dream, and-"
"Um, no." Doreen sipped her fancy ginger ale. "My dream absolutely involved people saying nice things about me to a president and also Lucy Liu."
"But I am using you." Kraven frowned. "Using you to deflect from the increasing anachronism of hunting in a post-scarcity economy. Also, my supervillain past."
"Look, I knew what I was getting into," said Doreen. "You're Kraven the Hunter. I have opinions on hunting that are too complex to explain in a casual conversation to the former president of the United States, but I definitely have Opinions. And also, you told me you wanted me here to help your PR. I get it."
Kraven looked like he wasn't sure if that was supposed to be a good thing or not.
"Oh!" Doreen pointed. "That's the bear lady! The bear in the snow lady! Come on, let's go get into an awkward conversation about hunting and then you can tell her how great I am!"
They did. Doreen got bear lady Patty Bauchman's autograph. Kraven told absolutely everyone that he was friends with Squirrel Girl. Doreen had a very enlightening and intellectual conversation with Samin Nosrat while waiting in line for the bathroom. Kraven ate an entire plate of spinach puffs.
"Thanks for inviting me," Doreen told Kraven, at the end of the night.
"Thank you for coming," said Kraven, and smiled.
It turned out it was a kissing-kind of date. On the cheek, anyway. Doreen figured that was a good place to start.