"Unicorns," Misty said flatly, crossing her arms as she leaned against her kitchen door frame, still slightly irritated at the unexpected disruption of her day off. Her plans had involved catching up on her Netflix queue and then an hour or two down at her salon getting her monthly dose of hair care and gossip, not whatever nonsense New York's gaggle of vigilantes had stumbled into this week. But it was better to be in the loop than to get blindsided by the aftermath, however inconvenient that level of involvement could be on occasion.
Colleen made a sympathetic face. "I know, it's ridiculous. But I swear one of the tourist-trap cabs has a horse with a horn and nobody seems to have noticed."
"I think after you're exposed to enough weird stuff, all the other weirdness sort of loses its ability to slide under your attention. Or maybe it's just the Iron Fist." Colleen shrugged, hands still stuffed into the pockets of her windbreaker as she hovered near Misty's front door. "That's one reason I want you to come help me check it out."
Misty laughed. "Token Muggle's a new job description, but what the hell. I've got a few hours before I need to be anywhere. Unicorn hunting in Central Park's as good a way as any to pass the time."
"Unicorn investigation," Colleen corrected. "I checked with Karen Page -- you remember her, right? -- and she didn't find anything that sounds like a pattern of trouble around Central Park. Plus neither of us meets the, uh. You know. Traditional unicorn bait requirements. Or at least I assume not?" She flushed and didn't quite meet Misty's gaze.
Misty raised her eyebrows.
Colleen's flush deepened.
Misty took pity on her, and smiled. "Yeah, point taken. I think that was always kind of metaphorical, though, and anyway, aren't Asian unicorns different? Who says this one's European?"
"Me. Nobody could mistake a qilin for a horse. Trust me on that."
"Always," Misty said. "Let me dig out some shoes and we'll hit the road."
So much for her Netflix queue, but she could probably still make it to the salon in the afternoon.
Thirty minutes (and one delayed A-train) later they stood on the curb of 59th street, hands shoved into the pockets of their jackets against the early spring chill, and watched a black equine figure with an oddly reflective coat shift idly in its traces while the cab's driver scrolled through something on her phone. The sharp, spiral horn was unmistakable, and yet nobody else seemed to have noticed.
"That sure is a unicorn," Misty said, just loud enough for Colleen to hear over the general background noise of the city streets.
"Do you think the driver knows?"
Misty sighed. "Figures. Guess we'd better go ask."
"You think that's safe?" Colleen asked.
"Of course not. But it's a lot more honest than stalking the poor woman or hiring Jones or Page to ransack the internet for her life history and all her company's records, and if she does know it'll save a lot of time. I'm a big fan of the direct approach."
Colleen tipped her head sideways in acknowledgment. "Fair. And this is more your thing than mine. Just let me take point if it goes bad -- your arm is cool, but sometimes it takes, uh--"
"Weird glowy shit to hurt other weird glowy shit?"
Colleen made a face like she'd just smelled rotten leftovers, then laughed. "God, that sounds so undignified. But yeah."
"I am more than happy to leave the weird glowy shit in your hands," Misty said. "Oh, green light. Here we go."
They hurried across the street toward the waiting cab. The driver seemed to catch sight of their approach in her peripheral vision, and looked up from her phone. "Hello! Are you the Johnsons?" she called, straightening her top hat and tucking a flyaway strand of blonde hair behind one ear.
"Not the last time I checked," Misty said. "And we're not doing a walk-in request either, sorry."
The driver dropped about two-thirds of her customer-service cheer and shrugged. "Eh, not your fault. I just hate no-shows, and these dumbfucks are already ten minutes late. Anyway, you're here for the horse, not me, yeah? You can pet Sugarplum if you want. She's a sweetheart. Just make sure she can see you coming and don't touch her until she gets a chance to check you out a little, okay?"
"Do you get a lot of people wanting to pet the horses?" Misty asked without moving to take the driver up on the offer. She'd never had a horse-mad phase like a lot of her childhood friends, and even if she had, unicorns were a whole other story.
Colleen, typically, broke into a huge smile and acted like petting a giant magic animal that could crush her to death with a careless step was the best thing since sliced bread. She took a careful step toward the unicorn -- and what kind of name was Sugarplum anyway? -- and extended an open palm for the animal to examine. The unicorn rolled its eye as if giving Colleen a professional once-over, and then turned its head to snuffle at her skin with its fuzzy lips and oversized teeth.
"Sorry I don't have any snacks for you," Colleen murmured into the unicorn's ear. "But you're wonderful. Yes you are."
Misty had a sudden surety that Colleen was one of those girls who'd had a horse-mad phase.
She turned back to the driver. "Thanks. Um. This is going to sound a little weird, but are you aware that your horse, uh--"
She trailed off. The driver looked politely inquiring and not at all impatient. (She gave good customer-service face, Misty noted absently.)
"Sugarplum's a unicorn," Colleen said. "Yes she is, aren't you? A wonderful unicorn with a sharp horn and strong hooves, and you could skewer an asshole right through a brick wall, couldn't you? I bet you could."
Colleen's attraction to Danny Rand -- also fuzzy, arguably adorable, out of place in a modern city, and unquestionably dangerous -- took on an interesting new dimension in Misty's head. She promptly shoved that thought aside in favor of watching the cab driver's customer-service face melt into tired exasperation.
"Fuck. The concealment charm's wearing off again, isn't it? And my old magician retired so now I have to go deal with that complete jerkwad Strange to get it refreshed. How is this my life." The driver pulled off her top hat and raked her fingers through her hair, dislodging even more strands from her already disheveled braid. Then she paused and shot Misty a sharp stare. "Nobody else is reacting. The spell can't be fraying that much. So how did you two see through it?"
Misty glanced at Colleen, who shrugged unhelpfully. She sighed, and turned back to the cab driver. "We've been through some weird shit. Our current working theory is that that makes us more likely to notice other weird shit. If you've got a better explanation, I'd love to hear it."
"I just want to know where and how you got a unicorn," Colleen said. "And why you brought her to the city. Shouldn't she be running around wild in the mountains or something?"
The cab driver sighed. "Okay, A, no, I think that's how it works. Lots of people can get mixed up in one weird thing and it just rolls off, but two or more and weirdness starts to sort of stick to you or something. And B, Sugarplum's been with my family for three generations now, and I brought her to New York because the Appalachians are fucking boring and I wanted company and good luck. Also guaranteed protection against muggers," she added, grinning at Colleen. "She can skewer dickwipes right through a brick wall. I've seen it, and it's beautiful."
"Awesome," Colleen breathed, and stroked the unicorn's cheek with slightly worrisome glee.
Misty shook her head fondly. "Yeah, that's some weird shit. Speaking of which, do you mind if we tag along when you go get your... concealment charm, was it? When you get that repaired. I have a feeling a magician is the kind of person I ought to be keeping tabs on."
The cab driver looked down at her phone, then shrugged. "Yeah, why not. Weird shit solidarity and all that. And the Johnsons are now late enough that I don't need to keep waiting for them, so that's me done for the day. Let me unhitch Sugarplum and get the cab put away, and we'll head off to Bleecker St."
"With or without the unicorn?" Misty asked. "Because I've gotta say, walking a unicorn down the street is not the kind of thing that goes unnoticed, even with magic in the mix."
"That's what you think," the driver said. "Bet you ten bucks nobody blinks twice."
"Deal," Colleen said instantly, and then started interrogating the driver about how exactly a concealment charm worked and whether she could buy one for herself.
Misty quietly wrote off any chance of making it to her salon that day. She wasn't sure why she'd thought that might be possible -- she knew by now that both vigilante and supernatural weirdness expanded to fill all the available time and then slopped over to claim even more.
Sugarplum the unicorn nudged her shoulder with its soft, fuzzy lips and blew warm, horse-scented breath into her ear. "You keep your magic snot out of my hair," Misty told it sternly. The unicorn snorted and lipped at the collar of her jacket.
"Rude," Misty said, but she could feel a smile pushing at the corners of her mouth as she raised her flesh and blood hand to stroke gently along the unicorn's nose. "Why is all the weird shit rude?"
Rude, and inconvenient, and hazardous to life and limb, as she could attest from very painful experience.
Still worth it, though.
"Yeah, okay, good horse," Misty told the unicorn, and let the smile win.