"It doesn't even matter if it's not real," said the lady in black and yellow leather, coming to a soft landing beside Penny Century. "It still hurts." The lady squatted down beside Penny on the curb.
Penny just hugged her knees and rocked.
"That's Kitty Pryde," hissed Angel, eyes wide beneath her mask.
Espectra whapped her but didn't take her eyes off Kitty. "You're not taking Penny back to your East Coast den of crazies," she said. "We know what goes on there. You people shanghaied Cecilia Reyes, and horrible things happened to her."
"I'm not taking Penny anywhere," said Kitty, putting one black-clad arm around Penny's shoulders. "I'm just here to say I'm sorry, and I know how much it hurts."
"Penny, that's Kitty Pryde," Angel said, the end of the sentence muffled through Alarma's hand covering her mouth. Angel had posters of Shadowcat on her bedroom wall, next to Raeta and Ultra Girl, Alarma herself, Power Girl and Renée Montoya. Maggie'd had once confided that Penny had an album just the same, or almost, anyway.
"They're dead," said Penny. "My babies are dead."
Kitty's arm tightened around her shoulders and she spat three times, peh peh peh. "You don't know that."
Penny looked up, her face contorted with anger. "You of all people can't tell me that things always work out okay," she spat, her words dark and jagged.
Kitty frowned, her face grim. "No," she said. "They don't. But they certainly won't work out if you stop looking."
"Why are you here?" asked Alarma. She stepped forward strong and tall, which Angel thought was the bravest thing she'd ever seen. Because Shadowcat. "You people with your machines and your telepaths, spying on folks who want nothing to do with you."
"I'm here because I know that sometimes it hurts to get what you want," said Kitty. "I'm here because sometimes being a superhero really sucks, and it's good to have people around who know that."
Alarma looked unimpressed. "So? What's Penny to you?"
That's what Angel wanted to know. Did Penny know Kitty Pryde?
Kitty smiled, if you could call that tiny twist of lips a smile. "We're all neighbors, of a sort, what with --" She broke off, and made an emphatic gesture which Angel supposed was supposed to encompass powers, mutations, tights, capes. "Shouldn't you be there for your neighbor?"
Alarma opened her mouth, presumably to argue some more, but Penny shoved herself to her feet and thrust a hand out. "Oh, shut up, all of you." She wiped her nose on her sleeve and sniffled, then shook her hair out and stood every inch Penny Century. "Who's going to help me keep looking?"