By Forbidden Donut

A New Warriors AU Fanfiction

Sofia Mantega is surprised anyone would want to recruit her to another team following the disbanding of the New Warriors.

Disclaimer: The characters are not owned by nor do I profit from their use.

He was waiting in the alley when she stepped into the cool night air, the greasy smells following her out the door and clinging tightly as she pulled her coat closer and ignored him.

"You were not a hard woman to find," he said lightly, his amusement and concern combining uncomfortably. He pulled the cap down lower over his face, casting it further into shadow. A thick jacket disguised the bulk in his shoulders but did nothing for his height. All in all, he still looked like a superhero, just wearing a more mundane costume.

"I have nothing to hide and no one to hide from."

"Sure you do. You're just trying to avoid the unpleasantness of it all but it'll find you as easily as I did, one day soon." There was an air to him, not the quiet surety of Prodigy, the incredible confidence of Hellion, or even the swagger of Night Thrasher. This was something else, familiar but she couldn't put her finger on it.

"Is this why you're risking arrest? To scold me like I'm some naughty school girl," she teased. "If I had an older brother, I imagine he would sound a bit like you."

He fell in beside her, his longer strides forcing her to walk faster than she wanted to. She deliberately slowed, taking back control of the walk if not the conversation. He grinned briefly, aware of her tactics but matched her pace anyway.

"I'm curious, why did you go back to working at the diner? Taylor paid you all enough to retire for a few years at least. You don't have to work." He glanced sideways at her then away again, scanning the street ahead for threats. She found herself doing it as well. Paranoia was alive and well under Norman Osborne's dark reign of power.

His question was unexpected (if a little nosy), as was his visit. Points for showing up in person though and not already knowing everything about her like the unwelcome stalker, Night Thrasher. "But I like to. I like to be busy. And the people there are good people. My friends."

He made a noise. "You could join another team."

"I could. It's harder now. No one wants to take a risk on someone like me. And, I don't know if I want to anyway. Each time, it's like finding a family." They went down the stairs into the subway, it wasn't crowded at this time of the day. "It breaks my heart when my family drifts apart. More when they die. I don't want to feel that way again."

"Yeah... There is that." It sounded like he had more than a passing acquaintance with loss himself.

"What?" she asked, looking back at him. He'd stopped as they came to the row of turnstiles, not following her through.

"Big brother is watching." He nodded towards the cameras behind them. "There's a place on my team, it's yours if you want it."

"Why me? Why not one of the others?" It surprised her, the offer. Jubilee, Jonothon, were both better suited and more experienced.

"I was one of the recruiters for the Initiative, as well as their counsellor. I looked for the potential if you like, in people. I see a great deal of it in you."

There was more to that, how his voice caught somewhere at the start. Something bad. Also guilt. She knew the sound of guilt. It wasn't sitting comfortably with him.

She snorted dismissively. "Funny. I've been told that I have no potential."

"Taylor disagreed. So do I. You're still the same girl that you were before. Same spark. A better fighter now, gutsy and adaptive. That training you got at Xavier's didn't disappear overnight with your powers." He smiled. "I saw that tape of you taking on the Zodiac. ViewTube. Gotta love it."

"Then you also saw me get my head cracked open." She fought the urge to touch the scar on her scalp, still sensitive. "I nearly died. I saw the light." White wings, her mother the angel, sending her back screaming.

"Life is full of risks, we've all nearly died at one time or another. I won't lie, in my team you'd still be in harms way fairly regularly."

"I don't think I'm interested." She turned to walk away from him.

He called out, just loud enough for her to hear, to make the few people on the platform turn towards them and then away again quickly, like they were having a lover's spat. "Some people are born to wait tables. Some people but not you. It kills you a little inside, every coffee you pour, every order you take, the days become blurred, you can't remember the last time you felt alive, really alive. I see it. You were made for bigger things, powers or no powers."

But she did remember, saving the boy, risking her own life, feeling the surge of adrenalin in a rush so strong...

"There's too much fight left in you to just give up now. Join us, Sofia. Once a New Warrior, always a New Warrior." He said it with fondness, a badge of honour, and all the darkness cast over the team's name didn't tarnish what it meant to him.

But she felt from the tone of his voice, it would also be the final time he asked, not because he didn't think she was worth it but because he respected her right to walk away. Or that was what she chose to believe.

The train blew into the terminal, brakes squealing. The doors opened and closed as they looked at each other.

"Maybe I will," she said finally. "Vance."

That air about him. Respect. Wrapped up in honesty, loyalty and the promise of family... if she could bear it one more time.

She would say yes soon. After he'd flown her home.