It had been a little more than five minutes since the instant message had first been sent to the computer at Hit Girl's base. Seven and a half minutes had passed since that fateful "chime" on the computer had sounded, when she came stomping in the door, pissed off and ready to resolve her frustrations.

The back room smelled slightly of marijuana, an open window had cleared most of it but the scent still lingered. When she came marching through the door, her arms free of weapons but her expression telling the world she didn't need them, she was met with two figures. One sat on the couch, arms folded tensely and a strange, hesitant expression on his face. The other on the floor, lying on his back, red cape stretched out underneath him.

"I hope you kept him conscious enough for this. Fucker sent me on a wild goose chase for nothing." She didn't even stop to greet Dave, her determined path only halted once she reached Red Mist. "Don't tell me he's dead already." The pallid skin tone and unmoving body of the boy on the floor didn't help to make him look any less lifeless.

Dave didn't say anything. He just watched her face twist into an exasperated expression as she leaned down closer for a second look. If she smelled the freshly smoked pot on him, or wafting through the air for that matter, she didn't say anything. A closer examination revealed that, short of being practically catatonic, he was indeed alive. When she finally spoke, it was to Dave. "Well, that's a relief. I was worried he might have died before I got a chance to do it." And without hesitation, she added, "Although, judging by the fresh smell of pot stinking up the place, I feel like an introduction to my pipe wrench is in order." Oh, so she did notice. "Were you still set on him getting a quick death?" she continued, her eyes narrowed. "Cause I think, at this point, this fucker deserves a much slower and more agonizing -"

"Hold up." If there was any trace of worry in Dave's voice, it wasn't detectable. "I know you might be able to kill people, but I'm Silver Age. I don't do that."

For the first time since she entered the room, she looked up at him. "No one said you had to do anything. I'm perfectly capable of doing it myself."

"But doesn't it bother you? Taking lives?"

"I hardly think you can compare scum like this to honest, good people."

Dave sighed. "Maybe. Maybe not. But that doesn't mean that you can just decide who deserves to live or die."

"Why not? I'm making this city a safer place."

"But that's exactly what I'm talking about!" Stepping up from the couch, Dave felt his zealousness grow. "It's like...it's like you're Frank Castle and I'm Spidey. You don't have to kill people to bring them to justice.!"

"Says the guy who just slaughtered like a dozen mobsters in a jet pack. You're kind of being a hypocrite."

There was a pause as Dave considered this. Or rather, considered his reply, seeing as how he'd been reflecting on the act all night. "That was different."

A gleam of righteousness flashed in Hit Girls' eyes. "Oh yeah? Why is that?"

"Because if I wouldn't have done it, you would be dead."

Both fell silent, the impact of Dave's statement hitting them each of them. Hit Girl's gaze darted off to the side of the room, too ashamed to meet his stare. Knowing his words had affected her, Dave took a few steps until he was next to her and knelt down slowly. He lifted his non-damaged hand to place on her shoulder, but stopped before it met its destination. It hung tentatively in the air, unsure.

"Look, I'm not happy about what I did. It fucking eats me up inside that it came to that. But I know that in that circumstance, under those conditions, I had no other choice. They would have killed you in the penthouse, and then they would have come after me, and who knows who else after that. My dad, my girlfriend... I don't even know. I'm not pretending to be perfect. Fuck, I don't even know what I'm doing half the time with this Kick Ass thing. But I know who I want to be. What I want to stand for. And it doesn't involve murdering a doped-up, drugged out kid who doesn't even have a chance to fight back."

Hit Girl sighed. Chuckled. And then met his eyes again with her own. "I think...my dad would have liked you a lot, if he had gotten to know you." There was a pained expression on her face again at the memory of her father. Her lips pursed tightly for a second, all thoughts of retribution falling to the backburner. Dave's suspended hand dropped lightly onto her shoulder, squeezing it reassuringly. Sniffing, she once again regained her composure with lightning speed. "Ok. You've made your point. He gets to live, provided he...you know, doesn't die. But under one condition.."

"What's that?" Dave smiled.

"You were right when you said he has no chance of fighting back. But when he does, he's fair game."

"As long as he's still actually a villain and stuff."

"Of course."

"And you can injure him, not kill him."

Her smile became wider. "That's your thing. You're Spidey, remember? I'm Frank Castle."

.

Dave hung the phone up on the black receiver and heard his change shuffle through the slot on the payphone. Emergency services were on their way. He had convinced Hit Girl to keep a lookout while he carried Red Mist down to the street, placing his limp body on an empty bus bench. He had made the call to 911 from a payphone down the street, informing the operator that a strange boy in costume seemed to be suffering from some kind of overdose. He figured the ambulance would be there in double-time. People dying in public always seemed to be a higher priority than when they were safely hidden from said public's view.

Stepping out of the glass booth, he began jogging lightly back to the base, his muscles exhausted and begging for a break. Almost there. He glanced back at Red Mist on the bench, tranquil except for a slight nodding of his head. It had been taking a risk, getting him even more stoned before Hit Girl came in. Honestly, he hadn't been sure if introducing yet another dose of drugs would have killed the other boy. He only knew that if she had seen what he had seen earlier - another grab at the knife or a strange comment about blood play - the leather-clad villain wouldn't have stood a chance. Keeping him as sedated as possible was the best way to go, not to mention that if Hit Girl had managed to come at him in full force with intentions to kill, it was a much more humane way to die.

He thought again of the weird comment Red Mist had made earlier - I like watching you bleed. It had been plucking at his mind since he had first heard it uttered. Surely that had been caused by all those chemicals in his system. No way that the boy who he had "fought crime" with and danced to Gnarls Barkley in the Mist Mobile was that sadistic. The knife he had grabbed and subsequently threatened Dave with; the aggressive, biting kiss; there had to be a reason. Drugs make you do weird things, I guess. He stopped and frowned, amending his thought. Being around people on drugs also makes you do weird things. "I can't believe I kissed a guy...three times." Still though, all things considered, it hadn't been half bad. He tossed this reflection into the pile of "things to never tell Katie".

.

Epilogue

The first thing Chris heard when he woke up was a rhythmic beeping sound, mechanical and unfeeling. Opening his eyes slowly, the view of a hospital room blurrily came into focus. He felt impossibly tired. His whole body ached. His head stung. His throat burned. For a few long seconds, a massive confusion overcame him until a number of vague memories drifted across his mind. Nothing really telling, they mostly consisted of just a series of chopped up images. He couldn't even remember living them, at least for the most part.

"Fuck," he whispered, his throat randomly raw. "What the hell?" Ok, don't panic. Let's try to put this shit together... He could remember an apartment. In particular, a couch in an apartment. For some reason, the couch was the clearest memory he had. Nothing else came to mind, no memories of the room itself. Except that there had been something green...something...wait a minute, was it Kick Ass he was remembering?Darting upright up in the hospital bed, one of the multitudes of cords attached to his chest pulling off in the process. The beeping machine suddenly ceased its charade of sounds and instead issued a long, drawn out tone. Chris barely even noticed, his mind otherwise occupied. Kick Ass had been there. He was pretty sure of that knowing what to make of the hazy memory, he felt his breath speed up. Was that from fear or excitement?

Suddenly the door to his room burst open and a number of nurses piled in, crowding around his bed. One of them was wheeling a cart. "Lay back down," the nurse closest to him firmly instructed. Taking a second to assess the situation, she relaxed. "He's just pulled out a cable, it's fine," she informed the others. She fished the little wire from off the bed and prepared it to go back onto his chest. Seeing that there was no longer a crisis, the other two nurses silently left, keeping the door standing open.

Chris slowly sunk back onto the mattress, allowing the nurse to re-affix the electrode pad under the collar of his hospital gown. "Why am I here?" he half-whispered, half-rasped to her, his voice scratching.

"Well, let me see here." The nurse finished fastening the instrument and, satisfied that the machine was once again beeping in its normal rhythm, grabbed a clipboard hanging from the foot of the bed. She looked it over. "Says here you were admitted for an overdose of...various substances. You had your stomach pumped."

"Wait, what?" Not that he was any stranger to "various substances", he liked weed as much as the next stoner, but an overdose? Wasn't that impossible? It didn't really make sense, but then again nothing was particularly making sense at the moment anyway. Not thinking to ask what drugs they had yanked from his stomach earlier, he instead just sat there, on that uncomfortably firm hospital bed, sporting a confused expression.

"I was on a different shift when you came in," the nurse explained. "You can talk to the doctor when he comes back." She set the clipboard back in its place and turned to leave. "Try not to pull out any more electrodes while I'm gone." Her tone had an edge to it; was that slight callousness he heard in her voice? Well, she was sure treating him like a drug addict, at least. Either that, or there was something she wasn't telling him. Chris watched her leave, no doubt wanting to get away as fast as possible from this strange little freak who had been admitted in a superhero costume.

Leaning his head back on the pillow, Chris considered the thought that Kick Ass had drugged him. Not really his style, but it was possible, wasn't it? Sure, it was possible. He focused on the hazy memory of Kick Ass and that strange couch again, squinting his eyes as if it would help. There had to be something else... Staring up at the ceiling, the clock ticked on as he focused, growing increasingly frustrated with the inability of the memory to just come. Nothing. By the time the doctor walked into the room to check on his condition, he had unconsciously bitten a gash into his bottom lip from aggravation. It hadn't been until the doctor had mentioned his self-inflicted wound that something else popped into his memory. The doctor spouted off something about Chris' condition and how he was lucky to have gotten to the ER in time, but it fell on deaf ears. Somewhere in the back of Chris' mind, a stream of blood gushed out of split lips. Kick Ass' lips. Chris smiled. That was more like it.

But that wasn't the only thing he remembered. Somewhere, under the muddled fragments of pieced recollections, he also remembered kissing those bloody lips. Equally disturbed and aroused, he rolled this new information around in his mind. Had Kick Ass been trying to take advantage of him or had he been taking advantage of Kick Ass? Either way, it both horrified and thrilled him.

The rest of the afternoon passed with Chris fixating on the memory. Nurses came in, nurses left, tests were run...he no longer cared. Staring at white, sterilized ceiling tiles, his mind was otherwise gone. Fixation became fascination became obsession. A creeping anger was rising inside him, forming into a cohesive cloud of rage. At the same time, the romantic infatuation he had felt for the other boy was multiplying by the minute. Did he want to enact a bloody and slow revenge or did he want to drag the other boy back to his bed as quickly as possible? He couldn't tell. All he knew was that somehow, he was going to find Kick Ass again. He needed to find him again. And through whatever means possible, he was going to see blood. Something real and tangible this time, something that he would have no problem remembering. Rupture, shatter, crack, fracture. Whatever it took. Because whether his intentions were those of vengeance or of zealous desire, that nerdy boy in the green wetsuit was too beautiful not to break.

.

On opposite sides of the city, two individuals reflected on each other. Neither one could put a finger on exactly how they felt about the other; the contradictory emotions in each of them had become a rat's nest of paradoxical incongruities. Dave, finally able to shed his costume and return to a supposedly less complicated life, was nonetheless disturbed that he didn't feel any less complicated. The costume sat, wrinkled, on his bed but all the concerns and suspicions of Kick Ass remained in his head. Was he angry or concerned toward Red Mist? It was impossible to tell, and that annoyed him to an extreme. Sighing, he slipped the costume over a hanger and shoved it into the back of his closet, planning on spending the next several hours watching mindless TV to get his thoughts off the subject.

Back in the hospital, Chris...no, Red Mist...had no such desire to clear his head. Plots and schemes filled his head as he planned the future actions he would take when released. He looked out the window, a blank look in his eyes and a tilted smirk on his face. Quietly, he began to speak, his voice finally free of the slur that had plagued him throughout the previous night. "Run, little superhero, while you still can. Because I think I love you, and I think I hate you, and I'm gonna enjoy hunting you down."

.

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There, done. This thing was originally supposed to be two chapters long - tops, but it somehow morphed into a 15,000+ word fic :) Don't really know how that happened, but I hope that you guys enjoyed it! Thanks so much for the comments and the favorites along the way, I appreciated every one of them! As evidenced by the unclear ending, I'm leaving this open to a sequel which I may or may not write in the future, depending on...stuff. So, yeah. Leave me more comments and let me know what you thought of it! I loves me some comments...om nom nom