She had grown in the last six years. A full head taller than she had been at twelve, she was much slimmer than she had been. Though, this may have had more to do with the lack of muscle on her than her actual growth. The most striking difference, however, between the young woman she had become and the little girl she'd been, was her demeanor.

There was no anger, annoyance, or even boredom in her expression. Instead her face was calm, content even, as she sat on her bed, both feet flat on the floor and her hands folded in her lap.

Mindy closed her eyes, took a deep breath, held it, then exhaled slowly as she opened her eyes and smiled. Today, she would walk out of this room for the last time.

Right on time there was a knock on the door, "You ready to go Ms. Mccready?"

She looked up at the guard, the smile not leaving her face, "Yes. I am."

He opened the door and he lead her to where her personal effects were kept in storage, waiting for her release. She didn't see the point. There hadn't been anything on her at the time of her arrest that wouldn't be in an evidence locker right now. Still she waited patiently while the clerk went back into the aisles for the non-existent box with her name on it.

And so it was with great surprise that she watched the old woman come back with a box labeled, "Mccready, Mindy", and slid it through the window with nothing more than a, "Stay out of trouble."

She stepped forward and took the box, opening it up and looking inside curiously. Her eyes opened wide in sudden remembrance and she reached in, taking hold of the three photos inside the box and pressing it to her chest as she bit her lip in an effort to fight off tears.

A moment later she recovered herself and turned back to the guard, leaving the empty box behind and tearing one of the photos up, before tucking the two photos and the pieces of the third into the pockets of her jeans. She nodded to him, he nodded back, and they continued on their way.

He took her too a door in the outer wall and opened it. Outside was blue sky, green grass, and a hundred yard walkway flanked on each side by twenty foot walls with two guard towers on each side.

Mindy stepped through the doorway and outside of the walls for the first time in five years.

The door closed and locked behind her, and she started down the path. She was in for a long walk, but she was okay with it. She could do with the exercise and she was sure she'd enjoy the fresh cool air and warm sun.

It took her a few moments to realize that the beat up old jeep parked on the other side of the road was waiting for her, but even though she knew that no car would be allowed to sit here if it wasn't waiting for an approved pick up(and as far as he knew she was the only person being released today), she still couldn't believe it.

It wasn't until the driver got out of the car, said, "So, are yo just going to stand there enjoying the view or are we gonna get out of here," that she realized it was Dave and that it really was here for her.

She walked over to him, smiling wide enough to show teeth, "You came."

Dave almost laughed as he smiled, "Of course I came. What was I going to do? Leave you to fend for yourself after being locked up for six years?"

"Well, yeah. That's what I was planning on."

Dave paused in the middle of opening the passenger side door for her, "Seriously? You really didn't think I'd be here?"

A slightly sad, slightly embarrassed smile, "They didn't tell me anyone was coming. I didn't even know you knew when I was being released."

Dave almost laughed, "I've had this date marked on my calender for years. And even if I hadn't, you listed me as one of the people to notify of your release. They sent me an e-mail a month ago...and a phone call and a letter."

Mindy laughed as she got in and Dave closed the door for her.

She watched him as he walked around the car, opened his door and climbed in, buckled his seatbelt and started the car. Her gaze didn't waver as he pulled onto the road and started driving.

After a few minutes of silence he glanced at her and said, "You're staring at me."

And she realized she was. At first, she'd just been watching him, both out of amusement and gratitude, but then she'd really been looking at him. She wasn't the only one who'd changed over the years. Dave had finally outgrown his awkward teenage years and had become a handsome young man. "I'm sorry. I just really didn't expect anyone to come pick me up. I just really grateful and happy and I don't know what to say."

They were on a long stretch of bare road so he chanced a longer look at her, "Seriously? Why would you think that?"

"Well..." she started, "I don't know if you know, but Marcus hasn't visited in the last three years. Not since-"

"Yeah, I know. He left the state not long after that. He couldn't handle being in the city anymore," Mindy didn't miss the way his hands tightened around the steering wheel as he spoke.

"And you haven't visited in at least a year. I thought..."

Dave shook his head, "It was nothing like that. I lost my job right after my last visit. I just couldn't afford the trip after that."

Mindy looked at him with confusion written all over her face, "But, what about all the money I had stashed away."

"It's not my money," he said simply.

"So-"

"Your 'retirement fund' is safe, yes," he said.

"Good," she said, then turned to look out at the passing scenery.

Several more minutes passed before he spoke again, "You're not going to ask about the safehouses? Or your gear?"

"Nope," she said, and continued looking out the window.

"I wont say anything about it then."

They drove mostly in silence, Mindy occasionally playing with the radio or asking some simple question off the top of her head, "Do you have a job now?", "Your own apartment?", "How long until we're there?" and "Do you live alone?" to name a few.

Dave's answers to those were fairly basic, "A crappy one, yes, but it pays the bills", "Yeah, it's not much but I like it", "Maybe another half hour, depending on traffic", and "Yeah, it's just me."

Mindy was happy about the last one. He hadn't actually offered, but she liked that she would be be able to stay with him until she got her feet under her without some roommate or girlfriend around to worry about. People generally weren't comfortable around people who had been locked up for multiple homicides.

She stopped that train of thought for a moment, realizing that he hadn't said he was single, just that he lived alone.

She shook her head. It wasn't important. She'd stay with him long enough to find her own place and that was it. Maybe go to school. Maybe get a job.

Thinking about getting a job led her to wonder just what she could possibly apply for and if it would even be possible for her to get one with her background. She laughed as it occurred to her that maybe if she applied for a security job it'd work in her benefit. Or maybe a bouncer.

Dave smiled, "What are you laughing about?"

"Oh, nothing," she said, waving the question off, "Just thinking."

"Well, we're almost there. Just one stop first," and with that he pulled into the parking lot of a grocery store.

"What're we getting?"

Dave smiled at her, "That's up to you actually. I wanted to cook you dinner but had no idea what you'd like so I figured I'd let you have your pick."

Mindy brightened beyond anything she'd shown so far, "You're gonna buy me food? And cook it for me?"

Dave laughed, "Yes, I'm going to buy you food and cook it."

"And I can have anything I want?"

There was trace of the old Mindy in her grin that time, and Dave's expression fell flat, "You're going to make me regret this aren't you?"

Her next grin was all old Mindy, "Ma~ybe."

Their shopping experience turned out to be far from regrettable. Mindy acted like a kid in a candy shop, jumping from item to item, eagerly examining it, weighing her options, and frequently changing her mind about what she wanted. One thing she was adamant about getting though, was a wide selection of fresh fruit and vegetables. "I am so sick of getting my fruit and veggies out of plastic cups and cans," she'd said. And honestly, watching her antics couldn't have made him happier.

Finally, she decided on a simple meal of hamburgers with french fries and a salad.

Though, she did pick some rather expensive ground meats she wanted mixed together for the burgers.

Dave rolled his eyes when he got the total, while Mindy just bounced on her toes, grinned like a minx and refused to look at him.

When they reached his apartment she did offer to carry the bags up though, which was an offer Dave accepted and went ahead to open the door. When he opened the door, he stepped inside and immediately to the side, holding the door open and sweeping his arm out grandly, "Welcome Home."

Mindy was overwhelmed. Not by the apartment, it really wasn't much, but by Dave's statement that this was her home.

When she was with her father, they'd never stayed in the same place for very long. Renting apartments "as is" or even squatting if necessary, and never taking more with them than they could carry. The safehouses where just that. A hole to run to in emergencies and where they stored the majority of their gear, with the constant moving around to prevent them from being found in the first place.

When she'd moved back in with her Mother and Marcus...it felt too strange to really call it home at first. By all means it should have felt more like home than anything. She had her Mother, and there was Marcus, and she had her own room, and toys(which she never really played with), and more clothes than she'd ever had in her life, and the best bed she'd ever slept in.

But it never really felt like home, honestly. Even after she'd started calling it as such. She was always hiding herself. Not allowed to talk about what she'd been through with her father. Marcus always turned any attempt to bring it up into a "why we don't talk like that" or "why that is over" talk, and she had been told in no uncertain terms why her Mother couldn't know about what she'd done and been through.

And rightfully so it'd turned out.

It almost felt more like a prison than where she'd spent the last six years.

But she'd always been able to be herself around Dave. She'd told him her plans, trained him, and he'd helped her try to blend in at school, to be normal. He'd been her only real friend. Ever.

And then she'd dropped out. Let Marcus convince her to hang up the cape just when Dave needed her most. And because of that...

No. Dave said he didn't blame her for that. Said he could never blame her for it.

That didn't stop her from acting as a distraction so Dave could escape when the Police had surrounded the building where he'd fought with that spawn of demented idiocy.

Dave had apologized endlessly when he'd finally been able to visit her. She'd just smiled and said it wasn't his fault. That she'd wanted to do it.

Then she asked him how he was doing.

And now, six years after that day in Times Square, he had picked her up when she'd been expecting none, had thought she'd been forgotten, abandoned even, and was going to cook her a meal of her choice, and let her stay in his home...let her call it her own home.

She cried.

She couldn't stop the tears. She tried to say something, anything, but when she opened her mouth all that came out was a sob.

And then Dave was there, wrapping his arms around her and holding her to him as she sobbed in his doorway.

She didn't know how long she'd cried, but when his words finally came through she heard, "It's okay. It's all over now. You're free. You can be who and what you want to be. It's all going to be better now. I'm here. I'll help you. You'll be fine."

She wrapped her arms around him as best she could, her arms mostly pinned to her sides and her hands still full of groceries, and squeezed him back tightly, "Thank you, Dave. Thank you for everything."

"Don't think anything of it. I'm happy to be here for you."

She sniffed, and wiped her face on his shirt before she could think better of it, "Sorry"

He laughed, "Don't worry about it. It's not like the shirt is ruined or anything."

With her face still pressed in his shoulder, she smiled, "Still gonna cook me dinner?"

He laughed, "Yeah, we're gonna have to let go of each other though."

"Oh, right," Mindy said, releasing him and taking a step back. She passed the bags to him and straightened her shirt before wiping her nose on her jacket sleeve.

Dave took the food over to the kitchen, which was separated from the living room by nothing more than a counter. "I'm gonna change my shirt first though. Probably best not to cook with your snot all over me."

"Jerk"

Dave headed down a short hallway leaving Mindy alone in the living room. After a moment of looking around, eyes skirting over the couch, the computer, the television, they came to rest on some newspaper clippings framed on the wall. They all seemed to be related to Kick-Ass, Hit Girl, or costumed heroes in general.

She closed her eyes and shook her head violently, turning away from the wall, "No. No no no."

She crossed her arms and her hand touched a wet patch on her sleeve, "Ugh. Gross." She took the jacket off and walked after Dave, finding him in his room with his shirt off.

She gasped.

Dave turned, "Hm? Did you need something?"

"Uhm," Mindy stumbled, "Laundry?" she asked awkwardly, holding up the jacket.

"Right there," Dave said, pointing just past her at a small hamper before turning back to picking through his shirt drawer.

Mindy turned and threw the jacket into the hamper, but she couldn't make herself leave. She also couldn't make herself look at Dave. He'd never been a prime example of manliness, and he still wasn't, but he was in shape, slim over all, but with defined muscles, and his new, shorter, haircut all combined to set her heart pounding.

And having been locked away for nearly all of adolescence wasn't helping her at all.

"So, uh..." she started, "I saw the news clippings on the wall." If he wasn't going to kick her out she wasn't going to leave.

"Oh," Dave stopped. "That's not a problem is it? I mean, I remember you saying you were trying to put all that behind you. I can take them down."

"No, no, it's okay, you don't have to do that," she wasn't going to have him take them down no matter how much they bothered her. She was going to have to face that part of her past head on sooner or later, "I was just wondering, do you still go out?"

Actually, she hadn't been wondering that, and had no idea what made her ask that, but now that she did she was dieing to know the answer.

"Ah...well...yeah. Kinda." he said, looking like he'd just lost a battle, "Not regularly or anything. Sometimes I make 'appearances'" he said with air quotes, "as Kick-Ass but...I don't go out as him anymore. But, I do...still go out. When I'm depressed, or bored, or when I just hear too many fights or muggings or whatever. Like I said, it's not often, and I don't put on a real costume or anything. Just a trench coat and fedora. Like Rorshach."

"Wow," she said, sitting down on the bed.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have..."

"Dave, it's okay," she said, waving away his objection, "If you want to go out and help people you can do that, and if you want to wear a costume while you do it that's okay too. You didn't have a problem with it. You weren't brainwashed into a child soldier by an abusive father."

Dave stood bolt upright and blinked, "Wow. Okay, that's new. Never heard you talk about your father like that before."

She shrugged, "Well it's true. He kidnapped me, put me through all kinds of hell, brainwashed me, and turned me into a killer because he was having a midlife crisis at thirty-five."

"So, you don't believe in 'The Mission' anymore?"

Dave's tone held no inflection, but Mindy couldn't help hearing an accusation, "There was no mission Dave! Just a lunatic playing a sick game with my life." She crossed her arms and turned away from him, silently seething.

"Whoa! Okay, sorry, I didn't mean anything by it. It was just...you lived and breathed The Mission before. You even had me believing in it for awhile there. I was just...I'm trying to get to know you again."

Mindy turned slowly around to face him, "Sorry. You're right. I'm not the same girl I was before. Five years of therapy will change a girl."

"Do you still have to go?"

Mindy shrugged, "I don't have to. But it was strongly recommended that I do."

"Will you?"

Another shrug, "I guess I'll see how I handle life outside and decide then."

"Well then," Dave said, finally getting a shirt on, "Why don't we finally get dinner started and make the first day of the rest of your life a good one?"

"Uh-uh," Mindy said with a shake of her head, "You. Not we. I'm not taking any part in the cooking of dinner."

Dave did eventually talk her into making the salad. After all, he was mixing four different kinds of ground meat together and at no point during that process should he be touching raw vegetables.

So while Mindy chopped vegetables on one side of the kitchen, Dave grilled burgers on the other, and they set about getting to know each other again.

Mindy, it turned out, had taken an interest in the arts. Sketching specifically. She claimed to be quite good at it, but had no way to back this up as she admitted she never kept any of the sketches, usually giving them away to the people she sketched. It had been part of her therapy, drawing self portraits. It had taken her a long time to stop putting a mask on her picture. She still had to resist the urge at times, but it was generally an easy thing to push past so no one knew about it.

Dave had always had a bit of a following on his comic blog, and had even had an article or two published in actual magazines, so after he'd lost his job he'd started recording video blogs on comics which he posted through a hosting company that paid him five cents in ad revenue for every ad that played on his videos; one at the beginning and one at the end. "People don't usually let the second one even start though," he'd said. It'd taken the better part of a year, but he was finally starting to make enough money that he wasn't just scraping by. His retail job paid his bills, the web show paid for everything else. He hoped that in another year or two he wouldn't even need the retail job anymore.

When they'd finished cooking they sat down on opposite sides of the counter. Well, Mindy sat at least, there wasn't room for Dave to actually sit on his side so he stood. When Mindy picked up her burger, stacked high with lettuce, tomato, unions and pickles, with mayo, ketchup and mustard threatening to fall off at the slightest provocation, and more cheese than was strictly necessary melting down the sides and nearly coating the half-pound beef-veal-pork-lamb patty she had a look on her face that Dave could only describe as "undisguised lust." She then opened her mouth so wide that Dave could only stare and wonder if she'd dislocated her jaw and took massive bite.

Meat juice, condiments, and toppings exploded from between the buns, nearly reaching Dave, who couldn't help but burst out laughing as Mindy exerted her jaw in valiant attempt to chew the oversized chunk of meat, vegetable, and bun. After a full minute of chewing, Mindy finally managed to swallow it all.

She took and a deep breath and exhaled slowly, her eyes closed and wide grin on her face. When she opened them she looked Dave dead in the eye and said, "That is the best goddamn burger I've ever eaten."

Dave, who was still laughing, said, "I would hope so. I can't imagine trying to stuff that much in your face for anything other than the best."

Mindy took a much smaller, and infinitely less explosive, bite, chewed and swallowed before saying, "Hey, did we get anything to drink with this?"

Dave immediately stood up, "Oh, right, totally forgot about that," and went over to the refrigerator. He reached in and shoved some things aside before pulling out a tall glass bottle, with an ornate label and a foil wrapped crap, "I bought this earlier so it'd have time to chill."

Mindy's eyebrows shot up, "Champagne?" then she smirked at him, "Cooking me dinner and serving me champagne Dave? I'm starting to wonder about your motives for bringing me here."

Dave looked at her with a flat expression, "It's sparkling cider. Not exactly the same thing, but it'll look the part." He reached up into a high cabinet and pulled down two tall, thin, glasses, "Again, not exactly the same thing but it'll do."

"So, my first day of freedom and I can't even get real champagne? I gotta say Dave, I feel cheated."

"Call me paranoid, but I'm not quite ready to see you drunk."

Mindy perked up, "You considered getting me drunk?"

"Bad choice of words," he said, and handed her a glass of bubbling amber liquid. He held up his own glass,"To the rest of your life."

"To the rest of my life," she echoed and they both drank.

And immediately gave their glasses odd looks, though Dave's was by far the more severe expression. "Is that what it's supposed to taste like?" Mindy asked.

"No. No it's not," Dave said, while examining the label on the bottle. It said non-alcoholic, but it sure as hell didn't taste non-alcoholic. "I think this fermented in the bottle."

Mindy brightened, "So it IS alcoholic? Sweet!" and downed the rest of her glass then held it out to Dave and smiled sweetly, "More please."

He sighed and refilled her glass, "Sure, what the hell, why not?"

Mindy smiled again, though this time it was a soft and completely genuine one. "Thank you," she said, and placed her glass on the counter after taking a small sip. "And this really is an amazing burger. I've never tried this blend before, I was just..." she stopped and thought for a moment, "I wanted to try something new, and I wanted to see if you'd really buy it for me."

Dave smirked into his glass, "Well, in that case I'm glad you didn't ask for lobster."

Mindy's grin was all teeth again, "You'd have bought me lobster?"

"Well, we'll never know now, will we?"

"Ass." Mindy said, throwing her napkin in his face, and causing them both to burst into laughter.

The rest of the meal was eaten mostly in comfortable silence, only broken by the occasional question about what Mindy wanted to do with herself. School? Work? Spend some time acclimating? Did she even know?

Mindy's answers summed up as, "I'm probably going to need some time to adjust to everything, but I don't want to sit around here or I'll go crazy, so if I can I'd like to start looking at school. At the very least it'll give me something to put on a resume besides 'Lock up' and 'knows a hundred ways to kill a man'"

The last part of that gave Dave pause, "So you still remember all that?"

Mindy snorted, "Of course I do. I'm nowhere near the condition I used to be in, but that's not the sort of stuff you just forget."

Mindy then looked around the apartment as she rocked back and forth in her chair, "Okay," she finally said, "I"ve got something kinda weird I wanna ask you."

"Weird?" Dave asked looking up from where he'd started washing the dishes, "Weird how?"

"Well, not so much weird as...it doesn't seem like much, and I don't have any real reason to...but...can I take a shower?"

Dave blinked as he processed the request, "A shower? Uh...yeah, of course you can, but why? Are you ready for bed or something, cause it's kinda early."

Mindy shook her head, "It's nothing like that. I just...haven't had a private shower since I was twelve, ya know? And I'd just...really like to." She stared into her lap, shaking her head and waving her hands in front of her, "I know, I know. It's stupid and weird an-"

"Not really," Dave said, leaning back against the sink, "It's kinda like the burger. I'm guessing there's a lot of things you'd like to do, just because you can."

"So, you don't mind?" she asked, looking up at him.

"Nah, go ahead. It'll give me some time to get this all cleaned up," he said, gesturing to the kitchen. "You can wear some of my clothes if you don't want to put those back on," he said.

She smirked at him, "Not exactly how I imagined getting into your pants, bu-" Dave's eyes shot wide open, "I mean a guys pa-" she started over, stumbling, "Oh god. Fail," she sunk her head into her hands, "That was such a stupid joke and I feel stupid for trying to make it."

Dave laughed and patted her on the shoulder, "It's okay. Give it some time, You'll figure it out."

Mindy looked at him and didn't know whether to cry or laugh, and ended up just sort of whimpering.

"Go take your shower. It'll make you feel better."

Mindy stood up and made her way down the hall to the bathroom. When she opened the door she was surprised to see there was an actual bath and not just a shower stall. She shook her head as she realized that she shouldn't be surprised. Sure, the apartment was a one bedroom, but it wasn't an efficiency apartment or something. Why wouldn't it have a tub? She was just used to open showers.

She was about to undress, but then thought to check for towels before hand. As she looked around, she glanced into the mirror for only a second before continuing on. Then her eyes snapped back to the mirror to stare back at her reflection. Her perfectly normal reflection. Blue, unmasked eyes, stared back at her, as they should. And her hair was indeed blond, as it should be.

The ponytail however suddenly seemed much to like the wig she'd worn and she ripped the hair band off, taking a few strands of hair with it.

And then she heard his voice, "Aw, don't fight it babydoll."

She whipped around but the room was empty. As it better fucking well be.

She turned back to the mirror and almost screamed. Her father stood behind her, "You're free now. And an adult. You don't have to listen to anyone anymore. You can continue the mission completely unrestricted."

Mindy's breaths started coming in short rapid bursts. She hadn't had an episode in over a year. It was one of the major reasons she'd been able to leave on her original release date. "I'm not your babydoll you sadistic fuck," she growled out, "But you are right, I don't have to listen to anyone, especially YOU."

And he was gone.

"Hey Mindy," she turned her head at the sound of Dave's voice and was immediately shocked into silence. Kick-Ass stood in the doorway, "Once your done with your shower, you want to head out with me? It'll be just like old times."

"DAVE?!"

"Yeah? You okay?" Dave's voice came from the other room and Kick-Ass vanished.

Mindy struggled to calm herself before poking her head out into the hallway, "Uh, where are the towels?"

"In the hall closet."

"Thanks."

She retrieved two towels before going back into the bathroom. She took a cautious look in the mirror before quickly stripping off her pink shirt which suddenly seemed far too purple.

She turned on the water and the rest of her clothes soon followed, then she stepped under the stream, not even bothering to test the temperature. She sighed as the water poured over her and turned up the heat. Soon the bathroom was steaming up and the heat and pressure was massaging the stress out of her muscles that she hadn't even realized had been building.

She leaned against the wall under the shower head, just soaking it in, closed her eyes, and let herself relax.

And then an image came to her. Dave, standing in his room with his shirt off. She tried to banish the image. The more she fought it though, the clearer it became. Until this imaginary Dave wasn't standing in his room anymore, but walking into the bathroom and- She opened her eyes, but while the image disappeared the thought remained.

She couldn't have thoughts like this. Wouldn't allow it. Dave was an old friend. Had known her since she was barely more than child. And she barely knew the man he was now. She couldn't fantasize about him.

She was staying in his home. He was putting her up so she could get on her feet. She was relying on him. She couldn't risk this on a foolish attempt at romance. He had to be off limits to her, and she to him.

Romance. Hah. She liked him, yes. Liked who she'd known before and was sure she would like the man he'd become. But what was running through her head weren't romantic thoughts. They were thoughts induced by long suppressed hormones shoving her towards the first reasonably attractive male she'd seen in a long, long, time, regardless of the consequences.

She fell back against the far wall of the shower and slid down until she was sitting on the floor, knees pulled up to her chest. Why was this happening to her? She'd been doing so well. She was ready to move on with her life and put Hit Girl behind her. Why did she keep getting impulses that would fuck everything up?

She sat in the tub, trying to calm herself, push the unhelpful thoughts away, and feeling the water pressing against her.

Fuck it.

The water had turned cold by the time she got out.

She wrapped herself in a towel before turning off the water. And that's when she heard the music. She poked her head out the door, and saw Dave laying back on the couch reading a comic book and listening to music. He looked up and smiled at her, "Hey. I was starting worry you'd drowned in there or something. I was about to come check you."

Mindy blushed, "Yeah, well, nothing to worry about here. No need for checking on me."

"Well, feel free to put on anything of mine," he said, picking up a pad of paper and making a note, "We can go shopping tomorrow and pick up a few things for you."

Nodding, Mindy went into his room and dried off then started looking through his clothes. After awhile she wasn't sure she'd be able to find anything that would fit her. Sure, Dave didn't stand head and shoulders over her anymore, but he was still a couple inches taller than her.

Eventually, she decided on something she probably shouldn't wear, but couldn't resist.

A minute later, she slid out across the floor in socks, a pair of his boxers, and a white button up dress shirt that was obviously to large for her and started playing air guitar along with the music before leaping over the back of the couch and almost landing on Dave's legs, still "jamming" away.

Dave laughed and said, "Well, it wasn't exactly Risky Business, but I liked it better."

Mindy giggled and pushed her hair out of her face with a hand covered by the shirt sleeve, "Well, I've got better legs than Tom Cruise."

Dave looked down at her legs for a moment and seemed to actually be considering her statement, "Yeah, I guess you do. But just barely."

Mindy threw a throw pillow at him, "Are you always going to be such an ass?"

"Is that really what you want to wear?" he asked.

"Well, yeah. It covers all my girly bits and I'm wearing boxers instead of panties so it doesn't look like I'm not wearing anything under the shirt, and then I can just sleep in this later."

Dave shrugged, "I figured you'd go for a pair of sweatpants, but whatever you're comfortable with."

Mindy fidgeted on the couch and tugged the shirt lower. She was about to speak when the first verse of a new song started.

They took the girl right off the street

turned her victory into defeat

and locked her up with others of her kind

but the message was heard

to always do what's right

even if you might lose the fight

It's darkest before the dawn

now we know what's going on

Free free Hit Girl

Free free Hit Girl

Let her go, let her go

The girl is a hero

She only did what you wish you could

Let her go, let her go

We always want a hero

and she stepped up to do some good

Mindy's face had gone blank, her eyes distant, and she'd started hyperventilating. Dave leapt up and turned off the music, and turned back to see her still breathing rapidly, but in the here and now.

"What the fuck was that," she gasped.

Dave shrugged sheepishly, "You weren't without supporters. Sure, for everyone who thought the case against you should have been thrown out, there were dozens that thought you should be locked up forever, or worse. But people were pulling for you. You were a real hero." he snorted, "Made me look like nothing more than a mascot."

"But you fought Chris, the leader, and beat him. I spent most of the fight getting my ass kicked."

"Didn't matter. You took on someone twice, maybe even three times your size and won."

"I wouldn't have if Marty and Todd hadn't distracted her. She nearly killed me."

"Doesn't matter. You took on the most dangerous person there, and so what if you had some back up? She took her eyes off you. Gave you the opening. And even beaten the way you were you didn't hesitate to take her out. If you hadn't beaten her, she would have mowed through everyone there. You were a hero," Dave paused, "There was almost no-one out there after you went away. A lot of people gave it up. I was one of them. I lost so much because of it, and then I lost you too. I didn't realize that you'd become my best friend until you were gone. Marty and Todd just didn't cut it anymore. It was like talking with children compared to you.

"Marty and todd? They went off to colleges across the country. I stayed here, went to community college, and am working towards a degree in English of all things. I stayed when I could have left for somewhere easier, because I saw what was happening with Marcus and your Mom, because you saved my life. Because I wasn't going to abandon you."

"Who did you go to pick up today?"

The question caught him off guard, "What?"

Mindy glared up at him, "Who did you go to pick up? Mindy Mccready...or Hit Girl?"

Dave stared at her blankly, "I..-"

"Because the last time I tried to hang it up, you just kept encouraging me to put it back on."

"I don't know what to tell you Mindy," Dave sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, "I never thought of you as two people. The only way I can think of to separate the two is to think about the girl who went over her plans to kill mobsters with me, made obscure comic book references, and asked me to teach her to blend in at school...and the girl who pretended to be into fashion, half listened to discussions about Glee, and glared at me for going out in costume while she sat at home with girls she only pretended where her friends.

"I came to get you. Whoever you are. You're different now. I know that. But from what I've seen tonight, I like this new Mindy."

Mindy stood up, stone faced, and marched into the bathroom. She came back a moment later and threw some pieces of paper at him. The first sheet Dave picked up had a picture of a beautiful blond woman on it that looked quite a bit like the young woman who stood glaring at him. The second picture was mostly of him, as Kick-Ass, kneeling on the ground with a budding black eye, and in the upper corner was most of Hit Girl's face as she wrapped an arm around his neck and took the photo of them. It was the night he'd taken down a group of muggers all by himself. His last "training" mission before he'd been sent in to beat up all those mafiosos and broke his fucking hand.

The smaller pieces, he quickly realized, were part of a third picture. After a bit of fiddling with the pieces, he saw a much younger Mindy, younger than he'd ever known her, wearing a mask, some purple clothes that looked kind of like a superhero costume and a huge smile, with a man he only vaguely recognized as Mindy's father.

"My father had a nickname for me; 'Babydoll'. I never wondered why he called me that, not until recently. And I realized he called me that because I was just a toy to him. Something he could dress up in a costume, wind up, point it at some badguys, and watch it go.

"My Mother was a wonderful woman. She loved me, so much. Getting me back was probably the happiest day of her life. But I had to hide everything I was from her. And for good reason it turned out. She wasn't able to cope with the horror and shame of being the Mother of a mass murderer.

"And you," she sat down on the couch, tucking her knees underneath her, "You were never two people either. You were always Dave, in or out of the costume. You did it," she paused, thinking, "What was it you told me? Because you were tired of being a waste and wanted to do something with your life?"

"More like because I was bored."

"You didn't do it because you were bored, Dave," Mindy said, "If you were just doing it because you were bored would have cut and run when things got tough. But you kept at it. You believed in it as much as I did, even if you wanted to go about it differently. And you knew how much I believed in it, and you knew I wasn't being true to myself and I was hating every minute I had to pretend.

"You believed in me, and you stuck with me. That's why I missed you more than anyone else. That's why you're the only real friend I've ever had.

"But that's all in the past. I can't live like that anymore. I don't want to go out and get the shit kicked out of me, or spend an hour washing blood and other bits out of my hair. I want a friend, Dave. I want an actual life. One where I can be happy,

"I'm trying to be good, Dave, I really am, but just being around you is making me want to be bad." She edged along the couch towards him and reached out a hand to cup his cheek, before sliding it down his neck and on to his chest where it linger for a moment before gripping a fist full of his shirt and pulling him close to her, "But maybe, just maybe," she exhaled, their lips only a few short inches apart, "It'd be okay if we were bad together," and she pressed her lips to his.


Mako's Messae: Before I talk about this story, I need to explain why it exists at all when I should be working on bonus chapters, prize fics, and updating already existing stories.
Well, that's exactly why it exists. Because I'm supposed to be doing all that. I feel like there's a certain standard I'm held to by my readers, and if not by them, there definitely is one I'm held to by myself.
And it was driving me nuts.

So, I wrote this. Something completely different from anything I've written before or, last I checked, anything else in this corner of the net. Something that no one knew about, and therefore couldn't be expecting. Something different from everything else so I do break some bad habits. And at 6,973 words I've made a big step away from writing short little stories. Not that this is long. It isn't. Medium length if anything. But it's the longest single fic I've ever written, and is closer to what I wanted out of fics like Black Betty and Toxic.

Now, as for this fic...

I had the idea for this pretty much from the moment I finished reading Kick-Ass 2. It was inspired by the opening to The Blues Brothers, where Jake was released from prison and Elwood picked him up. Beyond that, I only had the vaguest ideas of what would happen, except that line Mindy says at the end. And even that isn't exactly what I wanted.

This idea sat in my subconscious, incubating, for, what, a year? And this last week it started to hatch, and when it finally burst forth from my head it had mutated into something I didn't even recognize. And while reviewing it I realized it's not what I thought it was. But I'm still rather proud of it, and if there was ever a story of mine that would receive more favorites than Precocious Crush, I'd want it to be this.

And I want to point out one last thing. THIS IS NOT A CLIFFHANGER THE FIC IS OVER. I have no intention of continuing this, and I would appreciate not receiving any Follows for this story. If anyone wants to write something based on this, they are free to. But DO NOT ask me to write a second chapter.

Thank you for reading.