Dave dragged himself into the safe house's bathroom and got the water going. He saw that there were a couple of towels. He should try to find new towels but he was hurt and Mindy was in no shape to help and screw it, these looked clean enough.

He staggered back in a minute later, supporting most of Mindy's weight even though he could barely stand himself.

"You need to get cleaned up. We're both hurt and we both stink. Can you get undressed and take a shower by yourself?"

She grunted something. It might have been a "No". She hadn't spoken a coherent word since she'd broken down crying two hours ago.

"I'll help you with your costume and armor. I, uh, I won't look, but you'll have to help me."

Getting a non-responsive preteen girl undressed and in the shower hadn't been on Dave's to-do list for today, but it had to be done. He muscled through as best he could, keeping his eyes closed as much as he could.

She wouldn't let go of him. He ended up showering with her.

The water helped. It washed away the stink of exertion and fear and pain, and the smell of gunshots, and the blood. There had been a lot of blood. Some had been theirs. Most of it had been from Genovese's people.

"Dave," a small voice came. The water had washed away Mindy's shock, but hadn't touched the despair yet. "What am I going to do now? Daddy's gone and now I'm all alone."

"We'll finish getting cleaned up. Then we'll see if we need to go to the hospital. Then we'll find you a place to live. Do you have an uncle or cousin anywhere? Or what about your mother? And I'm sure my dad would let you stay with us for a couple of days, until we find someone else."

They both should have gone to the emergency room, but they couldn't think of a good excuse to explain their injuries. "Daddy knew a no-questions-asked doctor, but I don't know how to reach him. And he made up some stories in case we needed them for a hospital, but I don't know what they were. He was going to have me learn that next year." Fortunately, Mindy knew how to dress flesh wounds and electrical burns and the safe house had a supply of prescription-strength painkillers and antibiotics.

Neither of them mentioned the fact that they'd seen each other naked. It had been an emergency, but it wasn't something to talk about.

...ooo000ooo...

"Dammit! These fucking tits have got to go!"

"No, don't cut them off," Dave advised. He considered ogling her and telling her how good she looked now that she was filling out, but he wasn't suicidal. Besides, she was barely a teenager, and he was barely a teenager in the other direction, with a birthday in a few months, and ogling a just-turned-thirteen girl was a little too pervy. "You're going to want them when it's time to find a guy and settle down, right? And what about when you have a baby?"

"Fuck that." She waved it off. "You think I'm going to find some pussy normal guy?"

Their banter continued for another minute, with her rubbing her tits the entire time. When Dave called her attention to this, and the mixed message she was sending by rubbing her tits while telling him he wasn't her type, she stomped him into the mat. One time she even sat on his face as she held him in a submission hold. Talk about mixed messages!

It was a pain, kind of. More than "kind of". Dave was feeling the pressure to find himself a girlfriend, or at least a fuck-buddy – even Marty had managed to hook up, and he wouldn't fucking shut up about it – but he was working two jobs and training with Mindy and going out patrolling every other night. He didn't have time to spend with a girlfriend, let alone find one in the first place.

He couldn't afford a girlfriend, either. He didn't have any first-hand experience, but he'd seen that the expenses ran up. All of his money was going to food and paying his dad rent and weapons and stuff. He just couldn't make it work.

It was too bad that Mindy was so young. They were already spending a lot of time together, so a little more would be no problem. And she understood spending all your money on weapons and armor and medical supplies. And they got along fine and she was cute … and she was six years younger than he was. She was just starting to fill out so you'd notice, and he couldn't help but notice, what with the way she joined him in the shower every couple months. Whatever she thought she was doing – flirting or teasing him or she just had no concept of body modesty – didn't matter. He'd tried to get her to stop, and she always agreed, then always did whatever the hell she wanted to do anyway. He'd started avoiding the shower at the safe house, usually choosing to clean up at home just for the privacy.

...ooo000ooo...

Dave was just entering the bookstore to pick up Mindy when a commotion broke out. With the certainty of a seer he knew Mindy was involved. He sighed and trudged over, then sprinted when he saw what was happening.

"Mindy! Stop it! Get away from him!"

Grabbing her was a mistake. She was like a bobcat, small and fast and vicious. She hammered his face with an elbow, but then relaxed when she recognized him.

The store manager came over, wanting to know what was going on. Dave checked out Mindy's victim – or her groper, if she was telling anything like the truth – because everyone else was just standing around like useless shits, taking pictures with their fucking phones.

The guy had a broken arm and was battered all around the face and might have a dislocated or broken knee. Even if he'd walked right up and groped Mindy – and what were the odds that he'd done that – this was overkill. But what probably happened was he'd just bumped into her and she totally lost it. Dave didn't know how to find out which it was, and didn't know what to do about it either way.

Mindy bullshitted her way out of being held for the police. She and Dave were both banned from the store for the next year. Thanks, Mindy. There were other bookstores, but this one was – or had been – their favorite because it was big and had a great selection.

He could use that selection now. There had to be some way to teach Mindy how normal people lived. She didn't have to act like she was in a war zone every minute of her life.

Could he talk to her mother? Would the woman listen and try to help her daughter, or just ignore him because she couldn't believe he was right? Would she try to have him arrested for corrupting a minor? Dave didn't know how much she knew about how Damon had raised Mindy – really fucking badly – and he didn't know how much he could trust her.

Not knowing if he could trust the woman meant he couldn't trust her.

All that was left was working with Mindy, trying to civilize her.

Dave sighed and went into the bathroom to clean his face. He was getting tired of watching the clean water turn red before it went down the drain.

Face clean, Dave found his partner in the kitchen heating up a big can of stew, the limit of her cooking ability. "I think you may have gotten a bit carried away back there, Mindy."

"What, were you there? Were you there to see what happened? I didn't think so. No one knows what happened except him and me, and I'll bet he hasn't even woken up yet."

"I wasn't there, but I heard his girlfriend or sister or whoever say that he'd just gotten off crutches and probably just wobbled into you. And then you freaked out."

"He should have spent more time in rehab, then. Look at me: I'm still growing, but I'm training harder than ever so I'm not clumsy and don't fall down. If he can't be bothered to learn to walk and not fall into innocent girls, then fuck him. He deserves it."

What else was there to say? They ate their stew, pointedly not talking to each other.

Mindy was like a war veteran who'd been in too many battles. Her reflexes were all wrong to let her go through normal life. She was getting too dangerous to be let out among normal people.

She wouldn't even consider the possibility that there was anything wrong. What was he going to do with her?

...ooo000ooo...

Dave struggled to get to his feet and down to the ground. He was glad that this big dumpster of garbage had been here. He hadn't quite made a jump between buildings and he'd have broken his legs for sure, and maybe his back, if he'd hit the alley itself. On the other hand… he'd landed in a pile of garbage.

And where was Mindy? She should have been here five seconds after he landed. She'd want to mock him, if nothing else.

Finally getting out and on the ground, Dave looked and listened. That way. Fighting. He sprinted around the corner, batons in hand.

He caught up to Mindy just in time to see her making sure of the three, no four, bodies down on a parking lot.

Making sure they were dead. He saw her cut the last one's throat, then let go of his hair so his head thumped on the asphalt.

"Mindy! What are you doing? You didn't have to kill them. We can't kill them unless they're trying to kill us. What was that?"

"If you'll shut up a minute I'll tell you. Jeeze! I thought I was supposed to be the little girl here."

Dave glared at Mindy but didn't say anything. She'd taken to being a real pain in the ass lately when it came to explaining her more questionable actions.

"That's better. Look at them. Costumes and bats and wrecking bars. They're Cunts, or pretending to be Cunts. It's open season. What do you need, permission from their mothers to put them down?"

"I see how they're dressed. And I saw that you took them all out. And then I saw you cut their throats when they couldn't do anything more. That's murder, Min– Hit Girl. It's OK to kill them in a fight or if they ambush you, but when they're down and not doing anything, you can't kill them any more."

"Oh, like I'd let them ambush me. Like they could get the drop on me."

"Did you ambush them? Damn it, Min– Hit Girl, that's even worse. You've got to stop doing that. Murder's against the law, even if you're killing a bad guy. And even if you don't agree with that, you need to be careful not to let anyone catch you murdering anyone."

"Don't leave any living witnesses, right."

"No, dammit!"

"Relax, dummy. I'm just fucking with you. Now help me get the loot back to the house, then you need a shower. You stink like garbage."

Dave sighed. Civilizing Mindy was an ongoing project, and some days it seemed she was going backward.

...ooo000ooo...

Dave stood in the shower at the safe house. He'd stunk too much to go home to clean up. The water and soap were washing away the garbage smell. They weren't doing anything for the stink inside.

He wasn't responsible for the dead Cunts. He hadn't cut their throats. Mindy had.

Dave couldn't control Mindy if she didn't want to be controlled. He wasn't sure any force on Earth could control her if she didn't want to be controlled.

She couldn't be controlled, but she could be killed. Maybe by a gang of Cunts, maybe by some regular mugger who got lucky, maybe even by a fall if she missed a jump between buildings.

Or maybe by the police if they stopped looking the other way. They had to know what was going on, didn't they?

Dave needed to make some contacts among the police. Talk to some street cops, some detectives, cops who knew what life in the alleys was really like, cops who knew what Mindy – Hit Girl – was doing.

If the police were covering for Hit Girl, that wasn't good. It meant he was all alone in trying to keep her under control, in trying to keep her from killing everyone she thought deserved it.

If the police weren't covering for her… that was worse. It would be terrible for them to gun her down. It would be terrible for her to cut them down, resisting. And if they took her alive… he couldn't imagine what jail would do to her.

He had to keep it from getting to that point. She was still his best friend and he cared what happened to her and she just wouldn't listen when he tried to warn her away from the disaster he saw coming. But all he could do was keep trying.

Dave had washed off the garbage and had almost worked out his problems when he was interrupted. Interrupted by a naked girl in the shower with him.

"Mindy, damn it! What are you doing here? I know I locked the door."

She wasn't just teasing him or flirting or ogling him or whatever was usually going on when she joined him.

"I almost died tonight, Dave. One of the Cunts almost got lucky. Just hold me for a minute, OK?"

He'd hardly ever seen her anything but self-assured. "I'm glad you're all right," he said as he hugged her.

Mindy, of course, recovered her poise quickly and in just minutes was teasing him verbally and physically. Dave's willpower had never been tested as painfully as when she rubbed her butt against him. But. But she was his partner. And she was thirteen years old.

And she was his friend, and he had to try again to help.

"Don't you think it would be better to leave the Cunts alive if you can?"

"Oh, jeeze, Dave, are you really nagging about this again? Don't you have better things to think about. Like the hot, naked girl in the shower with you?"

"Yes, yes, you're very cute… a very cute little girl, and when you grow up I'm sure you'll have lots of boyfriends. Ouch! Haha, just kidding.

"But I mean it. If you kill them, they're just dead. But if you get them arrested and put in jail, they'll be worse, right? The Cunts are terrorists, really, right? And I heard that regular convicts don't like terrorists."

"Yah, that makes sense. Maybe. But it goes for you, too, you know. If regular scumbags don't like terrorists, how do you think they'd like you? You're famous, been hunting them for years now. You're just lucky you're not pretty. It's the only thing that would save you from being traded around."

"Oh, fuck you." She laughed. "And I think I'd be able to fight them as well in jail as on the street."

"Yah, maybe. You've gotten a lot better. And bigger." Mindy ran her eyes over his shoulders and chest. She did this once in a while in the training room to evaluate his progress, but the look this time was different.

"Mindy… are you just teasing or are you trying to seduce me? Or can you just not resist my beefcakeliness?"

"Ugh! Uh, no, uh, you're great and all, but you're not my type."

"Saving yourself for whoever gets to hold your leash in prison, huh?"

"No way in Hell will I go to prison. Living with my mom and going to school and pretending to be a nice, normal, little girl are hell already. Being locked up would kill me. I'll go out in a blaze of glory if it looks like I'm gonna be caught, or just shoot myself if that's all I can do."

Great. There was a mood killer. Dave got Mindy to agree not to walk in on him, especially naked, without asking him for permission first. He doubted he'd ever give her permission to join him in the shower unless it was an emergency, but he didn't tell her that. Of course, he also doubted she would keep this promise any better than the earlier promise, but it was all he could do.

...ooo000ooo...

Dave stood under the scalding water. It wasn't washing his soul clean.

He used to like showers. Washing away sweat was great, the best way to end a hard workout.

It wasn't sweat he was washing away. And he was having to take more and more showers, longer and longer, hotter and hotter, just trying to get clean. He hated it, hated that he had to spend so much time trying to feel clean. He was starting to hate the shower because getting in the shower meant he had to try to get himself clean again. It meant that something had happened that made him feel dirty again.

Mindy – Hit Girl – had killed a street gang. They were scumbags, no doubt about it. Drug dealers and extortionists. It went with the territory. And Kick Ass and Hit Girl had overheard them planning to grab someone's daughter and gang rape her because he hadn't paid them. But – But they weren't doing anything when she eeled in through the open window and executed them all. Kick Ass had tried to get in her way, to keep at least the youngest teenagers safe, but there was no stopping her.

All he managed to do was get sprayed with blood.

Once they were all dead, she calmed right down, grinning at him through the splatters on her face and wig. "Doing a job and doing it right! Come on, they've got to have some money around here. We've got maybe two minutes."

Probably more. This neighborhood wasn't high on NYPD's list, and she'd taken barely a minute to kill them all, moving faster than he'd ever seen.

Was it the planned kidnapping and rape that had set her off?

Dave found the stash. Mindy laughed at it. "A couple hundred bucks in a Thomas the Tank Engine lunch box? You're fuckin' kidding me." It didn't stop her from grabbing the cash and jumping onto the fire escape.

While Mindy got the first shower, Dave sat with his blood-stained face in his blood-stained hands. What was he going to do with her? He'd been trying to calm her down and teach her some respect for human life, but it wasn't working. He couldn't afford a shrink, even if he could get her to go to one, which wasn't going to happen.

All he could do was wash the blood off. At least Mindy didn't come in this time. He was feeling unclean enough already.

...ooo000ooo...

Dave had a bad feeling about this one. He'd seen the group duck around a building at the same time Mindy did, and he saw her immediately drop into a hunting stance.

She'd gestured for him to stay behind. Normally they'd go in together. They'd been training together for a couple years now and knew how to watch each other's back and not get in each other's way.

She probably wanted to do something she knew he'd disapprove.

Dave had been trying to teach Mindy some of the rules, rules like not killing people just because you think they look suspicious.

Despite his misgivings, Dave slid into a doorway where he could keep an eye on the street for any reinforcements.

Until the noise started. It took him eight seconds to get from his doorway to the corner of the building, and it was all over already.

"Again, Hit Girl? Jesus."

Dave barely listened to her explanation of why she had to kill these guys. He checked to see if anyone was still alive – no, of course not – and got out one of the disposable phones he carried just for calling it in.

"Hey, Kick Ass, piss on this pile." She actually wanted him to piss on a pile of what looked like cocaine. But she had a reason for it. Jeeze! This was so stupid it was actually kind of funny.

Back at the safe house, Dave peeled off his wetsuit and checked it for blood. It was OK, but he'd be needing a new pair of boots soon. He and Mindy had split the cost of an apartment-sized washing machine, partly to save money from having to constantly wash their costumes and exercise clothes, but mostly so people wouldn't see them washing Kick Ass and Hit Girl uniforms in a public laundromat.

That didn't help with the boots. His were constantly getting blood on them.

Lecturing Mindy wasn't doing any good at all any more. She was the Hero and he was the Sidekick, and she wasn't listening to his lectures on morals and ethics. Sometimes she'd listen out on the street when he told her not to kill someone. Not always, but sometimes. Usually, even. But not always.

Sometimes Dave thought about splitting up the team, but he shuddered to think of what he'd be letting loose on the city. He was the only thing that kept Mindy – Hit Girl, not that there was any difference any more – even slightly under control.

...ooo000ooo...

"Hey! Kick Ass! C'mere for a second."

Dave waved and crossed the street to talk to the detective and the two uniformed cops. They were some of the cops he talked to once in a while, sharing tips and such.

"What's up?"

"You alone tonight, or is Hit Girl around?"

"Just me. She's, uh, sick." Cramps. The poor girl could barely stand. Her mother gave her a hot water bottle and some pills and Dave had gotten her ice cream and a movie, then he went out to do good deeds and hopefully not need to get any blood on himself tonight.

"Listen, your girl's out of control. We've been covering for her because it's mostly scumbags she's taking down, but it's getting too much. We can't cover it up much longer."

"I don't know we want to cover it up any more," the detective added. "We got forensics back on a drug deal last week. Six dead, all gutted with a match to Hit Girl's blades. I don't know anyone else carries anything like that and even if they did, I don't know anyone else that would slice up drug dealers whose guns were all in their pockets."

Dave sighed. "Yah, I know about that one. I'm the one who phoned it in, after. I don't know what was going on and when I yelled at her, all she said was I don't know everything." He felt a little bad about lying to the detective, but Mindy – Hit Girl – was his partner and he had to cover for her even if he thought she was wrong.

"I don't know what. We checked them all out. A million priors but just possession and sale and stuff. Petty stuff."

"They were low-lifes, but not scumbags," the junior uniformed cop put in.

"And nothing we picked up about anything major that they hadn't already been busted for," the detective concluded. "Ask Hit Girl what she knows, right, kid? I'll be working the next four nights, around this area. Catch me up when you can.

"But, listen, before you leave, I'm tellin' you again, get that girl under control. She's getting all mad-dog. I don't care if those low-lifes were planning on bombing City Hall, when they got themselves killed they weren't doing anything to get killed for. Keep Hit Girl on a leash or we're gonna have to come after her."

"Just screw her more. Keep her too busy to go out and kill drug dealers."

"What?! I'm not sleeping with her!"

"Why the hell not?" the senior uniform demanded. "Fuck her brains out! Maybe it'll calm her down some, make her less crazy."

The detective laughed. "I thought she was a mad dog, but maybe she's a bitch in heat. Go get her, hound dog!" The other cops joined his laughter.

There was nothing he could say to that, so Dave waved again as he walked away to resume his patrol. How was he going to bullshit his way through this? And he'd have to keep the older cop's suggestion from Mindy. He was more than old enough to be her father and shouldn't have been leering like that and they didn't need to have the cops coming after them because one of their own had been castrated.

...ooo000ooo...

Dave's chest was on fire. Mindy had hit one guy in the arm to point his pistol away from herself, and Dave had gotten nailed. He was spun away from the Cunt he was fighting, then took a hit from a shovel – who the hell uses a shovel in a fight? – because he had no strength in his left arm, couldn't even get his baton up to block the hit. He went down – which hurt like hell! – but got a boot up into the Cunt's tunk. The Cunt went down and Dave hammered a baton onto his throat before levering himself back up and into the fight. Hit Girl needed him!

Hit Girl didn't need him. When he'd gone down, there were still five Cunts in the fight, including the one who'd shot him. They were all down now, shredded. Had Hit Girl been holding back all these years?

"Dave! I mean, Kick Ass! Are you all right? No, shut up, don't try to talk. Can you breathe? I'll get you to the house. Or the hospital. If you can't breathe. Can you breathe? Oh, God, I'm sorry, Dave, I'm so sorry. I mean, Kick Ass."

"I'm OK. Just hurts."

As he hobbled off with Mindy holding him up on one side – he'd be able to walk by himself, and it would hurt less than having a short girl twisting his shoulders and chest so she could "help" him – Dave saw that all nine Cunts were down, and down in a bloody mess. And he saw that the two jerkoff bystanders, who'd been recording the fight on their cell phones and not helping or calling for help, were also down in a bloody mess.

God damn it. They were jerkoffs, but they didn't deserve to die for it.

"Phones," he grunted, pointing. Getting Hit Girl arrested wouldn't bring them back to life. She went to grab the evidence, and Dave pulled both of his arms close in to his chest. He didn't know if he'd survive her helping him any more.

Safe at the safe house, Dave let Mindy help him get the top of his wetsuit off. He couldn't have done it himself, what with the probably broken rib. Then she kept going, exposing more than just his chest. Then she kept going.

"Mindy…" The eye candy was nice, no denying that, but Dave was less and less attracted to his partner as the months went by. She had a lot of really serious issues that more than canceled out her good points … and even the fact that there was now an attractive girl standing naked in front of him.

"Yah, yah, I know. 'Agreements' 'n' shit. Listen, you need to get cleaned up so I can dress that rib and I don't trust you not to fall in the shower, and that could kill you if your rib is broken and not just cracked. I'll catch you if you get wobbly."

That actually made sense, though Dave was sure that wasn't her only reason. He'd seen her start to go for a kiss a few minutes ago.

Under the water, washing away the sweat and the little bit of blood, Dave brought up the slaughter in the alley. Mindy was unrepentant.

"I wouldn't have killed those two idiots with the phones, but when you went down, I lost it. I just went nuts, I was so scared. I need you. I mean it. I don't think I can live without you, Dave."

"Don't be silly. You've said it a hundred times: You're the hero and I'm just the sidekick. If I ever get killed, you'll go to my funeral and tell everybody what a dork I was, then you'll avenge me and just keep on being the hero." And thanks a lot for making him think about it an hour after he'd been shot in the chest.

"No. It's not that. You're a great sidekick, but that's not it. I don't know how I got so hung up on a dork like you, but I did. I'm safe with you. I can't feel safe with anyone else. I can't ever let you go."

Dave didn't know how to respond to that. Mindy didn't give him time to think about it. She went beyond innocent contact in a crowded shower, blew right past age-inappropriate flirting, and latched onto outright sexual contact.

"Mindy! Stop it!" He tried to slap her hand away, but the effort made him gasp as his rib reminded him that it was broken. "Even if you weren't too young – which you are –"

"I'm old enough to kill predators. I'm old enough to fight for what's right. I'm old enough to fight for what's mine. You're mine, Dave, and I'm yours. I don't believe in fate and destiny and all that, but we belong together. We can't make it without each other. If you leave, I'll die. I can't let that happen."

She didn't give him a chance to answer, using one hand to drag his head down into a hungry kiss while clumsily groping him with the other. Dave tried to push her away, but she was like an anaconda, a starving anaconda who was trying to eat him alive while she crushed him. He couldn't get her off of him, couldn't even pull his mouth away from hers, not without hurting his chest or … anything else.

Mindy dragged him out of the shower and to the bedroom, still not letting him speak, not caring what he wanted. The less said about the rest of the evening, the better. It wasn't terrible, having sex with an athletic girl, but he started out hurt and he wasn't sure he even liked her anymore and she wasn't giving him any choice. And afterward…

...ooo000ooo...

Dave stumbled to the shower before dawn to scrub himself clean. The stickiness of sweat and sex. The blood from his chest and the blood he'd started coughing up, from where Mindy wasn't careful enough. The tears from what he had to do. The smell of gunpowder.

Mindy had latched onto him. Physically, but emotionally even more. Whenever her mouth was free she was babbling that she couldn't live without him, couldn't lose him. Afterward, she ruined what should have been afterglow. She couldn't let anyone threaten him. Couldn't let anyone live who threatened him. She was going to start hunting Chris and his Cunts for real. And every other violent criminal. She was going to make the city safe for Dave and her.

"Mindy, there are an awful lot of muggers and gangs out there. I know we're making the city better and safer, what we're doing, but come on. Get rid of all of the violent criminals?"

"You'll see. After I kill a few hundred the rest will stop. They'll get jobs or go somewhere else. I don't care what. I'll get rid of the violent ones and you'll help, and when the city's safe you can go around doing the good deeds like you like to do and I'll help. You'll see."

Hunt down and murder a few hundred more? When Dave said that the police might stop looking the other way, she replied that if the police threatened them, got in the way, then they were just the same as the Cunts, just another gang.

Dave lay in bed for a long time after Mindy drifted off, still mumbling "always together". He couldn't do this. He couldn't let her do this. He couldn't help her any more. He couldn't not do anything. She'd die without him and she'd die in prison, she said, but out on the street a lot of others would die.

Before he stepped into the shower, Dave put the pistol on the counter. He'd see if he could get clean, then decide what to do. The pistol had another bullet.

He didn't know if he could live with it, but he'd done what he had to do.

A man had to be able to shoot his own dog. Especially if it was a mad dog.