Veera yawned herself awake, shuddering at the thick layer of sweat on her skin. She reached up to pull the covers off. Her hand hit something soft instead. She opened her eyes.
Dynamo’s face hovered inches from hers. Dynamo, the honest-to-goodness superhero, the woman who had single-handedly defeated the Nefarious Seven, was holding Veera in her arms. And now she was smiling at her.
Oh, so Veera was still dreaming.
“Uh, hi,” she managed to choke out.
“You passed out back there,” Dynamo continued. Her hair fluttered in the wind, glittering gold in the moonlight. “I was gonna take you home, but uh… I don’t know where you live?”
The memory came rushing back to Veera’s mind. Running for her life from that burning building, barreling headfirst into the Mad Mantis, the feeling of his claws tightening around her chest…
“M-Mad Mantis,” she stammered.
“Oh my god, don’t worry,” Dynamo said. “I totally kicked his ass. He’s going to jail. For real, this time.”
Veera breathed a sigh of relief, but it was short-lived. Suddenly, it dawned on her where exactly she was. She twisted her head just as the tip of a skyscraper’s spire whipped by her vision.
Okay, so she wasn’t dreaming. She was awake and hurtling through the air a thousand feet above the ground.
On instinct, her arms shot out, wrapping themselves around Dynamo.
“Hey, hey,” Dynamo whispered. “It’s okay. I got you.”
“Sorry,” Veera said sheepishly, though she couldn’t bring herself to let go.
“Just hold onto me as tight as you want,” Dynamo said. “I can handle it.”
“Okay,” Veera said.
“And don’t look down. Just, you know, look at me.”
Veera wasn’t sure staring into her rescuer’s eyes was any less dizzying, but she wasn’t about to argue.
“You doing okay?” Dynamo asked with a look of concern. “You’re sweating a lot.”
“I’m fine, you’re just… very hot,” Veera replied, immediately turning crimson. “I mean, your body… I mean! Your body temperature…”
“Oh my god!” Dynamo cried. “Duh! One sec.”
She extended one arm behind her. Bursts of flames shot from her fingertips, pluming and then vanishing into the night sky behind them. Veera realized then that she’d never before truly been in love.
“Better?” Dynamo asked with a smile.
“Yeah,” Veera said. Dynamo’s body had cooled, but Veera was now sweating for a different reason entirely. “Yes.”
“Mmkay,” Dynamo hummed. “So yeah, where should I drop you off?”
“Oh.” Right, she supposed this moment had to end sometime. “Anywhere is fine. I can catch the bus.”
“Shut up, seriously?” Dynamo giggled. “You’d rather take the bus than ride with me? Ouch.”
“Uh, no, I just--”
“I’m taking you home, okay? It’s like, my duty or whatever. What’s your name anyway?”
“Veera. It’s Veera.”
“Aw, pretty! Just hang on tight, Veera.”
She could do that. She could look into her hero’s eyes. She could cling to her warm body covered in skin-hugging spandex. This was fine.
“But also tell me where you live, because I’m just flying in circles here.”
“Oh, um, Glen Park.”
“Okay,” Dynamo said, scrunching up her face as she scanned the city below. “So… I know I fought Admiral Pain there that one time. Total creep. Can you, like, pull up Google Maps or something?”
“Google Maps,” Veera repeated, incredulous.
“Yeah, on your phone.”
“Well,” Veera started, swallowing. “My phone is, uh…”
She gestured vaguely to her pants pocket, which was pressed snugly somewhere against Dynamo’s thigh.
“Mhm,” Dynamo said. “Just grab it. I’m not gonna drop you. Promise.”
That wasn’t at all Veera’s concern, but she supposed it was reassuring anyway.
“Okay, I’ll just… grab it.”
The process ended up being about as awkward as Veera had feared.
“Sorry,” she croaked as parts of her brushed up against parts of Dynamo. Finally, she managed to wrest the phone from her pocket. “I got it. Sorry.”
“You’re cute,” Dynamo giggled. For a second, Veera forgot where and who she was. “Wanna pull up the map?”
“Right!” Veera said, way too loud. She cleared her throat and began swiping at the screen. “Map, yes. Here we go.”
She turned the screen around, and Dynamo studied it for a moment before nodding.
“Oh shit, yeah, okay. Hang on.”
“No, actually hang on though.”
Veera gripped tighter, burying her face in Dynamo’s shoulder. They veered hard to the right, wind whipping through their hair, auburn and gold tangling around each other.
“Thank you,” Veera said, because she realized she hadn’t done it yet. “For the ride. And for saving my life.”
“Oh yeah, totally,” Dynamo said casually, like she’d just paid for her coffee. “Don’t even mention it.”
“You’re my hero.”
The words just sort of fell out of Veera’s mouth before she’d even had a chance to consider them.
“Oh my god, stop,” Dynamo laughed. Veera could swear she saw a hint of pink on her cheeks. “It wasn’t even a thing, seriously.”
“No, I mean before that,” Veera said, and she’d completely lost control of her words now. “I’ve looked up to you for a long time. You’re… my hero.”
Veera couldn’t bring herself to look at Dynamo’s face, but out of the corner of her eye, she could see her struggling to maintain her composure. A drop of moisture fell onto Veera’s sleeve, the heat of it soaking through to her skin.
“Good thing I’m a cute crier,” Dynamo choked out. “Me, really? Not like, Ultragirl? Or Thundarra? I mean, it’s not like I’m even in the Freedom Alliance.”
“You should be!” Veera argued. “They would be lucky. To have you.”
“Yeah! I should be, right?” Dynamo huffed. She paused, letting out a weary sigh. “They said I wasn’t a good fit.”
“They said that?”
“I dunno,” Dynamo muttered. “Maybe they’re right. I fight losers like Mad Mantis and the Queen of Spades. And like, the Alliance banished Ix the Insatiable to the Nega-Realm. That guy eats galaxies. Like, literally.”
“Yeah, that was pretty cool,” Veera admitted.
“Yeah,” Dynamo sighed.
“But you stopped Nucleon from blowing up half the city.”
“Oh my god,” Dynamo said, perking up. “That guy’s such an asshole. I didn’t think anyone knew about that.”
“I was there.”
Dynamo tilted her head, confused.
“I’m a freelance photographer,” Veera clarified. “It’s sort of my job to know where you might be. I mean, not just you. Any superhero. It’s not… creepy.”
“Oh, no way, seriously?” Dynamo asked with a smirk. “You make money chasing us around with a camera?”
“I guess that’s one way of putting it.”
“So, like… how much do my photos sell for?”
“Oh, um,” Veera coughed. “A lot! I mean, it depends. But they make good money. Sometimes.”
“Mm,” Dynamo sighed. “But not Ultragirl money, huh?”
“I don’t know,” Veera lied.
The conversation fell away. Veera watched Dynamo’s eyes wander the city, lost in thought. Suddenly, her face lit up.
“Okay, so, crazy idea,” Dynamo said. “What if I modeled for you?”
“What?” Veera asked. She must have misheard.
“I mean, no big deal, but I did some modeling back before, y’know, that meteorite turned my blood into jet fuel. We could help each other out! I give you the pictures you need, you help raise my profile… The Freedom Alliance has to take me seriously then, right?”
“Right!” Dynamo answered. “Oh my god, it’s perfect! Are you free now?”
Veera blinked several times, desperately trying to process how she’d ended up here.
“I guess so,” she said.
“Yay!” Dynamo exclaimed, pulling her into a sort of hug, or at least as much of a hug as their current circumstances allowed for a hug to be given.
“Okay,” she continued. “So, we stop at your place, you get your stuff, and then… I dunno, we’ll figure it out! We definitely need some rooftop shots, right? Me looking all heroic or whatever. Then, action poses. Flying. Punching. Fire blasting.”
“Right,” Veera replied. “Yes. All of those.”
“Ooh, okay, then I’m thinking like some casual shots? People think all we do is fly around and shout dumb catch-phrases, but like, sometimes I just like to lie around in my PJs and watch Netflix, y’know?”
“Netflix,” Veera repeated. “Okay.”
“I just want to be a hero people can see themselves in, I guess. Is that dumb?”
“No,” Veera said with a smile. “It’s not dumb at all.”
“Cool,” Dynamo said, smiling back. “Hey, I’m really glad I saved you.”
Veera’s heart was beating out of control.
“Me too,” she replied. “I mean, not just because I’d be dead otherwise.”
“Right, besides that.”
Veera laughed, releasing something from deep inside herself. She relaxed into Dynamo’s arms, turning her head to watch the sparkling city pass by as her hero carried her home.