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The Inn of the nth Happiness

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The thing about Colleen Wing and Danny Rand, as Misty Knight would explain to anyone who would listen, was that they were Romeo and Juliet. Not the sanitized, family-friendly version, enshrined by Russian composers with swooning strings. Colleen and Danny were the real deal: a beautiful, well-intentioned, unutterably messed-up man- and woman-child, one of whom fell for any dumb plan a dubious man in a funny robe was selling, and one of whom stabbed up ass-holes on city streets.

Danny and Ward Meachum returned, at last, from their Asian adventure. Danny was toting the Iron Fist once more, from plot twists Misty had not yet troubled herself to understand; they would probably involve Tibetan, and make her head hurt. Colleen and Danny met again; had a dust-up that was visible from Coney Island; and reconciled. Danny moved back into the dojo. All was well.

And then it wasn’t.

***

“They’re not talking to each other, Misty. We have to make them talk.”

“Did all this start while I was out of town?” Misty savoured a sip of Glenmorangie. You could say this for Ward Meachum: if he wanted something, he took you to a swanky joint to get it.

“Uh-huh.”

“What’s up? They share the Heart of the Dragon, now. There are solid leads on what happened to K’un-Lun, or so Colleen tells me. Life is good.”

“Beats me, too. Maybe one of them interfered in a duel the other was fighting. Maybe they fell out over the precise hierarchy of Li Bai’s greatest hits. I don’t know.” Ward caught a waiter’s eye, and loosened his collar. He had been dressing down more, since his return from Asia. It was a good look, although Misty had no intention of telling him that. “But whatever the problem is, Danny’s a mess. He’s looking at spreadsheets, Misty. He’s Taking an Interest in the Company. This needs to stop – like now.”

“What do you suggest?”

“Divide and conquer. I’ll handle Danny; you tackle Colleen. I’d do that myself, but she thinks that I’m an ass-hole.”

“You are an ass-hole, Ward.”

“She’s a good judge of character. Are you in?”

Misty sighed. “I’m in.”

“Outstanding.” Ward consulted the menu. “If I have to give Danny another Excel tutorial, one of us isn’t making it out alive.”

***

“That’s between Danny and me.” Colleen turned on her heel, and began to walk away. “It’s none of your business.”

Misty hated using her shtick outside of work, but she didn’t always have a choice. Right now, the observations were flooding in. Colleen’s dress sense was not Misty’s – the white tracksuit, in particular, was a bone of contention between them – but what she wore, she usually wore well. Today, her shirt was buttoned incorrectly; one of the pins that held her hair was loose; and a cuff bore the marks of an encounter with buttered toast, which Colleen only touched when she was comfort-eating.

“You’re my friend, Colleen. If you’re hurting, that’s my business.”

“And you will respect my wishes.” Under normal circumstances, Misty found what she thought of as Colleen’s Power Strut rather adorable, but it was fast. Despite her longer legs, she was being left behind. “I am still your sensei.”

Nothing remained, then, but the nuclear option. Misty reassured herself that the surrounding grass of Central Park was thick enough for a soft landing, and that there weren’t any joggers nearby to enjoy the show. She planted her feet. “Prove it.”

Colleen stopped and stared. “You’re calling me out?”

“Damn straight I am.” Misty balled her fists, and raised them. “Bring it.”

Misty gave the bout her all, because Colleen deserved no less: her Maserati arm; her basketball-player’s reflexes; and every move that a police career crowded with street-fights and training under Colleen herself had taught her. Colleen, mercifully, didn’t break out the Fist. But, inside of a minute, Misty was still flat on her back while bells played in her head.

“Yield.”

“Of course I do,” Misty winced, and raised herself on an elbow, “seeing as we’re still talking.”

Colleen slumped. “You played me.”

“I surely did. And you wouldn’t have bought it, if you weren’t so…” Misty groped for the idiom that she knew would hit home best “… off your balance. That’s why we need to talk. The Colleen who was so insecure she literally couldn’t turn down a fight – the one who’d scrap in the middle of a freeway at rush-hour, if a traffic cop claimed superior kung-fu – I hadn’t seen that woman in a while. I don’t miss her.”

“I’m sorry. Wanting to shut you out on this was ridiculous.” Colleen looked away. “I’m ridiculous.”

“Never that.” Misty brushed soil off her jacket. “I’ll forgive you, if you help me up. Hanging with you keeps a girl in shape, but the only part of this one that’s seeing thirty again is the part that you and Danny gave her.”

***

Over several drinks (and one arrest – Misty had recognized a face she had seen in a BOLO three years previously on a man two tables down, and justice knew not of the pause that refreshes), Colleen explained the nature of her problem.

It was very much not what Misty had expected.

***

“Not even once?” said Ward, after Misty had summarized the conversation.

“Uh-huh. I was taken aback, as well. Like I said to Colleen: ‘Girl, I have your back on all your lifestyle choices, but, seriously, have you seen you?’”

“Exactly.”

“When I fell to thinking, though, it made sense. Colleen was brought up in a cult. Her father-figure was a nigh-immortal sociopath, who, I’m guessing, didn’t encourage dating. Bakuto probably thought that Tinder was what you used to start the fire outside your yurt.”

“That was before Danny,” said Ward. “Last time I checked, there’s only one bed in that dojo.”

“I know. But, from what I gather, in all the time… the times they’ve been together, nothing’s ever gone beyond… er…”

“Second base?”

“I’m not confident Colleen even knows she’s playing baseball.”

“Hmmm.”

Misty frowned. “You seem surprised by all this – yet, not. What was Danny’s take on the situation?”

“Kinda similar. And kinda different.”

***

(“I want this so much, Ward. But I can’t afford to screw it up.”

“I feel you, bro. Don’t touch the ‘escape’ key while that’s open.”

“I’m ready to take my relationship with Colleen to the next level. I’m so, so sure that she is, too…”

“Oh. Too late.”

“… but she’s perfect, Ward, and she’s been out in this wide world so long. I’ve never… been with any one. And I know, I know in my bones, she’ll be disappointed.”

“Never mind; I’m sure IT will be able to restore the files. You want me to explain about cells again?”)

***

“So then,” said Misty, “Danny wants to go all the way with Colleen. But it’s his first time…”

“Which, again, makes sense when you think about it,” said Ward. “K’un-Lun wasn’t rich in options. There were goats; there was his brother; and there was a dragon. With bestiality, incest, or a YA supernatural romance on the table, you can see why he chose to keep himself for The One.”

“… and Danny’s convinced that Colleen’s experienced and sophisticated, and he’ll let her down. Meanwhile, Colleen wants to go all the way with Danny. But it’s her first time, and she’s convinced that he’s experienced and sophisticated, and she’ll let him down.”

“That bit’s still giving me trouble. I get why Danny was confused. He’d forgotten about the Hand’s grip on Colleen. But Colleen knows as much about K’un-Lun as we do.”

“I think that he talks K’un-Lun up when he’s with her,” said Misty. “Heavy on the ‘Capital City of Heaven…’; light on the ‘… and Heaven’s the size of a mid-range shopping mall’.”

“Figures. Danny wouldn’t be the first guy who bigged up his old crib to impress his girl.”

“Anyway, that leaves us where we are. Both of them are upset, self-doubting, and frustrated. And because they’re Danny and Colleen, neither is telling the other one about it.”

“If those two could weaponize their issues like they do their chi,” said Ward, “Earth wouldn’t need the Avengers. We could just point the pair of them at space, like a double-barrelled Angst Cannon.”

“But none of this is irretrievable. They need to talk…”

“Never expected to be agreeing when someone said that.”

“… and I can share some pointers with Colleen.”

“To set your mind at rest, I have no intention, ever, of giving Danny relationship advice.”

“Then who will?”

“Time to call in the big guns,” said Ward. “I think I mean that almost literally.”

***

“Never?” Jessica was startled. Danny knew this, because she had just put down the bourbon.

“Not even once.”

“Then how did you know you liked each other?”

“We tested each other’s mettle sparring, obviously.”

“Hope you held off on that until the third date. Otherwise, folks might think that you were easy.” Jessica retrieved her glass. “But, seriously, what’s up with this shit? Were you afraid it’d mess with your magic unicorn powers? Or did you think you might bring on a case of premature illumination?”

“You know it doesn’t work like that, Jessica. Do you snap men like twigs?”

“Only if they’re into that.” Jessica leaned back against the table. “Sixty-four thousand dollar question, though: why are you dumping all of this on me?”

“Because I see you as my sister. My mean sister, who shouts at me, and drinks too much. But a woman whose wisdom I will always seek and respect.”

“You tried Luke already and struck out, huh?”

Danny sagged. “‘Man, you gotta treat your lady smooooth’ isn’t as instructive as he thinks it is.”

“Sooner or later, any conversation with Luke, on any subject, ends up sounding like the lyrics to a funk track.” Jessica refilled the glass, and sighed. “OK – I’m on board. Pull up a chair, and get ready to take notes. Let’s see if Love Doctor Jones can’t put Harlem’s Hero to shame.”

“In Luke’s defence,” said Danny, as he sat down, “I think he was finding it almost as awkward as I was.”

***

(“What was it like, when Danny went to you for advice about his first time?” Claire Temple asked Luke Cage, much, much later. Both were staring contentedly at the ceiling; other reconciliations had been effected.

Luke thought for a moment. “You remember when Burstein bathed me in hot acid to jump-start my powers?”

“How could I forget?”

“It was like that. Sweet Christmas, it was just like that.”)

***

“… so, this ass-hole, he had taken a picture of it, which he must have run off on the office photocopier – this was back when I was working a dead-end desk-job, long before any of you guys crashed into my life – he had literally taken a picture of it, and presented that to me like a report card. Grossest thing I ever saw. I threw his Harley across the Hudson.” Jessica waved the tumbler. “Add that to the ‘Don’t’s.”

“Noted.” Danny looked down at his pad. “The ‘Do’ list still looks sparse.”

Jessica craned to peer over his shoulder. “You may have a point. Have you considered asking Murdock?”

“Matt? Isn’t he kinda…”

“Catholic? Uh-huh. Don’t let that fool you: he’s not my type, but guy’s got game. Tall chicks. Small chicks. Dead chicks. Sound him out.”

“He’s probably at the office.” Danny rose, and put the note-pad in his jacket. “I’ll swing by.”

“Remind him that he still owes me a scarf. And Danny…”

Danny paused at the door. “Yes?”

“Whatever you want to do… always ask her. Never tell her.”

Danny nodded. “Until my dying day. Thank you.”

Jessica was still looking into her bourbon as he shut the door.

***

Night had almost fallen, when Danny regained the dojo. The living-room, when he let himself in, was neat and empty. Beyond, Colleen was sitting on the bed.

“Hey.”

“Hey yourself. How was your day?”

“I went to the Devil.”

“He has all the best tunes, or so I hear.”

“He was… enlightening.” Danny sat down on the bed beside Colleen. “I’ve been a fool.”

“So have I.” Colleen hugged her knees. “We should have talked. And because we didn’t, the entire New York Metropolitan Area is now unhealthily invested in our love-life.”

“Is there any problem the two of us can’t make worse by not communicating?”

“Haven’t found one yet.”

Danny felt a slender hand seek his. “Do you want this, Colleen?”

Her wrist was firm and supple beneath his fingers. Under the hectic pulse, the Dragon dreamed.

“I do.”

***

“Can I stop listening now?” said the blind man on the sidewalk below. “Tailing Danny home was already skeevy.”

“Not until the eagle has landed,” said the brunette sporting a new scarf next to him. “Misty and Meachum are expecting confirmation. Also, there’s money riding on this.”

“You are a sick, sick woman, Jessica Jones,” said the massive man beside them.

“Maybe, but I’m about to be a richer one. Murdock?”

Matt stood with his head on one side for a couple of minutes. Then he sighed, and held out a dollar bill, which Jessica snatched from him, kissed, and pocketed.

“Should have trusted me when I said they’d be vanilla. It’s their first rodeo, and we all know what goes on in their magic ninja lives. Chains and shit would be like bringing work home.”

“Mission accomplished, then,” said Luke, as the three began to walk away. “You two got plans this evening? We don’t hang out enough.”

“We could hit a bar. There’s a new place on…” Matt frowned, and bent his head. “Wait a minute. I’m hearing a robbery. Four blocks over; seven men, and five of them are shooters. Maybe Hammertech.”

“Or,” said Luke, “we could just hit.”

Jessica cracked her knuckles. “Works for me.”

FINIS