The costume is cold. I mean, I noticed that last time, but last time we weren’t even out for an hour, and it was a nice day, and it actually was day. Now it’s nighttime, and windy. It’s not exactly the same costume; it’s a more muted purple-bluish-gray. To blend into the background, I guess, so people won’t see us coming?

I would actually wager it’s because the palette shows up better after you adjust the saturation.

It’s basically the exact same costume, though, down to the little decorations on the end, or, if not, they feel pretty much identical in my peripheral telekinesis. Probably, they’ve produced a dozen of these, all the same, in a variety of colors for a variety of settings. There’s probably an extra brightly-colored but matte version in case I have to do an interview.

God, I hope I don’t have to do an interview.

The point is, for a coat, it’s fucking cold. It’s all just icing, anyway; I’ve explored it enough that I can pull the ripcord and the decorative part will fall off in just over a second. (The ripcord is a fancy intricate knot on the inside of the back, just between my shoulder blades. It’s too flat to feel against my skin, but textured enough to feel against my TK.) The standard armor is at least twice as thick, and also you wear it over clothes, and also you can toss a jacket on over it.

“Cold out,” Hunch says, and I almost smack him.

“Why don’t they make warmer versions of these?” I ask.

“Oh, who knows where the hell the military budget is going,” Hunch says. “If you want to bring it up to our in-house designers, be my guest. They won’t listen to me.”

“I expected you to pair me with Arsenal,” I tell him.

He stares at me for a minute, then snorts. “And have to spend my night walking around with the new kid? He hates following the rules, no sense of respect for authority, also no sense of boundaries.”

“So you left him with Arsenal?” I shake my head. “The kid’s a pushover. If they find something, I guarantee you it’ll get tossed out.”

“Oh, no worries, kid, I made them wear cameras as ‘training aids’,” Hunch says. “Now if they find something, we’ll know right away if we have to toss it.”

“Poor Arsenal,” I say.

“Yup,” Hunch says, “but he’s the only one of us who can disappear the murder weapon.”

“I thought you made them wear cameras,” I say, as we head around the corner.

Hunch laughs. “Oh, I’m sure he’s smart enough to destroy a little piece of evidence like that.”

I roll my eyes.

“How’s Darren?” Hunch asks.

“Same old, same old,” I mutter.

Hunch shakes his head. “Have you talked to him about it?”

“Oh, only several dozen times over the last three years,” I say.

There’s movement down an alley, and we dart forward to look. A spiky-looking alley cat hisses at us, stepping in front of half a hamburger and arching. Hunch reaches into his utility belt, pulls out a chunk of smoked salmon, and tosses it over.

“You have dog biscuits in there, too?” I ask.

“Yup. Stuck some in yours, too. You’re welcome.” He grins at me.

The cat sniffs the snack, wolfs it down, and lets us pass.

“No one’s out here,” I say.

“Yeah,” he agrees. “I can’t imagine it’s all due to the cold.”

“Scared of that guy, maybe,” I suggest. “What’s he been doing, anyway?”

“Nothing I’d like to share with sensitive ears, kid,” he tells me, with a little bit of a grin, and a little bit of narrowed eyes, like he really isn’t sure if I should hear.

I drop it.

“Is he still doing that thing, with the glittery sign saying ‘Darren’s Room’ on the door?” Hunch asks, smoothing his hands over an imaginary sign.

I laugh. “He’d never do something as counterproductive as using glitter. But yes.”

“Shame,” Hunch says. “At least he does a decent barbeque.”

“Shit, that’s half the reason he leaves it there,” I tell him. “He’s been a little morose since his friends declared it too cold to barbeque anymore, too. They won’t show up if it’s not on the deck.”

“We’ve had a couple nice days since then,” Hunch says, “no go?”

I shake my head. “Couldn’t get anyone together on such short notice.”

“Should’ve invited me,” Hunch says, “I’d show up. Hell, I’d show up for a winter barbeque, outside and everything. I’ve done those a couple times. They can be fun, in a cold sort of way.”

I shoot him a look. “You scared the shit out of him the last time you had us over to dinner.”

“It was just us,” Hunch says, sounding a little apologetic, but less than he should.

“He wouldn’t come out of his room for weeks,” I admonish. “He jumped a foot in the air if I got within two feet of him.”

“Well, I’m sorry,” Hunch says, sounding just a bit more contrite this time, “but honestly, the guy needs to get over himself.”

“Easy for you to say,” I begin, and then break off.

There are some people, sneaking. Where they’re sneaking from, or to, or what they’re doing, I have no idea, but they’re definitely sneaking. Worst case, it’s just some pro making an honest night’s living, and we tell them to clear out. I mean, whatever, we’re not Vice, not our problem.

I quietly slip my gun out of its holster, because if that’s the guy who’s been doing things Hunch would rather I not find out about, I don’t want to be caught with my pants down. I float it down to my side, under the coat, leaving my hands free in case I have to hold them up for whoever it is. We duck behind the building, leaning out to see what’s going on.

Some kid – wearing a jacket that’s way too cold for this weather – hands over a baggie. The other one (college probably, college sweatpants, anyway) hands over some cash. I wave at Hunch to put his gun away. I take a look at the baggie, but it looks like it’s just pot, although I’d guess the college student has a few more problems going on, from the shaking and the sniffles.

I sigh, leaning back against the wall, and fumble open one of the back pockets on my utility belt, plucking my gun out of the air and holstering it. Each of them gets a neat little business card; substance abuse hotline for the college student, youth shelter for the high-schooler (at best). He flinches slightly as he feels the card slip into his pocket, and, yeah, probably on the streets, because I have a deft touch.

I wave Hunch after me and he follows, waiting until we’re out of earshot to talk again.

“So, Sinead’s on a soup kick,” Hunch says, “you like leeks?”

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