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Best Coast

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Okay, this looks—she wasn’t going to say bad, why would you think she meant bad? It just looks…not like her greatest plan ever. So maybe she broke her arm a little bit, banged up her knee. Maybe she has just a teeny-tiny concussion. She maybe-definitely promised to back down on the whole private eye thing. But that whole orchid-saving adventure went pretty damn well, for all the speedbumps involved, and Kate’s never been good at stopping while she’s ahead. Also, while Finch and Marcus were super generous, let’s be real, Mr. Starshadows eats guava-infused cat food, and even if she spends the next several days living off whatever’s left in the kitchen, Kate’s gonna go broke in a week. And that guy, the cat food guy, the trench coat man she maybe hallucinated? He gave her advice, and more importantly, tools of the trade. You don’t just waste tools. (Gotta respect the gear, Hawkeye, says the part of her brain that sounds annoyingly like Clint.)

So it’s time to think a little bigger. Next on the agenda: she’s going to find a wi-fi hotspot and slap that flyer all over the internet.

*

Here’s the thing: she can’t afford coffeeshops anymore, but the library has internet, right? But the library is for people who live in California, who have California library cards. And Kate is from…not California. So there goes a wasted bus trip, forty-six cents on a stamp, an envelope she filched from the cabinet under the microwave, and a three-day turnaround for the mail she sends herself. Because how else is she going to prove she lives here? Her stupid internet phone quit working again, so it’s not even like she can text Billy or Teddy and ask them to send her a futzing postcard.

So that’s three days with no job, a bum arm, and a whole lotta waiting. What’s a girl to do? Well, the TV in the trailer is at minimum as old as Kate, and has a permanent line burned into the screen, no remote, and five fuzzy channels. The good shows—or rather, the cheesy soap operas and telenovelas Kate got addicted to after a single morning—are all over by lunchtime. But a TV is a TV, and as soon as Kate drops onto the couch, Lucky lies down across her feet, so she’s pretty much stuck there. Even Mr. Starshadows pads into the living room eventually, curling up on the back of the sofa just out of reach.

Which is how Kate ends up spending four and a half hours marathoning Scooby-Doo movies. Kate is way too old for Scooby-Doo—she was too old for it when she was ten, sheesh—but her knee hurts and Lucky’s really heavy and anyway: only five channels. It’s not like anything else is on.

That’s her story, and she’s sticking to it. If she happened, at some time, to start taking notes on the index cards cat-food-guy gave her, well, she’ll just blame it on the concussion. Because, god, obviously she doesn’t really think she should take career advice from a talking dog. (Does she? the Clint-voice in her head asks, which, okay, that’s really too much.)

“Lucky, get off my feet,” Kate says. Lucky whines softly, cocking his head in her direction, but he doesn’t get up. Not even a little bit.

“Come on, Lucky.” Kate shuffles her feet underneath him. “C’mon, please?”

Nope.

Kate flops back against the couch cushions. “Would you do it for a Scooby Snack?”

Lucky puts his head back down. Mr. Starshadows regards them both with a look of pure and total condescension.

“I guess that’s a no,” Kate sighs.

*

So finally, finally she makes it to the library, with her laptop and proof of residence tucked carefully in her day bag. Kate speeds through the library card application, signs her name in tasteful cursive and makes a mad dash for the nearest desk space. Well. More of a limp/hop than a dash. But still: the important thing is that not five minutes after the card is in her hand, she has her flyer making the rounds of the internet.

Annnnnd now she has to wait. Again. God, looking for a job is worse than fighting Skrulls. After an hour of obsessive page reloading yields no results, Kate heaves her most dramatic and put-upon sigh, her bangs floating upward with her breath. No one seems to notice. She folds up her laptop and trudges back to the bus stop.

Channel five is running a Miss Marple marathon when she gets home. It’s a sign, right? It’s gotta be a sign. Either way, she’s taking notes. Laugh all you want, Barton.

*

The next day, Kate’s back on the bus bright and early. Apparently no one takes the bus in L.A.? Or no one wants to, anyway. She gets a couple weird looks, the kind of sideways glances and eyerolls she used to give people on the subway with huge-ass cameras and “I (Heart) NY” t-shirts. But whatever, her car is busted, her bike is busted, and her knee has seen better days, so she’ll take the futzing bus.

She gets off at the library, shiny new card in hand, and picks out a nice sunny table space by the window. Cracks the laptop open, boots up the website, and then—no new messages. She loads the page again, just to be sure. Nope. Checks her watch. Ten-oh-one a.m. Still early. Maybe if she just kills a little time a message will appear.

First things first: she hasn’t checked her email since—wow, she actually doesn’t know when, it’s been that long. That inbox is flooded. Balance in the universe, maybe. She clicks through about a bajillion notifications from Yamblr and Facespace: Billy sent her a message, Teddy wrote in her ask box, Eli put up pictures of his new girlfriend, etcetera, etcetera. It’s like some kind of supermassive black hole—one minute she’s trying to figure out if Tommy is actually standing in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa or if he’s just gotten really, really good at Photoshop since the last time she saw him, and the next she’s obsessively reblogging pictures of baby marmosets. Yesterday, she couldn’t even have told you what a marmoset was, but now she’s all #omg can’t stop staring #too cute for words #i need this in my life. What.

When she finally comes up for air, two whole hours have passed, but she still has zero replies to her job posting. Sigh. Back to the trenches. Next in her inbox is a syrupy missive from Heather-call-me-mom detailing her father’s yachting exploits in Guam. Do tourists go to Guam? Can you really yacht yourself all the way to Guam? Kate doesn’t know, doesn’t care, and can’t bring herself to read past the first three sentences to find out. Delete.

Next is an email from Clint, wow, even better. (Not.) It’s from his Avengers address, and it’s riddled with the kind of typos that suggest “spam email” but could also indicate “Clint wrote this at three in the morning.” The message spins a wild and colorful tale of Clint getting mugged in Madripoor, losing his passport, and ending up stuck there with no money. Yeahhhh, been there, done that, got the revenge-obsessed supervillainess to prove it. Again, equal chances that it’s spam, or just Clint’s sucky life doing business as usual. But there’s no way Kate’s hauling herself all the way to Madripoor again, as if she could even afford the plane ticket at this point. Besides, she’d bet her last ten bucks that if shit just got real, Natasha’s already dragging Clint’s sorry ass to the airport while visiting frighteningly creative retribution upon all parties responsible. Natasha’s pretty reliable on that front.

But even Kate’s Madripoor ruminations only kill another fifteen minutes, and she’s still got as many job offers as she had before. Namely, still zero. She loads the page one last time for luck, then closes up shop and heads back to the beach.

Mr. Starshadows is waiting for her behind the trailer door, his big glowing eyes narrowed scornfully.

Kate frowns back at him. “Don’t judge me, cat,” she says. She drops her bag on the floor and sinks down against the wall.

Lucky slinks across the floor to nose her cheek, wagging his tail hopefully. “Yeah, yeah,” Kate says, ruffles his fur, lets him lick her face. “At least somebody still loves me.”

*

Kate gets up late the next day, lazily making her way through an entire pot of coffee and a morning’s worth of televised melodrama. She even watches a couple reruns of Dog Cops, yeesh. (But at least she’s civilized enough to drink from a mug, she tells the snarky Barton-voice in her brain.) When her eyes start glazing over, she brushes out her hair, pulls on a breezy lilac sundress and her favorite pair of sunglasses, and heads off to work. Well. Sort of. Work-hunting.

She spends the first half-hour idly browsing Facespace, hoping to put off what seems like inevitable disappointment. She lets herself fall into the timesuck that is Yamblr, fails at seven consecutive rounds of solitaire, and wastes another hour perfecting her workout playlist. When the PA announces the library will be closing in fifteen minutes, Kate’s run out of excuses. Her fingers hover over the keyboard as she eyes her posting nervously. She squinches her eyes shut, crossing her fingers and wishing as hard as she knows how. Then she clicks on through.

The first thing she sees when she opens her eyes are the words Dear hero for hire. If she maybe yelps and punches the air a little bit, and the security guard gives her the evil eye, well, Kate can’t really help herself. Besides, the library’s closing in a couple minutes anyway—what’s he going to do, kick her out?

*

So this is the rundown, for those keeping score at home. Days wasted: five. Bus fare to the library: one-fifty each way. “Feline-oniously delicious” fruit-flavored cat food: futzing highway robbery.

Suiting up for a real mission of her very own: priceless.

*

Now this? This looks bad. Trying to climb a ladder single-handed, in the dark, while being chased by probable Corgi-kidnappers with guns: bad. Really bad.

But also kind of amazing.

Suck it, Barton. West Coast Hawkeye is where it’s at.