It started getting better after the talk with Captain America and the Avengers: Kate has something like weekly coffee-non-dates with Mr. Lang and Hawkeye – the first one – started just checking up on her randomly, Luke decided to call on Tommy all the time to do patrols, Teddy's got Carol Danvers cellphone, if Billy needed anything he has been talking with his mom – his moms, really, both Rebecca and Wanda about relearning his powers.
It took a while, but they even got to a point where mentioning Cassie and Jonas stopped cutting the conversation.
Kate was the first one of them – other than Tommy, but he never quit, so there's no restarting with him – to start training again, then patroling once or twice a week. She doesn't ask him or Teddy, not really, but she always calls them before she goes out and when she comes back. Sometimes Tommy goes with her, but Kate, actually, plays the solo-hero thing for a while.
Eli isn't happy when he hears about it, and he has a lot of things to say about that – mostly to Teddy, because Teddy has the patience of a saint and Billy is of the very unforgiving opinion that it's not very cool for Eli to say that Kate shouldn't be doing that when he is all the way up to Arizona. Billy knows he wasn't the best of friends immediately after – or the best boyfriend, or the best son or-- well, just that he wasn't in any shape, way or definition of it best anything – but he wants to think that he at least was there, and there were times when Kate was grieving and he did manage to pull himself together long enough to hold her and be her best friend.
(The one that was still alive, anyway. Not the one Kate would've wanted to be there, and he knew that because if he could've brought Cassie somehow he would have, but he did his best with what little he could).
But even after the Cap officially welcomes them in the Avengers, with Kate's weekly meet offs with Cassie's dad and the training and all... they still don't really talk about going back to being heroes. Not really.
And then, two years later Kate does.
Movie night has become something sort of sacred for the four of them, sacred enough that even his parents know better and they just tell them not to make a mess and then they go out with the annoying siblings. And then they sprawl over the couch, usually with Teddy on his back, he half on top, Kate by the floor with her head against the couch, Tommy sprawled over Kate's legs where he is allowed to be as long as he's not fidgeting too much.
(It started exactly one week after Cassie and Jonas. The first time Eli was there and they barely watched the movie since they all ended up crying at one point or the other. Then it was when Eli left and Kate didn't cry but she moved right into the cuddle Teddy offered. And even when Tommy is out, he knows that Thursdays he has to be there on time. And even when Billy wasn't... well, completely there, he was there enough to watch the movie and smile as Kate flopped on top of him and demanded hair scritches, Kaplan, or else.
The point is, it's a thing).
“Carlos' pizza has a thing going on tomorrow,” Teddy says. “He said I should tell you and that he'll save a place for his best costumers.”
“Screw the place, tell him to save me some hot chili peperoni with extra cheese,” Tommy says.
“I'll probably be late,” Kate says, shrugging. “But I should be there around eight-ish or so? Tell Carlos to save me some with mushrooms.”
“Katie, is that a date I'm hearing?” Billy asks, trying to stop his grin from forming: Tommy had never really said if the thing he had had for Kate was real or not, and sometimes it meant that Billy didn't know if his brother duties were first or his best friend duties were. However, he knew how heartbroken Kate had been after Eli left, and if Tommy hadn't made a move after two years, well. He was going to be happy for his friend.
Kate, however, rolled her eyes. “Please. Clint called me, said there's something he wants to show me.”
Billy can see Teddy trying not to smile. He is hiding a smile as well. Thankfully, they've Tommy nearby and he doesn't do the whole 'filter' thing too well.
“Didn't your teachers tell you about dirty old men trying to lure you into their white vans, Katie?” Tommy says, mouth open as he chews.
Kate rolls so hard her eyes that it's a miracle she doesn't strain something.
“Considering where he lives, I'm pretty sure Clint has no way of affording a white van. And he probably wants to ask me to feed his dog while he goes on a mission or something.”
“Since when does he have a dog?” Teddy asks.
“About two weeks ago. He's terrible with him, so it's my duty to go and save Lucky with actual dog food and not just pizza.”
“Lucky?” Billy asks, and yeah, he can't hide his grin. “He did not call a dog Lucky without it being ironic.”
“Hello, have you met Clint? Dorktastic, doofus, thinks that fighting wearing a skirt is a good idea? Of course he called the dog Lucky, and of course he named him that unironically.” Kate smirks, shaking her head. “And trust me, it's a better name than before. He used to be 'Arrow'”.
When Kate tells him and Teddy about the mission she just was in, Billy kind of has the inkling that she left out a lot of it, but he has no ways to prove that. He just heals the wound on Kate's leg while she gestures and nods and laughs.
“So you're back?” Teddy asks and he kind of loves him – more – for that because he sounds calm and not terrified, which is how Billy feels.
“I... yeah,” Kate shrugs a bit before she picks at her quilt. Then she shrugs again, trying to appear nonchalant. “Someone has to make sure he doesn't just die or anything.”
Kate says that easy, as if she was joking. But they've all changed after Cassie and Jonas, and Billy knows that Kate does care about Clint Barton and that they are friends, that Clint was one of the Avengers that was there for Kate.
“... I'm doing it, guys,” Kate says, softly, her eyes down. “The hero thing. I. I don't want a team that's not you. And you don't want it”
The yet was there without needing to be said, something that – he knows – both Tommy and Kate want. Billy takes advantage of the silent word to pretend he doesn't know it's there and he offers a smile that, he hopes, doesn't seem shaky.
“You mean, you don't want to follow anyone else's orders.”
“You say 'bossy' like it's a bad thing or anything,” Kate scoffs but then she smiles. “Okay?”
“It's what makes you happy, Kate,” Billy says, then doubts a moment before he adds. “... if you ever need help, you know that...”
“Yeah. Yeah, Billy, I know,” Kate moves to hug him, squeezing tight for a moment before she pulls back and grins at him. Billy realizes how much he has missed that smile on his friend's face and he can't quite forgive himself for not noticing how long it's been gone: probably since Cassie, and that's been over two years. “But don't worry. I'm the reinforcements this time. It'll be fine.”
The next couple of months are fun, to say the least. Kate goes on missions with Clint, sometimes, and then sometimes with Tommy. Sometimes she comes back hurt but not often enough, and she is grinning more times than not.
(Christmas was one of those times, where, the days prior to it, she spent it raging about Clint Barton and about making him quit using 'HER' alias because he was a disgrace and she was as miserable and hurt as she had been when Eli decided to go to Arizona, which was the first time he sort of heard some alarm bells, but priority was about having a very pissed off friend and having a very stupid brother who loved to poke at open wounds.)
When Kate turns twenty-one, her dad decides to give her an apartment as a birthday gift, and of course it can't just be any kind of apartment, no. It has a panoramic view of the city, three rooms, a studio, it's completely furnished and there's even a pool on the top of the building. His parents' house probably fits in the apartment.
“Please come and live with me,” Kate begs. “Please? Please please please?”
“When can I move in?” Tommy says. Kate actually hugs him, that relieved she is, and then she turns to look at them.
Kate Bishop is not someone who uses puppy eyes to bribe, but he kind of guesses she's doing her best to try.
He looks at Teddy. Teddy rubs his neck.
“I dunno, Kate... I mean, won't your dad mind?”
“I doubt he'll know,” Kate rolls her eyes. “Please, Teddy, please? Don't make me beg, guys. It won't be pretty.”
“We'd have to pay like, rent,” Billy says. “Otherwise, it's--”
“If you feel you have to, sure, it's fine,” Kate, very kindly, doesn't remind them of how when they were sixteen and saving the world she was the fairy godmother of the team in a weekly basis and how they didn't say a thing about paying her back, which he definitely appreciates. “So... you'll do it? Please?”
“Katie, they'll say yes when they check this plasma tv out,” Tommy says, peeking from what he had assumed was the studio door. “Movie night is going to be amazing.”
Before Cassie and Jonas died, relationships within the team were like this: Katie and Cassie were best friends from day one, he and Teddy were already dating, and once Jonas and Tommy joined the team, Eli and Jonas actually had a sweet friendship going on – and of course Eli and Tommy started bickering in ways that, were their lives a comic book, would have probably made fandom to ship them up and down. But then, there was also Cassie and Teddy being the sweetest, most adorable friends, curling up together to watch romantic comedy movies and there was him and Kate going to coffees and talking about boys and watching the ridiculous movies that he liked.
Cassie and Jonas' death made the four of them much more closer. He has found Tommy curled with Teddy sometimes, dead asleep, or Tommy and Kate wrapped in a blanket watching TV. They've had to make do, and that means. It's not totally unusual for them to pile up on just one bed when it's a bad day: Tommy complains every day that they're the most touchy-feely roomates ever, but Billy knows that he's just complaining to make noise, because he's always the first one there.
But he and Kate do go out for coffee between classes and they do still talk about boys and he still does know Kate's type for men which, usually, is 'talk, dark, handsome and brooding', which could start with Johnny Depp and then of course go through Bucky Barnes and of course Eli Bradley.
Which is why he's sort of confused – and mostly amused, if he has to be honest – when he notices the very big, fat, undeniable crush that Kate has going on with her partner. It's not really all the 'Clint says' and 'Clint did' and 'Clint and me' that permate Katie's conversations, not really. That, he thinks, is mostly the awestruck part that Kate might deny having, while another part is simply the bragging rights of being awesome. But the part that painst this crush is Kate sometimes giggling at a text message, or sometimes the way she trails off after a particular idea. And, yeah, okay: after one of the 'so Clint did' conversations and she almost waxes poetry about Clint Barton's abs? Billy had to pinch himself really hard not to start humming Megara's song.
So Kate's going on a diatribe of Clint's latest sexcapade and can't he keep it in his pants, sheeze? You'd think that wearing pants was a disease or something and he's only half listening, busy with his laptop so he just answers without thinking.
“And you'd totally make out with him.”
There's silence there and Billy does manage to type his answer before he realizes that... crap. He said that out loud, didn't he.
He looks at Kate, who is staring at him, both eyebrows up in her hairline.
“I want to what?”
He offers her a smile. “No-one?”
“I'm just saying, Kate... it is kind of obvious you like him?” He tries to offer a calming smile. “There's nothing wrong with it! He is hot, and you spend a lot of time together and--”
“I do not like Clint Barton!” Kate almost yells that. It's lucky that Tommy isn't there to laugh at that. Katie doesn't really do well the whole 'panic' thing. “Have you met the guy? Yeah, hot, sure, his abs could probably rival against Captain America's but have you met him? And even if you hadn't – which you have – I'm sure I have mentioned once or twice or a million times about his sucky love life and why the hell would I want to date him?”
“Because you do?” He offers. Billy knows this. This was Kate, age sixteen, having a panic attack because she couldn't like Eli because liking a friend within the team ruined things. Back then, he and Cassie had managed to call Kate in her bullshit and point that the two of them were happily dating other teammates, and had even managed to calm Kate enough to accept going out with Eli. That hadn't turned out great for that date, not really, but at least he does know how to deal with this, sorta. Step number one, confront her.“Kate, I just said that you liked him, you know? Nothing about dating him.”
Kate glares at him and then she crosses her arms.
Step number two, raise hope. “He could like you back, you know?”
At that she snorts. “No, he doesn't.”
“You don't know that.”
“Yes, I do,” she actually looks a little hurt then. “It was almost the first thing he said to me when we first partnered up, how he wanted me there because he didn't want to sleep with me.”
“Um. Wow,” Billy blinks. “And you still said yes?”
“Because he then said other, more reasonable things,” she snorts. “Also, he totally wants to sleep with Spider-man.”
... well. That's a mental picture that he didn't expect. Not that he minds it, oh no. He might have to share it with Teddy. For... reasons.
But first things first... hurt friend with what she thinks is an unreasonable crush. And he's not that sure, really.
“Okay, so he said a stupid thing. That was, what? Almost a year ago,” Kate does the whole shrug-nod thing. Billy smiles at her. “Point is, Kate, remember Christmas? How he was giving you his bow?”
“So? He was being a jerk and he was running away without saying a thing.”
“Which was a shitty thing to do,” they weren't sharing a place yet when Clint had had to apologize to Kate but word on the Avenger street was that it had taken almost an hour before Kate had even deigned to open her door. “But he still wanted you to know about it, Katie. You. Not Captain America or Tony Stark or one of his girlfriends. You.”
Kate looks thoughtful about it for a moment but then she shakes her head. “Whatever. No. Besides, you know my stance about dating in the team when it's me. Not that he'd want to date me anyway. Or that I want to date him. Besides, he's thirteen years older than me, I can go without all the stupid comments about how he must be taking advantage of poor lil' me.”
“Uh-huh. And I hear denial is just a river.”
Kate glares at him. Billy gives her his best, most charming smile and goes back to chemistry equations.
Thing is, Billy is almost certain that if Clint didn't like Kate back then, he likes her now. Sure, he only sees Clint every now and then in Avengers mansion, or when he calls through the landline instead of Kate's phone – usually because he and Kate had a row and Kate's pigheadedness meant that she was ignoring him. But there have been times when he has dropped Kate back at their place because Kate got hurt and it's one of Kate's own rules, that if she's hurt she goes back to them, not because he can heal her – or not just that - but because it's where she feels safe.
And usually when that happens, Clint stays there until Billy heals Kate and he has seen his face, when either he or Teddy say that she's alright. He has seen his face because, usually, when Kate's been hurt, Tommy tends to wrap himself around her (let no-one tell you otherwise: Tommy is the cuddler twin of them) and Clint just looks at a sleeping Kate as if to make sure she was okay and then he leaves, but come morning he'll be there early on while they spoil Kate just to make her laugh.
The face Clint makes when Kate is up and awake and laughing is not the face of a man who doesn't like someone. It's not even him just imagining things: Teddy says the same thing, and pretty much all the Avengers know that the Hawkeyes come in two, no matter what.
But Kate insists that it's not and, that if it was, she'd say 'no', because she already almost ruined two friendships with that whole mixing romance and work and she loves her job too much to ruin it.
“So you're just going to platonically go and hang out with a dude you have the hots for. Wearing a new pair of jeans. On a friday night,” he deadpans.
Kate looks at him through the mirror. “Clint and I are friends.”
“The kind that want to take each other's pants, sure.”
“Shut up, it's not like that,” and then she pauses as she puts on her earrings. “... but if it is?”
“You'll jump his bones?”
“What? No!Billy, your mission, shall you get to accept it, is to message me at eleven pm SHARP. Or call me. Or something. I will then make it a personal emergency and flee and everything will be fine. Okay?”
“You've watched too many Bond movies, Katie.”
“When I was younger I had a crush on Sean Connery,” and before he can say a thing, Kate raises a finger. “Not a word, Kaplan, or I'm waking you up early so you can go out and run with me..”
He raises his hands innocently.
“Okay, sure. I'll text you and pretend a small non-threatening non-devastating tragedy happens. Fight with Teddy sounds fine?”
“Except that no-one will believe it,” Kate snorts, shakes her head. “I dunno. Blame Tommy or something.”
“Or something,” he shakes his head. “Fine, I'll think about a 'something'. Because I'm an amazing friend.”
“You're a dork,” Kate says. She leans to kiss his cheek. “Wanna see a movie when I come back?”
“If you come back,” he throws back, laughing when Kate picks up a cushion and throws it at him.
He did mean to call on time. Honest, he did!
But Teddy came back from college wearing scrubs and, well. Billy did always love a man in uniform and college hours mean that he and Teddy don't have that much time together because their schedules are insane and.
Okay, he could give a very detailed and long explanation about why he forgot about calling Kate at eleven like he promised. By the time he's lucid enough to catch sight of the clock, is almost half past.
“Crap, wait, I promised I'd call,” he tells Teddy, mournfully pulling him away from his earlobe.
Kate better appreciate the sacrifices he makes in the name of friendship, really.
11:35 – hello, katie. this is your concience. just here to give you your friendly reminder that you DON'T wanna make out passionately with your 33y/o partner.
Billy considers his moral job as a friend done. He drops his phone, ready to go back again to making out with his very hot and willing boyfriend and all the interesting ways that earrings feel underneath his tongue.
Teddy groans – not in the fun way – when his phone vibrates again, signaling a message. He sighs and picks up his phone... and cracks up laughing.
He's laughing too hard to say a thing, so Billy just thrusts his phone to Teddy, laughing against his shoulder.
11:43 – uh, yeah, about that... change of plans? don't wait up for me.
Teddy laughs with that as well.
So Kate kind of ruined the mood. But this one time he's okay with that.
He sent Teddy for some coffee and called in a favor from Spider-man (because you can be a superhero for longer and all, but when you lend someone your Lord of the Rings DVD extended version and they don't return it to you because they got attacked? You owe that person a favor) so Tommy is also gone.
As her friend, he can make sure Kate's walk of shame isn't a public affair.
“Kate Bishop, is that a hickey?”
Doesn't mean that he doesn't get to totally call her on it.
Kate actually blushes and her hand flies to cover her neck– he can count with one hand the number of times he has seen Kate act embarrassed about anything – and then she glares at him because there isn't, actually, anything there. Billy supposes that he could wipe the shit-eating grin he probably has going on... but nah.
“So... fun night?”
“Shut up, Kaplan,” Kate grumbles, stalking to the fridge.
“'But Billy! He doesn't like me! We're just friends! It's strictly platonic! It's just my hormones!'.”
“I still can kick your ass, you know.”
He grins at her. Kate glares – still blushing – but then she actually snorts and a small smile blooms and she laughs, shakes her head.
“Okay. So you might have been right.”
“Might, she says.”
“Okay, fine. You totally were right.” Kate rolls her eyes. “Happy?”
Billy looks at Kate, bright eyed and smiling and almost... chipper. He thinks of how Kate has been since she and Clint Barton started partnering, at the thing or whatever it's called that Kate has had for this past year and just how happy his friend is.
So he stands up and goes to hug her because he is a huge sap and he is quite proud of that fact. “Yeah. Couldn't be happier, Katie.”
Billy even lets it slide when Kate calls him a dork, because she's hugging back.