HAWKEYE DOES AMERICA
"She's Got A Lot Of Issues"
Anyone Dumb Enough To Take This On
Poor Life Choices
INT. BEDROOM - MORNING
Okay. This looks bad.
PAGE 2 PANEL 1
INT. SPACESHIP - BEYOND YOUR ARTIFICIAL PLANETARY CONSTRUCTIONS OF TIME
Sometimes you do something you know you shouldn't do, you know? The klaxons are blaring, the whole ship's on red alert, the person standing in front of you is wearing caution tape as some kind of avant-garde mummy-modern fashion-statement, and you plunge into the fray anyway. Because that's who you are. That's what you do. If you don't have your daring, your dash, your balls, what the futz do you have?
PAGE 2 PANEL 2
EXT. HIGHWAY - DAY
And sometimes you only see trouble in your rearview mirror. Sometimes you're cruising down the highway at seventy miles an hour, good tunes on the radio, no place in particular to be, have yet to lose your fifth replacement pair of sunglasses, and then you glance off to the side and the mirror catches your eye and BAM. Right in the knocker. Should've seen it coming, but you didn't, sucker.
This is the second kind of story. This is what you do the morning after you accidentally sleep with your best friend. Oh yeah. This is one of those stories.
INT. BEDROOM - MORNING
There's a whole list of things here that Kate's never going to let herself think about again, but before she starts never thinking about them, she gives herself a minute. Just a minute. There's a lot you can process in the span of a minute, especially when you test in the low-genius range on spatial reasoning and moonlight as a part-time superhero, and Kate gives herself the luxury of every one of those sixty seconds.
Here's the first second: Kate opens her eyes.
Here's the next second: Kate looks at America.
It's safe to look at America because America's still asleep. Her hair is all tangled up with Kate's hair, and the sprawl is obscene enough that there should probably be a censor bar over it. America hair. Kate hair. America hair again. Dog hair. More Kate hair. Okay.
Here's the fifth and sixth and seventh seconds: Kate gets sidetracked by America's eyelashes. They're such good eyelashes. People don't get enough credit for having good eyelashes — America isn't even wearing mascara, and her eyelashes are still long enough that Kate could probably bite them. Which would be weird. It's a weird thing to think. Kate may secretly be a weirdo who only appears functional because she usually keeps Clint Barton around so nobody can judge her, but at least she's aware that she shouldn't be thinking about biting America's eyelashes.
She loses a couple more seconds studying America's eyebrows. If her eyelashes are great, her eyebrows are killer. The arch is fantastic; it expresses, at all times, the exact correct degree of disdainful amusement backed by a self-assured guarantee that nobody here is fucking around. America isn't fucking around. America isn't fucking around because America doesn't fuck around, except when she fucks around with Kate.
Here's the fifteenth second: Kate becomes exquisitely and shamefully aware, to a degree experienced by no other human being since Adam and Eve looked at each other and realized they both really needed to put on some pants, that she is naked.
Here's the sixteenth second: Kate realizes (this is an obvious one for readers at home) that America is also naked.
Here's an approximation of the seventeenth second:
Here's the nineteenth second: Kate inhales. America smells like Korean barbecue and cheap citrus shampoo and the faint, ozone trickle of power. And sex. Because Kate did sex with her.
Was that a minute? It definitely felt like a minute, right?
EXT. APARTMENT BUILDING IN BED-STUY - DAY
"Clint!" Kate hollers. "I know you're up there!"
Clint sticks his head out; he has to hold the window up with one hand, because it slides shut of its own accord unless you prop it open. Sometime in the past three days, he acquired a black eye.
"Kate?" he says. "What are you… why am I being yelled at?"
"I don't have a lot of time," Kate says.
"Are there ninjas?"
"Mafia?" Clint guesses. "Skrulls? Someone finally catch you for tax fraud?"
"Stealing your brand doesn't mean I also stole your weird, carnie traditions about tax evasion."
"Hey! I pay taxes. Tony makes me."
Someone on the second floor opens a window. "Shut up!"
HAWKEYES (IN UNISON)
"You shut up!"
"So what's the deal, Katie?"
"I need the dog," Kate says.
"What dog? My dog?"
"Yes, your dog. I'm leaving. And I need the dog. Okay?"
"Just for a while," Kate says.
"But nobody's chasing you?"
"Nobody's chasing me yet," Kate corrects. "Probably nobody will chase me, but I'm not taking any chances, which means I need the dog and then I need to leave, so can I have the dog already?"
Clint goes to scratch his hair, forgets he's supposed to be holding the window open, and swears when the bottom sash drops on his head. "Gotta fix that," he says. "Also, remember that time you told me that the running away thing I do is everything about me that sucks?"
"Clint, I'm not screwing around. This isn't me not manning up or — womanning up, whatever — this is like if Bobbi showed up on the day after Christmas with some papers for you to sign and three months later you find out you no longer own the trademark to yourself because you see a news story about how she made three million dollars selling Hawkeye action figures. This is accidentally-hitting-on-Black-Widow levels of bad. We can talk about my casual hypocrisy when I'm not trying to get out of town, okay?"
"Aww, man," Clint says, because while he might occasionally be a dumbass, he isn't actually dumb. "Am I going to get punched by Ms. America?"
"We said we'd never talk about that," Kate grits out.
"If it's going to get me punched, I think we probably should talk about it."
"The longer I stand here, the more likely you are to get punched."
"Yeah, okay," Clint says. "But he's gotta be back by Labor Day. We're having a thing at the place."
"Sure," Clint says. "Lucky? Wanna go for a trip?"
"Yeah, buddy, I'll miss you too. Listen, if Chavez shows up and starts gunning for Hawkeye, you're under no obligation to get involved."
"I can hear you!" Kate shouts.
"I know!" Clint shouts back.
Aimee, still hanging out of her second-floor window, yells: "Dipshits, we can all hear you!"
EXT. HIGHWAY - DAY
New York to California is two-thousand, nine-hundred, and sixty-two miles. She has a bow in the backseat and a dog riding shotgun.
It's a hundred and six miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses.
And that's how you run away from your problems like an adult.
INT. CAR - DAY
"It's not really running away," Kate confides in Lucky. He looks over at her when she starts talking, but then a family in a minivan passes them going ninety, and he resumes his favorite cartime activity of hanging his head out the window and panting.
"It's just… giving us a break from each other?" she tries. Nah, that one's the wrong size. "Putting everything in perspective?" Nope. "I've had eight shrinks in the past seventeen years, I should know this by now."
Lucky doesn't judge. Lucky's cool like that.
"I had a plan," Kate says. "We were gonna go dancing and bitch about the Avengers and save the world together. Maybe we'd go on a vacation. A va-kate-tion. She'd show me other dimensions, I'd take her to the Bellagio. And after we looked around, we'd go stay in a hostel, because that's how you roll when you're a rich kid who grew up to be a poor adult." She isn't, really, not exactly, poor, because she has her income as a P.I. and whatever supplemental payouts the Avengers shuffle her way, but compared to her former standard of living, she is inarguably a bum. Billy keeps pestering her to go to college. One of these days she's going to get around to accidentally shooting him in the face.
"But platonic vacations," she adds, just in case Lucky starts getting the wrong idea. "You know. Two friends, on the beach, wearing sexy swimsuits. I look like Audrey Hepburn. America notices, but she doesn't notice, because it's a platonic vacation. She brings her girlfriend — " Kate can never quite think the name Lisa without turning it into the kind of snarl a pissy cat makes when you feed it dinner an hour later than usual. "America brings her girlfriend, I bring my… whatever." Fling of the moment? Ex? Clint Barton? Dog? "I bring my dog," Kate says, and then she makes a face at how that sounds. Dog! Kate Bishop and her dog! Walking the red carpet! Tonight they're modeling Versace and spinsterhood!
"What the futz was I thinking?"
PANT PANT PANT
But there was a plan, and even if the plan involved high-end fashion and crushing loneliness, at least it was a plan. In the more generous versions of the plan, she could even look at America and Lisa together and be happy for them, because if America was happy, that was important, right? That was more important than Kate being petty.
And, you know, up until last year she'd even bought her own line of futz — maybe she did feel feelings for America, but she didn't want a relationship, she was young, she was enjoying the revolving line of men with eight-packs who fell over themselves to win her favor with cunnilingus. Yes. This would be fine. This was the plan when it was at its most functional: Kate could L-WORD America, and America could FRIENDSHIP Kate without being any the wiser, and someday they would go out together in a blaze of glory.
Kate got older.
America and Lisa broke up.
Kate never worked up the nerve to ask why.
She found her nerve at the bottom of a bottle of wine.
She had to flee the state.
Kate says, "What the futz does 'querida' mean?"
INT. GAS STATION - EVENING
"What do you mean, you don't have any phone chargers?"
The kid behind the counter (she's like nineteen, Kate is old) shrugs. "Sorry, lady."
"You're a gas station in twenty-first century… uh, United States, and you don't have any phone chargers?"
"Nope." She has purple streaks in her hair. At any other time, Kate would consider this a bonding opportunity. Maybe it is. Maybe it's a sign.
"Look…" She squints at the kid's nametag. "Lisa — are you kidding me? Your name is Lisa?"
"What? Something wrong with that?"
"No, sorry. Futz." Okay, the kid's nametag is pinned to a Ms. Marvel shirt. Kate can work with that. "I've met Ms. Marvel, you know."
The kid either caught her New York license plates or moonlights as the dictionary's illustration for 'gullible.' "What, really? You've met Ms. Marvel?"
"Yeah, you could say we're in the same line of work." She leans against the counter, shrugs a shoulder, remembers that Lucky is still outside, and ruins her casual nonchalance when she twists around so fast that she trips over her own feet. Lucky's fine. He's in the car watching a squirrel.
Ugh. This day can bite me.
"What's she like?" the kid asks. "Is she really strong? She always seems so funny on YouTube, is she that funny in real life?"
"Yeah, she's great," Kate says. "Listen — "
"What about the Young Avengers? The original Young Avengers — you're from New York, right? You've gotta be old enough to remember them. With Speed."
"Yes you remember?"
"Sure. Look, Lisa, about that charger — "
"Have you ever met Speed? God, he was my favorite when I was a kid."
"Yeah. Speed. What a guy." There's no way out of this. Kate is trapped. This is her penance for being a crappy sister, a crappy friend, and the emotional equivalent of a clogged toilet. Once upon a time she used to think she was better than Clint Barton. What happened to those halcyon days called YOUR EARLY TWENTIES?
"And that other one — what was his name? You know, with the Captain America thing?"
"Yeah! Patriot! Whatever happened to that guy?"
"He lives in Seattle now. Listen, Lisa — all I need is to use an iPhone charger for, like, thirty minutes tops. Do you have a charger?"
"Sure, mine's in my purse."
"Fantastic. Any chance I can borrow it?"
"Yeah, no problem."
"Great. Thank you. My dog and I appreciate this."
"I mean," Lisa adds, "you can definitely borrow it, but I don't think it'll help. I have a Samsung Galaxy 15."
EXT. GAS STATION - EVENING
(Give me a "NOW LEAVING ELMORE" sign in the background. Do whatever you want with the gas station, but I'd like at least eight panels on this page — tight shots of the wind, her hands, the hood of the car. Really show how much of a struggle she's having.)
Kate spends seven minutes unfolding her brand new road map and flattening it against the hood of the car. She spends another three minutes tracing the highway from New York through Chicago and Tulsa and Albuquerque. She spends a further twelve minutes attempting to fold the map back up. Lucky watches the entire process with his head tilted and his ears perked. None of this makes her feel like less of an idiot.
PAGE 9 PANEL 1
INT. CAR - NIGHT
"Oh, crap. I think I left my sunglasses at the gas station."
PAGE 9 PANEL 2
EXT. MOTEL - NIGHT
She takes a room at the cheapest hotel she can find, because it's not like she can pull up Trip Advisor on her phone.
PAGE 9 PANEL 3
INT. MOTEL - NIGHT
There's a sign at the front desk that says "NO PETS NO SMOKING," but she sneaks Lucky inside anyway, gives him a bowl of water and a bowl of kibble, and falls into bed without taking off her boots. Lucky hops up beside her and stretches out against her body. After a minute, he drops his head onto his paws and sighs. "Yeah," Kate says. "Yeah, me too."
PAGE 10 PANEL 1
INT. COFFEESHOP - MORNING
"You're up with the early crowd."
"Yeah, well." Kate shrugs. "Couldn't sleep. Thanks for letting me bring my dog in."
"Aw, he's a sweetie. And I know the owner. She's not gonna have a problem with him. She really likes dogs." The barista was wearing a Spelman College shirt under her apron; probably home for summer break. She was getting a tip. A good tip. Not a rich-Kate tip, but definitely a working-Kate-on-a-splurge tip. "What can I get for you?"
"Oh shoot, I'm sorry — quiet, boy, come on — "
"If I wasn't awake before, that sure did the trick," says the guy behind Kate. Kate, possessed of finely-honed reflexes, drops her keys. And her wallet. And the dog leash. Guy Behind Her bends over to help her. Lucky beats him to the leash. Kate bumps her head on the counter. And now her dog is walking himself in front of a very friendly, very beautiful policeman.
"Hi," Kate says. "I mean thanks. I mean…"
"No problem," Officer Behind Her (title of her porno, zing!) says, and he drops her keys into her hand. "Your buddy seems like he's got the leash under control." (Lucky whines in agreement.) "Also, uh, you might want — " The keys are followed by a card that must have skidded out of her wallet, a pink card, a very pink card that says TOYS IN BABELAND — BUY TEN GET ONE FREE! with a cartoon picture of a penis and Kate's name handwritten on the bottom line.
"That," Kate says, "that is not mine."
"You aren't Kate Bishop?"
"No, I'm — I'm her, it's just — aw, futz. Clint."
"No, Clint probably thought that was funny. Sorry. I'm making less sense, not more. Yeah, I'll just…" She gingerly lifts her discount card out of Officer Tallish-And-Dark's grip. "Large Americano."
Oh god. "Not you!" she almost shouts. "Coffee. I'll have a large Americano. And a bowl of water for the dog."
The barista winks. "Sure thing."
Kate does, in fact, leave a sizeable tip, but only after she tries to pay with her Toys in Babeland card.
PAGE 10 PANEL 2
EXT. COFFEESHOP - MORNING
"So," the officer says. "Clint." He takes a sip of his own coffee (sweet, sweet, so sweet she's starting to rot just thinking about it — who ruins coffee with whipped cream?). "Is that your boyfriend?"
"Ha! No," Kate says. "No, definitely not. He's my… boss? Ex-boss, maybe. Mentor. Partner, I guess."
"But not your boyfriend?"
Kate snorts. "He wishes he could score someone like me. Anyway, he's old. And kind of emotionally constipated."
Officer Babeland, who has the bluest eyes and the nicest ass Kate has ever seen, sighs. "Yeah," he says. "I've got one of those myself."
INT. CAR - DAY
"It was so easy when we first met," Kate says. "Remember that? Remember when we had to run around in outer space? And it was hard, and it sucked, and people got hurt, but it was also fun and crazy and exciting."
PANT PANT PANT
"You may have a point," Kate concedes. "But I don't think it's just nostalgia. Everything was brighter then. Also, my clothes were amazing. Look at what I wear now." (She's still in the sweatpants she slept in.) "Does this outfit look like it was chosen by someone in touch with current trends?" (Lucky thumps his tail.) "Listen, no offense, but your opinion doesn't count. I've seen you lick your butt." (Lucky licks the gear shift.)
"Remember the last time we went to California?" Kate asks. "We stayed on the beach and did yoga every day. And fought Madame Masque — yowza. I've never told anyone this, but when she walked up to me at the hotel that day, I almost sexually combusted. Why does she bother with a mask?"
"And we found out about Dad," Kate adds, "and we went home. It was the right decision. It felt like the right decision. This… just feels like running."
"Don't let me say 'yowza' again," she concludes. "Aw, futz. I forgot the charger."
INT. DRUGSTORE - DAY
She finds a charger. It was absolutely definitely not made in the U.S.
"Twelve twenty-three," says the cashier.
Kate holds out her debit card.
"Sorry," says the cashier, who is definitely not getting a tip, because you don't tip cashiers and also because he's a terrible human person. "System's down. Cash only."
"What is this, 1990?"
"I was born in 2004," the cashier says. "Cash. Only."
Kate counts the money in her wallet. She looks at her five-dollar sunglasses. She looks at her two-dollar sleep mask. She looks at her ten-dollar phone charger. She counts the money in her wallet again. Her twelve dollars do not mystically multiply.
The last time I tried to disappear, she texted me every twenty minutes until she knew I was safe.
"You know what," she says, "I can live without a phone."
EXT. DOG PARK - DAY
Once they're out of Illinois, they pull over at a dog park because Lucky probably has to pee and because Kate probably needs to see a lot of dogs before she collapses inward under her own bullcrap.
Lucky goes nuts. Sometimes he's shy around new people, especially loud guys, but he loves other dogs, loves meeting them, loves playing with them, loves chasing them, loves gnawing on their ears. Today he seems particularly enamored with what looks like a beagle-retriever mix who has three legs and a bright yellow ball. Kate figures the tall woman standing a couple of feet away while she eats some kind of pastry is the dog's owner; after watching long enough to make sure Lucky is well-behaved, she ambles over to Kate's bench.
"Hey," she says. She looks about forty-five, tawny hair, tawny skin, a pair of really slick Ray-Bans. "Mind if I sit?"
"Go ahead," Kate says.
"Thanks." The lady takes a big bite out of her… cake? Brownie? "You look a little out of place. I know most of the folks around here, but I haven't seen you before."
"I'm on a road trip," Kate says. "Kind of. I guess."
"Ah," the lady says. "Just you and your dog?"
"He's not even my dog. Not really. My friend let me borrow him because… just because."
"He sure acts like your dog." Lucky proves her point by trotting over and leaning against Kate's leg until she gives him a reassuring pat. He goes bounding back to the beagle mix.
"Maybe he's a little bit my dog," Kate says.
"You know, the first time I really knew my sister had forgiven me for all the crap I put her through was when she left her dog with me when she had to leave town," the lady says. "She used to board him — he was a Great Dane, big enough to saddle and ride — but my girlfriend had just dumped me, so my sister dropped her big, slobbery dog on my front step to cheer me up. He was a little bit my dog after that, too."
"And then you had to get one of your own?"
The lady laughs. "No, kid — the girlfriend decided to undump me, and she came with a dog herself. We've been married twelve years now."
"How did you — " Kate blurts, and then she cuts herself off.
"Go ahead and ask. You look like you're about to pop."
"There's a girl," Kate says.
"There's always a girl."
"Not like this girl," Kate says.
"Oh, kiddo," the lady says. "You've got it bad."
"That is the problem. That is exactly the problem. I screwed up. We were friends, and then stuff, and now we're not friends because I can't even look at her face. I miss her. I'm sorry."
"You try telling her that?"
"How?" Kate says. "I have to figure out how to stop wanting her first. I didn't even know… I didn't know I liked women until I met her. She's exciting and dangerous and she changed my life."
"And you're sure she doesn't want you, too?"
"This conversation is way too serious."
"Yes," Kate says, "I'm sure." She doesn't mention the years of opportunity, the careful way America would direct Kate's hands to G-rated zones when they'd been drinking, the long-term girlfriend, the easy platonic assumption and the teasing that went along with it. She definitely doesn't mention the time America, grinning, had said, "You and me? We'd be a mess. You're not my type, princess." Kate tries to wear that casual swagger herself, but sometimes the sharp edges and neuroticism come slamming through; she wants things in a way so exquisitely precise there's no room for margin of error. She's Hawkeye. Her passion is flash on the surface and messy, exacting, exhaustive longing underneath. Maybe that's why she's better off with lovers but no love — you'd have to have an endless well of patience to stay faithful to someone who loves with that kind of hard ardor.
"Then screw your courage to the sticking place, kiddo," the lady says. "You've got a long road ahead of you."
"Wow. Thanks. That's exactly what I want to hear."
"Nothin' but the truth, smartass." She breaks her cake-brownie in half and hands Kate one of the pieces. "Here. You need it."
It's dense and sticky, not really a cake or a brownie. "S'good. What is it?"
"Gooey butter," the lady says. "Local specialty. Just don't let your dog eat it. I made that mistake one time. Carpet hasn't been the same since."
INT. MOTEL - NIGHT
Tonight's motel is somewhere between 'cheap' and 'charmingly tacky' in a way that New York Kate wouldn't appreciate but California Kate does. The bedding is patterned with cowboy hats. Lucky seems particularly taken with the way every fixture in the bathroom incorporates a horse.
"Sixty dollars a night," Kate says. "One of us better enjoy it. Although I have always loved vintage."
She showers, swears when Lucky climbs in after her, dries Lucky, dries herself, dries Lucky again, puts her sweatpants back on, and crawls into bed. The TV is about twelve inches wide, but at least the motel has cable. In keeping with the theme of tacky, she settles on an old sci-fi movie that Billy loves and has made her watch at least three times.
"We need you."
SPACE HARRISON FORD
SPACE HARRISON FORD
"What about you need?"
"I need? I don't know what you're talking about."
SPACE HARRISON FORD
"You probably don't."
"And what precisely am I supposed to know?"
She drifts off to a lullaby of bickering. When she wakes up in the morning, she's got it all figured out.
INT. CAR - DAY
"I don't actually want her," Kate tells Lucky.
He looks skeptical. "I can see why you'd think that," she says, "but I don't. I've tried mysterious-and-alien before, and it never pans out. Maybe she made me sexually miserable, but now it's out of my system. We just need a few weeks to get over the awkward."
It's true enough in a world where one of your best friends can manifest wishes as reality. America's dashing and powerful and angry in the best and most righteous kind of way, and it's easy to mistake the appeal of confidence for genuine attraction; Kate knows, because Kate's been riding that wave most of her life. (California Kate uses surfing metaphors. New York Kate rolls her eyes.) And America saved Kate's bacon a couple of times, and she's a good friend. No wonder Kate's feelings got all futzed up.
She doesn't really even know America, not unless you count knowing her favorite foods and what kind of music she likes and why she looks up to her moms and what makes her angry and all the ways she takes care of the people she loves and how she laughs and what makes her laugh and how she gets way too into Dog Cops and why she takes on too much responsibility and the hidden things that make her blush. (America! Blushing! It's happened three times now. Kate keeps count.) Which isn't very much at all, she would need a lifetime to learn everything there is to know about America —
But it's not like I'm in L-WORD with her or anything.
"Right?" says Kate.
"Arf," says Lucky.
EXT. GAS STATION - DAY
When she stops for gas, she drops her five-dollar sunglasses… and then backs over them.
"If this is a metaphor," Kate says to Lucky, "I deserve better."
EXT. BREWERY - DAY
They take a break to visit the American International Rattlesnake Museum and end up at a microbrewery instead. There's outdoor seating. It's nice, even if the other customers are all glued to the TV over the covered bar. Kate waffles between the Blackberry Hefeweizen ("It's fruity. It's tart. It's purple!") and the Roamer Red Ale ("Welcome, wanderer! You have found the red door, a sign of welcoming for the nomad. Relax and have a pint...") before deciding on the latter. Lucky winds his leash around the barstool a couple of times before collapsing at her feet in a contented heap.
"One Roamer Red," the bartender says. "Get you anything else?"
"Not right now," Kate says. "Thanks… Lisa?" Under her breath: "Seriously?"
"Sure thing," says Lisa the bartender. "Just give a shout when you're ready to order."
Kate takes a sip of her ale and turns to the guy on her left. "So," she says, "what's up?"
He doesn't answer. The guy on her right does. "Bottom of the eighth and Colorado's down two, that's what's up."
"Oh," says Kate. "Baseball." That's why everyone is glued to the TV. Kate has only incidental knowledge of team sports — mostly whatever she gleaned as a child from a parade of luxury box seats — but America likes baseball, if not as much as she likes bare-knuckle brawling. Her common complaint:
"Why don't they televise that? This dimension, juro por Dios."
"I doubt ESPN is going to start showing bar fights."
"Yeah, princess, but you'd love it if they did."
And Kate couldn't ever argue with that.
She's about halfway to the bottom of another Roamer Red when her onion rings arrive at the same time that something in baseball-land makes everyone else at the bar groan. The guy on her left says something extremely, embarrassingly rude about Colorado's pitcher and his orientation.
Insert Hawkeye. "Excuse me?" she snaps. "You wanna repeat that, bro?"
Leftie looks her up, looks her down, and says, "You heard what I said."
"And now I'm waiting for your retraction," Kate says. She's on her feet without the conscious memory of standing up, and her weight is balanced just in case she needs to kick his face off. Lucky growls. The guy looks like he doesn't know what the futz he got himself into.
"OKAY," Lisa the bartender says loudly. "Everyone calm down. Sir, I'm going to ask you to settle your tab and leave."
"But — "
"That wasn't a question." Whoa. Lisa the bartender has moxie. "Ma'am, if you don't sit down, I'm going to have to ask the same of you."
Leftie throws a twenty on the counter and bolts. Kate watches his back until he vanishes and then sinks back into her seat.
"He was a jerk," she says.
"Yeah," Lisa the bartender says.
"People should be allowed to marry anyone they want," Kate adds.
"Uh-huh," says Lisa.
"There's a woman I would marry if I could."
"That's nice," says Lisa, "but I really don't care." She wanders off to serve nachos to someone way down at the other end. So much for the sympathetic ear of the bartender. Kate scowls and feeds Lucky an onion ring.
"There is," she tells him, "a vanishingly small possibility that I have lost count of beers."
EXT. METEOR CRATER - EARLY EVENING
They spend long enough casing downtown Albuquerque for Kate to feel okay operating a car and then drive for five hours straight until her butt goes numb and Lucky starts nosing at the door. On a whim, she peels off the highway at an exit that advertises a slightly more interesting variety of tourist trap. Ten minutes later, they're standing on the rim of the meteor crater called Meteor Crater.
Kate tries to imagine the impact, tries to imagine the meteor streaking through dimensions, tries to imagine the force with which it hit the planet to leave a wound this wide. She may have overestimated her ability to stop L-WORDing America.
Lucky looks unimpressed by the crater. Typical New Yorker.
EXT. MOTEL - NIGHT
Tonight's abode is the Moonrock Motel. She's halfway convinced she's going to be beamed out of the shower by aliens intent on kidnapping humans for nefarious experiments — although as long as the aliens aren't in the middle of a Gram Parsons phase, maybe that wouldn't be so bad. She could see the universe. Learn a new language. Teach Lucky how to chase his tail in zero-gee.
In another story, this would be the part where she picks up her phone and calls for a lifeline. Billy. Cassie. Anyone. But this is a Hawkeye story, and Hawkeye hates asking for help almost as much as she hates having help forced on her. When she can't sleep, she reaches for her bow and goes out into the desert with a quiver of arrows at her hip. She shoots at rocks and shadows and convinces Lucky to retrieve her arrows maybe three times out of every seven, because apparently he picked up on Clint's work ethic. When she goes back to her room, her muscles are sore — not with pleasant tiredness but with the sharper twinge that means she's stiff and tired and out-of-practice.
She stops at the vending machine and buys as many candy bars as her pockets can hold, and then she and Lucky retire to bed and to late-night TV. Kate flips through the channels about forty times before settling on the old black-and-white Addams Family. She dressed up as Wednesday Addams for four Halloweens in a row until the costume finally failed to elicit a reaction from her father, which was about when Kate gave up on the concept of Halloween altogether (until she turned nineteen and discovered Adult Halloween, which was much better than Kid Halloween, if just as likely to end in violent illness as a result of overindulgence).
She still has so many questions, though. Why does Gomez do yoga? How does Morticia slip into those dresses? Why is Thing sometimes a right hand and sometimes a left hand? Also, why doesn't America feel the same way about Kate that Kate feels about America?
"I live in constant fear that some woman will steal you away from me."
"Banish the fear, mi querida. You are the only cactus in the garden of my life!"
"...Huh," says Kate. Maybe the dots in the pointillist picture of her life form a picture after all.
INT. CAR - DAY
And maybe not.
"Maybe that's the problem," Kate says. "I was going to help people. Solve their problems. Roam the country looking for the troubled and downtrodden. Instead we're mostly dealing with my problem and the way we're dealing with it is mostly by not solving it." Lucky wags his tail. "Exactly."
Maybe the solution is to quit running. Maybe the solution is to admit what she wants. Maybe the solution is letting herself imagine a future where she and her best friend live in a Brooklyn walk-up and sleep in the same bed and call each other names like 'sweetheart' and 'querida,' where they save the world on alternate Tuesdays and argue about pizza and steal clothes from each other until everyone around them gets used to seeing America in purple and Kate in red, white, and blue. Maybe the solution is buying a phone charger and calling America. Maybe the solution is communication.
And maybe Kate can't do this anymore. Maybe she has to stop torturing herself with castles in the air. Maybe she needs to stop futzing up. Maybe she needs to just stop.
EXT. SANTA MONICA PIER - EVENING
She can tell when she hits California. Everything smells dryer and more expensive. Somewhere, somebody is doing yoga — maybe Gomez Addams. Lucky stops eating dog food and starts eating only fusion cuisine.
They roll into Santa Monica just as the sun is setting. Kate drives until she runs out of asphalt; then she parks, and she and Lucky travel the final distance by foot. They went into the desert, but they came out of the desert again, and now here they are, ready to either take up the nomadic beach-detective life or turn around and run back to New York. The ferris wheel on the pier is lit in bright neons, and the ocean rolls out into forever, and it's all very literal — Kate doesn't feel like she's figured out anything at all. She hasn't changed, she isn't getting over anything, she doesn't know what to do today any more than she knew what to do yesterday or the day before that. Despite the two-thousand miles behind her, she's still empty and sad and angry at herself for being such a child. When does it get easier? When does she grow up enough to be gracious, to grieve generously instead of meanly? When does she stop losing her sunglasses?
"What now? What do we do next?"
Lucky tries to eat a piece of driftwood.
"Yeah," Kate says. "Time for pancakes."
INT. DINER - NIGHT
The diner's empty except for a cook, a waiter, and one old guy perusing the jukebox. None of them seem to have a problem with Lucky; the waiter, who can't be older than Kate but looks like he's already experienced his lifetime allotment of suffering, even goes to the effort of going down on one knee despite a bad limp.
"Does he bite?"
"Not unless you're wearing a tracksuit," Kate says. "He's a good boy. Right, Lucky?" Lucky's tail drifts into a wag, and he politely sniffs the waiter's hand when offered the opportunity. Over at the jukebox, Old Guy starts up some doo-wop.
"Pick whichever seat you want," the waiter says. It takes him almost a full minute to climb to his feet again, but Kate doesn't offer help other than putting her hand on the back of a chair so it doesn't go flying when he braces himself against it. "Know what you want?"
"Coffee and a shortstack."
"Decaf? — Never mind, your face answered that question for you. Be out in a few."
"Thanks," Kate says. She takes a booth by the window. Lucky has a fun interlude exploring the underside of the table, which is probably an exact duplicate of every other table in every other diner in the country. Kate spends of couple of minutes watching her reflection in the window; her nose has developed a permanent list from being broken so many times, which is the sad but expected result of having no superpowers other than excellence. Meanwhile, the waiter brings over her first cup of coffee, Lucky sits up straight, and America walks through the door.
"Hey, princess, you left these at a gas station in Ohio," she says, and then she tosses Kate's missing sunglasses on the table.
"What?" Kate says. For the first time it occurs to her to question the wisdom of running away from someone with the power to travel anywhere anytime. Stupid. Boy has she bartoned this one. "How did you…?"
"Find you? You're a New York girl. You always run away to California." America swings into the booth opposite Kate; it's suddenly very crowded down there between Kate's feet and America's feet and Clint's dog. "Any interest in telling me why?" At Kate's silence, America says, "Didn't think so."
"Don't try to be nice to me," Kate says, maybe a little more sharply than the situation really deserves.
"I can be nice to you — "
"Maybe I don't want you to be nice to me," says Kate.
She's right about one thing: America is kind, but she's almost never nice, and the corner of her mouth is tugging up into that familiar sneer before she stifles the impulse towards anger and sits back in her seat. "Look," she says. "Princess — Kate. A little experimenting doesn't have to change anything." Crooked grin as she offers an exit: "We all knew you were head-over-heels for me."
And right there, it occurs to Kate that sometimes you don't have to save the world. Sometimes you just have to save your own world, in whatever way you can.
"I can't stop talking about you," she says. "There are like six or seven strangers out there now who have most of your life story and eight or nine who know every detail about our relationship. I told a bartender in New Mexico that I want to marry you. So yes, it does have to change things. You can joke about it if you want, but it's true — I really am head-over-heels. And I know that I'm not your type, and that is… completely okay, but I wanted you to know that you're mine." She takes a deep breath and then adds, a little wryly, "Also, you calling me 'princess' all the time doesn't help."
Lucky puts his head on her knee, and she combs her fingers through the short hair on his head. Dogs have lumpy skulls; Kate didn't know that before becoming a superhero, but you learn all kinds of things as a reserve Avenger.
"Oh no," America says. "No, hey. Querida, look at me. Look at me, Kate."
Kate looks at her.
"Didn't you ever wonder why I stick around here?" America asks.
"You wanted to be a hero — "
"I can try to live up to my moms in any dimension," America says. "This dimension, though — it's a hot mess, but it's home. Know why, princess?"
Kate shakes her head.
"I've been to a thousand different worlds, and it's you," America says. "It's always been you."
INT. BEDROOM - NIGHT
And then Hawkeye did America… again.