She gets the text at two pm on a Tuesday.
It's summertime and Kate is on her bed, bare legs tangled up in purple jersey sheets, laptop balanced on her hipbones. It's the kind of day meant for fresh-made sweet tea, ice cubes clinking up against the sides of the glass, or wearing improbably big and floppy hats - and if Kate were anyone else, she might be doing those things, instead of what she really is doing, which is rewatching last year's Dog Cops finale, eating pita chips, and waiting for a pizza delivery. Magherita. Extra-large. It's gonna be awesome.
The thing about being Hawkeye is, it's not exactly a full-time job. Even villains wilt in the summer heat, and she's got a long stretch of lazy days behind her. It's just, she's starting to feel antsy, like maybe things are about to get all shook up again. It's hard to care when the temperature's topping ninety degrees, though, and all she wants to do is be a lazy kid for a few more days.
When her phone chimes, it takes her a minute to lick the grease and salt from her fingertips and unlock her home screen. Then she reads the text and sits up so fast that her laptop slips off her lap and onto the floor with a dull, plasticky thump. The pita chips tumble after.
KIDNAPPED NINJAS WARWICK HOTEL BRING BACKUP BATTERY DYING CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS SHIT
"Shit, Clint. Really?" This couldn't have happened a few days later? She's basically on summer vacation, here.
Kate is appalled on so many levels. Because first of all - ninjas? In New York? Aren't they way overheated in all that black? Secondly, Clint is a idiot and she has no idea how he managed to survive so long without her. Lots of dumb luck and Natasha's pity, probably.
Thirdly, and most importantly - backup? Seriously? These guys are so incompetent they left a cell phone on their kidnappee. Like she needs any help.
She rolls to her knees beside the bed and slides the bow case and quiver from beneath it. It's her spare, kept for home defense and scaring the shit out of anyone she brings home who's dumb enough to look under her bed. The bow itself is collapsible, black and deceptively thin, the perfect size to carry in her purse. She tucks the quiver in alongside the bow, and goes to waver in front of her closet, stumped.
It's not that she's particularly worried about how she's going to look, saving Clint's sorry ass, because she always looks fucking awesome. It's just that the Warwick is one of the fancier hotels in the city, and they have great security (just don't ask how she knows that.) There's no way they're going to let her schlep through the lobby in cut-off denim shorts and a crop top.
A purple sundress and sandals, then. Close-toed. Bike shorts underneath. A big, floppy hat, because it's that time of year. If any of the hotel staff give her the stinkeye, well, New York City in August is a literal hellhole, and she's willing to bet that not even Pepper Potts wears hose on days like today.
It's only in the cab, glaring the driver into averting his eyes while she struggles to apply her lipstick without smearing it all over her face, that Kate realizes two things. One, she is never getting that pizza, and two, she has absolutely no way of knowing which floor, let alone room, Clint is in.
Maybe she does need an extra helping hand. Or a helping paw. Nose. Whatever. She needs help, and she knows just the guy for the job.
Lucky is curled up beneath Clint's kitchen table, radiating misery, though his tail thumps twice against the ground when she lets herself into the apartment. He's panting and making eyes at the doggie bowl full of water sitting along one wall, like maybe if he just hopes hard enough it'll magically appear next to his face.
"You know, if there is ever gonna be a dog who develops telekinesis, it'll definitely be you, buddy. But today is not that day."
Kate crosses over and kneels down next to him, gathering one velvety ear in her palm and brushing down a sad puppy eyebrow with her thumb. Lucky's tail wags again as he turns his head into her lap, drooling a little on the hem of her dress.
"You know what, though? I totally need your help anyway. Your roommate's been kidnapped by ninjas, and you gotta help me find him."
Lucky sighs. Kate sighs, too.
"I know, right?"
She tips the cabbie an extra five bucks for letting Lucky sit in the passenger seat with his head out the window as they drive.
When they exit the cab, she straightens the skirt on her dress and adjusts Lucky's lead while he does hot-feet on the asphalt, whining. She pats his head, says, "We're going in, boy. Now remember, act like you own the place."
The lobby is huge, all marble floors and thick square pillars. A huge chandelier dangles just inside the entrance. Kate isn't much impressed, but Lucky seems sufficiently cowed, sticking close to her side as they click-clack right past the concierge and over to the stairwell.
No one stops them from entering, though she catches the woman manning the front desk side-eyeing her white sandals like she herself isn't caught in a cloud of Chanel no. 5, the scent so strong that Kate can smell it from ten feet away. No big. Kate has taste, and she knows it.
They climb the stairs, and at every floor Kate leads Lucky into the hallway, and lets him sniff around. It's slow going, but what else is she supposed to do? If anyone can find Clint in this place, it's going to be Lucky.
Finally, at the seventh floor, Lucky perks up and woofs softly, looking up at her and then back down the hallway, ears up and tail wagging.
"Here, Lassie?" Kate asks, raising an eyebrow. Lucky manages to look both disapproving and excited. "Is Clint here?"
Lucky's leash pulls taught as he hauls her along, for what seems like a mile, finally coming to a stop in front the room marked 715. He sits down right in front of it, grinning a doggy grin. Kate tilts her head to the side and figures, well, if she can't trust her partner, who can she trust? Even if he is a dog.
Kate looks at the door for a second longer, then down at Lucky, glaring. "I will never watch Dog Cops with you again if you tell anyone about this."
Lucky doesn't say anything back, but Kate knows he feels her.
She knocks on the door and, gritting her teeth, calls, "Room service!"
No sounds from inside the room, but then she hadn't really expected it to work. The room service gag doesn't even work in the movies anymore, after all, so no way would a bunch of highly-trained ninja assassins or whatever they are would fall for-
The door is yanked open by a really tall, really buff man dressed all in black, a mask covering most of his face. He stares at her for a second, then grabs her by the wrist and pulls her inside, clamping a hand over her mouth. She waits until he's shut the door to twist around and knee him straight in the balls.
Lucky barks, just once, ears flat against his head and lips curled in a snarl. The ninja flinches away from him and falls to his knees, cupping himself.
"Katie-kate!" Clint says, delighted.
The guy that grabbed her is still busy clutching his junk, so Kate figures it's safe to look around, assess the situation.
The situation is this: Clint is in the middle of the hotel bed, hands tied behind his back and legs trussed together with nylon rope. He seems both uninjured and extremely relieved to see her. There are two other guys - yep, ninjas - on either side of the bed, and one of them is holding a gun. And also a candy bar of indeterminate origin, unwrapped and as yet uneaten.
So, three ninjas, two Hawkeyes, and a touchy golden retriever, negotiating a hostage situation. It almost sounds like the beginning of a joke, but Kate's still not sure what the punchline is.
"You okay?" She asks Clint, though she keeps her eyes trained on the guy with the gun.
In her periphery she sees Clint shrug as best he can, a so-so motion. "Aside from the ninja kidnapping, sure. It's just these guys won't say anything to me about anything, and I have no idea why I'm here."
The ninja she kneed in the balls scoffs. Lucky growls at him until he shuts up. Kate is super proud. She makes a mental note to take Lucky on more crime-fighting walkies in the future.
"Is easy." Says the ninja without the gun or the bruised balls, punching a fist into his open palm, old-school bruiser style. "We want our money, bro! Your little friend here, she will pay for your life!"
This is the first time any of the ninjas have spoken, and for one speechless moment all Kate can do is work her mouth open and shut like a goldfish, incredulous. The accent, it's -
"Aw, Russians. No." Clint lets his head fall onto his chest, defeated.
Kate can't help herself. "I thought this might be a great story for the grandkids, you know? But this is just bizarre. And so racist, really, you guys?"
The ninja that just spoke shuffles his feet and shrugs, clearly embarrassed.
"What money are you even talking about?" says Clint, into the awkward silence. "I don't owe you guys shit."
"Don't play stupid, stupid. Gino wants his money back, man, and he said we could get the job done however we saw fit. That's what he said."
"Yeah, bro." Says the gun-wielding ninja, proudly. "Gino did say that."
"So you guys decide to rent an obscenely expensive hotel room and dress up as ninjas?" Kate feels like everyone is really missing the point, here, which is that these guys are total fucking weirdos. "Is this like, a ransom thing?"
"Well, yeah, bro." Says one of them, the one holding a gun in one hand and a now-half-eaten candy bar in the other. Even as he's talking, he lifts up his mask long enough to take another bite, chewing slowly. It's disgusting. "Everyone knows Clint Carton's family is loaded."
"Car-ton? What? No." Clint says, face creasing up in that way it always does before he says something dumb. Kate glares at him until he shuts his mouth.
The first ninja rips off his mask, lets it flutter to the ground in a sad heap of black fabric and cultural insensitivity. All the better to eat his chocolate, she assumes. Wouldn't want to dinge up the costume.
His face is heavily pockmarked, with a wide mouth and thick eyebrows over deepset, beady eyes. Generic bad guy stuff, honestly - the mafia in this town really does not seem to attract the good-looking or the intelligent. Just once, Kate would like to take down a young Al Pacino type, you know? Not these sadsacks with terrible hygiene and even worse grammar.
"Clint Carton? Clint Carton? Are you shitting me?"
"Clint! Shut up!"
Kate takes a deep breath. Lucky slumps onto the ground at her feet with a loud wuffle, resting his head on his paws, and she has a brief moment of terrible, all-consuming jealousy. She wishes she could lay on the ground with her head in her hands, too.
"This is all a misunderstanding, then, guys. Ninjas. If you check our friend here's ID, you'll see that this is Clint Barton. A poor bastard, but not the actual poor bastard you're looking for."
Clint looks skyward and mouths, "Clint Carton!"
The guy squints his little rat eyes at her, considering, eating the last bite of his candy bar like a cow chewing cud. Kate attempts to look as innocent as possible, which probably doesn't go as well as she's hoping. Out of the corner of her eye she can see Lucky's ears perk up a little, hopeful. Clint doesn't say anything because he's too busy fuming on the bed.
"No way, bro. You think I would believe such a stupid lie?" The man says, finally. He lifts the gun in his hand and points it straight at Clint, which is his third mistake. The first mistake was letting Kate into the room in the first place. The second was assuming her appearance had any bearing at all on her ability to kick his ass.
Kate's hand has been inside her purse this whole time. The second his hand moves, she's moving too, pulling the bow out and locking it into place in one smooth, practiced motion. Her purse falls straight to the floor, but that's no big deal, because she's already got three arrows knocked, fingers tight on the bowstring.
One - fwip! - straight through the hand he's holding the gun with. It falls to the ground and slides under the hotel bed, but he's too busy howling and clutching his hand, blood sluicing down his wrists, to care.
Two - fwip! - pins the second guy's shirt to the wall behind him. He raises both of his arms in surrender.
Three - fwip! - zips through the rope tying Clint's outstretched arms together. How he's managed to get his hands clear above his head from behind his body, Kate's not sure. She supposes Hawkeyes are a flexible bunch.
Then the first guy, who's been mostly silent this entire time except for the occasional pained groan, tries to get to his feet make a run for it.
Kate's bending down to grab another arrow, ready to slam him to the ground with the body of her bow if need be, when there's a growl and a blur of blonde fur rushes past her.
Lucky gets his teeth around the hem of the guy's black shirt and pulls, snarling, until the guy is on the floor. Then he sits on the guy's face.
"You don't mess around, do you?" Kate asks him. Lucky wags at her, tongue lolling out of his mouth. The guy he's sitting on goes limp with relief the second the growling stops.
Clint is untying his feet - it looks like the ropes were double-knotted, which is actually the saddest thing to happen so far in this clusterfuck of a kidnapping - and glaring at the guy that Lucky's guarding.
The guy waves a hand in surrender, and then tries to shove Lucky off. "I got no beef, bro! It's just my job! You know, like if I was a mechanic, or a - a window washer or somethin'."
"Or a rocket scientist," Kate mutters.
"Probably you should aspire to window-washing, then. Or I'll let my girl here finish the job."
Kate bristles. His girl? Clint should be so lucky.
"I'm scared of heights, bro." The guy admits, finally succeeding in pushing Lucky away, though he doesn't make any move to get up. "So, not Clint Carton?"
Clint shakes his head and pushes himself to his feet, moving faster than anyone who's been recently tied up has any right to. "No, bro. No. Barton. Bar-ton. Your intel was so wrong."
"Shit, man. Can we like, forget about this? And don't tell Gino?"
"Yeah," Gasps the first guy, sitting in the corner with his hand wrapped in a complimentary terrycloth robe. It's soaked in blood, which is unfortunate, because Kate's pretty sure you have to pay for stuff like that. "Don't tell Gino!"
Kate exchanges a glance with Clint before shrugging, bending down to pick up her purse. She plucks out another arrow, nocks it loosely, and takes a backwards step for the door. All three of the mobsters are exchanging embarrassed looks, and no one makes any move to stop her.
"I won't tell Gino if you assholes promise not to come within a mile of my friend here ever again." She says, glaring for good measure.
"Fine, fine!" The one who's still pinned to the wall nods his head vigorously, so quickly she's amazed his brain isn't making audible rattling sounds.
"And think your plan through a little better, next time!"
Lucky growls once more for good measure, and then they're all backing out the door and into the hallway, leaving the mobsters to come up with a new plan, and the real Clint Carton.
Kate thinks about jogging down the hallway and into the stairwell, but Clint is walking slowly at her side, and Lucky doesn't seem too worried either. Understandable, she reasons. Those guys were a disgrace to mobsters everywhere.
Neither she nor Clint say anything until they're back on the sidewalk outside the hotel, swept along in the foot traffic and blinking against the sun. Kate clips Lucky's leash back onto his collar, and they all stroll together, Clint massaging his arms back to life and Kate lost in thought. The whole debacle took less than an hour and a half. Jesus.
First thing's first, they need to call in an anonymous tip about the threat to Clint Carton's life (or if not his life, his bank account). Secondly, Clint owes her a pizza, and Lucky deserves half. Thirdly, she's going to take another few lazy days, and no one's allowed to say shit about it.
After a silent block of walking, buffeted by crowds on either side, Clint turns to her, half a smile clinging to his face. "Hey, Hawkeye?"
"Thanks for the assist."
"No problem, boss." It's quiet for another block. Kate sighs, and Lucky echoes her. "Listen, can we never talk about this again? Because that was seriously depressing."
"Talk about what?" Clint asks, feigning confusion.
Lucky's tail starts up a happy back-and-forth metronome swing.
Kate laughs. "You owe us a pizza, by the way."