It was odd how two years could change so much, Kate thought to herself as the absurd tickling of Clint's early morning stubble on the back of her neck grew more insistent. Lying there in the entirely too early morning light, struggling to fully rejoin the land of the living, Kate could vividly remember a time when she hadn't been sure where her life was heading at all.
Well, that might have been a slight exaggeration. She'd had her team and her friends, and a vague teenage romance with Eli. But with Clint stepping back into the role of Hawkeye, she hadn't even been sure of her superhero identity.
It might have been an otherwise odd thing to recall at 8:00 in the morning, but the memory shone particularly bright because the nickname Clint whispered into her ear in an attempt to get her to wake more fully was one of the names she had genuinely considered taking on.
"It's time to wake up, Lady Hawkeye."
Thank god Cassie had talked her out of that one.
"Wakey, wakey, Lady Hawkeye." Clint's stubble buried down onto her neck and Kate wriggled around to give the requisite swat.
Clint ducked, with the skill appropriate of a former Central Park Carriage Ninja. He moved back in for a kiss that wasn't nearly as sly as Clint probably thought it was.
An entirely fair assessment of the situation would have revealed that Kate indulged in the kiss for far too long. Still, when the kiss broke apart, she scowled up at him accusingly, "You know I have godawful Econ," she reprimanded. "We don't have time for that."
"For what?" Clint asked with the kind of mock innocence that only worked on a person if they'd never actually dealt with Clint Barton. "I'm just doing what any good boyfriend would do and making sure you are awake in time to get to class. You know, since every time you're late, you blame me."
She gave the kind of indignant snort that was entirely appropriate to such bullshit so early in the morning.
"You don't believe my sincerity?" Clint asked. "I have you know, I even took the time to prepare breakfast for you."
"Really?" Kate pondered the possibilities that little extra bit of time offered up. She was never big into breakfast, a fact that horrified Clint when they first moved in together. He'd completely gone off the deep end, ranting about how being a superhero required as much calories as the average Olympic athlete and no, her granola bar and orange juice did not cut it as a superhero food.
Kate did like to argue, and watching him get all hot and bothered about her food choices amused her to no end. But she was smart enough to know when he had a point - and by the time Bobbi showed up to go over her "meal plan," Kate had given in with little more than an eye roll.
But she still wasn't getting up early to make the damn Olympic sized breakfasts, no matter which Avenger showed up at their door with a complete set of charts and graphs to make Clint's point.
Clint knew this, of course, and so his nod really had no right to be so unbearably smug as it was. But a person couldn't fall for a Hawkeye and not fall for what Eli had aptly named "an over abundance of confidence."
Fall Kate had, and hard. She wriggled up suggestively against Clint and glanced at the clock. "Well, since you've saved me so much time..."
"I thought you didn't have time for this," Clint groused, but his hand was already sliding up her pajama top.
"I do if you can be quick about it," Kate answered back, and her voice was every bit a challenge, because she knew good and well that was what Clint responded to.
"I will be quick," he promised.
"Don't be too quick."
"I'll get the job done, Lady Hawkeye," his mouth promised into her navel. "Don't you worry about that."
True to his word, Clint was quick - and he did get the job done - but not quite quick enough. She was running out the door of their apartment fifteen minutes before her class began. The breakfast he prepared went untouched; Kate grabbed a granola bar from the pantry on her way out.
She slid into a seat in the back of her class, earning a glare from her professor, ten minutes after the class started.
She was absolutely going to blame her lateness on Clint.
Her stomach started growling ten minutes into class and by the end of class, the growling was noticeable enough to earn her a compassionate head shake from the woman next to her. Kate didn't know her name - the hazardous part of being a superheroine was that some days, you just didn't make it to your 8:00 Econ class - but she thought it was something that began with a C and ended with a vowel. Carrie? Clara? Cara? Carla?
Whoever she was, the brunette offered sympathetically, "Trying to lose a few pounds before the pledging begins?"
Kate briefly considered the idea of herself joining a sorority. Or even trying to, for that matter, and she had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. That would really never work with her life.
"No, I just missed breakfast," she explained.
"Right. And that doesn't have anything to do with a certain sorority that requires you to run around campus in your bathing suit?"
Kate didn't have any idea which sorority that was, but she wondered idly if the fraternities did the same. Hey, she might be in a committed relationship, but that didn't mean she couldn't appreciate the sights.
Really, it wasn't like Clint didn't look when he showed up at the Avengers mansion. With teammates like that? Of course he looked - something Kate was okay with, as long as it was as touchless as her own looking was.
"Well, you've got me," Kate lied, as her stomach growled again, because this conversation was wasting time and what she really wanted to do was go get something to make her stomach stop growling.
Sympathetic girl nodded her head and gave Kate a recommendation of a "meal replacement drink" that "only has 50 calories, but it's better than water!"
Kate smiled, thanked her, and went on her merry way, wondering what kind of moron made a "meal replacement" that only had 50 calories.
With another two hours to spare before her next class, Kate made plans to hit up her favorite diner for a breakfast. She could go home, but it was empty now and the diner was closer.
Besides, it was easier to get one of her friends to join her for breakfast at the diner. She texted Billy, because he could make it there the soonest.
Billy was waiting on her when she arrived. "God, I love your powers so much," she whispered into his ear as she gave him the requisite hug.
"Occasionally, they are quite nifty," Billy agreed, and Kate smiled, because it was always a good day when Billy wasn't feeling self-conscious about the legacy his family's powers had left behind.
Not that Kate blamed him, much. If your grandfather was Magneto, you had well earned the right to angst about your heritage.
They took a table and Kate took in Billy's appearance. He was still insisting on keeping that terrible, terrible beard. It was one that was supposed to say "I'm a serious psych major" (even though Billy had dropped that major two months ago) but in reality said, "I'm a freshman."
It kind of looked adorable, though, with that sweater - one Kate was sure his grandmother had knitted for him.
They placed their orders, and Billy handed her an extra protein bar to help with the cravings ("Alec really likes them," Billy explained, with the kind of nervous grin that reminded her that Alec was the latest boyfriend, which was good, because otherwise Kate couldn't keep all the post-Teddy blonde boys separate in her head.)
"So how's the major search going?" Kate asked, as she flipped through her messages and messaged both Cassie and Clint to let them know that "Someone thought I was joining a sorority."
Billy groaned and scratched his beard, showing that it was annoying him as much as it amused her. "Terrible. Parents still think I'm a psych major. They're already talking grad schools and ..." Billy shrugged. "They're going to be so disappointed."
"Maybe not," Kate offered and at his scowl, she added, "Maybe you'll decide you want to become a lawyer or a doctor and they'll get over their disappointment?"
"I love your sense of humor as much as you love my powers," Billy countered.
Well, he had a point. Any of them becoming a doctor or a lawyer was even more hilarious than the idea of her joining a sorority.
Kate wanted to extend her sympathy, but then the food arrived, and her attention was duly diverted.
Kate finished up her breakfast with time to spare and made her way to the campus library. The walk was a brisk one and the slight ruffle of the wind through her hair made her yearn to take advantage of the extra time to do a quick patrol.
Fortunately, Cassie called when Kate was midway to the library.
"Yesterday you asked me to call you and remind you that skipping accounting again was a bad idea," Cassie reminded cheerfully. "Because Hawkins already has it in for you and you don't want to mess up your A average."
"That's a good point," Kate conceded reluctantly. "Killjoy."
"That's me! I come by it honest, via my mother." There was a little clang in the background that sounded vaguely like an explosion.
"You need backup?" Kate offered, because helping out her teammate was absolutely a credible reason to skip accounting.
"Nope!" Cassie sang cheerfully. "One of the students at the Academy messed up. Gotta go!"
The click was a reminder that really, Kate needed to have a chat with Cassie about getting out more. Holding up in Avengers Academy as a way to avoid her mother and stepfather was understandable, but that didn't make it healthy.
Mid-way through her accounting class, Kate received a text from Cassie that read, "BTW, you'd make a terrible sorority girl."
Maybe Cassie was a little healthier than Kate suspected.
Kate grinned a little too widely at her text and Hawkins took that as some evil clue from Mephisto (who, Kate was pretty sure, was solely responsible for Hawkins getting his job in the first place) to call upon her.
"Since you're so enthused about the subject matter, Miss Bishop, why don't you tell was what the correct answer is?"
Kate didn't even hesitate long enough to put away her phone before she looked up, smiled the most fake smile she could muster, and gave him the correct answer.
The irritated look totally got her through her next two classes and onto lunch.
Kate arrived at the restaurant ten minutes late, but she still arrived ahead of Eli. She grabbed a table and took advantage of the year they'd spent together to order his lunch as well as hers, and then checked her messages again.
She only had one, and it came from Bobbi. Never get married, Kate. Especially not to the man you're dating.
That was an odd statement, coming from Bobbi, though a quick check of her voicemail provided a message from Clint that told Kate what it was about.
"Why are Bobbi and I still trying to sell the damn house we only lived in for 3 months?"
Kate put away her phone when she saw Eli making his way to their table. She still couldn't quite get used to him with hair - he'd gone too long without it. She hoped Luke Cage's efforts to get Eli to shave it off actually worked.
"Sorry," Eli apologized immediately upon sitting down. "Did you order for us?"
"It's on its way," Kate answered. "You run into trouble on the way here?"
It was a little bizarre, Kate told herself sternly, that she actually felt jealous of Eli for possibly getting to have an early day patrol.
At least, she did until she recognized the faint clearing of his throat and the quick little smile that he tried to hide a beat too late.
It wasn't trouble that had kept Eli at all. "Elijah Bradley," she gasped in mock-horror, "you had a nooner."
"Kate! Say it a little louder, why don't you? I'm not sure the Avengers heard you," Eli muttered, looking every bit horrified at the idea that someone in the restaurant might know about his noonday indiscretion.
Kate, on the other hand, was amused. Which was just one of the reasons why the two of them hadn't worked out.
"The Avengers, huh?" Kate mused while she twirled her straw. "Is there a reason one of the Avengers should be worried about your sex life?"
"No, that's you and your bad taste," Eli scoffed. Kate managed, with some difficulty, not to roll her eyes, because the whole overly protective big brother thing he and Tommy had going on was just a tad bit annoying at times.
And often crossed the line into inappropriate territory, but that wasn't a battle she was going to pick today. She was fairly certain she'd already had it twice this month with both of them.
"So who is she?" Kate prodded.
"Her name's Trish," Eli answered. "She's in my political science class."
Kate laughed at him as their food arrived. "That is so entirely predictable of you," she teased.
Eli made a face at her, and Kate took great delight in teasing him about the new girlfriend for the rest of the lunchdate.
Kate glanced at her syllabus for her afternoon class as she walked back to campus. The problem with having anthropology so late in the day was that she almost always wanted to blow it off. Which in theory was bad, but...
Really, as long as she showed up for tests, she'd be fine.
The syllabus revealed they were watching a movie. Kate mentally made plans to get the movie out of the University library, shoved the syllabus back into her backpack and made her getaway.
A quick stop at home revealed a hastily scribbled note from Clint ("I put your breakfast in the fridge"), which Kate smiled at before switching into her gear.
She left a note of her own ("On patrol. Probably do a round with the Team before I come home") before she departed.
The bow was hers. The bow would always remain hers, and no matter how much Clint complained about it, she wasn't ever giving it back.
It was probably partially why he'd fallen in love with her.
But with the bow in her hand, Kate didn't think much about Clint Barton. Nor did she think about the class she was blowing off, or any of her friends' assorted problems.
The criminal population of New York gave Kate and her bow enough problems to sort out, without adding further burdens.
She had to wait for Eli to finish up his classes and Cassie to end her obligations at the Academy before the Young Avengers (Kate was acutely aware that they desperately needed a new name; that one had worn out its welcome) joined her.
Waiting used to bother her, but now she took the pleasure in the freedom and independence that the waiting brought her. She enjoyed knowing that she was completely capable of fighting her own battle.
That didn't mean she wasn't overjoyed when her friends joined her, because on the contrary, she was.
She arrived home later than she'd hoped, but in time to see Clint standing over the sink in his boxers.
It was a nice sight, and Kate leaned lazily in the doorway to the kitchen, soaking up the gratuitous display of muscles for a minute.
"There are lilacs on the dining room table," she observed eventually.
"For you," Clint answered.
"What's the occasion?"
"I didn't return your text this morning." That was an odd reason to buy her flowers, especially since Clint ignored her texts all the time. Apparently Clint spending time with his ex-wife had caused him some guilt. That was fairly typical whenever Clint spent time with Bobbi, actually. "By the way, do sororities still do the paddle thing? Because I could be into that."
"This is new to you?"
"Considering that you're standing in my kitchen practically nude, I guess it really shouldn't be," Kate admitted.
Clint smirked at her. "By the way, your friend called. The Skrull."
"Half-Skrull, and his name is Teddy."
Clint waved the knife vaguely in a "Don't care" motion. "Yeah, that one. Apparently still enjoying the female form. Thought he was gay?"
"Shape shifter - different kind of enjoying the female form," Kate answered. "At least...I think that's what it means." That was what it had meant the last time she'd talked to Teddy, at any rate, but Teddy had changed his mind a lot since moving to California, about a lot of things.
"If you're a shapeshifter who enjoys being a girl fucking a guy, are you still gay?" Clint asked. Billy's voice sang loudly in Kate's head, offering commentary about the different varieties of being queer, but Kate ignored it and Clint shook his head. "You know, we never have these kind of conversations about my teammates."
She walked over and kissed him, stealing a carrot off the cutting board as she finished. "Mmm. Hair wet. Shower?"
"Slimy thing attacked Avengers," Clint confirmed, placing a cool hand on the small of her back to pull her closer to him. "Needed a shower."
That didn't exactly explain why he hadn't tossed on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, but it was Clint, so Kate didn't bother fishing for an answer. "Mmm. How much time do we have before whatever's in the oven burns?"
"Half hour," Clint responded, dropping a trail of kisses along her jawline.
"Sounds like plenty of time," Kate replied. "What say you?"
"I say I can be quick," Clint retorted.
And Clint was quick, but not too quick. Unfortunately, "not too quick" resulted in the crust of the homemade pizza browning to an extent that there was really no other word for it but "burnt."
Kate naturally blamed Clint.