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Could We Forget All the Ways We're Broken

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Kate… was not winning.

That was hardly surprising considering the deeply unbalanced odds of four trained mercenaries to one singular Hawkeye who still hadn’t truly polished up her hand to hand skills. Apparently a black belt didn’t give her the mettle to handle professionally trained killers. Shocker.

The attack had surprised her; as much as she hated to admit that. Especially considering she’d been expecting it from the moment she’d begun dismantling Bishop Security and a bounty had been placed on her head.

From what Clint had gathered from his contacts, it seemed that there were many parties interested in taking control of her mother’s company. That included Eleanor Bishop’s own partners and shareholders.

Kate hadn’t realized the power her mom held until very recently. She’d started digging into the company and its dealings with the aid of hired lawyers and strategists far better equipped to maneuver the complicated underbelly of a corporate monolith.

The revelations were ongoing and starkly disappointing, and more often than not Kate was finding herself passing information on to the authorities.

She’d have felt bad about it if it wasn’t a part of the deal to protect her mother; if she hadn’t gotten the go-ahead from the (prior) CEO of Bishop Security herself.

The journey hadn’t been pleasant. And she was currently on the receiving end of consequence.

A blow to her stomach sent her stumbling backward and she did her best to dodge several incoming attacks in the precious moments it took for air to seep back into her lungs.

She dropped low and swept the legs of her closest attacker, sending the woman to the ground in between herself and the remaining mercenaries.

She’d already taken out one with a violent combo that ended with an elbow to the temple and a jab into the trachea. The man had collapsed to the ground with blood streaming down his face, his nose most definitely broken.

It had given her a false sense of safety as the remaining three attackers settled back and took in their target with new eyes.

After that their attacks had been calculated and synchronous, keeping Kate on her toes and off-balance.

She ducked under the strike of another mercenary, this one shorter but stocky in a way that made him slow.

She regretted for the upteenth time in as many seconds that she’d dared to go buy ice cream from a bodega without a weapon. It felt foolish now, almost embarrassing considering this wasn’t the first attempt on her life.

She excused herself with the fact that it was the first attack in broad daylight on the street in front of at least fifteen people that had since scattered.

The only silver lining at the moment as she continued to retreat, her air coming in pants as she struggled to expand her lungs, was that somebody had to have called the police by now. No way she would be murdered before they had a chance to arrive. Right?

The woman that Kate had sent to the ground was slender and quicker than her compatriots. She’d launched to her feet and darted to Kate’s left, effectively flanking her and leaving her only safe escape down an alley between the bodega she’d just left and a second one that sported a sign Fresher Bread Here, Next Door Lies! hung in the front window.

Even in her growing panic, Kate still somehow found it in herself to be amused that not only were these two very similar bodegas directly beside one another, but they also had beef with one another.

Kate was purely on the defensive as she backpedaled and she bought herself time. She blocked an attack from the woman, the strikes glancing off of Kate’s forearms and swinging over her head.

Sweat poured into Kate’s eyes but she couldn't risk movement that would block her vision as the last and largest of the three tried to edge around her back.

Kate glanced to her left, saw a rusting pipe tucked under cardboard and trash, and dove backward while reaching out. Her hand scrambled for purchase as she rolled into a defensive position again, and she was able to swing it up just in time to knock the mercenary’s arms away from her.

He growled out a curse and barreled forward, ignoring her strikes at him even as they opened crimson streaks across his shoulder and arm.

His hands gripped her jacket and yanked her forward, head on a crash course toward Kate’s face. She grimaced and jammed the pipe up at his chin with all of her strength, snapping his head back. His hands fell off of her instantly as he howled, blood pouring from his throat.

Kate winced, already twisting and driving the pipe at the woman that had lunged toward her.

“I hope you’re up to date on your tetanus!”

The large man snarled as he pressed on his neck trying to stem the bleeding.

“Bitch!”

Kate frowned, kicking out at the woman and jamming her foot into her stomach. The woman let out a grunt as Kate glanced over at the bleeding one.

“How am I the bitch? You guys attacked me!”

The woman gripped Kate’s foot as she tried to pull it away, lifting up and shoving, taking Kate’s balance with it.

Kate tried to right herself but the woman was faster, a sharp twist of Kate’s wrist sending the pipe to clatter on the ground as the other hand drove into her stomach in the same place as before.

Kate managed to tense this time, though the pain still echoed through her body. She gritted her teeth as another blow was aimed at her face and she slipped backward at the last moment.

“Will you stop doing that?”

The woman’s lips turned up into a smirk as she pursued Kate doggedly. Kate tried to keep her eyes on the stocky man as he rushed forward while still protecting herself from the woman. It led to several strikes landing against her ribs and one clocking the side of her head. It was acceptable damage as she was able to time her attack perfectly. She caught the woman’s next swing under her arm and used her momentum and hips to sling the woman into the stocky mercenary.

They crashed together and Kate, her head spinning and throbbing, still managed a surprised laugh.

She turned and ran.

She felt sluggish. Her breath was coming so sharply that she wasn’t sure if any oxygen was making its way to her lungs or if she’d somehow just stopped being able to breathe altogether.

Her limbs protested the pace, eyes stinging as sweat and now blood continued to partially blind her. Only adrenaline and the serious desire to live through the day kept her moving. She skidded on the thin layer of trash that seemed to litter every alley (and most streets) in New York.

Reaching the end of the alley, she turned left back toward the main road and crashed heavily into the wall, her shoulder scraping brick and tearing into her shirt and skin.

She groaned, glancing down at the now ruined flannel that she’d purchased literally a week before, and continued sprinting.

She could see the cars passing on the street, people walking by that glanced at her and hurried out of her way with wide eyes that took in the blood and bruises blooming on her skin.

She could hear the pursuit of the mercenaries behind her, gaining on her, before the sound of sirens rang out like a threat and a promise in one.

Kate felt relief as she turned into the crowd that had started to run. She would lose herself in the panicked civilians, disappear before the police arrived and dip back into her apartment for her bow. She could call Clint and strategize how to get to a safer place with people intent on her imminent death roaming the area.

Kate made it to the street just as a figure stepped in front of her, their nose smashed to the side and bloody from her elbow. She slammed into them, arms coming up to protect her face on instinct as she felt something cold and foreign slip in between her ribs.

Kate gasped, mind scrambling to think and survive at once.

She broke the grasp of the mercenary’s hand on the dagger now protruding from her side and jerked backward, only having the foresight to leap to the side as boots pounded the pavement behind her. She felt another body slam into her back but found vague relief that it was only a shocked pedestrian.

She pitched to the side from the force, trying to stay standing and gather her bearings before the mercenaries were on her again.

The sirens were close now, but it was drowned out by the fear that had flooded the area.

There was screaming now, sending the already frenzied civilians into chaos as they sprinted in front of cars trying to flee from the danger some had yet to perceive themselves.

Car horns honked and tires screeched on pavement behind her as Kate started to run again.

Every shift of her hips, every foot that hit the pavement, every pump of her arms sent a spike of pain through her stomach as the knife shifted and cut deeper and messier into her body.

Her vision was blacking, spots dotting the path ahead as she pushed on.

She risked a glance backward and saw that the mercenaries were moving away from the rapidly approaching sirens, their eyes glancing to her even as they disappeared into the crowd and out of sight.

Only then did Kate allow herself to slow down, her legs like jelly beneath her as she came to a shambling walk.

She looked down and saw a shocking amount of blood staining her stomach and dripping down her jeans. The handle of the blade sticking out of her almost seemed fake.

With slick hands, she dug into her pocket and pulled out her phone.

She got four blocks away, trying to enter her pin to no avail, before turning into an alley. Tears pressed at her eyes but she blinked them away. Bumping pitifully against a wall and staying there, Kate scrubbed the screen on her pant leg where blood had yet to stain. She wiped her fingers dry and clumsily pushed at the buttons as her vision blurred in and out.

She failed several more times, the panic and desperation rising steadily until she could hardly think.

Fucking breathe, Kate. Breathe.

Kate closed her eyes and took several deep breaths though their effects were hindered by the blinding pain that lanced through her at each inhale.

Even so, it was grounding, and she blinked harshly to focus her vision.

She entered her pin.

Luckily, Kate talked to very few people and she was able to hit 2nd Best Archer from her recently dialed list within moments. Her teeth clinched so hard that she wasn’t sure she’d be able to speak even if he did answer. He had a tendency to send her to voicemail, though he’d been better about it once the bounty had been placed on her head.

The phone rang: once, twice, three times.

“Kate, can I give you a call back? We’re in the middle of family time.”

The relief Kate felt at his voice was so intense that she couldn’t bring herself to speak.

Concern laced Clint’s next words.

“Kate? You there?”

Kate tried to steady her voice when she answered but that seemed like a moot point as her breath wheezed and rattled and the words that came from her were filled with pain.

“Hey, Clint. How’s it going? You guys playing that new game I sent you?”

If she had the energy she’d roll her eyes at herself. If only at the way her words slurred and probably sounded nothing like what she’d intended to say.

“Kate what’s going on? Are you hurt?”

Clint was far more present and alert and she could hear him moving away from the kids talking in the background.

“Just peachy.” She coughed and the pain was so intense that she collapsed to her knees, phone clattering against the cement below her. For several moments she could see nothing at all as her consciousness tried to leave her. She could hear Clint speaking quite loudly into the phone somewhere. Maybe he was yelling. She couldn’t tell.

Bracing forehead against the rough brick, Kate’s hands scrabbled in the trash until they bumped into the smooth surface of her phone. Clint was speaking frantically and somewhere in the back of her mind she found herself touched at his concern.

”...ury! Her phone is tracked so they should be able to find her exact location.”

Kate heard Laura speaking in the background but couldn’t make out what was being said. She tried to push the phone to her ear but her arm was too weak. She turned her head so that the phone was pressed between her ear and the wall.

She was so tired and she coughed again, blood getting caught in her throat and choking her. She gagged and spit it out. Or tried to. The thick liquid mostly dribbled down her chin.

”Kate, help is coming. I need you to just hold on for a moment, okay?”

Kate’s lips turned up even as she felt herself numbing, her eyes closed as she used all her remaining strength to hold herself up.

“Hey Clint. . . I think I’m gonna die or something.”

”Kate, you’re–”

She coughed over whatever he said and the taste of her own blood was so vile that she found herself falling forward onto her only free hand. It wasn’t strong enough to hold her up, so she used it to divert her body from falling directly on the knife still embedded in her side.

Somehow she managed to hold onto the phone and she felt only bliss at being able to relax as her head rested on the dirty ground.

She spoke, uncertain if he was talking at this point as she couldn’t hear anything but the rushing in her ears.

“Hawky Hawwwk…” She cooed into the phone. “I’m gla–glad I met you. And your family. Your wife is honestly hot.” She was struggling to breathe but vaguely heard a suspiciously wet laugh on the other end. “Don’ know how’ya did that. Your kids are so– so good. Tell em’ I said hey.”

She set the phone on her chest, too spent to hold onto it. Sound was still coming through but she couldn’t make out the words.

The drone of Clint’s voice was soothing and Kate found herself smiling as she fell unconscious.

__________

Kate woke as her body was jostled. She attempted to swing out and protect herself but felt pathetically incapable. Her wrists were gripped and held tightly as she struggled.

It took a moment to realize somebody was speaking, and she twisted her body as the words slithered into her animal brain.

“... stop moving and let me help you, Kate.”

The voice sounded calm and kind and she realized the hand at her wrists wasn’t painful, just restricting.

She blinked at the blood and tears in her eyes and vaguely made out a woman with blonde hair and gentle brown eyes staring down at her in concern.

She tried to waggle her fingers and wasn’t sure she succeeded.

“‘Mm fine.”

The woman’s brows lifted and her lips twitched in a smile.

“Is that why you’re laying in the alley? There was a cat trying to eat you when I arrived.”

Kate managed to feel offended.

“S’rude. I’m not even dead yet.”

The soft laughter that followed her statement had Kate grinning though it probably looked more like a grimace. She still had it. Definitely the funniest Hawkeye.

She felt arms wrap around her shoulders and under her knees.

“This is going to suck a lot, Kate. But I have to get you somewhere safe and I need you to stay awake.”

Kate felt her body become airborne and the sudden shift was enough to have her cry out as every nerve in her body sparked back to life. Her head lolled to the side and they began to move, her rescuer grunting out a sharp command.

“Eyes open, Hawkeye.

Kate peered out, lips turning down.

“S’fucking hard. You try bein’ stabbed.”

The woman chuckled again.

“I have. The Winter Soldier threw me into a table and a splinter of wood went through my back. Almost hit my spine”

That got Kate’s attention and her eyes flew open as wide as they could.

“You know the Winter Soldier?”

Kate heard a door open in the distance and they began to move more quickly. The woman didn’t bother looking down but Kate could hear the amusement in her response.

“Clint said you were an Avengers nerd.”

Kate felt new hands on her shoulders as she was slid into the back seat of a car. Her body jostled and pulled a groan from her, but the intense piercing in her abdomen was settling back to the same ache she’d felt sprawled in the alley.

She glanced up to see a man with dark skin and concerned eyes peering down at her. He spoke quietly toward the front of the car, accent coloring his words.

“How is she?”

Kate huffed but the excitement from the Winter Soldier revelation was fading into her pain. She closed her eyes as she heard the woman that carried her respond.

A hand patted her cheek.

“Kate Bishop, please do not sleep.”

She tried. She truly did. Both of them seemed so sure she shouldn’t sleep. But she’d reached the end of her ability to control her own body. The darkness that threatened her promised release, and all she wanted was to stop hurting for a moment.

___________________
___________________

Kate blinked, eyes no longer filled with crimson and salt. Her throat hurt like a bitch and it didn’t take much to realize she’d been intubated.

She couldn’t feel much though that was likely due to whatever painkillers were fed into her body. She felt light, her head foggy and forgetful as she tried to adjust to the bright room.

“Hey kid.”

She turned her head to find Clint and Laura sitting in chairs to her right, their eyes filled with relief. Laura smiled at her.

“We’re glad you’re okay, Kate.”

Kate couldn’t speak so she attempted a thumbs up. Her arm was suspended in the air for only a moment before dropping down on the bed.

She frowned as she glanced around the room, realizing they weren’t at a hospital. It looked like a simple space, sparse with tan walls and dark furniture.

Clint seemed to pick up on her confusion and looked around like he was seeing it for the first time.

“We’re at a SWORD safe house. It had the equipment needed to patch you up and it’s where Sharon brought you. You’re going to stay here until Bishop Security is dissolved and your mother has been sent into Witness Protection.”

Kate narrowed her eyes and Clint let free his first smile since she woke.

“No arguments, kid. You were this close to making me come out of retirement. Again.” Kate rolled her eyes and he nudged Laura. “It’s nice when she can’t talk.”

That earned him a slap on his arm that he leaned away from.

Laura stood and moved forward, motioning at the intubation tube taped to her mouth.

“I’m going to check your airways and make sure you’re good to breathe on your own. Afterwards we can remove this, okay?”

Kate nodded, dealing with the irritation in her throat as Laura checked that she could breathe and that her reflexes were strong enough.

Soon the tape was removed and she was told to cough. A sick feeling of discomfort twisted her chest as the tube slipped from her throat.

She coughed a few more times and winced as she felt a tug in her stomach. Her hands shifted to press against her abdomen and she felt thick bandages in place. With a groan, Kate dropped her head against the pillows and glanced at Clint.

Her voice was hoarse as she spoke.

“If you’d told me how shitty it felt to be stabbed maybe I would have listened to your warnings about trying to be a superhero.”

Clint scoffed.

“You wouldn’t have. If I’d told you remotely anything of the sort you’d be using this injury as a ‘gotcha’ moment.”

Kate grinned.

“You’re right.” She watched him for a moment before her eyes slid to Laura. “Thank you both for being here. How are the kids?”

Laura reached out and grasped her hands. Tears pricked at Kate’s eyes at the warm gesture and she squeezed as much as she could while Laura answered.

“They’re good, worried about you. Cooper is holding down the farm while we’re here. They made us promise that you would FaceTime them.”

Kate’s heart squeezed, grateful that she’d gained another family just as she lost the last of hers. Well, not entirely lost. But it sure felt like it.

“Just hand me a phone and I’ll make sure you’re good on your promise.”

_________________
_________________

Laura and Clint stayed long enough to ensure she was comfortable and update her on what her next months would look like before they returned home.

Kate got almost four days with them doting on her– Laura more obviously than Clint– before they finally believed that she was okay.

It was sweet. While Laura was open with her affection, offering Kate comfort and walking her through the injuries she’d sustained– apparently the blade had pierced her lung and just barely missed nicking her heart (yikes)– Clint had found his own gruff, awkward ways to be supportive.

He’d brought Lucky from her apartment and he’d packed her a bag of things she’d need immediately. Or so he said. She wasn’t sure she’d be needing her Hawkeye suit anytime soon but she appreciated having it there.

She also found a decent assortment of clothing to pick from and was told anything else she could request to have delivered. Her apartment was being watched in hopes that she wouldn’t return to it destroyed once again.

Over the next several days Kate watched Clint drag in various targets and set them around the safehouse. He drilled them to corners and walls and practically carried an entire armory to store in one of the spare rooms. Her bow was placed carefully against the wall of her room and the Ronin sword was set beside it.

It was sweet, and Kate got to see first-hand as Laura fell in love with her husband every time he returned dragging crates.

It was so embarrassingly pure and Kate had never felt happier to see two adults still grossly in love after years together.

At one point Laura needled her about a comment Kate definitely didn’t remember from her dying times™. That is what she preferred to call it despite the clear discomfort of Laura and Clint.

It was nice. Even when every moment was laced with pain from her stomach and the bruises and cuts that littered her skin.

When it was time for them to leave, Laura hugged her carefully.

“We’re here if you need anything, Kate. I’m serious. It’s never too much.”

Kate hugged her back tightly even though it hurt.

Laura made her way out to give Kate and Clint a moment.

He hardly put up a fight as she tugged him into a hug as well.

“Sorry I made you come all this way. It was my fault I was caught unprepared.”

Clint rested a hand on her shoulder.

“We’ve all done it, Kate.”

Kate rolled her eyes.

“No way you had a bounty on your head and went to buy snacks all unarmed and careless.”

Clint squeezed and let go, a small grin twisting his lips. His eyes took on the same haze they always did when he was going to talk about Natasha.

“Worse, actually. I was far more experienced and had just gotten back from a mission with Nat. We’d garnered a bit of attention and were told to lay low for a few weeks while things settled down.

“I thought it would be okay to go for a quick ramen run because being cooped up in my apartment for days on end was making me antsy. I ended up with a bullet in the shoulder and an angry Nat reaming me out for an hour. I’d never seen her so pissed; at least not at me.”

Kate laughed, the story making her feel marginally better even if she felt like Clint might’ve been leaving parts out.

“Sounds like the angry Black Widow may have been scarier than the being shot part.”

Through the cloud of remembrance in his eyes, Kate could see he was still listening even when he didn’t respond for several moments. Eventually, he nodded.

“They have a way of instilling fear in people that aren’t normally prone to it. She cleared the hallway outside my room and the nurses refused to enter until she’d left to go sort out the mess I’d made.”

The pure adoration Kate could feel from Clint was enough to squeeze her heart in her chest. She thought of Yelena; not for the first time since their impromptu conversation over Mac and Cheese.

She hadn’t revealed much to Kate as they spoke, her expressions carefully crafted and let free only at her will. But when Natasha had come up, the anger, the anguish, it had radiated from Yelena like an oppressive wave, nearly overwhelming Kate with the intensity.

She knew once this look surfaced, Clint would need to step back and regather himself. She felt lucky enough to have these stories imparted to her and had learned to accept it like a gift without expecting more.

Kate gave him a smile and slugged his arm.

“Don’t miss me too much, Hawkeye.”

It may have been her own ego, but she thought she saw a glimmer of gratitude before his face twisted into a feigned scowl.

“I can’t imagine I will.” Clint gave her a smile and turned to leave. “See you around, Hawkeye. We’ll be in touch.”

_________________
_________________

And so Kate stayed, burrowed away in her safe house with her only company being Lucky and whatever agent was on duty.

Amil and Eben. They traded off week to week, cordial but professional in their behavior toward Kate.

The space was nice; almost to a level that was surprising. She’d always expected safe houses to be dingy and nondescript.

While this home held little character, it was large, ranch-style, and constantly stocked with food and whatever form of entertainment she could ask for.

The floors were hardwood in places and carpet in others, both surprisingly clean. The walls of each room were a different neutral color that, while boring, at least kept the place feeling spacious.

It was desperately needed due to the lack of windows even in the bedrooms. There was a single window in the kitchen and it faced a brick wall that was closer than you’d ever expect a neighboring building to be.

Lucky made himself at home in the safe house, greeting the agents each morning and happily following Kate around as she got used to her new normal.

The distance given to her by the agents protecting her was nice. At first.

She’d appreciated the time to heal and think. Much of her free time was spent working with lawyers and making decisions regarding Bishop Security. She signed her name, granted permissions when necessary, and sorted through the entire database of her mother’s company.

She was allowed fifteen minute walks out of the apartment twice a day, and each one felt like chugging water at 3:00 A.M.

After a month had passed, things began to slow down. She ran out of files to parse through and pages to sign. It seemed that the hard work was complete and the rest was just red tape and slow steps toward the end goal.

The energy she’d been dispersing through exhaustive research and problem solving was now building rapidly in her chest and fingertips with no release. She found herself carefully slipping back into her training, picking up her bow after giving her body the time to heal. A part of her hoped that she’d have something to do for the remaining months as she returned to peak condition.

Unfortunately, despite knowing her cardio would need work, her abilities with a bow returned to their normal level far too easily and she was back to challenging herself within a week.
In an attempt to keep busy and improve, she began to engage in more obstructive methods of practice.

She built obstacle courses for herself with the furniture, shifting couches and chairs and tables at her whim.

Amil and Eben often found her sprinting and rolling and leaping across the safe house as she nocked and fired arrows in rapid succession.

She worked on holding three arrows at once, she added blindfolds and leg weights as she moved about the room working off of memory alone.

For another two months, this was her routine. The two agents watching her found themselves having to dodge and duck as they moved through the house during her training sessions. Sometimes she even found them watching her, curious and somewhat impressed.

When these steps became too easy, Kate began to engage them in conversation while she moved blindly. It added a needed level of difficulty as she badgered them and weasled her way into their lives.
____________

“Define mutually ending something where the other person doesn’t have a say?”

Kate was drenched in sweat, her shoulders screaming in protest as she’d increased the poundage on her bow that morning.

Amil had tucked himself into the only corner in the living room without a target within three yards and he was scratching diligently into a book of Sudoku; his feet on the stool in front of him. Lucky was in place at his side to ensure he stayed safe from Kate’s training regimen.

She paused her movements, releasing an arrow and listening with pride as it thunked into her target. In the following silence she heard Amil’s pen scratching on the pages. She wasn’t sure he would answer, but soon the pen stopped and his voice sounded into the space.

“I wasn’t aware having conversations with you meant you’d get a say in my personal life.”

Kate grinned and nocked another arrow, drawing it back.

“I think the fact that you’re surprised by that says more about you than me.”

Thwunk!

Her arrow landed in the next target.

She drew once more, firing again before the ache in her body and sweat drenching her blindfold became overwhelming.

She tugged it down around her neck in time to catch the unamused look Amil was sending her way.

Kate collapsed on the couch that had been pushed against the wall and gave him a sly grin.

“Nothing to say?”

Amil rolled his eyes and went back to his puzzle.

“It was mutual because we were both unhappy. I was just the one to finally admit it.”

Kate tugged the wet cloth from her neck and tossed it on the ground. Amil’s lips turned down in disgust but he didn’t mention it. He’d given up on correcting her bad habits.

She set her bow on the couch beside her, her quiver remaining trapped at her back for now.

“If admitting something is equivalent to just disappearing, the police should be having a much easier time establishing guilt for criminals.”

“You are a very irritating person, Kate.”

Kate’s laugh turned into a groan as she stood, her body already protesting.

“I know. I’m just saying that you didn’t really give him a chance to say his piece before you peaced? You feel me? I get why he’s upset.”

Amil’s lips pursed but when he failed to look up or answer, Kate took that as her signal.

“I’m going to shower. You enjoy stewing in that guilt.”

She left before he could formulate a response and the sound of Lucky’s steps followed her to her room.

That was another thing she was working on: patience. At least a little bit of it. She’d learned early on in her efforts at conversation with the SWORD agents that pushing them wasn’t the best method to get what she wanted.

Amil, a Wakandan that had found his way to New York after joining SHIELD, was soft-spoken and pragmatic in a way Kate could never be. He had been the hardest to engage with, his earlier responses often never surpassing a few syllables.

Eben had been easier. She was professional until the moment Kate wasn’t. She had been the first to offer Kate conversation and they’d become quite close.

Eben was from Denmark originally, though she’d been in the United States her entire adult life. At forty-three, she held a well-earned confidence that Kate craved. Her stories were endless and about as entertaining as one would expect an agent of SWORD– previously SHIELD– to have.

She shared about her husband and her child that was apparently close to Kate’s age, which: yikes. It was easy and light and Kate appreciated her candidness more than she knew how to express.
____________

Kate eventually outgrew her training space, realizing that she’d mastered what was possible even with all of her additions. The safehouse just wasn’t big enough for her to create more challenging shots.

On that day she found herself wallowing on the kitchen floor with ice cream in her hands and Lucky begging at her side. It had been her comfort food of choice since being here. She wasn’t sure when ice cream had become so important to her but she had a feeling it was related to almost dying for it.

That was how Eden found her at 2:00 PM on a Sunday evening.

Kate stared into piercing, pale blue eyes as they looked down on her in judgment.

“Is there a reason you’re throwing yourself a pity party?”

Kate shoveled another spoonful in her mouth and left a portion on the spoon for Lucky. He licked it off and she stuck it back in the carton. Eden’s face twisted into a grimace.

“I don’t think sugar is good for dogs.”

Kate held up the carton and revealed the large ‘sugar free’ label on the side with a smug raise of her brows. If anything, Eben’s grimace deepened.

“That’s worse than sharing a spoon with an animal.”

Kate slumped further into her pout.

“We’re all animals here.”

Eben rolled her eyes, stepping forward and snatching the carton out of Kate’s hands. She ignored the pout sent her way.

“Get up. Tell me what’s wrong.”

Kate didn’t go without complaint, but eventually she pushed herself from the ground and crossed her arms like an upset toddler.

“I’m too good with my bow.”

Eben stared at her patiently.

“Obviously that is not why you’re upset.”

Kate refrained from stomping a foot and settled for a huff.

“I’m still months away from the dissolution of Bishop Securities which means I still can’t leave which means I’m bored and the only good thing is training but there’s only so much I can learn stuck in this house and I’ve reached my limit and now what am I supposed to do I’m going to go fully crazy and this will have been a waste of everyone’s time.”

Kate sucked in a breath after her long winded rant and waited for Eben’s proffered solution to her problem. Eben listened with slowly raising brows until Kate finished; she waited to speak for several moments.

Finally, she nodded her head.

“We will train, then.”

Kate frowned.

“What?”

Eben turned and started moving Kate’s obstacle course pieces against the walls of their respective rooms until each had large open spaces within them.

“We will train. I will teach you how to avoid being stabbed.”

Kate felt her narrow world of possibilities expand, the dark cloud hanging over her vaporizing in light of this new opportunity.

She grinned and threw her hands up in glee.

___________

For the next several months, Kate worked with Eben and eventually Amil.

It was jarring to see how practical experience trumped her in-class training in every area. Her muscle memory couldn’t compete with two agents that had been in the field for as long as these two had. She was strong from archery, from her life of competing and striving to be the best she could be, but it didn’t match the precision and power of the agents that had her sporting bruises and sore muscles for weeks on end.

Every day she could, she trained. And every night she would collapse into her bed exhausted with Lucky curling lazily into her side.
__________

Around the sixth month of her stay, Kate saw a light at the end of the tunnel. She was alerted to the coming termination of Bishop Security; its assets broken down, sold, stripped, and shipped until all that remained was a bunch of legal work that she had no part of.

The bounty on her head became almost irrelevant as her efforts reached fruition and there was little left to salvage from her mother’s company.

It was at this point that Kate was able to finally step outside of the safe house without as much worry; even if it still came with a shadow in the form of a SWORD agent. She was able to stay out for more than fifteen minutes and her heart didn’t lurch in her throat every time somebody looked at her for too long.

Kate used this newfound freedom to walk Lucky for miles, his tongue lolling in happiness as she strutted alongside him.

The last month of her stay at the safehouse was the best and worst of the whole experience: a taste of freedom that she’d hadn’t had paired with the impending finish line that she could only crawl toward. It left her anxious and irritable, and she found herself training even when Amil or Eben called it quits.

The changes to her physique were drastic enough that sometimes Kate would look in the mirror and double-take. She was sharp where she used to be soft. But the physical changes were nothing compared to how her body moved and felt.

She still had so much to learn; five months of rigorous training increasing her skill exponentially but still not to the level of somebody that had been doing it for years. She still lost to Amil and Eben eighty percent of the time when they gave her their all. But if she thought of the mercenaries she’d almost died to earlier that year, she couldn’t imagine the encounter playing out the same way.
_______

A week before the expected dissolution of Bishop Security, Kate was gathering all her belongings that she’d slowly spread across the house. Despite the furniture being permanently pressed against walls and shifted around, she’d still found a way to make her presence known. Items of clothing thrown and forgotten on the chairs and tools from when she’d started making her own arrows– with guidance from Clint– dug out of cushion crevices and from under the couch.

Kate was a bit of a sprawler even when focused and she was paying the price now as she tried to pack her things.

She’d just taken a break– her fourth in the past two hours– when the sound of a key in the lock had her freezing.

Kate tensed, body shifting to grab a blade tucked under the coffee table as she rolled off the couch into a crouch.

She waited silently as the knob twisted and the door pushed open. Kate prepped her arm to throw knowing she really should have taken Eben up on her offer to train her with knives. Eben was currently walking Lucky because Kate had waited until the last minute to prepare to go back to her own apartment.

She’d be back soon, but if this was somebody here to kill her, Kate would have to take care of it or keep them from completing the job until Eben could return.

She moved to give herself more cover and saw as a vaguely familiar blonde woman stepped inside. It didn’t look like she was trying to be stealthy as she walked into the Kitchen and glanced around. After a moment, she moved to take a seat on a stool against the bar and made herself comfortable. She placed a folder in front of her on the marble top.

After a moment, she tilted her head to the side.

“You can stop hiding, Kate.”

Kate grimaced, obviously still less than proficient in stealth. She slowly lifted herself to her full height.

“I know you.”

The woman finally looked at her and it clicked into place: brown eyes peering down at her as she bled out in an alley.

“I should hope so. I saved you from an opportunistic cat.”

Kate dropped the blade on the coffee table and went to stand in front of the blonde.

“Clint said your name was Sharon. You know the Winter Soldier.”

Sharon nodded, studying Kate more closely than she was comfortable with.

“What will you do after this?”

Kate’s eyebrows raised, trying to guess where this conversation was going as Sharon ignored her comment.

“Just jumping right in, huh? No small talk?”

Sharon leaned back, posture perfect and expression controlled in such a way that Kate was reminded of another blonde that had stormed into her life. The confidence and danger that radiated from them both was apparent.

Kate couldn’t help but compare them and find Sharon lacking. There was something about Yelena that set her apart from anyone else Kate had ever met.

Sharon tapped the folder.

“From what I’ve heard, you are quite talented. Your skill with a bow rivals Clint’s, and Eben and Amil are impressed with how quickly you’ve been picking up their training.”

Kate mumbled under her breath.

“Better than Clint.” At Sharon’s eyebrow raise she flushed. “But yes. I have been learning a lot. I’m assuming you’re not just trying to make me feel better.” Kate looked down at the file pointedly, brow creasing. “Are you asking for my help?”

Sharon smiled slightly.

“I’m offering you an opportunity. You want to be a hero, right?”

The way it left Sharon’s lips made Kate think she found the idea somewhat laughable. Kate itched to pick a fight but her eyes kept slipping to the closed folder on the counter. She kept it simple.

“Yes.”

______________

Sneak Peak of Next Chapter:
______________

Yes. One word and Kate found herself at a resort in Cape Cod on SWORD’s dime. It had been good— excellent even— until this moment.

Kate pocketed the Ronin sword and took a moment to stash her retractable bow– another gift from Clint– that she’d left resting against the wall

Kate patted her pockets to ensure she had everything and turned to leave when she felt a body pressed against her back, a sharp blade pricking her ribs. Before any kind of panic could sink in, her attacker spoke.

“Kate Bishop, again you are in my way?”

Kate felt like she’d been drenched in ice water and subsequently stuck in a sauna as that voice snarled in her ear.

“Yelena. Hey. Hi. How are you? Long time no–”

Kate cut off as the blade pressed deeper, definitely drawing blood through her suit. She gasped out and tried to lean her body away. Yelena didn’t allow it.

“Quiet.” Yelena’s voice was sharp, her breath ghosting over Kate’s ear. Kate tried and failed to ignore the goosebumps it raised on her skin. “You are a wound in my ass.”

Kate grimaced at herself even as her mouth opened.

“Pain.”

There was silence for several moments.

“What?”

From her voice, Kate could tell Yelena did not care about the answer. Unfortunately she was never one to make the right call when it came to self-preservation.

“It’s pain. Pain in my ass.”

Yelena didn’t respond, instead she stepped around Kate and slammed her back into the resort room wall, her hand against Kate’s chest, almost around her throat.

“You want to make jokes now, Kate Bishop?”

It was jarring, seeing Yelena after almost a year had passed. Her eyes were cold, and despite her harsh words, there was little expression on her face. Kate couldn’t help the feeling that she was being seen and found lacking. Somehow she was still the most striking human Kate had ever seen.

Yelena’s hair was pulled back into an intricate braid not dissimilar to the one from Christmas Eve. Her body was covered in a black tactical suit and her Widow Bites sat proudly on her wrists.

Kate could no longer feel the blade but she was under no impression that it had been removed from the equation.

She decided to play on her hunch; the same one she’d had from that first time their eyes locked on the roof of that building. She let out a slow breath even as her nerves were alight under her skin.

“And if I do?”

Yelena’s eyes studied her, the intensity branding Kate’s skin in a way she’d never be able to forget. She smelled like expensive perfume and warmth and Kate was drowning in it.

Coldness pressed between when Yelena stepped away from her.

“You do not belong here. You will get yourself killed and that is not my problem if you die because you are stupid.”

Yelena turned and walked toward the door of Kate’s room, careless, like she had no qualms about a counter-attack; like nothing Kate could do would ever pose a threat to her.

Kate felt embarrassment and anger pool in her chest and she acted without thinking. As always.

Kate lunged.

She aimed to hit Yelena in the back and tackle her into the door; a plan that definitely should have worked if Yelena wasn’t Yelena.

Yelena's movements were slight, perfectly intentional, and Kate felt herself pass by her target as a hand shoved her roughly to the ground. Before she could reorient herself the same hand grabbed the back of her jacket and pulled her up; just to slam her into the wall. Kate's brow hit first and she felt the split before the blood started dripping.

“Do that again and I will cut off your hands, Kate Bishop.”

By the time Kate was able to turn around Yelena was already gone, the door shutting with a quiet click.