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they are the hunters, we are the foxes

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“I’m going to be honest, you guys,” Kate says, “this is not a good invasion plan.”

She’s standing there, in the middle of a Brooklyn street as aliens of some kind squawk at her, waving guns and missing wildly. They’re purple, have three eyes, and are trying to invade New York City through what appears to solely be this manhole in the middle of Brooklyn. She is essentially playing Whack-a-mole.

She had just been leaving a new hot house yoga place when she had seen one burst up out of the damn thing, shooting around at the hipsters in jorts wearing thick glasses. It had missed all of them, and Kate had briefly pondered letting some other semi-Avenger or even wannabe-Avenger handle it - because it was clearly inept. But another one had pulled its way out and she had decided she was bored.

So there she is, standing over them and shooting random arrows down into the hole and kicking the ones that managed to get up to the street level. It was not curing her boredom. A couple of amateur burly teenagers in converted biking spandex with masquerade masks had already asked if she needed any help, flexing their arms. She had shook them off, “accidentally” hitting them when she drew back her arrow.

It was amazing how, in the event of an (admittedly tepid and unexciting) alien invasion, teenage boys found the time to creepily hit on her.

From the corner of her eye, she could see a pack of them developing, watching her fire some of Clint’s trick arrows into the manhole, making whooping noises when she brushed her hair out of her eyes or when one exploded. Boys were so boring. Noh-Var, despite being an idiot, had at least been respectful and nice. And had a far better crimefighting suit than the topheavy kid making his way out of the crowd, dressed in bright yellow spandex with something resembling football pads on.

She almost fires the net arrow at him, but instead a bright star opens up right in front of him, and out kicks America Chavez. Kate watches as the Neon Yellow Gun Show flew backwards, smacking into a Brooklynite carrying what looked like a mannequin spraypainted in a kaleidoscope of colors.

“Oops,” America says, turning around to face Kate and grinning. Kate kicks an alien’s head and smiles back as America saunters over.

“Hello America,” Kate says, pulling out a flashbomb arrow and pulling it back, nudging another purple people-eater away from the rim of the manhole (ha!).

“Hello Princess,” America says, pulling off her be-flagged leather jacket and dropping it next to Kate’s yoga bag. “Do you need any help?”

“Would you mind? They’re starting to bother me,” Kate says, firing the flashbomb into the mob below them and grinning when screeches start up.

“Sure thing,” America says, jumping right into the manhole. Kate couldn’t see much, but she could tell by the screeching that America was doing what America did best. After about a minute or two, where Kate smiled wanly at bored twentysomethings who were trying to find a good angle to take a blurry Instagram photo of her from, America’s hand emerges, covered in gooey purple blood as it gripped the edge of the sewer.

She pulls herself out, letting Kate offer a hand even though she could like, fly and all that. For a second, they just smile at each other.

“You can buy me some pizza now,” America says, nudging at Kate.

-

“Something in your bathroom tried to kill me,” America says, wandering back into Kate’s new, shitty living room/bedroom/one room in her studio apartment. They have on some old movie, but Kate’s been texting Clint about the alien invasion she warded off today, and he’s ignoring her by sending her blurry pictures of Lucky.

“Oh, it’s probably Dominic,” Kate says, waving away the comment. Dominic was a small mouse. Who was now dangling from America’s hand, swinging by its tail.

“Oh my gosh, put Dominic back under the sink right now!” Kate yelps, jumping off the bed, nearly upending the pizza. America laughs, shrugs, and turns backward into the small bathroom, gently cooing at Dominic as she releases him back into the darkness of the cupboard.

America comes back, jumping on the bed that Kate uses as a couch and settling in close to Kate, looking over her shoulder at the new picture of Lucky Clint has sent. The smell of Kate’s soap on America’s body was strong, and it distracted Kate enough that she stopped paying attention to Lucky’s winking face on her phone.

She hadn’t had a lot of time to think about it, since being Earthbound, but she remembered what America had said to her, at the party after the end of the world. Somewhere between making sure human disaster Clint Barton didn’t die, Los Angeles, and the recent shedding of almost all of her worldly, father-bought possessions, when she had time to think about America. About, “You’re not that straight princess.” It mostly rankled her.

“Princess,” America says, waving a hand in front of Kate’s face. “You need to pass out? It’s almost three and I think you just went into a fugue state.”

Kate nods slowly, pulling herself away from the smell of America next to her and away from thinking about that night, and what she had said. Not that straight or straight as a board, Kate was on a mind-bending, hellbent mission to hunt her father down. To bring meaning to her life, or whatever. She was definitely, also, totally straight.

America was pulling off her t-shirt and pulling on a tank top, kicking off her jeans. Kate watches. It was whatever.

“Hey, princess,” America was saying again, waving the remnants of her prior outfit in Kate’s face. “Do you need me to undress you too?”

“Uh, no, no,” Kate says, dragging herself from the bed briefly to pull off her t-shirt and dig in the dirty clothes pile next to her bed for something in her sleepwear collection. Her sleepwear collection was actually just two t-shirts that she couldn’t wear outside because of the blood stains.

America pushes her backwards into the bed, leaning over her to grab the pizza box before Kate gets blood and pizza guts on her tank. For a second, America is just hovering over her, in the darkness, and it’s like.

Well, whatever.

Kate watches as the fuzzy form of America wanders (five steps) into the kitchen and stashes away the pizza box, then comes back to sit on the floor, with a clear intent to settle there.

“No,” Kate says, reaching for America’s form and very narrowly missing grabbing her by the chest. That would not contribute well to her reputation. “C’mere.”

“What princess wants…” America says, shrugging and crawling into bed next to Kate. Kate doesn’t think about it. No time, before she’s falling asleep.

-

“I don’t get it,” Kate yells down into the sewer, where purple aliens were once again trying to invade Manhattan. She had just been trying to get a latte. America had been following her, claiming she wanted a scone. Kate didn’t think America was a scone girl, and was just taking pity on Kate without a Keurig.

“Can you shoot a, uh, fun arrow down here?” America shouts back, as a small burst of greenish blood spat up out of the sewer. Kate pulls a random arrow out of her backpack, sighing. She shot it down, and no strange light or sound happened.

“What did that one do?” Kate asks, kneeling down and looking into the sewer.

“It’s fucking vibrating,” America yells back, “Fire another one!”

“Oh. When you’re done, can you bring that one back up?”

-

“When are you gonna tell me about why you’re a cheap shit now?” America asks, biting into a scone, scratching away a small dried patch of green blood on her fists. Kate was sipping her tall, unaltered latte, grinding her teeth through the lack of sugar, happiness, or cream.

“When are you gonna tell me why you’re sticking around?” Kate asks back, grunting when America kicks her in the shin.

“Maybe I missed you, princess,” America says, leaning forward and grabbing Kate’s cup out of her hands to take a sip.

“Maybe I have devoted myself to a less wasteful lifestyle,” Kate mutters. This statement gains a nod of approval from a young man with an unwashed mop of hair who had on biking shoes, and a thumbs up from his friend who had a shirt that just said GAY on it.

America gives a thumbs up back at her.

“You sounded beat up, when I called you while you were in LA. You get dark when you get beat up. Thought I’d come check on you, since the other gays are busy staring into each other’s eyes longingly or whatever they do,” America says, crossing her arms and settling back into her chair.

“My father is like, I guess, a bad person,” Kate says, crossing her own arms and letting her purple sunglasses fall into her face. America surveys her, and Kate doesn’t not notice the way her eyes stick at her chest for a bit longer than the rest of her.

“I’m sorry princess,” America says, leaning forward suddenly and reaching just across the halfway point of the table. It’s just about as sincere as Kate’s ever seen America. It softens the instinct in Kate to harden up when she’s stressed out - she uncrosses her arms and leans forward again, putting her hands on the table until they’re almost touching America’s hands. She wants to touch them, she thinks. In a just, normal interpersonal contact way.

Then, totally randomly, Clint Barton is getting thrown through the Coffee-Chain-Starting-With-an-S window. Followed swiftly by a fucking purple alien.

“Hey Kate-y-Kate,” Clint says, in that loud way where it’s clear he can’t totally hear himself yet. “I found those guys you were talking about?”

-

“I really don’t get it,” Clint says, pulling an arrow from his back and shooting it through the skull of an invading alien. “Do they hate Williamsburg?”

Kate glances around, as hipsters take photos of them standing there in their matching purple outfits, firing arrows into the sewer as America tosses around aliens. Kate nudges Clint and makes sure he’s looking: “Don’t you?”

Clint considers this, then shrugs in agreement.

At this moment, an alien reaches up through the hole and grips Kate by the ankle, pulling her off her feet and smashing her face into the ground when she hits it. The just-healed pain of her whole face beating incident in Los Angeles comes back, and she knows her carefully chosen sunglasses have now shattered and cut across her face. She considers just lying face-first in a Williamsburg street for many a second, but a strong hand is rolling her over.

Clint and America are kneeling over her, Clint tapping at her forehead for some reason. America is frowning.

“Hawkeyes, what have you been doing?”

Kate passes out when she sees Black Widow, looming over them with a disapproving frown on her face, already unholstering her gun to kill some aliens.

-

She wakes up in the darkness of her shitty apartment, with America’s arm thrown over her waist, America’s breath at the back of her neck, and America’s body behind hers. It’s warm and she feels at peace for the first time in like, forever. It’s stupid. Maybe America got some helpful hero to flood her brain with happy feelings.

She doesn’t remember. Kate shifts a little, and America’s grip tightens, her bare legs entwined with hers. Kate’s legs are bare too. Kate isn’t wearing pants. Kate is wearing a shirt that she thinks is America’s.

Kate ignores all this. This is normal. Whatever.

She goes back to sleep.

-

The pattern continues: aliens keep trying to invade New York City through the sewer system, and Kate and America keep sleeping together. Kate mostly ignores it. Kate mostly ignores the way she keeps wearing America’s shirts. The way America sleeps so that she’s touching Kate at all times, even if only their butts are touching. Kate definitely does not think about America’s butt, ever.

She does think a lot about her father, and whatever she’s going to do to him. She had promised to come after him, and then she had realized she didn’t know how to like, pay a utility bill. And now that she did, she didn’t even know where to begin. Where to start in how angry she was. She had almost died at the expense of his money. She had chipped a fucking tooth.

America waves a hand in front of her face, drawing Kate away from staring at the beige color of her shitty apartment walls.

“Are you gonna put on your dress or are you going clubbing in your purple-alien-fighting-t-shirt?”

Kate looks down. Her purple, purple-alien-fighting-t-shirt was not fit for even the sleaziest of clubs. She didn’t even know why they were going clubbing. She was about to ask, but America was pulling Kate off the bed with both hands, easily pulling Kate up and even off the ground.

“Okay, I get it, you work out,” Kate says, cracking a smile and ignoring America’s hands on her waist.

“Please. I’m built like this, princess,” America laughs, lifting Kate up a second time until her head almost hits the ceiling fan. Kate squeaks, imitating Dominic and earning another laugh from America. She tries to kick America in the stomach to put her down because, no sir, she does not want to be decapitated today, but America is holding her just out of reach of the goal.

She starts squirming, trying to just wriggle her way out of America’s hands, but it doesn’t work. America just pulls her back to the ground, setting her down much closer than she had started. Kate’s hands land at America’s elbow joints, settling up against the biceps and feeling them go back to resting.

“Thank you for not letting me die, Ms. Chavez,” Kate says, trying to reign in whatever feelings are coursing through her hands - is this what it’s like to be America, with all that weird interdimensional stardust in her? She feels kind of the way that looks.

“Of course, Ms. Bishop. I would never kill my partner in crime,” she says breezily, letting go of Kate and pushing past her to lie on the bed. Kate ignores the way America’s long legs look in leather pants and she considers, briefly, that she is going to have to stop ignoring things because things keep happening.

Whatever, though. She changes into a dress. She’s pretty sure America watches, but it’s dark, so who knows.

-

“Guys, we have to stop meeting like this,” Kate says, yawning. America is down in the sewer again, punching the shit out of aliens. Kate is firing arrows in, and kicking at the aliens who get up to the surface.

“Hawkgirl, can you tell us anything about these alien invasions? What if they’re trying to communicate with us?”

One of the random news channels that operate out of Williamsburg is also standing right there, filming her and asking her questions about their like, super caring thoughts on the purple people eaters.

“They tried to kill me like four times, so I don’t think they’re trying to communicate,” Kate says, flashing a grin at the camera and pulling back a shot to fire through the hole. She hears a screech and then a popping noise.

“Did you just use a like, pop rock arrow?” America yells, and Kate shrugs.

“That’s entirely possible,” Kate yells back down. “You know how the other Hawkperson is.”

“He needs a hobby,” America yells back, giving a roar as an alien head flies out of the sewer and narrowly misses the reporter.

“His last hobby deafened him,” Kate says, kneeling down and shuffling the alien head so it falls back in the sewer, raising a ‘one second’ finger at the reporter and waiting camera.

“A girlfriend then!”

“We can’t all have one of those,” Kate yells, standing up again and brushing some bits of goo off her shirt. America doesn’t answer, but a scream from the aliens comes back. Across the street, the girl with the GAY t-shirt who keeps randomly appearing near them gives another thumbs up. The reporter is scribbling.

“Hawkgirl, are you currently in a relationship?”

Kate thinks backwards for a second, and recognizes the mistake in syntax she’s made. Then, a decapitated alien head flies back out of the sewer and hits her in the face, very, very hard.

-

Her phone is ringing and she can barely open her mouth, so she hands it to America to answer without looking. Her jaw is being held shut by a ripped-up towel, with a heavy ice pack held against her cheekbone where the damn alien head had hit. Apparently, super strength was not always so easily controllable as to avoid damaging your own teammates.

“Hello, this is Kate Bishop’s phone. She is unable to speak right now,” America says, settling back against the wall and setting her hand on Kate’s knee while they watch America’s Next Top Model. Kate had found it ironic that America loved the show. America had not found it ironic at all.

“It’s Billy,” America says as an aside to Kate. “Oh, and Teddy, but that seemed like a given. Apparently you’re in a paper?”

Kate tries to turn her head and to make a face, but it kind of hurts, so she mostly just watches America listen to whatever Billy (and Teddy) have to say.

“They want to know if you are bisexual,” she says, and Kate rolls her eyes.

“She just rolled her eyes. I don’t know what that means, no,” America says, poking at the lower part of Kate’s thigh and reaching for her hand. Kate ignored the feeling that roiled through her when she met America halfway.

“I don’t know, maybe princess is trying to say that she doesn’t subscribe to any labels or something, chico. She just rolled her eyes again. What paper was it?”

--

“So I’m half-deaf and you can’t speak,” Clint half-yells, stirring Lucky from his slumber. America had gone to fight the aliens on her own, considering Kate was still recovering from an alien headbutt.

She nods, then, reaches for a sheet of paper that’s probably an overdue bill, and grabs a pen. She scribbles something out, then slides it back over to Clint.

“Well, who gives a shit? We’re like, low-grade superheroes. This isn’t the time to subscribe to old-fashioned values.”

Kate nods. Then writes something else down. Slides it over to him. He reads it, nods, and then reaches for her in a hug.

“Aw, Kate-y Kate.”

-

There’s a crowd of reporters now, some of them giggling at the helmet that Black Widow had given to her with a stern, “Don’t be like Clint, little Hawkeye.” It was purple, and had a little bullseye decal on the side, and considering it was a gift from a terrifying woman, she was wearing it to fight the aliens. It messed up her hair a little, but America seemed to appreciate its presence.

The reporters were, from what she could tell, all coming from a certain niche market in the media. Many of them were bedazzled, or wearing sensible shoes. She tries to ignore their questions, but it was becoming harder to ignore these types of things - this morning Kate, had woken up with America’s hand pressed possessively against her hip bone.

“Hawkeye, can you tell us about the relationship between you and Miss America?”

“Hawkeye, is the whole Young Avengers team gay? How does Captain America feel about this?”

The whole team, apparently, might not be totally straight, but that was neither here nor there. She fired an arrow down into the sewer, watching it light up the tunnel. Something was off, though. Kate kneels down, and listens.

“America?” Kate says, sticking her head in so it hung just slightly into the hole. America didn’t answer. There was just the sound of scrabbling aliens. She fired another arrow down, watched it crackle like a firework, scaring back some of the aliens and then - there was America, hunched up against the wall.

She dropps in quickly enough, backing toward America and firing a couple flammable arrows into the mob of aliens. She feels America’s hand fall to her back, resting between her shoulder blades as they work to fire. The aliens fell in a neat orderly pile, not even oozing. Kate turns back to America, whose hand fell away.

“America?” she asks, pulling off her helmet and drawing close to the other girl. She didn’t look like she was breathing well, and - was she bleeding? Her hand was drawn over her waist, clutching at a dark red spot.

“America?” she says, a little more urgently, tugging at America’s jacket and reaching up for the side of her head, thick and somewhat gooey with alien gunk. America’s head leans heavily against her hand, falling to the side as her breathing evened out.

The panic that comes over her is hair-raising. She whipps off her quiver, popping open the bottom half where she kept her first aid - she sorts through blister band-aids for salve, for bandages, for smelling salts. She dropps half of it, and has to sort through it on the sticky sewer floor, her hands scrabbling against the stone and concrete, ignoring the rats scurrying through. She leans close enough to hear America’s breath. There was none, and so she starts hitting at America’s chest, counting and just as she was about to lean forward and place her mouth on America’s -

“Boo!” America yells, sending Kate jumping backwards, to the opposite wall, pulling her helmet and arrows with her. One was already aimed at America’s chest by the time Kate realizes what she was doing, what was even happening. She dropped the arrows. She drops her bow, the beautiful recurve Clint had let her keep.

Kate comes down from the panic and drops into a ball against the wall, tucking her legs up against her as tightly as possible. She was crying, maybe, in a way that felt painful. Her chest hurt.

“Whoa, whoa, princess, I’m sorry,” America says, crawling halfway across the floor and reaching for Kate, stopping just before touching. “Hey, I’m sorry.”

“You can’t,” Kate says. She didn’t know what she meant. “You can’t fucking do that. You can’t leave me too.”

“Hey, hey, Kate - ”

“Uh, Hawkgirl?”

There was Clint, still yelling, his blond head popping in to look down at them.

“Kate-y Kate? You okay?”

He didn’t wait for an answer.

-

“Why do you keep coming back?” Kate asks, kicking the alien in the head and then firing an arrow through its eye. Her helmet has built in sighting sunglasses, and she was enjoying the added precision the feature provided her. She should write a thank you note to Black Widow.

“Hey, Kate, can you get down here? There are a lot today,” America yells up, her voice different than usual. It was less confident, less sure of Kate’s response. They were fighting. Or, well, they were stiff - Kate was mostly unable to shake the way it felt to see America stop breathing, even if it was a fakeout. She couldn’t stop feeling that moment in her shoulders or when they were asleep next to each other. America didn’t seem to know a way to shake it for her.

“Hawkeye, can you comment about Derek Bishop’s recent comments that, quote, “my paper will not be reporting on the mundane alien invasions that low-level heroes have been working with”?”

There was that too.

She drops into the pit, crushing an alien beneath her feet. There is America, swinging away, covered in gooey guts. She looks over at Kate and gives a half-hearted smile, gesturing at the mob of aliens further down the passageway.

Kate fires a flaming arrow into the mob. They keep moving towards them, even though they were on fucking fire.

“For real?” Kate asks, shooting through the head of the first purple people eater to break through the pack. “Are you honestly for real?”

They keep disentangling themselves, on fire, rushing up toward America and Kate, toward the light of the street above. America takes a swing at the next one, and it hits her with a club. Kate fires an arrow through its wrist, then picks up its spiked club and takes a satisfying whack at its head. The club lodges into its skull with a crack.

She pulls it back out and swung at the next, flaming, purple alien. It crumples underneath the weight of the blow, whining. She waits for the next one.

“It’s fucking useless, you guys,” she says, swinging at the screeching alien. “This is all fucking useless.”

She charges ahead, ignoring America’s yelp telling her to stay back and wait for them to come. Kate hits the knot where they’re all on fire, trying to get past the already dead bodies, and starts swinging, hard, watching the gooey bits of their blood fly out and hit the walls.

“Why do you keep trying? Why do you keep trying? What’s the point? You keep losing!” Kate yells, and feels the club crack against the body she’s swung into. It splinters in her hands, but she just pulls it apart and stabs with it. There’s a whimper, then nothing. It’s suddenly so quiet that Kate wonders if she too has finally been deafened.

She drops the splinters into the burning mess of bodies.

“Kate?” America says, her hand settling on Kate’s shoulder. It’s warm, but it isn’t comforting right now. Kate turns and pushes past America, scrambling up to the street level, ignoring the reporters and ignoring the thumbs up girl.

-

She’s in the sewers. She’s trying to get up to the light, where she can breathe again, where everything can be right. Where her father is just a normal, distant father who’s still nice occasionally. Maybe where Cassie is alive. Where her mom is alive. Where everything is good. She keeps getting beaten back, by dark, empty figures. They keep pushing her back, cracking her bones and it hurts - oh, god, it hurts. But it can’t all be for nothing, can it?

She can’t make it. She can’t make it. She keeps trying. She sees flashes of them - little S.H.I.E.L.D. logos, or flashes of bright masks. The bellhops. They pin her down, the way - no.

She’s in Central Park. They pin her down.

America shakes her awake, before she relives that nightmare. America has her wrapped up, so tightly that it’s a little hard to breathe. But maybe that’s because Kate’s head is against America’s neck, clenching at America’s t-shirt. At Kate’s t-shirt, really, because it’s purple. America is shushing her, running her fingers through Kate’s hair. She’s wiping away tears on Kate’s face, kissing her - kissing her on her forehead. Kate forgets to ignore it, for a second. It fills her with warmth, with sudden calm. America is there. America will help.

-

Kate’s barely woken up when America is pulling her from bed, pushing her into a pair of jeans, helpfully pulling Kate’s shirt off and putting another one on (still America’s though). Kate thinks that maybe, just maybe, it might not be totally normal to have your friend undress you, or look at you half-naked the way America looks at her. She doesn’t ignore it. She disregards it, as America pulls off her own shirt, and Kate watches. She watches. She likes it.

Oh gosh.

-

“Clint, I think I might not be that straight,” Kate whispers into the phone, hoping America doesn’t have super hearing she hasn’t mentioned to anyone. She’s in Kate’s loud-ass shower, so she hopes not.

“Kate? Is that you?”

 

“Yes, doofus. Listen to me. I think I might not be that straight!”

“Didn’t we already talk about this?”

“No, I asked how you would feel if I was gay. It was hypothetical.”

“Oh. So you haven’t been dating America for the past two months?”

“No! No, Clint. I’ve been ignoring it.”

“You’ve been ignoring that you’ve been dating? That’s awkward Kate, Even for you. For us.”

“No, we haven’t been dating!”

“Wow. Are you sure? Don’t you sleep together?”

“Clint!”

“Didn’t you take my vibrating arrow?”

She hangs up. She’s done with that now.

-

Her helmet is blinking some sort of notification at her, as she stands in the sewer with America at her back. It says ‘disturbance’ which is unhelpful to divining anything except that some sort of disturbance is occurring.

They’ve chosen to get ahead of the aliens today - to jump down into the Williamsburg sewer before their usual arrival time and to find wherever they’re coming from. They even got there before the reporters asking if they were together or not.

“Hey, look,” America whispers, nudging at Kate’s left arm. She turns, and there - there is a portal, sort of like America’s, but man-made and very breakable. It’s frame is round and made of metal, and they can see into it - see the purple world.

“Well, it’s not interdimensional, but it’s still a jump,” America says, walking around the portal and nudging at it. It sways slightly.

“Should we just destroy it?” Kate asks, trying to eyeswipe the ‘disturbance’ alarm off her screen. Why didn’t Black Widow give her a manual if she was going to give her a fancy helmet?

“Let’s keep a few parts, run it up the ladder. See if some of those S.H.I.E.L.D people Barton hangs with can get a lead on it?” America asks, pulling a long piece of metal from the base. They both watch as it falls forward, narrowly missing Kate. The disturbance alarm finally goes away, and it’s quiet, and alien-free for the first time in what feels like months.

“Why didn’t we think to do this before now?” Kate asks, pulling some more pieces of metal out of the pile and surveying it. Her helmet starts popping up different schematics and information, but none of it seems out of the ordinary. She tries to eyeswipe it out of the way, because clearly Tony Stark himself put together a damn helmet for her.

“Are you having a seizure? You’re jerking your head to the side,” America remarks, grabbing the metal pieces from Kate’s hands and tapping against the side of her helmet. A row of LEDs on the helmet neither of them had previously noticed turned on, effectively blinding America.

“I’m going to ask Clint about contacting Black Widow for a manual,” Kate said, reaching out for America, who is wincing and whining about being blinded. The reporters are there when they get back to the sewer cover, and they start snapping pictures the minute Kate emerges, dragging a “forever and irreversibly blinded, princess” America from out of the sewer.

-

“Sweetheart, before we talk about anything, and there is a lot we need to talk about, we need to talk about this helmet,” Teddy says, reaching across the diner’s sticky table to pat at Kate’s hands. America is watching an America’s Next Top Model marathon at home, snuggled in their blankets and sneezing at least five times in five minutes. Kate had viewed this as a possible gay conference. Billy was looking on in sympathy, sipping a diet coke.

“Um, Black Widow gave it to me?” Kate says, looking around the diner and trying to pretend she’s not a sort-of Avenger. Sometimes they were so bad at staying undercover.

“Oh, I love it. I was wondering if you could get Billy one,” Teddy says, sitting backward as Billy sighed as if he had heard this statement seven hundred too many times.

“It would mess up my hair,” Billy says, swishing the aforementioned, broody hair out of his forehead. “Let’s talk about the cat in the bag.”

“The real reason we’ve come here today to talk.”

“The thing under the bed.”

“And we won’t judge you for it. Obviously.”

“The monster in the closet.”

Kate glares at Billy, along with Teddy, who has a very disapproving face on for his boyfriend. Billy shrugs.

“It’s you. You are in the closet. Kate-monster. It’s a gay joke and an Avenue Q reference.”

“Billy, this is a fragile process. You can’t just start making gay jokes and musical references,” Teddy says, accepting the burger being placed in front of him. Kate tries to ignore the burning in her cheeks as her own burger is set in front of her. Billy laughs.

“So, I may not be straight,” Kate says, in a slightly high-pitched voice. “I am definitely attracted to my - well, America. You have met her.”

“She isn’t exactly a picnic though,” Billy says, shoving several french fries into his mouth. “I mean, she has some anger issues.”

“She’s always been nice to Kate, though,” Teddy says through a mouth full of burger. “And to you. It isn’t fair to call her out on anger issues when we had Loki with us for months. We all had anger issues by the end of it.”

“She also is like, not her type,” Billy says, turning more fully to talk to Teddy, ignoring Kate as she tried to pretend that she didn’t exist.

“I mean, Eli, Tommy, Noh-Varr? That type doesn’t stray too far away from ‘ass-kicking superhero with secret heart’ does it?”

“Why do we have to include my brother on the list?”

“I’m just saying, America is like, almost exactly Eli in mirror form but with better abs. I saw her naked once.”

“You did?” Kate and Billy ask at the same time. Billy and Teddy both turn their eyes back to Kate, who is now ashamedly sinking back into the vinyl cushions of the booth.

-

Kate wakes up to the sound of someone shuffling through her apartment. America is fast asleep next to her, so it can’t be her - maybe it’s Dominic. But then she sees just a thin glint of metal, and she reaches for her sword (the one she never carries around because it weighs too much and people make fun of her) and almost stabs whoever the intruder is. They dodge, whacking the sword away from them with - the metal pieces of the purple people eater portal.

“Hey, you can’t have that!” Kate yelps, swinging the sword again, only for the intruder to toss a metal bit at her that latches onto her. It beeps for half a second before it’s sending electric shocks through her, and she falls backward, hitting her head hard against the frame of the bed.

She’s still jittering as the intruder, black outfit and all, jumps out the window, carrying the damn metal bits of the portal. America is bounding over her, about to leap out the window before she too gets a bit thrown at her. It sticks and Kate can see America’s whole body get covered in electric lines - but America just rips the bit off and tosses it in the trash, watching out the window.

“What the hell?” America asks, hitting the windowsill. Bits of it chip and splinter, and Kate groans because she has to pay for that. America’s attention comes back to Kate, then, and she kneels to pull the electro-attacker off Kate’s tank top. Or off America’s tank top. Whatever.

“You okay, princess?”

Her muscles are coming off the electrified feeling of the little metal piece and the thrill of combat, and her brain feels wobbly in her head after hitting the metal bed frame. America’s hand is resting against her collarbone, bare hand on bare skin. She’s just had her apartment broken into and randomly, a couple of hunks of metal have been stolen from her. But she can’t see past America (the rest of it looks blurry).

“You’re gorgeous,” Kate says, trying to reach up to touch America’s arms, but her hands don’t lift more than an inch off the ground. America smiles, and laughs a little, but her hands are caring as they wrap around Kate and lift her onto the bed.

-

“Someone stole pieces of metal from you?” Clint asks, before turning to look at Lucky incredulously.

“They also fried Kate,” America mutters, tossing the little electro-bug onto Clint’s crowded kitchen counter. He picks it up and turns it around a couple times in his hands, before again turning to look at Lucky as if he was going to help him out.

“How you doing, sweetheart?” Teddy asks, patting Kate’s shoulder reassuringly. She’s mostly staring at the low-rise jeans on America’s ass. But she pulls it together. Looks wounded. She is wounded, but she tries to look extra wounded before anyone else can figure out that she’s objectifying her like, confusing roommate.

“I feel like I got fried. Brain’s kind of fuzzy. Everything kind of hurts,” she says, and Teddy grows slightly angry. Billy stomps his feet and a little burst of magic comes off the top of his hands.

“Whoever did that to Kate needs to be caught,” he says, tucking his hands back in his pockets before he lights Lucky on fire. Lucky seems unconcerned about the prospect. “Who tries to steal a bunch of pieces of metal?”

“You already know who it is,” America says, leaning forward and grabbing for the electro bit. Clint pulls his hand backward, clenching his fist. Sometimes, in the midst of making sure he isn’t drinking old milk, Kate realizes that he’s still an Avenger. He looks like it for a second, before he looks over to Kate.

“Yeah, I do. This is a S.H.I.E.L.D. electrifier. It’s designed off of Nat - Black Widow’s - shock bracelets. A little less taser, a little more electric chair, I guess,” he says, sighing. “I don’t know why they’d go after you, or a bunch of chunks of metal.”

“They don’t want me to keep investigating,” Kate says. She pulls away from Teddy and marches up to Clint, or at least, up to the kitchen counter with him on the other side. She feels everyone’s eyes on her, America’s hand at the small of her back. “My father did this.”

Clint just looks at her. He looks down to Lucky, who has perked his head up with interest to look at them from his one puppy dog eye. Clint looks back to her, and drops the electrifier on the counter.

“What do you need me to do?” he asks, and Kate has never been more happy that she chose to steal his damn arrow all those years ago.

-

They plan an attack on the massive Bishop Publishing skyscraper office where her father manages a multimedia empire. It’s kind of a big deal. Kate tries not to think about what she’s gonna do, once they storm through all the goons and whatnot. She doesn’t really know at all, what she’s gonna do if her dad is sitting in his top-floor office, and looks at her. Even if she had her team with her, and Clint, and even if she had the blessing of the Avengers or S.H.I.E.L.D.

First she needs to sleep though. Which means that America needs to get out of the shower so Kate can shower and they can all go to bed and to sleep and be heroes tomorrow. Of course, just as Kate has begun to get huffy, America emerges from the bathroom, resplendent in literally only a towel. Just a singular towel.

“Uh,” Kate says, like she is still braindead from the electrifier. She isn’t but she feels like she might be. She’s going to use that as an excuse if she has to.

“Hey princess,” America says. Kate supposes she doesn’t mean that to sound so seductive. America sure as hell knows seductive though. All the way since, you’re not that straight, princess.

“Hey,” she finally returns, and congratulates herself on not being embarrassing. She stands, and just before she can just ignore it until her life isn’t a shitshow, she makes a move she hadn’t tried all summer. She takes her shirt off, and then her bra, while she’s standing right there in front of America. She doesn’t know exactly what she’s doing. She’s not sure there’s a plan here. But it’s certainly happening. She can certainly see America’s eyes drift downward.

“Uh,” America starts, then stops, pulling her eyes back to Kate’s face, clearly searching it. This is a different territory than the semi-platonic “let me help your bleary ass get dressed.” Kate is doing this. Even if she doesn’t know what she’s going to do tomorrow, or if the goons her dad works with beat the shit out of her or even if they hire out some low-level villains, she’s going to at least do this. She can’t have it all be for nothing, again.

“So, I’m not that straight,” Kate says, shrugging a little.

“Oh, well. Yeah,” America agrees, shrugging back at Kate. Her eyes start moving down again, and her hands reach out for Kate’s waist, along the line of her jeans.

“That’s supposed to be dramatic. Why is no one surprised when I tell them that?” Kate says, letting America touch her, but tacitly not touching her back even though she desperately wants to. This is about principle now.

“I’m going to kiss you,” America says, and before Kate can protest, she’s kissing her as promised. And well, it’s awesome.

It’s totally awesome. America’s hands grip tight and pull her close, wrapping around her waist. Kate forgets to be annoyed and starts kissing as well as possible as she will not be outdone. She forces the rough, cheap terrycloth towel out of the way until it’s a lump on the floor. They keep kissing, and kissing and kissing. Kate’s arms wrap around America’s neck, her fingers landing in the hair there. America’s fingers dip just a little below the waistband of Kate’s jeans. It’s so awesome.

Kate doesn’t get around to showering, or sleeping, really. Definitely gets in bed though.

-

Her helmet is blinking at her, showing her Teddy’s progress through the building. Billy is doing his magical thing, prepping to teleport invisibly into her father’s office. America is pacing, rubbing her hands together. Kate and Clint are sitting on the floor of the corner office they said needed to be exterminated to gain control of the sightlines. Their knees are knocked up against each other, and their bows are slung over their shoulders.

“You know, S.H.I.E.L.D. won’t be happy we’re meddling. That I’m meddling, I guess. Again,” Kate says, reaching for a slice of pizza. She looks over at Clint, who nods, and chews his own slice thoughtfully.

“Similar to when you made Captain America mad like four hundred times,” Clint says. He shrugs. “Just because I sometimes work with them doesn’t mean they aren’t sucky sometimes.”

“What if we don’t find anything?”

“Then we’ll try again, Kate-y Kate.”

Teddy gets stopped, suddenly, and Kate can see his heart rate pick up on her helmet’s glass. His camera hits the face of someone who looks quite a bit like…

“Hello Hawkeyes. Do you need some help?”

Teddy mutters: “Uh, Kate?”

“Clint, did you ask for help from the Black Widow?” she asks accusingly, hitting him in the arm. He winces, moving slightly away from her as he shoves the crust of his pizza into his mouth. He barely manages to not spray her with crumbs when he answers.

“She said she was bored or something,” he says, just before Billy flashes right out of existence into her father’s office, invisible. America stops pacing and places her hand on top of Kate’s shoulders.

“She’s on our side, Teddy. Keep going,” she says, and she watches Teddy and Black Widow make their way through Bishop Publishing, hopping into an elevator where she listens to Teddy squeak while Black Widow electrocutes people.

“Go time,” America says.

-

Ten minutes later, Kate’s firing a stun arrow into a goon who’s filed out of some back entrance to her father’s office. The damn purple people eaters have somehow been summoned by some spare portal, and America is throwing them out the window, down forty stories. Clint’s arrows are flying around, shot from across the street, providing air support. Teddy has hulked out, slamming people into the ground and hurling them at the walls. Black Widow is honest to God doing some sort of gymnastics routine around the room, downing about five dudes a second.

Kate’s helmet is going haywire, tracking the movements of everyone in the room, but locked on to her father, who Billy has stuck to his desk through some sort of childish magic he probably accidentally discovered ten seconds ago. She’s beating people out of her way to get to him, and even headbutts a purple people eater. The satisfying feeling of a non-concussion is awesome as he crumples.

She pulls up her bow when she gets close, stopping in front of his desk and aiming at his chest. She doesn’t pay any attention to the craziness behind her.

“What are you doing, Kate?” he asks, and she notes the fear in his eyes.

“We’re having words, dad,” she says. “I almost died because of you.”

“Kate - ”

“I almost died because of you! More than once! I lost teeth! You’ve spent all this time being distant, and disappointed in my decisions. And I thought I could blame that on typical dad stuff. But I can’t. Because you almost had me killed. You’re spawning aliens. You’re working with bad people. I’m a superhero, dad, I’m an Avenger. I can’t stand for that. Even if S.H.I.E.L.D. comes in and cleans up this mess just so they can nail you later - I wanted you to know. I’m very disappointed in you.”

Her voice is shaking, and her hands are too. The arrow is clattering against her bow, slipping in her grip. She notices then, the complete silence around the room. The portal is wrecked, the goons are down. Everyone is watching her.

“Kate,” Clint’s voice says in her helmet’s earpiece. “Kate-y Kate. Put it down.”

She’s crying too. Because of course she is. She feels one hand settle on her shoulder, just warming it. Not gripping or pulling her this way or that.

“Princess,” America says. Kate drops the bow, and it bounces slightly on her father’s desk. Then she punches him. He drops, lying on the ground and groaning.

Kate turns around and finds herself wrapped in America’s arms.

-

“Dominic just tried to bite me for trying to get toilet paper,” America says, rubbing at the tip of her finger and standing in front of the television.

“Did you grab one from his house?” Kate asks, trying to look around America. She becomes distracted when she realizes America’s wearing just underwear. The newscaster keeps going on about the recent superhero attack on Bishop Publishing and recent revelations on their suspect financials. Her father has a black eye. It’s satisfying.

“He has a house? That’s absurd, princess,” America says, but dutifully goes back into the bathroom to fix whatever about Dominic’s house she’s broken. When she comes back, she sits down next to Kate and leans over and kisses her.

The newscaster is now talking about the images of her and America walking out of the building, with Black Widow following closely behind them (“Good job, little Hawkeye”). Their hands are linked, and America’s face is so...well, affectionate is the term Kate is most comfortable with right now. You can see Kate’s own grin just under the visor of her helmet.

“Yeah, I definitely knew they were together way before this,” the Thumbs Up girl says in her interview blurb, adjusting her thick framed glasses before grinning. Williamsburg looks alien-free in the background. “Like, even before the papers started to say stuff about them.”

“I knew you weren’t that straight before you knew,” America says, nudging at Kate and smiling.

“Whatever,” Kate replies, before she leans in for a kiss.