“Night, Clint,” Kate said, a small smile on her face as she passed by him in the hallway.
Clint gave her a nod and softly shut his son’s door. “You had fun?”
“Yeah.” Kate looked around the hall and shrugged. “Not so bad for a first Christmas with my mom in jail,” she murmured. She tried to make it sound like a joke, but from the sad look on Clint’s face, it did not come across that way.
Clint sighed. “Kate—”
“No, it’s fine, really.” Kate forced a smile. “Letting me be here… you didn’t have to do that. So, thank you.”
“Hey, you’re my partner now, right?” Clint smiled. “You’re family too.”
Tears prickled Kate’s eyes, and she looked up at the ceiling with a huff. “Jesus, Clint.” Before she could say anything more, she felt Clint’s weight wrap around her as he pulled her into a tight embrace.
“You should go get some rest, kid.”
Kate nodded. “Yeah, you too.”
Once they part, Kate headed to the guest room that Clint had been kind enough to let her stay in. Lucky was already there, sprawled across the middle of the bed.
As was his right.
Kate groaned and slammed down on the bed, face first. It had been a fun Christmas day, but her body was practically screaming at her to get some rest. She still had a few injuries from last night’s battle, and her muscles were sore.
She really needed to train more. Something she was going to bring up with Clint at some point.
Then, just as she was about to close her eyes to get some sleep, there was the sound of a window sliding up and a familiar voice calling her name.
“Kate Bishop,” Yelena said.
“What the hell?!” she said after her soul reentered her body. She sat up straight, looking at the woman that almost gave her a heart attack. Clint told her he and Yelena already made amends and that Yelena was going to leave them alone.
What was this woman doing here?
“Relax, Kate Bishop,” Yelena said with a smirk. “I am not here to kill you.”
“I mean, I didn’t think you would—” Especially since Yelena already had every opportunity to kill Kate. “I just don’t get what you’re… here for. Did Clint invite you?”
“No.” She swung her legs over the wall and slid right into the room uninvited. In one hand she had a bunch of vodka bottles in a plastic bag. She dangled them in the air. “You owe me a drink.”
Kate blinked. “What?”
“Do you remember when you said 'we should get a drink’ and I said yes? After I kill Barton?”
Kate gaped at her.
“Well, I did not kill Clint Barton, but I figured”—she waved her empty hand in the air—“I could still take your offer for that drink.”
“How do you even know I—isn’t Clint’s house supposed to be a secure location?” Kate glanced around the room wildly. They were in the middle of nowhere. “How did you know I was here?”
Yelena cracked a smile and Kate’s stomach lurched (not quite in the way it did when she was falling from a building, but more in the way it did when the cute guy in her class smiled at her). “Again, you are so funny, Kate Bishop.”
“Please stop saying that,” Kate said.
Yelena frowned. “What? You do not like to be funny?”
“It’s condescending.” Kate stood from the bed to face Yelena. This way, at least, she was taller. “I’m 22. I’m not a kid.”
Yelena only shrugged, undeterred. “I never thought or said you are. I am sorry if I sound that way.” She pulled out a bottle of vodka and handed it to Kate. “Anyway, would I give a kid alcohol?”
Kate stared at the offered bottle, even more confused. She’d assumed that Yelena had been intentionally condescending, and for Yelena to just… apologize for it caught her off-guard. She motioned to the bottle. “Is this—is this poisoned?”
Yelena bit her lip before laughing again. This time, she said nothing about Kate being funny. Instead, she just shook her head and set the plastic bag down on the floor. She twisted the cap off the one in her hand and drank straight from it.
Kate stared at her. “You’re supposed to do that in shots—”
Yelena snorted. “Does it look like I have tiny glasses with me?” She nudged the bottle in Kate’s direction. “Now do you believe it is not poisoned?”
“I’m not—you already drank from that.”
“Okay, okay, I’ll drink from it.” Kate took the bottle, not immediately drinking. This would be like indirectly kissing Yelena. Bad Kate. Do not think about that.
She took a deep breath and drank from it. Vodka was… not exactly her favorite drink, but it was bearable. She didn’t drink quite as much as Yelena, though. If she did, she’d probably collapse then and there.
Yelena smiled at her before sitting on the bed. Once again, uninvited.
“Seriously, how do you know I was here?” Kate asked her, still holding the vodka in her hands. Yelena already opened another one. Did she expect Kate to just finish this entire bottle?
Kate glanced at the alcohol percentage and made a face.
She did not have the tolerance for that.
“I did not think you would be at Barton’s house today,” Yelena said. “I went to your apartment first, then I realized how sad it looked. It was not ready for Christmas.”
“Were you stalking me?” Kate should really feel creeped out by that. She wasn’t, damn her. (Maybe, just maybe, she was even a little flattered).
“Well, I had to get that drink some time, did I not?”
“So… I’m not at my apartment, then you just assumed I went to Clint’s?”
Yelena shrugged. “I assumed right.”
Kate squinted at her. It felt like she was hiding something, but Kate couldn’t push because she didn’t know what exactly it was.
“Have you named your dog?” Yelena asked, reaching out to give Lucky a pat on the head. “He is very cute.”
“His name’s Lucky,” Kate said. “You know, ‘cause he makes us feel lucky.” She slammed a palm on her forehead and groaned. “Sorry, that was stupid.”
Yelena smiled softly. “Cute,” she said.
Kate didn’t know if she was referring to her or the dog. They stared at each other for far too long, not a word shared between them. It was both magical and uncomfortable.
Kate sat down on the bed awkwardly.
“So, uh, you like dogs?” she asked, scratching the back of her neck. She wanted to slam her head against the wall.
Yelena laughed. “Yes. I also have a dog. Her name is Fanny.”
“Oh, that’s nice.” Kate stared at the floor. After a few more seconds of silence, she blurted out, “Sorry, I don't really know how to converse when we’re not fighting.”
“It is a little weird,” Yelena agreed. She glanced outside the window then looked back at Kate. “Would you like to fight?”
“To loosen up.” Yelena shook her hands and grinned. “I guess we call it sparring.”
“Oh.” Kate looked out at the snow-covered yard. “Yeah, that could be fun. I was actually going to ask Clint to teach me how to do that. The sparring thing. My hand-to-hand combat isn’t—”
“The best? Yes, I am aware.”
“Hey, I did stall you for a bit when you were trying to kill Clint.”
“That was only because I had no intention of hurting you, Kate Bishop.”
The sincerity caught Kate off-guard. Again. She truly did not know what to make of Yelena. She balanced the tightrope of mocking and sincere quite well. Kate never knew what her intentions were.
That was probably the point, though.
Yelena took a big gulp from her bottle, just emptying it out like it was a normal bottle of water. After, she smacked her lips and set the bottle on the floor. “Come on,” she said, opening the window again. She glanced back at Kate. “Is Lucky going to be okay inside?”
“Yeah, he likes to sleep anyway.” Kate stood too and watched as Yelena jumped over the low wall. “What if the Bartons wake up?”
“Just don’t scream and we will be fine,” Yelena said.
They stood in the snow, face to face. Yelena definitely had the upper hand here. Her Black Widow training aside, she was actually wearing something combat-ready. Kate was in pajamas and the only thing protecting her toes were socks.
“It’s very cold,” Kate said. Her teeth were chattering a bit.
“You’ll be fine.”
Kate huffed. “So how do we do this? Do we just—Jesus Christ!”
Yelena chuckled. “I told you, no screaming.”
Kate glared at her from where she lied on the floor, back buried in the snow. “I wasn’t prepared for that.” She looked up at the night sky and closed her eyes. “Oh, it feels good to lie down.”
“I thought we were going to spar.”
“Yeah, just.” Kate lifted her arm, pointing her index finger at Yelena. “Just give me a minute. My legs are killing me.”
Yelena suddenly loomed right above her, head cocked to the side. “You’ll freeze there.”
“Mm.” Kate gave it another second before reaching up with both hands and grabbing Yelena by the waist. With all the strength she had left, she hoisted Yelena up and over herself, slamming her down in the snow.
“Kate Bishop!” Yelena yelped, hair now covered in snow.
Kate burst out laughing and sat up. She covered her face as Yelena chucked a snowball towards her.
“Why do you keep disrespecting me?” Yelena muttered. “First you slap me and now—"
Kate gaped at her, aghast. “Okay, I did not mean to slap you.”
“How can you not mean to?”
“Did it even hurt?”
Yelena flicked snow at her. “It was extremely offensive.”
Kate pouted. “Well, I think we should—we should…” She paused to blow air into her hands. How was Yelena not shivering in the slightest? “Get up.”
Yelena tilted her, regarding Kate for a moment. “Were you serious? About being tired?”
“Well, my body’s a little sore from all the fighting.” Kate glanced down at herself. “My ribs, especially.”
Yelena stood up and extended her hand out to Kate. “You should not agree to sparring when you are sore, Kate. Your body must rest.”
“Well, I…” Kate looked down at Yelena’s hand wrapped around hers. It was wrapped around her fingers longer than normal (though not to the point of pain, just comfort). Yelena’s eyes never left Kate’s face. Kate pushed herself up and, through chattering teeth, said, “Why are you really here?”
Yelena licked her lips. “Let’s go back inside.”
“But you said we were going to spar—”
“Well, do you feel less tense now? That was the whole point anyway.”
“I mean—” Kate allowed herself to be dragged back towards the window, only protesting a little. Yelena went inside first, and Kate really had no choice but to follow suit unless she wanted to freeze to death.
Lucky had already moved back to his own bed on the floor, leaving Kate’s bedsheets rumpled and empty.
Then, Yelena opened Kate’s bag and took out a thick jacket.
“Aren’t you going to answer me?” Kate’s eye twitched when she was ignored. “Are you supposed to gather intel on something? You can’t possibly be working for anyone now, right? Why would you need—”
“Kate,” Yelena said, turning to look at her, “you talk a lot.”
“I’m told it’s one of my best traits,” Kate said sarcastically.
There was a hint of a smile on Yelena’s face. “I did not mean it to be a bad thing. I only meant—you talk a lot. That is it.”
“So do you.”
“Well? Why are you really here? Is it seriously just for a drink?”
“Yes and no.” Yelena clenched her jaw, looking away for a moment. She took a deep breath and made eye contact with Kate again. “What you need to understand, Kate Bishop, is that almost every time I have been in America, I would visit Natasha. It was not often at all, no, but… I would not be remiss to call it tradition.”
“I’m not your sister,” Kate said quietly.
“I know that, dummy.” Yelena wrinkled her nose. “You are not—her. Not a replacement either. How I think of you and how I think of her is… very different. What I am saying is… I do not have a companion this Christmas. My parents are travelling around Asia right now, and Natasha is not here. So—” she ended by gesturing towards Kate.
“But why me? I mean, don’t you have any other Widow friends in America or something?”
“Sure, sure. I do.” Yelena furrowed her eyebrows. “The difference is I feel… a little more comfortable with you. And sometimes, it is also nice to be with someone who has not been through what I have. There is still some innocence in you, Kate Bishop, and I like that.”
Kate sighed. “Again, I’m not a kid.”
“Innocence does not have to mean you are a child,” Yelena said. “Natasha even used to say I could be childish at times—”
“She might’ve been on to something.”
“—but I’ve never been innocent. My only point is that your hands are not stained with the same amount of blood that mine are.”
Kate bit the inside of her cheek and slid off the bed to sit on the floor, closer to Yelena. “For what it’s worth, from what Clint tells me about the Black Widows, whatever they made you do, it’s not blood on your hands.”
Yelena didn’t look like she really believed what Kate was saying, but she just shrugged and put the jacket in Kate’s lap.
“You make it difficult not to like you, Kate Bishop,” Yelena murmured as she lied down on the foot of the bed. She was echoing Kate’s sentiments from yesterday’s fight, but in a much more sincere way. “It is why I wanted to have that drink.”
“Uh, well, I like you too,” Kate said, but at this point she didn’t even know what they meant when they said those words.
“You did say,” Yelena said with a small huff of laughter.
Kate slid her arms into the jacket sleeves and it up. For good measure, she also hogged the blanket and wrapped it around herself.
“Just so we’re clear, what do we mean when we say that we like each other? ‘Cause I don’t want to, like, misinterpret you or anything, so I just—”
“I mean it in every way that you can imagine.”
Kate… did not know how to interpret that. “What?”
“Well, maybe not every way, but what I meant is, you are a great person. I am fond of you. Maybe I wanted to kiss you yesterday had you not slapped me. There is a reason I agreed to go have a drink with you after I would’ve killed Barton.”
Kate could feel her cheeks flush and her surprise soar. “Woah, woah, go back to the third thing.”
Yelena lifted her head just to stare at her. “You heard it just fine.”
“Yeah, but…” Kate swallowed. “Wait, please tell me this isn’t a joke.”
Yelena frowned. “I would not toy with you like that.”
“Oh. Okay. Right. Well.” Kate covered her face with her hands, sure that she was blushing a furious red. “Yes. Wait. I mean, I have a crush on you too. I think.”
Yelena raised an eyebrow. “You think?”
Kate groaned. “I mean, I do! It’s just that I’ve never—with a girl. I’m not sure how it’s supposed to work.”
Yelena hummed. “There are no rules, Kate. And if it helps, I have never been with anyone. Ever.”
“Seriously?” Then again, Yelena was probably too busy to think about relationships as much as Kate, a college student, did.
“What can I say? I suppose you are the first person who caught my eye.”
“Jesus Christ,” Kate mumbled into her hand. Then, feeling bold (it was probably the vodka), she asked, “Can I kiss you?”
Yelena barked out a laugh. “Very bold, Kate Bishop. I like that.” She sat up with a grin. Without another word, she leaned forward and planted a kiss on Kate’s lips. Her hand wrapped behind Kate’s neck and Kate reached up to rest her own hand on Yelena’s cheek. The kiss didn’t last too long, but it was long enough to satisfy Kate for a whole month.
Kate was going to melt in this cold.
When they pulled apart, Yelena was smiling at her, soft. Kate smiled back, heart racing.
“That was… nice,” she murmured.
“It was,” Yelena said.
Kate put a finger on her lip, trying to convince herself that this was the reality she was living in. Yelena only kept smiling back, almost fond. It was almost too fond that Kate had to look away before her entire face went red.
“Though I should probably warn you that you should not expect a lot so soon.” Yelena fell back into the bed, facing the ceiling. “I travel a lot and there is so many I need to figure out. It would not be fair to you if I rush into anything. I only felt that you should be aware of what I felt before moving forward.”
Kate had no problem with that. “Yeah, I get it. I also have lots to figure out. College, the whole Hawkeye thing, my mom. Busy stuff.”
Yelena smiled and reached over to squeeze Kate’s hand. “Thank you for understanding.”
Kate sprawled across the bed as well, closing her eyes with a smile on her face. Yelena was right next to her. “I hope I’ll see you a lot more, though.”
“I’ll certainly try my best.” There was some shifting to Kate’s left and a hand reached up to stroke the hair off her cheek. “You should get some sleep now.”
“Will you be here tomorrow?”
“Probably not,” Yelena admitted. “But I will meet you back in New York, I promise.”
Kate opened her eyes to peek at her. “Where do you even live?”
“Everywhere and nowhere,” Yelena said. She didn’t sound like she was joking either.
“Cryptic,” Kate said through a yawn.
Yelena chuckled. “Go to sleep, Kate Bishop.”
And finally, Kate did.
When Kate woke up the next morning, Yelena was no longer in bed with her. Instead, there was a piece of paper with a brief note on it.
Had some business to take care of. If you need me, just text. You know my number anyway. I will reply as soon as possible. See you soon.
Kate smiled and folded up the paper, tucking it in one of the pockets of her bag.
“Good sleep last night?” Clint asked. He was standing in the kitchen making pancakes. The kids were playing with the snow outside, Laura with them as well.
Kate nodded. She was afraid to open her mouth because she might just reveal too much (after all, she did talk a lot). So, in lieu of responding, she just led Lucky to his food and water bowls and poured some kibble for him knowing full well that Lucky was barely going to eat it anyway (the dog was going to find pizza, no matter what it took).
Kate could feel Clint observing her, though, and she tried really hard to act casual. But when Clint laughed, she finally broke.
“What?” she asked him.
Clint smirked and turned back to his pancakes. He pointed to his ears.
“Oh, wow, just because you can’t understand me, you’ll just ignore me?” Kate grumbled. She grabbed a notepad from the counter and wrote on it, shoving it in front of Clint’s face so he couldn’t pretend not to see it.
What is it????
“You wanna know a secret?” he asked.
Kate gave him a thumbs up.
“Yelena texted me yesterday morning. She wanted to know where you were.”
Kate’s jaw dropped. “That’s what she was hiding?!” she exclaimed even though Clint couldn’t hear him. On the pad, she wrote did she say anything else??
“No. But I saw you two outside last night.”
I hate you so much, Kate wrote. She wondered if Clint knew there was something else going on between her and Yelena. To make sure, she added we’re a semi-thing. Because they weren’t dating, per se, but no other label could really describe their relationship at the moment. For clarification, she also wrote down we kissed last night.
“Wait, seriously?” Clint looked surprised but didn’t seem thrown off by the idea. “Shit. Look at you go, Katie.”
Don’t call me that!!
Clint snorted. “Anyway, that’s good for you.”
Are you sure it’s okay?
“Well, your love life is none of my business, and Yelena and I patched things up anyway.” After putting the next pancake on the plate, he finally turned to look at her properly. “If it helps, Natasha probably would’ve been glad it’s you instead of anyone else.”
It did help.
“No problem.” He batted a hand in the air and motioned to the door. “Now, go outside and play with some snow. I’ll call you guys when this set of pancakes is done.”
Kate had every intention to go play in the snow.
But she was going to have to accompany Lucky in doing his business first.