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The morning comes so much faster than Kate would have hoped. It took her a long time to wind down after her talk with Amanda, so despite her exhaustion, it took at least half an hour for her to fall asleep. So when there are loud knocks on her front door, only a few short hours after she fell asleep, it takes her a bit more than a moment to orient herself as she wakes up.

Blinking against the early morning light, she glances around the empty room. Next to her, the bed is empty too, but that doesn’t immediately register in her brain, as she is so used to it. It takes her a moment to remember why she is in the guestroom in the first place, the events of last night coming back to her. The knocks sound again, and Kate is on the verge of getting up when she hears her front door open.

That jars her enough to sit up and from there she can see Amanda at the door, opening it, and doesn’t have to guess who is on the other side of it, because Yelena and Sonya walk in less than a second later.

Because, God, of course, they fucking do.

Oh. You are still here.”

Yelena’s voice is a touch more cordial than it has been the night before, but Kate doesn’t trust it to stay that way so she rolls out of bed, as fast as her injured body allows. Her movement draws Yelena’s and Sonya’s gaze to her, and she immediately sees both of their faces darken.

Keeping her gaze on Yelena, she sees the way her eyes jump from Kate to Amanda, taking in the clothes she’s wearing, and then to the untouched food on the coffee table. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what conclusions she draws, and the lift of her chin is a confirmation Kate doesn’t need.

“Yeah, I’m actually heading out. I have to get home before work.”

Yelena doesn’t answer but glances at Kate again, before she moves on to staring at a point somewhere behind Amanda’s back, as Kate makes her way into the room as well.

“Okay. I’m going to give you a lift, make sure…”

Sonya’s voice is cut off by Amanda’s head shake.

“That won’t be necessary, thanks. I’ll just take an Uber.”

Sonya seems to consider her words before nodding. She sets her jaw, leveling Amanda with a cold look. It feels alien on her face to Kate, who has mostly seen her as playful and friendly during their interactions before, reminding her that Sonya is a Black Widow, just as much as Yelena.

“Before you do. I trust Kate Bishop has informed you who we are?”

Amanda turns to look at her at Sonya’s words with an eyebrow cocked but Kate is just as confused as she is. Turning back to Sonya and Yelena, Amanda shakes her head. 

“No, not really? She only said she met her…”

She gestures vaguely at Yelena, and Kate hopes, maybe foolishly, that this won’t turn ugly as Amanda continues.

“through Clint Barton, and that you are her friend.”

Sonya purses her lips and nods, glancing over at Kate with an unreadable expression before stepping a bit closer.

“Well, if she didn’t tell you I will. We were both trained in…”

Kate is impressed when Amanda takes a step back, away from Sonya, and turns her back towards the Widow as she starts to gather her things.

“Look, Sonya. Whatever this is, you can keep it. I’m just getting my stuff, and I’ll go. You all can go back to your insane lives.”

She zips up her bag, and Kate sees Yelena’s eyes slide over to Amanda again, following her movements. Sonya pushes on.

“That’s not all. For Kate Bishop’s sake, we will let you leave but if you so much as utter a word of this to anyone…”

Amanda straightens up with a sigh and looks at Kate.

“Will you please tell them I won’t say anything?”

Kate looks back at her, trying to decide how to navigate this. They didn’t talk about it directly, but she does believe Amanda. With her dislike of all of this, if nothing else, they can trust that she wants to say as far away from this as possible.

Wetting her lips, her gaze shifts over to Sonya and she nods.

“She won’t. She…She doesn’t want anything to do with this.”

Amanda nods and turns back to Sonya and Yelena again who both look at her with matching expressions. It’s hard to read, but it definitely can’t be mistaken for anything positive.

When neither of them says anything more, Amanda turns away and picks up her bag. She steps up to Kate and looks into her face.

“Take care, Kate.”

Kate smiles at her, trying to ignore the two sets of eyes watching the interaction. This is goodbye, for good this time. She thinks that Amanda deserves her full attention.

“You too. And…I’m…”

She wants to say sorry again, for everything but it feels hollow, like it doesn’t convey the depth of how much regret she feels over mixing Amanda up in this, putting her in danger, and even after that, rejecting her. Also, lying to her about knowing about her brother, but Amanda is not aware of that part.

A small, sad smile slides over Amanda’s face too and she puts a hand on Kate’s cheek.

“I know, I…yeah. Try not to get killed, I guess.”

Kate huffs out a barely-there chuckle, despite not feeling an ounce of joy and also feeling awkward with Sonya and Yelena watching.

“I’ll do my best.”

Her stomach flips when Amanda raises on her tiptoes and for a second Kate is terrified she will kiss her. Thankfully, Amanda’s lips land softly on her cheek and don’t linger for too long. When she pulls away, her eyes hold Kate’s for a moment longer, the slightly bittersweet smile still on her face. Her hand slips from Kate’s cheek, and she steps back.

“I’ll send you the clothes back tomorrow.”

Kate shakes her head, smiling back again.

“That’s not…You can keep them.”

Amanda doesn’t answer, and she turns away a second later. She gives Sonya a nod, and her eyes linger on Yelena a second longer.

“Sonya,…Yelena. I’d like to say it was a pleasure to meet you, but…”

The sentence hangs in the air as Sonya’s eyebrows shoot up her forehead and Yelena purses her lips. It’s only Sonya who answers.

“The feeling’s mutual.”

 Amanda walks to the front door and opens it. She gives Kate one last meaningful look, and then.

She’s gone.

The door closing is poetically final in Kate’s head and she takes a deep breath, giving herself one heartbeat to feel the sorrow that comes with that. Amanda leaving feels like the one last shred of normalcy fading away and one of these days, she will have to deal with her guilt over all of this too. Kate wills herself to remember that this is what she chose, that she has to continue to choose that.

That one moment is all she gets because a second later Yelena speaks and pulls her back to reality.

“We need to talk.”

Kate closes her eyes for a second, and nods.

“Right. Do you want coffee?”

She takes off towards the kitchen, assuming Sonya and Yelena will follow. Picking up the bag of left-out food, she takes it with herself, her bare feet padding against the tiled floor.

Sonya and Yelena do follow her to the kitchen, and Kate walks straight to the trashcan. Opening the lid with a jerky motion, she throws away the paper bag holding yesterday’s untouched dinner. It feels meaningful, and she purses her lips and slams the trashcan closed with more force than necessary, feeling her frustrated sadness at it all.

“Wow. You’d think you would be in a better mood. “

Kate looks at Sonya, her gaze probably filled with impatient frustration at what she thinks Sonya means. She is unsurprised when she turns out to be right.

“Anita must be disappointing in bed if you are this angry in the morning after.”

Sonya’s tone is mocking and Kate takes a deep breath, willing herself not to lash out. Giving Sonya a quick glare, she answers, her voice more even than she feels, with having all of this happen within 10 minutes of her waking up.

“Yeah, I have no idea.”

There is a slight pause and Kate goes over to the coffee machine, turning it on. She wants to clear up any misunderstanding there might be going on, but coming out and saying she didn’t sleep with Amanda without being prompted feels weird.

“It looks very much like you do have an idea.”

Feeling too tired to beat around the bush, Kate turns to them both and leans against the counter, crossing her arms.

“I don’t. I know what it looks like, but we just talked and fell asleep.”

Sonya is looking at her, with an eyebrow raised, and Yelena is staring at one of the plastic fake plants on a shelf across from her, looking like she is trying to be bored with this conversation.

“You didn’t sleep with her?”

At Sonya’s question, Yelena’s eyes do shift to her and Kate holds her gaze as she answers.

No. She…”

It’s awkward to have this conversation in front of Sonya, and with Yelena essentially not participating, but Kate wants her cards on the table, at least to the extent that she herself is aware of them. She doesn’t know if anything will ever happen between Yelena and her, she didn’t have time to consider what’s been happening or even to think about whether she wants to pursue this or not. But she is very much aware that something has gone off the rails between them, and if Yelena (and Sonya) go on thinking that she did sleep with Amanda, she has a feeling it’ll be even harder to repair. With that in mind, she continues.

“After you left, she was in the bathroom, crying. I sat with her and we had a long talk, I told her how I became… a vigilante, Hawkeye, whatever Um, and what’s been happening in the last few weeks with Fisk, ever since we first met. I told her I came to meet her because I thought she might be working for him, and I apologized for putting her in danger. She..”

The coffee maker beeps and Kate is thankful for the excuse to turn away for that part.

“She forgave me and um…we did kiss, as like a…goodbye thing. But she wants nothing to do with all of this and I don’t want her anywhere near it either, so…Um…”

She puts a mug in its designated place and pushes the button to make a coffee, before turning back.

“After that, I gave her some clothes because her dress was covered in blood. I ordered us some food and she had a shower. We…uh….there was one more kiss, but we didn’t…

“As fascinating as your personal life is, we have actual things to discuss.”

Yelena cuts her off, her features a careful mask of nonchalance and her eyes staring a hole into the pot of the plastic plant again. Kate can tell that she doesn’t want to hear more and for once, she respects that. Mostly, because she is not keen on sharing the details either. Having cleared up that what Yelena and Sonya assumed had happened has actually did not happen, she’s more than ready to leave this topic behind. It’s something she wants to process in private, along with whatever is going on with Yelena and her.

“Okay, um sorry. Go on.”

Yelena purses her lips and Kate turns away to prepare the coffee with a lot of milk and two sugars, as she knows Yelena likes it.

“The woman, from yesterday…”

Kate slides the coffee in front of her, and her brow furrows.

“Which woman?”

Yelena’s jaw clenches and she leans back against her chair. Smacking her lips she looks around the kitchen before clearing it up.

“The Widow that stabbed you.”

Kate’s mind is reeling. Widow? As in, a Black Widow?

Oh.

The woman with the helmet who attacked her in the car. With wide eyes, her gaze jumps from Yelena to Sonya and back.

“Oh my god, that was…?”

 Yelena finally looks at her and nods, her face serious.

“Yes.”

Kate tries to wrap her mind around that. She fought a Black Widow, who actually tried to kill her, and lived to tell the tale…barely. Having seen Yelena, and now Sonya in action, that fact was more terrifying than cool. She remembers Val’s and Sonya’s words from before and tamps down on her racing mind.

“Didn’t you uhm…”

Val used the word “gag order”, but it feels a bit weird to say that about Yelena and herself.

“tell them not to come after me?”

This phrasing still feels awkward, but Yelena thankfully gets what she is trying to say. Wetting her lips, she nods again.

“I did. We think she is still controlled.”

Kate’s eyes widen again, but she moves on to making a coffee for Sonya too, trying to process as she goes through the motions. 

“There are still Widows under mind-control?”

“We thought we found them all. But it’s possible that one or two may be so well hidden that we never had a chance to locate and free them.”

It’s Sonya who answers her, and Kate nods, taking in the information. Shit. This is…not good, to say the least.

“Right. Okay. Uh. So…I’m guessing we are freeing her?”

Turning back to them, she pushes the coffee in front of Sonya, along with the milk and sugar, not knowing how she takes it. Sonya and Yelena exchange a glance, and Kate feels immediately that she is being left out of something.

“What?”

Sonya starts preparing her coffee, and Yelena meets her eyes again.

We are freeing her. You, are staying home, and make an actual plan for tracking down the Kingpin.”

What?!

Her voice is immediately raised, and she stares at Yelena in disbelief. She juts out her chin and holds her gaze as she explains, her voice not matching Kate’s in intensity, but a little tension shining through it anyway.

“We have done this many times. And you keep running around like a headless chicken, jumping at anything. We do not need that for this mission, so you…”

Doing her best to calm down, Kate attempts to keep her voice even as she cuts Yelena off.

“Yelena, you can’t be serious. This whole mission is my idea, my life…”

Yelena cuts her off too, still cool and collected but the tension in her voice becomes more apparent, a few embers starting to spark behind her eyes too, as she stares back at Kate.

This has nothing to do with you.”

Gritting her teeth, Kate steps forward, putting both hands on the counter.

“What do you mean it has nothing to do with me? She was hired to kill me.”

Yelena kisses her teeth, obviously fighting her frustration too as a muscle in her jaw twitches.

“Her handler was hired to kill you. Also, that is all the more reason for you to stay away.”

Kate is positively seething. How can they, how can Yelena shut her out like this, after everything?

No. No, I am a part of this. You have been helping me with my shit, and now I’ll help you with this.”

Yelena finally breaks eye contact, to roll her eyes.

“No, you will not. It is none of your business.”

Kate tries to calm herself, and make Yelena see reason. Shaking her head, she keeps looking at Yelena.  

“If it’s your business, it’s my business. I’ll not just stand by while you…”

Yelena snorts, and Kate hears Sonya sigh deeply from the side. She finally re-joins the conversation too, her voice calm, devoid of the barely concealed tension that keeps coloring both Kate’s and Yelena’s.

“Kate, we are not pushing you out.”

Yelena’s face looks very much like that is exactly what she is trying to do. Kate feels like she is being punished, and she doesn’t even know for what exactly. Of course, she knows there are many reasons she could be, but what she doesn’t know is which one of them it is. Dragging them with her yesterday? Taking out her earpiece? Trying to send Yelena home? Kissing Amanda?

“Yes, you are…”

She says that to Sonya but turns to Yelena after that because it’s pretty obvious who the decision originally came from.

“…What do you want me to say? That I am sorry for fucking up? I am. I really am but shutting me…”

“It is not about saying sorry…”

Yelena’s voice finally rises too and her eyes are burning when Kate meets them again. She shuts her mouth to let Yelena speak, swallowing her own anger.

“It is about you refusing to follow simple directions, and putting yourself, and all of us in danger because you have no control over your impulses.”

Kate reels back as if she just slapped her, but Yelena continues, finally speaking her piece, her voice gaining in volume.

“It is about you jumping into situations without knowing how you will get out of them. You can say sorry as many times as you want, but it does not change the fact that your actions have consequences.”

That rings a bit too close for comfort, her mother’s words echoing in her head. She closes her eyes, to try and get her temper under control but fails, and practically spits the words out that rise in her chest.

“So what, you are punishing me? Newsflash Yelena, all I have done in the last week, hell, even the last one and a half fucking years is dealing with the consequences of my actions. I don’t need you to tell me…”

Cutting her off again, Yelena sounds a little calmer, leaning onto the counter on both elbows and holding Kate’s eyes.

“I am not punishing you. I am giving you an opportunity to improve.”

Kate looks at her incredulously, glancing over at Sonya who stares back at her seriously, clearly not on her side in this.

“How are you giving me an opportunity to improve?”

Her attempt to keep the mocking tone out of her voice is mostly successful, but Yelena’s eyes flash as she glares at her anyway. Kate watches her take a deep breath, and collect herself again.

“You have a mission and you are also injured. You need to take a step back and think with a clear head. Do your research before we make any more moves. By resisting, you are showing exactly that you are too impulsive to do any of this.”

Kate feels her nostrils flaring and she grinds her teeth. Yelena is making a lot of sense and she hates everything about it. She also hates the fact that this will put a distance between them exactly at the worst possible moment. Despite knowing she is right, she can’t help but push back at Yelena one last time.

“I don’t have to show you anything.”

She regrets saying that as soon as it leaves her mouth. Yelena lifts her chin defiantly and levels her with one more look, her eyes closing off and tilting her head.

“I guess you do not.”

Taking a deep breath, Kate closes her eyes and rubs her face with her palms.

She knows they have a point.

Kate has her own mission to focus on but leaving them, Yelena especially to do this without her, feels wrong. She has no illusions, Yelena and Sonya both have more experience than her in this, and it’s doubtful they’d need her help. But Kate has always prided herself on being a protector for the people she cares about and staying out of this is going exactly against her nature.

Pulling her hands from her face, she looks at Yelena again and wills herself to stay calm.

“Okay. How about we make a deal.”

Yelena’s eyes are still dark and angry, and she cocks an eyebrow, her lips tugged downwards.

“I must have missed the part where this was a negotiation.”

Kate’s nostrils flare again, but she holds Yelena's gaze and forces her voice to not rise again. Ignoring Yelena’s comment, she pushes on.

“I’ll stick to my mission, do the research, gather the intel, make a plan, everything. You guys do yours, track her down. But. When you go to actually get her, I’m going with you.”

Yelena opens her mouth and Kate can see on her face that she is about to say no, so she adds quickly.

“I will follow your lead, I promise.”

Yelena closes her mouth and seems to consider it. Kate holds her eyes, and finally, Yelena makes up her mind. She looks down and down, before turning her gaze on Kate again, nodding once.

“If you manage to stay out of trouble until then, I will consider it.”

Kate crosses her arms again, nodding back and taking the win, however weak it is.

“Okay.”

With that done, Yelena nods once more before she gets off the chair, and Sonya does a heartbeat after her too. Kate’s eyes widen.

“Wait, what about the rest?”

Yelena wets her lips and turns back to her with a barely concealed frustration. Kate’s natural instinct is to pick at the scabs of their wounded relationship. Her urge to fix whatever is wrong immediately fights with the logical side of her brain telling her that she should leave it be and give both of them time to calm down.

“What rest?”

Kate wracks her brain to choose one from the list of the million things they still have to talk about.

“Valentina? Rojas? Your phone call from yesterday?

The face Yelena makes makes it clear to Kate that she is on thin ice, and the voice of her answer cements it.

“It is being handled. Nothing to concern yourself with for now.”

Furrowing her brows again, Kate shakes her head.

“What is being handled? And you…you agreed to something yesterday. For Valentina.”

It’s quiet for a moment, Yelena choosing her words.

“They get rid of the bodies. They change the registration of your and Sonya’s car to someone else’s in the system. I do not know the details. They are paying off the owner of the apartment, I think. And deleting the camera footage of your little stunt.”

While the thoroughness of it all is both fascinating and horrifying, it’s not lost on Kate that Yelena has ignored the second half of her question.

“And what do we have to do in return?”

She holds Yelena’s eyes, and they stare at each other for a few seconds. Clinking her tongue, Yelena eventually looks away, probably aware that Kate will badger her until she tells her.

“Nothing, yet. I do not know. He wants to meet.”

Remembering the part of the conversation she did hear, Kate attempts to keep her tone calm, despite the frustration she feels.

“You told her you will meet Rojas without me.”

It’s a statement, not a question, and Yelena’s muscle in her jaw twitches again. Her tongue peeks out from between her lips impatiently and a sharp exhale comes from her nose before she explains.

“Kate. Your mentor killed his father. What do you think he will do to you?”

Brow furrowing, Kate shakes her head, and her voice gains in volume a little again.

“He doesn’t know that!”

Yelena pins her with a look, her green eyes boring into Kate’s sternly.

You don’t know that.”

Kate rubs at her face again and grips the bridge of her nose for a second. Sucking in her cheeks as she takes a deep breath, she looks back at Yelena.

“You don’t know it either. You can’t shut me out of this too.”

Yelena sighs, and purses her lips.

“It is a stupid and unnecessary risk to take.”

Kate throws her head back, staring at the ceiling for a moment as she takes a deep breath, praying for whatever entity is up there, God, Thor, whoever, to send her enough strength to not start screaming in frustration. It seems to be working because her voice comes out even, as she lowers her chin to look at Yelena again.

“You meeting him alone is stupid and unnecessary too.”

Sonya, probably growing tired of having to listen to yet another argument between them chimes in from the side.

“She isn’t. I am going with her.”

Kate purses her lips, her tongue running over her teeth as she looks at Sonya, then back at Yelena.

“That’s…that’s good. And thank you. But I am coming too.”

Yelena looks like she is close to groaning in annoyance, almost huffing before she speaks.

“Do we have to do this again?”

Kate matches her frustration, her chest feeling tight with it all. She feels herself scowl, lips almost curling as she throws it back at Yelena.

“I don’t know, do we?”

It seems that they have reached an impasse, and neither of them is willing to back down. In the back of her mind, Kate is aware that Yelena is doing this to try to be on her side, to help her, despite how bad it stings and how annoying it is. Sighing she is ready to concede, but Yelena speaks first.

“We will talk about it later. He has not called yet.”

Kate holds her eyes a second longer, nodding. That’s good enough for her. Yelena looks like she is ready to leave again and Kate suddenly panics. The chasm between them feels wider than ever, and all of this talking, arguing, has fixed nothing.

Taking a step forward, Kate glances toward Sonya before fixing her eyes on Yelena again. 

“Yelena, can…can we talk?”

It seems that Yelena is done with the conversation, because she turns away almost immediately, but not before Kate sees the flash of her eyes.

“We have talked. Now, I have a job to do. So do you.”

Kate can’t see her face anymore, and she closes her eyes to take a deep breath, not able to bring herself to watch as Yelena walks away and out of the kitchen. When she opens them she looks at Sonya, who is still standing in her kitchen, even after Yelena has made her exit. She looks down then back at Kate, before speaking in a quiet, calm tone.

“I told you not to tear your stitches.”

Kate bites down on the inside of her mouth, gripping onto the counter with a force enough that her fingertips hurt.

“I didn’t.”

It comes out almost hissed, and Sonya’s jaw clenches at the tone but her voice is still calm when she answers.

“You might as well have.”

Kate purses her lips, her jaw clenching and she glances at the doorway before looking back at Sonya.

“I could have. But I didn’t. On purpose.”

Sonya scoffs and shakes her head a little.

“So what? You want a medal for that?”

Her brows furrowing, Kate shakes her head.

“No? No. I am just saying. I didn’t want…this. I want…”

Gulping, she struggles to find the words to articulate what she wants. She wants to go back to how things were, before all of this mess. She wants Yelena to stop shutting her out. She wants a fucking day when she doesn’t have 10 different things making her feel like shit.

“I want to fix it.”

Sonya levels her with a look, lifting her chin.

“Then do what she asked you to. Put in the work, stop running around.”

Kate clenches her jaw and closes her eyes, lifting her face towards the ceiling. Taking a deep breath, she opens them, and looks at Sonya, holding her gaze as she gives a curt nod. Sonya nods back at her and turns to leave.

“Wait.”

Kate wets her lips and gulps again as Sonya turns back to her, an expectant look on her face.

“I…I really am sorry, about yesterday, to you too. It got out of hand and I…I am sorry for putting you in danger.”

Sonya’s features soften just a little bit.

“Okay. I forgive you. I understand how that was a…difficult situation. I am not saying you get a pass because seriously, that was a clusterfuck…”

Kate’s lips twitch upwards unconsciously and Sonya finally gives her a small smile.

“But it could have gone worse.”

Kate doesn’t have it in her to chuckle, but the puff of air leaving her nose is a small sign of amusement. She gives Sonya a thankful nod.

“I meant what I said. Choose a car, and let me know.”

Sonya does chuckle at that, throwing her answer over her shoulder as she walks away.

“Oh, I will Kate Bishop, I will.”

With that, she is gone, and Kate hears the front door open and shut a second later.

Standing in her kitchen, her small moment of amusement fades and she feels both defeated and so, so alone. Staring at the kitchen counter, she notes how Sonya has finished her coffee, but Yelena’s remains untouched.

With a sudden spark of anger, she picks up the full mug and throws it across the kitchen and into the sink with as much force as she can, the coffee splashing all over the cupboards and the counter, the mug shattering into a hundred little pieces. The movement sends a sharp jolt of pain through her side and shoulder, and when tears start to bubble up in her eyes, she doesn’t have it in her to stop them.

The sadness and guilt over last night, over the last couple of days, fills her. She leans on both hands planted onto the kitchen counter and hangs her head as sobs start to rack her body.

Fuck, how did this end up being such a fuck up?

Kate really did her best to roll with the punches, but she still ended up hurting almost everyone around her. Annie, Wendy, Clint, Yelena, Amanda, Sonya. The list keeps growing.

It occurs to her that she wanted to be alone, wanted to push everyone away just two days ago.

Well, she got her wish now. She is alone, yet people she cares about are still in danger. Yelena and Sonya are going after a Widow that is here because of her. Clint is looking into a fucking Mexican cartel, putting himself in danger again, because of her. Amanda nearly got killed because she just couldn’t let it go. Wendy and Annie have to up and leave their lives because she asked for a favor.

Closing her eyes against the tears streaming down her face, she yearns for her mom yet again for a moment.

She is in so much pain, physically, mentally, emotionally. And she feels so alone with all of this now, having managed to fuck up things with the one person who has been by her side through all of it until this point.

Yelena.

The burning, hurt green eyes flash in her mind and she can’t even name all of the emotions running through her. Anger, confusion, affection, guilt. Yelena kept her balanced through this all, and with her gone, Kate feels untethered.

She remembers her own pettiness and anger from yesterday, and shame joins the long list of emotions swirling in her chest. Yelena was harsh, but Kate let her own frustrations cloud her head too and she really did fuck up everything. Kate took Yelena’s help for granted, and now she is gone too, just like everyone even if she is still helping.

With a deep, shuddery sigh she leans off of the kitchen island and walks to the corner that holds the paper towels. Taking one, she blows her nose and leans back against the counter, closing her eyes again.

What is she supposed to do now?

The answer is pretty obvious, and she knows she will have to dig her heels in, grit her teeth and start working again. Go through the evidence meticulously, and come up with an actual, sensible plan. But the thought of that feels like running up a hill after you have just been stabbed in the chest, unable to breathe.

With a shake of her head, Kate leans off of the counter and walks back to her bedroom.

Her body aches and her mind feels like a fresh wound, painful and still bleeding. When Kate picks up her phone, she notes that it’s still barely 8 in the morning, and decides to allow herself a bit more rest, before tackling what she has to do.

With tears still wet on her cheeks, she lies down on the bed, not even bothering to close the blinds against the morning light.

It takes her a long time, but by the time her tears dry on her face, Kate is asleep.

----

When Kate wakes up again, it’s a few minutes after noon and her body might not feel better, but Kate always had a knack for bouncing back up and her mind already feels a bit more ready to tackle what she has to do. The weather outside seems to mirror her mood, gray and windy for the first time in a long while, the first day of September announcing fall’s arrival with lower temperatures and a promise of rain.

Kate rolls out of bed with a groan and takes the anti-biotics Sonya has given her, returning to the kitchen to finally have a cup of coffee too. She cleans up the mess she made by throwing Yelena’s mug against the wall while her coffee brews, and decides to make eggs for a late breakfast.

Her mood might be as gray as the skies outside, but she feels determined.

Her sleep has helped to numb some of the acute pain she feels at everything. Amanda, Yelena, her guilt. She pushes the rest to the back of her mind to deal with some other time, when she has time to properly unpack it.

While whisking her eggs, she thinks that Yelena and Sonya are right.

She has a job to do, a mission to finish, and the only way she actually gets to protect anyone is if she finishes it. The thought that this is the way to get back into Yelena’s good graces crosses her mind too, but she pushes that to the part of her brain that will remain untouched for now too. Whatever attraction she may or may not has for Yelena will have to wait for now. Both because she is still, very much in trouble, and because her head feels all kinds of confused with everything that happened and she definitely doesn’t feel ready to untangle the mess in it.  

Once her scrambled eggs are done, she brings her laptop to the kitchen and gets to work while she eats.

The next few days are spent in a similar fashion.

Kate gets up, eats, works, eats more, works even more, and then goes to sleep. She manages to make her way through all the evidence that Wendy provided but the question of its reliability remains. She picks up the phone to reach out once, but in the end, Kate doesn’t have it in her to call Wendy and ask what else might have been tampered with.

Clint remains out of touch, and she does her best not to worry, talking to Laura almost every day for the remainder of the week.

True to her word, Amanda sends her clothes back a day after their final goodbye. Kate considers throwing them away, but decides against it after a heated battle with herself, and just shoves them to the very back of her closet, for now, not to be seen or thought about.

If she let herself think about it, which she does not, it’s a pretty good analogy for what she does with her other feelings in general. Emotions are not clothes, however, and Kate may be able to shove everything away into little boxes when she is awake, but she has no control over her brain when she is not.

The nightmares start on her first night after, and every day following she wakes up tangled in her sheets and drenched in sweat.

She has to give it to her brain, it might be an asshole, but it’s creative.

The dreams range from finding her loved ones in the container on the ship, to images and faces of the people she has killed during the missions, and once even to vague images of having sex with someone, yet feeling incredibly guilty about it. After that particular dream, she wakes up with a thundering heartbeat, a slick heat between her legs but also an acidic, swirling feeling in her stomach that she can’t name.  

She also develops a new habit of having to get up and check if her doors are locked at least twice before she can even fall asleep, sometimes even going as far as walking around the apartment to check if all of it is really empty.

The memories of being hunted, and people looking for her to kill her are hard to shake, with no physical activity to tire her out. Her work turns her brain into the kind of exhausted where she can’t really focus anymore but still feels too wired to shut down, still trying to connect dots even when it is actually too tired to do so.

Combined with looking over hundreds of photos of people actually having been murdered in various ways, from simple gunshot wounds to having their heads bashed in by car doors, sleep is not only unsatisfactory but also very hard to achieve, even when she does finally lie down. It leads her to avoid sleep as much as she can, most of her actual rest attained through naps during the day on the couch and then working through the night.

While it might be bad for her mental health, on the other hand, her bull-headed determination does wonders for her work. By day 6 following the whole Amanda fiasco, her apartment is decorated with almost everything there is to find out about Fisk.

She thinks she was able to find three shell corporations that are connected to his activities, and she hacks into at least 5 different government systems to get their financial records, employee records, even their code of conduct documents, which by the way end up being dozens of pages of corporate bullshit that makes her throw the prints across the room in a fit of frustration.

The sense of loneliness remains, and apart from delivery drivers, she doesn’t see another living soul for six days. Yelena and Sonya remain suspiciously radio silent and on more than one occasion, Kate has to convince herself to not go down 16 floors and demand to be included in their investigation or at least ask for Lucky back.

Her sense of duty, however, stops her from doing that. If she is honest, despite stating the opposite to Yelena, her desire to prove herself does too. She resists the urge to jump on any of the leads she uncovers as well, walking up and down in her apartment restlessly, but not actually going after any of them, just digging deeper until she uncovers more.

She remains laser-focused, but by the sixth day, it seems like she has hit a wall.

She has been going through the financial records of the shell companies for two days at this point, but despite her Columbia-given education in business and administration, she struggles to find a connecting thread between the three. The numbers on paper keep blurring in front of her eyes and numbing her mind in a way that doesn’t help her already pretty foul mood.

Determined to do it alone, she keeps on digging but it feels she is going in circles or like she is trying to untangle a million threads tied and twisted around each other, not finding an end to pull on. Her frustration makes it worse, and she has to read and reread pages over and over again, losing track of what she was doing or was looking for only a minute ago.

Apart from her otherwise good progress, the other upside of her (self-)exile is that her injuries are given rest and time to heal. She makes sure to take the anti-biotics every day, and cleans her wounds thoroughly, despite her personal hygiene suffering otherwise.

The downside of her body healing is that it makes her even more restless than before. Her muscles feel constantly tense, and she has to vow to cut down on her coffee consumption because after cup four on this particular day, she feels jittery and ready to jump out of her skin. It’s the longest she has ever spent cooped up in her apartment, especially alone, and she gets off the couch to have a shower when the temptation to go downstairs and find Yelena (and Sonya) becomes almost too much to resist again.

When she finally has her second shower in 6 days, she notes that the stab wound and the shotgun injury have both faded into raised, pink scarring and soon it’ll be time to take the stitches out that hold them together. The cuts and bruises on her face have all but faded too, and when she wipes the fog off of the mirror after her shower, she gets a muted feeling of satisfaction at the fact that she is starting to look like herself again. Her face is a bit gaunter than usually with her nights of avoiding sleep, but she still looks healthier than she did almost anytime during the last two weeks.

After her shower, she puts on a fresh pair of sweats and a muscle tee that finally doesn’t have coffee or some food spilled over it and sits back down to work. It’s late in the afternoon and after a moment of consideration, she sticks to her promise to herself and pushes down on her desire to make another (fifth) cup of coffee.

Doing her best to focus on the numbers, she gets comfortable on the couch and digs in. She makes it through one page, trying to not get distracted by the way her still wet hair sticks to her face when there is a knock on her front door.

Having already eaten her ordered lunch almost three hours ago, her head snaps towards the door, a sense of mild paranoia filling her veins. She is up in a heartbeat, her retractable sword opened and ready in her hand not even a full second later as she walks towards the front door. Her suspicion that this is someone coming to end her life warrs with a small bubble of hope in her chest, that it’s Yelena or Sonya coming to fetch her for a mission…or even just to talk.

Neither feeling ends up being right in the end, but she doesn’t feel disappointed when she looks through the peephole of her front door, and sees Thomas on the other side, accompanied by Lucky.

She swings the door open without any more hesitation, depositing her sword on the table to the side.

“Hey, buddy!”

Her voice sounds a bit croaky from not having used it since yesterday when she talked to Laura on the phone but she drops to her knees and greets Lucky’s enthusiasm with her own.

There is an amused snort from above them, and Kate turns her head to watch Thomas’ grin spread over his face. Unconsciously, her eyes flit over to behind him, hoping to see someone else coming up too but the hallway is empty, Thomas apparently alone other than her excitable golden retriever.

“Hi Kate”

His voice is full of warmth and amusement and she doesn’t have to force herself to smile up at him, even as she hugs Lucky close despite his excited wiggling making it pretty hard.

“Hi Thomas”

She raises to a stand and opens the door wider, letting Lucky run inside and looking expectantly at Thomas.

“You coming in?”

Thomas smiles at her as he passes her and if she feels a bit embarrassed about how happy she is just to interact with another human being, she ignores it. He halts after two seconds, taking in the state of the apartment.

“Wow. When the girls mentioned you were working on the case alone, I didn’t expect you’d go full Zodiac killer.”

Kate chuckles, rubbing the back of her neck as she takes in the mess in her living room too.

Admittedly, her apartment has seen better days.

Despite getting around to cleaning herself, finally, the flat is in absolute shambles. There are several used mugs on the coffee table, and takeout containers litter the part of the couch she doesn’t use. The files and pictures have spread from the big whiteboards she and Yelena brought up the first day, to all over the wall too, and there are stacks of papers on almost every available surface of the living room.

In one word, it’s a huge fucking mess, even if Kate is totally able to tell where every important thing is if someone were to ask her.

“Yeah, I, uh…I’ve been busy.”

Thomas looks at her, eyebrows raised and an amused twist to his lips. Kate attempts to tamp down her intrigue at his mention of “the girls”, but the question bubbles up in her throat and is through her lips before she can stop herself.

“Where are Yelena and Sonya?”

His smile spreads wider, turning into a grin.

“It’s nice to see you, Thomas, thank you for taking care of my dog”

His voice imitates hers in a way that makes her chuckle, and she smiles back at him.

“It is nice to see you and I am really grateful.”

There is a knowing glint in his eyes as he laughs at her words, and she feels like she should look away, but she doesn’t. This is the first proper interaction she has with another person face to face, so if she is being a bit bolder than she needs to be, so be it.

“I am just fucking with you, Kate. Amm, I don’t know, actually. They only said they’re going out for some meeting and will be back later. I got bored of ESPN, so I thought I’d come up to see how you are.”

Kate’s smile freezes onto her face, and there is a painful pang in her chest, worry immediately filling her. It must show on her face because Thomas’ smile fades away too.

“What…did they say what meeting?”

She tries to keep her voice nonchalant, but it’s only semi-successful. Thomas shakes his head and glances away before looking at her again.

“No. Uh…they did not.”

“What were they wearing?”

It’s a strange question probably, judging by Thomas’ expression, eyebrows shooting up on his brow, but he entertains her oddness and answers anyway.

“I don’t know. Regular clothes?”

Kate lets the breath go that she was unconsciously holding, a minuscule amount of tension leaving her body. They wouldn’t go after the Widow in regular clothes, right? Or to see Rojas, right? And they would not go without Kate, right? Okay, she is definitely not sure about the last part, but she tries to calm herself. Running a hand through her hair, she forces out a chuckle.

“Right, okay. Sorry...” 

Thomas’ eyebrows are still drawn together, but he seems to shake it off after a second too, his features smoothing. Kate goes over to the couch, picking up the takeout container that Lucky was in the process of tearing up, and the others littering the furniture after it too.

“Come, have a seat. Um, do you want anything to drink?”

Again, if she is clinging to Thomas’ presence as the first human she said more than “Thank you” to in real life in almost a week, she ignores it. Thomas does go to sit, and there is an embarrassing moment when he sits down on the couch and then proceeds to pull a used fork from underneath himself. He hands it to a sheepish Kate with a grin, and she takes it back to the kitchen along with the containers.

“I’ll have whatever you are having.”

Gathering all the mugs takes a second round to and from the kitchen, but Kate is back in the living room 2 minutes later, handing him a beer.

“So, what are you working on?”

Kate wonders again, how much Sonya tells him about her previous life, or the current one really, but he has participated in patching up Yelena and her without batting an eyelash, when the two of them showed up covered in blood, so she is probably safe to assume he is aware of it, to some degree at least. She also has a vague memory of discussing something about Sonya’s life as a Widow when they were high on morphine so she decides he must be up to speed, even if not in all the details.

“Well…you know, there is a mob boss on my ass?”

Thomas laughs at the phrasing and she can’t help but crack a smile too.

“Yeah, so I’ve heard.”

She takes a swing of her beer and then gestures around with it around the living room.

“I’ve been looking into his activities. I, um, I found some companies that I’m pretty sure are connected to him, but I can’t figure out how they are connected to each other or find proof that they are working for him.”

Thomas’ eyebrows shoot up and she could swear he looks excited.

“Do you want help?”

Kate’s eyes widen, then her brows furrow even as she smiles.

“You want to help me go through thousands of pages of financial data?”

He grins back at her, his face almost teasing.

“You might not remember this, because you were high off your ass, but we did have a conversation about me being a forensic accountant.”

Feeling her cheeks warm at the mention of that evening, Kate chuckles awkwardly. It does ring a bell but she definitely would not have remembered on her own.

“Oh. Right.”

The face Thomas makes this time is definitely teasing, but she is thankful when he doesn’t pull on that thread and only parrots her words.

“Oh, right.”

Lucky jumps up on the couch between them, and Kate starts stroking his head before she looks up at Thomas again.

“But like, that’s your job. I am sure you have better things to do on a…”

She has to check her phone to see what day it is.

“Monday evening.”  

His grin fades into a smile. It’s kind and so is his voice, when he answers.

“I love this stuff, so I’m offering… But  um, if you’d rather keep it private, that’s cool too.”

Kate shakes her head, rubbing her forehead with a sigh for a second, smiling too.

“Honestly, I am super stuck. And like, if I have to look at it for a minute longer, my brain will literally melt. So yeah, I’d love some help, thank you.”

Thomas chuckles at her words and tips his beer at her.

“Okay, fill me in.”

And so Kate does. For the next hour, she tells Thomas everything she went through and found. He listens patiently, seriously, and asks her questions that send her running around the living room, finding a document or another.He points out a few things that she did not notice, and after the hour is up, starts digging through papers with her.

Kate barely notices the time passing, Thomas is good company and Lucky is curled into her side like he never left. It’s probably the best mood she has been in for the last week and before she knows it, it’s past 9 pm.

Her stomach grumbles and Thomas looks up from the paper he was reading to look at her, with a smile forming on his lips. He checks the time on his expensive watch, and Kate’s chest pangs, not ready to be all alone again. He glances at her again, and maybe she is imagining things, but the glint in his eyes softens a little.

He makes a show of yawning and throwing the papers on the coffee table, before stretching out his arms above his head.

“What do you say we call it a day and order some food. This will still be here tomorrow.”

If her gratitude is showing on her face, Thomas doesn’t comment but he does give her a good-natured grin, before nodding towards the barely-used PlayStation below her TV.

“We could play some rounds. I always find that focusing on something else helps to jumpstart my thought process anyway.”

 Kate may not completely understand why Thomas is being so nice to her, but she is not the one to look the gift horse in the mouth. Nodding eagerly, she pulls out her phone.

“What do you feel like eating?”

Thomas thinks, scratching Lucky’s head as he snoozes between them.

“Sonya and Yelena made some Russian stew yesterday, so not something…like that.”

Kate chuckles, despite the pang in her chest again, her gaze jumping to the side and back to him.

“Was it bad?”

He grins, and the affection on his face warms Kate a little, as he blinks back at her.

No? No. No, it was just…um. Unusual.”

She can’t help but grin back at him, biting down on her tongue a little. She can see that he tries to resist saying anything else, but he gives up pretty fast.

“If you say anything, I will deny even knowing you. But dude! It was so spicy I could barely breathe right for like an hour.”

Kate bursts out laughing at both his words and the wide-eyed expression he says them with and the grin is back on his face a moment later, laughing with her.

“God, I know. Your girlfriend ordered me some Indian last week and I couldn’t taste anything for like a day. And…uh,  Yelena puts hot sauce on things they very much don’t belong on.”

He shakes his head, the affection still clear on his face, and if she wasn’t looking at him, she’d have missed the slightly curious look that crosses his features. Sidestepping the question she is afraid is coming, regarding Yelena, she asks quickly.

“Okay. So no spicy food. What else?”

He either wasn’t going to ask anything after all, or took note of her avoidance, and goes back to thinking, pursing his lips.

“How about the Italian place on 35th?”

Kate’s tries to remember if she knows the place before eyes widen, and her stomach grumbles again as if in approval.

“Giorgio's? Fuck yes!”

Scrolling on her phone already, she opens the restaurant’s page in the app and sends Thomas a group order link through AirDrop. She chooses her ravioli quickly before glancing over at him.

"Um, do you think Yelena and Sonya are back already?" 

Thomas shakes his head, still looking down on his phone. 

"Nah. Sonya didn't text me yet." 

Nodding, Kate wets her lips and asks. 

“Should we order them something too? You can…um, take it downstairs afterward so they have dinner too, when they get back.”

Eyes crinkling, the tips of Thomas’ mouth curl upwards as he turns to looks at her.

“Sure. I’ll choose something for Sonya, you choose something for Yelena.”

Kate nods again, looking away. Going back to the menu, she looks at all the options carefully this time and tries to think of what Yelena would like based on the meals they have shared together. By the time she makes up her mind, ordering her pasta with wild boar ragu and mushrooms, Thomas is done next to her, smirking as he looks at his phone.

She taps Order and ignores his non-verbal teasing, but his smirk slides into a grin a second later.

“Are you sure you choose well? Do you need like another hour?”

Her answer is a good-natured eye roll, and an involuntary feeling of heat spreading to the tips of her ears.

“Oh bite me, Newhouse.”

He snickers to himself before getting up to grab the PlayStation controllers. Passing her one as he sits back down, he looks for the TV remote.

“So, what do you have that we can play together?”

 She looks too, standing up and lifting pillows to search for it.

“I don’t know. What do you like? I have a bunch of stuff but uh, I don’t play often.”

He chuckles, and they high five when she locates the remote shoved between two cushions of the couch before Kate sits down again.

“Sports. Either Madden or NBA.”

He says it like it’s the only right answer and Kate considers him with a faux serious expression, before turning on the TV.

“Okay. I bet I can beat your ass in NBA.”

He bursts out laughing and shakes his head.

“Just because you were captain of the basketball team in high school, it doesn’t mean you’ll be good at this.”

Giving him a cocky smile, she leans back on the couch, choosing the game.

“We’ll see.”

Kate ends up being good at the game, surprising herself too, if she is honest, since she has only played it a handful of times before. With her busy schedule, gaming was not something she had a lot of time for at any period of her life, but the console was useful for a boring night at home or when friends were over. Her surprisingly good abilities are no match for Thomas’ experience though, and he ends up beating her more times than not.

Kate tries to be a good sport, but she indulges in a little trash talk, and Thomas laughs at it good-naturedly. They discuss the game, people they both know, and everything in-between as they wait for the food to arrive. Kate has so much fun that she almost forgets they are even waiting for food until there is a knock on the door.

“I’m so getting your ass in the next round, Newhouse, you’ll see.”

Picking up the sword before opening the door is basically second nature, after she walks across the room. Pointing the tip back at him, she cocks an eyebrow and Thomas laughs, shaking his head.

“There is the douchey jock my sister was so fond of.”

Still grinning, Kate turns around and checks the peephole, expecting to see the delivery person with their dinner on the other side. Her heart stops, then takes off racing when she sees the figures waiting in the hallway.

Pulling the door open with more force than what’s probably necessary, she is almost surprised by how both Yelena and Sonya visibly startle, looking at her with matching expressions of raised eyebrows and slightly widened eyes.

Kate’s gaze immediately seeks out Yelena, as her grin falls from her face, giving way to a slightly awkward smile, her eyes widening slightly too.

Yelena looks good. Her injuries seem to have healed just as well as Kate’s since last week, maybe even better but it might just be the light makeup she wears covering it.

Under different circumstances, Kate would find it hilarious that Yelena and Sonya both seem alarmed by the door swinging open so suddenly. It only takes them a fraction of a second to get over it, however, and once Yelena does, her eyes drop to assess Kate as well, presumably checking the state of her injuries too. Her blonde hair is down today, falling below her clavicles and partially covering the colorful jacket she wears. She is in faded jeans, and boots, standing an inch or two taller than usual, but still only coming up to Kate’s eyebrows, even as she stands barefoot.

“Oh, hey, hi. What are you doing here?”

Thankfully, Kate is not preoccupied enough to not move to the side, letting the two Widows pass her by and into the apartment. Lucky immediately jumps off the couch and runs to Sonya and Yelena, as if he didn’t spend the last week with them, his tail wagging wildly.

“Thomas said you guys ordered dinner for all of us.”

Walking into the living room, Sonya answers and Kate’s eyes shift to her, watching her as she greets Pizza Dog first, giving him a pat and a peck on the head, and then walks up to Thomas, leaning down to greet him with a kiss.

“Hi, babe.”

It feels a bit weird to be watching the display of affection so Kate turns back to close the door behind Yelena, who stepped into the apartment too. Looking over at her, Kate sees her crouched next to Lucky, greeting him too but obviously taking in the state of the apartment as she does. Immediately, Kate feels more self-conscious about the mess. Thank god she showered before they all showed up, at least.

“How did your meeting go?”

Yelena’s eyes glance at her for a second as she stands up, and Kate wonders if this feels awkward to her too, but Yelena looks as unbothered as she did before their fallout a week ago. Kate would think they are back to where they were, if not for the stunted, one-word answer she receives.

“Good.”

Yelena walks deeper into the apartment too, leaving her standing by the door alone and not giving her any more attention. Kate sighs and tries not to let it bother her. It seems that 6 days were not enough for Yelena to completely forget about her hard feelings toward her. She is looking around again and Kate sees as she notes the stacks of papers and the decorated walls. Internally, she is thankful that at least the mugs and take-out boxes have been taken care of.

“How have you been, Kate?”

Kate watches Yelena’s retreating form a second longer before her eyes shift to Sonya. Having finished greeting her boyfriend, she focuses on her fully with a smile. She at least seems to be over what happened and Kate returns the smile, lying through her teeth.

“Yeah, good, good. I’ve been good. How are you? Um, chosen a car yet?”

The smile Sonya wears turns into a grin as she settles onto the couch and into Thomas’ side.

“I am still thinking. I loved the Jaguar but the new Range Rovers look gorgeous.”

Kate huffs in amusement, walking back towards the couch too, halting across from them.

“Right. Take your time and let me know.”

Kate glances at Yelena, who now stands in front of one of the whiteboards, looking over her work, and tries to ignore the nervousness sneaking into her muscles.

“You are buying a new car?”

Hearing Thomas’ question, Kate turns back to look at him and Sonya, catching the amused look she gives him.

“No. Kate is buying me a car.”

Thomas blinks, his eyebrows shooting up on his forehead before furrowing.

“Why? I can buy you one.”

Sonya grins and Kate is almost distracted from her anxiety about Yelena looking at her work by the sweet affection she sees in Sonya’s eyes as she looks at him.

“I know. But Kate wants to buy it as a way of apologizing to me, so who am I to stop her?”

Thomas snorts, his easy smile back on his face a second later as he looks over at Kate.

“Oh, so that’s how it is, Bishop. You can’t beat me in NBA, so now you are stealing my girl?”

Kate snorts back at him, trying to go with the flow of the light-hearted conversation as she puts on a faux smug expression.

“I don’t need to steal your girl, Newhouse. I can beat your ass at NBA just fine.”

Sonya snorts at her comment, looking between the two of them with interest and Thomas almost laughs, before putting on a fake-condescending face.

“The last thirty minutes are evidence that you very much can not.”

Sonya looks away from Thomas to level her with a raised eyebrow of her own, looking at Kate as she still stands in front of them on the other side of the coffee table.

“Don’t tell me you are into these childish games too, Kate Bishop.”

Kate grins, putting her hands on her hips. To the side, Thomas looks at Kate like he is trying very hard to communicate with her telepathically, to tell her something.

“Yeah, I uh, dabble.”

Sonya shakes her head, glancing back at Thomas who is now looking all-too-innocently at his girlfriend.  

“Tommy told me adults play these games, but I find it hard to believe him.”

That clears up what message Thomas was trying to convey, telling her this is apparently something Sonya either doesn’t like or teases him about doing. Considering how nice he was to her all afternoon, Kate immediately decides to be on his side, even though she hasn’t actually played with the console in like three years before tonight, and only turned it on a handful of times before that.

“Oh yeah, totally! Actually, it’s probably more grown-ups than kids, with some games at least.”

Sonya remains unconvinced as far as Kate can tell, her eyes narrowing slightly to see if Kate is bullshiting her. Tilting her head to the side, she seems to make up her mind.

“Maybe you can teach me after all. If adults play it too.”

Turning to Thomas, Kate sees the way his face lights up and she’s glad she chose to back him up. He smiles and gives Sonya a peck on the lips, making Kate’s chest pang a little. They look so happy and at ease. It yanks a little on all the boxes Kate spent days pushing to the back of her mind. Glancing at Yelena, she sees that she is still looking at the files pinned to the board, looking over all the information Kate gathered.

As if feeling Kate’s eyes on her, Yelena turns around and catches her gaze, eyes softer than when she walked in a few minutes earlier. It seems that Kate’s work has passed the test as Yelena turns fully away from the boards, and decides to sit on the couch next to Sonya and Thomas a second later, after taking off her jacket.

“You have actually worked the case”

Kate crosses her arms, pursing her lips but she keeps her voice purposefully light and a bit jokingly petulant. They are all playing nice and Kate thinks maybe she has an opportunity to make it out of the figurative dog house she managed to put herself into last week.

“You don’t have to sound that surprised about that.”

Yelena’s lip twitches upward before she seems to remember she’s supposed to be mad at Kate, and her face grows serious. It doesn’t stop her from patting Lucky though, when he comes up to put his head in her lap.

“Have you found any new leads?”

Kate nods and settles onto the floor a bit awkwardly, across from the three of them, four if you count Lucky. It feels like she is at an exam, or on trial, making her shuffle around a little. Taking a breath, she prepares to explain but Sonya’s dramatic groan cuts her off.

“Enough shop talk already, Yelena. I want an evening off.”

Yelena does snort at that, the sound of amusement feeling like a sip of water after weeks in the desert for Kate, even if it’s not directed at her. Sonya turns her back to Thomas’ side, burrowing deeper as she puts her feet up and turns her gaze to Kate again.

“Do you have any more beers, Kate Bishop?”

Kate nods eagerly and gets up, walking back to the kitchen. In the back of her mind, she happily notes that the movement is no longer painful in any part of her body, but mostly she is just preoccupied with finally having company again. After some brief consideration in front of the fridge, she gets a bottle for Yelena too, hoping it will serve as an olive branch of sorts.

“Are all of the games for sports?”

It’s impossible to stop the small smile forming on her lips, as she walks back into the living room and hears that they are still on the topic of games apparently. Sonya’s voice is genuinely interested now, and Yelena seems to be paying attention to the conversation too, her head turned towards Thomas.

Kate holds the beers out for them both, and Sonya takes hers with a graceful smile. Yelena looks at the bottle, and then at her as if she was weighing the possibility of Kate trying to poison her.

“I did not ask for this.”

Kate sighs, letting her outstretched hand with the beer bottle fall to her side. Yeah, that stings. 

“Okay. Do you want anything else?”

It takes a couple of moments for Yelena to make up her mind, holding her hand out in front of her.

“The beer is fine.”

The urge to be petty and not give it to her is strong, but Kate rolls her lips together and hands Yelena the bottle.

“You are welcome.”

The sass slips out almost unconsciously, probably as a result of both feeling on edge with Yelena after everything, and the solitude of the last few days. Thankfully, Yelena only lifts an eyebrow as she reaches for the bottle.

“Thank you.”

Kate holds onto the beer for a second longer, as their eyes remain connected before Sonya’s voice breaks them both out of the moment.

“If you two start arguing again, I am taking the boys and we are leaving.”

Kate can’t help but be amused at both the words, and Thomas’ befuddled expression as her gaze shifts back to the couple next to Yelena. She holds both hands up, stepping back.

“I am just serving beer.”

Sonya’s eyes slide over to Yelena who purposefully ignores her, and takes a swing from the bottle. When the silence endures, Yelena looks to the side and gives an eye roll.

“What. I just said I did not ask for a beer.”

The eyebrow that Sonya lifts doesn’t break Yelena’s façade, but she turns towards the TV in a second, gesturing at it with the bottle in her hand.

“What is the point of this?”

Kate settles on the ground again as Thomas answers the question.

“It’s fun.”

Yelena glances to the side, her brow furrowing a little. On her side, Sonya looks equally confused.

“But what is the objective?”

At Sonya’s question, Thomas looks at Kate for support, who starts to stroke Lucky’s exposed tummy as he finally comes up to her and lies down by her outstretched legs. It’s not like Kate is a huge gamer, but she tries to explain anyway.

“It depends on what game you play. Some games are about shooting or fighting people, some are about sports, um. In others, you uncover mysteries or build something.”

Sonya nods slowly as if she is trying to comprehend a particularly difficult math problem. Next to her, Yelena looks at the TV with furrowed eyebrows still and something akin to apprehension.

“Or race cars.”

The quiet addition from Yelena is surprising, and Kate notes the strange lilt to her voice. Her mind flashes back to the story of Yelena’s childhood in Ohio and she winces a little as Thomas’ face lights up, and he asks Yelena.

“Exactly! Have you ever played?”

Whatever nostalgic spell took Yelena for a second is gone in an instant. She takes another sip of her beer and shakes her head with a small, and kind of sad smile.

“Once, when I was little.”

Thomas, more perceptive than Kate might have assumed, seems to read the room well enough, and lets it go. Shifting his focus back to Sonya, he smiles and leans a little closer to her.

“The objective is to have fun.”

Sonya’s eyebrows tell that she still doesn’t really understand the concept. She gesticulates with her hands, head leaning against Thomas’ outstretched arm behind her.

“Why not fight or do sports or…uncover mysteries in real life instead?”

Thomas sighs like a long-suffering teacher dealing with a class full of unruly children.

“Because this way, you can do it from the safety of your couch. The whole point is that you can do things that you can’t in real life.”

Sonya shakes her head, but Kate watches Yelena as she picks at the label of the beer bottle in her hand, her gaze dropped to her lap. Kate can’t guess what she is thinking about, but for some reason, video games seem to be a more serious topic to her, than they are for Sonya.

“Everybody can play basketball.”

Kate is only half-listening to the conversation but when Thomas answers in a teasing tone, she smiles at it nonetheless.

“Technically, sure. But I’d like to see your cute butt trying to slam dunk a basketball.”

Five-foot-two Sonya slam-dunking a basketball is quite the image, and so is her affronted expression at his words.

“You think I can’t? I could learn if I wanted to.”

Thomas grins, wide and endeared. Now even Yelena is turned back towards them, a mildly amused and interested expression on her face.

“I am the first to bow down to your many amazing skills, baby, but I don’t think that’s physically possible.”

Brow furrowing, Sonya narrows her eyes at him before turning to Kate.

“You played basketball in high school, yes? Can you teach me?”

Kate tries to stifle the grin spreading onto her face. Does Sonya even know what dunking is?

“Sure. We will just need a trampoline.”

Turning back to Thomas, Sonya looks at him triumphantly.

“You see! Kate can teach me!”

Thomas doesn’t seem to be able to hold his own grin back, as he looks at his girlfriend affectionately.

“Babe, you can’t use a trampoline in a basketball game.”

Sonya glances back at Kate, confused and she opens her mouth to answer but the sound of the buzzer interrupts her. Kate stands up to get it with a grin still on her face, letting in the delivery person from Giorgio's. Just like before, grabbing the sword to check the peephole is almost automatic.

After she verifies the identity of the person through the door, she glances at Yelena as she puts the sword down and sees her eyes following the movement, her face unreadable. The conversation has died down, it seems and when Kate’s gaze slides to Sonya and Thomas, she seems to be watching her too while he is distracted by his phone. Sonya immediately looks away as her attention shifts to them, but Yelena keeps looking at her.

Opening the door, she feels a bit uncomfortable with the attention, but she smiles distractedly at the teenager handing her the paper bag full of Italian food and hands him a fifty-dollar bill from the side table. He thanks her with wide eyes and she smiles at him, mind still preoccupied with the silence behind her.

After closing the door, she makes sure to lock it again and deposits the paper bag onto the coffee table.

“I’ll get us plates.”

Not waiting for an answer, she turns to the kitchen and avoids looking at any of them. It feels like she is being judged somehow, even though Yelena and Sonya should be the last people to frown upon her cautiousness. As she pulls four plates and four pairs of utensils from one of the cupboards and the drawer below it, she tries to listen to the words now spoken from the living room. They are muted, and after a few seconds, Kate realizes they are also in Russian. With a deep sigh, she leans against the counter for a second and mentally prepares herself for the questions or teasing she expects is coming.

Walking back with the dinnerware in her hands, she reminds herself to remain civil, and not lose her cool. Thomas seems unaware of anything happening, standing up to distribute the food among the four of them.

Sonya now seems to be looking around the apartment too, eyes sweeping over the paper and photo-covered walls, as well as the stacks of papers everywhere. Yelena is watching Kate as she comes in, assessing her again but immediately looks away when Kate looks at her too.

“Um, Frutti di Mare for you babe. Ravioli is yours, Kate?”

Kate puts down the plates on the table too, extending her hand.

“Yup.”

She takes a plate and fork and settles back onto the ground from across the couch. Lucky walks around the couch, his tail wagging wildly as he sniffs the air, and Kate smiles at him. She missed her food-obsessed golden retriever. When he comes over to sniff at her food a second later, she grabs his head and drops a kiss on his soft forehead again. The fact that neither Yelena, nor Sonya commented on whatever they seem to be thinking is not lost on Kate.

“Are you okay on the ground, Kate?”

At Sonya’s voice, Kate raises her eyes at them and smiles, pushing down on her nervousness.

“Yeah, this is fine. Needed a change of scenery from the couch anyway.”

Chuckling at her own words, she decides to focus on her food, tilting the takeout container to transfer the dish onto her plate. It smells delicious as the steam rises towards her face and she takes a whiff, making her mouth immediately water.

She digs in right away, not having realized how hungry she was already, and only lifts her gaze when she hears Yelena’s appreciative hum from the other side of the table.

“This is very good.”

Yelena talks with her mouth full, and Kate smiles a little, turning back to her food again. She managed to choose well, after all. After she swallows the first bite, Yelena speaks again. 

“Thank you, Thomas.”

Glancing up again, Kate looks at Yelena first, before her eyes slide to Thomas who smiles around the food in his mouth, and answers once he swallowed it as well.

“Kate chose that. And she paid too, so don’t thank me.”

That seems to surprise Yelena, her eyes jumping to Kate again, who gives a little self-conscious smile. Yelena gulps, turning back to her food, looking down on it and Kate’s heart plummets. Stabbing another ravioli onto her fork, she stuffs it into her mouth before she can say something she will regret. It has been going well so far… if you don’t count the fact that Yelena barely addressed her or looked at her all night. Kate doesn’t want to ruin the tentative truce by sniping at Yelena, but now she is just being straight up rude and…

“Thank you, Kate.”

She glances up in surprise, meeting Yelena’s eyes. She nods at Kate, and she nods back, swallowing the food in her mouth. Swallowing her quick temper with the bite she took a second ago, Kate answers.

“You are welcome.”

Yelena nods a second time, before resuming to eat, looking away from Kate. She feels confused, and her gaze seeks out Sonya and Thomas but they seem to be focusing on their plates as well, not paying them attention. Is Yelena still mad at her, or not? It seems there is still a wall between them, and Kate doesn’t think she is imagining the awkward air around them. Chewing another forkful of her ravioli, she glances at Yelena again, but she seems to have resolved herself not to look at her. Or maybe Kate is just imagining it, and…

“So, have you taken your anti-biotics?”

Sonya’s voice interrupts Kate’s thought process and she shifts her gaze over to the other side of the couch.

“Yeah, I have. Um, everything is healing fine.”

Sonya nods, smiling as she takes another bite of her pasta.

“I can take a look at your stitches after dinner if you want?”

Kate is a bit confused but grateful, so she nods and smiles back at Sonya.

“Thanks.”

Thomas is either a lot more perceptive than Kate gives him credit for, or a lot less. Either way, he picks up the conversation from before again, filling in the silence that was about to turn a bit stifling for Kate’s liking.

“So, will you finally let me teach you how to play?”

Sonya grins into the bite she is taking, rolling her eyes amusedly. She seems to mull it over while she chews, and turns her head toward him fully after she swallows. Pursing her lips, she regards him for a moment longer.

“Okay. On one condition.”

There is already a smile tugging at Thomas’ lips, and Kate feels like she is intruding on a moment again. Her eyes seek out Yelena one more time, but she is either not paying attention, or tunes Sonya and Thomas out, focused entirely on her food.

“Sure, name it.”

Sonya leans closer and whispers something in his ear that makes his eyebrows shoot up in surprise, a light blush sneaking onto his cheeks. Kate gets an answer to her question of whether Yelena was listening, as she grimaces slightly and shifts a bit further away from the two of them. Her eyes rise and meet Kate’s, this time not looking away instantly. The half-embarrassed, half-amused smile Kate gives her is partially unintentional but her heart leaps when Yelena returns it, mirth sparkling in her eyes for a second.

For a moment, the two of them communicate silently, finally on the same wavelength again, even if only to laugh affectionately at their friends. Sonya shifts away from Thomas a second later, a self-satisfied smile on her lips, and a slow blink of her long eyelashes as her gaze shifts over to the two of them.

“I can say it out loud if you want.”

Her grin is absolutely shameless and Kate chuckles but answers quickly, at the same time as Yelena.

“That is not necessary.”

“Please don’t.”

Sonya snickers, leaning impossibly even more into Thomas’ side who avoids looking at either of them, but chuckles along, despite the now flaming blush on his face. Kate looks back at Yelena, who rolls her eyes and shakes her head, before going back to eating her pasta dish. 

“Just please, collect that condition when I am not home, okay?”

Yelena speaks after she swallows her bite, glancing toward Sonya and Thomas as she says it, an eyebrow raised amusedly in their direction. Kate chuckles at her words, taking another forkful of her ravioli too, the plate now almost empty.

“Maybe you should spend the night at Kate’s then. I am planning on getting my half of the deal as soon as possible.”

Sonya’s voice is light and teasing, but Kate misses the second half of the sentence almost entirely as she watches Yelena’s face still. Her eyes glance toward the guest-room door before her nose scrunches ever-so-slightly and her lips are turned downwards. It’s almost the same grimace as her reaction at Sonya’s whisper into Thomas’ a minute earlier, but even more grossed out. Ouch. That stings too.

“Ugh, no thank you.”

Kate waits for her to meet her eyes again, but Yelena doesn’t look up again. Instead, she focuses on her plate of food again, her mouth still tugged downwards. It’s obvious that the same page Kate was hoping to find is lost again, buried under the weight of Sonya’s teasing words.

“Hm, suit yourself.”

That’s all Sonya says. Knowing her a little by now, Kate knows she is almost certainly aware of the implications of both her own words and Yelena’s answer, but she seems to not want to acknowledge them. Kate notices late that Lucky leaned into the plate in her lap and swiped a ravioli but at this point, her appetite is mostly gone anyway.

Sonya and Thomas keep up the conversation going while they finish dinner, and Kate tries to keep up her enthusiasm, but Yelena’s continued silence weighs on her chest and slowly her eagerness tapers out. When they are all done, Kate gathers their dishes and takes them to the kitchen without a word. While she loads the dishwasher and distractedly notes that she really needs to take the trash out, she tries to steel herself for being alone again.

Having all three of them over was really nice, even with Yelena’s hot and cold (mostly cold) behavior. Even Lucky’s presence alone was a balm to her days of restlessness. As she closes the door of the dishwasher, Kate wonders if Thomas will help her again, and decides that she will swallow her pride and ask him once she is finished in here.

The machine is turned on with a push of a button and a beep, and Kate also thinks she should attempt to speak to Yelena again as well, one on one, to clear some air between them. Focusing on their tasks was working well for Kate’s productivity, but it’s obvious that they are disjointed, and they need to have a conversation before they can work together again properly….Or even spend time in the same room, without it turning awkward.

To her disappointment, Yelena is gone by the time she makes it back, only Sonya and Thomas standing together in the middle of her living room. They talk in hushed voices, faces close together and the conversation quiets down when Kate enters.

Lowering her arms from around Thomas’ shoulders, Sonya turns to Kate with a smile, not acknowledging Yelena’s absence.

“Take off your shirt.”

With the last reserves of her mental energy Kate cracks a smile, halting a few steps away from Sonya and puts her hands on her hips.

“Don’t get me wrong, you are both awesome and I am very flattered but I’m not gonna have a threesome with you.”

Sonya bursts out laughing, and Thomas snickers too, before rubbing the back of his neck. Sonya recovers faster, giving her a playful look and a fake, wistful smile.

“That’s truly a shame. But I will still check your stitches because I’m an amazing friend.”

Kate grins, before glancing at Thomas who seems to get the message.

“Right. I’ll go downstairs too.”

He picks up his phone from the coffee table and after a moment he turns to Kate again.

“Hey, I’m gonna leave Lucky here, okay?”

Kate hesitates as a picture of matted, crimson fur emerges from her brain, an image frequently visited in her nightmares in the last couple of days. Wetting her lips, she glances at her dog, now sleepily chilling on the couch that all three humans have vacated. As nice as it was to have him, have them over here, Kate is still toxic, as far as she is concerned. Anyone around her, especially someone as defenseless as Lucky, is in danger.

“Actually, if you don’t mind taking care of him for a few more days…”

Thomas glances at Sonya so quickly, that Kate almost misses it, before cutting her off with a smile.

“I don’t mind, at all. But how about he stays while you are just doing recon, and then I’ll take him again when you have something.”

Gulping, Kate purses her lips, trying to decide if that’s safe enough. It does sound like an alright compromise, so she nods with an uncertain smile a second later.

“Yeah, um, okay. Alright. Thank you.”

Thomas doesn’t hesitate to return the smile and turns to leave again. Kate considers asking him to help again, but with him already doing her a favor, it feels a bit too much. He already helped to uncover a thread Kate can start to follow. She can always ask if she gets stuck again.

“Goodnight, Newhouse! And uh…thanks for tonight!”

He turns back one last time, giving her a small grin.

“Goodnight, Bishop. If you need someone to beat your ass at NBA some more, let me know.”

The chuckle that leaves Kate’s lips is a purposefully teasing, but light.

“I’ll show you actual basketball sometime, and then we will talk.”

Thomas laughs, waving it off and he is out the door a second later, leaving Kate alone with Sonya.

“I’ll get the first aid kit.”

Smiling at Sonya, Kate walks by her and goes to the bathroom to retrieve the supplies. As she walks back, Sonya seems to be looking over the same board as Yelena did earlier, not joining Kate by the couch immediately.

“You have done a good job.”

Still not looking away from the board, Sonya talks to her, and Kate puts the items in her hands onto the table, before straightening up.

“Thanks. I think I am onto something but um, I’ll need more time to verify.”

Sonya nods silently, and Kate adds a second later, glancing around the stacks of financial documents.

“Thomas helped a lot, actually.”

At that, Sonya does turn around with a slight smile, leaving the board a second later to walk towards her.

“He is very good at what he does.”

Kate returns the smile and reaches down to take off her shirt, leaving her in her sports bra again. Sonya motions to the couch, and Kate sits down, throwing the shirt to her side.

“You have lost weight.”

Kate’s eyebrows shoot up but she nods reluctantly, not especially keen to discuss the topic. Maybe due to her non-existent sleep schedule or her less-than-healthy eating choices in the last couple of days, she did lose some weight, looking a bit thinner than she did in the last few months.  

“Have you been sleeping well?”

Kate snorts, as Sonya leans down to inspect her side, glancing at her face.

“Yes, mom.”

The quirk of Sonya’s lip is amused, but she is looking at Kate way too focused and serious for her liking.

“I don’t believe you.”

She says after a few moments, and Kate glances back at her.

“I…yeah, I…Well, I got a bit caught up in research. You know how it gets.”

Gesturing vaguely around, she hopes Sonya gets it, even though she doesn’t necessarily know what she means either. During her PI days, research never sucked her in like this or made her lose sleep like this. Granted, it was more cheating spouses and runaway kids, than hundreds of people being murdered but still. Sonya looks at her profile a moment longer, before turning back to her side.

“I guess I do. But I am surprised you do.”

Kate chuckles, lifting her arm to give Sonya better access as she pokes at the stitches on her side carefully.

“I know compared to you guys, I am a noob. But I do have some experience. I have been Hawkeye for almost two years now, and I had a bunch of cases as a PI…”

She trails off as Sonya’s eyebrows furrow and she glances up at Kate’s face again.

“What’s a noob?”

Thankful that Sonya is not poking fun at her comparatively small experience, Kate smiles.

“Like, a newbie. New at something.”

Sonya nods, trying the word out.

“Ah. Noob. Okay.”

Moving onto her shoulder, Sonya begins to check the stitches on there too, before continuing.

“Well. You might be a noob, but you did good work. But you also seem to be getting a bit…”

Sonya hesitates as she briefly glances around the messy living room, before looking back at Kate’s skin again.

“…too invested.”

Kate snorts, glancing at Sonya too before looking around and choosing to look ahead on the still present NBA pause-game screen.

“Look. I appreciate the worry, but um. There is no “too invested” in this. This is my life, and it’s on hold until we…um, I sort this out. And I’m totally fine. I just…I’m okay.”

Nodding, Sonya straightens up. She regards Kate for a moment longer, her hands on her hips. Kate looks back at her, ignoring the urge to look away from Sonya’s focused eyes.

“Is this your first time working alone?”

Kate shakes her head, rolling her eyes a little. It’s nice of Sonya to worry, but Kate is doing just fine.

“No. I worked alone in LA all the time.”

Sonya nods one more time and she looks around the room again, before her gaze focuses on Kate.

“Right. Your injuries are healing fine. We can probably take out the stitches in a day or two.”

Reaching for her shirt, Kate smiles up at her.

“Thanks.”

After a moment of hesitation, as Sonya looks at her still, she adds.

“And uh, thanks for the concern, I um. I appreciate it. Even though I’m really like, totally fine.”

Sonya returns the smile easily, before taking off her plastic gloves.

“You are welcome. And well, we’re actually very lost with that Widow. We keep running into dead end after dead end. So, we’ll be back tomorrow. Okay?”

Kate’s chest soars in both relief and gratitude, and she can’t help the smile widening on her face. While obviously, she has been doing fine, not having to do this alone would be a lot more preferable. Her heart that took off racing a second ago, halts, however, as she glances at the door for a second.

“Is, um. Does Yelena know that?”

This time, it’s Sonya’s smile that widens, the teasing glint back in her eyes.

“No. But if we want to find the Widow, we’ll need your research. So she will have to suck it up.”

Kate cringes a little, trying not to get her hopes up.

“That’s... Um, we’ll see then, I guess. Thanks, again for the uh. Check up.”

Sonya continues to look at her amusedly, and Kate scratches the back of her head to do something with herself.

“See you tomorrow, Kate.”

Kate gives a small smile back, getting up from the couch finally.

“See you. Thanks, again.”

Sonya gathers her jacket and bag and Kate sees her grin to herself.

“You are welcome, again. Goodnight.”

Kate opens the door for her, rolling her lips.

“Goodnight.”

A moment later, Sonya is gone and Kate is alone again.

She waits for the feeling of loneliness and suspicion to come back, but when she looks at Pizza Dog and thinks about the possibility of seeing Yelena and Sonya again tomorrow she feels much better than she has in days.

Deciding that she has made enough progress for the day, especially with Thomas’ help, Kate decides to clean up a little. It’s barely past midnight and she took a nap during the afternoon, so along with her already messed up sleep schedule, Kate doesn’t feel tired yet.

She takes the trash out first, then does a load of laundry, some of it gathered even before her week-long exile. After some consideration, Kate puts on a hoodie and a jacket then picks up Lucky’s leash, and calls out to her dog.

“Come on bud, let’s go for a quick walk.”

The nervousness creeps up on her during the elevator ride down to the ground floor, but once they are outside, Kate feels it slip away. It’s the first time she has left the apartment since the Amanda fiasco, almost a week ago now. The late-night streets are empty, and Kate consciously steers them away from the direction of Central Park.

The air is somewhat chilly, and Kate pulls the hood over her head both to stave off the cold and to hide her face from potential threats lurking around. Lucky walks beside her happily, and Kate finds a sense of peace she always does during their walks.

Her thoughts stray back to the events of tonight, and she does her best to push the complicated feelings towards Yelena aside, choosing to focus on her work with Thomas instead. Her gut tells her the three companies are connected more than they seem on paper and Thomas pointed out that their accounting practices are somewhat similar. They all operate with large amounts of cash and only employ two or three people at maximum.

Lucky finally does his business a few blocks from home and Kate steers them back toward the apartment afterward, still deep in thought while remaining vigilant of her surroundings. What doesn’t check out, is that none of the three companies are in New York. Two out of three are in small towns in the state, and all three are also different businesses. One is a small bar, one is an agricultural business, and the third one is a cab service in Jersey.

What connects them is that their owner is a company called VM Limited, which is owned by a larger company Limitless Holdings Corporation. Limitless also happens to be one of the companies that took the scrapped equipment from Bishop Security after its dissolution.

Thomas also pointed out, that from his experience, small companies like these shouldn’t have corporate documentation like they do. It seems that someone is going to extraordinary lengths to make these businesses look as clean as possible, which is suspicious on its own. According to Thomas, the fact that they even have Code of Conduct documents is probably an attempt to ward away overworked government officials looking into the companies’ activities, who usually only have time to check boxes and only look into financials if something is missing.

There is also the fact that all three companies only handle exactly the amounts of money, which falls precisely below the threshold that would raise a flag with the authorities. This fact has also been pointed out by Thomas, as Kate would have had no idea what amount of money could a company move to and from its books, without triggering an automatic inspection from the IRS.  

Overall, there is nothing suspicious about these companies apart from being held by a larger corporation that Kate thinks is connected to Fisk, and unless you know what you are looking for, they all look extraordinarily clean and the financial equivalent of “nothing to see here, move along”.

As Lucky and her walk the final few block back to their building, Kate has an idea. If all three companies use a similar accounting style, isn’t it possible they all use the same accounting company, maybe even the same person? Hurrying the last few hundred feet back home, her mind starts to race.

If they were all handled by the same person, then finding that person could be the key to unraveling this. They could shine a light on what these companies are actually for, and maybe confirm or clear up Kate’s suspicion that Fisk is behind all three.

With Sonya and Yelena back in the fold, they could also maybe go and check out all three and poke around in person. Kate would absolutely do it alone, but Yelena had a point about jumping into situations without properly preparing first. The fact that Kate also has dozens of pictures of dead detectives and journalists who have looked into Fisk before is also a good reminder that doing this without backup is probably a terrible idea.

“Good Evening, Miss Bishop.”

The doorman’s voice jars Kate out of her thoughts, even though she was aware of his presence as they finally reached the building. Answering half on autopilot, she crosses the lobby and waits for the elevator with Lucky.

Once they are back in the apartment, Kate feeds him his very late dinner, after locking the door and resisting the urge to check around every room for intruders. Sonya, and maybe Yelena, have definitely picked up on her restlessness being a bit over the top, which in turn made her painfully aware of it too.

Settling down on the couch again, she dives into the research again, Lucky joining her after he finished his meal. His warm body against her side grounds her and now that she has a goal in mind, the work seems a lot less mind-numbing.

The stacks of papers don’t hold the answer she is looking for, however, and Kate is back in the pit of her frustration in a few hours. Deciding to call it a day, she gets off the couch and gets ready for bed around 4 am, mentally preparing herself to spend the night in her actual bed this time, not on her couch for the first time in days.

After brushing her teeth and washing her face, she makes her way to her bedroom, but not before making sure the door is locked. Lucky is already snoozing on her comforter and the sight of him warms Kate’s heart. She slips under the covers, after taking her sweats and bra off, and turns off the light on the bedside table.

A minute passes, then two. Kate felt tired when she got off the couch, but now she feels wide awake. Try as she might, she can’t shake the feeling that someone is waiting for her to fall asleep in the guest room, and when she does… Her mind helpfully supplies her with images of the bodies left in Fisk’s wake.

After she is sure that at least an hour must have passed, and she is still awake, Kate kicks off the covers with a huff. This is ridiculous. Picking up her retractable sword from her bedside table, she briefly considers sleeping in her safe room, but that feels like admitting she has a problem.

Instead, Kate walks around the apartment, turning the lights on and then off in every room, checking under the beds and behind the curtains. After she finds nobody, she can’t help but feel silly, as she always does after doing this but the tight knot in her stomach finally eases out.

Slipping back into bed, she decides to leave the lights on and closes her eyes. Slowly, she feels herself calming down and only cracks an eye open when Lucky sleepily crawls higher on the bed, pressing his head into her side. Burrowing her hand into his fur, she smiles before closing her eyes again.

Finally, she falls asleep.