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we're going to make it through this (if it kills us)

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There’s no great way to write your mom in prison (after you put her there) to give her a heads up that you’re dating an international super spy, so Kate just… doesn’t.

She justifies it to herself, for a while, because she and Yelena aren’t really dating anyway, they’re just hooking up. But then they are dating, and then they’re sort of engaged, and then they’re definitely engaged, and it just sort of hasn’t come up.

So it goes!

Being Hawkeye isn’t a super visible role, so it’s not like a ton of news about her life makes it into the news. And being a spy and all, Yelena literally never makes the news, so the only picture of her out there is super blurry and doesn’t show her face, when she and Kate are in the background of a Spider-Man candid.

(Kate isn’t bitter about Spider-Man candids. She’s in a lot of them. It is what it is.)

They carve out space for themselves, in between saving the world and holding down jobs. It’s easy to fall into any routine, even when a routine involves shoot-outs two or three times a week, and so mentioning it to her mom just never really happens.

And now she’s getting married and her mom is going to be released from prison and it’s a whole thing.

Yelena’s mouth quirks up when Kate tells her, in a hurried and slightly incoherent monologue. “You forgot to mention your partner of five years to your mother?”

There’s no good way to answer a question like that, so she shrugs exaggeratedly and says, “Oops.”

“You Americans and your mommy issues. Do you know how I told my mother about you?”

“Yes,” Kate says, because she was there.

Yelena tells her anyway. “I visited her home without warning with my girlfriend and said, ‘Meet Kate Bishop.’ And she said, ‘Hello, Kate Bishop.’ And then she made you a trick arrow to say welcome to the family and that was that.”

“I know,” Kate agrees, miserable. She buries her head in her hands, which does not help at all.

Yelena throws her head back and laughs. “Good luck.”

Kate mumbles something incoherent at her. Yelena laughs even louder. She claps a hand on Kate’s shoulder and heads out.

Clint is not any more helpful. She buys him pizza and swings by the farmhouse with the small jet that Yelena liberated and Kate just hasn’t asked about. Sometimes it’s better not to ask the details. It’s bad, in its own ways, when Yelena arrives bruised and hurting, but often it is very good. Sure, there’s always the risk she won’t know until the scandal breaks, but–

Well, she’s been through that before. And she trusts Yelena, knows that she has her own moral code. But she’s been through that before. She knows how to survive.

She waits until they’ve finished the pizza to broach the subject. Well, she doesn’t, really, but he says, “Spit it out.”

And she does. Kate doesn’t have a filter at the best of times and around Clint, when she’s already stressed, it’s all out the window.

He leans back in his chair and says, “I am so glad I’m coming to your wedding.”

She moans a bit.

“At least you’re always unique.”

Laura usually leaves them alone when Kate shows up on “totally official and very serious superhero business” but it’s not a huge house, so Kate isn’t surprised when Laura sticks her head in and says, “It’s not going to get any easier to tell her. Just rip the bandaid off.”

Kate signs something vulgar. Both Clint and Laura laugh their heads off at that. It’s almost like old times, when Clint was still superhero-ing with her and she was lost and scared and they took her in.

A week later, she’s on a roof shooting at some weird alien that Dr. Strange promised is, “An anomaly, definitely.” Only this is the third one and the blue creeps don’t seem inclined to stop munching Central Park’s trees like they’re broccoli.

Spider-Man swings from out of nowhere to join her, landing neatly. “Hey, boy wonder,” she says.

“Hi!”

She’s met him plenty of times, in groups, but they’ve never really had a conversation. She knows less than nothing about him. As much as she’s into the whole being-friends-with-superheroes thing generally, Spider-Man jets between being New York’s favorite and the most hated person on the planet on pretty much a week-to-week basis. It just isn’t worth it.

“How’s it looking down there?”

“Dr. Strange has almost got his portal thing up and running again. White Widow is down there somewhere with Captain America and the Winter Soldier so they have a lot of the close up fighting covered.”

“Perfect.” Kate lines up a shot and takes down one in an explosion of blue goop. The mention of Yelena makes her heart twinge. “Hey, Spidey, say your mom was about to get out of prison and you’re engaged and never told her. How do you cross that bridge?”

“I accidentally made everyone in my life forget my existence,” Spider-Man says, sounding more than a bit sad. “So… I guess tell her? Because you never know what you have until it’s gone.”

Kate takes that in. “Want to get pizza after this?”

Spider-Man practically hops from excitement. “I really, really do.”

Yelena is going to be pissed. Kate motions at the entrance to the park anyway. “We’ll meet there. Now let’s put these goop machines in their place!”

She gets pizza with Spider-Man. He only takes the mask off enough to eat pizza. Kate decides not to ask, even when it looks like Yelena’s eyes are going to roll right out of her head. Sam and Bucky join them, a bit late, and Bucky pats Spider-Man on the head.

“Good to see you when we’re on the same side, kid.”

Spider-Man says something back, but it’s muffled by his pizza.

“Spider-Boy, I notice your webs come out of your hands. Anatomically incorrect. Why do you do it this way?”

Kate uses this opportunity to grab Sam’s attention. He takes a huge bite of pizza right when she asks, “Does your family know about the superhero stuff?”

He nods.

“Do they know about,” she waves her hand at Bucky, “the dating?”

Sam raises an eyebrow, maybe a little bit judgmentally, and nods.

“Right,” Kate says, “because that is normal for family to know about partners.”

Yelena glances over, distracted from Spider-Man’s stammering about efficiency. “You are still on this? I said: tell Eleanor. I said five years ago. And you said: I will lie to avoid any awkward situation. Everyone knows time will help this situation.”

Kate huffs. “She also doesn’t know what my job is. Or where I live.”

“That doesn’t make it better,” Bucky says. He steals the garlic butter from Kate. “But if you don’t want your mom in your life, then keep her out of your life. This fence-sitting shit just causes more pain.”

Three little kids come up to take a picture with Spider-Man, because apparently, he’s popular this week, so the conversation is over. On their walk home, Kate complains to Yelena. “Isn’t Hawkeye cool enough to take a picture with?”

“I will take a picture with you,” Yelena says. And she does. It’s a nice picture of them, Yelena looking at her while Kate grins directly into the camera. They’re post-fight mussed, but neither of them were injured past a few scratches. Kate’s massive problems aside, it’s actually a really good day.

She doesn’t bring the other part of it up until later. She fidgets a bit while Yelena is brushing her teeth and then says, “I don’t think I’ve forgiven my mom.”

Yelena doesn’t stop. Kate keeps going, because she’s not great at silence, actually. “It’s like, she did awful things that are really hard for me to rationalize. There are people who are dead because of her. And she lied to me and tried to kill my best friend. So it’s personal, too. But she is still my mom.”

Yelena spits into the basin and grabs the floss. “Your best friend was an assassin,” Yelena reminds her. “Your fiancee is an assassin. A very cute assassin.”

Kate has this slight desire to say, “But it’s different.” It isn’t, not really though. Just because they’re on Kate’s side now doesn’t mean they’ve always been on the right side. And all she’s got is her own moral code telling her that it’s the right side and she’s been known to mess up there before.

“I should probably just tell her,” she says. “I know that. I know I totally should have done that five years ago because you’re my favorite person in the world and also super hot. I don’t know why I didn’t.”

Yelena stops flossing long enough to say, “It is because you make everything too difficult.”

Kate totally does. Kate makes every single thing way too damn difficult on herself. They go to bed, but it takes Kate a long time to fall asleep.

Three days later, her mom is released. Kate goes to pick her up alone, in a truck she borrowed from Bucky. She could’ve driven one of Yelena’s fancy cars, or Sam’s hybrid something, but Bucky drives a big black truck that fits in literally everywhere. The new Avengers is something her mom knows about, in an oblique way, but they haven’t ever really talked about it. Hawkeye doesn’t make the news all that often, sure, but she does sometimes and people did notice when there was a new one.

But the truth of it is that Kate’s day job is Avengers related, all of her friends (outside of her LARPers) are current or former Avengers, and it’s sort of the best thing she’s ever done. And directly opposite to her mom’s laundry list of crimes. So she doesn’t mention it. They talk about the weather a lot, when she calls.

Eleanor doesn’t look great. Five years in a maximum-security prison will do that to a woman. She’s gaunt, a bit thinner than Kate remembers, and there’s this haunted look in her eyes that couldn’t have been there before. Kate hugs her anyway, because this is still her mom and she’s only got the one.

“I’ve missed this so much,” Eleanor says.

“I missed you,” Kate replies.

It’s not precisely true. But it isn’t a lie, either. Kate is learning to sit with things as they are, rather than poking and prodding at bruises until they sting. She opens the truck door for her mom and Eleanor settles in. Kate tucks herself even deeper into her Cornell sweatshirt, which was originally Yelena’s, and makes sure it covers her left hand. Maybe she could have called, but she kept chickening out and told herself it would be better in person. So far, it is not better in person.

It used to be that she would tell her mom everything, when she was a little girl and looked up to Eleanor Bishop with stars in her eyes. All of a sudden, for all her usual wordiness, she can’t figure out how to start the conversation.

So she puts the truck into gear and then puts it all out there, Kate Bishop style. “I’m engaged.”

She isn’t looking at her mom, too focused on backing out of her parking space. It’s purposeful, but she regrets it a bit, not being able to see her mom’s initial reaction. But when she speaks, Eleanor is at least supportive. “That’s wonderful, honey. Tell me all about him.”

Kate bites her lip and pulls out of the parking lot. “Right, so about that, do you remember my crush on Cynthia Marsden in tenth grade? Totally romantic stylez, it turns out.”

“You’re engaged to Cynthia Marsden?” her mom asks. Her tone is a bit flat. Kate can’t blame her, because it turns out Cynthia Marsden was a little bit of a whack job and ended up vandalizing at least three important buildings and livestreaming her arrest.

“No, no. I think she’s in prison again. I just–I’m engaged to a woman. That’s what I mean. She’s great. You’ll love her.” Kate is almost certain that they won’t get along. She also knows that Yelena will make an effort, because Yelena always shows she cares when the chips are down. The old Eleanor would have been polite right back. Kate isn’t sure what to make of the woman in her passenger seat who she hasn’t seen in five years. Mostly, she feels nauseous.

Eleanor relaxes a bit and lets out a breath. “Thank goodness it’s not Cynthia.”

Kate considers this. She tries to figure out how to say, well! Fun fact, she’s a Black Widow and former(ish) assassin and current(ish) Avenger. But, like, in a soft and gentle way. She’s not making much headway. And then the road in front of them blows up.

Her first thought is: Bucky is going to kill me.
And then: I hope he has insurance.
And, finally: holy hell I’m the hero. I need to do something.

After five years of hero-ing and existing while human, Kate has learned enough to always keep a bow on her. It’s compact and not even half as good as her regular one, but it’s something between her and whoever wants to blow up civilians on a weekday morning.

“Get out of the car,” she tells her mom, and Eleanor nods and does. A lot of people either run screaming or stay in their cars when roads get attacked. Neither of them are safe options, but nothing’s really safe in a situation like this. Generally, it’s best to have the freedom of movement over being stuck in bloodthirsty traffic.

There’s always this part of Kate, this dumb, stupid part, that looks at the enemy and thinks, I can’t do this. The rest of her is stubborn enough to make up for that part every single time but, still.

Then she charges in. It’s not her most glamorous fight. First of all, it takes her a solid two minutes to figure out what it is she’s fighting, and even then, it’s a bit scratchy. She’s got: kraken with bombs? But the important thing is that arrows, even ones shot from a weaksauce bow, do damage.

And she’s not trying to kill the thing. She’s just got to buy time and evacuate as many people as she can. She calls Yelena and sticks a receiver in her ear.

“Kate Bishop!” It’s better than any pet name. “You are on the news. I like the jeans. Doing very good things for your butt.”

Kate preens a bit and then helps an old woman trapped in her car. “That way, that way,” she tells her.

“Thanks, babe,” she tells Yelena. “Do I get any backup?”

“Bucky says only if his truck is still in one piece.” Kate winces at that and Yelena continues, “I tell him no way. I know my lover. Tentacle incoming from your left.”

Kate dodges it and shoots after it.

“The Scarlet Witch is nearby. She will come first, then captain birdy will fly in. I say you do not need three people on one kraken, but Sam says he is coming anyway.”

“Thank you!”

“Stay safe and please pick up the good nut milk when you come home.” Yelena disconnects.

Kate evacuates a dozen more people before Wanda arrives. Wanda’s someone she doesn’t know well, outside of a few near disasters. She tends to show up, kick ass, and then depart. Kate doesn’t understand it, but she does respect the hustle. Wanda is doing the same now, holding back the kraken’s assault with her red swirly things while Kate shoots for the squishy bits.

They’re close enough to yell over the wind, so Kate does. “How do you do that?”

Wanda swirls her hands. “Do you ask Dr. Strange how his magic works?”

“Yes!”

“Does he tell you?”

That would be a no. That’s fair. There’d been this part of Kate that thought maybe she’d end up with a community like the OG Avengers. And she does have close friends, people who understand what it’s like to risk your life to defend others, but she could also hang out with some firefighters for the same effect. She doesn’t really have a team. It just makes her sad, watching Wanda fight next to her and feeling ten miles away.

When Sam shows up, it’s definitely game over for the kraken. Between the three of them, it’s back in the water and on its way to sleep for another few hundred years. And Kate has to find her mom.

“Sounds like a good problem to have,” Wanda tells her after Kate word vomits about how she was halfway through telling her mom about her fiancee when all of a sudden there was a kraken.

That’s certainly one way to look at it. Kate wrinkles her nose. “I hope she doesn’t hate me.”

“She did forgive you for turning her in for a ton of crimes,” Sam reminds her, as gently as you can remind someone of a fact like that. “We’ll take care of the clean-up.”

“Thanks!” Kate stashes her tiny and more than a bit frustrating bow in her bag and jogs off in the direction she last saw her mom.

It isn’t hard to find her. Eleanor’s directing people off the road and away from the bridge. She’s more effective than the cops, too, which isn’t a surprise but does make Kate feel a bit proud of her. It’s not enough to make her hope that her mom has turned her life around or become a good person or anything, but it’s nice. Kate is tired and a bit sore already and she’s been feeling sensitive for weeks, and she realizes suddenly that she doesn’t care about justifying herself to anyone.

She’s in love with Yelena Belova, White Widow. They’re getting married and their wedding is going to be amazing. Her mom sucks a lot, but she still loves her anyway even though it’s hard. She wants to be a part of a true Avengers team where they can kick ass but also hang out and grab groceries together after a mission because they trust each other.

So she hugs her mom and says, “So you know that time you hired a Black Widow to kill Clint? I’m marrying her.”

Eleanor pulls her into a tight hug. “Did you get hurt?”

It’s kind of her to resist asking if Kate got kicked in the head. Or suffered some other sort of traumatic injury in the last five years that would lead to a decision like this. Because honestly, Kate loves Yelena, but marrying an assassin your mom hired once should definitely be the sort of decision a parent questions.

“No,” Kate says. She makes an aborted jazz hands motion before she realizes how utterly wrong that would be for the situation. It’s like the look-mom-no-hands of almost getting killed superheroing. “I’m okay.”

They set off in the general direction of Bucky’s truck. It’s going to take a year and a half to get through this traffic, but better to start on the interminable ride back now, before Eleanor has had a chance to take in the news. To Kate’s relief, it at least starts, even if it’s a little bit less truck and a slight bit more convertible than it was when she borrowed it. There are worse ways to go than being killed by the Winter Soldier. She imagines he’s fast.

After half an hour of sitting there, hoping they can eventually go somewhere, Eleanor finally speaks, “And you’re happy with her?”

“So, so happy,” Kate says almost too fast, her words tripping over themselves. She’s just so glad they’re speaking. “She really is super great.”

“I’d like to meet her.”

And that’s that. The ride back is way too long and awkward, because Kate’s lost sight of how to communicate like they’re two normal human beings. There might be too much between them, now, for it to ever be like it was.

She tries to be okay with that. They buy almond milk. She gets her mom the kind of chocolate she used to like.

Eleanor isn’t staying with them–Yelena had asked and Kate’s kneejerk answer had been, “Hell no, then we can’t walk around naked,” and the nice thing about Yelena was that was enough for her–but she does come back with Kate for dinner.

Kate opens the door hesitantly. Yelena doesn’t play practical jokes on her (Clint is another story, but he often deserves it) and she’s prickly but she isn’t cruel until someone deserves it. But there’s this feeling of trepidation. She’s engaged, in her mid-twenties, and she’s never introduced a partner to her mom before. It’s so definitely, totally weird and she absolutely wants to call it all off.

It’s suddenly too late for that, though, because Yelena appears with an apron that says “Kiss the Spy” on it–read the room!, Kate thinks, but it is her favorite apron too–and chirps, “Hi! You must be Eleanor. I have heard a lot. From Kate, much of it good.”

Eleanor doesn’t react for a long moment, like she’s sizing Yelena up. “I wish I could say the same.”

Yelena sighs then, one of her protracted ones that always make Kate feel like she’s back in middle school, about to watch the bully she totally had a crush on eviscerate someone. She doesn’t even twitch towards any of her weapons. Instead, she pulls Eleanor into a tight hug. Kate whimpers a little bit and tries to tell herself it’s dignified.

Yelena steps back and says, “Who Kate Bishop loves, I love.”

“We have something in common, then.”

Yelena turns to head for the kitchen. “Only that, unless you also like Nordic murder shows,” she says over her shoulder. “We have a fundamental difference. You hire me to do dirty work. I do dirty work.”

“I think that went well.”

Eleanor looks at her. That’s fair. That’s a reaction that makes sense.

“Bring the nut milk!”

Over dinner, Yelena pats Kate’s hand and says, “I had to civilize her.”

“You did not!”

“You had one fork. With me, you have three.”

They have more than that even. They’re still living in a crappy New York apartment but they’ve got furniture, a comfortable bed, and way more weapons than even Kate knows. It’s a life, one she didn’t expect to have five years ago when her mother got arrested and she followed Clint home like a lost puppy. Now she has Yelena, telling the story of how she and Kate had boxed mac and cheese together–”That was our first date. She thought I tried to kill her. As if I would not succeed”--and Lucky, watching them eat with wide, jealous eyes, and her mother as a potential part of her life again.

It’s that she’s lucky. She’s lucky and she’s trying to be a good person. And sometimes that looks like a quiet dinner for three, trying to leave the past where it belongs.

Eleanor leaves. On the doorstep, she pulls Kate in and says, “I understand now.”

Kate needs to be loved. She’s always known that. It’s not hard to tell, with the way she followed Clint around like a puppy and clung to every girlfriend she had in college and how when she’d realized she loved Yelena, she didn’t ever give up. But having her mother understand her and finally get her choices?

That feeling is one for the emotional scrapbook.

Later, Yelena curls around Kate in bed, tracing patterns on her arm. “I love you, Kate Bishop,” she whispers, her voice heavy with sleep. “You are very silly.”

Kate laughs. Yelena pulls her closer. “I am going to marry you so hard.”

“I will marry you harder.”

It’s silly, to have hidden this for so long. To have tucked every part of her away from her mother’s gaze for so long that she almost forgot herself. She falls asleep like that, in the arms of her lover, and only wakes when soft, gold light spills into their bedroom the next morning. Yelena is still there, curled around her like a comma. Kate goes back to sleep.