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roots in my dreamland

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They try to burn the tattoos off, in the Red Room. They never stay gone. Yelena has shiny skin on three different places, but then the tattoo reappeared on her hip. It's still there, now. It's a small bow and a quiver of arrows, all purple and black.

It is not that she sees her soul mate as a savior. She imagines that, should she ever meet them, she will kill them. It is nothing personal. It is just that Yelena has had weaknesses before and she is not eager to have them again. Cutting off the source before it becomes a problem is easiest. Having a family is safe only because they can care for themselves. Her soul's mate likely cannot.

And then she meets Kate Bishop and she does not kill her. In Yelena's defense, had she realized sooner she may not have spared her. But it is very hard to dislike Kate after a meal spent in her presence. She is very annoying. Yelena likes her a lot.

Kate's tattoo has never been burnt off. She has a white hourglass, outlined in black, right on the base of her neck where Yelena has only shiny, long healed skin. It is easy to see a tattoo there. Dangerous. Yelena knows they are a match far before Kate does.

She does not tell Kate. She disappears. She is very good at that.

She'd seen Natasha's tattoo once, after enough alcohol and begging to down any reasonable woman. It was two-fold, a bow intertwined with a soaring bird. "I love them both," she said, "but it's safer not to get attached."

"Love is for children," Yelena agreed, not mentioning she would very much like to meet her own archer, just once. To know. She would still kill them. Do what Natasha did not manage.

"I owe him a debt. Both of them."

Yelena had rested her head on Natasha's shoulder and they had fallen asleep together there, on the kitchen floor. The next morning Yelena awoke alone, in her bed. Natasha was gone. No one else could have ever managed it. But having a sister like Natasha always gave Yelena someone to look up to.

Now, years and one universe destroying snap later, she does not have anyone.

She could have Kate Bishop. If she let herself. But Yelena does not consider that a serious option. She will not put Kate in danger. Being in Yelena's orbit is undeniably dangerous.

Six months later, she finds this promise sorely tested. She is in New York again, with a nightmare of a man called Scott Lang.

"Ant-Man," he said when he introduced himself. "Unless we're doing real names. I always guess wrong. Scott is fine too."

"Where did you find him?" She had turned to Barnes to ask. She liked Barnes. Working with him was not a hardship. "A gutter?"

"Sometimes I wonder."

Scott, the Winter Soldier, and she are reappropriating a certain piece of technology that should not have left the Red Room. Scott is along because it is the sort of situation where it would be helpful to have a man who can become very small. She also has a suspicion that Barnes may have a soft spot for him. She does not understand Barnes.

She thinks of her own soft spot and says nothing.

They leave Barnes’ flashy eagle at home, at least. There are some small mercies. They start out well. Barnes is surrounded by ten people with very large guns, distracting them so Yelena can slip in. Scott, already small, is hiding in her braid and only occasionally swinging his way to her ear to be annoying. They make it to the fifth floor without incident. No one is ever good at defending their world-ending technology. It makes her day boring.

Or, it is boring until she opens the last door (the code was a wife’s birthday: truly, is nothing secure?). Immediately, she has an arrow pointed at her face. She breaks it on instinct, then immediately feels bad. She will buy a new one.

“Kate Bishop! You broke into a secure facility and did not invite me?”

Kate eyes her with every bit as much suspicion as she had during their macaroni and cheese date. Yelena is not hurt. She simply needs a moment to not feel bad about it.

“You didn’t invite me either,” Kate says, defensively, her eyes roving all over Yelena and the empty space around her.

Yelena slides into the room and closes the door. “This is not my party. Come, we can destroy it together.”

“I was getting to that.” Kate is so adorable when she is grumbling. “I’m just not sure… how.”

“I brought a secret weapon. You will like him. He is obnoxious. And small.”

“I’m not that obnoxious,” tiny Scott says into her ear. It is very high-pitched.

“Hush. You sound like a gnat. This is your job.” She puts him next to a giant, refrigerated safe. He disappears into it, slipping right under the door. He is old enough to not need babysitting, she decides, and so she says, “I have sent the small man in,” into her comms.

“I can hear you.” Barnes does not sound impressed. “Who is Kate Bishop?”

“Kate Bishop is the baby Hawkeye. When I bring her downstairs you must not scare her.”

Barnes only grunts in response and then returns to whatever fight he is in the middle of. She imagines he found more people to beat up. His notion of fun is odd. She likes fighting, but only the poetry of it. Not so much the blood. She likes how Kate fights.

“Who are you talking to?” Kate still isn’t at ease.

“Winter Soldier. He taught me how to dismember men.”

“Like castration?”

“That too.”

Scott slides back under the door. He takes one step and then returns to his normal size. “Sorry to interrupt, but we should run.”

Yelena grabs Kate’s hand and pulls her along. There is no time for her characteristic stuttering. Yelena had set a delay on the bomb, yes, but one that assumed she would only need to get herself out of the building. And maybe Scott Lang, but she is not much fussed one way or the other what happens to him. Barnes can get himself out. Kate Bishop is a different story entirely.

“Why did you bring a bomb?” Kate yells. She’s looking over her shoulder, which is not a good idea when running. It is obvious Clint trained her. He is not very good at self-preservation either. Yelena would not allow her to be so unsafe. But this is wishful thinking. She will not train Kate herself.

“To blow it up,” Yelena tells her. “I thought you were smart. Do they not teach bombs in college?”

“I took Introduction to Bombs. All the cool kids did,” Scott says. Yelena ignores this, because she does not care about Scott Lang. But Kate lets out a little huff of laughter. Perhaps it is meant to be a joke. It is not funny.

They meet up with Barnes on the lower level. He’s taken steps down from where he used to be, in terms of dramatics, but he still has a murderous look on his face and he is covered in blood. Anything is an improvement over the eyeliner, so she does not comment. “Barnes,” Yelena says, “Kate Bishop. Kate Bishop, this is Bucky Barnes. In the Red Room he was our boogeyman. Look out! If you are not so good at snapping necks the Winter Soldier will come for you.”

“Nice to meet you,” Barnes forces out. He has been learning about politeness. She believes it is Sam Wilson’s doing. She respects the man for the effort, even if he is a star-spangled government puppet.

“Likewise!”

Yelena pushes Kate out the door in front of her. They’ve stashed a car three blocks away. She knows Barnes will be unhappy if it’s burned by Kate seeing it, but she isn’t ready to let her go yet. If Yelena can only have one night of her company, she wants to make sure she enjoys it. It is also important to know what Kate was doing there. There is no logical reason for her presence, or for her ability to get past the guards Barnes took down and many codes Yelena had to crack. Her soul’s mate is a delightful surprise.

Yelena likes surprises, despite herself. They are often very dangerous for an assassin. None has ever been quite so intriguing as Kate Bishop.

It is New York City, and so no one pays them attention despite their obvious tactical gear. Yelena and Kate walk shoulder to shoulder. She tries not to pay any mind to the thrill that runs through her. She may have spared Kate's life, but no one else would extend her the courtesy. A voice in her head, one that sounds suspiciously like Natasha says, you could keep her safe, if you were there. Yelena ignores the little voice. Little voices are dumb and rarely know what is going on. The same is true of big sisters.

Once in the car, Barnes looks deeply offended at the mere suggestion of burning one of his safe houses. "You have already let Scott see it," Yelena argues. "He talks more than any human I have met. It is a lost cause."

"I don't talk that much," Scott protests. "A healthy amount, sure."

"We could go to my apartment," Kate offers.

See? This is why Kate needs Yelena. She invites strangers and assassins to her home without a thought. She cannot be left alone.

“The apartment where your name is on the bell?” Yelena asks. “The apartment with less security than a box on the side of the road that says free?” If she had a say in Kate’s life, Kate would not live there.

Barnes makes a noise that could be a laugh. Scott is on his phone. What emerges from Kate’s mouth is a strangled small kitten sound. “I have a security system!”

“I do not believe you.” Yelena wraps a scarf around Kate’s eyes, leading to another small cat noise. “Now Kate will not know where it is. She does not count streets.”

“You don’t know that,” Kate says, far too sullen for Yelena to be wrong. “I could be.”

Yelena does not respond because she does not need to. Everyone in the car knows she is correct. She wonders if Kate also feels electricity between them, if tying on the scarf felt sensual to her. She redirects her mind, sharply, to the issue at hand.

Why was Kate Bishop involved when she should have been elsewhere, and safe?

Barnes builds his safehouses for economy and utility. Yelena respects this. Natasha did the same. It was not Natasha who taught her the art of creating them, of scoping out an area where she would go unnoticed, of making an untraceable purchase, of assembling supplies. It was Yelena, on her own, who put a personal touch in each of hers. She is still the same girl who thought her family was real.

In so spartan a room, Kate seems incongruous. Yelena watches her, this bundle of energy and smiles. Kate and Scott are fast friends–Scott appears to be showing Kate pictures of his daughter and asking her about archery lessons–and Barnes has stopped grumbling. It is obvious to any of them trained by HYDRA that Kate is not a threat.

“What were you there for?” Kate asks them.

“We had a weapon to take out,” Barnes says. He pops open a beer bottle. The Captain’s favorite, even though Yelena guesses Barnes has never brought him here. Is that what love does to a person?

She has seen Barnes’s tattoo. It is very hard not to, because the shield takes up his entire back. He loved one captain, and then another. For Barnes his captains have always been a weakness, she thinks, because they kept him tethered. Left to his own devices he would be a ghost. Yelena can be a ghost, when she wants to be. She does not want to rely on people to keep her tethered, not ever again. It is far too easy to lose people.

“Why you?” Kate is good at questions.

Barnes doesn’t answer this one. He looks to Yelena. “I have been dismantling the Red Room’s weapons for a long time now. I think, why stop? People have made careers on less.”

“I thought you were an assassin.”

Yelena pauses before she responds, because despite everything she does want Kate to like her. They will never see each other again, this is true, but she wants Kate to have positive feelings towards her memory. Maybe Yelena should have gone out for that drink. It was a date, or it would have been. Her measured response is, “I quit.”

Kate’s face goes through several amusing contortions before she finally says, “Good for you.”

“This is hard to watch,” Barnes tells Scott.

Scott makes a noise of agreement and says, “I had to watch when my ex-wife met her soulmate. This is worse.”

Kate whirls around. Since Kate is not looking at her, Yelena mimes several very convincing neck snapping motions at Scott. He goes pale. Good. Just because she does not kill people for money now does not mean she will not kill for a good reason. “We are not soulmates,” she says, dragging out the world. “That would be so funny! Kate Bishop, one day you will meet your soul’s mate who is very pretty and fun and deserves you and you will think to yourself, this is it. That is how you will know you have met your person. Natasha told me that.”

Barnes snorts and then tries to cover it up by drinking more. Yelena eyes him. She could take him in a fight alone, maybe. She is willing to try.

Kate has a one-track mind. “You think we’re soulmates?” she asks Scott.

He shrugs and then, after another glare from Yelena, shakes his head. “Who can say? It’s just–the hourglass, you know? Sort of a giveaway for a widow.”

Scott Lang takes putting his foot in his mouth to a new level. “Nooo,” Yelena says, “is it? And not a symbol for someone who is very punctual, or perhaps for a person who studies the past?”

Kate turns on her. “What’s your mark?”

“Kate! That is very private. Did your mother not teach you manners?”

“She hired you as an assassin. I’m sort of rethinking everything she taught me. Seriously, Yelena…” Kate trails off, but there’s something in the way she says Yelena that catches.

Yelena is seriously considering this. She is about to tell Kate Bishop that they are soulmates. Perhaps she should have her head checked. Or allow Barnes to take her out. He still does mercy kills, she is certain, little black book of atonement or no.

“They burn them off in the Red Room,” Barnes breaks in. He takes another sip of his beer. He knows he is saving her. She recognizes it as a kindness. She does not like it. All the same, she takes it.

“Oh,” Kate says, deflating. Yelena does not like to see her look unhappy. However, she will not risk Kate’s life either. It is not a hard choice. “I’m so sorry.”

Yelena does not meet her eyes. She does not want Kate Bishop to see any hint of her lie, or of Barnes’. “You cannot miss what you never remembered having.” This is another falsehood. It is made worse because she can imagine having Kate. She is trying not to. She is sort of trying not to.

Scott changes the subject. “So, does anyone else feel like it’s pizza time? Because I feel like it’s definitely pizza time.”

“I have beans,” Barnes offers. “You can have as many beans as you want.”

It’s Yelena’s job to take Kate home, hours later. She is soft and sleepy as they walk arm in arm from the subway. Yelena leaves her safe in her loft. If she looks back after she leaves, that is only for her to know. It is good she cannot have Kate. Foregoing what you want builds character. They did teach that in the Red Room, as a side effect of everything else they taught.

Yelena leaves Kate behind, tucked up and safe in her bed. She does not plan to see her ever again.

The best-laid plans do not always work as she imagines.

It is barely a week later when she finds Hawkeye and Kate getting in her way, again. She is in DC. She is still not assassinating someone, because oddly she seems to have gone off of murder even when she will not see Kate again. Instead, she is planning a heist. There is a Red Room record up for auction. It is very hard to decode, but not impossible. She does not intend to let anyone attempt to do so.

She hears them before she sees them.

“Watch it!”

“If you had any control over your limbs, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

“I didn’t mean to trip! You try walking on a table in heels!”

Yelena offers her a hand up. “Kate Bishop! We meet again!”

Kate looks up at her, her hair falling in her face and her wide eyes trying to catch up with the situation. “Yelena? What are you doing here?”

Clint Barton gets himself up. Good. Yelena would not help him. Kate takes her hand and stands smoothly. She is in a tight purple dress and heels. Yelena would worry about her ability to fight, but she knows Kate well enough that there is a costume either under her dress or very close by. Clint is wearing a suit. Yelena, too, has opted for a suit. Her hair is pinned up in a very tight bun. And she has a small pistol and seven knives within easy grabbing range. She comes prepared. Kate is not ready for this life yet.

“Funny. I am wondering the same thing.” Now that her joy at seeing Kate is wearing off, she has to run through everything that could go wrong. The Hawkeyes should not be here.

It is Clint she looks at. Neither of them trusts the other. He looks deeply unhappy. Perhaps they are here for something important, but with Clint Barton a person never knows. Yelena does not have time to babysit them.

“We’re here on a mission!” Kate whispers, but somehow it comes off as a yell.

“Yes,” Yelena says, “that was easy to guess.”

“Look,” Clint interrupts Kate’s verbal flailing, “you stay out of our way and we’ll stay out of yours.”

Yelena nods, short and sharp. “Keep her safe.”

Clint does not promise, but Yelena knows he will anyway. She discovered how ferociously Clint Barton loved in December. There are very few others Yelena would trust with Kate’s safety. Clint is one of them.

She should have realized that Kate Bishop’s presence would mean her own plan would not go smoothly. She has found herself, coincidentally, only ten feet from where they keep the items for auction. Behind her, the guard will shortly experience stabbing stomach pains. His replacement, once called, will not arrive for three and a half minutes. Yelena needs no extra time.

It would have been easier to kill them both. She would have, once. But she can recognize that they are not bad men. Mostly, they are guarding movie props and precious jewels. Kate would be proud, Yelena has decided, if she knew Yelena spared them.

It is the sort of thought that is dangerous. If Yelena were smart, she would only take jobs far away, where Kate Bishop would not go.

The guard grabs his stomach. Her plan is in motion. And then Kate Bishop appears, in the dress that could turn every head in the room. Yelena’s has certainly turned. The guard’s perhaps would, if he were not close to doubling over from pain. She should not be here. The main party is in earshot, but they are several hallways away.

“Excuse me,” Kate says, valiantly trying to carry on a conversation with the man as he looks moments closer to expiring. “Are you… okay?”

“Yes,” he manages. It comes with a whimper.

Were Yelena not so annoyed, she would be amused. Her window is very small. This is wasting time. And she does not have time to waste. So she approaches. She wraps her arm around Kate’s waist. Her hand is on Kate’s hip. The dress is very smooth. Kate’s skin would be as well. “There you are, darling. I was looking for you.”

The guard moans. Then, at last, he makes his frantic dash away. Yelena has his keys. So Kate’s distraction was not a total waste. She will save at least thirty seconds if she does not pick the locks.

“Should we go after him?” Kate asks. “He looked really sick. What are you–”

Yelena pulls her into the storeroom and closes the door. It is not visually interesting. It is a room with beige walls and a tan carpet. Luckily for her, it is a very well-organized room and she knows the order of the auction.

“So this is where they keep everything.”

Yelena tucks the record into an inner pocket of her suit jacket. “Come, Kate Bishop. We are leaving.”

Kate is poking a very large emerald. Yelena believes it is paste, as she is almost certain she saw the real one in another Widow’s home. She will not tell Kate. “We can’t leave! Clint and I need to be here for the auction. There’s a senator with a price on his head. Clint thinks you’re the assassin, but I told him you quit.”

“Aw, you believed me? That is very sweet.” Yelena is paying little attention to their conversation. She has less than thirty seconds left. It is easy to take Kate’s arm and yank her back out, leaving the keys on the floor. They do not have prints on them. Kate is lucky that Yelena is an excellent planner, because she would not like to spend the night in prison after being caught in there.

They make it out and halfway down the hall. This is not a highly trafficked area. There is little reason for the presence. And she can hear footsteps. So she does what is logical. She pushed Kate against the wall and kisses her.

Kate is very surprised. It takes her seven seconds to begin kissing Yelena back. Once she does, it is with gusto. She wraps her arms around Yelena’s neck, holding her in place. And Kate, despite being the one pushed against the wall, goes on the attack, leading with passion.

And Yelena–Yelena does not hate it. She reminds herself that she should. She does not like kissing. There was always a predetermined goal when she had sex. Kissing was rarely a part of the goal. Murder often was. But she would let Kate Bishop kiss her all day. She would go to bed with Kate, she decides, and still be there in the morning. She would not even slit Kate’s throat.

She can be charitable, when the mood suits her.

Going to bed with Kate is not possible. She has a tattoo on her hip. Kate would see it and think it meant things. Yelena does not intend to do things.

“Are you shitting me?” Clint asks.

Yelena is the one to pull away. Kate tries to follow her. Kate appears to have many arms, like an octopus, because it is almost impossible to extract herself. Clint is standing there, an unconscious guard crumpled at his feet.

That explains why they were not interrupted on time. Kate is very distracting. Yelena may never broken away from her alone.

Kate coughs and says something that sounds suspiciously like, “Cockblock.”

Yelena pretends not to hear. She is very polite that way. On her resume, under skills, she has written “Is very polite.” It is between “Subtle poisoning” and “Deadly accuracy with long-range knife throwing.” She has a very good resume. Her sister helped.

“Kate Bishop! So good to work with you again. I imagine you and Hawkeye can find your own way out.” She winks and then she leaves while Kate is too stunned to stop her. Clint does not even try. He looks amused, which is unkind. At least she will not have to deal with him. He is Kate’s baggage, which means he is her problem. And, as Yelena will never see them again, he is certainly not her problem.

She sees him again a week later.

At least this time, he is completely incongruous. Her Alaskan safehouse, inherited from Natasha, is not a proper place to go to ground. It is more of a home, inasmuch as she has a home. She comes here with Fanny, when she has no need to be elsewhere. Now, for the first time since she learned of Natasha’s death, she is here because she needs to be here. There is solace in being alone.

“We need to talk,” Clint says.

She lets him in. Fanny eyes him warily from her bed, but does not growl. “You may talk. I do not promise to do so. Have soup.”

Over a steaming bowl of broccoli and cheddar soup, Clint lays out his issue. “Natasha told me what they did to your soulmarks in the Red Room. Most came back even when being burned off. I imagine yours did as well. And, if I had to guess, it is a small purple bow.”

He is very close. Not close enough for Yelena to crack. “Do you wish to be my soul’s mate? Is that why you have come?” She tastes her soup. It is good. Boxed macaroni with Kate Bishop was better.

“I think we both know who your soulmate is. She’s currently on my farm, moping around with her dog and worrying my kids.”

If the description were not so sad and obvious, she would think he was trying to trap her. “I am not her soul’s mate. My mark is not a bow. When I find my soul’s mate I will kill them.”

“Natasha thought that too.”

“And I still think she should have killed you.”

“And Laura?”

Yelena will not discuss murdering a man’s wife in front of him. It never ends well. “Her I would keep.”

He laughs at that. Somehow, it breaks the tension. She laughs along with him. “Sometimes I wish I were not brainwashed and then very busy when my sister knew you.”

“It’s not too late to get to know me.”

She can see the gesture for what it is. Clint Barton will do her a kindness in Natasha’s memory if she will let him. She will not put Kate in danger by accepting any role in her life. “I will not compromise Kate’s safety.”

He considers this for a long moment before speaking. “Anything can happen. Kate could be hit by a bus. She could be shot while she’s being Hawkeye. She’s already chosen a dangerous life. You can try to prioritize her safety over her happiness as much as you want, but that doesn’t automatically mean she’ll live to the ripe old age of ninety-three and die in her sleep. We don’t get any promises in life. We get the time we get.”

She should have killed him when she had the chance. “I will not invite more danger into her life.” Oddly, she finds she cannot say Kate’s name. “To be marked for a widow is to have a noose around your neck.”

Clint touches the back of his own neck, right where Kate’s tattoo is. And where Yelena has a patch of shiny, bare skin. “Maybe it is a noose,” he agrees. He is not all with Yelena. He is thinking again. “But I think Kate should get to decide whether she slips her head in.”

Yelena does not agree. She wants Clint Barton gone. Instead, he stays the night in the room that was once Natasha’s. It is clear he has been here before. He knows Natasha’s safe house routine, but he knows the intricacies of this building too. Clint Barton is the closest she will ever get to her sister, now. There is a very small part of her, almost miniscule, that wishes she could take him up on his offer.

In the morning, he leaves. Yelena walks with Fanny. She sees a polar bear. She has no one to tell.

It should not surprise her when she goes to New York. It is not hard to find Kate. Her soul’s mate is not a subtle woman. Additionally, as soon as Yelena and Fanny step off the train, she sees Kate on one of the small TVs that decorate each wall. Typical American decadence, to have so many TVs no one watches. All the same, it is helpful.

Yelena is not working. She has two guns and seventeen knives on her person, as well as two tucked into Fanny’s harness, and several more in her luggage. However, she leaves aliens to the professionals. Kate Bishop should not be an alien professional. Yelena is not fully convinced she should be anything professionally. She sets out to find the battle, conveniently only two blocks from the train station.

She loves Kate so much. It is sickening. She even almost cheers when Kate takes down a large blue alien with a well-timed arrow to the forehead. If this is love, Yelena would like a refund.

Kate does not fight alone, but the group disbands as soon as the last alien falls. One, the wizard Stephen Strange, stays. Kate tries to talk to him. He rebuffs her. Yelena frowns. If Kate wants to be friends with an egotistical wizard who makes yellow light appear, then he should want to be friends with her. Yelena will talk to him.

The boy in a spider onesie swings away. Yelena spares no extra thought for him. He has made so very many odd choices that she would like to keep Kate away from him. And the last, Wanda, the witch, disappears into an alley and comes out in a hoodie that covers her face. Yelena understands that very well. She lets the witch go past.

Yelena is not well hidden. She has a dog that comes up to her hip and a giant backpack. Kate walks right past, head down. It is easy for Yelena and Fanny to fall in step with her.

“What,” she starts, stretching out her a in the way she knows Kate likes, “no greeting for your friend, Kate Bishop?”

Yelena expects a hello, or perhaps a suspicious glance if Kate thinks Yelena might be trying to kill her. Instead, she winds up with an armful of Kate and has to spin her around. It is deeply confusing. She puts Kate down. They are still pressed up against each other, breasts touching, Kate’s mouth just inches from Yelena’s own.

“I’m your soulmate, aren’t I?” Kate asks. It’s upfront and bold, just like Kate. She ruins it by continuing to talk, “At first I wasn’t sure, because you lied to me–”

Yelena kisses her. It seems like an appropriate way to enforce quiet. When they finally break apart, Yelena says, “You are my soul’s mate, Kate Bishop.” She pulls her shirt up enough that Kate can see the small purple bow and quiver of arrows. “I am yours.”

Kate kisses her again. It feels like coming home. “I am very glad I did not kill you,” Yelena murmurs against her lips.

“Was that a possibility?”

“If I wanted you dead–”

“Right.” Kate kisses her again. “I have boxed mac and cheese.”

Yelena needs no further invitation. “Take me home, Kate Bishop.”