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Skin A Cat

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Kate lets out a long, huffing breath.

“You know, when I was in the academy, I guess I just kind of thought police work was going to be more like CSI.”

“What,” Clint says, “your hair would always be perfect and shiny and people would kill each other with weird implausible shit?”

“My hair is always shiny and perfect, fuck you,” Kate replies, “and also, no. I just kind of imagined more… montages.”

Clint raises an eyebrow at her before he turns his attention back to poking a straw into a cup of soda. “Montages.”

“Yeah,” Kate says, “you know, funky music, a few jump-cuts, and hey, the answer’s right there. None of this waiting around.”

“Nobody says ‘funky’ anymore,” Clint tells her without bothering to take the soda straw out of his mouth.

“Sure,” Kate says, “I’ll take lessons on how to be cool from you, the guy who’s tried to hold his pants together with band-aids more than once.”

They’re into hour three of their stakeout, the time when the casual sniping starts taking hold. There’s an element of excitement in hour one, like, hey, they’re out trying to track down perps, they’re going to blow this case wide open, it’s great. After that, boredom starts setting in. They were playing fuck/marry/kill, but frankly Clint’s answers were becoming kind of terrifying, and Kate’s still thinking she should have said kill to Tony Stark instead of fuck, so they agreed it was probably time to stop.

Kate’s new enough to all this that Clint still calls her ‘rookie’ sometimes when he’s deliberately trying to pry a reaction out of her, and easy smirk and always one day late on his shave, and when they were first assigned together she couldn’t completely understand the expressions on everyone’s faces. She didn’t know at the time that Clint Barton struggled to hold onto partners: officers started demanding reassignments within days of starting to work with him, and since Romanov got promoted, no one’s been able to stick with Barton more than a couple of months. Until Kate, anyway.

“This is a waste of time,” Kate sighs, not for the first time today, refocusing her binoculars on the rooftop of the building across the street. “Hardy’s too smart to come back here.”

“Hardy’s too smart to come back here and get caught,” Clint corrects her, tucking his cup between his legs. He’ll get soda on his pants and complain about it, but that’s for later, and Kate doesn’t bother reminding him that this happens every time. “This is not my first rodeo, Katie-Kate.”

Kate rolls her eyes. “There are better places she can be hitting up than somewhere she’s already been this week.”

“Mary-Jane Watson’s in town,” Clint replies, “Hardy’s got this… thing with her. Always comes back at least twice. She nearly got her Oscar, last time.”

“Don’t tell me, you saved the award, let Hardy slip through your fingers?” Kate guesses, ripping open the packet of Sour Patch Kids she was totally saving for hour four.

Clint slumps in his seat, grabs the binoculars from Kate. “Fuckin’ Murdock got her out,” he grouses.

Kate’s a fan of Matt Murdock, who tends to work pro bono for the sort of people they get who were genuinely in the wrong place at the wrong time and could do with an attorney; of course, she cares less about his altruism and more about his ass, but she keeps the second part to herself.

“I can’t see Murdock defending a master jewel thief,” Kate says.

“They’ve got history,” Clint replies, vague, still peering up at the roof, where absolutely nothing has happened for the three and a half hours they’ve been here.

Kate thinks about Matt Murdock, who doesn’t smile enough but is a knockout when he does, and the scant handful of photographs in Felicia Hardy’s file. “Damn,” she says appreciatively.

“Tell me about it,” Clint agrees. “So, anyway, this is a whole clusterfuck, you’re welcome.”

Kate’s kind of gotten used to working with Clint being a clusterfuck: she’s the only one who’s been able to stick it out this long, anyway, to work with Clint’s quirks and his recklessness and his complete lack of self-preservation, whether it’s in a serious stab-vests situation or in remembering to feed himself on his days off. The guys drinks coffee straight out of the pot without checking what temperature it is, for fuck’s sake. But he’s smart, whip-sharp, and relentless and focused and determined and a startlingly good marksman, and Kate wouldn’t want anyone else watching her back. She would occasionally like to be shut in a car for a stakeout with somebody else.

“Did you see her latest film?” she asks, nodding up at the apartment, as Clint puts the binoculars back on the dash and reaches for the doritos.

“We didn’t get any security footage of her last raid,” Clint reminds her.

“I meant the Mary-Jane Watson one, dummy,” Kate replies, elbowing him.

“The one with the goblin dude that she made out with?” Clint nods, speaking with his mouth full. “Yeah, I went with Nat.” He gives Kate a sly look. “Did your girl take you?”

“She’s not my girl,” Kate replies, shifting, wishing they were sitting somewhere else so she could deliver a swift kick to his kneecap.

“She’s basically your girl,” Clint replies. “You know Jess and Bobbi are running a pool, right? Nat’s got a hundred bucks on you and America dating by Christmas, and you know you should never bet against Nat.”

Nobody gossips like the police do; Kate supposes she should be grateful they’re not all homophobic, but, well, small mercies.

“I’ll cut you in on my winnings if you give me a heads-up,” Clint adds brightly.

“I hate you,” Kate murmurs, but there’s no real heat in it, and she grabs the binoculars so she can squint at the rooftop again. She’s not sure what good they’ll do, if Felicia Hardy does suddenly leap out of the sky and scale the side of a skyscraper like she supposedly can, but, well, they can cross that bridge when they get to it.

“You and half the precinct,” Clint responds cheerfully, and adds: “hey! Dog!” much too happily, like he’s done every time a dog passes them by. It’s one of his quirks, and one that Kate doesn’t actually mind too much.

“Go,” she says, because even while they’re going for inconspicuous, Clint will still automatically pet any dog that crosses his path. Clint tosses her a grin and tumbles out of the car, and Kate rolls her eyes behind the safety of the binoculars.

“I’m bringing Cards Against Humanity next time,” she says, but Clint isn’t listening, and, well, she doesn’t mind too much.