Fandom: Marvel 616
Characters: Clint Barton, Kate Bishop, minor rest of the Young Avengers. Alludes to previous Kate/Cassie
Summary: Kate Bishop was always tried to hold her own with the big kids. Which is probably why it takes Clint longer than usual to pick up on the fact that something is wrong.
Warnings: Grief for canon character death. Spoilers for Children's Crusade.
The first time Clint Barton saw Kate in an evening gown, she reminded him of a kid playing dress-up in her mother's clothes. Sure, she looked pretty, beautiful, dazzling, whatever--but underneath the Manhattan-socialite veneer he knew she was itching to kick off the dress and unleash her inner superhero. That was Kate, though, through and through. She had money and luxury and shit that a lot of people would kill for, but she'd give it all away to fight crime and kick bad-guy butt.
Which was probably why she was leading the Young Avengers at age fifteen. And even though they'd disbanded a couple months ago, Kate still wanted to play with the big kids.
And that was probably why it took Clint so long to realize something was wrong. Everything that seemed wrong he'd chalked up to her trying to be better, stronger, faster, sharper--all the reasons she'd all but moved into the apartment in Bed-Stuy with him. (Though there was probably a burning desire to piss off her parents that contributed, as well.) Lately, Kate’s target practice ran late into the night, or started early in the morning, or maybe she just stopped sleeping all together. Her fingers and forearm bore cuts and angry red scrapes, which she waved off as nothing.
She was an Avenger now. Not a kid. And that's what Clint let himself believe.
It wasn't until Kate had nearly broken her fist against some scumbag's face that he realized something was wrong. Clint dodged the cradle-robber looks that his neighbors gave him as he lead her back to the apartment. Dumbasses. Lucky quirked an ear at the two of them as they walked inside, and he gave Clint an accusatory look like he'd woken him from a great dream about licking the balls he no longer had. He left Kate sitting on a stool near the counter and slipped off to the bathroom for some hydrogen peroxide and bandages, but when he came back she was chugging straight from his bottle of Johnny Walker.
"Aren't you a little young for that?" Clint asked, even though he couldn't really give a flying fuck about the drinking laws.
She shrugged as she swallowed and turned to him with a look on her face that didn't have any business being on a seventeen-year-old. Everything in her was weighted down and heavy, the look of someone who's been trying too hard to win a losing battle. "Not too young to fight crime, but too young to drink," she scoffed, a mirthless smirk on her lips. She slumped on the stool. "Or smoke. Or join the army. But you can die right here at home." She looked at her knuckles and the blood on them. "Pretty stupid rules. Stupid..."
And that was when it hit him. Cassie.
"Shit," he muttered, raking a hand through his hair. "That's today, huh?" Kate dropped her gaze to the floor, but it was confirmation enough.
Cassie Lang -- Stature, Young Avenger -- had died just one year ago, today. The girl had taken a fatal strike from Doctor Doom during what Clint could only describe as one of the biggest clusterfucks in the history of the Avengers. He remembered vividly the image of Scott Lang cradling his daughter's broken body in his arms and had felt as helpless then as he did now, with Kate's shoulder shaking as she fought back tears.
Lucky shot him the most accusatory look he'd ever seen on a dog's face before he got to his feet and started licking Kate's hand. She turned to look at the dog and reached out to scratch the fur just behind his ear. "Thanks, boy."
"What, no love for me?" Clint scoffed with a hand on his chest.
Despite herself, Kate looked up with a sardonic smirk on her face. "What, want a scratch behind your ears, too?" She brought her hand up, swiping at tears that were welling up in her eyes. "Shit."
"A word of advice," Clint said, walking up to where Kate was still slumped on the stool. He took the whiskey bottle from Kate's hand with almost no effort. "This stuff causes more problems than it fixes."
Kate took the peroxide in exchange for the alcohol and made her way over to the sink to clean the cuts on her hand. Clint turned away, screwing the cap back onto the bottle and making a mental note to find a new place to stash his liquor. That's when Kate spoke the three words that seemed to be the favorite of every teenager in America. "It's not fair."
"Sorry, darlin'," Clint drawled, as he stuck the bottle on a shelf. "But your brain is still growing or something and--"
"It's not fair that you got to come back from the dead," Kate said sharply, her hands gripping the counters. "Cap got to come back, Mr. Lang got to come back… but when it's my failed mission? When it's someone I love?" Her voice broke off--head drooped, shoulders heaving with silent sobs. Without another thought, Clint crossed the room and pulled her into hug. Kate leaned her face against his chest and just cried. "It's just... not fair."
And for a few minutes, she wasn't a hero with the weight of the world on her shoulders.
She was a kid who just needed someone to care.
Somehow, he managed to get her over to the couch without tripping over anything and sat her down. “You know what happened wasn’t your fault, right?”
Kate just shook her head, trying to dry the trails of dampness on her face. “I go over that fight every night, everything that lead up to it, trying to figure out what I could have done, where we could have stopped... how I could have saved her.”
Clint raked a hand through his hair--this whole serious heart-to-heart thing was not his bag. But he let out a sigh. “Look. Cassie went down fighting the good fight; I don’t think she’d want you giving up on it because of her.”
Kate sucked in a steeling breath as she looked up at him. “Is that the real reason you wanted me in on this whole Robin Hood act?”
She finally was starting to sound like herself again, so he let out a little laugh as he scratched the back of his neck. “Well, that and it doesn’t hurt having a spandexed sidekick.”
“I am not your sidekick,” Kate said pointedly. “And you’re a perv.”
Clint shrugged. “Eh, could be worse.”
Further conversation was cut short by a knock at the door. Clint got up from the couch to reveal the narrow hallway to be crowded with the handful of teenagers that made up what was left of the Young Avengers. Eli was the first to speak up. “Is Kate here?” he asked. Clint tossed a look over his shoulder and saw that Kate was already trying to make herself look halfway-decent.
“Hey,” she said, shouldering her way into the doorway. “What are you guys doing here?”
“I was just thinking that we should all be together today,” Billy said as Teddy wrapped an arm around his waist. “You know?”
“Yeah, Hawkette,” Tommy said, “Come out and play.”
“Go on,” Clint nodded to her, before she could but an arrow between Tommy’s eyes for the comment. “Just be back before... um... sunrise?”
Kate huffed a small laugh and rolled her eyes before grabbing her blazer from the closet. “You’re not my dad,” she said, dramatically, as she followed her friends out into the hall. Looking like any other teenage girl going out with any other teenage friends; they might be superheroes, but sometimes they just needed to be kids, too.
“Thank god for that,” Clint called after her, and he closed the door.