New Kind of Normal

August 09, 2015:

Clint and Kate both get use to a new kind of normal

Clint's Apartment

Called by Kate the 'bed-stuey', the place at least isn't a total disaster at the moment.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The first sign that something might be a little wrong is the fact that the place is clean.

Well okay, that's not actually true. It's still a big mess, its just not a big disorganized mess. There are piles. And Clint's doing the dishes. Granted, this is more because he wanted something to eat and there weren't any clean dishes. But still. He's doing dishes. The table's clear… of food. It isn't clear of paper which takes the form of several manilla folders with papers and pictures sticking out from them, some of which have been taken out and put in some kind of order next to a map of the Tri City area. Next to that is his SHIELD ID badge. Which he almost never leaves just laying around.

***

Kate's been very busy lately. With the deadzone outside Metropolis still active, she's been spending a whole lot of time helping to smooth things over between the various agencies working there. No to mention patrolling on her own, of course. And training. And making time to keep up with friends. Which probably explains some of why she hasn't stopped by sooner. That, and maybe the robot thing is still a little bit awkward.

"Clint?" she asks as she lets herself in, looking around and quirking a brow. "Okay, see, now I think you've been replaced by a robot."

***

"Kate?" Clint hadn't changed the locks. This is partly because he's not entirely sure what in here anyone would want to steal. But it's mostly because he wanted Kate to still be able to get in. "Come on in." There's that smile. It's not quite the smile that the other Clint used to have. Too much behind it. But it's real. "You've been busy, I hear." He'd wanted to go talk to her since there are some things that need talking but well, magical weirdness near Metropolis plus all the other things more or less convinced him to let her take her own time.

As she can see, he's found a way to keep busy. Those files aren't exactly interent research. "Is everything okay?"

***

"All kinds of busy," Kate agrees wearily, looking over the papers on the table. "Yeah, everything's…I mean, it's okay. I dated a robot, but I'm getting past that." A smile quirks as she looks back up, softening. "Sorry. It's been kind of crazy lately. So I thought I'd come and check in on you, see how you were doing. Like I probably should have weeks ago, you know. That sort of thing."

***

"Well you learned from the best on that one." Clint is, to be honest, not quite over the fact that Kate dated a robot either. Or that he can remember some of it. Or that he was replaced by a- yeah, he's still got some issues. One thing that's not changed, he is still the champion of doing things that should be done… quite a bit after they probably should have been done. He doesn't like awkward. Well, no one does but he really doesn't like awkward.

The older archer offers Kate a hug. "I hear it's been bad out there. Sorry I haven't been able to…" Help in any way, do anything about that one… "I may have some more bad news for you too, I'm afraid. Did you want something to drink? Eat? I was just about to start… er… soup…"

***

Kate steps into the hug, holding it a moment longer than is entirely casual. It's awkward to think about. It feels right. It feels reassuring. Except part of why it does is because of the time she spent with robo-Clint. But it still feels…Time to stop thinking about it. "What kind of bad news?" she asks as she steps back, moving over to the stove to get a look at things. Just in case he forgot to remove the flavor packet, or something along those lines. "Could order in, too."

***

Clint give Kate a tight squeeze before she steps back. Yeah it lasts longer than normal but it feels comforting for him too, though in his case it's 'the one good thing' right now. Kate's been the one good thing before. Though not in quite this fashion before.

As for the flavor packet… he miiiiiight have done that. Clint's clearly still in the process of figuring out what dinner was going to be. And in usual Clint fashion he wasn't doing it very well. "Order in sounds good." At least the LMD didn't change his speedial preferences, so Pizza Guy is still speedial three. "You still like the usual on yours?" Some things he remembers for himself and not for the robot.

Clint gestures to the SHIELD ID. "Well first things first, if you hadn't heard, I'm out of SHIELD. Medically retired. Psychologically unfit for duty." At least he gets a retirement package out of it? Not that this is really any kind of comfort. "Which is code for they're not sure they can trust me. To be a double agent or to go of the rails getting revenge, dunno which. But if it got out that one of SHIELD's high level operatives had been replaced… well they're already doing a lot of damage control on it. Whihc, unfortunately, got me thinking about the JL:A."

***

"Oh, damn," Kate says quietly at the news, casting a sympathetic look over her shoulder as she fishes out the flavor packet. "Usual is good, yeah. I'm sorry, Clint." She tosses the packet back onto the counter, moving to perch on the edge of the table as she watches him. "I mean, I get where they're coming from, but they're the ones that didn't pick up what was going on. And it's not like they didn't have him in medical more than once. If anyone was going to catch it, it would've been them."

***

Clint looks over sheepishly at the flavor packet. Ooops. He knew he forgot something. "Yeah, I mean… its all still… I don't know that I can even be mad enough to blame someone right now. You'd think they should have caught it, but they didn't and…" He sighs. "Well, that's what it is. I'm thinking it's going to have to be that way for the JL:A as well. You guys have already been through enough. Having it come out that one of your founders was a robot working for who knows whom?" Bad PR doesn't begin to describe it. "It might be best on that front if I just quietly went away…" Not that he plans on going anywhere, as he told Kate. He's still going to be here. And here for her. But he might not be able to 'wear the badge' as it were. "What do you think?" It's her group, well partly her group, after all.

***

"I think the JL:A's in a tight spot either way," Kate admits. "Cap left. At least Traverstein's not banging her drum anymore, awful as that might be to say. But another council member leaving isn't going to be a whole lot better than a few higher ups finding out what happened with you, either. Hell, I bet there are some people who'd be thrilled to have a fall guy for the things that went wrong. Blame it on the LMD, say we're starting fresh and clean now."

***

Clint nods. He was never real great at the PR stuff. Getting things done? Yes, Clint can do that. More or less. Making people like it? That was always one of Kate's better proclivities and one that he thinks has been underrated in the past. "Well if you want to come out with the news I'll leave that up to you." He nods. He trusts Kate. "Like I said it's not like I'm going anywhere. Well, been trying to keep busy. One sec."

Speedial three. About two mintues later the usual is headed on over. With some soda. Because why not. He has beer too which he's a lot more likely to drink. Which hasn't moved, Kate knows where it is.

"There we go. As you can see, been keeping busy trying to figure out where all the information that SHIELD lost went. And if, er…" If any of it was related to the JL:A and specifically to Kate. That'd make him quite angry.

***

"Steve's doing his own thing," Kate says, flipping through some of the papers. "I told him he ought to call you. It'd be…I mean. It'd probably be more like what the Avengers Initiative was supposed to be. Before we decided to merge things with the Justice League." Her features fall as she looks things over, glum. "I mean. All of us…" Sighing, she cuts herself off, tossing the papers back onto the table. "I don't much care for the league without you guys," she admits.

***

"Why's that?" It's a simple question and honestly Clint knows Kate well enough that he can probably guess the answer, but he wants to hear it from her. He can imagine, certainly, if it were him that it might be a bit… lonely, for lack of a better word, with friends moved elsewhere and in the presence of a bunch of people who honestly aren't human and mostly don't know what it means to be. There's a certain perspective to be retained there that the League is in danger of losing.

***

"It's not the same," Kate shrugs. "This was a thing that was important to people I cared about. Something we were going to do together. Something that needed to be done. Not a platform, not full of politics. A chance to be the team that could do the things that none of us could do alone. But without you guys, it's just…not the same. It's a lot of people who are great and all, but…I don't know. I joined because they needed to have that human perspective. To remember what the rest of the world was like. But it's lonely, you know?"

***

"It usually is, at the top." Clint says quietly. The higher up you get, the fewer people can relate to what you're doing and what you've gone through to even be there.

The older archer crosses to the living room and sits down on the couch, patting the seat beside him in invitation. The lounge chairs, er, might be full of clothes needing washed.

"I'm sorry Kate. I'm sorry it's gotten so ugly. I wish I could say that it surprises me that it has but… look even SHIELD at the high levels got pretty damn political. Sometimes it felt like we did everything we did inspite of where we were, rather than because of it. And… I'm sorry you feel alone. That's… some of that's my fault." Being away, the reveal that the 'man' who had helped her found the organization hadn't been who she thought he was. "But I do still believe in you. I think you do and have done good things there, and that you'll do better things yet."

***

"Maybe," Kate shrugs, moving to the couch next to him. "I've sort of been playing with the idea of a different team. One that's more of a team and less of a…I don't know, corporation. That's what the league feels like sometimes. Rules, and procedures, and publicity, and budgets. I miss feeling like everyone I was fighting next to was a friend. Someone I could count on. There are a lot of people looking to join the league. Which is great and all, it's just…" She trails off, shifting to lean against his shoulder. "Not personal anymore, I guess."

***

Now that gets Clint interested. Or at least, the way he straightens up its got his attention? "Oh?" He pauses as he considers. "What are you thinking?" And is it anything he can help with. Kate should know by this point that Clint will back her in almost anything. Well okay, anything. It's simply a question of whether Kate thinks she wants or needs his help. If there's one thing he learned from his failed marriage with Bobbi, it's not to force himself on a situation.

***

"I dunno yet," Kate admits. "Just something I've been thinking on. The legitimacy of the league means a lot, but without you there, without Steve there, without Sam…it just feels like a lot of people who I admire and think have good skills, but we're not close the same way. Though, you know. To be fair, you and me were the closest I ever came to a team before this. Maybe it's just not for me."

***

"Well…" Clint wouldn't mind a way to get back into the action to be sure. And a way to do it with Kate? So much better than he'd thought would be possible in the near term. "We can do something together if you want that. I'd certainly like that." They both have skills and contacts. Her contacts are different than his which is in this case a very, very good thing. Also, it gives them more of a chance to just figure things out. And they do need figuring out on both their ends, it seems.

"Hell even while we're figuing that part out, there's some stuff I could really use help with on that table over there."

***

"Yeah?" Kate glances back toward the table, considering. "Well. No matter what, you know I'm always here for you, Clint. We're partners. Everyone else can come and go, but you and me? There's always going to be something for us to do." She reaches for his hand, twining her fingers with his. "How are you holding up, Clint? Really? SHIELD cut you loose. Did they at least…set you up with a handler? Someone to talk all this through with?"

***

"Well, psychologist." Clint makes a face in response to Kate's last question and squeezes her hand. Really, Kate makes a better handler than most. "May, of all people, set me up with someone. Er, someone kind of creepy, though I guess that makes sense for May. She always did scare me a little. Does the name Oracle mean anything to you?"

Kate's 'you and me', well, that gets a smile. A much more genuine, normal smile than she's seen on him - than anyone has seen on him - in a long time. "You have no idea how good it is to hear that."

***

"Hey, don't poo-poo the psychologists," Kate nudges her shoulder against his. "I still see a therapist. Regularly. So that when I find out I've been dating a robot, I don't go completely crazy. Or when I spend a night trying to hold in my best friend's guts, I don't go completely crazy. This life is hard, Clint. There's nothing wrong with needing someone to talk through it with." His other question gets a small smile, though. "Oracle's good people. Whoever she is, she keeps an eye on all of us. Helps keep the connections moving."

***

"Never been that good at talking things out. Doing so with a stranger who's taking notes…" Kate probably gets the idea. "But you're right. I'm sure it helps. If it sets your mind at ease, I'm still going to the appointments." Just, you know, still also kind of uncomfortable with them. "If Oracle's okay by you then I'll keep listening for her… uh, presuming it is a her. And presuming I have a choice. Doesn't seem to matter what phone I have, I get texts." Especially when he goes to Gotham.

The doorbell rings and Clint gives Kate's hand one more squeeze before getting up to bring the pizza in. That and plates take only a couple of minutes. "So what about you? Other than the whole… JL:A stuff."

***

"The whole JL:A stuff is pretty much my life anymore," Kate admits, rueful. "Though I had dinner with Gar and Vorpal last week. They got engaged, which was some happy news. They've been together for a while, so it's nice to see." She gets up from the couch to get herself a slice of pepperoni, going quiet for a moment. "I ran into Damian the other night in Gotham. First time since his grandfather came by the apartment to warn me off."

***

Clint remembers Damian, well, he remembers the name and the night the man died because Kate had been a wreck and it'd been emotional enough to leave an impression on him even through the LMD interface. Gar and Vorpal… "Who's engaged?" Those names don't ring a bell. He helps himself to a slice of pizza as Kate continues.

"How is he? Still… messed up from whatever happened to him?"

***

"A couple of friends from the Titans," Kate summarizes, smile flickering as she settles back onto the couch, one leg tucked under herself. "And he's…I don't know. He seemed maybe a little bit more himself, but he was still…" She trails off, sighing and chewing through a few bites as she considers her words. "Maybe it's not that he's broken from what happened. Maybe it was something that would have happened anyhow, when someone disillusioned him. I'm still not giving up on him, though."

***

"Giving up's not your style." Clint smirks. "And I'm glad it's not. Don't give up on him Kate. Be careful. Be watchful. But don't give up. More than anything else, that's the best thing about you." He doesn't want anything or anyone to ever take that from her. "He was… from Gotham, right? I'll be looking into stuff there." He gestures to the table. "Among other things. Maybe we both could. Even if it's just me sometimes I'll keep an eye out for him. Sounds like he could use another someone watching out for him."

***

"Hey, I keep putting up with your sad ass, don't I?" Kate smiles crookedly back at him, taking another bite of pizza. "I'm not giving up. I'm still giving him space, but…it was good to see him again, Clint. Even if he was in a bad place. It was good to know he was still alive. If you're going to be in Gotham, then I'll be glad to go with you. I sort of miss a quiet, normal patrol anymore."

***

"Might not be quiet… or normal." Clint makes a face again that says he wishes it were. "There's some stuff I'm following up on, information from old contacts that I hadn't talked to in a while. Then again, it's Gotham, maybe all we'll see is druggies and purse snatchers." A large part of this exercise for Clint is 'back to roots' himself. He definitely gets Kate's desire for something a bit more… normal.

***

"Yeah, but at least we can go out and work. Together." Kate shifts, sitting cross-legged on the couch as she watches him. "What sort of stuff are you looking into there? I heard there was more of some drug shifting through Gotham. Probably something like the Smooth, or some derivative."

***

"Information. So I don't know if I ever mentioned this, but Gotham's always been a prime spot for criminal infomration brokers because law enforcement's so streched there that a lot of the less violent crimes go overlooked if they're even noticed to begin with. I think whomever was selling SHIELD secrets had a buyer somewhere in Gotham. And it's probably related to stuff that happened to me. I want to know who was buying the information and what they're using it for. And since I'm not in SHIELD anymore…" He'll have to go find out himself. Clint smiles a little, taking another bite and then shifting to face Kate, which is to say, to lean back on teh couch such that he's more directly looking at her.

"I have a couple ideas where to start though it could get involved. A lot of it points to an underworld information dealer called 'The Recluse.' One of those types who works through intermediaries and rarely shows his own face."

***

"If you want to look into information brokering in Gotham, then you definitely want to talk to Oracle," Kate suggests, moving on to the crust on her slice. "There's a reason they call her the Oracle. At the least, she should be able to point you in the right direction."

***

"Point us in the right direction." Clint grins. If Kate wants to go he's definitely taking her with him. Working alone is… well he does it when he has to. It's not his preferred method for a reason. "So, to Gotham and something considerably less political then. That deserves a beer to toast with. Want one?" He's already up to go get some.

***

"Yeah, sure," Kate agrees, finishing off her pizza and leaning back comfortably. "Sounds like a good time to me. Could use some Clint time, get more work with my bow. I found a lot of people to practice blade-work with lately, been putting in a lot of time there. And of course with the hand-to-hand. I've been keeping up with my archery, but it's not the same practicing alone, you know?"

***

"It's really not. And I need to get back on my bow too. Too many appointments and too much paperwork to put the time it needs into it." Clint uncaps two beers and comes back, sitting a bit closer to Kate and handing hers over. "Are you going to be able to get away from that mess down south of Metropolis? Sounds like that's a big deal."

***

"It's a pretty big deal," Kate agrees with a sigh, taking the beer. "But honestly, it's magic stuff. And I can follow along okay with magic stuff, but I'm not all that much help in dealing with it. I've mostly been trying to get all the different agencies to get along and not get in each other's way. Which is a struggle sometimes. I mean, I'm pretty good at dealing with people, but when it comes down to it, I'm just a kid with a bow. Most of these people don't care much about that."

***

"Even if you're the kid with a bow who speaks for the JL:A?" Clint shakes his head. "Well bureaucracies. I guess that doesn't surprise me though I wish it did. I don't know if I can be of actual help on that front but if you ever need advice…" Clint's made a life's work out of dealing with, and often circumventing bureacrats. Even SHIELD has 'em. "Well I'll give you a call then when we're set to go… or…" If she's staying here and not elsewhere, she'll just know cause he'll be talking to her more often. "Where are you going to be staying these days?"

***

"Wherever I need to be, most times," Kate laughs, taking a drink. "I mean, most of my stuff's at the lake house in Metropolis. But I've still got the apartment here. And, I mean. Well." She reaches up to rub a hand at the back of her neck. "You probably noticed the sheets here are, uh. Nicer than the old ones." Which is a very sideways way of saying she'd been staying here more often than not if she was in New York with Clint.

***

Clint chuckles a bit. "Yeah I did notice that. If… if you wanted to keep staying here… when you're in town…" It's an invitation. He'd like that. He knows it'll probably be awkward a fair bit of the time but he's also hopeful that'll fade with time. After all, the longer they're together, them and not Kate and someone who she thought was him, the more normal it'll be. And that's a normal he would not mind at all.

***

"I can think of worse places to be," Kate says with a small smile, taking another drink. "I mean, especially now that the sheets are decent. And the shampoo." She winks, looking around the apartment. "You know," she says quietly, more careful. "If you ever want to talk about it. About what happened. I'm here for you. I know it can be weird and awkward to talk with someone you don't know."

***

"I… think I'm going to need to talk about it. I hadn't wanted to…" He'd wanted to talk to Kate but Clint had seen how much the notion hurt her. "… make you relive it all. If you don't mind though… one of these days… I'd like that."

***

"Hey, I already talked to my therapist," Kate admits with a rueful smile. "I can't say it's all easy, or I'm completely okay with everything about it, but I'm not going to run away again." She flushes slightly at the last, remembering. "Or throw up. If you need someone to talk to, Clint, I'm here."

***

"Well, I don't think anyone really blamed you for that." Clint says quietly. "And thanks Kate. We'll talk about it. Just… not now. It still makes me want to punch something. Or someone. Or waste a bunch of arrows." Which you know, he does need to not waste these days.

***

"Totally understand that. I might've taken down a dozen and a half drug dealers over in Harlem while I was working through it. Got some good advice from Spider-Man, actually," Kate admits. "Whenever you're ready, I'm here. In the meantime, we'll shoot things, and save people, and just continue being our awesome selves."

***

"I like this plan." Clint raises his beer to Kate and clinks it against hers. "What was our original plan way back when? Be ourselves, help people, have fun?" Well some definitions of fun but there is something to be said about the rush of a job well done. Especially when the job itself has been a rush. Clint may, possibly, be a bit of an impulsive adrenaline junky at heart. Just a bit.

***

"I'm pretty sure that was the mission statement," Kate agrees, grinning. "I could stand to get back to that a little more often." She drinks again, letting out a quiet, contented sigh as she leans back against the couch. "This place feels more like home than anywhere in Metropolis does, you know."

***

"You'll always be welcome in it." Clint says quietly, scooting a bit closer to drape an arm around Kate's shoulders. "Or wherever I am. And I'm glad it does. Those fancy places that I've occasionally been in, they're nice, but they've never felt like a place where I could just kick back and have a beer, you knwo?"

***

"I'd hoped I could do that with the lake house," Kate admits. "But things changed. And without a bunch of people to fill it up, it's just another big, empty house. I can't do that. I'd rather stay in New York and figure out how to commute whenever I can." She leans into his shoulder, fitting up against him without even thinking about it.

***

Clint gives the younger archer a squeeze. "You've always been a people person. Probably one of the reasons we get along so well." Clint doesn't like being alone. He doesn't always want to go out and be Tony Stark, but he doesn't like being alone. "Stay here." He encourages. Might be good for the both of them.

***

"Yeah?" Kate twists enough to look back up at him, careful. "You sure?" Not that she looks like she wants to go anywhere right now. She looks like she could use a night of just relaxing. "Could start up the netflix, find something to watch. Fall asleep on the couch. Sounds like a good night to me."

***

"They rebooted the Heroes franchise recently…" Clint says as he digs for the remote. Ah there it is. Slipped under the cushions again. They'll decide on something. And probably both fall asleep where they are.

Which is a better night than Clint's had in a long, long time.

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