Impostor Syndrome

September 05, 2017:

Rattled by a recent briefing, Kate Bishop sits down with one Phil Coulson to discuss whether she's really a good fit for the Avengers.

Mel's Pub

A great spot, even if they did get rid of the best sandwich.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Sally Stojespal

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

This place has a name, but everyone calls it Mel's. It's nestled out of the way of all the chaos of the East Side, accessed down a pair of sunken steps that have patrons entering a near-basement under rent-controlled apartments. It's cozy with mismatched tables and chairs, and the lights look like they were stolen from a high school science classroom — conical domes that shine light down into broad spotlights. The bar is manned by a single bartender, though a waitress and busser makes their ways around the tables. The menu is one half-sheet of paper, the kitchen serving some of the most basic pub grub — but at least it's good pub grub.

Kate had put in the call to Coulson, asking to meet-up for a drink. All business, she's promised. But, for a new Avenger, talking to the guy who really was the first recruiter is important to the so-called Hawkeye.

She currently occuping a stool at the bar, casually looking over the menu with unnecessary focus. She's been here before, but there was that one time that they took the Monte Cristo sandwich off the menu without telling her, and that was a deep betrayal. Now, she always checks to make sure they haven't changed more than she can handle. Dressed in casual attire of denim jeans, a leather jacket, and a plain t-shirt, she doesn't look all that different from how she came into that meeting just a few days ago.

*

Phil Coulson is dressed almost exactly the way he was dressed for that meeting, except that the suit is downgraded in quality. The sharper one would have stood out here. This one doesn't though. He could be a sales representative getting off work for the evening. Or, with his immenently low-key demeanor and forgettable face, a banker, perhaps. Or something even less exciting, like an actuary.

He has a knack for just appearing because he is so easy to overlook. The older man slides into the stool next to Kate and pulls a menu for himself, smiling a smile which does little to give away anything in the way of thoughts, or feelings. It's just a way of setting his face into gentle, pleasant lines.

"I don't believe I've ever been in here," he confesses. "What's good, Kate?"

Kate, not Hawkeye, not Hawkette. Not even Miss Bishop, because something about her demeanor in the conference room tells him that would not put her at ease anywhere nearly as well as her own given name does.

*

Almost out of sheer design, Kate jumps a bit when Coulson magics himself into being beside her. She sweeps her eyes left, and then right, and even gives the door an accusatory look before she recenters her attention back on the Agent. "I'm not even going to ask," the woman decides aloud.

She casually flicks out the menu to him, the laminated half-sheet lightly pinned between her fore- and middle finger. "The Monte Cristo Sandwich," she says, casting a glare to the bartender, who just smiles, shrugs sheepishly, and sets cocktail napkins down in front of the pair. Kate relents with a sigh. "I like the Gravy Fries… if you ask for Canadian Style, they will put poutine on it, though. Fair warning." Beat pause. "I also like the fish and chips." She looks back to the bartender. "Whatever you got on tap that's as dark as my soul." Then she folds her arms across the bar, looking back to Coulson. "Thanks for meeting me… Phil…?" He did call her 'Kate.'

*

Apparently Phil is more than fine. "Huh, Canadian style fries sound great," he decides. "And something light, crisp, and local on tap for me."

He turns to face Kate on the stool after folding the menu and forgetting about it. His light beer will be scooped up and claimed when it comes, but he nurses it almost absently. All of his attention, all of his focus, is on her. He has that knack, too, that way of making a single person the most important thing in existence in the moment that he's talking to them. He employes it now. "You're more than welcome," he says. "What may I help you with?"

*

Kate's own frothy porter is delivered with Phil's, and she idly curls a hand around it, tapping her fingers against the cool glass. She cuts a glance toward the bartender as he wanders off and then back to Phil. "I don't think I'm cut out for this," she says with a deep exhale. She flinches slightly soon after that confession, and she takes a swallow of beer. "I sat in that meeting with Nathaniel and Agent Sally, and I felt incredibly out of my league, and definitely out of my depth. Like a kid who thinks she's ready for the deep-end, but only has mastered dog-paddling."

She hesitates before continuing, "I've heard you were, like, one of the originals behind this whole Avengers deal… so I'm phoning an expert, here."

*

Phil doesn't answer right away. He really gives this some consideration. Finally he says, "I think many Avengers would feel discomfited sitting in a briefing that involves talk of uranium, the UN, and international terrorism. It's outside of the realm of most people's experience until— well, until they do it six or seven times, and it becomes second nature. At its heart, the Avengers Initiative is about defending the world from the big threats. I don't think you lack the capability. The question is more one of desire."

He tilts his head at her. "Why did you say yes? Why did you decide you wanted to sign on to the team in the first place? What was said to you, what appealed to you?"

*

"It wasn't even the uranium. I've seen Back to the Future. Uranium sends you back to 1985." Kate then pauses, and frowns. "No, wait, that was plutonium, wasn't it?" She pauses, and then waves her hands lightly to disspell the possible nonsequitor. "When I got home, I had to Google where Transia is, because I was pretty sure that you were all just mispronouncing Tazmania." Then she sighs, dropping her elbow onto the bar and considering the dents in the heavily lacqured wood. She glances up slightly when he asks those questions, and she frowns.

"Well… to help people." She turns a bit so she's facing her beer, frowning down into the froth. "I mean, isn't that why everyone says yes? Being an Avenger means I can help a lot more people, with a lot better resources."

*

"You could have Googled it right at the table, I wouldn't have laughed," Phil promises quietly.

He hesitates again, choosing his words carefully out of habit, but also out of a sensitivity that there's a lot at stake here for this woman, both personally and professionally. "Kate, joining something like the Avengers, or SHIELD for that matter, is like having a baby. Nobody's ever ready, but somehow the people who really care rise to the top and make it work. Nobody will think less of you if you decide it's not for you. There are multiple ways to help people. All manner of people face all kinds of threats. So in the end, it comes down to just…what's your heart telling you?"

*

"That now I can only picture the SHIELD eagle with really sticky jam-hands," Kate replies dryly, responding mostly to the idea of anything like the Avengers and SHIELD akin to having a baby. She works her hands together a few moments, rubbing at the callouses and bow-string scars. Her blue eyes flicker over to Coulson after a long, thoughtful moment. "Being an Avenger? That's like winning the lotto… I'm a PI that just had a few really good cases, and more than a few high-profile heroics. But… is that really what makes an Avenger? Luck and publicity?" Then the archer frowns. "I'm not throwing it in," she finally replies. "The towel isn't even damp yet. But I'm not 100% sure I know what I'm supposed to be doing half the time."

*

The sticky jam hands quip pulls a soft, surprised chuckle right out of one Phil Coulson. The spy's hazel eyes twinkle in delight, and he raises his drink in a form of salute. Now, here, she gets to the crux of the matter.

"No, that's not what makes an Avenger," he agrees. "Or any hero, really, or member of any group with any similar mission. What makes an Avenger is the willingness to stand up for what's right, to do what's right, even if it's risky. Or even uncomfortable. Whatever it takes. Don't let impostor syndrome undermine you. I think you have something to offer. Perspective, for example. Personality. Everything else can be learned. I think you more should be focusing on taking the time to decide whether or not the Avengers is a team full of people you like, trust, and want to work with. Don't question whether you're right for the Avengers. Question whether the Avengers are right for you. I think you'll do right, and help people, no matter where you're standing."

*

Coulson's chuckle softens her a bit, and she offers a returned salute before taking another sip from the beer. When he offers up the real weight of his advice, though, Kate listens. That's why she asked him here, after all.

It is the word 'uncomfortable' that causes Kate to straighten up a bit. It is almost as if she's owning that, acknowledging that maybe she had been shrinking away from what felt uncomfortable. She clears her throat, and nods. "Yeah…" It's a simple response, and it hangs there for a moment before she nods in more curt agreement. "Yeah… I think I can… start there."

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