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Fic: Terra Incognita [USM/YA]

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Title: Terra Incognita
Fandom: Ultimate Spider-Man (cartoon) / Young Avengers
Pairing: Ava Ayala / Kate Bishop
Rating: PG
Summary: She's always waiting for next time.
A/N: Written for Femslash February. If you're not watching Ultimate Spider-Man, you should be. Also, KAAAAAAATE.



Ava’s come to dread the words “joint training exercise”.

It’s not that she has a problem with the quote-unquote “Young Avengers”, even if they do have the lamest team name ever. Mostly, they’re pretty cool. Miss America is kind of everything Ava aspires to be, and watching Sam and Wiccan geek out at each other is endlessly hilarious.

She’s not totally sold on pint-sized Loki, but she gets the sense his teammates aren’t, either.

They’re a solid team in the field, and they’re nice and chill out of it. The only one Ava has a problem with is Hawkeye.

Alright, so it’s not a problem with Hawkeye, per se. It’s a problem with her leadership.

Really, though, if Ava’s being totally honest, the problem is less to do with Hawkeye’s leadership and more to do with how Ava responds to said leadership.

Like now, for instance.

The “training exercise” has become a very real exercise in fending off a small task force of Kree soldiers, and shit has officially hit the fan. Their fighting has already level part of uptown Newark, and the Kree aren’t even slowing down. Sam’s in the air, but he’s flagging. Luke and Danny are punching everything that comes within reach, but none of the bad guys seem to stay down. Parker’s out of sight, trying to find the Kree commander and nip this thing in the bud.

They’re out of their jurisdiction and out of their depth.

The Young Avengers, however, are not.

Wiccan’s keeping the Kree ship occupied and covering Sam, who’s trailing desperately in his wake. Marvel Boy is shoulder to shoulder with Luke and Danny, shooting whatever they can’t hit with cool precision. America’s backing up Parker, wherever the hell they are, and Loki… Well, Ava’s not sure what Loki’s doing, but it’s keeping the fighting contained to a few city blocks. Hulkling’s staying low, for reasons she doesn’t quite get, and he’s helping Coulson evacuate civilians from the area.

And in the middle of it all, from a rooftop that’s high enough to see everything and low enough to rain hell on every inch of the battle, Hawkeye is giving orders.

Nova, Wiccan, watch your six!

Nice shot, Iron Fist. You’ve got another one coming.

America, give me some good news.

She is the calm center of a howling maelstrom, and a thrill coils in Ava’s blood that has nothing to do with the adrenaline of fighting and everything to do with the cool, competent voice in her ear. This happens every fucking time.

Hulking, there’s still people trapped in the corner office.

Get a move on, Coulson. Loki can’t hold that line forever.

She’s giving orders to Coulson. Agent Phil Badass My-Gun-Weighs-More-Than-You-Do Coulson. And he’s listening.

Ava might be a little bit in love.

A little bit.

Maybe.

Tiger, look out!

Ava leaps clear of the missile coming at her, but the blast throws her back hard. She sees a flash of blue sky as she flies, then she feels a wet crack against the back of her head and sees nothing.

“Ava!”

Someone is calling her name.

“Ava, come on!”

No one’s supposed to know her name.

“That’s it. Shake it off. Come on.”

Ava opens her eyes to find the world spinning and Hawkeye’s face framed above her, long black hair trailing the rubble on the ground. Her sunglasses are gone and it really isn’t fair that she’s so pretty on top of being smart and strong and brave and kind of almost a real Avenger.

Ava doesn’t realize she’s said this out loud until Hawkeye laughs and says, “Well, I can’t fault you for your taste.” She looks away from Ava, back to the battle still raging around them, and calls out, “Coulson! Tiger’s down!”

He’s there in an instant. Or maybe an hour. Or maybe days. All Ava knows is that Hawkeye’s eyes are dark blue and there’s a little line between her brows that makes her look older than she probably is.

Her name is Kate. Ava read that somewhere. Her name is Kate Bishop and she doesn’t care who knows it and Ava wonders what that’s like.

Coulson’s wearing the battle suit, but he’s careful to pick her up so that the armor doesn’t dig into her too bad. He lifts her easily, and she’s distantly surprised at how strong he is.

“Get her out of here,” Hawkeye orders, and Coulson’s running before Ava knows what’s happening, her body cradled gingerly against his chest.

“It’s okay, Ava. You’re going to be alright. I’ve got you,” he tells her, and she believes him.

When she wakes up again, her mouth tastes like moldy pillow stuffing and her head feels like Danny’s been using it as a hacky sack. Someone is snoring nearby, and the tone and volume suggest that it’s probably Luke.

She cracks her eyes, blinking against the glare and the splitting pain. Sure enough, Luke is sprawled in a chair that looks like it should shatter under his weight, head tilted back, mouth open, sawing logs like he hasn’t a care in the world. He has plenty, of course, because Danny is asleep in the next bed over, and Ava can see the cast around his leg.

Did anyone else get hurt? Did anyone…? Were there any…?

Ava shuts her eyes again and breathes. She can get a head count when there are more heads to count. For now, at least, it’s enough to know that that these two are alright.

There are voices in the hall, too low to make out what they’re saying. She hears Parker, though, and recognizes his That Was Too Close voice. There’s Coulson, too, and he sounds… tired but relieved. Something eases in Ava’s chest.

She doesn’t recognize the third voice, at first. She’s only ever heard it crack jokes and call out commands, and it sounds so different when it’s edged with sincerity and concern. Braving the bright lights again, Ava can just make out Hawkeye’s profile through the window in the door. Her pretty face is serious, her long hair tangled and powdered with concrete dust.

Through the window, she catches sight of Ava, turns, and smiles, bright and sweet and kind. Ava smiles weakly back.

Okay. Maybe these joint training exercises aren’t so bad, after all. Next time, though, she’s not going to wait for a concussion before she talks to Kate.
*

Next time, it really is just a training exercise, and Ava’s team, predictably, gets their asses handed to them in a game of super-powered paintball.

“You need more girls,” Hawkeye tells Parker. “If you were all as badass as Tiger, you might give us a fight.”

“Damn straight,” Miss America agrees.

Luke shrugs and says, “Y’know, they might have a point, there.”

“I’ve been saying that all along,” Ava says. Hawkeye flashes her a cool grin, and Ava is very very glad she’s wearing a mask so that no one can see how red she’s turning.

While the others go through the post-game, Ava sneaks away to work on her English essay. It’s due tomorrow, and she needs at least three more quotes. So she finds a quiet, empty corner near some storage closets and thinks she’ll get maybe half an hour before someone comes looking for her.

The bad news is that it’s closer to ten minutes.

The worse news is that the person who looks for and finds her is Hawkeye.

“Don’t tell me Coulson has you doing his mission reports.”

Ava looks up, startled. From a distance, Hawkeye’s uniform looks sleek and sharp. Up close, Ava can see the wear at the edges and the patches where dirt and force have begun to blast away the color. The fabric is light and flexible, but it’s obviously much tougher than it looks.

“I doubt Coulson would trust anybody else with his precious reports,” she replies.

“Don’t let him fool you,” Hawkeye says, dropping gracefully to the floor beside her. “He plays the bureaucrat, but he’d rather take on a whole Hydra squad with a Swiss army knife than do paperwork.”

“That sounds unpleasant.”

“It was unpleasant to watch.” Hawkeye cranes her neck to see the screen of Ava’s computer. “English?”

Ava nods. “World mythology. I’m writing about….”

“Birthright versus self-determination in Latin American folklore,” Hawkeye reads over her shoulder. “Neat.”

Ava feels her face heat, and this time there’s no mask to cover her blush. She should be wearing her mask. She’s supposed to be. Even other heroes aren’t supposed to know their identities, but Hawkeye knows her, called her by name. Kate knows her.

“Yeah…. I, um….” She fumbles for words, but Hawkeye just smiles and stands.

“Well, I’m the last one to stand between a woman and her education, so I guess I’ll leave you to it,” she says as she turns to go. “Don’t hide too long, though. I don’t speak Spider-Man, and I might need a translator.”

“I…. I’ll be there in a minute,” Ava answers.

Hawkeye waves as she walks away, swinging her hips with so much swagger that Ava can feel it knocking around inside her head.

She manages five more minutes before she gives up her concentration as lost and goes back to join the others, but she does chalk the conversation up as a win. Next time, she’s going to actually initiate the conversation, and maybe even manage to sound more like a hero and less like a stupid, moonstruck teenager. Next time, she decides, will be different.

There is no next time, though, because Hawkeye jumps the gun and calls her.

Hawkeye calls her and asks her out.

Kate Bishop, wealthy socialite, leader of the Young Avengers, so badass that Captain Freaking America gave her a codename, calls and asks her, Ava Ayala, junior hero and high school senior, out on a date.

If Ava were any other girl, she’d be squeeling and kicking her feet in the air, furiously texting her best friend. Bust she’s herself, and her best friends, as much as she loves them, are loud, hormonal teenage boys without an ounce of subtlety between them. So she does the only thing she can think of to do, maybe the most normal thing she’s ever done in her life.

She talks to Mrs. Parker.

“Oh, sweetheart, that’s fantastic!” May says, delighted. “Who’s the lucky lady?”

“She’s.... Her name’s Kate. She’s older. Smart. Sophisticated. Gorgeous. She’s just really....” Ava pictures Hawkeye as she is in motion, fluid and strong, no hesitation and no fear, the gravity of a smile always pulling at her lips. “...cool.”

May beams. “Well, I look forward to meeting her.” Laying a hand on Ava’s arm, she says firmly, “And she clearly has excellent taste.”

Ava has to smile at that.

The date is dinner and a movie. Hawkeye’s - Kate’s - choice. Italian food and a screening of Casablanca.

“Not very original, but I thought it’d be a good time,” Kate says.

“It sounds great,” Ava replies. Honestly, it sounds perfect, and it is.

Dinner is at a little hole-in-the-wall in Brooklyn that looks like the kind of place where you don’t look too closely at the meat and turns out to have the best tortellini Ava’s ever had in her life.

“Seriously, if I imagined the ultimate pasta dish, this would probably still be better.”

Kate laughs. “Oh my god. Wait til you try the tiramisu.”

Ava does. It’s a taste epiphany.

What she remembers most, though, is the tiny smear of chocolate and cream on Kate’s lip and the flicker of pink tongue as she licks it away. She remembers Kate’s smile, so very different and so much the same as the one she wears when she’s fighting. They don’t have drinks, even though Kate could and this isn’t really the kind of place that cards, but Ava still feels like she’s drunk.

It must be all the rich food, she thinks. That must be what’s slowing her down, relaxing her, making her feel warm and content.

On their way to the theater, Ava admits she’s never been to this park of Brooklyn, and Kate starts playing tour guide, pointing out little landmarks and telling local anecdotes. She’s got a friend who lives nearby, she says, so she’s gotten to know the neighborhood. She touches Ava’s arm as she gestures to a peculiar storefront, and her fingers remain as they walk on.

By the next block, their hands have slipped together, held loosely between them.

Ava’s heart is pounding.

The tiny theater is crowded, mostly with couples, many of whom have arms around each other or have already started making out. Kate goes for snacks while Ava winds her way toward two empty seats. When Kate returns, she has one bucket of popcorn in a size the theater claims is “medium” and a massive soda with two straws. She sets the cup in the armrest between their seats and proceeds to suck on one of the straws, giving Ava a wink.

That’s the moment it really hits Ava that this is a date and it is on.

She smiles as Kate sits up and reaches for the popcorn settled between Kate’s knees, picking up a few fluffy pieces. She puts one piece on the tip of her tongue and curls it slowly back into her mouth. Kate is watching her with a raised eyebrow, and Ava’s stomach fills with that familiar, coiling heat.

She fumbles the second piece of popcorn, and it falls down the front of her shirt, stuck between her neckline and the top of her breast. Ava stares at it in horror. The one time in her life she really needs to be smooth and sexy, and she winds up with junk food in her bra. Of course.

Before she has a chance to be properly embarrassed, though, Kate says in a low voice, “Let me help you with that.”

Ava freezes as Kate’s deft fingers slip beneath the edge of her shirt, skimming lightly across her chest. She can feel the callouses scrape gently on her skin, a reminder that Ava is here with the prettiest and deadliest thing in the room.

Well, second deadliest.

She grabs Kate’s wrist, the popcorn forgotten, even as the lights in the theater start to go down. Kate’s eyes are wide and luminous in the dark, and she lets her fingers spread, raising gooseflesh where they roam. Her smile is soft and inviting, and Ava decides that she’s tired of waiting for next time and seizes the invitation.

Kate’s lips are dry but still so soft, and they part for Ava’s tongue like satin drapes. Her mouth tastes like soda and salt, but Ava is much more fascinated with the feel of it. She wants to touch every corner, learn every edge. She wants to map out the far reaches of this perfect girl like some strange new continent and find excitement in her wild places.

Ava pulls away, her breath and pulse coming fast. It strikes her that she’s in a movie theater in Brooklyn making out with a superhero. Then it strikes her that they’re both superheroes, and this is maybe the best thing ever.

Kate just smiles and says, “Well, okay then.”

They don’t catch much of the movie, at least not until the next time.

* * *