Written for the be_compromised Valentine's Day mini-promptation, to this prompt by TheSugarFaerie: Clint is determined to take Natasha out on a proper first date. Of course, this doesn't go according to plan. A sequel of sorts to 'Two If By Land,' and as such the fluffiest of fluffy fluff.
I don't own the characters - Marvel does. Doreen The Cafeteria Queen is the creature of AlliSnow, who graciously lets me use her from time to time.
By Alpha Flyer
"We've been partners for six years, Clint."
"And this is the first time you have voluntarily offered to put on a suit for the sole purpose of eating in a restaurant. Well, the first time since that place in Soho, the one you felt so guilty about blowing up that time Sitwell and Carter tried to set us up on a date. Why?"
"The juggernaut of civilization finally rolled over me?"
Natasha suppresses a snort. "I wish. The socks I picked out of the microwave this morning tell me otherwise."
"I was speed-drying them," he explains unhelpfully, before coming back on topic. "Okay. The truth? I think we should go out on a proper date."
"Why? You've been my friend almost as long as we've been partners, and now we get to sleep with each other, too. So who needs a date?"
"You do. Every woman does." He clears his throat at the sight of her frown, and holds his hands up in the classic defensive posture. "Apparently. At least, so I'm told."
Natasha raises an eyebrow. This ought to be good.
"Oh? By whom?"
He looks guilty, as if having inadvertently been caught out. Fat chance of that. The man's a professional.
"Hill. Sitwell. Carter. Miyazaki. Doreen. Hell, even Coulson, who seems to think that his resurrection has given him both Great Insight and a duty to share. But they can't all be wrong, can they? I mean, they're a pretty representative sample of humanity - male, female, black, Asian, Caucasian, straight, gay and undetermined."
She's not sure what she expected by way of an answer, but it wasn't a poll that seems to include the helicarrier's crew manifesto and a major red herring. (On which Natasha totally refuses to bite: 'Undetermined.' Coulson? Doreen? No, wait. Hill? Surely not. She and May …)
She clears her throat.
"You discussed our private life with half of S.H.I.E.L.D.?"
"Not voluntarily, believe me. They discussed it with me. Also, only the ones with Level Seven or above."
"Doreen doesn't have Level Seven."
Damn the man. He does know how to lay distracting flares, despite her being the Black Widow and supposedly above those things. (Is that what Bobbi meant, about never being able to nail him down?) Clint shakes his head at her, in a manner both sage and slightly triumphant.
"The woman holds The Grail. Besides, those cabbage rolls? Weapons grade. R&D cleared her so she could work with them on the recipe, to help bring down the Ukrainian mafia."
Natasha is momentarily rendered speechless. She's probably being had, but with S.H.I.E.L.D., you never know.
He gives her one of those I-had-you-going-there-for-a-moment-didn't-I grins that work deplorably well at getting her to want to strangle him. (She secretly suspects that he'd get off on the idea, though, and therefore usually manages to refrain.)
"Nah. She just happened to be there when they ganged up on me in the caf, plus nothing escapes her anyway. So what do you say?"
Huh. He's managed to get back on topic, all by himself. But Natasha isn't ready to surrender yet. Too many variables, too many unknowns, none of which add up to Clint Barton wanting to put on a suit and tie. Natasha crosses her arms in front of her chest and looks formidable.
"What did they say?"
Clint is not intimidated (never has been, which is probably why this … thing between them came into being in the first place).
"Well, it started when Carter asked if we were doing anything for Valentine's Day, and I asked when that was. And Coulson did that thing where he sighs, without actually making a noise? And then Hill asked whether we'd ever …"
"I don't need a blow-by-blow. A summary will do."
Clint rolls his eyes, and starts ticking off bullet points with his fingers.
"Upshot is, I'm an insensitive man-child who doesn't deserve you if I've never taken you on a date where we didn't have to kill someone at the end. And I haven't learned anything from the – how did Carter put it? – epic failures of any of my previous attempts to have a grown-up relationship, and I better get off my ass and do something about it before it's too late. Oh, and apparently there's a new pool on how long we're going to last, and we owe it to Sitwell to hold on until at least the summer."
Natasha lets this statement sink in for a moment.
"So basically, you're asking me on a date because a number of armed and dangerous government operatives press-ganged you into it by making you feel worthless."
"Don't forget the woman who controls our nutritional intake. It was actually her opinion that turned it for me."
He looks at her searchingly, and maybe he's spotted the slight twitch she feels in her lower lip. Because the next thing he says is quite different, even though there's still a fair amount of Clint-speak to be sifted through.
"Plus, when they were done with me, I actually found that I wanted to. Take you out, I mean. In the traditional sense, not the S.H.I.E.L.D. sense, that is. We never do normal things, and I thought maybe we should try."
He steps up to her, wraps his solid hands around her waist and pulls her body flush with his. She tries to ignore the heat that always burns through her when he does that, as well as the thing that he may be meaning with all that but seems unable to articulate.
"So, what's it going to be, Widow?"
She ignores the taunt and gets practical.
"Does it matter? It's already the fourteenth, and you're not going to get a table at any place worthwhile."
"Give me some credit. You'd be amazed how easy it is to hack into restaurant reservation lists. Le Bernardin will be happy to accommodate us, even if it means discovering a double booking and setting up an extra table."
Seafood. He actually appears to have thought this one through, damn the man. She tries to avoid breathing in his rather distracting scent and looks him in the eyes. Might as well make it count, then.
"Alright then. But you have to wear that black Armani jacket. And a tie this time. Not a t-shirt."
His answer is a searing kiss.
"Great. Eight o'clock then. Coulson says we can borrow Lola, so wear something smashing."
Clint, for all his faults, is extremely punctual – a consequence of his training and the importance of timing in making the shot that counts. Seven-thirty, and he's at the door of her quarters in the Tower.
"You haven't been near any Asgardians lately, have you?" Natasha asks suspiciously as he thrusts the bouquet of red roses at her. He manages to look a little flustered and self-conscious, which in a trained assassin should be alarming, but is actually surprisingly adorable.
"Nope. Still me. Although, honestly? Those were Pepper's idea. Well, sort of. We got comparing Tony's shortcomings the other day, and never brings me flowers came up twice. See, I remember stuff, and sometimes I even extrapolate."
Natasha snatches the flowers from his hands. Clint Barton's unexpected foray into evolution is beginning to bother her a little, but now is not the time for analysis. Instead, she racks her brain for something she might be able to use as a vase. (She keeps her quarters pretty empty of things that could be used as a weapon.) They actually smell quite nice, the roses. And why can't she hold a thought for longer than two seconds tonight?
"Just stick them in the sink," Clint offers with a shrug. So much for evolution, but in the end it's the thought that counts.
He does clean up nicely, though, and she runs her eyes appreciatively over the cut of his jacket; he actually remembered the one she meant, which definitely counts as progress. But his tie is a bit crooked, and she walks over to adjust it for him.
Just for the hell of it Natasha decides to put a little extra sway in her hips, just to see if he notices (and remembers) the dress. It's that blue, clingy one that once caused him to trip over a tree root after he'd taken out the mark, back when they were both still pretending that their chemistry was purely superior partnership. Laid up for a week he was, blaming the darkness of the estate as if he didn't possess the sharpest night vision acuity ever recorded in S.H.I.E.L.D.
He does notice.
She observes with satisfaction as his tongue briefly grazes over his lower lip, and his Adam's apple does a little bob.
"Nice dress," he manages to grate out, just as she invades his space to reach for the tie.
Damn. He's wearing aftershave.
Her hands linger a little longer than necessary on the tie around his neck, and somehow her fingers manage to stray from the fabric to the skin on his throat. Fresh, smooth shave, crying out to be explored with her mouth.
Good thing, then, that his hands seem to be doing their own travelling – she can feel them on her hips, his clever fingers already dipping under the seam of that short, tight sheath of a dress. She can feel him rolling it up a little, then a lot, and smiles at that little gasp of appreciation as he discovers she'd opted for stockings. Suddenly, the sight of that crisp white shirt stuck tightly into those pleated trousers is an irritation to her, and out it comes, giving her access to the surprisingly soft skin over those glorious abs.
And then she finds herself swung up on the kitchen counter, her dress pulled up to her waist. The scent of the roses is mingling with that of his aftershave and the familiar one that is just … Clint. His hands are everywhere at once as she hooks her stiletto-heeled feet behind his hips to pull him in.
Natasha finds herself curiously relieved that efforts to civilize the Hawk apparently have their limits. Apparently, he agrees; he reaches for something inside the inside pocket of that sleek Armani. (A knife? A spare arrowhead? Good thing she decided against wearing one of her more expensive thongs.)
"Who needs slivers of raw fish and sautéed langoustine anyway, when they can have leftover Chinese in bed?" he whispers in her ear and grinds into her, eliciting an involuntary moan.
And what the hell do Hill, Coulson and Carter know about what makes them tick?
"Just remember to keep the tie on," she manages, in between licks into her partner's mouth. "I have plans for that later."