"You shredded his roses?'

"Go away, Agent Romanoff." Agent Hill licked her pencil (a rather disgusting habit, Agent Romanoff couldn't help but think), and scribbled away. "I'm busy."

"Not too busy to break poor Banner's heart," Romanoff said. "Obviously. And here I thought I was the assassin; are you looking for a career change or something? You seem to have all of the qualifying knacks.'

"Standard protocol, Agent Romanoff, ever since the evolving tuna incident." Hill actually looked up at that, eyes narrowing. "I don't suppose you know anything about that?'

"I don't eat seafood. And decontamination may be standard protocol, but shredding isn't. That was just mean.'

Agent Hill sighed.

"It was not mean," she said. "And contrary to popular belief, neither am I. I was just… startled.'

"Startled," Agent Romanoff repeated. "You mean scared shitless, don't you?'

"Not to put too fine a point on it, Romanoff, but the man broke Harlem. And bit that last dragon ship. In half. Did you not see the recordings?'

"It was more of a rend than a bite," Romanoff said. 'And what difference does it make, anyway? He's not the one who did the damage. That was the Other Guy."

"I fail," Agent Hill said icily. "To see the difference. I am not, and never shall be, into that sort of thing."

"I don't think he is either," Agent Romanoff said. "For the record. If he was, we'd have a lot more of an ongoing problem."

Agent Hill sighed and put her pencil down.

"Look, Natasha" she said. "He's nice. As is. Really nice. Even kind of cute, when he's not… You know. But there are some things you just can't set aside, you know?'

"Mm," the Black Widow said. "Yes. I think I do. That being said…"

"There is nothing to be said." She picked up her pencil again. "Go away, Agent Romanoff."

"Alright, then," Romanoff said. "But that being said… I still think it was mean. You did it right in front of Michelle, for God's sake, and she's the biggest gossip in SHIELD! You had to know it would get back to him.'

"Maybe I wanted it to get back to him," Hill snapped. "Have you ever thought of that? He may be a genius, but I've met more than a few of those, and they tend to be more than a little slow on the social uptake.'

"I have thought of it, yes," Romanoff said. "Which is why I'm here in the first place." She leaned forward intently, eyes narrowed. "Why would you want something like that to get back to him, Maria? If you're so scared of him and all? Didn't you stop to think that it might just… disturb him?'

"He may be a monster, but he's still a gentleman. He'd never…' She stopped abruptly. Agent Romanoff got to her feet and stretched leisurely. There was no denying the fact that behind her, her shadow on the wall looked rather… arachnoid.

"I'll leave you be," she purred. "You obviously have work to do. Paperwork, studies, reports… Differentials to examine…" She sauntered out, and down the hall. As she rounded the corner…

"Well?' Barton hissed, grabbing her arm and pulling her into the broom closet. "What did she say?'

"Please," Natasha said. "As if there was ever any doubt. She's totally into him."

"What?' He actually blinked. "But I thought she liked Cap!"

"She's hot for Cap," Natasha corrected. "But she likes Banner. She won't admit it to me, or rather to herself, but the signs are all there." She considered that. "She needs to work on that. Really. She's never going to get out of that chair and into the evening gown and razored stilettos if she can't even manage the most basic control of body language.'


"Never mind." She waved him off. "The point is, I was right. She's totally bonkers over him, and since we all know how he feels about her…"

"We do?'

"Well, I do. That's all that counts, again. And she needs a hobby. Something besides drinking Nespresso and making our lives a paper-lined, ink-soaked hell."

"I'm not arguing with you, Tash, really I'm not, but… Banner? Hill and Banner? Can you imagine the children?'

"No," his lover said. "I'm not. I'm too busy imagining the hot, green and bitchy sex."


"SHHHH!" She clapped a hand over his mouth, laughing silently. "Oh my God, you're so predictable. I was just kidding, Clin… OW!"

'You're not the only one who bites. Really, what are you up to?'

"Nothing. Nothing except…" She hesitated. "I'm not going soft, really… But she's kind of… sad, Clint. Bitches usually are, right, under all that grouch. I know. And anger… Anger doesn't come from nowhere unless you're a psychopath, and Bruce may be a lot of things, but he's not that. And she may have the hots for Cap, but she's not his type, so that'll never work out, will it?"

"You're going soft, Romanoff," but it too, was suddenly soft, and he kissed her nose gently. "You're not so bad really, you know?' He pulled back. "I don't suppose you know what his type is?'

"Yeah. I do actually, but Banner and I are still hunting up the perfect and appropriate specimen. Once we find her though… Woo. To quote Walt Whitman… All of America will hear America singing.'

The Hawk looked up at the ceiling of the broom closet thoughtfully.

"You're going about it all wrong," he said. "He's a classic man, and needs a classic rebound relationship first. Something that he thinks will be a classic rebound relationship, anyway, but once he's in there – and she sees what he's got going under his spandex…'

"He's a lot more than his spandex, Clint. And he's just a kid besides, in so many ways. We don't want him to get his heart broken again.'

'No, no. We just have to…" His eyes brightened. "I know!"

"You… Do?' It sounded rather dubious. Clint said nothing, just scrambled for his phone and typed rapidly.

"There," he said. "He's a total sap, he'll know exactly how to make it look like a coincidence, and once they lay eyes on each other…'

"You're getting Thor involved in this?'

"Of course. Who better? He may not be the King of Asgard yet, but he's the total king of cheesy, old-fashioned romance." He stowed his phone away and linked his arms about her waist. "So that's him, and now you've got Banner and Hill in your sights… Eep!" He actually squeaked as the door to the broom closet swung open.

"And what,' Agent Hill said testily. "Do you two think you're doing?"

"If you can't figure that much out," Agent Romanoff said sweetly, "You really do have a problem, Agent Hill. Perhaps you should call Doctor Banner? I'm sure he'd be more than happy to educate you on the scientific and biological specifics.'

The door slammed again, but not before…

'Fuck me," Clint said in awe. "Did you see her ears? Bloody color of a horny baboon's behind; I'm surprised there weren't flames there!"

"Total goner," Agent Romanoff said, standing on her toes to kiss him. "And once they're together, she'll be so giddy and grateful that she'll sign off on that month's paid vacation in Paradise for us without so much as a murmur."

"Ah. Your real motive! I knew there had to be something in it for you."

'And you," she said. "And him, and her, and Cap too, eventually, and ooh, look at that. Happy endings all around!"

"Who are you," he said. "And what have you done with the Black Wid….. OWWWWW!"

The Black Widow just smirked.