Warning: This part also contains a slight spoiler for The Avengers movie. Read at your own risk.


They hadn't spoken in the weeks since Coulson's memorial service. Now here they were, face to face, at a victory party thrown by Stark in his tower. They didn't arrive together, but they were together now, in the midst of all the suits and ties, the bright lights, the loud music and the alcohol.

Maybe it was because he'd already had a few drinks, but tonight he was feeling braver around her than he had in awhile.

She was in the back of the ballroom, laughing and chatting with Pepper, wearing a short little red dress that clung to her body in all the most sinful places. Tony appeared from the crowd and yanked Pepper away to the dance floor and he made his way over to her, shaking hands with Bruce, Steve, and several more people he didn't recognize as he approached.

"Clint…. You made it," she said with a warm smile.

"Here I am."

She laughed. "I forgot this is your first experience at a Stark event. It must be overwhelming."

He cocked his head to one side. "It's not the venue that's overwhelming," he remarked. "What are you drinking tonight? I'll go get it for you."

She shrugged her bare shoulders. "Just get whatever you'd like and make it two."

He nodded and left her side only long enough to return with the drinks.

"Why, thank you, Agent Barton."

"To victory," he toasted, and they clinked glasses before they each downed their beverages.

"Would you care to dance?" He offered her his arm.

She raised an eyebrow. "I didn't know you could."

He winked. "We'll see," he said. "If Tony's managing, then it can't be that hard."

"True," she agreed, slipping her arm into his and letting him whisk her away.

The music was loud, and fast, and he wondered for a moment why on Earth he'd wanted to let go in this way as they awkwardly moved about, but she was laughing and he found himself joining in as they twirled around and around. It wasn't long before Bruce and Tony found them and they even managed to get Steve to join and for quite possibly the first time since the Shawarma, they were having a moment together.

Then the music slowed and everybody paired off and suddenly they were just standing there. "Shall we sit?" He asked.

"What for?" She stepped right in his personal space, placing a hand gently on his shoulder and locking the fingers of her other hand in his. "The night's still young, right?"

He smiled as he placed one hand on her waist and pulled their conjoined hands against his chest.

"You clean up well, Agent Barton," she remarked, looking him up and down with a devilish smile on her face.

"And you, Agent Romanoff, are simply stunning in that dress," he returned. "The color red definitely suits you."

She swatted his shoulder playfully. "Oh, stop. You'll make me blush."

"No I won't," he said.

She laughed. "No… you won't," she agreed.

He laughed too, until she wrapped both her arms around his neck and leaned her head against his chest.

He swallowed hard, his arms encircling her waist and holding her close. "This is… nice," he breathed as he took in the intoxicating scent of her hair.

"Yes, it is," she acknowledged, but he didn't pick up on her guarded tone.


"Don't." She moved her head to look up at him. "We said we weren't going to do this, right?"

He sighed. "Right."

"So… what would you do if we were like the others and we didn't have to go to back to the base tomorrow?" She asked, partly to change the subject and partly because she was genuinely curious.

He pulled her back into his arms and she settled back against his chest and they twirled slowly for a moment before he answered. "I'd probably… go back to S.H.E.I.L.D. anyway," he admitted.

She narrowed her eyes curiously. "Why's that?"

He rested his cheek against her forehead. "It's all I have left," he answered. "The only thing real that I know."

She nodded. "I suppose I would do the same," she agreed.