WARNING: This chapter contains a horrible pun. You have been warned.
Clint Barton woke up in his hotel room, which wasn't much of a surprise, and with the other half of the bed occupied by a certain Russian redhead, which was.
But not very much.
He checked his watch, then, as he had been trained, worked his way through his memories from the last major thing he could remember -
He scanned the room. Yep, there was the ring binder, a dollop of mayo still on its spine. And the inflatable animals with which they had had the cutest, squeakiest pillow fight ever. A few empty glasses with their contents staining the expensive carpet. Clint winced; that was probably coming out of Stark's pocket. 'Course, it was a big pocket -
Clint reached into the bedside table, ignored the bilingual bible and notepad, and grabbed the ballpoint pen. He tossed it up and down a few times, getting a feel for it, then hurled it at the window shade, which obligingly rose up just enough to let just enough light in to pick out Nat's highlights.
He watched her for a while.
"This is your room, right?" she said, without moving. "I mean, we didn't knock out some poor guy and take all their stuff? Because that's always such an explanation."
"Uh...no. My room."
"Good." Red was facing the window, and he couldn't see her face. "Have you seen my underpants? I mean, I'm enjoying the high thread count, but I'm going to have to leave eventually."
Clint raised the sheets. "I think I'm wearing it. No, wait, this is a size too small." He squinted through the sleepy haze, as a memory struck him. "Am I the only one in this room who remembers...an elephant?"
"There's a stone one in the courtyard." Natasha raised her head and peered out the window, wincing at the bright sunlight. "Ah. There they are."
"You going to rescue them?"
"No, that's a high-risk extraction." Her head flopped back down. "I'll pay you twenty bucks."
"I've had lunches that cost more than that."
"And we're in Mexico."
He heard the smile in her voice. "You were the one who suggested it."
Barton sighed, and something struck him. He raised the sheets again. "I think I'm wearing this thong backward."
"Why does it have an eagle eating a snake?"
"It's part of the Coat of Arms, and the flag."
"Huh. Speaking of birds, isn't it weird how they send a guy called 'Hawkeye' out to catch the 'Black Widow'? What's with the animal names? Why didn't they send Falcon?"
"I'm not sure what good Sam's flying suit could've done against me. They needed Spy vs. Spy, if you get my drift."
"They could've sent Songbird,."
"She probably would've killed me. And anyone else on the block."
"Ah. So, all things considered, good thing it was me."
Her arm snaked across his chest, for a non-awkward side-hug. "Good thing."
And that was when the door to the bedroom opened and Tony stark walked in with a tray.
"Morning," said he. "Here's breakfast."
Both agents sat up.
"Tony, what are you doing in here?" said Clint.
Funny. A week ago, he hadn't been on a first name basis with any billionaires.
"Bringing you breakfast. I asked Fury, he said you both like poached eggs and ham."
"No, I mean, why are you, specifically, bringing us breakfast we never ordered -"
"And orange juice."
"I...kind of bought the hotel. So anything you like, put it on my tab."
"What if I ask for a Ferrari?"
"Okay, so almost anything you like." Stark put down the tray he was carrying.
"Don't eat the eggs," Natasha said quickly. "He's not very good at them."
"I didn't make it. This isn't my breakfast-making suit."
"What, does it have a light on the chest shaped like an egg?" Barton's brain had woken up enough to start being sarcastic, so he clearly wasn't getting back to sleep.
"Heh. That's funny. Really funny," Stark said with a forced smile. "No, but that's a good idea. I'll call it the Waffle Iron Man suit."
Red buried her head under a pillow with a groan. "I am going to kill you in your sleep."
"What's that, Agent Romanov? Do my jokes put you in a black mood?"
"Don't start, Tony. She'll be in a snit all day."
"I had no idea little Miss super-spy was so vulnerable to puns. Next thing you know she'll be Russian out the door just to get away."
"You will open your eyes at three AM," Nat promised, "and the last thing you see will be a redhead with a pillow."
"Kinky. But I already have one"
"Technically, she's more of a strawberry blonde," Barton noted.
"By the way, did you see what happened to Steve yesterday?"
"I locked him in a room with a naked waitress so they could eat fondue together. And no, that's not some kind of innuendo."
"You did what?" both SHIELD agents said.
"Stark," Natasha rolled right over Clint, and he winced. Using his last name, and in That Voice; not good. "Explain."
Tony took a step back.
"Okay, I noticed Steve flirting with one of the waitresses at the bar."
"Cute, hispanic, shoulder-length hair, curvy, nice dimples," Clint chimed in.
Nat eyebrowed at him.
"What? Red, there's nothing wrong with liking girls who are closer to pears than string beans-mmph."
"Is that some sort of secret Russian pillow-fighting technique?"
"No, I think I just pissed her off."
"Out," Natasha ordered. "Out of the bed. Out, out, out."
"All right," Clint said, and threw off the covers.
Tony winced, closed his eyes. "Barton, I don't like you that way. We're at shwarma-level. Maybe kebabs. Nothing more. Also, puce? Really?"
Clint grabbed a pillow and held it in front of himself. "Better?"
"Much. Though I wish you'd grabbed the blanket."
Natasha's hands curled into a death grip on the bedclothes, and her green eyes glared at Barton. "Hawk, I know where you live. I know exactly when you reach the deepest point in REM sleep. I own a lot of sharp pointy things, and have access to experimental weapons on a daily basis. Don't touch these sheets."
"Is she always this grumpy in the morning?" Tony asked.
"She wasn't before you showed up," said Clint. "Can you see my pants? Or any pants?"
"Well, there's those."
"Those actually cover less than the thong."
"And they're teal."
"I can handle teal, as long as they cover a decent amount. Close your eyes, I'm going to break for the closet."
"Duly warned. And you'd just go out in any old pants?"
"I figure they're used to strange rich guests walking down the hall. How often do you come here?"
"Well, this is May so - hey!"
"What did you do to Rogers?" Natasha demanded.
"Okay, okay. Steve isn't exactly the most direct sort, so I figured he might need a little help."
"I see where this is going," said Clint from behind the closet door. "If this were a sitcom, hilarity would be about to ensue. Since this is real life, lawsuits might be about to ensue."
"Nope, no one's suing me," Tony said, rubbing his cheek. "Anyway, I told 'Nita that Steve wanted a little funtime with her."
"Hence the nakedness and fondue," Nat prompted.
"Right. Then I told him that there was some fondue waiting for him in the room."
If Clint wasn't pulling on his jeans, he would've cupped his face in his hands. "You didn't. Stark, tell me you didn't."
"I locked them in. Figured he'd want a little privacy."
"When did Juanita slap you?" Natasha asked.
"How did you -"
Natasha gave Tony one of her crooked, mischievous little smiles, and made a kind of magician's assistant "ta-da" gesture that somehow kept the sheets covering everything important.
"Right, trained super spy, powers of observation, Sherlock Holmes in a catsuit, I get it." Tony sighed. "Well, apparently Steve explained the situation to her. Then he gave her his shirt, and they just talked for a while. Then she dressed and used her keycode to open the door. Then she found me and slapped me."
"But what happened to Cap?" Hawkeye asked, pulling on a bright yellow Aloha shirt.
"He found me and did that thing he does, where he explains how disappointed he is in you, and how he understands you were trying to do the right thing, and hopes you don't do it again. What's it called, what's it called -"
"Yes. That's it. I'm not sure why he had such a problem with it."
"He's Christian, Tony."
"And? My mom was Catholic, and -"
"Yes, we all know how your parents met. I don't mean a modern Christian. I mean Christian by 40s standards. He even goes to the same church he used to."
"'Cept there's a gay couple down the bench," Clint noted.
"Lex and Joe. Investment and Construction."
"There's a ten year gap in their ages, but they don't care."
"Great interior decorator, some nice rugs."
"Really good coffee."
"What, did you two spy on them?"
Clint and Natasha stared at Tony.
"Right. Stupid question. Wait, do they think..."
"What would you think?" Clint said. "If you didn't know that he got stuck in an iceberg back when Adolf was goose-stepping? Good looking, clean-cut, dresses in a certain way..."
"That would explain what happened today..."
"Or maybe he just didn't want to sleep with her."
Tony gave what would've been a winning, convincing smile if it hadn't been directed at an intelligence operative who had already profiled him and had the equivalent of a master's in psychology.
Clint wasn't too convinced either.
"C'mon, Agent, he hung out with Barnes and, more importantly, my dad. Two of the biggest skirt-chasers in the Allies. Are you telling me that they didn't rub off on him?"
"No pun intended," Clint said.
"Don't encourage him, Barton."
Nat was remarkably in control of the situation for being the only one in the room not wearing any clothes.
"Look," said Stark. "I know Steve's old-fashioned, but he can't be that old-fashioned. Maybe he doesn't like to do it on the first date, is all."
Natasha looked at Tony for a few seconds, her mouth open like she was about to say something, but she couldn't quite find the words.
She tried again.
"Stark, I -"
Out of steam again.
Then she picked up a pillow, covered her face with it, and screamed into it in inarticulate rage, until she realized Clint had a hand around her waist, and was giving her that sideways headbutt thing.
"Red," he said softly, "Find a different angle."
She breathed deeply.
One more breath.
"Tony...did your dad tell you about the fondue incident?"
"With Major Carter? Yeah, it was funny, he told it at parties all the time. He didn't realize that Carter was practically throwing herself at him-oh. Oh. Oh crap."
Nat said something in Russian. "Tony Stark, you are a very smart idiot."
"Yeah." Tony was looking at the floor. "I messed up, didn't I?"
Clint made a pinching gesture . "Juuust a little."
"I think I need to go find Steve. And buy him a house or something."
"That's not really a reliable way to solve problems, Tony."
"What happened to Steve?" Natasha was leaning into Clint with her eyes clothed, as if she'd need heavy-duty cuddling to deal with Tony's stupidity.
"He went to meet 'Nita's parents for dinner. I'm pretty sure she wants to marry him now."
"Does he know that?" Clint asked.
Tony grinned. "No. Well, I'll leave you two to eat your cold eggs and orange juice. Oh, and I included a splash of vodka in one."
"It's a surprise. Well, bye. Oh, wait, what's the binder for? Please tell me that's whipped cream."
"Now I'm even more confused."
"You use it to grease the spine, then you fold it up into a V shape, use it as a chute, like a slide."
"What would you slide down it? I mean, it can't be something like, I dunno, grapes. I've had grapes with mayo. They do not taste good. So what was it?"
Her parents had insisted he stay in their guest room, and he didn't want to refuse. Wouldn't be polite. Juanita and her parents had talked long into the night, and while his Spanish was spotty - not to mention seventy years out of date - he heard them talk a lot about something that sounded a lot like "union". He hoped they weren't going to ask him to intervene in some kind of labor trouble.
He owned the gym back in Brooklyn. He had bought the place entirely out of his own money; turned out that his War Bonds had matured nicely. Sometimes he just went up on the roof with a sketchpad (who was paying ten bucks for a tiny black sketchbook anyway?), looked around, and just drew. Most modern gyms had fancy black machines with pointless blinking lights. What happened to just running around the block?
But a pencil, paper, a street, and good lighting. Wasn't much the world could do to that.
He shifted the chair under him, flipped to a fresh page, and started sketching left-handed, just for a little variety. Behind him, he heard the screen door open, the clink of ice in a glass. Two glasses, actually, one of which was placed on the table in front of him, followed by a pair of arms circling around him and a peck to the cheek. The other glass she carried to her seat opposite him, her back to the sun.
Juanita wanted to become an professional artist, but was hoping she could find someone to pay her way into an American college. She was a good artist; she'd shown Steve some of her oils and she had a bit of a Monet thing going on. She was also entirely unafraid to criticize his free caricatures of the neighbourhood kids, and had a sort of cheery playfulness hiding her massive amounts of moxie. Interesting contrast. Honestly, after the way she had slapped Stark, he had decided it wasn't worth it to rub it in. Not that he would've anyway. 'Course not.
She took a swig of her limeade, the sun sparkling in the glass.
She also liked Lana Del Rey, whoever that was, and her favorite color was apricot.
Nita's glass hit the glass table with a clink. She reached up and pulled out her hair tie, shaking it out so it fell around her shoulders in soft waves that the sun caught and turned to a halo.
Steve was dimly aware that he had stopped drawing. Didn't seem important, right then.
"Esteban," she said in that accent of hers, the one that made Steve think of dancing. "Draw me like one of your French girls."
Steve blinked, cleared his throat, tried to get his brain out of neutral.
"I don't get it," he said.