Title: Understanding
Author:
SLynn
Rating: T (language)
Fandom: Avengers (movieverse)
Characters: Clint, Natasha, Phil
Spoilers: Pre-movie.

Summary: If they were going to work together, then Clint and Natasha needed to first get along.

Notes: I guess I'm officially creating my own head canon here. This story would be a follow-up to 'Inconsolable' but I try to make each one as standalone as I can, so you should be able to read this one without having read any of the others. Of course, I'd love for you to read them all, but I'll settle for this one. Thanks again to my beta, Tripp3235. Thanks to everyone for reading, reviewing, favoriting - thanks for it all! Enjoy! (PS - thanks astridv!)


Las Vegas - April 2006

"Let's just go over it one more time."

"Phil," Clint said as he picked up the nearest container of pad thai noodles, "we know the plan. Red goes in..."

"Stop calling me Red," Natasha said, shaking her head as he continued to talk, and eat, with his hands.

"...talks up Holton. Gets into his room. Knocks him out. Finds the files, copies them and gets out again. Easy."

"Says the man doing nothing," Natasha added.

"You've got your spots picked," Phil asked.

"Three of them," Clint answered, ignoring Natasha's dig. "Can you pull up the map?"

"For goodness... use a fork," Natasha snapped. "A fork. Were you raised in a barn?"

"Tent, actually," Clint said, smiling as she tossed one at him, harder than needed, and he snatched it out of the air.

"What?"

"Nothing, Romanoff."

"Can we focus," Phil sighed, having pulled up the map Barton needed. If he left them to it, they'd argue all night. The last civilized conversation he'd witnessed between them had been when Clint had convinced Natasha to join SHIELD. It had gone downhill since then.

Clint set down the container and wiped his hands on his jeans, earning another eye roll from Natasha, before touching the screen to indicate the three spots he liked best for surveillance. Phil knew Clint went out of his way to antagonize Natasha, she was normally so unflappable that Phil almost couldn't blame him, but he wished he'd hold off for now. This was their first mission together, and they needed to put aside their differences and make it happen. They had to reach an understanding and become a team.

"Shouldn't you be inside the building?" Natasha asked.

"No."

"Just no?" she fired back at him.

"You're going to be at your most vulnerable inside Holton's room," Clint argued. "From any of those spots, I can not only see the room, but I can still watch the party."

"Okay then," she agreed, before pointing at the screen herself. "This one. If there's trouble, you'll be adjacent, not across the street. And the buildings are connected on the ground floor by the casino."

Clint nodded, seeing she was right. He didn't always agree with her but he wouldn't argue just to argue. Well, not all the time.

"Party starts at eight," Phil said. "I'll be on standby, back here if you need me, keeping an eye on the inside. Lethal force is authorized but not until absolutely necessary. Life or limb, only exception. This has to remain low key."

Clint and Natasha both nodded in agreement and moved to prepare for the operation. For Natasha, this was a lot of work. Part of her job was image. She needed to dress to be noticed.

Clint had to do the opposite, his job was to go unnoticed. It was perhaps the only thing Natasha thought he didn't need help with. She took one look at his attire and pronounced him, "Perfectly ordinary," before he left, a good three hours ahead of her.

From his room, Clint set up the scant amount of surveillance equipment he needed for the job, along with his bow, just in case. He had his earpiece in place that would allow Natasha and Phil to hear him and vice versa, but knew it would be quiet for quite some time.

"We're on our way," Phil 's voice finally announced and Clint nodded. Phil was to drop Natasha off and then get back to the safe house until it was time to pick them up again.

"Holton's here," he returned. "He's got two big goons with him. Hotel staff has been in his room, making it pretty. His staff too. Holton's personal assistant..."

"Taylor Nicolson," Phil provided.

"Yeah, her," Clint continued. "She stopped by and locked up something in the safe. Also set up a laptop. Party has already started on the fifth floor terrace. That's about it. No, wait...they've got a band," he finished with a yawn.

"Are we boring you?" Natasha asked, her voice already taking on a new tone and a slightly different accent as she got into character.

"Yeah," he answered. "There's nothing on TV and room service sucks."

"Do your damn job, Barton," Natasha snipped.

"Waiting on you, Romanoff."

"We're here," Phil informed them all, almost with a sigh as if he couldn't wait for them to stop bickering. He needed this to work between them. They were supposed to be his team. Their combined skill sets would be unbeatable, if they could only keep from tearing one another apart.

For several long minutes there was complete radio silence between the three of them. Clint could hear what was happening around Natasha, but she hadn't said another word. She obviously had no problem getting into the party without an invite, but for the life of him, Clint couldn't find her in the crowd.

"I'm back at the house and tapping into the surveillance cameras," Phil said, silently blessing the tech who did all of the real work that required well in advance.

"I don't see her," he admitted.

"I'm looking right at you," Natasha said, her voice quiet and controlled.

Clint scanned the crowd, still without luck.

"At the rail you idiot."

"Oh," he exclaimed, finally seeing her and wondering how he'd missed her in the first place. "Blond. That's new."

"How do they even let you in the field?"

"Hey, Barbie," Clint said, enjoying the flicker of irritation that passed across her face, "Holton's giving you the eye from the bar on your left."

Natasha didn't respond, but he watched as she turned her back to him and gave Holton what must have been a hell of a 'come-thither' look, because the man practically bolted to her side. For the most part, Clint listened in and kept his eyes on the crowd. He liked riling up Natasha but not while she was working. That would be dangerous and stupid.

"Nicolson's heading back to the room," Phil said after nearly an hour of silence between the three of them. Well, not exactly silence. Clint and Phil got an earful from Holston as he chatted Natasha up.

"I see her," Clint confirmed, taking his eyes off the party for a moment to check out what was happening in the room. She didn't appear to be there to do much more than turn down the sheets and set up a chiller with champagne and he was just about to turn away again when, "She's setting up a camera in the bedroom."

"Can you tell if it's active?" Phil asked.

Natasha laughed at something Holston had said and then, quite demurely exclaimed, "It wouldn't be possible for me to leave you now."

"I'm pretty sure Phil was talking to me," Clint returned. "And, I don't think it is." He took another look with his binoculars and spotted the steady red light . "Red is usually off, so... yeah, it's off. He might have it on a remote."

Natasha laughed, again, and it was so fake Clint didn't know how this guy was buying it. At least, it sounded fake to him. He'd heard her real laugh, admittedly only a few times, but it was nothing like what she was passing off as one at the moment. "We wouldn't want to be seen like that," she gushed and he shook his head.

"She's right," Phil agreed. "Clint, you've got to get over there and take it out."

"I'll need five minutes to drop my bag and get next door," he said, already in motion. Packing up what he wouldn't need and taking just the absolute necessities. They'd already predetermined a drop location, should they need it, for another agent to pick up his things. Clint could have left his it behind in the room, but as loathe as he was to be parted with his bow in the first place, leaving it where he may never get the chance to retrieve it seemed worse.

As he expected it would, another fake laughed filled his ear, followed by a coy, "But we have all night."

Clint shook his head, as if she could see him, and knew she didn't mean it that way. "I'm hurrying, " he assured both Phil and Natasha.

Things went fine until Clint reached the casino. It was late Saturday night and the place was packed. Clint circled the floor three times before he'd even noticed he was going in circles.

"Shit," he muttered.

"Can't get in the room?" Phil asked and Clint wanted to laugh.

"I can't get out of the casino. It's a freaking maze and I think I'm starting to attract attention."

"Okay, I see you," Phil said after a pause. "Security is watching... stumble to your left, towards the bar."

Clint did his best, which was just enough to deflect attention. Plenty of drunks in Vegas, stumbling around in circles inside of casinos, to make him look like nothing special. Security backed off and after ordering a drink he didn't touch, Phil directed him to the hotel lobby. After he got his bearings back, Clint used a doctored key to access the elevators and make his way into the penthouse suite Holton had rented.

"Take out the camera," Phil instructed, his voice seemingly louder than it had been given the stillness of the room. "Check the laptop and the safe. If the files are there, get them and get out."

"I wouldn't want to steal Romanoff's glory."

"You are too much," Natasha giggled, but Clint caught the subtle edge thrown in at the end.

The camera was easy to reach and he pocketed it without much thought. Next he sat down at the laptop. They'd each had their own flash drives complete with all kinds of high tech programs or viruses or something, Clint really didn't understand. But he knew how to operate it, which was really all he needed to understand.

"Nicholson's on her way," Phil said just as Clint had started up the laptop.

As he'd said it, Clint distinctly heard Natasha say, "So soon? Isn't it kind of early for bed?"

"Shit," Clint muttered, mashing the power button in an effort to turn the laptop off again, and missing whatever it was Phil and Natasha and Holton, his voice nearly as loud as the rest, said next.

Giving the room a quick double take to make certain everything was as it had been, Clint shut the lid on the laptop and hurried to the front door.

"She's in the hallway," Phil said, almost as if he could see him. "Are you out? Did you get out? Barton? Barton, answer me."

Holton's assistant was at the door, Clint could hear her fumbling the card key. There was really only one place to hide.

"What's that noise?" Phil asked, still trying to get someone to respond. "Barton? Romanoff? Someone tell me what's going on there or I'm calling this mission off."

"Well," Natasha said, talking to Holton but in reality answering Phil, "that would be a shame. I'd love to get to spend some time with you. Alone."

"What about you Barton? Talk to me."

"I'm... hanging out."

"Do I want to know?" Phil asked, the strange noise beginning to remind him of a whistle and making communication more difficult than it needed to be.

"You really don't," Clint answered, a definite strain to his voice.

Natasha momentarily pushed the thought of what could have possibly gone so wrong from her mind and refocused her energy on Holton. She needed to get him back to his room, alone, and finish this mission before Barton got himself killed.

Within ten minutes, she had him in the elevator.

Holston was retelling her some ridiculous story when he opened the door and Natasha got her first look at his assistant, Barton's bane, for herself.

"Do you need anything else, sir?" Taylor Nicholson asked, smiling brightly.

"No, we're fine. Take the rest of the night off."

"Thank you, sir," she said, her smile changing to a sneer as Holton turned his back on them.

Natasha beamed at her as she left.

"Let's have a drink," Holton said, popping the cork on the champagne bottle and pouring her a rather large serving. "To new friends."

"To new friends," she repeated. And, seeing as he'd drained his glass, asked, "Another?"

"Why the hell not," he laughed as she smoothly took his glass, poured him a fresh drink, and raised her own after returning his.

She smiled as he, once again, drained the glass, but this time he didn't laugh and ask for more. This time he hit the floor. Natasha set her glass down and stepped over him with one graceful movement, taking in the room with a frown.

"All right, Barton," she called out. "Where the hell are you?"

"Outside," came the answer in her ear.

"Out..." she began, shaking her head. This was the top floor. The balcony was practically nonexistent. Still, she went to it and slid the door open, unsurprised to find it unlocked. The space was only big enough to hold two people. "Where..."

As she'd said it, Clint threw his arm up over the railing. Then a leg. Next he was standing beside to her, looking tired but not the least bit shaken.

"How'd you do that?" she asked, peaking over the side of the balcony.

"I can do stuff."

"Can we get on with this? Please?" Phil asked in both of their ears.

"Lay him out in the bed," Natasha instructed. "I'll get the files."

Clint nodded and they both got to work. He struggled a bit with his task, Holton was a big guy and Clint was a little worn out from all the literal hanging out he'd been doing, but he got him there.

Natasha looked over and tsk'd him immediately.

"You think he goes to bed like that?"

"What? Should I brush his teeth and tuck him in? Who cares?"

"At least strip him," Natasha bit back, getting up from the laptop and moving on to the safe.

"I thought that was your job," Clint muttered under his breath.

"What?"

"Nothing," he answered as he began to take off the man's shoes.

"Okay," she said after a few minutes worth of work, having retrieved what they came for, "let's get out of here."

"Good."

"Something's up," Phil said just as they reached the door. "Things One and Two are on their way up in the main elevator with Nicolson."

Neither Natasha or Clint spoke. They both just looked at one another and knew what had to be done. Clint opened the door and ushered her out. In the hallway, Natasha took the lead, moving quickly past the bank of elevators and to the stairwell.

"Where are you?" Phil asked, his voice very even.

"Just past twenty-six," Natasha answered.

"Nicholson went to the room," Phil advised. "We intercepted her call out but Thing One is back in the elevator and Thing Two is on your heels."

"Got it," Clint answered and they both picked up their pace when they heard the slam of a door above them.

Natasha and Clint rushed down several more flights before Phil said anything more.

"Thing One is on his way up the stairs. They're going to trap you in the middle."

"Here," Natasha said, pushing open the next door they came across at level nineteen.

"Elevator?" Clint asked.

"Clear," Phil confirmed.

As soon as they got on, Natasha immediately put her arm around Clint's waist and turned her face into the nape of his neck. He hesitated for a moment, but all it took was a quick dart of her eyes up and to the camera, he understood and draped his arm around her shoulder in response, pulling her in closer.

The elevator stopped at the very next floor and Clint tensed up in anticipation, but it turned out to be a couple of tourists who'd had more than a few drinks and were more interested in one another than they were in them.

Natasha giggled and pulled his head down towards hers.

"How are they following us?" she whispered, talking as much to Phil as she was to Clint.

"They might have their own person on surveillance," Phil suggested. "Or Holton bugged you."

"No," she dismissed, but it had made Clint pause to think.

"Could they track us with that camera?"

"Yes," both Natasha and Phil answered at the same time.

"Shit," Clint muttered as he took it out of his pocket and handed it to Natasha.

She glared at him a moment as she took it from him, and before he knew what was happening, she'd slapped him. Hard. The couple next them gasped in unison and Clint couldn't even think to react.

"Is this hers?" she asked loudly, the camera hidden in her palm as she waved it dramatically in the air. "You son of a bitch. You told me it was over."

"They're following you down in the next elevator," Phil told them. "You've got a five floor lead."

"I can't believe you'd do this to me," Natasha continued to wail, very convincingly. Clint must have been equally convincing, although the truth was he was too stunned to play along, because the other guy actually gave him a sympathetic shrug. "This is trash. Just like you. Just like that whore."

With that, she threw the camera in the bin and, crossing her arms, stood directly in front of him with a pout.

The woman beside them pressed the button for the very next floor and as soon as the door opened, she and the other guy fled.

Natasha waited a moment before pressing the down button and shutting the doors on them again, but held her pose for the camera.

"You're really bad at this," she commented under her breath. "You should have said something."

"What was I supposed to say besides, 'Did you have to slap me so hard?' I could have said that. I get that the realer it looks, the better, but -"

"Oh, it was real."

Clint bit his lip to keep from replying.

"Come on," she said, taking him by the hand and pulling him from the elevator as soon as they'd hit the lobby. "Phil?"

"I'm on my way," he answered without having to be asked more. It was both reassuring and a disadvantage. They'd have no more help from the all seeing eye in the sky, but at least they'd have someone waiting at the exit point.

Natasha and Clint didn't get very far before they'd both heard the other elevator open with a 'ding' behind them and Holton's hired bodyguards spotted them easily. Well, actually what they spotted was Natasha and her red dress, but there wasn't much they could do about that.

Natasha interlocked their fingers and tugged Clint along, dodging and weaving through the still crowded casino without pause.

"Toss the jacket," she told him, letting go of him just long enough to allow him to comply. After that it was, "This way," as she led him down a back corridor, buying them a few extra minutes and allowing her to pull off her wig.

"Where..." he started to ask, as she pushed open a door and shook out her natural hair, but she immediately hushed him and continued to drag him out of the building.

"Undress," she said, stopping only long enough to take off her heels and moving quickly towards the empty pool.

This time Clint didn't even bother to ask. She was the expert here. If she thought this would work, whatever this was, he believed her.

"Throw it there," she indicated, shimming out of her dress and tossing it behind the nearest bush.

Clint followed her lead and it didn't take long for them both to be down to their underwear.

"Get in," Natasha said, waving to the pool as if it should have been obvious where she'd been heading with this idea.

"What?"

"Get in," she urged, her voice growing more urgent as the sound of a door slamming shut could be heard across the courtyard.

"No, this -"

But she didn't let him finish. Natasha pushed him in and jumped in immediately after, dunking her head and scrubbing most of the makeup from her face.

"Your hair," she pointed out. He'd fallen in but managed to keep his head above water, so he was still relatively dry, and trying to stay that way. "Never mind," Natasha said, shaking her head as she simultaneously swept his legs out from underneath him and pushed him again, harder this time.

Clint came up out of the water, prepared to yell, because that really was the last straw, and right on the edge of panic. He had no problem taking orders or letting her take the lead even, but now she was just acting crazy. He had to get out of the pool. This was too much.

However, before he could say anything, she launched herself at him.

Clint's first thoughts were that she was trying to drown him. Her arms were around his neck. Her hands were on top of his head. He still didn't have any kind of proper footing and all her weight was pushed up against him until he was submerged just to his shoulders.

It was then that he began to fight her, to physically push her away and it was then that she pulled him closer and pressed her lips to his.

Finally he realized what she was doing.

At first he couldn't think about anything other than the fact that they'd bumped heads so hard he'd cut his lip and that he was shaking. And wet, he was soaking wet and his feet still had no traction. Not that that stopped her, or even slowed her down a little. Natasha was committed to this farce.

Clint stopped fighting and wrapped his arms around her, his hands coming to rest on her back as he finally landed solidly on his own feet. Natasha still had her hands in his hair and, gentler than before, shifted his head to the side, increasing the intensity between them. For a split second, Clint forgot himself and forgot that he was partially underwater and still felt off balance. Once rectified, he opened his eyes and scanned the area, stamping down his nerves.

"They're here," he whispered in her ear after breaking away from her. He continued to trail kisses down her neck as she thought it over.

"You'll have to talk," she whispered. "If they ask anything, you'll have to talk." Natasha turned and pressed her forehead to his, everything about her body language said flirt, but her eyes were hard and set on his.

"Hey," the bigger of the two bodyguards shouted out as he spotted them in the pool. "You two see a blond chick run through here?"

Natasha pulled herself closer to Clint, and instinctively he wrapped his arm tighter around her waist, leaving the other arm free to gesture.

"Does it look like I care about blonds?" Clint asked in return with a laugh that he hoped sounded real. He also hoped they couldn't see the tremor in his hands that he couldn't quite control. Natasha, acting as if she was embarrassed, buried her head in the crook of his neck as Clint reached up and ran his free hand through her hair. The two guys stood there, but they weren't really giving them much attention. They were busy scanning the patio, obviously without any luck or idea as to what to do next. "Hey," Clint said after a few minutes. "You mind?"

"Oh," the second bodyguard said, shaking his head and giving Clint a smile. "Yeah, we'll um... we'll let you get back to business."

"Thanks," Clint returned, tilting Natasha's face up to his and pulling her into another kiss.

They kept at it until the two men went back into the building and then immediately dropped the act, backing away from one another. Natasha wasn't sure if she should be amused or offended by how fast Clint got out of the pool.

"Here," he said, throwing her a towel as she got out. "We need to leave. Phil's probably waiting."

Natasha nodded as she retrieved their clothes. The dried themselves off as best as they could and got dressed in silence.

"Ready?" she asked, beginning to walk towards the side exit.

"Wait," Clint said, taking her by the wrist and pulling her to a stop. He looked deadly serious as he met her eyes. "Don't do that to me again."

Natasha's eyebrows shot up in surprise at how angry he sounded, and of all the things she could have, and often did accuse him of being, prudish wasn't one of them.

"I didn't think you'd mind," she admitted, although it was humbling to do so.

"Well, I do," he said, and then to her surprise he gestured back towards the pool. "I hate the water and I don't swim, okay? If you wanted in me in the water, fine, just... don't push. Ask."

"Okay."

"Good," he nodded, letting go and motioning her forward with a nod of his head.

"Unbelievable," she muttered as they walked briskly down the alleyway behind the hotel.

"What?" he snapped.

"It's just unbelievable to me that this is your profession," she admitted.

"I'm so sorry I didn't get to go to spy school like you did," he snapped back, picking up his pace to walk beside her. "I've only been doing this a few years and I don't exactly specialize at getting close to the targets."

Natasha sped up her steps till she was just a few feet in front of him again. "But you're just so bad at it," she continued. "When you talk, it's like you've never talked to anyone before in your life. And you talk all the time. All the time," she snapped, managing to keep her voice low. "You ask too many questions. You have too many comments. Just... just shut up and listen every once in awhile."

"Don't hold back now."

"Like that," she exclaimed, wheeling round and stopping him dead in his tracks. "What did that get you? What good are words that don't do anything for you?"

"It got me a reaction," he admitted, which is after all what he wanted. Although, the way she was glaring at him, Clint couldn't quite figure out why he thought that would be a good thing.

"Because you're testing me."

"Maybe."

"No," she said, shaking her head vehemently. "Don't give me that. Don't give me anything. You've got to stop answering people that aren't asking you questions."

Natasha turned and continued walking, Clint at her heels feeling a bit like a whipped dog.

"Why are you testing me?" she asked. "You don't trust me?"

Clint didn't answer. He sensed she was testing him now, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what she really wanted or what she was trying to accomplish.

"You chose me yourself," she continued, glancing back at him every so often. "Why not trust me? Have I done anything wrong?"

"I trust that you know how to do your job."

Natasha pushed her lips together and nodded at his answer, mulling it over. "Not bad. Maybe you're not as stupid as you look. But you are a fool."

"How am I fool?"

She arched an eyebrow at him, smirking a bit at how easy it was to get him to take the bait. "You may not trust me entirely, but you trust everyone else. All of SHIELD."

Clint didn't bother to point out that if he did trust everyone in SHIELD, she'd be dead right now. He had a feeling that's what she wanted him to say.

"These files," she said, taking the flash drive she'd stashed in her bra. "We just stole them and we don't even know why."

"Holton stole them first," Clint answered as they finally stopped at the designated point, a few blocks off the main drag. "We're just taking them back."

"But not to the owner," Natasha corrected. "SHIELD isn't giving these up."

Clint nodded in agreement. He hadn't expected them too.

"Does that bother you?"

"Nope."

Natasha said nothing. She just stood there, arms crossed, and stared at him. Waiting.

"Some things don't need to be out there in the first place," he finally said, cracking under her gaze.

For some time they settled into an uneasy silence as they waited, and waited, and waited for Phil.

"We're going to have to work together," Natasha said, breaking the ice. "You need to listen to me."

"I listen."

"You do," she said with a crisp nod. "When we're working, you do. But I mean all the time. You haven't been doing this long. I've been doing it my whole life. I'm not telling you to shut up just because I can't stand the sound of your voice. I'm trying to help you. You give entirely too much away about yourself. The pool? The water? You didn't need to tell me that. You're making it too easy for someone to come along and use you. I thought you knew better. I thought you understood when you told me that the only thing you had was yourself. That's all you'll ever have in this life, so protect it."

Clint crossed his arms over his chest and dropped his head, not wanting to hear what she was saying but taking it in just the same.

"You brought me in and have been pushing me away ever since, when there are things I can teach you."

"Since I brought you in you've been nothing but rude and dismissive of me," he countered.

"Because you're a fool," she answered.

"See," he said, throwing his hands up. "That. Right there. You expect me to listen to you and take your advice, but then... I don't know. I just... I don't know about you. I can't."

"You expected me to be friendly? Grateful? I am grateful for what you did and I'm trying to show that by helping you."

"Okay, well, I didn't get that memo."

"Fair enough," she shrugged, turning away.

Clint shook his head, and took the opportunity to look up and down the street, desperate now for any signs of Phil.

"You're right," he said after it was clear they were going to have at least another ten minutes of silence. "We have to work together. We don't have to be friends but... we have to work together. I'll stop doing whatever it is that is annoying you so much and -"

"You're not annoying," she interrupted.

"Really?" he asked disbelievingly.

"You're a little annoying," she amended, "but maybe... maybe I could learn to deal with that better. I push you, maybe it's good that you push me back."

"I am good at that."

"Yes, you are," she said, and he just caught a hint of a smile.

"So, is this thing going to work or should we just call it?" he asked.

"I can make anything work."

"There's that attitude I was talking about."

"And there's the smartass I was talking about," she returned.

"So we both have something to work on," Clint said.

Natasha shrugged at him and after another minute or two of silence Phil finally pulled up in the car looking stressed out.

"Sorry," he said as they got in. "Got held up in traffic. How'd it go?"

"We got the files," Clint answered from his seat in the back of the car. "And, um, you were right, Phil. Natasha really knows her stuff. It was her quick thinking that got us out of there."

Phil's eyes shifted over to where Natasha sat beside him, and he could see she was just as surprised as he was that Clint was suddenly using her first name. He'd never done it before.

"Of course," he continued, "part of it was just an excuse to make out with me, but, that was bound to happen eventually."

And just like that, Phil was certain any goodwill Clint might have earned had been blown, but instead, Natasha smiled and said, just loud enough to be certain Clint could hear her, "He needs practice."

"Whenever you're ready," Clint fired back at her with a smug smile and they all laughed.

Phil drove them back to the safe house, the rest of the ride spent in silence. He was relieved that it really did seem to be working out between them. He'd known that, if given the chance, it would. That they were complementary more than contradictory and he was secretly glad he'd suggested the match-up to Fury himself, who really thought they'd never make it. Not that he'd ever tell them that.

He also wouldn't tell them that he'd spent the last half an hour listening in around the corner via the earpiece for them to finally reach an understanding.

Thank goodness they did.

The End