Now we get Clint's POV. Why is his partner acting so strange? Not for any reason he expected. As a note, I don't write lemons, but this is pretty intense. You've been warned! Thank you again for reading. :-)
Clint knew there was something up with his partner. He just didn't know what it was. Natasha wasn't a moody partner like some others he had seen and heard of, not even at that time of the month. If anything, that just made her more ruthless. Heaven help the human trafficker who hurt a child when Natasha was on her period. Actually, not even heaven could help them, and Clint was just fine with that.
When not on a mission, Clint and Natasha would usually go out together in the evenings after work, but for the past few weeks, Natasha kept claiming to have something to do. She never said what the thing (or things?) were, but regardless, she didn't want to go anywhere with Clint. Looking back for an inciting incident, all he could come up with was the look he caught on Natasha's face when he was talking with Jen from Records. It reminded him somewhat of the look on his partner's face when she went after child molesters while on her period. But because he was talking to a colleague? It seemed a little harsh.
Clint looked over at Natasha. They had just completed a quick mission, in and out of Bern, and now they were on their way to Liechtenstein to go to ground for a few days. One did not stay in the country in which one had taken out an extremely corrupt politician. They had been in the car for two and a half hours and were only a few minutes away from their hotel. Natasha had been unnaturally quiet the entire trip, showing that odd blankness that had been so present lately.
On occasion, Natasha got tired of staying in somewhat sketchy neighborhoods and would arrange for them to stay in nice accommodations. She would either pay for it herself with the money she made before joining S.H.I.E.L.D. or she'd get Fury to pay for it. Either way, this was one of those occasions, so here they were on their way to the Parkhotel Sonnenhof, a $600-a-night in one of the richest countries in the world. Yeah, life was rough.
When they got into their suite, chosen to protect their cover as wealthy vacationing Americans, Clint let Natasha take the first shower while he ordered room service. The food arrived while Clint was taking his turn in the restroom. He came out to find Natasha in a t-shirt and sweatpants sitting at what looked like an antique table covered with a sumptuous feast. Yeah, it was good to have a partner who occasionally insisted on having the best.
"I've been watching movies," Tasha said as Clint sat down and started filling his plate. "American romance movies."
Huh? Clint didn't even try to hide his intense confusion.
Answering the questions on his face, Tasha explained.
"Americans think they have a pretty rosy view of love, but actually, I don't think so. Have you seen "Dirty Dancing"? They don't end up together," she was very insistent. "But it's this big romantic movie. And in "Titanic", Jack dies! And "Gone with the Wind"? Their kid dies and they hate each other! I mean, really, what's the big thing about how Americans love romance when your most romantic movies don't have the couple end up together?"
Clint still sat in shocked silence. Oh, she was pausing. Did she want him to speak now?
"Um, I don't know?" What question was he answering again?
"And "Brokeback Mountain"," Natasha continued again. "We won't even go there."
"Wait a minute, you went there? Um, to Brokeback Mountain? Film...o...logically, speaking?"
Natasha gave Clint a look like he had dropped his bow on a mission. Quel stupide!
"I needed a look at a long-term relationship."
Of course she had. Who wouldn't turn to Jake Gyllenhaal for that? At least, um, she was being thorough?
A pause again. Oh, okay, time to speak again.
"And you were doing all of this because...?"
"I realized I was in love with you so I needed to do research into what Americans have been conditioned to feel about love and romance."
Blank. Clint's mind went completely blank. He was literally incapable of thought or speech.
It was okay, though, his partner had more to say.
"Being straightforward seems to be both an accepted and effective method of handling things, of telling someone you love them." Natasha looked at him. When Clint didn't respond, she continued. ""When Harry Met Sally", "Dirty Dancing", "The Notebook". The direct approach is what got things going." She paused to look at him again. Still he couldn't speak.
Natasha seemed to be running out of steam.
Unbidden, words came out of Clint's mouth.
"When did you realize this? That you, um, love me?"
Natasha very calmly responded, "When I saw you and the perky blonde from Records together. I'd never felt like that before," her voice took on a contemplative quality. "That bothered me, so I figured out what it was—"
"And did the accompanying research," Clint concluded for her. Of course she had. She was Natasha Romanoff, Black Widow, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and, apparently, hater of Jen from Records.
"We needed the Picaya files," again the words seemed to fall out of Clint's mouth onto the table in front of him of their own accord. "For the brief. That's why I was talking to Jen, the, um, perky blonde." Clint nodded at his partner. "They're sealed and I formal requests take too long. Jen got 'em for us in twenty minutes."
"It's okay," Natasha replied. "We don't have a romantic relationship. Even if you had been flirting with her, it would be okay. I hadn't thought about it before, but you are—you're perfectly free to pursue sexual relationships. We're not—"
"I haven't slept with anyone since Istanbul," Clint cut her off.
There was a moment of shocked silence.
"Well, right before Istanbul," Clint clarified.
"Istanbul?" Natashed asked. "That was over two years ago."
"Yes, it was." A simple reply.
"Why not?" It was Natasha's turn to be confused.
And it finally occurred to Clint – Natasha Romanoff had just told him she loved him. Why in the hell were they still talking?
He stood up so fast, Clint knocked his chair over, putting Natasha instantly on alert. Intent only on his goal, Clint pulled his partner up onto her feet, her face in his hands, and delivered to her the kind of steamy, deep kiss that before this evening he would have said existed only in the movies.
It was an extra-sensory experience, kissing Natasha. She filled him completely – smell, taste, sound, touch. It was intoxicating, overwhelming. Clint claimed her mouth with a passion he had never allowed himself to unleash. Until now.
It was as though the fire of her hair was pulsing through his fingers as Clint clutched Natasha's hair in his hands. Everywhere she touched him felt like an electric shock. His face, his neck, his arms. One moment that lasted an eternity.
The two of them came up for air, foreheads touching, their heavy breathing the only sound in the room.
Clint spoke first. "No woman can measure up to you, Tasha. I couldn't settle for second best."
Natasha grabbed the hem of Clint's t-shirt and pulled it over his head, her need to touch him as great as his to claim every inch of her.
Clint Barton hadn't had many perfect moments in his life that didn't take place behind a bow and arrow. Abusive father who killed both himself and his mother in a drunk driving accident when he was just a kid, two years in foster homes followed by eight in the circus, four in the military and then a move to S.H.I.E.L.D. Clint had led a very strange life, one full of uncertainty where the only constant was change. And ultimately, it was when he sighted a target and let his arrow fly that Clint could finally be perfect, finally do something exactly right.
Lying in bed with Natasha was the first time Clint ever felt like that without a weapon in his hands.
"It would seem that the movies were right," Natasha said with a smile in her voice as her foot lazily traced Clint's calf.
"Nobody puts Baby in a corner," Clint replied, his fingers drifting over Natasha's hip.
Natasha gave a low chuckle, her body vibrating lightly against his.
"I was referring to the direct approach. It worked best in "When Harry Met Sally". Want to see me do what Sally did in the cafe?"
It was Clint's turn to laugh. "If I don't get there, do me a favor and don't fake it. I'm more than happy to help rectify the situation."
Natasha turned into him, "Based on recent events, I think we'll be able to work things out, don't you?"
Clint put his arm over Tasha, pulling her closer to him. He buried his face in her hair, kissing her on the head.
Natasha peered up at his partner, her chin resting on his sternum.
"You love me." Her tone was surprised, almost awed.
"I do believe," he replied with a smile.
Natasha pulled herself up to sit on Clint's lap. Moving up to lean against the headboard, Clint raised his legs to give her something to lean back on. Before settling in, she reached over the edge of the bed and picked his t-shirt up off of the floor, slipping it on. Then she settled back against Clint's legs.
Clint had seen his partner in all manner of dress. Evening gowns, lingerie, form-fitting leather, whatever it took to meet the parameters of a mission. But in all the time he had known her, Natasha had never looked as alluring or as enticing to Clint as she did at that moment wearing nothing but his plain blue t-shirt.
Natasha put her arms behind her back, hooking them around Clint's calves, seeming to revel in the feel of him under her hands.
"People like us don't usually get happy endings," she said, her fingers trailing back and forth over his legs.
"Movies, right? That's how we got here?" Clint asked, shaking himself in an effort to concentrate. Natasha's hands were a bit distracting.
"It is," Natasha seemed a little preoccupied herself, her voice a little breathy.
Think, Clint. You can do it!
""Mr. and Mrs. Smith". Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Really bad assassins who get married not knowing what the other does."
Clint huffed. "They're supposed to be good, but trust me – you'll be horrified." Natasha smiled and Clint continued. "It's not pretty, but they end up together in the end."
"Two spies with a happy ending?" Natasha raised an eyebrow.
"And we don't lie to each other, which they did constantly, so we're already ahead of the game."
Clint sat up and took his partner in his arms.
"You love me." It was a statement, not a question.
"I do," Natasha's voice held wonder in it.
"And I love you."
Natasha didn't say anything, but her hands clutched at Clint's arms and her eyes bore into his.
"We do what we do, we work as a team, we love each other while we do it. You said straightforward was the way to go." He traced her bottom with his thumb. "This seems pretty straightforward to me."
Natasha leaned forward to deliver a searing kiss of her own, hands curling through Clint's short hair.
Again they came up for air, and Natasha looked her lover in the eye.
"I'll never let go," she whispered.