Thanks to Pamela and Sarah for the beta and generally just putting up with me while I complained about this story. Any remaining mistakes are all on me! Written as a response to the cottoncandy_bingo prompt "body / body part - love / worship". Oh, and there's a lot of sweat.

I posted a preview of this yesterday over on tumblr (I'm sidhera over there, btw, if you're interested!), but it's undergone editing since then, and I'd like to think that I've made it better. Thanks for reading!

She was hot, well on the way to overheating in the tiny apartment they'd been stuck in all week. That it was his all his damn fault could not be stressed enough. She'd had nothing to do with it, hadn't even blinked after their last assignment, but Clint . . . was Clint, and he just couldn't keep his damned mouth shut.

The job hadn't even been that terrible, but it had gone to hell because of shaky intel, and in fairness, she had to agree with Clint's assessment, even if she wasn't stupid enough to actually say so aloud in front of Fury. As punishment (Coulson would say "just desserts"), they'd pulled an even worse assignment this time around.

They were tasked with the ignominious job of keeping an eye on an enforcer for a local drug lord. Or, rather, the guy styled himself an enforcer, when in reality the only thing this jackass ever enforced was meal times. She swore if she had to watch him eat one more microwave burrito, she was going to go over there and give him a Powerpoint on cholesterol and trans fats. She'd already planned out the first several slides, with pictures, even.

So, okay, yeah, she might be willing to admit that she was a little bored. There were only so many times you could count the tiles in the ceiling or clean your weapons before even that ceased to be entertaining. She'd taken to timing how long she could hold her breath, but that lost much of its appeal as the day wore on and the apartment got stuffier and stuffier.

For once, both of them were awake at the same time; she and Clint had been sleeping and showering in shifts, so for the most part she hadn't even had him as company. She should be glad that they were up and about at the same time, but then she was still kind of pissed at him, because it really was his fault they were stuck here instead of . . . anywhere else, and so they were both keeping extraneous chatter to a minimum.

Even the boredom wouldn't be so bad if it weren't so damn hot in the apartment. Coulson had given them the keys to a spectacularly shitty flat that just so happened to be located across the street from their target. The shit hole didn't have air conditioning, just one half-broken oscillating fan propped between her space and Clint's, the squeak of the rotor echoing in the largely bare apartment. Even with both windows flung wide open and having stripped down to her tank top, she was still dripping with sweat, and although it was her turn for the bed, it was just too damn hot to sleep.

Clint had solved his version of the problem by slowly removing articles of clothing, piece by piece, first his tac jacket, followed in short order by his shirt, leaving him sitting on his padded metal chair in nothing but his pants, his torso glistening with a sheen of sweat.

Fuck, that man was distracting when he was shirtless.

She'd tried to ignore it at first, tried to treat it like she always did, as if she had seen a thousand men like that, a thousand men with thick cords of muscle densely packed underneath their skin, looking for all the world like a Greek statue, and man, she could definitely list a couple things she would like to . . .

Shit. She was doing it again.

But dammit, how could she not? He was just so . . . fuck, she didn't even have words for it. There he was, slouched over in his chair, beads of sweat dripping down his back, sliding slowly over his skin, disappearing down below the waistband of his pants. She imagined walking over to him, chasing the line of sweat with her tongue, undoing his belt and tugging his pants down.

She'd seen him naked before, knew what lay below those unflattering pants, and she could picture how he would look as she bared him, as she skimmed her hands over his flesh, as she squeezed the solid mass of his thighs. She crossed her legs as she progressed in her little fantasy world. The Clint in her mind turned to face her, and she clenched her thighs together tightly as she imagined running her hands up and down those perfect thighs of his, pressing kisses to his knees, working her way up until she reached the juncture of his legs and his erection.

God, she was turned on. She was debating a cold shower when he must have felt her eyes on him, must have sensed her interest because he looked up, caught her diverting her gaze.

The bastard actually leaned back, grinned smugly. "See something you like, darlin'?" he asked, purposely dropping the last part of the endearment just to piss her off.

She resolutely looked away with a shrug, mentally scolding herself to be strong.

"Seen better."

That, as it happened, was a lie.

Sure, she'd seen plenty of other men in a semi-dressed state in her life, but she wasn't ashamed to admit (at least to herself) that she'd never been quite so enthralled by musculature as she had been with that of Clint Barton's body. She hadn't noticed it when she'd met him (she was too busy trying to kill him), but once she had noticed (and ended up pinned beneath him on the sparring mat because of it), there'd been no turning back.

It was bad enough that she could barely tear her eyes away from him when he was fully clothed, but here, stripped to the waist in the sweltering apartment, she thought she might explode.

She wondered if he knew, somehow, if he'd picked up on the way she lusted after him. Sometimes, she thought he had, times like now, when he was leaning back in his chair, showing off the muscles of his abdomen just a bit too casually. Even if it was purposeful, she still had trouble keeping her eyes away from him, and currently she was envisioning running her tongue along every crevasse of his six pack, licking him, tasting him, learning his scent . . .

"Keep telling yourself that, hot stuff," he said, chuckling in her direction, and then he leaned over to adjust one of the monitors, the thick muscles on his archer's arms thrown into relief by the movement. She suppressed a groan.

She stood up abruptly to get away from her increasingly inappropriate thoughts, and she headed back to the mini-fridge that only partially cooled the bottles of water they'd tucked in there earlier. She pressed one bottle to her forehead, then to her chest in an effort to cool down. The asshole in the BDUs certainly wasn't making it any easier on her.

Cracking the lid and taking a swig, she grabbed an second one for Clint (because it was important to stay hydrated when you were sweating as much as they were and she was just trying to be nice. It had nothing to do with the fact that she liked the way the light danced across his skin when it was damp, no, not at all). She'd intended to take it over to him, but when she turned, he was already there, right in her face, and if she breathed wrong, she was going to be pressed into his chest.

His bare chest.

His toned, gleaming, powerful bare chest.

Oh, for fuck's sake, she needed to get a grip.

"Um, here," she said, thrusting the plastic bottle in his direction, trying desperately to avoid eye contact with him and get out of the way before he noticed how turned on she was right now. She tried to step out of the way, but he'd inadvertently her backed into a corner, and there wasn't anywhere to go.

So she panicked.

Head down, she pushed past him, but she must have pushed too hard because she ran into the wall (the wall, for Christ's sake), and then she was falling, toppling over, as if this already wasn't going to be embarrassing enough . . .

But before she could face plant into the stained carpet, he grabbed her, pulled her up against his body, and then she wasn't falling anymore, not in the literal sense, but she found herself pressed up against his chest.

As soon as she realized what had happened, the air was sucked out of the room and she couldn't breathe. She felt like one of those idiot women on romance novel covers, the ones that she always caught Clint reading when he was pretending to do other things. And then she looked up, and it was all over.

"You okay?" he asked, and was it her imagination or was his voice rougher than usual?

He stared down at her, kept his eyes trained on hers, and time expanded, slowed down and stopped. She was baffled by his expression, had no idea what was going on, couldn't figure out which end was up.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, he was stroking the side of her face, and she couldn't think, couldn't breathe, didn't know what to do. He took care of the indecision though, and he bent, slowly, tentatively pressing his lips to hers.

She kissed him back at first, because he was there and hot and what else was she supposed to do, really? She wrapped her arms around his neck, threaded her fingers through the short spikes of his hair, and slid her tongue along his lips. Their teeth knocked together from the force of their kiss, and it quite suddenly felt as if she'd run several miles.


Carrying him.

As quickly as it had started, she remembered why she shouldn't do this, why she hadn't attacked him when he stripped off his shirt in the first place. She was a professional, the Black fucking Widow god damn it, and he was her partner. She respected him, actually liked the asshole, his stupid fucking personality and all. More to the point, he was the only friend she'd ever had, and even for what was sure to be the most memorable fuck of her life, she didn't think she could handle it if it ruined the rest of their relationship. Some days, the worst days, the knowledge that he was watching her back was all that kept her going.

So she pushed back away from him, panting, trying to get her limbs to cooperate and let go of him instead of just resting her palms against his chest, flexing her fingertips slightly.

He looked about as breathless as she felt when he said, "Fuck, I'm sorry, Nat."

She did drop her hands then, pushed on his chest (and fuck it all if the feel of his skin didn't make her want to rub her face on him like a cat). She stepped backward until he had no choice but to let go.

"Sorry," she said, stooping down for her water bottle, grabbing it from where it had fallen on the floor.

"No, I shouldn't have . . ." he started. "I shouldn't have done that. It's just hot in here and I'm not thinking very clearly."

And that shouldn't hurt, by all rights, she should be happy that he was on the same page as her, but it did kind sting that he only put his hands on her because of nascent heat exhaustion.

"I'm sorry," she repeated, feeling like an idiot because she didn't know what else to say. She was usually so good with this shit, but there was something about him, something indefinable that turned her into a babbling idiot (she wanted to strangle the part of her brain that screamed his chest!).

"Shit, no," he said, and it felt like they were a broken record, skipping and repeating the same apologies and excuses. He must have thought so, too, because then he said, "I don't want to mess this up."

She dared to look at him then, frowned a little. "Wait, what?" Surely he wasn't intimating . . .

He sighed, leaning back against the wall opposite from her and crossing his arms across his waist. "This," he said, motioning between them. "I don't want to do anything that would mess this up."

She blinked, still uncertain. She hated herself for it, just a little, but she decided to play dumb because there was no way he meant what she thought he meant. Men never thought of her that way. Ever. She was a tool, something to be used for personal gain, sexual or otherwise. Clint was the first person who ever looked at her differently, who ever looked at her and saw her rather than the flame haired femme fatale she'd been trained to be. And Clint, even if he was looking at her with interest, even if he did want her, it was probably just the heat going to his head. She knew a thing or two about that, after all.

But what if . . .

She took a deep breath, tried to smother the hope that was blossoming in her traitorous heart because good things didn't happen to her.

"I don't want anything to happen to our partnership either," she said.

He shook his head, chuckled ruefully. "Not exactly what I meant, but you could say it that way, I guess."

She looked at him, still not understanding what he was saying.

"It was just a kiss, Barton," she ventured, because maybe that's what he meant. "We're just been cooped up here too long together. What we just did . . . it doesn't mean anything."

Maybe if she said it often enough, she would start to believe it.

"You know as well as I do that it does," he said quietly. "There's too much between us for it not to mean something."

She was at a loss for how to respond. No, it wasn't just a kiss, not for her, but she hadn't thought, hadn't hoped that he thought of her that way. He'd never once made a move on her, not even back in the beginning, back when she was a quiet, focused asset who owed him her life.

She would have, then, of course, without a second thought because that was what she was trained to do and what was one more notch on her bedpost after half a lifetime of meaningless encounters? She would have climbed into bed with him, given him the ride of his life, and then she would have slipped away and that would have been the end of that. Maybe that would have been for the best, because she certainly couldn't manage doing that now, and she hated that she'd formed ties with something, with someone.

And she'd learned to work with him precisely because he hadn't let her pay off her debt that way, because he'd kept his distance and just watched her back, and from their uneasy beginning, something fine had grown up between them. Yet through all of it, through Sao Paulo and Orsha, Reykjavik and Sydney, he hadn't ever indicated that he would even want to sleep with her. Except now . . . well, now certain parts of him were telling a very different story.

"What are you saying, exactly?" she asked.

He rubbed a hand over his eyes, and it looked like he was bracing himself for impact. "I couldn't take it if this wasn't serious. If I were just an itch that needed scratching or I was the closest warm body in reach. So, yeah, you're right. This is a bad idea." He turned away from her, started back toward the monitoring station.

She was dumbstruck, but it didn't last long.

"Wait," she said incredulously. "You think I'm only interested because I'm bored?"

Okay, so he really was an idiot.

Rather than fuck up the words like she was bound to do, she leapt across the room at him, threw herself back into his arms and kissed him the way he'd kissed her before, with all the desire and want and desperation throbbing out of her body through her mouth and into his.

He was stunned only for a moment, but then he kissed her back, pulling away only to ask, "Wait, does this mean . . ."

She shook her head. "You talk too fucking much, Barton."

And then she kissed him again.

He let loose with a growl, backing her into the wall with a thump, and his hands traced searing patterns all over her body, everywhere, grabbing her, clutching her, making her writhe against him. It was as if he were letting go of all his frustration in one fell swoop, and she felt the years of yearning behind his desperate pawing.

Relief washed over her as he kissed her, pressed into her, made his interest very clear to her, and she ached from it. Never once, not in her entire life had she ever wanted anything as much as she wanted him in this moment, never wanted a single damn thing as much as she wanted to collapse into him and let him devour her. A little voice in the back of her mind was screeching at her, telling her to be careful, but she didn't relent, didn't give in to her crazy brain because what the hell did it know, anyway.

It was as if he were consuming her, feasting upon her flesh, running her ragged with his attentions, and nothing had ever made her feel more wanted, more desired than Clint grinding his erection into her belly as he held her firm against the wall.

She gave as good as she got, her hands twisting a path across his sweat slickened skin. She thought that maybe she should be grossed out by it, that she should find something distasteful about him covering her in his sweat, but she was a mess, too, and for some reason she found herself very, very aroused by the idea.

She tore her mouth from his and kissed a path down his neck, down to his clavicles and across his chest. At the same time, she ran her hands along his shoulders, down his arms, and god, he had a beautiful body and she just wanted to roll around on top of him.

In between frantic nips, she managed to say, "I lied."

He was skimming his hands under her shirt, up her back, brow furrowed in concentration as he attempted to undo her bra. "Lied?"

"Mmhmm," she nodded, then tore off her shirt and reached behind her to take care of the hooks on her bra for him. "I saw plenty I liked."

He didn't reply, as he was too busy staring at her bare tits, but then he bent low over her to pull one tip into his mouth and she wasn't really thinking about that anymore. She arched her back as he sucked, and she had to bite her lip hard to stop from moaning aloud.

He looked up at her, that little arrogant smile of his twisting the corners of his mouth even as he bit lightly on her nipple. She couldn't stop her gasp this time, not with him looking at her like that.

"Liked that?" he asked, releasing her and replacing his mouth with his fingers. She couldn't manage speech, had no words to express what she was feeling inside right now, so she just nodded, not caring that she undoubtedly looked foolish, stripped to the waist and hands latched on to his shoulders.

He kissed her again, ran his hands down her sides, reached under her ass and squeezed. She leapt up onto him then, twining her legs around his waist and holding on for dear life. He walked them blindly across the room, their tongues still fighting for dominance, and by some miracle they managed to collapse together on the bed they had been hot swapping for days.

"The shit you do to me, Natasha," Clint muttered, working his way down her body, nuzzling her and dipping his tongue into the hollow of her throat. He continued his trek south, running his fingertips over her breasts, lathing the valley between them, and she was more certain now that she wasn't the only one who'd been checking out their partner, who'd been fantasizing about what they would do given half a chance. She watched him as he explored her body, teasing and plucking at her skin, pressing his lips to every bare spot and tasting her, and she wasn't sure how she'd missed his interest for all this time, except to say that she'd been rather distracted by her own.

He starting moving downward again, and he nuzzled her belly with the tip of his noise. He paused for a long moment at her jeans, running his hands along the waistband, dipping his fingers beneath it to caress the flesh there, and she felt herself surge in response. Fuck, she wanted him.

Impatient, she brushed his hands away, tried to undo the fastening of her pants only to have him halt her actions and take over.

"Let me," he said. "Please?" The plaintive note in his voice nearly shattered her.

He unzipped her, pulled her pants down over her hips, down, down, down until she was left with nothing but her panties, which were certainly soaked through by now. He leaned down, mouthed at her through the thin fabric, and she felt his tongue rolling on her clit.

She moaned his name, a strangled, pleading noise that she hardly recognized as her own, but that was alright because he replied similarly. She smiled as he sent another sweet thrill of pleasure through her body with his tongue, and she should have known that she wasn't alone, never alone, not in anything when she was with him.

She was so far gone at that point that she wasn't even sure how they got here, didn't know how she ended up with his face between her legs like this, didn't understand what made her lose her sense of professionalism. She didn't care about any of that, though; she just wanted him to keep up the steady rhythm he was beating against her with his tongue, wanted him to keep making her feel like she was floating.

As lovely as it was, though, as much as she wanted this, she wanted him to be inside of her more, had been dreaming about it for too damn long to settle for anything less. She wanted to come, yes, but she wanted it to happen with him buried deep inside of her as she rode him, wanted to feel him come apart at the seams as she did. She throbbed, burned for him, and she needed him inside of her.

Then he distracted her from her train of thought by crooking one finger to draw her panties aside, nudging her with his nose. Her brain clicked off when he ran his tongue along the length of her pussy.

"Clint . . ." she groaned, unable to form a coherent thought much less a complete sentence, so she grabbed him instead, pulled him away from the juncture of her thighs and flipped them over, straddled him and came to rest on top of him.

His pupils were so completely dilated that his eyes looked black, and he reached up to stroke her belly, her breasts, his hands reaching for everything all at once and driving her halfway to the brink. She couldn't get enough of it, the way it felt to want him like this, the way it felt to be wanted in return because he knew her, wanted her, not some cheap facsimile manufactured in a briefing room that wore her face.

And fuck, he was her friend, somebody who'd seen her at her lowest and still reached out to help her, somebody who sat by her side in the hospital even though he hated doctors, somebody who found her arousing when she hadn't had a decent shower or night's sleep in weeks and her hair was sweat plastered to her forehead. The emotion that welled up inside of her was too much, and she didn't know how to contain it all. Was this what normal people felt, and, if so, how did they handle it all?

She didn't want to think about the implications of her thoughts, so she reached between them to search out his erection, and she ground her hand against him when she did.

"Fuck," he cursed again, and he buried his face into the crook of his arm as she continued to rub him through his pants, feeling him twitch and buck against her hand. Eventually, she stopped, moved to his belt buckle, and he helped her remove the accursed fabric, freeing his erection and sliding it into her grip.

He was both everything and nothing like she'd expected. She'd seen him naked before, but decontamination showers were very different situations than this because he was hard, his cock heavy and bobbing in front of her, the tip glistening with precum and a little bit of fear lurking in the corners of his eyes.

She wasn't used to that look, not from him, because he was usually so very confident in his actions, certain of who he was and his place in the world. But here, with her, he was uncertain, young and unsure, and her heart twisted in her chest.

She dispelled all of his uncertainty by leaning down and licking him once from base to tip, trying to put into action what she couldn't manage with words. She swirled her tongue around his glans, tried to commit the taste of him to memory, surprising herself at the depth of arousal that the act stirred up inside of her. This had been a hated, but necessary part of her job before she came to SHIELD, something she committed herself to with a shrug and the hope that she wouldn't have to do more, and it had never been something that she wanted to do, something that made her squirm and want to touch herself. But here and now, with Clint's hard cock in her hand and in front of her face, she struggled with the dueling urges to suck him or mount him, wanting both in equal parts. Experimentally, she dropped her mouth down over him in one smooth motion, and he bucked wildly against her, cursing her name and fisting his hands in her hair. She was just starting to really get into it, starting to relax her throat and swallow him when, without warning, he pulled her away.

"That is the fucking greatest thing that has ever happened, but unless you want this to end right now . . ." he began.

She nodded, returned the self-satisfied smirk that he'd directed at her earlier, then crawled back up his body, positioned herself over him. He kissed her hard, licking his taste from her mouth with a groan, and she reached between them, grabbed his cock firmly in her hand and was halfway to guiding herself down onto him when he stopped her.

"Condom?" he asked, and she could have cursed herself for not even thinking of it, for not even realizing that it was something that normal people thought about, had to consider before they slept with someone. She hadn't thought about it, it had never crossed her mind because she'd never slept with anyone, not on purpose, and the Red Room had hardly cared about STDs. After she'd defected, after Clint had taken her back to SHIELD with him all those years ago, she'd been frankly shocked to discover that the synthetic anti-bodies in her blood that made her heal faster than the average human had also protected her from the nastier parts of the human experience. It had been the only thing about her old life that she'd ever been grateful for.

She shifted backward, sat on his thighs because she didn't want to have this conversation with the tip of his cock pressed against her. She looked down at him, unsure of how to start, so she just went for it.

"You clean?"

He nodded. "Don't exactly get out much, Tash." He reached up, brushed the pad of his thumb across her swollen bottom lip. "Haven't wanted to since . . ."

He didn't finish his sentence, just let the weight of the implication hang in the air and smother her. She smiled gently down at him, grabbed his hands and put them back on her body.

"I am, too, if you want to . . ." she hesitated, feeling uncharacteristically self conscious.

His palms were hot against her skin, squeezing distractions, and it took more concentration than she would have liked to focus on his next question.

"What about . . .?" he started to ask, but she shook her head, cutting him off from that line of questioning before it really got started. She didn't want to think about her past right now, the things that had been taken away from her without her consent. She didn't want to dwell on any of that stupid shit, especially when she had never been more aroused and he was ready and willing beneath her.

"Non issue," she said, then raised herself up again, repositioning him at her opening. She pressed her free hand over his heart for balance, guided the tip of him into her and waited, feeling that she was on the precipice of something big, bigger than her, bigger than anything she could possibly understand.

He held her gaze as she sunk down on to him, stretching and rippling and feeling unbearably full with him inside of her, and when she was fully seated on him, she stilled, content to just enjoy the feel of him. They both sighed in relief, and she gently rocked her hips back and forth, delighting in the way he felt beneath her. It felt to her like a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders, like she could relax, finally, after so long.

And then he started to move.

He had his hands on her hips, his strong, muscled hands, and she went dry in the back of her throat to see them gripping her waist, to see his fingertips digging into her bare flesh, clutching at all the spots she'd never realized could be erogenous zones. He lifted her, raised her up off of him before letting her drop back down, and she'd never realized sex could feel this way. She was familiar enough with the sensations, what it felt like to have someone moving inside of her, what her own arousal felt like, but to have both feelings ripping through her at the same time was frighteningly intimate.

There weren't words to describe it, not really, the way it felt to work toward orgasm with him beneath her, to have him just as concerned for her pleasure as his own. Nor could she properly describe the way he looked at her, openmouthed and panting as she raised and lowered herself on him. She didn't have the words except to say that it was wonderful, perfect, amazing, and all the other superlatives she'd ever learned in a dozen languages because it was him, and fuck.

She could feel herself start to clench up on him, but she couldn't quite get there, couldn't find her release. But then he pressed his thumb against her clit, circled and teased her in time to their movements and she was there, clenching and crying out, arching her back and shouting his name.

He was still hard inside of her when she came back to reality, her forehead braced against his.

She felt him twitch inside of her. "Goddammit, woman," he moaned, and now it was his turn to make embarrassingly guttural noises, except that they weren't embarrassing at all, but rather very, very sexy, and she wanted to spend as much of her free time as possible devoted to the pursuit of making Clint Barton make that noise repeatedly.

"Oh, Clint," she said, feeling once more like a caricature, but caring even less this time.

He clasped her to him and braced his feet flat on the bed to gain purchase to fuck her from below. She felt herself start to wind back up alongside the movement, felt herself tense in time to his thrusts.

She had just started to lose control of her body when he rolled them, pressing her down onto her back and covering her body with his own. She had thought about this position more than once in her life, thought about him hovering over her with her legs caught up around his waist as he plunged into her, thought about it over and over again late at night with her own fingers working between her folds.

All of those things were insufficient substitutes for this new reality, the one that they were forging together here in this tiny dump of an apartment. This reality, this feeling of him between her legs, warm and sweaty and alive was the fulfillment of all of her fantasies, the realization of years of sexual frustration, and it was an epiphany. She couldn't breathe from the weight of him, the implication that he had been yearning quietly for the same thing, and that he was just as lost as she was.

"You have no idea how much I've wanted this," he mumbled against her skin, and the confirmation of her suspicions brought a tear to her eye.

His increased his speed then, started fucking her harder, with longer strokes that penetrated her so deeply she could feel it in her teeth. They were both crying out, their voices intermingling and echoing through the room, even as they spun faster and closer to the edge of madness.

Her orgasm washed over her without warning, exploding out from the base of her spine, warming her all over her lower body and then spreading up her back and chest, down her legs and out through her toes until all she could do was laugh and laugh and laugh as he came apart inside of her.

He grimaced against her mouth as he pulled out, finally rolling off her. As comforting as his weight atop her had been, she sighed in relief as she instantly cooled a few degrees. She hadn't minded when they were in the middle of things, but it was still hot in the room, hotter still because of their exertions, and sex had made them both sweatier, stickier, messier.

She could see his chest rise and fall out of the corner of her eye as he took a deep breath.

"So, that was . . . uh," he started.

"Yes, it was," she said. And then she started laughing again.

"I didn't realize I was that funny," he said, rolling over to look at her. She turned her head to the side, expecting him to be smiling with her, and he was, but it was a strange kind of smile, one that had half a dozen emotions running through it, not all of which she could readily identify.

She stopped laughing, sobering suddenly at his wounded expression, and she reached out to cup his cheek in her palm. "No, it's just . . . I . . ." What was she supposed to say right now? How could she even begin to explain it to him?

He winced when she didn't say anything else, and he started to turn away. She felt like she was at the second crossroads of her day, and it was kind of overwhelming because she wasn't good at expressing her emotions even to herself, much less to another person.

But this was Clint and she was well on her way to hurting him, and she would hate herself if she gave him the wrong impression.


He was already seated on the edge of the bed, fishing around on the ground for his pants, and when he didn't pause, she grabbed his arm and said his name again, louder this time.

"Clint, stop."

He did stop then, looked down at her. "Yeah?" he asked, his voice cracking a little.

"Can you just listen for a second? Please?" she asked and waited for his nod before she continued.

"I'm not any good at this," she said, carefully maintaining eye contact with him even though she wanted to do nothing more than run away and hide. She knew that she felt more for him than she should, just like she knew that he compromised her by his existence. She also knew that she was equally incapable of walking away from him, that she needed him to keep her sane, to keep her grounded and focused because he was the reason she woke up in the morning and fought the good fight. "I don't know how to say what I mean," she said, frustrated.

His eyebrow quirked at her statement, but she blustered on. "I'm not good at talking about this kind of thing, but I wasn't laughing because I thought you were . . ." she rolled her eyes. "I didn't think it was funny or . . ." She trailed off, resisting the urge to punch herself in the face. She didn't even know the right words to describe the feeling welling up inside of her, the ache in her chest that must have started years ago and has been making her feel sick ever since. When she laughed, it had been to release all of that tension, to let it bubble up out of her and dissipate into the ether.

"Then why, Tash?" he asked plaintively, looking for all the world like a kicked puppy, and she wanted to wrap her arms around him, kiss him until all his troubles went away.

And then she figured it out.

"You make me happy."

She let the statement hang in the air, let him take it in. His eyes changed when he registered what she'd said, and he looked at her softly. She felt a bit dizzy, and then he leaned down and pressed his mouth firmly against hers. It was different, felt different this time because there wasn't the same impetus behind it, but rather a wholly new motive, one that made her want to languish with him, on him, around him.

After a time, he pulled away and paused for a long moment, looking pensive.

"So," he said. "You don't think I'm funny?"


"You're a riot," she deadpanned, then stretched up and kissed him again. There was renewed vigor in the action, and she wasn't sure what sparked her except to know that it had. He tugged her into his lap as they kissed, exploring each other's mouths more thoroughly, taking their time to figure out how the other ticked. She felt like she was drowning in him, with the headiness of the moment, and she couldn't for the life of her remember what she'd been thinking about even a minute ago.

He started working his way down her neck, no longer content with her lips alone, and she could feel his interest, as it were, rising up against her.

"Shit, Barton," she said with her face turned upward to allow him better access. "Remind me - why did we wait to do this again?"

He kissed the hollow of her throat before he answered. "Something about how we were worried that it'd fuck everything up."

She smiled, threading her fingers through her head and holding him close. "We're idiots."

"Speak for yourself, Romanoff." His hands started to wander up her torso from where they'd been idly sitting at her hips.

"Jerk," she said, or at least she tried to, but it came out more like a wistful sigh (she'd deny that later, of course).

"You like it," he said, and he was so damn smug, so completely self-satisfied that she'd smack him except that she didn't want to put him off his task, which at the moment involved making increasingly smaller circles with his thumbs underneath her breasts.

"I do," she admitted, and then he bent toward her breasts again.

"I fucking love your tits, woman," he said, and now she was sure that she must have been dense or lust-addled or whatever the hell you called it because the way he was lavishing attention on her now, she was sure he'd been fixated on her chest for years in the same way she'd been concerned with his.

She yelped as he dropped a hand between her legs, not expecting him to be so direct (not that she was complaining). He shifted her off his lap, pressed her backward onto the mattress, keeping up the motion of his hand between her legs the entire time.

"I love the way your skin feels," he murmured against her belly, and oh, god, he was tracing a path with his mouth lower. She spread her legs, felt herself flush with anticipation.

"I love the way you smell," he said, pressing his face into her mound. "Especially when I can smell myself on you."

He grabbed her hips then, pulled her legs over his shoulders. "I love that you're letting me do this," he said, and then he buried his face in her, tracing his tongue through her folds, around her clit, up inside of her, and dammit how was she this turned on right now?

She looked down her body to watch him suck on her because she really needed to see this right now, really needed to commit this to memory, and fuck, oh fuck. What was that noise? Was that her?

Oh, fuck.

She whimpered as she came apart against his mouth, shuddering her release and grabbing ineffectually at his shoulders. She had barely come down, hadn't even gotten her bearings again, when he slid back into her, thrusting all the way to the hilt in one sure motion, and she rippled and clenched around him, stars behind her eyes.

He was rough with her then, pounding into her so hard she felt his balls smack against her ass, and dammit, she'd been wanting him to fuck her like this for so long that she was kind of embarrassed how ready for it she was. He grabbed her wrists in one of his palms, held them over her head as he moved, and even though she just came, she was already on the brink again, could feel herself tighten as he moved.

"Shit, Nat, I'm gonna come," he ground out, a curse between gritted teeth, but then they were both coming, hard and fast and together, and she might as well just give up even grasping for rational thought because there was no way that was returning any time soon.

They were both silent for a long time when it was over, and then she said "Fuck, it's hot in here."

He twined his fingers with hers, brought them up to his mouth. "I think that's just you, babe."

"Aren't you a charmer," she said, still winded. "Do you say that to all the girls?"

"You're the only girl for me."

"Not if you call me babe again."

He chuckled at her, pulled her against him until her head was puddle on his chest. They were so quiet she could hear the rush of cars outside, and the sound of the microwave starting across the street came clearly through the microphone.

"Hey, Tash?"

She looked up at him. "Yeah?"

He swallowed, the nervous, needy look back in his eyes. "Can we make sure this doesn't? Fuck us up, I mean."

She pulled his face to hers, kissed him as chastely as she dared. Pulling back, she said, "Yeah, I think we can handle that."

"Good," he said, and then they were quiet.