"We landed on the moon," says Tony through a mouthful of sandwich. "That was pretty cool."
"I thought we were talking about modern stuff, Stark," Clint says, shaking his head. Tony's only touched half of his sandwich. Maybe if he uses the rope-trick arrow he can snag the other half off Tony's plate before he notices. Son of a bitch used the last of the bacon. Head of Stark Industries – to think he can't even remember to keep his own kitchen stocked.
"That's modern!" Tony protests. "Well, it was transformative."
"It was faked," Clint says.
"Don't even start, Barton, Stark Tower is a conspiracy-theory-free zone," says Tony. "Unless it's a SHIELD conspiracy."
"The slow erosion of democracy in favor of interest groups and corporations," Bruce suggests. "That's important."
"I'm standing right here, Bruce," says Tony.
"Yeah, and how much money goes to the Policy Office of Stark Industries?" Bruce says.
"Not nearly enough, apparently, since all my repulsor tech got leaked."
"What are you all doing?" asks Natasha, coming into the kitchen.
"Getting Barnes here up to speed on the twenty-first century," says Stark. "Oh, Doctor Who came back! Well, I guess Doctor Who wasn't around in World War II. So put Doctor Who on your list."
Clint watches as Barnes looks at Natasha with that dead-eyed, brainwashed-assassin's stare for a long moment, and then slowly starts shaking his head.
"You stop that," Clint tells him. "We're being helpful."
"Helpful like when you kicked him in the head, or actually helpful?" says Natasha.
"Cognitive recalibration," Clint says to Bruce. "Works every time."
"Oh, same-sex marriage," says Tony, snapping his fingers. "That's important. Repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, that too."
Barnes's head turns so fast that Clint expects to hear it crack. "What?" he says.
"Same-sex marriage is federally recognized, and legal in a bunch of states," Tony says.
"Seventeen, plus the District," says Bruce. "If you count civil unions."
"And you can't get kicked out of the military for being out anymore," Clint adds. "That was the Don't Ask, Don't Tell part."
Barnes opens his mouth just as Steve comes in and walks to the refrigerator, and then Barnes immediately closes it. Clint watches him stare intently at the back of Steve's head.
Oh, Clint thinks.
He looks at Tony, who definitely noticed, too, judging by the way his eyebrows are up by his (receding, ha) hairline, and Bruce is looking from Barnes to Steve and back again with his intention to stay the hell out of it written all over his face.
"Did someone finish the bacon?" Steve says, pulling his head out of the fridge. He frowns when he sees everyone looking at him. "What?"
Clint suddenly has a mighty need for popcorn.
Because the thing is, it's awkward after that, and Steve, Steven Rogers, Captain Fucking America, is completely oblivious. Barnes watches Steve like a cat watching a canary, except in this metaphor Clint starts getting worried Barnes is going to make like an actual cat and bring Steve, like, a dead mouse or something to show his affection, and that just wouldn't be right. Besides, Clint is a good friend, or something, but mostly trolling Barnes is trolling Steve by extension and no way in hell is Clint going to pass up an opportunity for that.
So he starts recruiting.
He should not have started recruiting with Natasha.
"Look, Clint, it's just a little weird that you're trying so hard to hook Steve and Barnes up," says Natasha. "Why is it so important to you?"
"It's not important to me," Clint says. "It's just. Our lives are fucked-up, okay? All of 'em. I get that. I accept it. But that doesn't mean they can't at least have something good, you know?"
And then Nat gives him that goddamn look, and Clint shakes his head.
"Oh, no. No, no, no. Stop looking at me like that, Nat."
"Like you just realized I'm a sad little puppy," says Clint. "Eyes on the prize, Widow: we're getting Captain America and Bucky laid, with each other. That's the op. Got it?"
Natasha sighs. "Sure, Clint. Got it."
"It's our patriotic duty," Clint continues. "It's for America."
Nat folds her lips together into a resigned line. "Now it's creepy again."
The conversation with Tony is delightfully brief. At least someone's on the same page as him.
"Hey Tony," Clint says, and holds up one hand like he's weighing something in it. "Steve." He holds up the other hand. "Barnes." He brings the two hands together. "Boning."
Tony, God bless him, points right back at Clint. "Already on it, birdbrain."
"Shut up, Tin Man," Clint calls after him.
Except he regrets recruiting Tony at all almost immediately.
"Here are the only words you'll ever need," Clint overhears Tony telling Barnes very, very seriously. "'Nice shoes. Wanna fuck?'"
"How the hell are you a superhero?" Barnes demands, and it's the first sensible thing Clint's heard him say.
"Come on, big guy," Clint says. "Don't you want to, you know, make love and not war for once?"
"I don't know what makes you think I have any sway over the love lives of Cap or his recently-undeceased and un-brainwashed partner," Bruce says, shaking his head, "but I'm staying out of this."
Clint sighs. "Fine." Then something occurs to him. "But you have – you know. Right?"
"You've had sex, right?"
Bruce stares at Clint so long and so flat that Clint wonders if this conversation is about to be interrupted by the Hulk. Then Bruce says, "Now that SHIELD's been dissolved, should I turn my resignation from the team into someone else, or…?"
"You know, I could probably hook you up, too," Clint offers. "I know some people who might be into that kind of – okay you know what, you don't look that into it, so I'm just gonna go ahead and leave really fast now, okay."
Still, three days later Clint overhears (okay, look, Clint just eavesdrops like a motherfucker, okay?) Bruce saying to Barnes very quietly, "He's really glad you're back. I think – I think you're really important to him, and I think he's pretty important to you. Don't let that slip away. It's precious. It's okay to treat it that way."
Clint wants to get that on a Hallmark card, or maybe in skywriting. He won't put it on a cake – he's already got a "Congrats on the Sex!" cake order form filled out and waiting to be activated – but he's damn tempted to put "Convinced the Hulk to play matchmaker" on his resume.
Sam Wilson, who Clint refuses to think of as Falcon because he got to the bird codenames first, okay?, just starts shaking his head.
"Man," he says, "man, that's just. That's all kinds of fucked up. I get that you're trying to help, but just. Damn."
"So," says Clint, "is that a 'maybe'?"
Barnes walks through the kitchen with an empty glass and holds it under the faucet for a second. Clint looks at Sam with his most expectant and judgey expression, which Nat has assured him is an excellent use of his eyebrows, and Sam rolls his eyes.
"Barnes," Sam says, and Barnes turns, frowning. "Take 'im dancing, okay? Something romantic. Make him feel special."
"You all realize that I'm literally an assassin, right?" says Barnes. "As in, I could kill you all. Why do you keep making me want to?"
"Candlelight," says Clint. "Gotta have candlelight."
Barnes throws a kitchen knife at Clint's head, and Clint doesn't even flinch as it goes whooshing past.
"Your aim sucks," says Clint.
"Fuck you," says Barnes.
"How the hell…?" says Sam, after Barnes is gone.
Clint sips his coffee. "Literally grew up in the circus. Long story."
Sam shakes his head, giving Clint a pitying look. "Explains so damn much."
But it's Natasha, God bless her, who finally breaks Barnes. Clint's in the air ducts above the living room, trying to figure out if he would be able to make a shot through the air conditioning vents in an emergency, when he hears it.
"Barnes," Natasha says.
"Please tell me Barton didn't get to you too," says Barnes.
"Sorry," Natasha says, unrepentantly.
"What are you going to tell me to do? Take him to the Statue of Liberty? Win him a giant teddy bear at Coney Island? Wait naked in his bed surrounded by rose petals and condoms?"
"I'm not going to – wait, did someone actually say that last one?"
"Who do you think?"
Natasha sighs. "Ignore Stark. Just, categorically."
"Oh, I do."
"You know Steve better than any of us," Natasha says, "and he knows you. He's gonna know if it's fake, but you know how to make it real, because you know him. So ignore whatever anyone else tells you – especially Stark, but especially Clint – and do what feels right."
A moment's pause. "So no monster truck rallies, then?"
"Barton's a dead man."
It's almost a week later that Clint comes back from a solo mission – well, okay, not so much a solo mission as some assholes who won't stop saying 'bro' hanging around outside his building with baseball bats and bad attitudes – to find Steve and Barnes lounging on the couch, "Doctor Strangelove" playing on the flat-screen against the opposite wall.
"Hey Clint," says Steve, his eyes on the TV. "How's it going?"
"Not, uh, not bad," says Clint, because Barnes has his arm around Steve's shoulders. It's not even that, it's that Steve is leaning on him, practically lying on top of him so that Barnes's arm goes all the way around his shoulders until his hand just rests on Steve's sternum like it was made to be there. "How's it going for you guys?"
"We went to the Met," says Barnes, and this is the first time that Clint's seen him smile in a not I'm-about-to-murder-you way. It turns out his smile is really, really smug. "And then to a jazz club, and then came back for a movie."
"Well," says Clint, hooking a thumb backwards over his shoulder towards the elevator. "You guys look like you could use some space, so I'll just, uh…"
"And knock next time, would ya?" says Barnes.
"It's an elevator, Buck, how's he supposed to knock on an elevator?" says Steve.
"It's the future. He'll think of something," says Barnes, tilting his head down to look at Steve and then tilting it some more and then –
"Okay bye," says Clint, and leaves them to their teenage makeouts that he hadn't actually wanted to see.
That doesn't stop him from immediately sending a mass text to the rest of the team: Congratulations, team, the man is officially getting his star spangled! Good work, Avengers assemble, etc.
Tony actually sends him a cameraphone picture of Bruce's unimpressed face, and Clint gives an enlarged and framed version of it to Steve and Bucky for their first anniversary, along with the cake.