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“Can you tell me,” Clint says, carefully testing the tip of his arrow with that of his finger, and licking off the resulting drop of blood before continuing, “just exactly how girls like a guy to tell them he’s interested?”

Natasha looks up from her paper, and nudges his leg with her foot.  It’s not quite a kick, but it’s not gentle, either, and he utters a hey! in vague protest. 

“Girls?  Surely you mean women, Barton.”

He moves back on the couch a bit to prevent a repeat of the assault.

“As a term of art, or a political distinction?  To clarify, I meant female of datable age. Preferably carbon-based and humanoid.”

Natasha thinks that maybe she deserved that, because honestly, her answer had just been stalling. It’s just that the question came … out of the blue.  Who is it her partner wants to date?  

Well, maybe she can atone for her kneejerk reaction with a spot of truthfulness.

“Honestly?  I wouldn’t know.” 

Clint sets down the arrow and sharpening tool he’s been working with and turns his laser eyes on her. 

“You’re kidding, yes? You’re the honey trap for the ages, and you’re telling me you don’t know how women like to be asked out?” 

Something in that question stings more than he probably intended it to, and the answer comes out just as pointed and sharp as Clint’s arrowhead.

“When I’m doing the honey trap thing, as you so originally put it, it doesn’t matter what they say. It’s my job to smile and say yes. And for the record, I don’t like any of it.”

Clint has the good grace to look apologetic, and backpedals furiously. 

“Okay.  Fair enough.  So let’s approach it from the other direction then.  Help me eliminate stuff that really won’t work.  Come-ons that were total eye-rollers, or that made you really want to kill the guy. Hypothetically speaking. Or not.” 

She frowns. 

“Why do you want to know? Got your eyes on someone?”

He looks at his fingernails. 

“That obvious, huh.” 

There’s a little twinge in her gut, but – well, good for him.  (It is, isn’t it?) 

“Yep.  That obvious.”

He clears his throat, gets up and wanders over to the coffee machine, lifts up the pot, sniffs it, wrinkles his nose and takes a sip.

“Ugh,” he says. “That’s disgusting. You want some fresh?” 

Natasha puts down her paper. 

“Nice try at changing the topic, Barton,” she says.  “So who is it?” 

She can’t help but scroll down the list of potential candidates in her mind.  Clint Barton regularly tops Category One in the S.H.I.E.L.D. fuck, marry, kill list (with a decent showing in Three), and most of the women she knows wouldn’t require an invitation.  (“It’s the arms,” is the locker room consensus.  “And those abs. Lickable.”)  So who hasn’t made lewd comments about Hawkeye?

“Not Maria Hill?” she asks incredulously.  “I’ll have you know she won’t settle for anyone less than Captain America, and he’s been dead for almost seventy years.”

Clint waves her off.

“Hill is sex on heels, but I draw the line at screwing the boss.”  He considers what he’s just said for a moment, and amends his statement. “I mean, I don’t mind being told what to do on occasion, but …” 

Natasha decides to let that pass, although a little voice urges her to file the information for future reference. (Why?  She files that question, too – under Don’t Examine Too Closely. )

Back to what matters.

“Well, who then?”

Clint shakes his head.

“Can we stop with the twenty questions and get back to the original one?  I need advice, not the Russian Inquisition.”

Natasha realizes she is out of excuses to fulfill her partner’s disturbingly bothersome request.

“Fine.  You want to know what turns women off?”

She starts ticking off unpleasant memories, one finger at a time.

Hey, gorgeous, wanna fuck?  probably works best with women who have had too much to drink, or expect to get paid. A little birdie tells me you’re lonely might have worked in the forties, but these days, you just want to flip one back.”

Clint has the good grace to be annoyed on her behalf.

“Seriously?  People try that shit on you?” 

Natasha shrugs. It is what it is. His indignation on her behalf, for some reason, feels nice though.

“Those unibrowed thugs from the drug cartels are pretty basic, and Eastern Europeans can be surprisingly old-fashioned, even the mafia types.”

He wants originality? 

“Remember that oligarch in Minsk, the one who was so fat you had to use three arrows to put him down? He fancied himself a poet. ‘You are as hot as the flames in your hair,’ he said, ‘and I want to burn.’” 

Clint shudders.

“I’m really sorry I asked,” he says, and Natasha thinks he sounds sincere.

She considers him for a moment.

“So what’s your usual approach?” she asks.  “You’re neither a virgin nor a monk, and even managed to be married once. You must have some kind of repertoire.”

Clint looks a bit miffed that she has successfully turned the tables, but he can’t really say no. He started this line of questioning, after all. 

“I dunno.” He’s squirming now, that much is obvious. “Ask if she wants to watch a movie. Have a drink, maybe something to eat. Talk about stuff. See where things go. Nothing special, really.”

Natasha frowns. Maybe it’s nothing special to Clint, but it’s actually her favourite way of spending downtime: watching a trashy movie from his couch, having a beer and some disgustingly greasy pizza, rehashing missions, snarking about each other’s bad habits...

“That should work,” she says firmly.

He gives her an odd look, and this time he doesn’t look away. 

“Hasn’t so far.”

Hasn’t …   

Oh?

Now, Natasha probably wouldn’t be the Black Widow if she couldn’t change her assessment of a given situation on a dime, based on the discovery of a hitherto unrealized fact.  What she isn’t used to, though, is having one of those discoveries making her feel as if someone had just punched her in the gut.

Pretty obviously, they can both use a new approach.

“Maybe you’ve just been trying the wrong kind of movie,” she says.  “Try something without zombies or chainsaws.”

Clint draws a sharp breath.

“Maybe I could?” he says slowly, his face inscrutable.  “What about beer, though?”

“Beer is fine,” she nods decisively.

It’s already becoming easier, she finds.

“And I hear that thin-crust pizza is practically an aphrodisiac.”