The best thing about helping two geriatric, serum-enhanced super soldiers move house, is that Clint didn't need to do much helping. In fact, he had spent the last half hour standing in his open doorway, drinking beer and scritching Lucky behind the ears while watching the other two lug boxes into the apartment across the hall.
"You could at least wait until we're done before you crack open a beer. You know, if you're not gonna help." Bucky's death glare would probably be more menacing if he didn't have a smudge of dirt right at the tip of his nose.
"Clint doesn’t have to help," Steve said, tripping lightly up the stairs behind Bucky. "He was injured last week. You shouldn't have asked him to help at all. Besides, there's only one box left. I'll go get it while you start unpacking."
"Injured?" Bucky snorted disbelievingly. Clint just gave a smug smile as he and Lucky wandered into the other apartment.
"Who thought a fifth floor walk-up would be a good idea, anyway? Surprised Steve hasn't succumbed to an asthma attack."
"You have enhanced stamina, so stop your complaining. Plus, you can't beat the price."
Bucky looked grumbly again and Clint ignored him as he opened the closest box.
"Thanks for letting us move in, Clint,” Bucky said after a moment. “There's not many who'd take in an ex-assassin."
"Well, I'm an Avenger too. I know what's it's like."
"Well, it was here or Stark tower and I'm not sure I could live with Tony Stark too long before getting back in the assassin game."
“I hear ya."
"Feels like real club headquarters, doesn't it? Our own place in Bed-Stuy."
“What kind of club is this going to be, Barnes?"
"Probably the shirtheads club."
"Steve don't like it when I swear."
"And you always do what your husband tells you?'
“He ain't my husband." Bucky threw the pillow he'd been unpacking at Clint’s head, and was nice enough to aim so that it ricocheted away from Lucky. "But when Captain America tells you to keep your swearing down since there are kids in the building, you do, you know?'
"I know. But you know you're calling him a, you know, shirthead here. I'm pretty sure Captain America is the exact opposite."
"If you don't know that Steve Rogers is a little shi-"
"Shirt, then they stopped teaching history right."
"You found my shirts?" Steve asked walking back in the door. “They can go straight in my bedroom."
"We didn't find anything except pillows and a scarily thorough collection of bladed throwing weapons," Clint said, looking down in his box.
"They're mine,” Bucky said.
"I need a rest before we unpack. I vote we adjourn to club headquarters across the way and order pizza."
"I heard. We'll have the first meeting of the Brooklyn Boys Club over pizza."
"I'm not even from Brooklyn," Clint said, but he still led them over to his place.
"You live here now, so we'll accept you.”
"Aww, thanks, Captain America."
Clint fell forward onto the couch at Steve's none-too-gentle shove. "You were right, Bucky, he is a little shirt."
Three weeks later Clint limped up the stairs to his landing after a particularly rotten assignment that involved sitting in a tree in the jungle during monsoon season for days on end before a few hours of terrifying gun battles and hand-to-hand combat that did not end particularly well for him (though it ended worse for his opponent) and then a long trek to a safe house because his ex-fil never showed. He was managing to carry his bow over his shoulder but he couldn’t put his go-bag over the stitches on the other one so he was dragging it behind him, the quiet thump, thump as it hit the stairs somehow saying everything he wanted to say about his life at that exact moment.
All he wanted to do was fall face-first onto his bed and not move for at least 36 hours. Unfortunately, just as his bag made the last thump he heard voices in the hall. He froze, hoping whoever it was wouldn’t notice he was there, but he hadn’t exactly been aiming for silence. He looked up and saw three faces staring down at him over the bannister of the stairway that led to the roof with varying levels of judgey assholishness. It was like the start of a joke – Wolverine, The Winter Soldier and Falcon walked onto a roof… Probably best not to mention it to them.
“Okay,” he said. “This looks bad.”
Logan snorted and continued up the stairs, but Bucky kept hanging over the bannister, blocking Sam from going up.
“You look like shit, Barton.”
“Luckily for you, today is meeting day. Get cleaned up and come upstairs; we’ll have a drink waiting for ya.”
“Every first and third Saturday, barring Avengering, there’s a meeting of the Brooklyn Boys Shirtheads Club.”
“Really?” Clint said. Bucky just smirked. Clint pointed at Sam. “He’s from Harlem. Wolverine’s from Canada.”
“Canada is like the Brooklyn of North America.”
“I’m gonna tell him you said that.”
“S’not an insult, it’s because Canada is awesome, Barton.”
Clint’s neck was hurting from staring up at them, so he rolled it, heard a large crack, and decided it was time to go to his apartment. “When did you learn to speak like the young’uns, Barnes.”
“I’ve always been hep to what’s happening.”
“Today is the worst,” Clint said, fishing for his keys.
“By the way,” Sam said and Clint turned to look at him. “Your dog wants to get adopted by Steve.”
“Don’t we all.”
The two of them laughed as they trooped up the stairs and Clint finally pushed open his front door. Then he closed it and checked the letter printed above it before he opened it again.
It looked like his apartment, except that he could see the floor. And the kitchen counters. And the sofa. And it appeared he’d acquired throw pillows. He dropped his go-bag and hung his bow next to the door before walking towards the piece of paper taped to his television.
Hi Clint, it read.
We did a bit of tidying while we were looking after your place because it seemed like the neighbourly thing to do, and also it looked like you got called in before you had a chance to do your weekly cleaning.
At this point there was an arrow shaped post-it note pointing to that spot in the message. It read: No it didn’t. It looked like you hadn’t cleaned in a year. This place was disgusting in different handwriting.
The other note continued on.
Don’t worry, I didn’t reorganize anything or touch your clothes or anything.
He totally touched your clothes.
Well, except your dirty laundry. But it was mostly the dishes and a bit of dusting. I think your girlfriend brought some pillows over?
Kate Bishop is both too young and too good for you, Barton
Anyway, I hope this wasn’t creepy. I saw that Big Bang Theory episode and it was creepy when he did it. Oh, my God, I was really creepy, wasn’t I?
Can’t get him to write ‘OMG’
I’m really sorry for being creepy. And neat. And creepily neat.
Another sheet of paper was taped underneath with a tiny cartoon Captain America mopping while Lucky watched with a judgey look on his face.
He took the sketch off the TV and walked into his bedroom where he stuck it to his wardrobe. He stripped out of the slightly too-small tracksuit he’d picked up at HQ and checked his stitches before finding his most comfortable jeans washed, ironed and hanging up. He pulled them on, glad that they hadn’t fallen apart when Steve washed away the dirt holding them together, then grabbed a faded Captain America t-shirt. He was walking towards the door as he gingerly pulled it over his head, when the door opened and in trooped Bucky, Logan, Sam, Grills and Lucky. Steve was pulling up the rear.
“You’ve got the biggest sofa, bub,” Logan said as he dropped onto it. “And it’s Dog Cops time.”
“I thought it was the mid-season break?”
“Repeats. We’re getting these two caught up.”
Steve was still hovering in the doorway as Clint settled the t-shirt over his torso. “Hey, Clint,” he said. “You don’t, uh, mind? We can go back to our place.”
“Nah, s’cool, Cap. Come on in, before you miss the start.”
Clint grabbed beers for everyone and an ice pack for himself and dropped into the seat next to Steve, finally relaxing for the first time in weeks. He fell asleep with his head on Steve’s shoulder before the end of the opening credits.
* * *
“The man fought in World War Two, you’re gonna take this simple pleasure away from him?”
“Well, he could wake up and tell Clint how he feels.”
“Please,” Logan interjected. “This is Steve Rogers.”
“Yeah. You’re right.”
* * *
Clint, we had some extra.
Butter Chicken and Rice
Microwave on high for 3 minutes from frozen, stir once and microwave another two minutes
‘We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.’ - Nelson Mandela
The quotes included Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt and Gandhi and the meals were hearty, easy to freeze fare like lamb stew, meatloaf and spaghetti bolognese. Clint felt both warmed and strangely uncomfortable with someone showing so clearly that they were thinking about him. It didn’t happen all that often. Usually he only got home-cooked meals when he went up to the roof for a grill night, or when he was at the tower. Other than that it was pizza or Thai, delivered to his door.
Thinking about Steve carrying him to bed (because who else could it be?) made him feel the same warm and uncomfortable feelings that the food did, but these uncomfortable feelings were less ‘argh, someone’s doing something nice for me what do I do?’ and more ‘if I’d been awake maybe I could have dragged Steve to bed with me’ and that was where Clint stopped his thoughts because he was perfectly comfortable with his bi identity thankyouverymuch, but having those sorts of thoughts about Captain America just seemed wrong.
Clint didn’t feel any less conflicted on day five but he also knew his tenants were probably staying away while he healed and he needed to get out and make sure the place was running alright. He dragged himself up the stairs to the roof, not holding out much hope that no one had told Captain America and his plucky sidekick The Winter Soldier about the regular gathering.
He pushed the door open and froze.
“What. The. Fuck.”
A deep voice calling “Swear jar,” came from behind what looked like a small lemon tree in a half barrel. The last time he was on this roof there was no lemon tree. He thought this was something he should make clear to his gathered tenants.
“The last time I was on this roof there was no fucking lemon tree.”
“Clint Barton, there are children present,” said Simone. And there were. Tiny Simone was giggling as he carried seedlings towards the lemon tree and tiniest Simone appeared to be eating dirt.
Steve Rogers face peered out from behind the wine barrel. “Swear jar’s over there,” he said, pointing. It wasn’t so much a swear jar as a swear bucket and the sign on it said, Swear Jar: All Funds Raised Returned to the Garden. There was a picture underneath of Lucky nosing around in the dirt. So that’s where the traitorous mutt had been all week. He turned back to talk to Steve only to find the man bent over the raised garden beds behind the lemon tree, arse up in the air, to the visible enjoyment of Simone, Grills and old Mrs Taylor.
He moved to block their view – the man deserved some dignity – and ignored the disappointed murmurs behind him.
“Why do we have a rooftop garden, Rogers?”
“It’s therapy for Bucky.”
Bucky, who was on the other side of the garden bed pressing green things into the dirt, shook his head. “It’s because of your stupid crush, Rogers.”
“Shut up, Bucky.” Steve looked up at him. “It’s for Mabel. She likes to garden.”
“I do.” Mrs. Taylor was smiling happily, since she’d moved her seat around to regain her view.
“Fine, but aren’t there regulations and shit? Is my roof going to fall down?”
“Jay, could you go grab the swear jar and take it over to Mr. Clint so he can put some money in?”
“Yes, Captain Steve.” Tiny Simone jogged over to the swear bucket and then trundled over to stand in front of Clint, a triumphant smirk on his face. Tiniest Simone was so covered in dirt that Clint was surprised they weren’t planting seeds on her.
“Here’s a five,” Clint said stuffing it in. “Means I’ve got two more swears to go.”
“Not how it works, Hawkeye.” Clint looked over to find Spider-Man sitting on the edge of the roof, mask pushed up to his nose and a hotdog about to go in his mouth.
“Why are we feeding you?”
“I like feeding people who protect the city, Hawkguy,” Grills said. “You fight aliens, you get a feed.”
“And we appreciate it, Gil,” Steve said, all sincerity and apple pie.
The door to the roof kicked open and Logan and Sam trooped through with a television between them. “You know,” Sam said between deep breaths. “One of you fuckers with super strength could be doing this.”
“Swear jar,” Clint said, his voice joined by three others.
“Fuck your swear jar. I’m not carrying that back down.”
“Thanks for doing that, Sam. Clint put in an extra two dollars, so he’s covered your swear contribution.”
“Now, why is there a television on my roof?”
“Impromptu Shirtheads Meeting. There’s a Dog Cops marathon tonight,” Logan said, settling into a chair.
Grills handed Logan a burger, then carried a hot dog over to Clint. “You should relax, Hawkguy. You don’t look so great.”
Clint felt kind of shell-shocked. When Bucky slapped him on the back he actually tilted forward, off balance for just a moment. “Steve,” Bucky said. “Show your landlord his new garden.”
Steve shot Bucky a glare, but smiled at Clint readily enough and Clint ate his hot dogs while listening to Steve Rogers wax poetic about snow peas and choy sum and ‘the variety you get today is just amazing!’ and Clint couldn’t help but smile back.
* * *
“Two weeks,” said Peter.
“Two months,” put in Logan.
“It’s shame that they so dumb, Bro. Better to tell them. Give them more time together.”
The four Avengers who were sitting in a corner of the roof observing their friends plant seedlings all turned to stare at a man in a tracksuit with a large moustache.
“What are you doing here?” asked Sam.
“Hey, I like romance, Bro. Want Hawkguy to be happy.”
“You’re trying to kill him,” said Bucky.
“So he should be happy for short time before death, Bro.”
Bucky stood and cracked the knuckles of his metal hand. The guy jumped back onto the fire escape.
“Put me down for week and half, Bro!”
* * *
So in the afternoon, he gathered Lucky and his track shoes and knocked on Steve's door. Steve always met him at the door and squeezed out so he couldn't see in, and he'd started wondering if Bucky was buck naked in there and tied to a bed or something.
On this fine Thursday his knock was answered with Bucky's voice. "C'mon in, Barton!"
Clint pushed the door open and looked around. The place was a disaster area. Even though he'd now been back for two weeks and not done more than the bare minimum in that time, his apartment was tidier than this. The kitchen looked like something had exploded in it, there were enough clothes lying around that he wondered if they’d been doing fashion shows for each other, and the kitchen table was covered in books, except for the one corner were tiny Simone sat, bent over a tablet with Steve.
"Sorry I'm running late, Clint, it's just Jay has a math test first thing tomorrow. We're going over fractions and, well, it's been around nine decades since I did them."
Clint stepped around a pile of leather pants and a mesh top and found his way to the table. "Why don't you teach us how to do it?" he said to tiny - Jay. The kid's name was Jay. "Teach someone and it'll get stuck in your head."
"Okay." Jay took them through cross-multiplication and dividing and Clint kind of tuned out, but Steve stayed watching with an intense look on his face.
"Try this one, then."
Jay did it successfully, if the grin on his face was anything to go by.
"You should probably head home," Steve said. "You Mom would have dinner waiting for you."
"Thanks, Captain Steve. Bye Mr. Clint. Bye, Bucky!"
Bucky waved his hand in Jay's general direction.
"You ready to get going, Cap? Lucky doesn’t' seem desperate..."
"That's because Stevie made him a potty corner," Bucky interjected.
"It's just a square of grass in the corner of the roof," Steve said, red rising up to his ears. "Nothing major."
"You're too much, Steve."
"I'm sorry. I'll stop."
"S'not a bad thing."
Steve's smile didn't always reach his eyes, especially if the joke was about something modern, or about him not knowing something modern, but when it did reach his eyes his whole face lit up in a way that made Clint's heart clench painfully. He pounded himself on the sternum, wondering if indigestion could be caught by super soldier smiles. "You ready to go?" he asked again, looking around the room.
"Sure. Just let me pull on some sweats."
Clint heard Bucky murmur, "Shaking my damn head," as Steve left the room.
"What was that?"
"Just something I learned on tumblr."
Once they were out on the streets and at a steady pace he looked at Steve. "So. Leather pants?"
Steve's face scrunched up. "Bucky's trying to find a look. I'm happy with what I always wore, but he wants to find the perfect outfit. I think he likes being able to make decisions, you know?"
"Yeah, I know," Clint said, thinking of those first hours after Loki when deciding between chicken or lamb at the shawarma place had seemed momentous and incredibly liberating.
"Sorry you had to see the mess. We just - We never had anything, you know. No more than two shirts, really. It's a whole lot easier to keep a place neat when you don't have much."
"I disagree. All I own fits in two duffels and a bow case and my place is still impossible to keep clean. "
"I feel like I should make excuses for you, like you're busy or travelling, but you're just a pig, aren't you?"
“I have better things to do than pick up my apartment."
"Or do the dishes? Or wear clean clothes?"
"Bit of sass from the Cap."
"Just, Cap's that other guy. Cap's the guy on duty. I prefer it when my friends call me Steve."
"Okay, Steve. I'll try to remember that. "
They did their circuit of Prospect Park and headed back to the building, where they were stopped by Tito. Lucky sneezed. That guy smelled like patchouli incense and stale weed smoke like, all the time.
"Steve," Tito said. "Thanks for fixing the heat, man. It's been positively cosy these last few days. "
And now that Tito was mentioning it, Clint realised his place had been warm enough all week as well.
"No problem, Tito," Steve was saying. "Helps me out as well, right?"
"You fixed the heat?" Clint asked as they climbed the stairs. "I don't need to start paying you as a caretaker, do I?"
"Haha. It's easy enough to fix stuff around the place. Better than asking Tony, right?"
"Yeah. He gets real sarcastic when you ask him to fix stuff like your TiVo. Can't imagine what it would be like if you asked him to fix your boiler."
They'd reached their landing and stood staring at each other for a long moment.
"You're too much, Steve Rogers," Clint said eventually.
"I'll, uh, I’ll try to be less."
"Never do that." Clint clapped him on the shoulder and ushered Lucky in to the apartment.
The next mission Clint was sent on only took a couple of days and he managed to jog up the stairs to his apartment in the mid-afternoon. He could hear voices coming from his floor as he rounded the stairs and took his bow out just in case. He relaxed when he saw that it was just his neighbours. The door to his flat was open and music and people were spilling out onto the landing.
“Katie!” he called. She was standing just by his door. “What have I told you about having parties while I’m away?”
“That I’m more responsible than you are, so go ahead,” she called back.
In a fit of maturity he poked his tongue out at her just as he noticed Captain America was grinning in his direction. He ran down a few stairs to grab his bag and jogged back up, making his way to where Steve was talking to Tito. He wasn’t going to apologize for poking his tongue out, but maybe he could hold an adult conversation with a neighbour in front of the man, at least for a few minutes. Bad enough that in the few weeks since Steve had last house sit the place looked like a bomb had exploded again.
“So you live alone?” Steve was asking.
“Just me and my good friend Mary Jane,” Tito replied.
“Oh, is she here? I’d like to meet her.”
Tito gave what could only be described as a wicked grin and said, “Steve, it would be my genuine pleasure to introduce you.”
Time for Clint to jump in. “Tito, you sound like every reefer madness warning video ever made. Steve, he’s talking about marijuana.”
“Really?” Steve turned to Clint with the fakest wide-eyed innocent look he’d ever seen on a grown man.
“You knew?” Clint knew he must look like a slack-jawed idiot because Tito was laughing at him.
Steve had a smug, self-satisfied smile on his face as well. “We had marijuana in the 30s, Clint. We even called it Mary Jane. You know what the funny thing is?” He turned to make sure Tito was still included in the conversation. “Not in New York, but in some of the cities we visited for the war bonds tour, they called it muggle.”
Tito almost lost the mouthful of beer he’d had at that. “Really?” he asked once he’d swallowed.
“Yeah. When I woke up I kept hearing kids using the word, you know? I thought either kids were getting into drugs a lot younger or people just didn’t care about that stuff anymore. Wasn’t until I heard Tony tell Nat ‘of course you don’t believe us, you’re a Muggle’ that I figured out it must be something else and looked it up.”
Tito was pulling out a small bag as they laughed. “Invitation still stands, Cap,” he said.
“No thanks, Tito. Doesn’t work on me, it’d be a waste.”
“Nah, man. Thanks.”
Tito nodded at them and wandered up to the roof and Steve bent and picked up Clint’s bag. “Come on, we should get you a beer.”
“Sorry that you’re coming home to, well, this,” Steve said as he clumped up the stairs to Clint’s bedroom. “But your girlfriend said it was okay.”
“Jess?” Clint asked, feeling confused. He glanced to the corner where Jess and Carol were glaring at him, then looked away hastily. He’d heard rumours that one or both of them could shoot lasers from their eyes.
“No. Kate. How many girlfriends do you have?” Steve sounded so disappointed in him that Clint was quick to answer.
“None. No girlfriends – or boyfriends – at the moment. Kate is more my… well, I’d call her my protégée, but then she’d hit me. She’s just a friend.”
They’d come to a stop on either side of his bed and Clint wanted to get out of his tac suit, but Steve didn’t seem to be moving.
“Yup.” Maybe if he got some clothes to get changed into out of the laundry basket Steve would leave. “I’m equal opportunity, though opportunity is not always equal with me. Seems I’ve been dating way more girls recently.”
“Oh.” Steve was smiling and blushing and Clint wasn’t sure what to make of it. He dismissed it in favour of thinking about the changing dilemma. He’d changed in front of his teammates before: pre-battle, post-battle, in the gym. He’d even showered right next to Steve after the Chitauri thing, though he’d been too exhausted to even clinically appreciate the pinnacle of scientific achievement that was Steve.
With all that going through his head, he decided to just get changed. It wasn’t like Steve thought of him that way anyway. He pulled his shirt over his head and heard a little ‘oh’. When he could see again Steve had turned to face the door.
“Sorry, I should, uh, I’ll leave you to get changed. And put the coffee on. You get changed, I’ll get coffee.” Then he was out the door and Clint heard him almost fall down the stairs. His “I’m alright!” was met with cheers from the gathered crowd.
Clint shook his head and quickly got changed. He paused at the top of the stairs to look down at the people gathered in his apartment. Tony had invited his lab friends, including Thor’s girlfriend and her plucky sidekick. Nat was sitting very close to Bucky and by her smile of glee he guessed they were discussing the best ways to kill people. Carol and Jess were leaving, which was probably for the best. Kate and her Superhero Youth Brigade were trying to look casual over by the window. Steve was standing by the coffee maker whispering furiously with Sam. The tiny Simones were climbing all over Logan and Simone herself was talking to Agent 13.
This was the first time so many of his friends and colleagues had been at his apartment and it felt good. It felt like family in a way he hadn’t felt since moving out of the mansion. He wandered down the stairs and poured himself a coffee, then refilled Bucky and Natasha’s cups as they moved in to the kitchen.
“Hey. This coffee tastes great. What happened?”
“Steve happened,” Bucky replied.
“Did you buy new beans?”
“No, I – uh – just gave the pot a good scrub. There was a lot of burnt coffee and stuff.”
“Thanks, Steve. I really appreciate it. But you didn’t have to do that.”
“We’re all drinking the coffee. It’s for the greater good.”
* * *
“You nudge, you invalidate the bet. Them’s the rules.”
“Shut up, Logan. You don’t have to live in the same building as them.”
“Just find a way to distract yourself. Take up knitting.”
“I do that, you have to wear the scarf I make you.”
* * *
“Whatcha reading?” Clint asked slowly, figuring it was the safer question.
“S’called ‘The Five Languages of Love’. Nat said it would help me understand emotion better.”
“Oh, yeah, she gave that one to me as well. I didn’t get past the first page.”
“Well, I figured out that I express love through my words and Steve is a doer. He does things like clean and cook for people and carry their bags to show his love.” Bucky looked at him expectantly. “And plant roof gardens.”
Clint wasn’t sure what Bucky wanted him to say, so he went with, “That must be nice for you. Steve doing all that for you. I think it would be nice.”
Bucky sighed noisily and looked at him as if he were the stupidest human alive. Thankfully he was saved from further conversation by Steve coming out of his room.
“Hey, Clint, what are you doing here?”
“Oh! Oh, yeah. Suit up. Doom Bots in Times Square. You guys are gonna love this one.”
He ran back out the door to suit up himself, yelling, “We’re getting a pick-up in ten! Well, seven now,” over his shoulder.
Most of the team gathered back at his place after the fight. There’d been no serious injuries, but everyone except Logan and Thor were nursing bruises at the very least, even Steve. Grills brought down burgers and hot dogs for everyone, and Tito contributed a salad and Nat decided to turn on his TiVo to introduce Thor to Dog Cops.
It was, funnily enough, the third Saturday of the month, so Clint handed around the beers, and said, “I declare the bi-monthly meeting of the Brooklyn Boys Shirtheads Club open.”
There was a knock on the door and Tony stuck his head in. “Hey! This is where you all ended up.”
“No Manhattanites allowed,” Bucky said.
“It’s in the charter,” Logan said, pointing.
There was, indeed, a charter on the wall next to Clint’s door. It was written in neat copperplate script and illustrated with sketches that looked like technical drawings. It was in purple and black and Clint kind of loved it, despite how much it looked like something a hipster would hang on the wall of their brownstone.
And in big lettering at the top of the charter were the words “No Manhattanites Allowed”.
“That’s discrimination.” Tony pointed at Sam. “He’s from Harlem.” Then at Thor. “He’s from another planet. And not only is Natasha from Russia, but she’s a girl.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Natasha said in a very dangerous tone.
“Nothing, it’s just… it’s the Brooklyn Boys club.”
“We try not to be exclusionary,” Steve said.
“Unless you’re from Manhattan. You can be from any damn borough you like, as long as it’s not Manhattan.”
“Well, Brooklyn is more a state of mind than a place, you know. A state of mind people from Manhattan will never really get.” Clint was constantly amazed at how sincere Steve could sound while he was stirring shit.
“I know all you idiots do is sit around and watch Dog Cops. It’s not like this is some top-secret society.”
“How do you know that?”
“For a man with a secret identity, Spider-Man sure does love to gossip.”
“If you’re going to stay, Stark,” Logan said with a growl, “sit down and shut up. I’m trying to watch my show.”
“Well, I need to take Lucky for a walk before I settle down. Try not to destroy anything while I’m gone.”
“I’ll come with you,” Steve said. “You get his lead; I’ll get our jackets.”
Clint clipped the lead to Lucky’s collar and Steve helped put his jacket on. He told himself it was because of his sore muscles, except they weren’t that sore. Most of his injuries were on his legs. Steve stood behind him, hands resting on his shoulders for a long moment until Thor’s voice startled them out of their – whatever that was. A long, blank moment brought on from the exhaustion of battle. No sort of tension between them at all.
“Congratulations, Friend Clint and Friend Steve!” Thor said and then Clint heard numerous shushes.
“Congratulations for what, Thor?” Steve asked.
Clint turned to see a large number of people glaring at Thor.
“Er,” Thor said. “For that fine animal that is your pet. He looks like a warrior.”
“He sure is,” Steve said, bending down to rub Lucky’s side. “But he’s Clint’s.”
“I think he likes you more than me these days, Steve.”
Clint was sure he heard Nat mutter, “Just like his owner,” but he chose to ignore it and lead Lucky out the door instead.
* * *
“They don’t know about their relationship,” Bucky said.
“And if you tell them, you invalidate the bet,” Tony said around a mouthful of popcorn.
“We are wagering on their relationship? When they will resolve this tension?”
“Yup,” Natasha said, popping the ‘p’.
“Fifty dollars on tonight.”
“Ooh,” Logan said. “Big man’s got some big money.”
“And he’s going to lose it all,” Bucky added. “I’ll write it in the book.”
* * *
“Sorry. Do you mind if I sleep on your couch tonight. Only Nat’s at ours.”
“You can send Nat over here if you want to sleep in your own bed.”
“No, it’s not that. It’s just… Nat and Bucky are pretty vocal when they’re, you know…”
Clint shook his head. “I don’t know. Playing scrabble?”
Steve looked exasperated. “No. Having… sexual relations.” Steve’s face turned bright red. “Last time they turned a bedside table over and broke a lamp.”
“Oh. Oooh. I did not know that about them. What did you do last time?”
Steve shrugged. “You weren’t here, so Lucky and I shared your bed. I hope you don’t mind. I guess I’m used to it a bit. Bucky and I used to share a flat with two fellas that worked night shift, and they slept in the beds when we were at work, but I’m thinking it might be a bit creepy in this century.”
“Nah, I don’t mind. Was never enough personal space in the circus either.”
They stood staring at each other for a long moment while Clint tried not to think about Steve in his bed. A distant crash sounded from across the hall, breaking the moment.
“So, yeah. Come in.” Clint stepped away from the door and Steve carried his bedding over to the couch.
They sat on the couch and the silence grew awkward.
“So. How are things?” Steve said eventually.
“You know, since you moved in they’ve been great. I’m eating better, sleeping better, my tenants are happier. You’ve really done a lot for me, so thank you.”
“It was nothing,” Steve said, and there was that blush back.
“It wasn’t nothing. But even things you didn’t help with seemed to have gotten better. Like, there used to be these guys called the Tracksuit Draculas who hung around threatening my tenants and beating me up and even they’ve disappeared.”
“Tracksuit Draculas?” Steve sniggered. “Did they wear tracksuit capes and pull them up around their faces, peering out from the shadows and threatening to suck your blood.”
“No!” Clint threw a cushion at him. “They wore ugly tracksuits and spoke in Russian accents.”
“Oh. Those guys.”
“You helped me out with them as well?”
“No. Not me. Bucky would like to say it was him, but I think it was actually Natasha who sat them down and talked to them in their own language.”
They shared a smile. “I didn’t want to tell you about them, you know?” Clint said.
“At first I didn’t want Captain America to know what a fuck-up Hawkeye was. Then I didn’t want Steve to know how much trouble Clint had handling his life. You always seem so put together, you know? And I drink coffee out the pot, only eat take-out, and am a superhero in an ongoing feud with two-bit Russian mobsters.”
“Simone actually told me the story of the mobsters. How you saved everyone’s homes and insisted Lucky get saved as well. That you stood on your stoop in a Santa hat and told them to never come back. Sounds like exactly the sort of shit I would’ve got into in the thirties. Except they would’ve kicked my butt.”
“They did kick my butt.”
“Oh. Sorry ‘bout that. But the point is, the only reason I wasn’t in the same feud is because I hadn’t moved in yet. And somebody willing to do all that is who I want in my corner.”
“Thanks, Steve. That’s… Thanks.”
Nat’s voice drifted across the wall. Clint thought she was probably swearing in Russian. Steve went bright red again.
“I’ve heard you tell absolutely filthy jokes, Steve. Why does that make you blush?”
“It’s, well, it’s you, actually.”
“Because I hear those sounds and think about you making them. Because I’m attracted to you.”
“Why do you think I was doing that stuff? Cleaning and cooking? God, it’s even creepier now you know I like you in that way, isn’t it? Oh, my God, I woke up in the 21st Century and became some kind of creepy stalker. I’ll go now. I’m sure they’ll stop any second. I’m going.” He stood and started collecting his things.
“No.” Clint grabbed his arm. “I mean, yes, it’s kind of creepy when you put it like that, and I wouldn’t recommend this method of courting to anyone not a little messed up – so you’ll be fine with pretty much any Avenger. But I don’t want you to go.”
“No. And you don’t need to sleep on the couch either. It’s a big bed. We can share.”
“I don’t wanna, like… you’ll probably wake up and find me spooning you or something. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable.”
“Steve,” Clint said, staring into his eyes. “This is an invitation. To share a bed, and maybe kiss me. If you want.”
Steve looked like he was steeling himself for battle, but when his lips met Clint’s they were gentle and sure. His large hand cradled the back of Clint’s head, teasing the hair at his nape, and Clint stepped forward, pressing their bodies together and letting his hands roam over Steve’s smooth, bare skin.
When Steve pulled away, he licked his lips, as if savouring the taste, and Clint wanted to just jump back in.
He took a step back and a deep breath. It was meant to let him get his bearings back, but instead all he breathed in was the scent of Steve. “Okay,” he said, mainly to reassure himself. “Okay. I’m going up to bed. You’re welcome to join me. It’s more comfortable than the couch, and it doesn’t mean that anything has to happen.”
“Nothing has to happen?”
“Nothing has to happen.”
“Okay.” Steve picked up his pillow and followed him up the stairs.
Something totally happened.
* * *
Steve approached him with the swear bucket, a naughty grin on his face and Clint couldn’t resist. There, in front of his assembled tenants and the members of the Brooklyn Boys Shirtheads Club and God (or a god anyway) and everyone, he kissed Steve Rogers. It wasn’t a long kiss, but it wasn’t just a peck either. Their eyes closed, their heads tilted and Clint reached up to touch his face. Then the cheers seeped into his brain.
They broke apart and Clint stuffed a twenty into the bucket. Probably not enough for all the swearing he’d done while inside of Steve the night before, but it was all he had on him.
“When did you two finally get together?” Bucky asked.
“Um, it was two weeks ago. After the fight with the Doom Bots.”
Steve was blushing again, and Clint wouldn’t have it. “You know. That night you and Nat were breaking lamps.” He was trying to deflect the conversation, but he didn’t really need to because Thor was walking around, hand out, and everyone was handing him money.
“Did you have a bet on us?”
“Yes.” Tony sounded offended. “And Thor came into it on that day, picked the right day, and got all the money.” It looked like Tony was handing over a couple of hundred dollars. “This sucks.”
Steve waited until Thor had collected all his money and tucked it into a pocket.
“You all realize Thor is a fertility god, don’t you? He probably had some inside knowledge.”
There was a chorus of “What?” then everyone was crowding around Thor trying to get their money back. Clint pulled Steve away while they were distracted to the corner where they’d moved the lemon tree. And as the sun set over their rooftop garden in Brooklyn, he kissed his boyfriend and ignored the squabbling of all his shirthead friends.
* * *