Clint has this thing.
Clint has a lot of things, actually: he’s got the archery thing and the purple thing and the hanging around in the rafters thing. But there’s this one thing, this one specific thing. It’s kind of a kissing thing.
It’s not a big deal or anything. It’s just, he can tell a lot from a kiss; they’re kind of like fingerprints, or snowflakes, or classified SHIELD files. Unique and beautiful.
“This some kind of oral fixation?” Fury asks Coulson, the first time he sees Clint in action.
Coulson does this thing with his mouth where he tries not to make any sort of expression at all, lifts one shoulder just barely in a shrug and says, “It’s a talent. Apparently.”
“Agent Barton,” Fury says, shaking his head. “After you, they broke the damn mold.”
Clint wipes the imposter’s lipstick off on his sleeve and notches another arrow to his bow.
He’s not bothered; he knows he’s a real talented son of a bitch.
If he’s being honest, he goes for Steve first mostly because he kind of feels bad about what he’s about to do. Steve’s a good guy and he doesn’t see it coming, and if Clint could figure out a way to just get it done without Steve noticing he would.
But he’s tried the sleep-kissing thing on SHIELD orders, and it doesn’t work.
Also? Kind of skeevy.
“Hey, Cap,” he says, seizing the opportunity when he finds Steve alone in the kitchen. “Come here a minute.”
Steve looks up from a tall glass of something swampy and green.
“Can I help with something?” he asks, approaching when Clint beckons, and if it were anyone else Clint would just lay one on ‘em and run for it, but it’s Captain America and he just can’t.
Clint’s crossed a lot of lines. He knows that. He’s been an agent of SHIELD and an assassin besides, and he was just kind of an all-around terrible kid. Normally he doesn’t have a problem doing what has to be done. But what he just can’t do is surprise kiss Steve Rogers.
“I need to talk to you about something,” he says. “About the team. About me.”
Steve nods, face perfectly serious.
“Of course,” he says, and he’s so unsuspecting and earnest that Clint could just cry.
“Y’see, I’ve got this – let’s call it a talent,” Clint says, because he doesn’t really have another word for it. If it’s a superpower, it’s one hell of a specific one. Coulson had referred to it as a gift, once, and Fury had snorted and said, “If it’s a gift, then he better have kept the receipt.”
Clint’s pretty sure he was just mad he’d never gotten the Barton experience, though. (“Pucker up, buttercup,” Clint had said to him, and Fury had stared at him and replied, “Agent Barton, this might be hard for you to understand, but it is not necessarily in my best interest to have your magic lips catalogue my person. Back to your post.”)
Steve nods, brow furrowed, and he looks like he’s really concentrating on what Clint is saying. Like he’s really interested. He just keeps making it harder. Clint twists his mouth to the side and forces himself to continue.
“It lets me, well, identify people, kind of,” he says, waving a hand in loose, lazy circle, more to shake out his wrist than anything else. Steve frowns, crossing his arms.
“Identify?” he repeats. “Can you elaborate?”
What the hell, Clint thinks, and grabs Steve’s perfect, confused face between his hands. He seals their lips together. It’s nothing deep or fancy, just an insistent press of his mouth on Steve’s. To his credit, Steve doesn’t jerk away or shove him or anything; he just sort of goes very still, mouth slack against Clint’s.
Clint closes his eyes and waits for it to happen.
It takes a few seconds, but then everything just sort of – clicks. He pulls away.
Steve turns about five different colors all at once. Clint gives him an awkward slap on the arm.
“You okay, there, Cap?” he asks. Steve opens his mouth, but no sound comes out. Clint clears his throat and continues, “So, that’s pretty much it. Now if you’re abducted and replaced by – shapeshifters, doombots, those robots Stark’s building to replace us, you name it, I’ll be able to tell.”
“Tony’s not building robots to replace us,” Steve says quickly. “So you can – identify people by kissing them.” He raises a hand to his mouth and kind of just keeps it hovering there. His eyes are very wide.
“Basically,” Clint says, “yes.”
Steve nods slowly.
“That’s,” he says, stops, clears his throat. He looks up and then down again, to each side. “Useful. That’s very useful. That’s – you don’t have to do it again, do you?”
The corner of Clint’s mouth quirks upwards.
“No, sir,” he says, saluting. “Not unless I have to check to see if you were swapped out for a Skrull.”
“Right,” Steve says, nodding to himself. His ears are still pink. “Right. Have you – done this to the rest of the team, yet?”
“On my own time,” Clint tells him, and he nods again. Clint holds out a fist. “We’re good?”
Steve offers him a funny sort of half-smile. He knocks his own fist against Clint’s – it’s stiff, but it’s a start.
“We are,” he says. “Just – as a suggestion: maybe you should give the rest a little warning before you kiss them.”
“I’ll consider it,” Clint tells him. Which he does. For all of five minutes.
He is, after all, in his defense, a secret agent.
Clint enters Operation: Bruce Banner with a plan.
He has to; he’s not stupid enough to think he can survive a makeout session with big, mean and green. (He lets Natasha know what he’s doing ahead of time, just in case.)
He feels sort of bad about Bruce, too, but not quite as bad as with Steve – probably because as intimidating as Captain America is, he’s still not the Hulk. Still, the poor guy doesn’t really deserve the surprises. He has to put up with Stark’s science yammering all the damn time; isn’t that punishment enough?
Clint settles into his perch and waits.
He waits for a long, long time. Personally, he blames Stark. The two of them just keep talking and – poking at something. Clint doesn’t really want to know what. It looks like it might explode, and also kind of like it used to be in the back of the fridge.
Finally, Stark leaves the room. Clint seizes his opportunity. He swings down from the ceiling, suspended by his ankles, so he’s face-to-face with Bruce.
“Don’t get mad,” Clint says. Bruce drops an armful of very expensive-looking lab equipment.
“Clint, what –” he starts, and then Clint’s covering his mouth with his own and Bruce is kind of mumbling against his lips. It’s not unpleasant.
Clint breaks the kiss a moment later. He pats Bruce on the cheek, says, “I’ll explain later, big guy. Scout’s honor,” and then he’s pulling himself back up into the rafters.
Bruce gapes up at the spot where he was, motionless until Stark comes back.
“Hey,” he says, staring at Bruce with concern. He snaps his fingers a couple of times. “You with me, Banner?”
From his perch, Clint catches Bruce’s eye. He raises one finger to his lips. Bruce gives him an odd look, then shakes his head with a tiny smile.
“It’s nothing,” he says. He puts a hand on Tony’s shoulder and leads him deeper into the lab, saying, “So, about that accelerator, how would you account for…”
Clint tunes them out, settling back with his arms crossed behind his head. All in all, Operation: Bruce Banner is a success.
The opportunity to kiss Thor just kind of presents itself when they’re attacked on Tony Stark’s brand spanking new, recently installed, “completely unsinkable, baby” quinjet.
Iron Man has Captain America well in hand (mostly, Clint suspects, so they can continue yelling at each other. He hears, “Titanic, Tony! Didn’t you ever learn about the Titanic?”, followed by, “I’m sorry, Steve, but icebergs aren’t exactly on the same level as alien missiles.”) so when he sees Natasha all but scale Thor, he figures, well, yeah, seems like a plan.
Nobody’s too worried about the Hulk’s landing plans.
“Do not concern yourselves, my friends,” Thor says, looking first to Natasha and then to Clint. He gives a mighty swing of his hammer, apparently not impeded at all by the way Natasha’s got her arms wrapped around his massive bicep. “We have and will certainly see worse!”
“Ain’t that the truth,” Clint says, and then, because he’s always been an in the moment sort of guy, ninjas himself halfway over Thor’s shoulder so he can lay one on him.
Thor is kind of an amazing kisser.
“Really?” Natasha shouts over the rush of the wind. “Right now?”
Clint shrugs. Thor looks bemused.
“For luck,” Clint tells him, “and, you know, in case anybody ever tries to replace you with a robot.”
“Midgard has many strange customs,” Thor says, but doesn’t drop Clint or anything, so he figures it’s a win.
Tony Stark is last because honestly Clint isn’t really looking forward to kissing him.
“Think of it this way,” Natasha says, sitting at the table. Her eyes follow him as he bustles around the kitchen, “you get to kiss a billionaire genius.”
“Been there, done that,” Clint says. He stirs the chili, tastes it, and adds more red pepper. “I’m over it.”
Natasha shrugs. “You’re going to have to get it over with sooner or later.”
Clint scowls down at the chili. Natasha steals his wooden spoon on her way out.
He knows he has to kiss Tony Stark. He just really, really doesn’t want to. It’s partly the beard – he doesn’t like beards – but the rest of it is all just Tony. Tony, who once tried to “upgrade” Clint’s bow, and who keeps bragging about how he’s being “trained in hand-to-hand combat by Captain America.”
(So what. So’s Bruce. Jerk.)
Tony, who is irrefutably, impossibly brilliant, and kind of a really good person deep down underneath that glowing metal circle in his chest.
Clint scowls and starts taking out his frustrations on the chili. He knows he’s going to have to kiss Tony Stark, preferably before anything major goes down, which gives him a deadline of – probably the next two days, realistically speaking.
Turns out he doesn’t need to worry about it. The next evening is movie night (because nothing says team bonding like watching Steve and Thor watch Star Wars for the first time), and Bruce is halfway through his pretty compelling pitch about why they should be watching Raiders of the Lost Ark when Tony bursts, wild-eyed, into the room. It's the first time anyone's seen him out of his lab all day.
“Barton,” he says, “why have you kissed everyone on this team except me?”
All eyes turn to Clint.
He crosses his arms.
“Furthermore -- furthermore, why are you kissing the whole team?” Tony asks, throwing his hands up in the air.
Clint tilts his head very slightly to the left. He doesn’t say anything, mostly just to watch Tony turn colors.
“He can identify people by kissing them,” Natasha says, because Natasha is a traitor who has never loved him. Clint scowls at her. She shrugs back. “It was going to come out eventually. It’s not exactly a secret.”
“It’s classified SHIELD information,” Clint says. Natasha gives him a look that says exactly.
Tony works his jaw for a moment, wordlessly, then comes out with, “What does that even mean?”
“It’s simple,” Clint says, because it is, “when I kiss you, it’s like I get this – map. Of you. I’ll always know if you’re really yourself, or if you’ve been replaced.”
“By kissing us,” Tony says. He gestures at the rest of the team, as if to say, you believe this? They just stare back at him. Tony rounds back on Clint. “What do you mean, replaced? Replaced by what?”
“Skrulls,” Natasha says.
“Very realistic robots,” Bruce offers.
“Mutant shapeshifters,” Steve says, and then adds when everyone looks at him, “What? I know things.”
“My brother,” Thor sighs, forlorn.
There’s a long moment of silence wherein everyone just kind of looks at Thor.
“I don’t know what to say to that,” Tony shakes his head. “That’s just – that’s just disturbing, okay.” He pauses, and then asks the inevitable: “So why haven’t you kissed me yet?”
All eyes are on Clint. He hasn’t been the subject of this much attention since the time with the Russian guy and the invisible monkeys.
“So you just thought, ‘oh hey, I have this kissing superpower, you know who I won’t bother to use it on? The genius billionaire whose tower I live in, who is also Iron Man!’” Tony slaps a hand across his arc reactor, then throws his arms out again. “I could be replaced already! How would you know? I could be any of those things!”
“I do not think you could be Loki,” Thor interjects with a wry smirk. “Though whether he could be you is another matter altogether.”
“Look,” Clint says, starting forward. He’s got that twitch in his jaw he’s starting to associate with Tony Stark and his fingers are kind of itching for something to shoot. “You want to go? Right here, right now?”
Tony sticks his chin out. He lifts his eyebrows. He gestures to himself.
“Let’s go, cowboy,” he says.
Clint grabs a fistful of Tony’s shirt, right over the soft blue glow of the arc reactor, and hauls him in. He seals their lips together and makes it sweet and lingering.
Then Tony sticks his tongue in his mouth.
What happens next is not Clint’s fault. He’s never been able to resist a challenge.
There’s a lot of tongue. And teeth. And way more of Tony Stark’s saliva than Clint is frankly comfortable with at the end of the day. It’s sort of smoldering. He’s going to have beard burn for sure.
Finally, they break it off and sort of - pant into each other’s mouths.
Tony flutters his eyelashes and says, “Was it good for you, Legolas?”
Clint snorts. He lets go of Tony and says, hand over his heart, “You’ve got my bow.”
“And my hammer!” Thor adds.
“We’re not going to watch that again, are we?” Steve asks. He puts on a good face, but they all know Sam and Frodo make him sad.
Clint collapses next to Natasha on Tony’s obscenely expensive sofa and, with some maneuvering, steals a massive handful out of the popcorn bowl Bruce has clutched to his chest. Tony says, “JARVIS, if you please,” and the lights go down. The screen lights up.
“Been there, done that, huh?” Natasha says in his ear. She snags a piece of popcorn and tosses it back, catching it in her mouth. Clint nudges her with his knee.
The first time he kisses Natasha is in Prague.
It’s their first real mission together and they don't know each other very well yet. Every time Natasha meets his eyes it’s just – it’s intense. Clint knows there’re two reasons Fury put them together on this:
1) Fury, for some damn reason, thinks Clint can stand up to Natasha and her sharp eyes and cold fury and just her everything. He’s not going to lie; she sort of scares him.
2) They’re in Prague to track down what SHIELD suspects is a team of face-stealers. The details aren’t pretty: they’re literally stealing faces. Just cutting them off and – through science, or magic, or alien tech, or a combo of creativity and just plain human depravity - making masks out of them.
To say Clint didn’t like it would be an understatement.
They lost the first two agents they sent. The recovery team reported back a week later, saying they’d found them, safe and sound but a little strange, probably just the shock, nothing to worry about.
Then they’d lost the recovery team, too.
They send Natasha because she’s got some very specific skills. They send Clint because he’s got one very specific skill.
“Look,” he says to Natasha. “Before we get started, there’s something I have to do.”
She turns to look at him, the dim light of the hotel room hallway catching on the bridge of her nose and her glossy red lips. Her hair’s a mess of curls and her dress is simple and black. They got dressed together, but Clint’s not stupid enough to think the weapons he saw are the only ones she’s packing.
“Make it quick,” she says, and Clint sucks in a breath, steps forward. Odds are he’s going to get shanked for this, but hey, he’s had worse before – that’s what comes from mandatory agent kissing. Natasha stands her ground, unblinking, and then Clint slides one hand across her cheek, brushing back a lock of hair, and presses their lips together.
He keeps his eyes open; so does she.
Everything clicks into place -- Natasha -- and he sighs a little and starts to pull back.
That’s when she bites him.
And not in the sexy way.
Clint yelps, caught off guard, and wipes his mouth off on the back of his hand. It comes away streaked with two kinds of red – her lipstick and his blood. Natasha smirks at him, whipping a tube out of – somewhere. He can shoot an apple off a man’s head blindfolded and backwards (and he has), but even he can’t follow that move.
She reapplies her lipstick, staring at her reflection in the mirrored cap, and then she flicks her eyes towards him.
“Got what you need?” she asks. It’s clear from the look in her eye she knows all about Clint’s little talent, but then SHIELD always was full of gossips.
“And then some,” he says, sucking on his bottom lip to staunch the blood. “Your lipstick tastes like mango.”
She makes a noise that might be a laugh, if he turns his head and squints. “Why do you think I bought it?”
Two days later he loses sight of Natasha in a warehouse. He has instructions. He has his orders. He knows he’s not supposed to go after her, so he keeps firing.
Clint’s sick of losing people.
By the time she finds him again they’re both covered in grit and soot and blood. He’s sitting on a pile of rubble, waiting for their ride. Natasha flashes him a smile that’s mostly teeth and Clint obligingly makes room for her. He’s going to have to kiss her, he knows, because she was gone for over an hour there and if there’s one thing he’s learned it’s that anything can happen in that kind of time.
“Hey,” she says. He glances at her.
“Hey,” he returns, rotating one shoulder and making a face.
Natasha leans forward and kisses him, and it’s Clint’s turn to freeze.
“I’m still me,” she says when she pulls back, looking him straight in the eye.
“I’m starting to get that,” Clint replies.