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now and again they play our tune

Clint had been thinking about it off and on for a few months. Or really, he'd been trying not to think about it. After all, he'd only brought Natasha in about a year ago, and while she was absolutely terrifying she was still just a kid to him—and on top of that a kid prone to using seduction to get what she needed. A skill that worked very well for her, absolutely, but it twisted up Clint's insides to see it.

When it happened, it was like a cliché from some lousy movie. They'd hit the target and made it back to the safe house, but it was a close thing, and it wasn't easy to get that much adrenaline out of your blood. Clint brought back some takeaway, Natasha scrounged up some red wine, and they ate and drank and joked about other adventures they'd had, apart and together. At one point their laughter had died away and she was staring at him, intense, and then suddenly her lips were on his.

He jumped up, got as far from her as possible in the small room. "No," he said, starting to pace. "No, no, no."

"What's your problem?" Natasha asked.

He turned to her, and was suddenly annoyed to see her sitting there calmly drinking her wine. "I am not going to be that guy, Tasha. No."

"Still don't know what you're talking about."

"That most of the men and a good half of the women who meet you just want to fuck you? I just—" He put his hands on his hips and sighed, shoulders sagging. "I just want to be your friend."

"You're my friend," she said. "Friends can't kiss?"

"I don't want—"

"I want," she said. "I get a say, and I want. And you are already not that guy. So stop being boring and sit down."

Clint was duly chastened, but he had to make sure. "I don't want to take advantage of you," he said, sitting back down as ordered.

"And you never will," she said. "That's why you get a kiss."

thirty-nine and you need some leeway

Natasha could tell that Phil had never thought about it. Which was absurd; he wasn't nearly as invisible as he liked to pretend he was.

Besides, Clint was just about on her last nerve.

So she took the direct route. She went into his office, closing the door behind her.

"What do you need, Natasha?" he asked, not looking up from his paperwork.

It was a risk, walking behind the desk of a well-trained agent, pulling back his chair, and sitting in his lap, but she was faster than him and was on her mark before he could react.

He blinked at her. "I'm not Santa Claus," he said.

"Of course you are," she replied, grinning, then kissed him liked she'd been meaning to since she met him—like he'd needed since at least then if not before. Like he needed to be kissed every day of the week, as far as she was concerned.

And bless him, he didn't fight her one bit, but just went with it, wrapping his arms around her.

When she pulled away he asked, "You're aware that there are cameras in this room?"

"Temporarily disabled," she replied, kissing his ear and then his neck.

He cleared his throat and she felt the vibration under her lips. "And to what do I owe this pleasure?"

"I needed to get your attention to give you a message."

"Which is?"

She sat up. "If you don't do something about Clint, I'll shut you both in a room with nothing but lube and a box of condoms."

"I see. And what does this have to do with your kissing me?"

"That was just a bonus," she said, smiling.

it was screaming to be heard

One slow Tuesday Phil said to Clint: "Let's see a movie."

So they changed into civilian clothes and went to a matinee of some god-awful spy thing, sitting in the back so they could snicker to their heart's delight without disturbing too many patrons. They shared a giant coke, Goobers because Phil was old-fashioned when it came to movie candy, but had no butter on the popcorn because Clint hated it when his fingers were slippery.

After, they hit the head thanks to that gallon of soda and then Clint said, "Wanna sneak into another one?"

"Haven't done that since I was a kid," Phil said, but his eyes crinkled with amusement.

"All the more reason," Clint replied.

The romantic comedy was about fifteen minutes in, and the theater was nearly empty. They made their way to the back and slumped down in their seats.

"Oh, the meet-cute," Clint whispered. "That's my favorite part."

Phil raised an eyebrow. "You like rom coms?" he asked.

"They don't all suck," Clint said, shrugging.

So they watched Jennifer Anniston get flustered and indignant around the latest interchangeable dude for a bit, and then Phil lifted up the armrest between them.

"You know what else I haven't done since I was a kid?" he asked.

"What?" Clint asked, grinning, because he knew damn well what was coming next.

"This," Phil said, leaning in and kissing him and yeah, finally, this.

i need a place to wait for morning

Natasha felt awkward, sitting in the cab next to Pepper. She'd never been on a date before, but Pepper seemed like the sort of lady you properly asked to dinner. So she'd asked her, and they'd managed conversation well enough when they were sitting at the table. But now, watching the city go by as they zoomed up the FDR, Natasha was strangely unsure.

They pulled up in front of her building, and Pepper said, "I had a really nice time."

"Me too," Natasha replied. "We should do it again."

"I'd like that," she said.

"I'll call you, then?"

"Please do."

For a horrifying moment Natasha thought Pepper was just going to get out of the cab. But she moved right in, pulling Natasha into a kiss with a hand on each cheek. Natasha wasn't too surprised to kiss back, but she couldn't shake the strangeness of making out in a cab after a date, like a regular person.

"I'd ask you to come up," Pepper said, "but first date, you know."

"Sure, sure," Natasha replied, a little out of breath.

Pepper smiled. "Okay, well, goodnight."


Pepper got out of the cab, and Natasha said to the cabbie, "Let's just make sure she gets in," even though the white-gloved doorman had been holding the front door open since the cab pulled up.

As Natasha watched, Pepper walked up the few steps, turned, and then she was walking back to the cab, digging into her purse. She threw some bills into the front seat, then opened the back door and leaned in.

"What the hell, right?" she said, grabbing Natasha's hand.

"Yeah," Natasha said, following her out of the cab and into her building. "What the hell."

seems she ran aground on maneuvers

The first thing Phil noticed when he woke up was Clint and Natasha sitting at his bedside. Natasha was dozing, head on Clint's shoulder, and Clint had one of Phil's hands in his.

"Huh," he said, though his voice wasn't working too well. "I didn't think—"

"I know," Clint said. "Don't try to talk." He reached into a cup on the bedside table and pulled out an ice cube, which he slipped between lips that Phil now realized were cracked and sore.

Natasha sat up and smiled down at him. "Welcome back," she said.

The second thing Phil noticed was a commotion in the hall, and the unmistakable sound of a very displeased Pepper Potts.

"No!" she was saying. "You will let me through!"

And then Fury: "Let the damn woman in! She's just gonna keep yelling."

It was only moments before she burst into the room. "Oh my god," she said. "Oh my god, I knew it, when I couldn't find Natasha and Clint, I knew it." She collapsed into the chair on the other side of Phil's bed, stroking his wrist just above where the IV was attached. "What am I going to do with you, Phil?" she asked.

"Sorry?" he whispered.

She stood up, brushing the hair back from his brow, and kissed first his forehead, then the bridge of his nose, and then his lips, soft and warm.

Clint and Natasha looked at each other. "So this is what's happening?" he asked. "All of us?"

"I think it already happened," Natasha replied.

"Is that okay?" Pepper asked.

Clint stood up and Phil could see the admiration in his eyes. "You just pushed past Fury for him," he replied. "Of course it's okay."

And the last thing Phil saw before he drifted off was all of them around him, holding hands together.

switch off the mind and let the heart decide

Pepper wasn't ordinarily afraid of heights. But this perch was precarious by anyone's standards except the man she was seeking out.

So she dug out her old rock climbing shoes and scrambled up to the perch that, Phil assured her, could seat two.

"You shouldn't be up here," Clint said, not looking at her.

"You don't want me?" she asked.

"Didn't say that," he replied. "Just a little dangerous."

She shrugged. "I got up here all right," she said, and sat down next to him, pulling one of the blankets around her shoulders.

"Here, I'll do that," he said, wrapping it around her. He pulled her closer, tucking her head into his neck.

"I love the city in the morning," she said. "The air hasn't been used up yet."

"Yeah," he replied, and they were quiet for a while, watching the sun rise over the East River.

He cleared his throat. "Sorry I haven't—"

"Don't worry about it," she said.

"Why did you come up here?" he asked.

"I come after people," she replied.

"So does Phil."

"We decided it was my turn."

"You mean, you told him it was."


"And made him tell you how to get up here."


"You're very determined."

"I hang in there."

"How do you put up with all of us?"

"I don't."

He turned to her, and she looked up at him, letting him see all of it, hoping that somewhere was whatever he was looking for, that would let him believe her. "You mean that?"

"Of course."

And she could see him now, something behind his eyes shifting, and the arm around her waist pulled her in closer. "Okay," he said, and kissed her.