Clint's first reaction is to roll his eyes.
Okay, in fairness, that's Clint's first reaction to most of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s bullshit.
"It won't work," Clint tells his captive audience. On this particular day, that captive audience consists of some annoying S.H.I.E.L.D. agent he's never heard of (Bobbi is much more competent, but then, so was O'Grady, for that matter), and the new Nick Fury.
The fact that there even is a new Nick Fury makes him feel old.
Clint isn't old. No matter what the person sitting next to him would have to say about the matter.
Kate, of course, did not count as a member of his "captive audience."
Please, she'd kick his ass for even suggesting it. She is here because, like Clint, S.H.I.E.L.D. thought she'd be stupid enough to fall for their ridiculous plan.
Too bad for them, not knowing that she's the smart Hawkeye.
"Why don't you think it would work, Clint?" Kate chimes up from beside him.
Okay, maybe she isn't the smart Hawkeye after all.
"Because I have no secret identity and you're you?"
"You have no secret identity yet you used to lead the Secret Avengers," Kate points out. "And please, I had even you fooled into thinking I was Madam Masque. I can pull this off."
Clint doesn't really need any help remembering that particular escapade, because he hasn't been able to quite get over the always-present-always-distracting-always-something-he-doesn't-want-to-think-about-because-he-doesn't-want-to-sleep-with-her-dammit thought of her hands reaching down his pants during that particular mission.
"Besides," Kate continues, "I am me, and I do have a secret identity. So the worst that can happen is I get recognized and you'll be in the tabloids as Kate Bishop's quickie husband that she married purely to stick it to her absent father."
"Because that's not terrible at all."
"I'm sure you've been in the tabloids for worse. Hey, remember that skirt you used to wear?"
"I like her points better than yours," New Fury says, sliding the file over to them. "Good luck, don't come back whining to me until the mission is complete."
Kate laughs about New Fury's comments the entire way to the car. "Don't worry, Clint," she says, when she can form coherent sentences again. "Worst case scenario? We get caught and we have to have a fake divorce in 72 days."
"Why 72 days?"
"You should watch more television than that terrible Dog Cops show."
"How many wigs do you even have?" Clint asks Kate as she packs. Why they are packing her stuff in his apartment, he doesn't even know. "And when the hell did you become a master of disguise?"
"That's not the first time you've asked that," Kate tells him, apparently opting to otherwise ignore the question entirely. "Oh, speaking of masters of disguise, I think I'll be a redhead this trip."
"Are you trying to tell me that Natasha has corrupted you?" Clint scratches Lucky behind the ears as Kate folds a pair of pants into her suitcase.
"What kind of master of disguise would I be if I divulged such information?" Kate scoffs and Clint bangs his head against the wall (newly dyed brown hair and all - really, who except the morons in charge at S.H.I.E.L.D. would think that a little hair dye is going to make him unrecognizable?)
The caper itself is on a cruise ship targeted towards honeymooners.
It sounds ridiculous inside Clint's head, because who would target people on their honeymoon to shove off a cruise ship?
Especially ridiculously rich honeymooners. Clint's glad that he had the sense to spend the bulk of his honeymoon with Bobbi in a hot tub and not parading around in monkeysuits on a cruise ship.
Kate will always, always be more comfortable in situations like this. The closest that Clint can come to feeling comfortable is remembering the way that he and Barney used to sit and watch folks dressed like this and wonder why they would wear something that fancy to a circus.
Even if he's rich now, Clint will never feel as relaxed as Kate does beside him.
She knows that, which is probably why she slips an arm through his.
Okay, that helps. In fact, Clint's pretty sure that it couldn't have helped more if they really had been married.
But he spent most of his married life arguing with his wife, so admittedly, he's not the best judge of what the appropriate relationships between spouses is supposed to be.
Who at S.H.I.E.L.D. had thought this to be a good idea?
"Penny for your thoughts, Boss Man?"
"We're rich. You should at least offer a quarter."
She nudges him in the side and he doesn't even bother to duck the move. He just nods out to the dance floor of sharply dressed people who have no idea that they might be pushed into the ocean at any moment. "Just thinking about how these people would never be at home in the circus."
"Mmhmm. And you were so much at home in the circus that you ran away the first time you had a chance," Kate says.
"That was different," Clint reminds her. "I'd like to go up to each and every one of these jokers and tell them long, long stories about shoveling elephant dung."
One of her hands presses against his cheek, pulling his head down to meet hers. She still smells like lilacs, Clint notes.
"You'll tell me," she says. "Dance with me, 'husband' of mine."
"As you wish, Boss Lady."
"Their" cabin is ridiculously small.
"Maybe S.H.I.E.L.D.'s wrong, and nobody's getting tossed overboard. Maybe they're seeing what they spent all that money on and just decide it's not worth it anymore," Clint says as he stares out the tiny window in their door, giving Kate the privacy to change into nighttime wear behind him.
"I'm not sure there's even room to fuck in here," Kate says, and the scent of her perfume lingers far too much for him to dwell on that thought much longer.
Or maybe he'll dwell on it just a bit longer, actually.
"That's an odd place to take the conversation, Katie. I was just trying to point out how this tiny cabin doesn't even have room to stretch your legs - "
"Or spread them -"
Okay, not dwelling on that, either. "Aren't the entirely inappropriate partner-type things supposed to come from me?"
"Really, Clint, why would I let you have all the fun?" Kate answers, and there's a sound of a zipper being slid into place. "Besides, it might be inappropriate to say to a partner, but I'm pretty sure talking about fucking is totally appropriate to say to a husband."
"Good thing, because if a real husband wasn't as upset as I am about not having room to spread 'em, I'd divorce him faster than he could say 'Mister Bishop.'"
"Why am I changing my name in our fake marriage?"
"Well, I'm not changing mine. Consider it payment for all the heroes that keep asking me when I'm going to get my own superhero name."
"That's kind of dickish," Clint acknowledges, even as he tries to wonder who would be that stupid to say something like that to Kate's face. "Need me to have words with someone, Katie-Kate?"
"I can handle that myself, Mister Bishop."
Clint thinks about telling her that he knows that. That he wouldn't have agreed to this if she couldn't handle herself. That he wouldn't be agreeing to their ongoing ... whatever it is if she couldn't handle herself.
But then there's a soft hand on his shoulder and she's saying, "Let's go look for the homicidal maniac," and his words go unsaid.
By day two, nobody's been pushed into the ocean, and Clint is beginning to wonder if maybe the crook has seen through their cover.
"I knew the brown hair thing wouldn't work," he tells Kate as they patrol the outside perimeter of the cruise ship.
"I think I like your recent trip to the salon," she says, glancing up at him with the kind of mild amusement she always seems to have when she isn't in battle or otherwise pissed off.
"It looks terrible, girly-girl."
"Those gray hairs you were having, those looked terrible," Kate scoffs.
"Hey! There were no gray hairs," Clint argues. "And if there were, they made me look distinguished."
"Yeah, that's what Reed Richards thinks, too. Me, I think they make you look old."
"That's a terrible thing to say to your fake husband."
"I think it's a great thing to say to my fake husband. A good, healthy sign for the amount of honesty that's going to be in our fake marriage," Kate says.
She looks good as a redhead, Clint decides.
But he kind of misses the black hair.
He kind of doesn't want to examine too much about how much he misses the black hair.
He's promised himself that he isn't going to fuck this partnership up, after all. But it's in the middle of day two, while he's watching her eat dinner, that he realizes how much of a hopeless mission that is.
Far, far more hopeless than their ghostly honeymoon killer.
"What did the lobster do to you to deserve that kind of scowl?" Kate asks him.
Small hands (hands that have saved him over and over again) use the knife with the kind of efficiency that only the two of them would notice. He takes note of the purple nail polish and shakes his head.
"I'd rather have pizza."
"You can have that when we get home." Kate dips her lobster into the butter sauce and lifts the left corner of her mouth up in a grin. "When we're hanging out on the couch with our dog."
"Maybe we should be better bait," Kate says abruptly as day three winds down. She's changed into a short blue minidress, and Clint wonders why he still has to wear a tux.
Or maybe that's just his grouchiness getting the best of him because it's not actually day three anymore - it's more like 3 a.m. on day four - and he's tired, and sleeping on the floor of their cabin basically requires him to contort his body in ways that even Natasha would find uncomfortable.
"Not sure what you mean, Girly-girl."
Kate shrugs and tugs at the back of her sun hat. "You aren't acting much like my husband. I mean, true, I've never actually been married, so you might know better than me, but - "
"Trust me on this, Katie-cat: we do not want to use my previous attempts at being a husband as a guidebook to our marriage. Pretend or otherwise."
Kate rolls her eyes at him.
This is not actually new.
Nor is the weird warmth that comes over him at the constant reminder that she knows that he is frequently full of shit but chooses to waste her time with him anyway.
It's kind of neat, even if Clint's pretty sure that counts as a serious character flaw on her behalf.
"Would you like some time alone with your man-pain or would you like to get around to kissing me already?" Kate asks.
"Why, girly girl, aren't you forward?"
"Damn straight I am, Mister Bishop," she says. "Headcanon says I'm the one who proposed."
"What the hell is headcanon?" Clint asks. "And I hope that ring was expensive."
"Please, you would have hated an expensive ring. I just got you an extra large slice of pizza," Kate answers. "At the circus."
"But you hate the circus."
"But I wasn't trying to convince me to say yes," she says, and there's enough force in her words that even Clint's brain starts to connect the dots, but she quickly kicks it back out of gear by leaning up and claiming the kiss he'd been too slow to deliver.
What kind of partner will he be if he doesn't reciprocate?
Clint is perfectly content to stand there, with Kate's sharp purple nails digging into the back of his neck and her tongue being every bit as demanding and in control as every other part of her.
He's really, really content with that. In fact, he's just discovered his favorite new game, "What Flavor of Chapstick Is Kate Bishop Wearing?" when he hears the first splash.
"I'm kind of bummed that I didn't get to send any arrows into the guys," Clint says later, after S.H.I.E.L.D. has come and covertly taken the crooks off their hands and they are walking back to their cabin.
He still has no idea why this mission was something that S.H.I.E.L.D. even had on their radar, but the less questions one asks about S.H.I.E.L.D., the better.
"Somebody had to save the drunk couple they tossed overboard," Kate points out. "Good save, by the way."
"Good shot, by the way."
"True. Must be why we make such a good team."
"We do make an awesome team." Kate opens the door of their cabin and walks inside. "Speaking of, I was thinking that maybe I wouldn't turn around while you got out of those wet clothes. In fact, I was thinking I could maybe help you out of them."
He closes the door behind him. "Considering that I just had your tongue down my throat, I don't guess I can convince you that I really don't want to sleep with you, huh?"
"Clint, please. I didn't believe that the first time you said it."
"In that case, can I take your wig off?"
"Be my guest," Kate says, and she steps close enough to undo his pants.
The wig and the pants end up in the same not-tidy heap.
Really, who would make a cruise ship designed for honeymooners and make it too small to be able to fuck properly?
Clint thinks this several times as he bumps his head, knees, elbows, and his head yet again on various parts of the ship. When he ends up flat on his back in the bed, he's all too relieved to let Kate lead the show. If he moves less, he will bump his head less. That's almost a guarantee, right?
"I'm glad you brought condoms, because after all this effort, I would have to fucking cry if you hadn't," Clint mutters as she tears open the package. He idly runs his fingers through her tangled black hair, so incredibly relieved to see it again.
"If I hadn't brought condoms, you wouldn't have gotten this far, so crying would be a non-issue," she says. She gives him another smirk, before her fingers slide the condom into place.
If she keeps smirking at him like that, Clint is pretty sure there's no way he is going to last very long.
As it turns out, it's a pretty good prediction, because he doesn't last very long at all. But in fairness, cramped spaces and first times immediately after a battle are never exactly conducive to long stamina - especially when the woman in question returns each tug of her hair with an equal tug of his.
Also in the interest of being fair, Clint leans over the side of the bed to drop the condom into the trash before dropping to his knees in front of her to finish taking care of business.
He doesn't have to sleep on the floor of the cabin that night.
Instead, he sleeps huddled between the ship and Kate.
"This would have been more comfortable on our couch," Kate says. "We probably should have gotten a ride back to civilization with S.H.I.E.L.D."
"Probably." Definitely. "Why'd you tell them no?"
"Because I wanted to get back to getting into Hawkeye's pants?" Kate retorts. "Why'd you tell them no?"
"Um, because I wanted to get back to getting into Hawkeye's pants?" Clint offers. It sounds more terrible when he says it. "Besides, I worried that you might change your mind once we left this damn uncomfortable boat."
"Nah," she says, as though it's not even something that he has to worry about.
Maybe it's not.
"Night, Katie. Tomorrow we'll figure out more comfortable ways to fuck on this damn ship?"
She snuggles into him, and wraps calloused fingers through his. "You bet."
"No quickie fake divorce in 72 days?"
"Nah," she says again, between yawns. "You're stuck with me, Mister Bishop."