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The Forbidden Fruit

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What is she even doing?

It's a great question, and one that Kate thinks - no, knows - that she is going to be asking herself repeatedly in the next few days.

But right now? Right now, all Kate wants to do is to keep encouraging Clint Barton's fingers to keep pressing inside of her. Lacking talent with his fingers had never been among any his faults - and two days ago, Kate would have gladly listed every single one of them, because two days ago she had been in New York where she belonged and not being driven mindless by talented calloused fingers in the middle of some godforsaken Iowa town.

"You're tense," Clint murmurs. It isn't fair. It really, really isn't fair that Clint remembers exactly where on her stomach to breathe to make Kate's toes dig into the bed. It isn't fair that he remembers, as though what they had shared had been more than just fun casual sex between two people who hadn't ever wanted more than that.

He obviously hadn't and Kate thinks that's a fair point to remember, even with Clint Barton's fingers buried inside of her and his face on her stomach.

"Yeah, I'm a little tense, Barton." She thinks about saying that she's tense because she's stupidly fallen for two two men in her life, and they've both ran away when the going got tough, yet people still think that she's the one with commitment phobia. At least Eli still calls. Still offers to fly out to Iowa and punch Clint in the face.

That's what friends do. They keep in touch.

"Do you want me to stop?" His fingers move, and not in the good way, and then he is licking his fingers, as though the taste of her has been something that he has craved every single day for the past year.

Kate thinks about kicking him in the face.

"You're getting married," she tells him. "You're getting married to some woman I've never met, in some town that I've never been to, in a ceremony that I wasn't even invited to." Her voice rises, just a little bit more than Kate is proud of, to remind him, "I had to be Bobbi's plus one."

He almost looks ashamed.

But then he's wrapping a hand around her hip and resting his face on his hand while he looks up at her. It's so familiar, and Kate can smell the musty scent of their old couch and hear the contented snores of the dog that had never been theirs, yet always was.

Lucky misses you she thinks about saying. It's easier than admitting that she almost hopped on a plane and came to drag his sorry ass out of Iowa. It's certainly easier than admitting, in the only bargain they ever had that had mattered at all, she hadn't held up her end.

"Bobbi and I ended differently than you and me, girly girl." There's regret there, too, and that's fair, so Kate doesn't want to kick him in the face for that. Because Bobbi and Natasha, they'd been women who had meant something. They'd been relationships. Even when he'd been kind of fucking them up majorly, they'd been things that he'd been proud of.

None of those had been no-strings attached sex for fun, and that's fair, because that is what Kate had signed on for, so she cannot be angry at Clint for that.

Besides, Clint Barton will always feel perpetually guilty about the way things ended with Bobbi Morse. It is a true fact of the universe, and anyone who thinks otherwise is clearly even more screwed up than Kate feels at the moment.

"Yeah, you and her actually ended."

"Nice, neat, and with a set of divorce papers on Valentine's Day." He shakes his head, and Kate can feel his teeth graze over her thigh as he presses a kiss into her skin.

"I don't want to be the reason for another divorce," Kate says, because that's the kind of territory that they should be discussing. His future wife.

The one that he is going to marry a mere 14 months after leaving their ... his apartment and her without so much as a backwards glance.

"I don't love her," he comments, casually, and Kate wonders if, 14 months ago, he'd said the same thing about her. "She doesn't love me. Hell, I don't even think she likes men. She loves someone else and the only thing that the pretty little Colonel and I have in common is our hair color."

"Then why in the hell are you getting married?" Is that supposed to make her feel better? If Clint wants to make a complete fuck up out of his love life, it's his right, but if this is his way of soothing her, of telling her that it's okay to let him back into her life, then he's even more of a selfish asshole than Kate remembers.

America is right. Kate really should kick him right square in the balls.

But bad judgment is a thing that she practices with Clint Barton and always has, so she doesn't.

"It's complicated. We've pissed off the wrong people ... it's the only way to keep everyone happy." He frowns slightly and let's out a little frustrated sigh. "Everyone but us, but hey, just details. And the details make this a marriage of convenience. We've already agreed ... the bed's open. For both of us."

What is she even doing and why is this a real conversation that she is having with Clint Barton naked between her legs? This is not a conversation that anyone should have, much less have while their ex is naked and willing.

"You were alway so afraid of fucking up another marriage. Another relationship. And this is what you want your new marriage to be?"

Clint untangles his hand from her hip and rises up. He stretches forward, and Kate bites her lip to keep from moaning at the way that his chest hair feels, gliding across her naked skin. He has to be doing it on purpose. Just like -

No. That's what's wrong with this conversation. Kate keeps letting herself remember too much, and honestly, what is the point?

"I can't hurt someone who doesn't love me," Clint reminds her. It's her turn to speak, Kate knows that much, and she gives it her best shot, but nothing comes out, and Clint ... Clint rambles when people allow him to. He always has. With Steve, with Bobbi, with Natasha ... with her.

Kate used to shut him up with a kiss. But now his head is between her breasts and she can feel him, still half-hard against her, and she just lets him talk.

"I was going to call. I was going to write a letter. I was going to do the right thing by you, Kate. But then I thought, maybe it would be better if you just hated me, and ... and I still have the letter that I wrote. If you want to see it, Katie-Kate, all you have to do is tell me." There's a pleading note in his voice when he continues, and Kate wonders if it makes her a bad person for enjoying that, because she's done some internal pleading of her own over the past 14 months that she is not at all proud of, and dammit, Clint could at least return that much. Even if he hasn't ever been capable of returning anything else. "Tell me what you want, Katie."


So casual. As though it hadn't been the name that he'd continually whispered, brokenly, into her neck, against her lips, and against her breasts each and every time that he'd come undone in her arms. He just spoke it so easily now, as if it has no connection to any memory of any value at all.

"I don't want to talk anymore," she says, and that much isn't true. She wants to yell and scream and maybe tell him every single name of every single one night stand and attempted boyfriend that she's had since he left. She wants to tell him every detail of every single fuck she's had since he left.

She wants him to know that yes, she might have screwed up on her end of their bargain, and she might have fallen in love with him, and he might have broken her heart when he left.

But she has not been pining away for him. Just because she isn't getting married to someone else in a week .. she still isn't pining.

"You want me to go, Katie?"

She should say yes. She should make that clear. Then she should make it even more clear by getting up, getting dressed, and flying back to New York.

She thinks about doing that, and she wants to.

But she also thinks about pushing his head back down between her legs, digging her fingers into his scalp and begging him not to stop. She thinks about making him whisper Katie into her skin until he has to remember what it felt like, or at least until she can convince herself that he does.

Then ... then she'll leave. She'll go back to her life, and he'll stay here with his.

"No, you can stay," she tells him. Her fingers run through his hair in a caress more gentle than she'd been planning on showing Clint during this reunion. "After all, we've established that nobody's heart is going to get broken, right?"

"That's always been the deal, Katie," Clint says.

Then he's kissing her, and Kate tries to focus on the sweat that might belong to her or to him, and not on the fact that it's far too late for that deal to have any relevance at all.