Natasha settled into the back of the taxi. “Were the ornamental pears bothering you that much?” she asked.
“I thought you were supposed to ask ‘What did those pears ever do to you?’ That’s your usual refrain.”
“I like to change it up.” Natasha leaned forward and gave the driver her—no, their—address. Clint had moved in six months before, but it still felt strange that the place was no longer Natasha’s apartment but Clint-and-Natasha’s apartment. They even had the dollar bill they’d stolen from Tony framed over the doorway. “Steve looked good, don’t you think? You always came back from Iraq looking a little wary.”
“He looked like he wanted us to leave so he could have some alone time with our darling editor.”
“So of course you messed up the pears and we had to stay longer while you helped Maria fix it.”
“I get bored. There’s something wrong with the minimalist movement.”
“Isn’t your most famous photograph of a—”
“That was more about the light than the space—”
“And Thor’s place is pretty minimalist and you never—”
“Dude could snap me in half with his arms.”
“Well, that’s true, but—”
“Even worse, Jane will give me that disappointed look.”
Natasha finally broke and started laughing. The look she gave him was almost fond, though they weren’t a couple that did fond or sentimental much. Their foreplay, as Darcy regularly reminded them whenever she and Kate came over for beers and watching the Mets lose, was arguing and sniping at each other, but with Natasha grinning at him, there was a sense that she genuinely liked him. Clint grinned back.
“The disappointed look is the worst,” Natasha agreed, toying with the front of his jacket. The look on her face changed to one of puzzlement and she patted his front a couple of times. “Did you…Clint, did you steal one of the pears?”
“Of course I did.” Clint’s grin broadened and he snatched the pear out of his front pocket, holding up his prize up to the light.
“Because now she’ll have an uneven number and it will drive her nuts and she will have to get rid of the pears.” Clint used his ‘duh’ tone.
Natasha rolled her eyes and muttered something.
“You know I understand more Russian now.” Clint laughed and tossed her the fake pear, which she fielded neatly because she had the reflexes of most Olympic gymnasts. “So I know when you’re calling me a lout.”
Natasha handed the pear back. “You should open that,” she said.
“Open the…Well, okay, I didn’t realize it was hollow.” It had felt pretty solid to him, but by searching around it with his fingers, Clint found the catch. With a shrug, he flipped the pear open and blinked, his stomach pitching when he saw the ring nestled in the middle of the split pear. He’d bought it nearly two months before, but it had sat at the bottom of his camera bag, which had been the one place he figured Natasha wouldn’t look.
“Huh,” was all he could say. “You and Maria must have been planning this.”
“Steve was in on it.” Natasha’s voice was completely neutral. “So…are you going to ask or not?”
Clint’s head snapped up so fast he nearly broke his neck. “You want me to ask?”
“As ever, subtlety was not working on you.” Natasha raised an eyebrow. “So I took matters into my own…pear, as it were.”
“I could have had a fancy dinner planned,” Clint said.
Clint had to laugh. “No,” he said. “I couldn’t figure out what would be awesome enough to—what the hell, marry me. Make a little boy’s dreams come true so I can be Mr. Romanoff and make all of my friends jealous with my shiny ring and—”
Natasha interrupted him by grabbing the front of his jacket and hauling him to her to give him a kiss, which made him remember that he actually hadn’t taken a breath in nearly a minute. Their chins bumped when he jerked back and gasped for air for a second. “I really hope that was a ‘Yes’ and not a ‘Shut up, Clint,’” he said.
“It was both,” Natasha said. “I will marry you, and shut up, Clint.”
“Yes!” The pear went flying when Clint fist-pumped, bumping against the glass and falling to the floor of the cab. “Uh, whoops.”
“Goof,” Natasha said before he kissed her, and it took them a couple of minutes to remember the ring and the fake fruit.
When they arrived back at their apartment, the cabbie gave both of them a smile and a congratulations. “Though that proposal was really weird. I hope your lives together are very happy,” he said before he drove off.
“He’s not wrong,” Clint said, his face hurting from the sheer force of his grin. “Do you think we could torture Kate by telling her she has to do our wedding photography? She hates shooting weddings. It would be the greatest thing ever.”
“Done,” Natasha said. “We’ll make Darcy be her assistant.”
“God, I love you. I feel like I should tell you that right now and forever.”
The next morning, a text message to go cover a warehouse fire in Queens woke him, and Clint rolled out of bed far earlier than he liked. On the way to the shower, he heard a murmured voice in the hallway. Curious, he crept closer to hear Natasha, clearly on the phone with somebody.
“Yes, he found it,” she said, and there was a pause. “Tell Steve thanks—what do you mean? I know he’s still there, Maria, you’re awful at lying. No, I hadn’t seen that one. SkyMall, you said? Okay, I’ll take a look. Yes, I don’t think he’ll be able to resist turtles, either. I’ll get them for next month.”
Clint had to grin, wondering who Maria and Natasha were conspiring to buy decorative turtles for. He headed for the shower, shaking his head. What a terrible gift. It wasn’t until five weeks later, when he and Natasha were at a dinner party celebrating Steve’s winning a Sidney award and Clint had sneaked off to rearrange the little turtles on Maria’s end table that it finally sank in what was really going on. And, he realized, what had been going on for a long, long time.
When the others came into the living room, it was to find Clint lying on the ground, laughing helplessly while he clutched a ceramic turtle.