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"Barton," Natasha opened with as she dropped onto the bench beside him at the edge of the SHIELD gym. She sighed and toweled off her neck and shoulders.

Clint looked up at her from packing in his gear but needed no words to tell her he was listening. Her choice of name was telling enough about her mood.

She took a swig from the water bottle he'd set out beside his bag and swallowed hard. "When's my birthday?"

"Two months, three days from now," he answered perfunctorily, dispensing with his questions on why she needed to know. If she'd been willing to field questions, she would have called him Clint. "Anything else?"

Natasha shrugged, then cocked her head thoughtfully. "Am I allergic to peaches? I can never remember which."

"Pears."

"Ah."

Exchange complete, she shot him a dazzling smile and he grinned back at her. He slung the bag with his quiver and bow over his shoulder, and they walked out side by side companionably. It had to be Maria, he figured. Maria loved to make peaches and cream.




"So when's your birthday?" Maria prodded her friend for the umpteenth time. Natasha was notoriously stingy about handing out personal information, and Maria had been trying for years to get more than a ballpark figure out of her.

Natasha shrugged. "Fall. Any time I'm in the country is fine. Peaches are a go."

Maria sighed. "Fine. I'll tell HR to plan a convenient day instead of the actual one. Again." There was discretion—a necessary trait in a successful covert operative—and then there was Natasha. It's not like a simple birthday, year of birth excluded was valuable intel if you weren't trying to throw the woman a party.

But Natasha nodded brusquely, Maria's frustration noted but ignored, and headed out for anywhere that wasn't SHIELD and knowing Natasha, that served ice cream.


Natasha was stingy with personal information for many reasons, not least of which was that she didn't remember most of it. She and Clint had spent weeks after her defection poring over her file and sorting memory from fact, implanted knowledge from actual truth. She never remembered her food allergies unless she remembered turning down foods because she was allergic. She had never even known her birthday until Clint suggested they should celebrate it. She'd had to dig backwards through the pages until she found the date.

She ordered strawberry ice cream and found a seat, waiting until Clint inerrantly found her and slid into the seat across with a chocolatey concoction called rocky road.

"So what do you want to do on your birthday?" he asked. He was the only one that knew the actual day. It was a day they always spent together.

"I'm feeling nostalgic," she commented. Under the table, she tucked one foot up on the edge of his chair. "Lisbon."

The city where he'd made a different call—on her birthday, an unwitting gift on both of their parts.

He grinned at her and stuck a spoonful of ice cream in his mouth.

They ate in companionable peace. They didn't need words between them. They had everything else.