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Floral Declarations

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"It's summer cypress," Clint tells her.

Maria is still staring at him with his arms full of easily plantable shrub the nursery worker promised would look good in her new backyard as though he were carrying a viper, not a bush.

"You going to let me in?" he asks after another moment of the staring contest between Hill and the plant. (If you ask him, unmoving non-sentience notwithstanding, it's a moot point. The SHIELD deputy director's always going to win.)

Said deputy director pastes on a smile and holds the door open for him. "Is this for that last mission?" she asks.

"As if." Clint scoffs. "You owe me for that one."

"I see." She shows him to the backyard.

It's a housewarming gift, nothing more, Maria tells herself. Except it's Clint and Natasha probably helped him pick it out and last time she checked (while undercover as a florist), that bush packs a rather distinctive whollop of a message: I declare war against you. She wouldn't put it past either of them.

"Not that I'm complaining or anything, but what's this for?" Clint holds up the package of Nespresso, his favorite kind (that he usually steals from her private stash). "Is it poisoned?"

G—, they're all paranoid. Maria shakes her head. "Just leave mine alone for a while."

Clint grins. "Sure thing, boss."

Natasha frowns when she next digs through Clint's file. It's a regular part of her take-care-of-my-partner behavior and she waves the folder in his face while he's trying to fill out a mission report.

"Hey! Watch it!"

"Why aren't there any complaints for insubordination?"

"Huh?" He looks up, totally confused.

"Hill. You two had a chat last week and it didn't go well." Natasha crosses her arms. "I was planning to deal with it."

"Let me see that." Clint snatches the file and looks through it, frowning. Finally, he shrugs. "Guess Coulson beat you to it."

Natasha looks unconvinced.

Clint feels unconvinced when he starts paying attention and realizes that Maria is being nice to him, too nice. She's letting a lot of his more grating personality quirks go with little more than a clenched jaw and doing little things for him that usually only Coulson does. He always thought her straight-shooting hard-nosed persona was scary, but he's come to a new conclusion in a few days: that was comfortable. Nice is scary.

"Okay, now she's freaking me out."

Natasha is trying to read through her briefing and brushes him off in annoyance. "Quit breathing in my ear."

"I just hit every single briefing pet peeve of Hill's and she didn't say a word."

Natasha looks up in something akin to mild horror. "Are you trying to get us in trouble?"

"Nothing happened, Nat," he stresses. "It's freaking me out."

She narrows her eyes and thinks about it. "When did this start?"

Clint shrugs. Observant in the field doesn't always translate to personal interactions, especially with women he's already written off as inexplicable.

"What was the last thing you did for her?"

He has to think for a moment. "I bought her a plant. You know she put in that new yard. Everyone got her something."

Natasha frowns. "What kind of plant?"

"Alstroemeria and rue." Clint raises his eyebrows. "Quite a mouthful."

"Just give her the flowers, Barton," Natasha orders with a sigh.

"Ma'am, yes, ma'am."

He almost asks Maria (or Natasha) what was up with the plants, but he doesn't. Some things are better written off as inexplicable.