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From Brooklyn With Love

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Bucky Barnes is on vacation when he gets the message, the soothing crash of waves on the beach suddenly interrupted by The Phone. He scowls and digs it out of his pocket. “I hate you,” he says to it, watching as it registers his voice and unlocks the screen.

He opens the message. It’s the usual—a name, a picture, a location, and an amount. His eyes widen a little at the number of zeroes. He’s done jobs for more, but they usually involve more than one person with that amount. Somebody must really want this guy dead.

Bucky zooms in on the picture. He’s nice looking, this guy. Blond hair, blue eyes, good jawline. Kinda pretty, if he were into that sort of thing. He zooms back out and skips through the rest. Target: Clint Barton. Location: New York City.

Underneath the amount is a little box, outlined in green. ACCEPT. Next to it is a little red box, this one outlined in red. DECLINE.

He looks around at the beach, the waves, the palm trees swaying in the gentle breeze. It’s nice here, really. He’s enjoyed it. He’d done six or seven jobs in a row, and the last one was rough enough that he determined a vacation was necessary afterwards. Once he’d stitched himself up enough to not alarm any civilians by bleeding out on the plane, he’d decided to fuck off to some little island in the Caribbean for a few weeks.

So he could, strictly speaking, skip this one. He’s still tired, and still sporting a couple healing wounds, and it’s not like he needs the money.

And yet.

“That’s a lot of zeroes,” he says, thumb hovering over ACCEPT.

“You almost died on the last job,” he says, thumb hovering over DECLINE.

“New York’s got good bagels,” he says, thumb moving back to ACCEPT.

He hesitates for a moment.

Then he hits the green box, gets up, and goes to pack his stuff.

Clint Barton is at dinner when he gets the message. He sets down his slice of pizza, smiles apologetically at the guy across from him, and pulls The Phone out. “Sorry,” he says. “Work message. I have to answer when this rings.”

“At nine at night?”

“That’s what happens when you run your own company,” Clint says with a shrug.

“What was it you do again?”

“Extermination.” Clint opens the message. Name: Bucky Barnes. Location: New York City. Amount: holy fucking shit that’s a lot of zeroes.

He wipes his other hand on his pants and zooms in on the picture. Hello, handsome. He takes a moment to admire the jawline, and the eyes, and the way the guy is smirking like he knows a secret. These pictures are always candid, for obvious reasons, but this guy must be one of the lucky bastards who never takes a bad photo.

Across from him, his date—come on Barton, you’re on a date, maybe quit drooling over your target?—clears his throat. “Must be interesting.”

Clint shrugs, scrolling down to the ACCEPT box. “Just the usual,” he says, tapping it. “Got a new job.”

“Congrats,” the guy says. “Happy for you.”

“Thanks.” Clint tucks the phone away and tries to remember his name. Edgar? Edwin? Something like that. “So. What do you do?”

“I’m a reporter,” the guy says. “I work for The Daily Globe.”

“Awesome,” Clint says, turning up the charm. This is probably the last fun night he’ll have in awhile. He might as well enjoy himself. “I want to hear all about it.”

The dossier comes in an hour after he accepts the job, and Bucky reads it on the plane back to the States. There’s not much there, really. Clint Barton owns an archery course, works part time at a dog shelter, and generally keeps to himself. Bucky reads through the file three times, growing more and more confused.

He doesn’t ask questions. He knows better than that. That’s partly why The Company recommends him—he’s discreet, he’s fast, and he doesn’t ask why. Still, he can’t help but be a little curious. From everything he’s reading, the guy looks clean as a whistle.

His eyes flicker over to the amount again. Whatever he did, it must have been pretty bad for someone to pay that much money.

Bucky skims through the file one more time. Barton’s not exactly consistent in a schedule, but Bucky sees a couple spots where he could make a hit. He marks them with a little note, then closes the file and flags down a flight attendant.

Gonna be hitting the ground running when he gets back. He might as well enjoy a glass of champagne while he can.

Clint is in the middle of banging his date—Eddie, he suddenly remembers as the guy moans underneath him—when he gets the file, which means he doesn’t look at it until the early rays of morning drag him from a well-deserved sleep.

It’s sparse, really. Not much there. Some notes on Barnes, and things he likes, potential areas he’ll be in. No schedule. No list of planned activities. Which is fine, Clint’s done more with less. It’s just annoying. Requires more planning.

He looks at the picture again. Goddamn, this guy is hot. It’s almost a shame to take him out.

Clint wakes Eddie up a few minutes later and politely kicks him out, making vague promises about calling him. Then he takes Lucky on a walk down to his favorite coffee shop. His favorite barista is working today, and he offers her a blinding smile. “I’ll let you pet my dog if you give me free coffee.”

“Absolutely not,” Natasha says, leaning over the counter to scratch Lucky’s head anyway. “You can pay for your coffee like the rest of the peasants do.”

“Rude,” Clint says, but he forks over some money and gets a large black coffee in return. Then he takes Lucky to one of the outside tables, opens up the file, and starts skimming through it.

Lucky paces for a few moments, then woofs dejectedly and settles at his feet. “I know, buddy,” Clint says, leaning down to scratch at him. “I hate this part too.”

Maybe he’ll get lucky, and Barnes will just walk right past him. Clint could pull him into an alley, push him against the wall, and—

“Whoa,” he says, derailing that train of thought even as he looks at the picture again. Come on, Barton. Focus. Doesn’t matter how hot he is. Just do your damn job.

Still. A guy can dream, right?

Bucky doesn’t mean to run directly into his damn target. It just...kind of happens.

One moment he’s walking down the street, looking for that one bagel shop he vaguely remembers, and the next he’s walking into some guy holding a coffee cup. He steps back, narrowly avoiding the slosh of liquid onto his shoes.

“Shit,” he says. “I’m sorry.”

“Aw, coffee, no,” the guy says, looking down at his pants. “Sorry, I wasn’t looking where I was going, are you—”

He cuts off, staring at Bucky with wide eyes. And Bucky stares too, because that is Clint Barton standing directly in front of him. The guy he’s supposed to be assassinating.

What the fuck?

“Uh,” Bucky says.

Barton gapes at him for a moment, a strange expression on his face. “Uh...” he says back, sounding entirely confused.

A golden retriever suddenly nudges between them, jumping on Bucky and licking at him. The movement snaps Barton into motion, and he tugs the leash. “Down, Lucky!”

The dog drops to the ground, and Barton looks back at Bucky. “Sorry,” he says. “He’s...enthusiastic.”

“It’s fine,” Bucky says, kneeling down and holding out a hand. “I love dogs. Hey, buddy.”

Lucky noses at him, then licks his hand. Bucky laughs and rubs his fingers through the soft fur, then stands up again. “I’m Bucky,” he says, holding out his hand to Barton. Normally he’d give a fake name, but since Barton will be dead in twenty-four hours, he doesn’t really care.

“Clint,” he says, shaking it.

“Sorry about your coffee.”

“Eh.” Barton waves a hand. “I’ll get more.”

He’s studying Bucky with a curious expression on his face, like he’s both extremely surprised and trying not to laugh at the same time. Bucky doesn’t really get it, but again, it doesn’t really matter. He’s not here to figure out Barton’s facial expressions. He’s here to kill him.

“Let me buy you another,” he says, inspiration striking him. He’s got a couple poison packets on him. It’s not elegant, but it’s efficient. Gets the job done. Barton will be dead of a heart attack a few hours from now, and Bucky can fuck back off to his Caribbean island. He’s thinking of buying a house there, actually.

Maybe this will be his last job and then he can retire.

Yeah fucking right, Barnes.

Bucky clears his throat. “Clint?”

“Yeah,” Clint says, suddenly animated. “Yeah. Okay. Coffee.” He nods to the side. “I know a good shop around the corner.”

“Awesome,” Bucky says. “Let’s go.”

What the fuck?

What the fuck?

What in the everlasting almighty fuck?

Clint barely keeps himself together as he leads Bucky Fucking Barnes back to the coffee shop he’d vacated less then ten minutes ago. Yeah sure, he’d wished for Barnes to walk in front of him so he could get the job done. He just hadn’t expected it to actually happen.

He doesn’t even have any weapons on him, other than a couple poison packets and a syringe of some knockout drug he always carries. Stupid, really, but then again, he hadn’t been expecting to literally run into his target.

Who, by the way, is even more hot in real life than he was in his pictures, and Clint is really having trouble keeping his mind out of the gutter. That jawline should be straight up illegal.

You’re supposed to be killing him, not fucking him. Get your goddamn head on straight.

He opens the door and smiles weakly at Natasha. “Hey Red,” he says, and she shoots him a glare that he assumes means ‘never try that nickname again or I will murder you.’ “I dropped my coffee.”

“Go figure,” she says. “You’re still not getting a free one.”

“It was my fault,” Barnes says. “I’m buying. Make two, if you don’t mind.” He leans over the counter, drops a charming smile of his own. “I’ve heard good things about your coffee.”

Natasha raises an eyebrow, immune as ever to flirting, and starts making two more.

Barnes leans against the counter, all long legs and casual air. “So,” he says. “Know any good bagel places around here?”

Clint blinks. “Uh, yeah,” he says, keeping his peripheral vision on Nat. “One a couple blocks from here.” He hesitates, then says, “I can take you if you want.”

It’ll work better that way, actually. He can get Barnes into an alley somewhere and make sure the poison does its work. It’s not always the most effective, and if he has to strangle the guy or something, it’s probably best not to do it where the whole world can see him.

“Sounds good,” Barnes says, smiling at him.

That fucking jawline, Clint thinks, and smiles back.

This is too fucking easy, really. Bucky almost doesn’t even want to kill him. There’s no art to it. The poor guy just wants to take him on a nice date for bagels. And he’s objectively good-looking, even better in person than he is in the pictures. Not that Bucky’s into that sort of thing, but still. He appreciates a pretty face when he sees one.

Focus, he tells himself. No distractions. No pity.

The barista puts two coffees on the counter. “Gentlemen,” she says, and Bucky turns to grab them, poison packet firmly pressed into his fingers. He’ll have to make this quick, these are dangerously blatant—

“Lucky!” Barton suddenly says, as the leash slips from his hand. Lucky barks once and darts away, and on reflex, Bucky reaches out for him, turning away from the counter.

“Got him” he says, snagging the leash.

“Thank you,” Barton says. He shoves something in his pocket—napkin, maybe?—and grabs one of the coffees before reaching out to take the leash. “He’s a sneaky bastard, sometimes. Good catch.”

“No problem.” Bucky picks up his own coffee and taps his finger on the cup, trying to think of another way he can get Barton’s away from him. Maybe if he offers to put something in it, or get him a lid—

“Shit,” Barton says, as Lucky tangles himself around a table. “This goddamn dog, I swear—hold this, will you?” He shoves his cup at Bucky and kneels down.

Bucky blinks in surprise, then immediately sets both cups down and adds the poison packet to Barton’s. Too fucking easy, he thinks, shoving the scraps in his pocket. He needs to remember to wash this jacket later.

Barton takes Lucky’s face between his hands. “Stop being a brat,” he says firmly, then sputters as Lucky licks his mouth. “Ew, gross.”

Bucky snickers. “That’s adorable.”

Barton wipes his mouth off and stands, then takes the cup Bucky offers him. “Thank you,” he says. “So...bagels?”

“Bagels,” Bucky agrees.

He grins. “Awesome. It’s a bit of a walk, but it’s worth it.” He turns to leave, and Bucky suddenly notices how tight his jeans are, and how they curve around his ass just right.

Not that he’s into that sort of thing either, but hey. He appreciates a nice ass when he sees one.

Clint, for the first time ever, doesn’t want to drink coffee.

Or rather he does, but he’s wound tight as hell already and he’s pretty sure that adding more caffeine on top of his already-racing heart would give him a heart attack, and that’s not how this is supposed to go. So he just clutches the cup tightly and watches Barnes from the corner of his eye.

“Do you live here?” he asks. “In the city, I mean.”

“No,” Barnes says, stepping over a chunk of broken sidewalk. “I’m here for work.”

“What kind of work do you do?”

“I freelance.” Barnes turns his coffee in his hands. He hasn’t taken a single sip yet, and Clint is about ready to scream. “I’m a museum curator.”

Well, that fits with what Clint was reading in his file. “Sounds interesting.”

“It’s alright. Has its exciting moments. Mostly a lot of hurry up and wait. I spend a lot of time tracking things down.”

Barnes is eyeing him too, little sideways glances that simmer with anticipation. They keep catching each other’s eye, and okay, there’s definitely an undertone of tension between them.

He hasn’t drank anything yet, Clint thinks. So technically I could kiss him—

He shakes his head slightly, forcing his mind back on track. “So how’d you get into that?”

“Curating? Just kinda fell into it, really. I’m good at finding things.” He glances at Clint again, and the tension just gets thicker.

Stubble, Clint’s daydream brain sighs.

Murder, his more pragmatic brain snaps.

Barnes raises an eyebrow, and Clint realizes that he’s staring. He flushes red a little bit and raises his cup to his lips.

Which, of course, is the exact moment Lucky decides to lunge for a pigeon. Because his dog is an asshole and Clint is going to put him up for adoption the second he gets home.

And, just to make things worse, he lunges towards Barnes, and in the ensuing tangle of limbs and dog, they both manage to drop their coffee cups, splashing liquid all over the concrete.

“You rotten bastard,” Clint says, reeling Lucky in. He kneels down and grabs his collar. “It’s just a pigeon! You don’t have to eat every single pigeon that comes your way!”

Barnes looks disappointed, and Clint sighs. “I’m so sorry,” he says. “Let me pay you back for that, that’s totally on me. I should’ve been paying attention.”

“Nah,” Barnes says. “It’s fine. Not like it was expensive.” He looks at his watch. “You know, I should probably get going, actually. I’m supposed to be at the Met by eleven.”

Clint grits his teeth. Goddamnit. The perfect opportunity for murder, ruined by a dog and a pigeon. Just his fucking luck. “Alright,” he says. “Uh. Wanna do bagels some other time?”

Barnes looks moderately surprised at this, but then he nods. “Okay. Sure.”

They trade phone numbers, and Barnes turns, walking the direction opposite. Clint stares after him, admiring the curve of his ass for a moment. Then he glares down at Lucky. “I’m not actually going to put you up for adoption,” he says, “because now I have his phone number. But I do hate you a tiny bit.”

Lucky barks, and Clint sighs. “Don’t lick the coffee,” he says, pulling Lucky away from the concrete. “Come on. We’re going home.”

His phone number. His target literally just handed him his fucking phone number. Bucky’s definitely retiring after this. This is like the assassin lottery.

Granted, attempt number one was ruined by a dog and a pigeon. But that’s fine. It was a long shot anyway. It’ll be better to try again when he’s more prepared. Maybe he can set up a date, get Barton alone somewhere. The guy’s clearly interested, judging from all the sideways looks. Probably wouldn’t take much effort to convince him to come back to Bucky’s little apartment. Ply him with a couple drinks, get him loosened up, then kill him.

Could fuck him first, he thinks idly, then shakes his head. No. He’s not really into that.

He shoves open the door to his apartment and looks around. It’s nice, as far as city apartments go. He misses the beaches of the Caribbean, but it’s been a long time since he was in New York, and he’d forgotten how much he likes the hustle and bustle of the city.

He could stay. With the money from this job, he could get himself a fancy apartment in a high-rise and live there. Eat bagels and pizza, watch the traffic pass in that hypnotic way. It’d be a nice life. Sitting on the couch with a dog and a charmingly awkward blond haired man next to him—

Bucky smacks his forehead. “Stop it,” he says.

His phone buzzes, and he pulls it out of his pocket.

CB: sry again about dog. no treats 4 him.

Bucky laughs. No big deal, he texts back. I had a good time meeting you. He hits send, then winces, because that’s such a dumb thing to say. He sounds like a fucking teenager.

CB: same. wanna try for dinner on friday? i promise no fluffy interruptions.

Bucky laughs again. Sounds good to me.

CB: gr8. you like pizza?

BB: Duh. Who doesn’t like pizza?

They set up a time and place, and Bucky tosses his phone on the counter, feeling moderately pleased with himself. He’ll try and get the job done beforehand—Friday’s a few days away, and he prefers to be efficient about these kinds of things—but just in case, the date can be a backup.

“It’s not a date,” he immediately corrects himself. “He’s not a date, he’s a target. You don’t date.”

Keep telling yourself that, some little part of him mutters gleefully. Bucky tells it to shut the fuck up and heads off to shower.

“Okay,” Clint says to Lucky, tossing his phone to the side. “Friday set as a backup, but the goal is to get it done before then.” He taps his finger on his chin. “I think I’ve got some poison arrows still around, I could get him from a distance.”

Lucky barks.

“Yeah, yeah,” Clint says. “You’re right. Too obvious.” He sighs. “I’m gonna have to follow him tomorrow, I think. See what his pattern is. Guy’s a fucking museum curator, he probably sticks to a pretty set schedule.” He skims through the file again, then nods. “Okay. That’s the plan.”

Lucky barks again, then whines, stretching out on the couch.

“Shush,” Clint says. “I’m not snuggling you. I’m still pissed you messed up my coffee murder.”

Another sad little whine, and Clint finds himself walking over. “Fine,” he says, flopping down on the couch. “But no head scratches.”

He suddenly has an image of Barnes scratching his head, fingers rubbing through his hair as he stretches out on the couch, Lucky sprawled on top of him, and—

Wow,” Clint says, shoving the image away. “Come on, Barton. Stop thinking about him like that. He’s a goddamn target.”

Lucky blinks at him, long and slow, and Clint sighs. He could call Eddie again. It was a decent fuck; he wouldn’t mind a round two. Maybe that would scratch whatever itch he’s got.  

He picks up his phone, then sets it down and sighs again. “Never mind,” he mutters, patting Lucky on the head. “Just need to get the job done. That’ll take care of it.”

He reaches for the remote and flicks on Dog Cops. He can plan more tomorrow. Right now, he just needs to not think about it.

Barton comes out of his apartment building around seven in the morning, yawning and looking absolutely disgusted to be alive. Bucky watches from a distance as he takes Lucky across the street to a little park, letting him sniff around. “Come on,” he calls, looking at his watch. “I gotta check on the range first, do your business already.”

Lucky barks at him and Barton rubs his eyes, muttering something Bucky can’t quite hear. He lets Lucky do his thing, then they disappear back inside the building. A few minutes later he comes out alone, still looking tired as shit, and starts walking down the street.

He stops in at the cafe from yesterday, emerging minutes later with another coffee, and starts walking east, shuffling like a zombie. Bucky can sympathize. He doesn’t really want to be awake either.

He glances down the street. There’s a group of people all gathered around a giant piano, which is slowly being hoisted into the air on a crane. Clearly, it’s supposed to be going up to that giant window on the fourth story.

Bucky stares at it, then back at the slow way Clint is shuffling down the street. An idea comes to him, lightbulb-above-the-head cartoon style.

Which seems appropriate, given what the idea is.

“No,” he says. “That’s fucking ridiculous, come on.”

He ducks down an alley and jumps up, catching the edge of a fire escape to pull himself up for a better angle.

“Come on, Barnes. You are not dropping a piano on his head.”

He pulls out his gun and screws a silencer on, eyeing the canvas straps wrapped around the piano.

“You’re fucking insane.”

He takes careful aim, waiting for his moment.

“Seriously, what the fuck are you doing?”

Barton walks into range.

“You’re insane,” Bucky says again, and he fires.

Clint’s had some weird days in his life. It comes with the whole assassin thing. He’s fallen off buildings, and dodged bullets, and on one memorable occasion, had to hide from a particularly homicidal moose.

He’s never had a fucking piano fall on him, though. That’s a new one.

He gets about two seconds of warning as he walks underneath it, just enough time for the little voice in the back of his mind to scream move move move. He looks up, sees the piano list at a dangerous angle, and immediately twists out of the way, body moving without permission in some long-forgotten acrobatic, athletic-y kind of twist.

The piano crashes to the ground in a spectacular cacophony, splintering wood everywhere. He turns away, protecting his face and his coffee. There’s a whole lot of screaming after that, and the piano guys surround him. “Are you okay?” one asks, face white. “Holy shit, dude, that almost killed you!”

Clint shrugs. “Had worse,” he says, and sips his coffee. “I’m good. Excuse me.”

They stare at him as he sidles past, picking his way carefully over the wreckage without hurting himself. He squashes down a self-satisfied smile and turns to wave goodbye as they gape at him, mouths hanging open. “Be careful,” he calls to them. “Try not to kill anyone else today, yeah?”

He turns around, lifts his coffee to his mouth, and promptly spills it all down his shirt.

His white shirt.

“Goddamnit,” he mutters. “I just bought this.”

He chucks the now-empty cup in a nearby trash can, then strips his shirt off over his head and wrings out the coffee as best as he can, grumbling the entire time. When it’s as good as he’s going to get it, he shrugs it back on, then heads down to the range. He’ll snag a shirt from the gift shop or something.

Hopefully there’s some other choices besides that obnoxious pink color. He hates that one.

Bucky watches Barton walk out of view, mouth hanging open the entire time.

“What the fuck?” he finally asks.

It was perfect. It was a great set-up. He’d nailed the shot. The strap had shredded to pieces, and the piano had fallen, right on top of Barton, who’d looked up at the last second like it really was a fucking cartoon.

And then he’d...moved.

Except moved isn’t really the right word. It was some weird combination of a dance and acrobatic twist, a truly fantastic motion that had turned him just the right amount. It was almost...

Well, honestly, it was hot as hell. Not that he’s into that, but he can appreciate athleticism when he sees it. And it was a good call, really. Bucky couldn’t have done better himself.

Barton had taken two steps away from the downed piano and poured coffee all down his shirt, which was more funny than anything, really. Bucky could almost forgive him for not dying just for that moment.

But then Barton had stripped his fucking shirt off and, holy shit, the guy had muscles for goddamn days. Tanned, defined, flexing muscles, and Christ, Bucky’s got a fucking boner just from watching him wring out his damn shirt. What the fuck is wrong with him?

“Get it together,” he says, adjusting his pants. “Stop—just stop it.”

He scowls down the street after Barton. Alright, then. Time to try a more direct approach.

Clint walks out of the range, sporting an obnoxiously pink shirt that has, “Barton’s Archery Academy” splashed across the front, drawn over a target. His assistant Kate had handed it to him with a grin, and firmly denied the existence of any purple ones in the back.

“I hate you,” he’d said to her.

“I know,” she’d said back, all sugar sweetness. “Have a good day.”

Clint had considered going back to look for some, but eventually decided against it. Really, he should probably get started on finding Barnes. Friday’s four days away, and he needs to start making some headway on this before whoever’s paying for it decides to either drop the price or pull the job.

He catches a taxi over to the Met, and hangs around the outside of it, doing his best to keep a respectable, non-stalking distance. If Barnes does come out, he doesn’t want this to look too creepy.

“Being casual,” he says to himself, dragging out a chair at a cafe down the street. “Casual, casual.”

He sips another coffee and munches on a pastry, pretending to read a newspaper while watching the building. It’s boring as hell. He hates this part of the job.

Got his phone number. Could just text him.

“Nah,” he mutters, turning another page. “Don’t want to look desperate.”

What does it matter? He’ll be dead. You’re not actually dating.

Which is...fair. They’re not dating. What does it matter if he asks to meet up now?

The dilemma is solved in a minute, though, because the roar of a motorcycle cuts through the street, and Clint turns to see Barnes himself parking a gorgeous bike off in an alleyway to the side of the Met. Clint takes a moment to drool over it, then shakes himself and ducks back behind the newspaper, trying to ignore the inherent sexiness of a good-looking man on a motorcycle.

Especially that man. Christ.

Barnes looks pissed about something, and he shoves the bike keys in his pocket before striding his way down the street towards the Met. Clint lets himself admire the walk—it’s like watching a lion stalk its prey, goddamn—before ditching his newspaper and getting to his feet.

The bike is so beautiful. All shiny and chrome, with a chassis that he would probably be willing to marry or something. God, he loves motorcycles. It’s a shame to ruin this one, but duty calls. And with the money he’ll get from the job, he can buy himself a whole fleet of ones just like it.

He cuts the brake lines, then tucks his knife back into his pocket and resumes his place at the cafe. Too easy, really. Maybe he should retire after this. If all the jobs are going to be this simple, there’s just no fun in being an assassin.  

Retirement would be nice. He could get a little place on a beach somewhere. Sunshine, waves, palm trees, guys in speedos. Wonder what Barnes would look like in a—

“You’re not fucking him,” he tells himself firmly, ignoring the sideways glances from the next table. “Get your head out of the gutter.”

He determinedly sips his coffee, orders another pastry, and waits for Barnes to come back out.

Bucky hates museums. Boring, dusty things full of shit no one cares about. Especially art. He doesn’t know a damn thing about art, and he really doesn’t care to.

Still. He’s a thorough planner, and if by some odd chance Friday rolls around and Barton’s not dead, he’ll need to know enough shit about the Met to fake his way through dinner. So once he recovers from his little piano-shirt-boner moment, he gets on his motorcycle and weaves through traffic to the Met.

He spends two hours inside, walking around and making mental notes, getting more bored and frustrated by the moment. How do people think this is entertaining? he screams internally, watching some rich couple work their way through the room. I’d rather be shot at. That at least has some adrenaline involved.

When he’s seriously contemplating non-sanctioned murder to alleviate the boredom, he decides it’s time to go. He heads back out, not even bothering to keep his stride controlled. He doesn’t want to blend in. He wants people out of his goddamn way so he can get on his bike and go do something interesting.

The bike is right where he left it, no ticket or anything. Bucky swings a leg over and kicks it on, then rolls out into traffic without looking. He flips off the taxi that honks at him, and revs the engine, slipping through the cars. It’s immediately calming, the roiling emotions easing in him with every reckless twist of the bike.

The light in front of him turns yellow, and he reluctantly hits the brakes.

The bike does not slow down.

“Shit,” he says, hitting them again.

Nothing happens. The bike speeds forward, and the light turns red.

“Shit shit shit—!”

It’s like slow motion, almost. Bucky looks up in time to hear the blaring horn of a semi-truck, and he throws himself sideways, tucking and rolling. It’s awkward, and he jars his good arm pretty hard, but otherwise manages to pop up to his feet and dodge out of the way of another car. He scrambles onto the safety of the sidewalk, gasping for breath.

His motorcycle does not fare so well. The semi turns it into a flattened mess of metal, and Bucky winces hard, imagining that happening to his bones.

There’s a crowd around him, people clamoring excitedly, grabbing at him. Someone yells about 911, and the police, and Bucky panics a little at that, because the last thing he needs right now is people asking questions. He pulls his arm free, turns on his heels, and sprints away down the sidewalk, ignoring their calls after him.

He thinks he sees a blond-haired man out of the corner of his eye, but when he looks, there’s no one there. Then a police car comes around the corner, and Bucky forgets about it entirely in favor of disappearing.

Okay. Clint didn’t see that one coming either.

He’d winced hard at the semi truck—assassination’s his job, but death by semi’s just...messy, and awful, and he really didn’t want to see it.

But then Barnes had dodged it, rolling sideways in some action movie-esque tuck that had saved him. He’d rolled right up on the sidewalk, popped up to his feet, and taken off down the street with barely a beat missed.

It was absolutely amazing.

It was also sexy as fuck.

Clint’s torn now, because on one hand, he needs the guy dead. On the other hand, he wants to take Barnes to dinner and ask him where the fuck a museum curator learned to survive dives off motorcycles like that.

Reasonably, he supposes that anyone who rides a bike probably knows how. Maybe Barnes did gymnastics or something in a former life. Something not in the file. It kinda looked like gymnastics.

Kinda looked like Clint’s own training, actually, which is...odd. It’s the exact move he would’ve pulled, had he been in that position.

He shakes the thought away and starts walking down the street, trying to think about next steps. The bike had been a kind of spur-of-the-moment thing. A good plan, but he’s not too upset that it failed. He’ll just need to plan more.

“Still four days to Friday,” he says, nodding firmly. “Plenty of time to kill a guy.”

One of the people walking past gives him an odd look. He flashes a smile and moves a little faster.

He needs to chill out. Hit up a sauna or something. He always comes up with his best ideas when he’s relaxed and happy, letting his mind drift. Maybe that can be tomorrow’s plan. Take a day off from stalking Barnes and go relax.

Yeah, he decides. That sounds nice. Let’s do that.

“Careful what you wish for,” Bucky mutters, examining his shoulder in the bathroom mirror. “You wanted interesting? You fucking got it.”

No permanent damage, which is good. He’ll have some nasty bruises, and his hands are scraped to hell. He’s had worse. Mostly, he’s just annoyed with himself. He knew the brakes were fucked on that bike. Should’ve gotten them checked weeks ago. It’s his own damn fault, really.

He slaps on another bandage and scowls at himself in the mirror. Maybe he needs to take a day off. There’s four days to Friday, still. That’s plenty of time to kill a guy. He should find a sauna, let himself relax a little in the heat. He just had a near death experience, after all. He’s entitled to a little relaxation.

He puts on one more bandage and shrugs his jacket back on. Okay. Food, and then sleep, and then spend tomorrow just relaxing.

“It’s a good plan,” he agrees, then sighs. You gotta quit talking to yourself so much, Barnes. People are going to think you’re nuts.

Well, to be fair. He tried to drop a piano on a guy’s head today. Maybe he is a little crazy after all.

Bucky glances at his phone, wondering if he should text Barton or something. A spa would be a good place to get him. Guards are down, it’s a relatively low-key atmosphere. He could make it look like a medical accident.

Plus, he’d get to see more of those muscles. Not that he’s into that or anything, but the man is pretty much art incarnate. And Bucky would know—he just spent two hours looking at art from all over the world. He’s a fucking expert now.

His hand hovers over his phone for a moment.

Then he shakes his head. No. He needs the day to himself. Besides, they’ve barely had an hour’s worth of conversation. It’s probably a little soon for a sauna date.

You’re not dating, he reminds himself. You don’t date.

He leaves the phone on the counter and goes to put his shoes on. There’s a little Chinese place around the corner; he saw it this morning. That would probably make a good dinner.

“I’m going to move in here permanently,” Clint announces to the empty sauna room, stretching like a contented cat. “Fuck, this is so good.”

It’s perfect. It’s nice, and calming, and he feels so much better than he did twenty-four hours ago. The piano thing hadn’t really bothered him, but a brush with death is always at least a little jarring, and it’s nice to let the tension of that drain out.

Clint stretches again, not bothering to catch the towel as it shifts, leaving him uncovered. He’s alone in here anyway, and he certainly doesn’t care about people seeing him through the window. He knows what he looks like.

His mind drifts with thoughts. It’s looking like he’s going to have to snipe this guy, really. Which is fine, he’s good with sniping. Making things look like an accident is his preferred method, but he does what the job calls for. Plus, he hasn’t had a chance to pull out his bow in awhile. He’ll find out where Barnes is staying, then stick a couple arrows in him. The world will be down one suspiciously athletic, extremely attractive museum curator, and Clint can fuck off to his deserted island to swim in his piles of money like Scrooge Fucking McDuck.

Clint nods and crosses his arms behind his head. See? Saunas are great places to think.

There’s a shadow at the door so he reaches down and readjusts the towel, then puts his hand back and closes his eyes. He’s got enough time for a short nap, at least. Get a little rest in before his night of mayhem and murder.

Bucky stares through the window of the sauna, barely daring to even breathe.

That’s Clint Barton. Right there. Laying on one of the steps of the sauna, his arms behind his head, and a towel covering—

Well. Nothing. It’s covering nothing.

Bucky swallows hard and tightens his own towel around his waist. What the fuck?

That’s twice now. Twice that he’s run into Barton unplanned. He’d call it a coincidence, but he doesn’t really believe in those. Bucky hadn't even known this place existed until he'd looked online for local spas and saunas last night, and had been pulled in by the high reviews. But this has to be a coincidence, because there’s no way Barton could’ve planned either of these encounters.

He’s right there, and so are his muscles, and he’s just...he’s made of sunshine, all tanned and blond and there are freckles—

“Jesus,” Bucky whispers. He’s not religious, but this—well, this sight would make anyone find God.

He shifts slightly, realizing he’s been standing here and staring for way too long. Almost as if in response to that motion, Barton reaches down and flicks the towel back over himself. Barely. Just enough to cover his dick.

Not that Bucky’s looking at that or anything. He’s not into guys. Not even very muscled, very tanned, drop-dead gorgeous—

“Stop it,” he hisses at himself. “You can’t—this is not the time—”

Barton shifts again, and Bucky immediately steps out of sight. He’s dizzy, almost, breathing way too fast, head spinning.

It’s just the heat. It’s just the heat, and he’s still on edge from yesterday, and he hasn’t had sex in a long-ass time, that’s all. That’s all this is. Pent-up emotion and he’s just keyed up and he needs to kill this guy and get out of here, now.

He reaches out and locks the sauna door. It’s not the best move, but it’s all he can think of at the moment. He can’t go in there. If he goes in there...

Well, he’s not going to. So it’s irrelevant.

Besides, this will work. Saunas are dehydrating, and there’s no one else around. If Barton passes out in there, there won’t be any help coming. This will work. It has to work.

Bucky’s dressing himself before he really has a chance to think about it, any thoughts of relaxing completely gone from his mind. It’s just good practice, really. He shouldn’t hang around the scene of the crime.

You have to confirm death, a part of him argues.

You can confirm death from a safe distance, he argues back. Just like always. Get out of here, NOW.

He shrugs his jacket on, shoves his feet into his shoes, and bolts out the door like the goddamn place is on fire.

Clint wakes up from his nap feeling both refreshed and way too fucking hot. “Ugh,” he says, sitting up slowly. He checks his watch—almost thirty minutes in here, he should leave. No point in dehydrating himself too much more.

He wraps his towel around his waist and reaches for the door.

It doesn’t open.

Clint tries it again, then sighs. “Goddamn janky door,” he mutters, wiggling it. “I fucking told them to get this fixed, some old dude’s gonna get stuck in here—”

He attempts the usual method, and after a couple tries, it works. The door bursts open, and Clint stumbles out with the momentum of it. “Ow,” he murmurs, rubbing his shoulder. “Rude.”

He showers and gets dressed, then makes his way into the lobby. “Door lock’s broken,” he informs the receptionist. “You guys seriously need to fix that. You’re gonna have a lawsuit on your hands if you don’t.”

The receptionist shakes her head. “I thought we did—”

“Here,” Clint says, leaning over and picking a pen and some paper from her desk. “I know a lock guy, he’ll set you up with something more high-tech. Name’s Tony Stark, he’s a good man. You’ll like him.”

“We can’t afford him—”

Clint waves a hand. “I’ll pay for it,” he says, thinking of the dollars just waiting to be transferred into his account. “You guys are my favorite place, I don’t want you closed down because some old guy passed out in your sauna. Okay?”


“Great. When he comes by, just throw it on my account.” He smiles at her, and she blushes. “See you later, darlin’.”

He walks back to his apartment, a spring in his step. It’s been a good day so far, and hopefully, it’ll be a good night as well.

From a roof across the street, Bucky watches Barton walk out of the spa, looking happy as hell, and he grits his teeth. “Goddammit.”

Oh come on, Barnes. You knew it was a long shot.

Well, yeah. Doesn’t mean he couldn’t hope otherwise.

He sighs and rubs his forehead. He’s gonna have to shoot this guy. There’s no other way around it. He’s going to have to figure out where the least amount of eyes will be, and shoot him. It’s not his favorite method—too obvious, he prefers things to look like an accident—but it’ll at least get the fucking job done. And more and more, he’s feeling like he just needs to get the fucking job done. Get it done and get the hell out of New York. Maybe go to Alaska. Alaska’s cold. That could be nice.

His gaze drifts back to Barton, who’s kneeling down to pet a dog. He’s wearing those jeans again, the tight ones, and his—

“Stop looking at his ass,” he sighs. “Christ, you gotta get laid. Like, now.”

He thinks about it for a moment. Certainly not outside the realm of possibility. Could pick up a girl, spend the night with her, get his head on straight. Might even relax him a little bit, since his sauna plans were so rudely derailed.

Worth a try, anyway. As long as it’s someone with dark hair. He needs to get his mind off of sunshine, and freckles, and tanned muscles. Needs to quit thinking about what all that skin would feel like under his hands, if Barton would arch into his touch or—

He scrambles to his feet and makes his way off the roof. “Baseball,” he mutters. “Baseball, baseball. Think about baseball.”

He walks down the street, hands crammed in his pockets.

He does not think about baseball.

That night, Clint arranges himself on a rooftop and sets down his sniper rifle case. He’d had to forgo the bow in this case—a bullet would work better, and he wouldn’t have to retrieve the arrows. Disappointing, but it’s the right time to be practical.

Plus, it’s been a long time since he’s gotten to use Barry. Poor thing’s been sitting in the back of his closet collecting dust for far too long. He keeps it calibrated, but he hasn’t had a chance to do a real, proper assassination with it.

Clint sets everything up and lays down, finding Barnes easily through the scope. He’s in his little apartment, shades open, apparently alone. He looks pissed about something again, and Clint idly wonders what it is. Not that it’ll matter in a minute, but still. He’s curious.

He adjusts the scope a little, watching Barnes pace around his tiny living room. There’s not enough space for him, so it’s almost comical to witness. Three steps, turn. Three steps, turn. Three steps—

Barnes says something, then shakes his head and drops dramatically onto the couch. Clint chuckles, tightening his finger around the trigger. One shot to shatter the window, one shot for his head. Easy-peasy, back in bed by midnight.

In his scope, Barnes sighs and rubs his forehead, still looking put out about something.

“Don’t worry,” Clint mutters. “It’ll all be better in a second.”

Barnes sits forward, then throws himself back against the couch. Clint scowls, readjusts the scope—

And stops, because Barnes is unbuckling his pants.

“Uh,” Clint says.

Barnes shoves them down to his knees, and he’s not wearing anything underneath them. Not a single thing. Clint stares, trigger finger forgotten, as Barnes wraps a hand around his dick and starts stroking it.

“Uh,” he says again, because what the fuck is he supposed to do with this?

Well. He knows what he should do. He should take the damn shot, pack Barry up, and get the hell out of here.

He doesn’t.

Clint swallows, then takes his hand off the trigger and rests it on the ground. It would be rude, really, to shoot a guy while he’s jerking off. No one wants to die with their dick out.

Not even if it’s a really nice dick. Jesus Christ, it’s nice. Thick, and long, and Clint licks his dry lips, imagining his mouth around it. He wants his mouth around it. Wants to feel it on his tongue, wants to see how long it would take Barnes to call his name, wants to—

He lets out a long breath and drops his head down to the gravel. “Come on,” he says. “You can’t watch a guy jerk off, that’s wrong.”

And so hot. God, it’s hot. His cock is pressing uncomfortably against his tac pants, and he can feel the thrum of arousal coursing through him, and he really should get out of here before—

“Oh, who are you kidding,” he mutters, and puts his eye back to the scope.

Barnes’s head is tipped back, and he’s mouthing something Clint can’t really make out. Clint watches, enthralled, as he strokes himself. He’s taking his time about it, teasing himself, going nice and slow. His other hand is rubbing over his nipples, circling them through his shirt.

Clint swallows hard, not really sure what to look at first. He wants Barnes to take everything off, wants to see it—

As if by unspoken command, Barnes yanks his shirt over his head, tossing it to the floor. Clint’s jaw just about hits the fucking ground. Museum curator my ass, he thinks hazily, watching Barnes roll one of his nipples in slow, lazy motion. Olympic athlete, maybe. Or something. Jesus.

Barnes turns a little on the couch, making himself more comfortable, and there’s a flash of silver. A knife, Clint thinks at first, but no. It’s a hand. His hand. His whole damn left arm is silver. It’s some kind of wicked-looking prosthetic, and for a moment Clint forgets how hard he is in favor of drooling over it. It’s beautiful, the way it flexes and turns and catches the light and—

“Fuck this,” Clint says, scrambling to his knees. He unscrews the scope from the rifle, sits up a little bit, and holds it up with one hand. His other hand fumbles at his own belt, and he gets his pants out of the way enough to free his cock, immediately wrapping a hand around it.

Barnes moans, his head tilting back. It’s gorgeous, and a little obscene, and Clint has to take a deep breath to keep himself under control. “Fucking hell.”

He wants to be there in person. He wants to feel those metal fingers wrap in his hair, pull him around a little bit, push him over a table and open him up for that big cock.

Barnes kicks his pants off the rest of the way, then lets one of his legs fall to the ground, spreading himself wider. Clint has to look away for a moment. This is insane. Absolutely insane. He’s supposed to be shooting this guy, and all he can think about is how much he wants Barnes to fucking ruin him.

Clint looks back through the scope, nagging moral objections shoved aside in favor of watching the show. He bites back a whimper as Barnes moves to his other nipple, toying with the piercing in it. “Fuck,” Clint whispers, drawing in a ragged breath as heat unfurls in his gut. Christ, he’s not gonna last long. Not with this in front of him.

Barnes moans again, his hand moving a little faster on his cock, hips rolling sinfully with the motion. Clint’s fingers tighten around the scope and he bites his lip hard, only just barely holding back his own orgasm. He can’t come, not yet, he doesn’t want to miss a single fucking second of this.

On the couch, Barnes hikes up his other leg a little higher, then slides his metal hand down his skin, all the way to the curve of his ass. His expression changes—unsure, almost, but with a little hint of determination in it—and slowly, carefully, he rubs a single finger around his hole.

“Oh fuck,” Clint says, and that’s it, he’s done. He comes with the force of a fucking freight train, nearly biting through his lip in an effort to keep silent. His breath comes in sharp, gasping pants, his fingers tightening around the scope as his mind goes blank for several long seconds.

When he’s got some semblance of thoughts back together, he lifts the scope and looks through it again. Barnes is apparently right on the edge too, and as Clint watches, his body tenses, arching up off the couch as he comes all over his chest, working himself through it with a steady hand, one finger just barely pressed inside.

Clint makes a faint noise that might be either a curse or a prayer, he’s not sure which. Barnes collapses back to the couch, shuddering, and lets go of his cock, dropping his leg to the cushions. He sighs contentedly, face relaxing into a blissful expression.

Reality hits him with a slap in the face, suddenly, and Clint feels like an absolute asshole for watching that. He shamefully tucks himself back into his pants, wiping his hand off on the fabric. “There is something wrong with you,” he says. “Seriously. So wrong.”

He puts the scope back on his rifle, then flops down to look through it again. Barnes is still on the couch, arm thrown over his eyes as he breathes deeply.

Clint puts his finger on the trigger. Now or never.

Barnes suddenly looks alarmed, and for a wild moment, Clint thinks his cover’s blown. But then Barnes scrambles to his feet, hurries to the window, and pulls the shade shut. Clint just barely catches a glimpse of the embarrassed look on his face.

“Goddammit, Barton” Clint mutters, dropping his head down to the ground. “Okay. That one’s on you.”

He packs up Barry, fingers still a little trembly and fuzzy, and climbs down off the roof. It’s time to end this, honestly. It was fun at first, playing the game, imagining what might be, but it’s starting to get out of hand now, and Clint needs to put a stop to it before it gets any bigger. Barnes is just another job in a long line of them, no matter how hot he looks. Clint needs to quit forgetting that.

“Tomorrow,” he promises himself as he starts walking home. “You’ll kill him tomorrow, and then it’ll be over, and you can call what’s-his-name and take him on a very nice vacation or something.”

Yeah. That’s a plan. He can do that.

Bucky wakes up the next morning and stretches in blissful ignorance for about four seconds before the memory of last night hits him like a freight train, and he wants to fucking die.

“Oh my god,” he mutters into his pillow, curling up in the blankets. “Oh my god.”

He’d tried not to think about it too much last night. Tried to let the endorphins and good feelings pull him along until he went to bed and passed out hard. But now those good feelings are gone, and he’s left with the memory of jerking off to the image of Barton in the sauna, all stretched out and sweaty and—

No,” he says, and gets out of bed with a vengeance. “No, no, and no again. You’re killing him today, you’re leaving town, and that’s it.”

He repeats that like a mantra while he gets ready, brushing his teeth and combing his hair into some vague semblance of control. Then he tucks a gun and a knife into his jacket, and flips open his phone, hoping to see a text from Barton.

There’s nothing, which is fine. He knows where to look. Knows what to do, too. The guy likes dogs, right? Bucky’s got just the plan for that. It’s probably a stupid plan, but it’s a damn sight better than locking the fucking sauna door.

He looks out the window—the same window he’d forgotten to close last night, some professional he is—and scowls at the rays of sunlight creeping over the buildings. “Alright,” he mutters, grabbing his keys. “Step one. Find a dog.”

This turns out to be harder than anticipated. It takes him most of the morning to find an unattended dog, and the damn thing turns out to be a biter. Bucky’s seriously considering giving up this plan—seriously, it’s so stupid, why the fuck is he doing this—when he finally gets to that coffee shop that Barton likes. Sure enough, Barton is sitting outside, sipping a coffee while he scrolls through something intently on his phone.

He’s in black jeans today, and a leather jacket over a grey t-shirt. It’s a very biker-boy kind of look. Not that Bucky’s into that or anything, but it’s definitely a good look on Barton, especially with the lazy way he’s lounging in the chair. As Bucky watches, he drops one hand down to scratch at the golden retriever laying at his feet.

Perfect, Bucky thinks, and sets his own dog down. As hoped, it immediately goes over to sniff at Barton’s dog—Lucky, he remembers—and Bucky quickly steps around the corner of the alley, letting the leash slide through his fingers. He just needs Barton to follow this dog into the alley, far enough that he’s out of immediate view of the street. Then Bucky can step in, slice his throat, and call it a day.

He’ll leave Barton’s dog with that red-haired woman. She seemed nice, she’ll probably take good care of him. He’s a good dog, just because Barton needs to die doesn’t mean Lucky should suffer. Bucky’s an assassin, not a monster.

The little biting Yorkie yips, and as Bucky had hoped, Lucky immediately takes interest. He gets up, jostling Barton in the process, and follows the Yorkie around the corner as Bucky tugs it backwards. It’s kinda like fishing, really. The end result will just be more...bloody.

“Lucky,” Barton sighs, and Bucky hears the chair scrape back. “Now? Really?”

He follows the dog around the corner, and Bucky keeps out of sight, still tugging the leash. As soon as Barton gets past the dumpster, it’s game time.

“Aw,” Barton says, and Bucky leans around the corner enough to see him kneeling, hand stretched out to the Yorkie. “Hey, little guy. You lost? Where’s your person?”

The leash goes taut in his hand, jerking through it hard enough to burn his fingers with the friction. Bucky hisses in pain, then tightens his grip on it. Come on, Barton. Just a little further.

Barton makes soft noises, one hand pushing Lucky out of the way. They’re all tangled up in each other, Lucky and the other dog, and Barton is untangling them while calmly murmuring to both. The Yorkie isn’t biting him at all, which Bucky thinks is entirely unfair.

The leash goes slack, and Barton stands up, letting the end of it trail to the ground. “I got you,” he says, cradling the Yorkie in one arm. “Let’s take you to the vet, huh? See if you’ve got a chip or something.” He winds Lucky’s leash around his arm, then looks at the Yorkie’s collar. “Bitsy? Hi, Bitsy. I’m Clint, this is Lucky. We’ll help you out.”

He walks out of the alley, whistling to himself. Bucky stares after him, one hand still loosely gripping the leash.

“Well,” he finally says, scratching his head. “That...that didn’t work.”

Honestly, he’s not sure why he expected it to work at all. It’s not going to go on his list of greatest hits, that’s for sure. He actually kind of wants to forget it completely. He’s a professional, for fucks sake. This is supposed to be the thing he’s good at, and he literally just tried to go fishing with a dog.

Bucky drops the leash and storms out of the alley, walking opposite the direction Barton went. He can do better than that. He is better than that. He’s going to go home, sit down, and come up with an actual goddamn plan.

One that doesn’t involve biting Yorkies this time.

Clint gets the phone call after dropping off the Yorkie at a local vet. He doesn’t recognize the ringtone, at first—The Phone rarely gets calls, text messages are usually the norm—and it takes him a panicky moment to dig it out and answer. “Barton.”

“I have a job for you,” comes the robotic voice.

“I’m on a job.”

“It’s urgent. Hence the call. You can return to your other job after this one is complete.”

Clint considers. “How much?”

“Five million.”

He lets out a low whistle. “Damn. This an open offer or private?”


Clint considers for a moment, then nods. “I’m in. Send me the details.”

There’s a click on the other end, and Clint pulls the phone away from his ear, waiting for the message. It comes through a few moments later. Target: Alexander Pierce. Location: New York City.

Well. At least he won’t have to go far.

He skims through the file quickly. There’s not a lot there, but there doesn’t need to be. He knows where the target’s going to be. There’s apparently a fancy party on Friday night, and Clint now has an invitation.

“Aw, tuxedos, no,” he mutters, scowling at the black tie instructions. “I hate wearing a tux.”

He tucks The Phone away and pulls out his personal one, then fires off a text to Barnes. Friday a no go. 2mrow @7 work for u?

The reply comes a few minutes later. Sounds good, see you there.

“Cool,” he says, and puts it away. “This will work out nicely, then.”

He’ll meet up with Barnes tomorrow, and take him out once and for all. Then he’ll go to the party on Friday, drop Pierce, and then he can fuck off to his deserted island to roll in his obscene riches. Clint doesn’t normally care for having two jobs at once, but between the certainty of Barnes’s payment and the potential of Pierce’s...well, it’s worth it.

He pulls on Lucky’s leash. “Come on, you. I gotta go dust off my monkey suit.”

Bucky gets the call while he’s walking home. He fumbles The Phone out of his pocket and flicks it open, registering dimly that it’s a call and not a message. “Barnes.”

“I have a job for you,” comes the robotic voice.

“I’ve already got one.”

“This is urgent.”

“I’m really—”

“Five million.”

Bucky pauses, then says, “Open or private?”


Ugh. He despises open offers. Always draws out the rest of the assassin crowd, and Bucky hates having to fight over his kills. That was why he was determined to be good at this, so that he could start getting more private offers. He’s pretty much exclusive to those now.

Still. Five million. That’s no small amount. Probably worth the stress of running two jobs at once, too.

“Okay. Send me the details.”

The line clicks, and Bucky looks at the screen. It buzzes a moment later. Target: Alexander Pierce. Location: New York City.

“Convenient,” he mutters. Well, that’s probably why they called him. He skims through the rest of the file and opens the invitation at the end. Black tie party, fantastic. He hasn’t had a chance to break out his tux in a long time.

His personal phone vibrates and he swaps The Phone for that one. It’s Barton. Friday a no go. 2mrow @7 work for u?

“Perfect,” he says, and texts back. Sounds good, see you there.

This will work out just fine. He’ll take Barton out tomorrow, then go to the party and take out Pierce, then fuck off for another well-deserved vacation. Maybe even retirement. Between Barton’s payout and Pierce’s...yeah. He’s set for life.

He starts walking down the street, suddenly much happier than he was twenty minutes ago. This was exactly what he needed.

Things are gonna work out just fine.

Clint dresses up a little for his date. He doesn’t know why, really, but it just feels like the right thing to do. If he’s gonna kill the guy, might as well give him something nice to look at, right?

He’s the first to arrive at the pizza place—same place he took Edwin or whoever, he should probably get a new spot one of these days—and picks out a booth, then orders them both water. As soon as the waitress turns her back, he tips a vial into Barnes’s water and stirs it. Barnes shouldn’t be able to taste anything, but he’s just gonna be careful. This will be attempt number four, and he doesn’t want to fuck this up.

Barnes shows up a minute later. “Hey,” he says, dropping into the seat across from Clint. “Good to see you.”

“You too,” Clint says, smiling at him. “Have a good day?”

“Yeah.” He sips his water. Clint looks at his hands, the way they’re wrapped around the glass. He suddenly remembers what it was like to watch those same hands as they wrapped around Barnes’s cock, slowly stroking and teasing, sliding over sensitive skin—

He clears his throat and leans forward. “So...what’s new with you?”

“Not much,” Barnes says. “I got another museum job to track down, so...” He shrugs one shoulder. “That’s about it. You?”

“I found a dog yesterday,,” Clint says, thinking about the Yorkie.

Barnes shifts a little bit. “Did you?”

“Yeah. Cute little Yorkie named Bitsy. She was trapped in an alley; I took her to a vet. She’s chipped. Her owner was pretty thrilled to have her back. She wandered almost twelve blocks, that’s pretty far for a small dog like her.”

“That was nice of you,” Barnes says, looking distantly uncomfortable. Clint’s not really sure why.

“Well, I like dogs.” He smiles. “You remember Lucky?”


Clint recounts Lucky’s adoption story, trying to keep things light between them. Barnes keeps drinking the water, asking questions in all the right spots. By the time the pizza arrives, the glass is empty, and the waitress brings another one to him.

Clint takes a slice and watches carefully as Barnes does the same. He should be feeling the effects pretty soon. It’s subtle, this stuff, but it’s efficient. Clint would know—part of his training was to build up an immunity to it, so he’s had it in doses. He knows intimately what it feels like, and honestly, he feels a little bad about using it. It’s a shit way to die, really.

Still. It needs to happen, and this is the best way. It’ll look like Barnes had a medical emergency. The ambulance will haul him off, Clint will dodge questions, and then he can go home and think about how best to take out Pierce. Open call means he’s gonna have to be first to the finish on this one. No time for finesse. He’ll have to hit hard and fast.

Barnes takes another slice. He’s talking about the Met now, animatedly gesturing between bites, and it’s fascinating to watch. Clint doesn’t know shit about the Met, but he could listen to Barnes talk about it all day. The guy could probably go on for hours about anything and Clint would listen with rapt attention. There’s just something so...compelling about him.

Clint almost regrets having to kill him.

Although he’s wondering when, exactly, the killing is going to happen. Because by his count, Barnes should’ve started having trouble breathing two slices ago, and he’s not. He’s not even sweating.

Except Clint must be staring too much, because Barnes stops mid-sentence and tilts his head. “Something on my face, or...”

“Sorry,” Clint says, blushing a little. “I just...” He scrambles for something to say. I’m waiting for you to keel over and die doesn’t really seem like the right thing here.

Barnes raises an eyebrow, and Clint sighs. “You’re really hot,” he says, which is technically the truth. Barnes is very hot, and if Clint wasn’t waiting for the guy to die, he’d probably be staring anyway. “It’s distracting,” he adds with a grin. Barnes’s eyes go wide, a deer-in-the-headlights kind of look, and Clint isn’t sure if he should laugh or not.

“Thanks,” Barnes finally says after a moment, still looking alarmed. “You,’re not too bad yourself.”

“I know,” Clint says, with the flirtiest wink he can manage. Barnes chokes a little on his pizza, then sets it down on his plate.

“I should go,” he says. “I should—I need to leave.” He frantically grabs at his jacket and shrugs it on.  

Clint blinks, because that was not something he was expecting. “Wait, what?”

“I’m sorry,” Barnes says, sliding out of the booth. He pulls out his wallet and tosses a couple bills on the table. “It’s my fault. I shouldn’t have come here. I—I’m sorry.”

“I was just joking,” Clint says. “It was just—you don’t have to go, I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

Barnes shakes his head. “Thanks for dinner,” he says, then hesitates before adding, “You look nice.” He vanishes out the door like his ass is on fire, leaving Clint to stare at the suddenly empty seat across from him.

“Well...fuck,” Clint says, and slumps backwards.

The waitress comes over with the check. “That looked interesting.”

“I’m not sure what just happened,” Clint admits, rubbing his eyebrows. “Uh. He was here, right? I’m not crazy or anything.”

“He was here,” she assures him. “What did you say?”

“I told him he was hot,” Clint mumbles, dropping his forehead down to the table. “I’m a moron.”

“Just a little bit,” she says, patting his back.

He starts to get up. “I should follow him—”

“No,” she says. “Trust me. You really shouldn’t.”

But I kinda need to see if he’s dead...

Clint looks out the door, then at the water glass. Barnes probably isn’t dead. If the vial had worked like it was supposed to, he would’ve been down long before Clint put his foot in his fucking mouth.

“Ugh,” he says, and buries his face in his hands.

The waitress pats his arm apologetically. “Want some cake, hon?”

He nods, a pathetic little motion, and she disappears from his side. When she’s gone, he pulls the vial from his pocket and checks the label. It’s not expired. It should’ve worked.

Assuming you put it in the right glass.

“Of course I put it in the right glass,” he mutters. “I’m not stupid, I—” He cuts off.

Did he put it in the right glass? He’d thought so, but he wasn’t really paying attention when Barnes grabbed it. It’s possible he grabbed the opposite one, and—

“Shit,” Clint says, and feels the urge to knock his head on the table. Fucking poisoned yourself, you idiot. Some assassin you are.

The waitress returns with his cake. Clint tucks a twenty dollar bill into her apron when she’s not looking, then grabs the box and sidles out the door, trying not to make eye contact with anybody else. He really doesn’t need to add to the shame factor right now.

His phone buzzes, and he pulls it out of his pocket. It’s Barnes. A single text, with a single word.


Clint scowls at it, then shoves the phone in his pocket, ignoring the growing feeling of nausea in his stomach. It’s gonna be a miserable night, he knows, and it's his own damn fault.

“You’re an idiot,” he tells himself again, and with a dejected sigh starts walking home.

Bucky is seriously considering taking out a contract on himself, because honestly, what the fuck is wrong with him? He literally just ran away from a date like a nervous kid, and why? Because he couldn’t handle some flirting?

It’s stupid, really. He knows how to flirt. He’s great at flirting. He’s the guy that can walk into a bar and charm the pants off of anybody who even looks in his direction. Seduction is one of his favorite ways to get close to a target. Nothing better than some casual teasing to make someone drop their guard.

There’s just something about Barton, though. Something that makes Bucky’s brain go offline. He’s got such a presence to him, all easy confidence and smiles. And that black button-down shirt looked so good on him, and if Bucky was into guys, he would’ve dragged Barton back to his apartment just to see if it looked as good on his bedroom floor.

He’s not, though. Not into guys. He’s just...admiring. No law against appreciating a nice shirt, right?

Bucky sighs and rubs his nose. “You’re a fucking disaster,” he mutters. Some professional he is. He’d meant to drop a vial into Barton’s water, and he’d let himself get distracted by the story about Lucky, and the way Barton’s eyes had lit up, all bright with laughter. And then Barton had asked him about the Met, and Bucky had spent two fucking hours in that damn museum, so he sure as hell wasn’t gonna hold back, and—

Well. Point being, he had a job to do, and he didn’t do it. And then he ran away like a coward because Barton said he was hot.

You’re such an idiot.

Bucky digs out his personal phone and hovers over Barton’s number for a moment. Should Send a text? Go back?

“Fuck,” he sighs, and opts for a text.

Didn’t mean to freak out on you like that, it’s just that I’m not into guys

No. He can’t say that.

You looked really good in that shirt and it was fucking with my head a little bit

God, that’s worse.

I can’t stop thinking about you and the way you

I think I might be

“Come on, Barnes,” he mutters. “Just tell him something.”

Eventually, he settles on something short and sweet. Something that hopefully gets the point across without opening him up to any other potential feelings.


He sends it, then stares at the screen for a moment.

“You’re a goddamn coward, Barnes,” he sighs, and starts walking home.