Feeling very much like this has been the worst idea ever - and he’s well acquainted with bad ideas - Clint grimaces while trying not to show it, rubbing his thumb over the label on the neck of his beer. “Yeah, mhm,” he says vaguely, trying to press himself further into the booth he’s sitting in. The woman next to him pays no never mind to his obvious discomfiture and leans over, setting a warm hand on his arm. Her smile is mega-watts, too white to be natural. It would be pretty if Clint didn’t feel like he was about to be eaten alive.
“So you drive, right? You can...maybe get us out of here?”
Clint blinks at his beer, at the four empty bottles in front of him. “I do,” he says, because he’s not a liar. He frowns at the bottles, because he’s been a criminal in the past and he’s not going there again. He’s a good guy these days. “But I can’t?”
The girl sighs, looking at him like he’s difficult. Which, he supposes he is. Oh, who is he kidding. He was born difficult.
“Well, you got money for a cab, right?”
Clint tightens his grip on his bottle, looks up across the room at Natasha. She’s watching him from her seat at the bar, martini glass in hand and looking vastly entertained. He immediately makes a mental vow to never let her make decisions about his personal life ever again.
“Um,” Clint says. He might be not-so-newly divorced and ready to get back into the world, but Natasha’s cut-throat ‘get back in the game by getting your dick back in the game’ approach kind of isn’t doing it for him.
“You’re a hero,” the woman coaxes, all beautiful eyes and too-bright smile. “Come on, let me treat you like one.”
Goddamnit. You jump in front of a bus to push a kid out of the way one time and suddenly you’re a hero. Clint flails, wishing he could just be back in his apartment watching Cops like any other self-respecting loser. He looks to Nat for help, but the traitor is now leaning back and chatting to a handsome black guy who is smiling at her like she’s the best thing since home-delivery-donuts were invented. The poor fool obviously doesn’t know any better.
Now getting twitchy, Clint looks around for more reliable help than his supposed best friend slash executioner by proxy. The bartender is ignoring him in favour of staring at Nat and her new friend with a look of abject jealousy on his face, so isn’t going to save him. Maybe Clint could claim he has to go home to rest his broken leg and arm and clavicle and hip, but mega-watts’ll probably want to come with him.
Bypassing twitchy and nose-diving into desperate, Clint looks to the guy sitting at the bar on the other side of Nat. He’s a scrawny blond kid, barely older than twenty-five, beaming at his girlfriend like she’s hung the sun, moon and stars. Actually, self-correct interrupts, they’re both wearing wedding rings. The kid is smiling at his wife , unless they’re not married and are instead having an affair or being similarly inappropriate.
While his brain is caught up on that, his mouth makes a move without permission. “I’m really sorry, I think you’ve got the wrong end of the stick here,” he says, struck by inspiration or something decidedly less smart than inspiration. Can you get struck by stupid? Whatever, it’s too late now anyway, because he’s carrying on talking, and the words that come out next are, “I’m married.”
Dammit, this is why he doesn't play chess. He’s no good at strategy.
The girl’s mouth drops open into a perfect O. “Married?” she repeats warily, like Clint has just announced he’s got ebola, like marriage might be catching. “You’re married?”
Clint nods. He digs his wallet out of his pocket, rifling in it and pulling out the wedding ring that he’d finally taken off nine weeks and three days ago. “Yeah,” he says. “Sorry.”
“To who?” the girl demands, somehow even prettier now she’s angry. Maybe she’s secretly related to Nat, somehow.
“Um,” Clint says. The name ‘Bobbi’ won’t come, because that would be a lie. A real, nasty lie that would make him have feelings. He needs a better lie, a not-as-complicated lie. He looks around again, wants to say Nat, but then that would raise questions about why she’s now luring in handsome-black-guy like a spider with a fly caught in her web. His eyes move along to the scrawny blond kid, and his memory stirs. He used to know a kid even blonder and scrawnier than that, the one who was always glued to the hip of that smart James Barnes kid, the one who used to fight like an alley-cat and stood up for everyone-
“You’re gay?” The girl asks, even more scandalised. Before Clint can add ‘bisexual’ to her vocabulary, her eyes narrow. “Steve Rogers?”
“Yeah,” Clint says. “Um, it’s a private thing,” he says. “He doesn’t like - well, we’re discreet.”
“Steve Rogers,” she repeats. “Steven Grant Rogers? The Captain?”
Clint has no idea what she’s talking about, but he nods anyway. There’s probably more than one Steve Rogers, though even as he thinks it a vague alarm bell is ringing. Something to do with Facebook and a school reunion and scrawny Steven Grant Rogers saying something to do with being unable to attend because of his deployment to some far-flung country. Shit.
“Yeah,” he says, ignoring the now national-disaster level warning alarms. He picks up the wedding ring, holding it in his palm. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, wow,” the girl says fervently. “I didn’t. Okay. I just.”
Without explaining, she gets up and walks away, heading back to her gaggle of friends who are sitting at the back and welcoming her back with sympathetic eyes and arms. Clint breathes out in relief and then jumps a mile as he turns back and comes nose to nose with Natasha.
“What did you do?” Natasha accuses. “Did you tell her about Bobbi?”
“Who’s Bobbi?” her friend asks, sliding into the booth next to her. He smiles at Clint, holds out a hand to shake. Clint automatically sticks out his own hand, wrapped in its plaster cast. “Sam,” the guys says. “Nice to meet you.”
“ She is a devil lady,” Clint replies, pointing at Natasha with his free hand. Sam slowly withdraws his hand, looking mildly concerned for Clint’s welfare. Jesus, he’s making eyes at Nat, he should be concerned about his own physical and mental health.
“This is Clint,” Natasha says. “I’m sorry about him.”
“You were the guy on the news, right?” Sam asks. “Trying to shoulder-barge a bus out of the way to save a kid?”
“Yeah,” Clint says. “That was me, I’m a hero, Nat, why did you send her over? She was going to eat me.”
“Someone should,” Natasha says and Sam chokes on his beer. “How did you possibly manage to scare her off? And why are you holding your wedding ring?”
“I told her I was married,” Clint says. “Not to Bobbi.”
“You’re an idiot,” Natasha sighs. “I give up. Go home and watch Cops.”
Clint tries not to jump out of his seat too quickly, grabbing his crutches and slotting them under his arms. “I think she knew the guy I said I was married to, though. Remember that scrawny kid from school?”
Natasha goes very still for a moment. Her eyes slide to the blond guy at the bar and then back again. “The one who looked like Mike over there?”
“Who’s Mike?” Clint asks. “The skinny guy at the bar? Yeah, remember? Steve. He always used to be with that guy James, and used to pick fights with the bullies. I think Barney beat him up once. He joined the army, right?”
Natasha’s mouth does a funny thing like she wants to laugh. Instead she keeps her face straight and stands up, stepping close and putting her hands on Clint’s cheeks. “You told Bridget that you were married to Steven Grant Rogers from Brooklyn? Captain Steve Grant Rogers from Brooklyn?”
Clint shrugs. Her name was Bridget? He thought it was...well, actually he didn’t have a clue. “Got her off my back, didn’t it?”
“You are a treasure,” Nat informs him leaning in to kiss him on the forehead. “And I love you dearly for providing me with entertainment in my quiet little life. Never change. Please, never change.”
“Not a dancing monkey,” Clint bitches, pulling away and hopping out of the booth. “I hate you.”
“Go home,” Natasha tells him, then raises her voice. “Steve will be waiting for you.”
There’s a gasp and flurry of excited chattering from Bridget’s end of the bar, but Clint ignores it. “ She’s gonna eat you alive,” he says to Sam, who simply raises his beer.
“I’m counting on it,” he says.
“Gross,” Clint mutters, and swings his crutches forwards, hopping out of the bar and heading towards his apartment, his DVR and his bed.
Clint wakes up in the morning to his phone ringing off the hook and thirty-two messages on his cell. He groans, drags himself out of his bed and shuffles down to the phone, slipping his hearing aids in as he does. He wishes he hadn’t; the phone goes from an indistinct melody to a shrieking trill that demands he picks it up right now.
“Wha?” he asks blearily as he picks up the phone, stepping into his kitchen and reaching for the coffee pot.
“You’re on the news,” a voice says, and he groans.
“Nat. It’s like six in the morning.”
“It’s half past ten and you’re on the news,” Natasha says. “Go online.”
“What? I know I’m on the news, the bus company said there’d be a piece after they settled my payout-”
“You’re on the news for being married to Steve Rogers,” Natasha says. “Turn your computer on.”
Clint has to stand still for a moment. “What?” he asks, to give himself more processing time. “Steve - what? That bullshit I told that woman?”
“You’re an idiot,” Natasha says far too happily, and then Clint jumps a mile as there comes a loud banging at the apartment door. He curses and nearly drops the coffee pot.
“Nat, I gotta go,” he says. “I think the angry Russian from downstairs has come back to kill me.”
“Look at the news before you get murdered!” Nat says, and Clint hangs up on her. The banging on his door starts up again and Clint hops around, looking at the door like it’s going to blow up. The banging stops, but then there’s a funny shuffling, scraping noise. It takes him far too long to realise that the sound is the lock being picked, and as he makes a hasty hop forwards, the door clicks and is pushed open.
Clint freezes. Standing there is a man who looks like trouble; his long hair is pulled back in a bun and his stubbled jaw is set like he wants to fight. He’s scowling at Clint like he’s personally offended him, and Clint belatedly notices that the man is missing an arm.
“Um, hello?” Clint ventures. “If this about the money that technically belonged to the Russian, I had nothing to do with it.”
The man’s scowl grows deeper, now irritated. He steps in and kicks the door shut behind him, and as he turns his face Clint clocks his profile and realises that he recognises him.
“Wait - Barnes?”
The man - James Barnes - nods. “From Woodside. Yeah.”
“You-” Clint begins, temporarily stymied by a man he knew twenty years ago appearing in his apartment without warning. And by breaking in, no less. Between this guy and the Russian gangsters, his life is actually turning into a Die Hard film. Though, maybe if he were in a Die-Hard film he’d not be erring on the wrong side of pathetic. “You had two arms when we were at school right?”
The frown turns pained. “Yeah,” he says shortly. “I’m here to talk about Steve.”
It’s Clint’s turn to frown, and this his brain re-engages and he remembers last night, and the phonecall with Nat. Which, admittedly, was only thirty seconds ago so shouldn’t really have already been forgotten.
“Yeah,” James says, and crosses his single arm over his chest. “Steve Rogers. Steve Rogers, and the fact you’ve been swanning around saying you two are married.”
“You,” James says, and steps closer, reaching out to jab Clint in the chest with a finger. “Have been claiming to be married to Steve, and that’s a problem.”
Clint can only gape at him. “I - I literally made that up to get a woman away from me, I didn’t mean to cause a problem,” he says, and then scowls. “And you’re the one breaking into my apartment, I think you’re causing the problem.”
James looks at him like he’s not sure if he believes him, and then very deliberately steps forwards as if he’s going to take a seat. He hooks his foot around one of the stools and pulls it out and simultaneously starts to empty his pockets. Out comes a wallet, a cellphone and what looks like a knife in a sleek black sheath. Clint blinks at it, then looks at James.
James ignores him, and deposits a set of keys and then a Glock onto the counter.
Clint sits down. “I’m listening very carefully.”
Only with his weapons literally on the table does James deign to sit down. He drums his fingers on the table and seems to be waiting for Clint to start talking. That’s the oldest trick in the book though; drag it out and usually someone will get uncomfortable and start talking, giving away everything you want. However, Clint is a seasoned ex-criminal and ex-husband and possible ex-friend of Natasha Romanov, so he knows this rather well and doesn’t fall for it.
Though the silence is getting pretty awkward.
“So, James, you want coffee?”
James wrinkles his nose. Apparently he does not.
“James?” he says, still pulling the face. “Haven’t been called that since I got out the army.”
“Uh, so what do I call you?” Clint asks, adding another mental uh-oh to the tally, because not only does this guy look dangerous, if he’s been in the army he is dangerous. “Other than ‘man who broke into my apartment to threaten me because I said something about Steve Rogers?’”
James - or not James - just shrugs, one shouldered. “Works for me.”
“Alright, man who broke into my apartment to threaten me because I said something about Steve Rogers, do you want coffee?”
“Yes,” James says, and Clint hops over to the coffee maker to clumsily make what might be his last ever coffee if the weapons on the table have anything to do with it. What the hell is going on? Steve Rogers must not be the Steve Rogers he remembers, if this is the reaction he gets from one teeny white lie. Oh god, he’s not dead is he? He’s not accidentally claimed to be married to a dead guy, has he?
“Is Steve dead?”
James’ mouth falls open. “Do you live under a rock?” he demands.
“No!” Clint insists. “I just sometimes don’t know things. I’ve had a long year, and I got hit by a bus and things really aren’t going that well.”
“Eto piz`dets,” James mutters and Clint blanches.
“Oh god, you do know the Russian gangsters.”
James rubs at his eyes with his thumb and forefinger. “Not every Russian knows the mob,” he says. “And I’m American, pal. Swearing in Russian is just cathartic.”
And also intimidating as fuck, Clint thinks, as passes over a coffee. Though he’s used to it; Natasha’s shady background as a worker for a maybe-not-quite-legitimate Russian business has already given him exposure to angry Russians and their temperaments. Hang on, maybe being befriended by Natasha was the universe's way of preparing him for the fuck ups in his life. Trial by Natasha.
James seems to think his options over, reaching out and sipping the coffee that Clint made for him. Clint watches him, absently itching his cast - like it’s somehow going to help the itch underneath. After a few seconds, James seems to come to a conclusion and pulls out his phone. He lays it flat on the table next to his Glock, tapping quickly with his finger and then spins it around to show Clint.
‘Captain America’s mystery husband revealed’ screams the headline, and it’s accompanied by a picture of Clint hopping out of the bar on his crutches, followed by a very excited paragraph saying that this man, Clint Barton, has shocked patrons of a quiet Brooklyn bar by introducing himself as the husband of Captain Steve Rogers.
“But,” Clint says, confused beyond all reason. “I was lying, I only said his name because there was this guy that looked like him, I literally just pulled the first name out of - Bucky! They used to call you Bucky, not James!”
“Focus,” Bucky-James groans, and swipes to a new tab on his phone. “Yes. Call me Bucky if you have to. And look .”
Clint does as he’s told. The headline this time around tells him, ‘Captain Steve ‘America’ Rogers awarded Historic Third Medal of Honour.’ Underneath is a picture of someone who looks sort of like what Clint remembers Steve looking like, but a hell of a lot bigger.
“What the hell?” Clint says, scrabbling for the phone with the hand in the cast. “That is not .”
Bucky’s mouth does something that might be a smile. “It is.”
“He used to be smaller, right?”
“Yes, and then he grew up and joined the army and has developed a fuckin’ awful habit of running into danger doing bullshit heroics. Hence the three Medals of Honor.”
“Oh, shit,” Clint says. “He’s famous.”
“No shit,” Bucky says dryly. “And because he’s famous, the media won’t leave him alone. Nevermind that he’s an honorable discharge that deserves some peace and quiet.”
Bucky takes the phone back and flips to another screen. “And here we have the missing piece of the puzzle. This happened somewhere between Steve’s third medal and you opening your fat mouth, only around a week ago.”
“Hey,” Clint begins, offended, but Bucky just shoves the phone back at him. Scowling, though still mindful of the weaponry within reaching distance, Clint takes it back.
This time, the news tells him that Steve Rogers, Captain Steve ‘America’ Rogers, three time awardee of the Medal of Honor, has upset half of Washington DC by coming out as bisexual and telling a senator that no he doesn’t want to date his daughter because he’s already got a guy he plans on marrying, thanks.
“You honestly didn’t know?” Bucky asks. Clint shakes his head, staring at the picture of not-so-scrawny Steve Rogers standing outside the Capitol Hill in his military dress, expression mildly defiant. Clint spots Bucky standing just behind him, sunglasses on and chin dipped, looking like a very dangerous shadow.
“No,” Clint says. “Oh god, I didn’t mean to.” Suddenly, something occurs to him, and he leans back a little. “ You’re not his guy are you?”
Bucky snorts. “No.”
“Oh thank god,” Clint says. “I thought that’s why you were here to threaten me.”
“Nope,” Bucky says. “I’m the good, old-fashioned best friend slash personal security kind of threat.”
Clint pauses. “I think that’s worse.”
Bucky grins. It’s terrifying. “Pal, you have no idea,” he says. “Now. You free for the rest of the day? There’s someone you need to meet.”
Clint looks at the weapons, then back at Bucky. “Who?”
Bucky stands, picking up his gun. “Get moving,” he says impatiently to Clint, tucking the Glock back into his jeans. “You’re going to meet your husband.”
Half an hour later, and Clint finds himself sitting precariously on the back of a motorbike, hanging onto Bucky’s waist as the bike weaves easily through traffic. Between his various casts and not-quite-healed injuries, and the fact that Bucky only has one goddamn arm, he’s a little nervous. His doctor will only give him shit if he gets hurt again, and he really can’t deal with that again. The ‘stop jumping into moving traffic’ lecture sucks, especially when the doctor doesn’t seem to care that he did it to get a nine year old girl out of the way.
He probably should have called Natasha. Given her a head-ups that he’s been abducted by the world’s surliest bodyguard. Though, he suspects she knew damn well who Steve Rogers is these days, and as such is no longer his friend.
Steve Rogers. From ninety pounds soaking wet to an utter behemoth of a soldier. It doesn’t compute somehow; Clint finds himself oddly eager - despite the trouble he’s in - to meet him, to see exactly how much has changed in twenty years.
They don’t have far to go on the bike; Bucky takes them from Clint’s Bed-Stuy apartment through Brooklyn Heights and down towards Red Hook. He pulls them up outside a converted brownstone that’s right near the interstate, close enough to the Brooklyn-Battery tunnel that he can hear the rumble of echoing engines on the concrete. There’s a bike already there outside the building, a shining Harley that looks in immaculate condition. Clint pulls his helmet off and hands it over to Bucky, taking a moment to get his balance before attempting to dismount.
“Are we in Red Hook?”
“No,” Bucky says. “This is technically Carroll Gardens. They brass said they didn’t think it was wise for Steve to stay living in Red Hook. You know, wanted their national treasure kept safe. So he did as he was told and moved to Carroll Gardens.”
Clint looks left, then right, then at the imposing concrete blocks and steel arches of the interstate, not twenty feet away. “But that’s the interstate, Red Hook is right there. Like, I can see it from here. I could hop there in about ten seconds.”
“So? It’s not technically here,” Bucky says with a shrug, watching as Clint manages to stagger his way off the bike and onto the sidewalk. He sets the bike’s stand down and clambers off with infinite more grace than Clint managed.
“Are you even allowed to drive a bike with only one arm?” he asks as Bucky pockets the keys.
“Why, you gonna tell on me?” Bucky asks, walking towards the building. “It’s modified, don’t look so scared.”
“I wasn’t scared!” Clint shouts after Bucky’s departing back, and then huffs and starts to limp after him. Despite being a complete and utter asshole, Bucky does deign to wait for him at the top of the steps, holding the door open for Clint.
“We’re on the top floor,” he says, grin turning sly. “You want carrying?”
“Go fuck yourself,” Clint says, and hops to the bottom of the stairs. “I got this.”
He does indeed got this. The air-cast on his foot means he is technically weight-bearing, though he suspects his doctor will be shouting at him for pushing it too far. Climbing a trazillion steps up to someone’s apartment isn’t exactly what she’d call taking it easy.
When they reach the top, Clint is aching and Bucky is back to impatient; he pulls out his keys and opens the door to 4b without knocking, ushering Clint inside.
“Hey Stevie, I found your husband,” he yells, and there’s the sound of an answering shout from somewhere within the apartment. Clint shuffles forwards so Bucky can kick the door shut, and then Steve Rogers appears, wiping paint-streaked hands on a towel and looking bright and awake and-
-and absolutely fucking gorgeous. Holy shit.
“Hey,” Steve says. He’s smiling like it’s a photo-op, all polite and pleasant. His eyes are so blue that they don’t seem quite real, and Clint can’t stop staring at the sheer breadth of his shoulders. Christ, his arms are insane, they’re probably as thick as Clint’s thighs. He bets Steve could pick him up. Oh god, he wants to get picked up by Steve, stat.
Steve tosses the paint-rag aside and makes as if he’s going to step forwards and shake Clint’s hand, but then he stops dead, expression going incredulous. “Have you got a broken leg? Bucky, please tell me you didn’t drag him here when he’s hurt!”
Bucky shrugs, wandering over to the kitchen. “He came here under his own steam,” he says, scratching his stomach under his shirt. “Didn’t even let me carry him up the stairs.”
“Oh my god, Bucky, you asshole,” Steve says, and strides over to Clint. He immediately ducks his knees, slotting his shoulder under Clint’s and pulling Clint’s good arm over his shoulder.
“I’m fine!” Clint protests, but Steve isn’t listening and has instead put one huge hand on Clint’s chest, keeping him steady as he helps him limp over to the couch.
“You won’t get another Medal of Honour for that, you know,” Bucky calls, a beer already in hand. Steve just gives him a withering look, which does look exactly like he used to. Man, there’s the Steve Rogers that Clint remembers, buried under all that muscle.
“Shut your hole,” Steve says to Bucky, and there it is again. “What were you thinking?”
“Hey, you wanted to talk to him, set the record straight,” Bucky says. “I just went over and got him.”
“You threatened me with violence,” Clint points out, and Steve looks at Bucky with eyebrows climbing higher and higher on his brow.
“I did not!” Bucky protests. “I just put my gun on the table, I didn’t threaten you with it.”
“You are the worst,” Steve tells Bucky, but Bucky just blows him a kiss and Steve’s expression gives way to a reluctant and well-fought grin.
“Uh, are you sure he’s not your husband?” Clint asks.
“What? No,” Steve says. “He’s my guard dog.”
“You say the sweetest things,” Bucky deadpans, walking away into another room and slamming the door behind him. Steve laughs, a soft exasperated sound, and then turns to look at Clint. He leans back against the corner of the couch, putting one foot up on the coffee table. His feet are bare and Clint wants to stare at the delicate arch of his foot for about ten hours, though recognises that that would be creepy and so doesn’t. It’s not too bad; having to look at Steve’s face isn’t exactly a chore.
“So, you’re my husband, huh?”
“Oh my god,” Clint groans. “I am so sorry. There was a girl in this bar, and my friend tried to set us up, and I didn’t want to so I lied and said I was married, and there was this guy there that looked like you used to look and so I just said your name and I didn’t even know you were famous. I have the worst luck in the world, like how could I have timed that any worse?”
“You remember how I used to be?” is what Steve chooses to ask, blue eyes bright.
“Well, yeah,” Clint says, nonplussed. “My brother beat you up once. We went to school together, by the way, I don’t know if you remember.”
“Yeah, I remember,” Steve says, pulling his foot around and tucking it up underneath him, turning more towards Clint. “You were the deaf kid with a chip on his shoulder. Used to do archery.”
“Still do,” Clint says. “Do archery I mean, not have a chip on my shoulder. I’m pretty sure that’s gone.”
Steve smiles at that. “I dunno. It was a pretty big chip.”
Clint laughs too. “Hey, you can hardly talk. You’d have fought with your own shadow if you thought it was being disrespectful to someone. And I mean your actual shadow, not Bucky.”
Steve scratches the back of his head, smile turning rueful. “Probably would have done,” he says. “Probably still would. Lucky I now got big enough shoulders to carry my chip, huh?”
Clint bursts into laughter. “You can say that again. Look at the size of you.”
Steve shakes his head, hands coming up to hold onto his own shoulders, arms crossed across his chest almost self-consciously. “I got lucky,” he says. “A lot of help from the doctors.”
“Yeah, and I’m sure your doctors helped you get three Medals of Honor,” Clint points out. “Three? Is that even possible?”
Steve shrugs. “I did tell them not to give me the last one. I was shouted down.”
“Throw it in the Hudson,” Clint suggests. “Then you’re back down to two.”
Steve looks at Clint strangely, a little like he’s not quite sure how to proceed. “You,” he begins, and then shakes his head. “This is insane. We knew each other years ago, and then somehow this happens.”
“The universe hates me,” Clint says. “I’m like the walking embodiment of Murphy’s Law. It it can happen to me, it will.”
Steve laughs softly at that. He gets up, heads towards the kitchen. “You want a beer?” he asks, and Clint nods. “I know it’s only lunchtime,” Steve says. “But I kind of like being able to do what I want, when I want. It’s different to how it was in the army. I don’t have to do as I’m told anymore.”
It’s brutally honest, and Clint finds himself a little taken aback by it. “I get it,” he says slowly. “Bucky told me what happened when the army tried to make you move.”
“What, I moved,” Steve says defensively.
“And he also showed me the news. About you shouting down that senator on Capitol Hill.”
Expression turning mullish, Steve walks back over and sits down on the couch next to Clint. “He was trying to make me do something I didn’t want to,” he says, looking away from Clint and out to the window. “I may have been a little rash there, though.”
“How so?” Clint asks. “He shouldn’t have been pushing you. He wasn't respecting your personal life. I mean, it can't have been easy for your boyfriend to hear about everyone trying to push their daughters off on you - what? What did I say?”
Steve’s expression has gone pained, and Clint thinks he might have just somehow put his foot in it. “No, it’s not you,” Steve says quickly, though Clint isn’t altogether reassured. “Uh, the thing is...I’d been in a meeting with this guy who was complaining about the gender-neutral bathrooms, and then this senator started on about his daughter, I lost my cool.”
He stops, rubbing his thumb over his beer bottle. “I don’t actually have a boyfriend,” he admits. “I uh. I’m single. Though I am bisexual, that wasn't a lie. I kinda - I just wanted to throw it in their faces. So I lied, and said I was getting married to a guy.”
Clint’s jaw literally drops. Open-mouthed, he stares at Steve, who is going pink in the cheeks and looking like he’s bracing for an argument.
“Are you allowed to lie?” Clint asks. “Is Captain America allowed to lie?”
“No he’s not,” a voice shouts distantly, and Steve turns to glare at the door.
“Shut up, Bucky!” he yells, looking more and more put out. “Look, I just snapped. I said it and I shouldn’t have done. It wouldn't have mattered, but then the news went crazy, the media were all trying to work out who it was-”
“And then I opened my fat mouth and dropped us both in it,” Clint says, and starts to laugh. “Oh come on, that’s funny.”
Steve swats at his knee with the back of his hand. “It is not,” he says. “Between us both running our mouths, the country thinks we’re married.”
“We’re high-school sweethearts,” Clint says, just to see Steve’s mouth twitch. “Bro, this is a little funny.”
“You can’t be calling me bro, we’re married,” Steve says dryly, and then sighs, dropping his head back against the couch cushions. “This is such a mess. We need to shut this down, but I don’t want to just come out and say you’re a liar.”
That sobers Clint up pretty quickly. “Yeah,” he says. “You can if you want. I don’t mind.”
“What, don’t mind being painted as a lying attention-seeker?” Steve points out. He frowns. “I saw you in the news, you know. What you did, saving that little girl.”
Clint shrugs. “No big deal.”
Steve shakes his head, abruptly looking angry. “No, it is a big deal. I do something like that in uniform and I get a medal. People do it every day and just get a half-page in the paper.”
“Uh,” Clint says, not entirely sure how to deal with this rapid roulette wheel of emotion that Steve seems to have got going on. “I got a payout from the bus company, too. Mostly so I can’t sue them for hitting me with their bus.”
Steve looks pained. “The world is ridiculous,” he says, lifting his beer to his mouth and looking bitter. “You can have that damn medal. You deserve it more than me.”
“Okay, I’m going to call a timeout, this is getting deep,” Clint says. Steve turns suddenly-sorrowful eyes on him, and he shivers. “I just mean - I need food for this type of emotional conversation.”
“I’m sorry,” Steve says. “I guess I don’t think of you as a stranger, is all. I feel like I know you.”
“Of course you do,” Clint says, and reaches out to lay his hand on Steve’s knee. “We’re married, remember?”
Steve’s laughter makes Clint feel like he’s done something right. He grins himself, leaning back and taking a victory sip of his beer.
“Food huh?” Steve asks with a heavy exhale, seeming to shake off the emotions from only a moment before. “If you don’t mind being seen with a chewed-up vet that’s covered in paint, we can go grab burgers.”
“Well if you don’t mind being seen with a once-divorced, ex-criminal, human disaster, then I’m game,” Clint shrugs.
Steve’s brows shoot up. “Once-divorced, ex-criminal?”
Clint sighs. “But you didn't question human disaster. Yes, I’ve got some stories to tell, too. None of mine are medal-worthy, though.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” Steve says, and climbs to his feet, draining his beer and then holding out a hand to pull Clint up. “Quick, before the guard dog knows we’re making a break for it.
“Well when you put it like that,” Clint says and lets Steve haul him to him feet. The man’s so strong that he ends up tipping right up and almost into him, bracing himself with a hand on Steve’s chest. “Shit, sorry.”
“Well, if you can't feel up your husband these days, what can you do,” Steve says solemnly, and then just sets them off laughing all over again. It’s only Bucky yelling through the door that they’ve got a two minute head start that gets them moving, out of the apartment and down into the city streets.
Predictably, Steve takes them into Red Hook. He finds them a quiet little burger joint not too far away, though insists on holding onto Clint’s elbow the whole way there, offering himself as a human crutch. It sets Clint all out of whack; Steve is just so good . As if the three awards didn’t prove it already, it’s there in everything he does, the way he interacts with the world around him. It humbles Clint strangely; he doens’t want his particular brand of trash wrecking Steve, even though he knows that’s not complete fair on himself. He does do good these days, too.
“Bucky will be lurking nearby,” Steve says matter-of-factly as he orders them a couple of beers, seemingly without thinking about asking. Clint raises an eyebrow but Steve doesn’t even notice, just turns around to peer out of the front window like Bucky’s going to be right there. “We probably won’t see him, unless he feels like being an asshole. And then he’ll probably come in and steal half your fries.”
“Uh, dare I ask why?” Clint asks, nodding as the server brings over their beer. Steve thanks then so sincerely that they blush, nearly dropping their tray as they thank him for thanking them.
“We’ve been best friends since I can remember,” Steve says. “You probably know that, from school. But then we enlisted together...a lot of shit went down.”
“Is Captain America allowed to swear?”
Steve just gives him an amused, exasperated look, holding onto his beer with both hands, fingertips turning the glass slowly around. “Captain America can do what the fuck he likes,” he says, and then adds, a little sadly. “Mostly. Unless the powers that be decide I can’t.”
“Bro, I’ve re-known you for about an hour and I already have three stories about you telling the powers that be to shove it.”
Steve’s mouth hitches up. “What have I said about calling me bro?”
“Sorry. What should I call you? Honey? Sweetheart? Dearly beloved?”
“I could go for sweetheart.”
“Alright, Sweetheart. You were telling me about Bucky.”
Steve sips his beer, nodding. He licks his top lip and Clint mentally whimpers. Turns out that his divorce didn’t completely kill his libido after all. Damn, Nat was right.
“Yeah, Bucky. I’m sorry that he dragged you out here, by the way, I didn’t know you were still so banged up,” Steve says, but Clint just waves him off. “Bucky...I kinda saved his life. Since then, he pretty much decided that he was going to stick around and do his damnest to repay the favour. So seeing as he was glued to my side and getting under my damn feet all the time, I just hired him as my official bodyguard. It suits him, suits me.”
“Suits your rather worrying level of codependency?”
Steve grimaces. “God, you’re right. I have to stop talking about Bucky. Scares everyone off.”
“He’s important to you, I get that,” Clint shrugs, and Steve nods gratefully. Clint gestures to him with his beer. “Come on, keep going. Tell me the rest of the story.”
Steve shrugs again. He keeps doing that, like everything he’s done is no big deal. “He got captured by insurgents. We were doing recon work in the ass-end of Russia, and everything somehow went tits up, and we lost Bucky off the back of a moving train. They stamped him as KIA so quickly…”
“Bet you took that well.”
“I may have loopholed an order or two and went to get him,” Steve admits.
Steve shrugs. “Wasn’t about to leave him behind, was I?”
“You could have done, the guy’s an asshole.”
Steves mouth falls open at that, and then he starts to laugh. “You are probably the first person I’ve met in a long time who isn’t amazed by my Medal of Honour stories.”
“You said yourself I probably deserve one more than you anyway, why would I be amazed?”
Steve grins at that, his blue eyes on Clint’s. “You’re somethin’,” he says, and that sounds like the something he’s on about is a good something, and that’s Clint he’s talking about. And Clint may be a dumbass, but the way Steve is looking at him and smiling - that’s not the polite welcome smile he’d gotten earlier, back at the apartment. That’s a crossing-the-line from friendly smile, he’s sure of it.
“I could say the same about you,” he replies, letting his eyes flick over Steve’s shoulders. Steve’s cheeks go pink but he looks up at meets Clint’s eyes, holding his gaze in a way that feels like - well, it feels like something.
Steve clears his throat, looks down. “So. Ex-criminal?”
“That’s not an exciting story.”
Steve leans back in the booth. “You’re going to tell me anyway,” he says, with an easy confidence that Clint finds himself surrendering to without much fuss at all.
“Alright,” he says, insides flipping a little at the way Steve grins. “Try not to judge me too badly.”
“I won’t,” Steve says, and the grin makes his eyes seem brighter. “Much.”
Clint can’t help but grin back. “Alright, you asked for it. Several incriminating stories about my past, coming up.”
They manage a whole hour before they’re interrupted by Bodyguard Bucky. He slides into the booth next to Steve without so much as a how-do-you-do, sliding Steve’s plate over to steal the rest of his fries. Steve yanks them back, and there’s a brief wordless struggle over the leftovers, which Steve wins. Bucky’s beaten-to-cold-fries scowl is a thing of magnificence, and Clint leans back a little in a combination of nerves and awe.
“That reporter from New Press is outside,” Bucky says, looking at Clint like it’s his fault.
“Damn,” Steve sighs. “Won’t leave it alone, huh?”
“You’re big news these days, Mister Captain America,” Bucky drawls.
“Can’t even go on a damn date without them following me,” Steve grumbles, and Clint abruptly chokes on his beer. He tries to breathe in - nope, just chokes some more and splutters and yep, he might just die from inhaling beer into his lungs.
“Fucking christ!” Bucky exclaims, and is out of the booth and over to Clint in a move so fast that Clint thinks he’s maybe a ninja. He smacks him on the back, trying to get Clint breathing again.
Clint shoves at his hands, pushing him away. “Is this a date?” he manages to ask hoarsely. Steve looks very much like a deer in the headlights, looking between Bucky and Clint who are frozen mid-grapple, Bucky’s wrist held in Clint’s hands.
“I,” Steve begins, and winces. “No?”
“Oh my god, you are tragic,” Bucky tells him, starting to laugh. For once, Clint agrees with him.
“Shut up,” Steve says. “And let him go, Bucky, Christ.”
“I was saving his life,” Bucky says. “You want your first husband to choke to death, huh?”
Clint shoves Bucky away. “I thought you owed him a rescue, not me!”
Bucky turns his murder-glare on Steve. “You said you wouldn’t talk about that no more!”
Steve stares belligerently back. “He’s my husband, I can tell him whatever I like.”
Clint chokes on a laugh this time, even as Bucky drops back into the seat next to Steve. “Alright, yuck it up,” Bucky says. “It’s funny now, but at some point you’ve got to walk out of that door and explain to that asshole what’s going on. So either you’re hitched, or Clint here is a liar.”
“We hadn’t actually decided what to do,” Steve says, gnawing at his lip. “Damn.”
“Hey, I’m not the only liar,” Clint says, pointing at Steve.
Scowling again, Bucky knocks his accusing finger aside. “You can’t accuse Captain America, pal. That’s just unconstitutional.”
“Leave him alone, Bucky,” Steve says, mildly exasperated. “He’s right. I started this by lying. I gotta finish it.”
“How? Out yourself both as liars? Tell the truth?”
“I guess,” Steve shrugs, but he doesn’t look happy about it. For his part, Bucky is muttering ‘tell the truth,’ with a look on his face that makes it seem like words are leaving a bad taste in his mouth.
Clint sighs, itching the cast on his wrist absent-mindedly. He looks at Steve, idly wondering that it wouldn’t be so bad to be married to Steve. Or even just his shoulders. Clint would happily live in wedded bliss with just his upper-body.
“Or we just roll with it and pretend it’s true.”
Oh, goddamn it, mouth.
Bucky and Steve both stare at him. Bucky is looking skeptical and like Clint is out of his damn mind. Steve’s expression is much harder to read. His eyes are fixed on Clint and making Clint feel oddly like he’s being X-rayed. It’s fifty-fifty unnerving and alluring. Maybe sixty-forty.
“Uh, I know we should tell the truth, but in the spirit of annoying homophobic senators in DC - we could just...roll with it? I could be your - wait, what’s the opposite of a beard? A guy you keep around to make everyone think you’re gay.”
“Bisexual,” Steve corrects distractedly. “You think we should tell everyone we’re married?”
“Well when you say it like that it sounds stupid,” Clint grimaces, waving him off. “I just thought - we could hang out, get to know each other again, let the world think we’re engaged and yeah, actually, that’s dumb-”
Steve sits up a little bit straighter. “I’m in.”
“What?” Bucky and Clint both say as one.
“If you’re up for it,” Steve says, suddenly determined. “We should. That’ll show ‘em.”
“Steve!” Bucky protests. “You can’t just say you’re married to someone! You’re not a liar!”
A stubborn glint appears in Steve’s eye. “Clint. How do you feel about dating me, with the usual relationship-type possibility of maybe getting married in the future if everything all pans out?”
“Uh,” Clint says, utterly stunned. “Yes?”
“There we go,” Steve says, lifting his beer. “Now I’m not lying.”
“You are stretching the truth,” Bucky says loudly.
“Not lying,” Steve repeats adamantly. “Shut up, Buck, or I will marry him right now.”
“That would still make Clint a liar,” Bucky points out. “He told that chick you were already married. Give it up already.”
Steve’s expression has gone thoughtful. “So I told that senator I was going to be married eight days ago. Clint, when did you tell that woman that you were married?”
“Last night,” Clint says warily. “Are you about to do something heroic?”
“Something fuckin’ stupid, probably,” Bucky chips in.
“Probably the latter,” Steve concedes, and pulls out his mobile phone. He fiddles with it for a moment and then sets it on the table; the outgoing caller ID simply says, 'You know who I am', and Bucky groans audibly.
“Steve, not Tony, not Tony, oh jeez-”
Too late, whoever it is has already picked up the phone. “Cap, Oh Captain my Captain, you never call me anymore,” a male voice says breezily, clearly audible over the speaker. “How are you? Been awarded any more medals yet?”
“Sorry Tony, I’m fine, no I haven't, I need a favour,” Steve says.
The man - Tony? - on the other end of the phone sounds delighted. “You are asking for help? Me? Little old me? I’m not sure I’m honorable enough to help.”
“Lucky that this request is technically not honorable at all,” Steve says, with a rueful grin at Clint. “Well, it’s morally honorable. Not legally honorable.”
“I am in,” Tony says immediately. “What do you want? Are you trying to piss off the government some more?”
“Tony, tell him no," Bucky calls loudly.
“Oh, Bucky, Buckaroo, of course you’re there,” Tony says. “Heaven forbid you let him off his leash. Nevermind, I’ve seen what happens when he’s not supervised. Steve, what do you want?”
“I want you to marry me to someone,” Steve says. “And backdate the marriage certificate by five days.”
“Is that it?” Tony says, sounding slightly disappointed. “That’ll take like ten minutes.”
“That’s it,” Steve says. “I’ll let you backdate me a bachelors party, too?”
Bucky makes violent slashing motions across his throat but Tony is already there. “Consider it done,” he says. “Text me the details of who you married - it happened in New York, I assume? Some Brooklyn registry office? Yeah, okay, I can do that. Bucky will be witness, because no-one will ever believe that you went anywhere without him. Congratulations, by the way.”
“Thanks,” Steve says. “I’ll text you over the stuff now.”
“You gottit,” Tony says, and then he’s gone.
Bucky just rests his elbow on the edge of the table, face in his palm. “You are going to give me an ulcer,” he says. “The stress, Steve. So much stress.”
Shrugging, Steve pats him on the shoulder. “You were the one who decided to be my bodyguard,” he says, like it’s Bucky’s fault. Bucky swats him away irritably but Steve just laughs, turning to look at Clint expectantly.
“Uh, can I have your details?”
“Sure?” Clint says, and Steve passes over the phone so Clint can type in his full name and date of birth and anything else that might be needed. All done, he passes the phone back.
“You sure?” Steve asks. “I figure we play it out for a while and then divorce is always an option.” He brightens at that. “Hey Buck, I can get divorced and piss off the religious fanatics some more!”
Bucky answers by leaning forwards and letting his forehead hit the tabletop with an audible bang.
“Yeah, why the hell not,” Clint says. “This isn't exactly the first time I've been married after knowing someone less than a week. I would be honoured to be your fake-husband, Mister Captain America, Sir.”
“So you have a habit of marrying people you barely know?” Steve says.
"I'm romantic?" Clint tries. "Or compulsive and reckless. Nat says it's compulsive and reckless. It's probably compulsive and reckless."
"Then at least this won't look out of character for you," Steve says, and he hits send. “Tony’ll have that done in no time at all, so we’ve probably got about ten minutes before he calls us back and says we’re officially married.”
“Who the hell is this guy?” Clint asks. “How does he have the power to pull this off?”
“Tony Stark,” Bucky mutters. “You might have heard of him.”
“Stark?” Clint repeats, stunned. “Like, builds all the computers in the world, Stark? The reason Bill Gates cries himself to sleep at night, Stark?”
“Yeah, that’s the one. I met him after my second medal while he was in DC doing security for the pentagon,” Steve says. “Apparently hacking the pentagon on a dare gets you a job protecting it, who would have guessed. Anyway. Shall we get out of here?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Clint says, shifting to get out of his booth and gesturing to Bucky. “Does he have to come with us?”
“You married him, you get me too,” Bucky says, still face-down at the table.
“Okay, but if we get divorced you can have him back,” Clint says, and Steve starts to laugh, leaning forwards over the table for a moment as he laughs long and loud. Clint watches him, feeling oddly fond but also a little bit blindsided.
“Did we really just illegally get married? Is this happening?”
“It’s happening,” Steve says. “Now neither of us are liars.”
“I cannot believe you,” Bucky says, getting up. “You are the worst.”
Steve ignores him. “Come on,” he says, still chuckling as gets up, moving around to heave Clint out of the booth and wrapping an arm around his waist. “Let’s go act all married.”
“Does that mean I get to kiss you?” Clint asks. “You know, for the whole ruse, being a not-beard thing?”
“Oh good Lord, strike me down,” Bucky mutters under his breath, but Steve is grinning and pulling him around so they’re pressed together, front to front. Clint wobbles dangerously on his broken leg, but not-so-scrawny anymore Steve Rogers easily holds him up.
“Yeah, for the ruse,” Steve says, and then he’s blushing - blushing goddamnit! - as he ducks his head to gently kiss Clint. Clint’s stomach immediately decides that it’s on a trapeze, backflipping in a way which makes his breath catch in his chest. That settles it. He’ll happily do whatever Steve Captain America Rogers tells him, up to and including marrying him just to piss off the government.
He pulls back, eyes opening slowly. Steve does too, and his mouth is curving into a smile. “And this one’s just because I want to,” he says, and leans in again.
“Oh god, you’re gross,” Bucky groans. “And the reporter is watching through the window. Want me to go and shoot him?”
“No shooting anyone,” Steve says against Clint’s mouth, and then pulls back. “You’re ruining my wedding day with all this talk of violence.”
“This is not - I’m going to shoot you. ”
“I might. Just a little bit.”
Clint laughs under his breath and hops on his foot a little as he tugs his phone out of his pocket. He lifts it up and casually snaps a selfie of him with Steve, who isn’t looking as he’s busy bickering with Bucky. The photo still shows Steve’s arm wrapped around his waist though, his other hand on Clint’s shoulder.
He copies the snap into a message, types ‘turns out i am actually married to Steve Rogers, my bad,’ and sends it to Natasha.
Eh , he thinks as he carefully slips an arm around Steve, not needing the hold up but quite liking the chance to get his hands on Steve. He’s done crazier things in his life, and he has a funny feeling that fake-marrying Steve Rogers might come with a few perks.