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"Your turn. Pick a number." Nat is draped over the back of the couch, looking seriously at the cootie-catcher in her delicate fingers. Where did she even find blue-lined 3-hole looseleaf paper in this century? Maybe Steve had it. Judging by his wardrobe choices, he has the power to make obsolete items appear in his vicinity.

"Unnnhhh. Six."

Natasha counts to six as she manipulates the paper toy, then holds it out to where Clint is lying on the floor. "Now pick a colour."

Clint opens one eyelid and peers at it. Natasha has written the names of colours in Russian, in pencil, with some ominous crosshatching. Shady shading, if you will. Clint is exhausted after their last mission, but still has enough self-preservation to stop himself from saying this out loud to Natasha. Unlike Clint, she is weirdly energetic after the 48 hours of Hydra neck-snapping, parkour, and casing so. many. concrete parking structures. He's just glad she's venting her energy with grade school fortune-telling instead of something more dangerous to his person. He hovers a finger over фиолетовый, but decides that purple is probably a trap and switches to желтый.

Natasha looks gleeful as she unfolds the square he tapped. Okay, probably they were all traps.

"You will marry... the Winter Soldier! You will have 6 children and live in a yurt."

"That's nice."

"You like yurts?"

"Mongolia has a proud tradition of archery. Our six adopted children will fit right in."

"You're not concerned about your co-parent?"

"Have you seen his thighs? Hell yes, sign me up."

Natasha idly rolls up the edge of her tank top, pointedly tapping the scar on her abdomen.

"What? I can take care of myself."

"You tripped over a penny yesterday."

"And made three headshots before I hit the ground, thank you very much."

"Reflexes: 10. Judgement: 0."

"I'm great at judges! Judging. Judgery?" That kind of almost rhymes with archery, of course he's great at it.

"I'm just saying, if the Winter Soldier is who you're lusting after, you are in a dire dry spell."

"Yeah, tell me something I don't already know."

"Okay. Steve broke that mug you can't find."

Clint sits up abruptly. "Wait, he what?!" Aw mug, no.

"Yup. Poor guy doesn't know his own strength sometimes."

"Why did he have my mug! From my kitchen! He's never even been here." He should probably be more concerned about that last part, but he's still stuck on Muggy Barnes, his favourite non-purple coffee vessel, a navy blue mug with a Bucky Bear on it. Vintage. He assumes. He stole it from Coulson's office, before... before. Coulson was a vintage, authentic, mint in box kind of guy.

Natasha hums noncommittally.

"Has he? He's never been here, right? Right, Natasha?"

Natasha yawns ostentatiously. "Well! I'd better hit the sack. Long day tomorrow, have to mow the laundry."

"NATASHA!"

She wafts out of the room, shutting the door to Clint's bedroom with a smug thunk. Can you close a door smugly? Clint is pretty sure that she jus—HEY, WAIT A MINUTE

"Give me back my bed!"

Eventually he remembers that the door doesn't have a lock, but by then Natasha is asleep, or at least convincingly faking, and he can't quite bring himself to evict her. He sighs, takes out his hearing aids and puts them on the charger, and wiggles in to the 15% of the bed left to him. At least if she snores he won't be able to tell.

=====

In the morning the bed is empty. Clint is feeling uncharitable as he stretches out, stiff from being crammed in to the corner all night. Okay and probably the parkour and the shooting and the penny thing, to be fair. The smell of coffee drifts in and his forgiveness levels quadruple instantly. He floats out toward the smell, fumbling with his aids as he walks. Natasha holds out a mug—damnit, mugs! Right! He needs to—and then a plate with two slices of congealed green pepper and mushroom pizza—needs to... to... eat this pizza. Yesss. Pizza. Coffee. The morning is looking up.

Nat reaches over to where his hands are still idly fumbling at his ears and swaps his aids so they are on the correct side. Uh. Shit, well that's embarrassing. Evade, evade! "Don't think you can distract me with coffee and pizza."

"Distract you from what?" she asks, blandly.

"From—"

"You know, I've been thinking about your problem," she interrupts smoothly.

"From the—what problem?"

Natasha snickers.

Clint glares and decides to sip his coffee strategically.

"Your sad, sad dry spell."

Clint chugs the rest of his coffee and holds out the mug sadly. Hey, the mug! "Natasha, when did Steve—"

She refills the mug with fresh coffee.

"...you stole it for him, didn't you."

She produces from somewhere a third slice of pizza.

Clint glances up at her suspiciously. Her face is impassive and her eyes seem to ask coolly "I'm sorry, have we met?" Clint leans back in his chair and crosses his arms.

Natasha pours a shot of Bailey's in his coffee.

"Aw, hell, I'm not getting it back, am I."

"A super-soldier broke it. Only time travel can get it back for you."

Clint brightens up.

"No."

Clint slumps.

"Now. As I was saying. You need to put yourself out there more. Meet some people! People who aren't assassins."

Clint, peevish, says "I don't know. What if I go to speed-dating and someone breaks in while I'm gone and steals my favourite mug?"

Natasha scowls. "Fine! Fine. Be a hermit. Die a virgin. I wash my hands of it."

"I'm not a virgin!"

He realizes too late that he has made a tactical error. Even if Natasha hadn't seen him carry out half a dozen honey-pot missions over the years, which she absolutely has, she has drinks with his ex-wife semi-regularly. This is totally a trap. He switches tacks.

"Or a hermit! I talk to my tenants—" usually while he's fixing their sinks and apologizing for how shitty their plumbing is after decades of neglect by the previous landlord, but it's conversation, jeez. "and I get pizza delivery! From other humans! Hermits don't get pizza delivery."

"So are you going to ask out the old lady on the first floor, or the pizza guy?"

"Well she sold me out to the tracksuit draculas, so uh, not her."

"Wait, and you didn't evict her?"

"Aw, she's like, 95!"

"Oh my god, Clint."

"I got Kate to evict her."

"Oh my god, Clint."

"So uh... pizza guy it is? I mean, it's kind of a 70s porn cliché, but I have the corduroy to pull that off."

Natasha grins evilly. Hang on a minute, that's not good. Is this a trap? "I mean, no pizza guy! Not asking any pizza guy out. Nope."

Nat grins harder. Oh snap, maybe that was the trap.

"Twenty bucks says you chicken out."

"You're on! I—wait, I just said I wasn't going to—Hey!"

Natasha pauses in the act of removing a twenty-dollar bill from Clint's wallet, which incidentally is now in her hand. "What? You clearly just chickened out."

Clint snatches his wallet and cash back with a huff. "Well I just unchickened then. I'm like, a reverse chicken. A chicken black hole."

Natasha looks dubious. "I know you technically own a farm," Well, more of a safehouse in Iowa with a barn on top, but sure, "...but I don't think that's how chickens work."

Clint rolls his eyes. "Do you want to do this, or not?"

"Mmm.... okay. But I'm ordering the pizza, tonight, and I'm not telling you from where. You show me a take-out menu with the guy's number on it tomorrow and you'll win your twenty bucks back."

Clint, alarmed, looks in his wallet. If he were a cartoon, a moth would be flying out of it. The twenty is gone again. "Now how am I s'posed to pay for the pizza?!"

Natasha throws a penny at him, and he catches it automatically, and tosses it over his shoulder in to the change jar. It hits dead-centre with a satisfying "ting!" He blinks, allowing his brain time to catch up to his hands, and looks back at the jar. Oh. Right.

The jar has a piece of duct tape on the side with FOR DRUNK FOOD ONLY scrawled in permanent marker on it; besides the mountain of assorted coins there are a couple twenties, a small family of Lincolns, and, hidden under a 200 złoty note, a hundred dollar bill. Yeah, he'll probably want to be, if not drunk, at least fashionably tipsy for this.

He looks back at Nat. "Fine. You're on."

She smiles and walks over to the kitchen, pulls out the junk drawer, and confiscates all the menus crammed inside.

"Hey, that's a carefully curated collection!"

"You can have them back after I win. And it had better be a real phone number. I'll check."

"What if I ask but he breaks my heart and says no?"

"Oh you'll be fine, flex your biceps."

"What if the pizza delivery guy isn't a pizza delivery gay?"

"Could still be a pizza delivery bi."

Clint tries not to laugh.

"Eh? Get it? Pizza-delivery bi?"

Clint cracks and starts giggling. "You're a dork."

"No, you're a dork." Natasha kisses him on the cheek. "I'll settle for proof that you asked. If they're straight or just have bad taste, get them to let you down easy in writing."

Yeah 'cause THAT's smooth. But whatever. His honour is at stake now. "You're going DOWN. And so am I. On a hot guy. Probably."

Natasha rolls her eyes and tucks the menus in to a classy leather portfolio and heads out the door.

=====

Bucky runs his fingers over the pottery shards again, lost in thought. He hadn't even remembered Bucky Bears before; and while it was hardly the most traumatic memory he'd regained to date, he honestly could have skipped reacquainting himself with the publicity stunts involving himself in snug red tights from days of yore. Why did Steve have a Bucky Bear mug? Okay, no, wrong question; he had it because Natalia had given it to him; Bucky had seen her deliver it. No, the question was: Why did Steve smash it? Was this a message for him? Should he stay away? He was already staying away, but now that he was—maybe?—being told to do so, some mulish core part of him was resisting. When Steve tells him to stay away, it's always because he's about to do something stupid and dangerous, and that's when he needs Bucky most.

Probably.

That's how it used to be, anyway.

God, second-guessing is getting old. Everything is a horrible logic problem with half the clues missing with his mind the way it is. No, he needs more information.

Bucky Bears are a relic mostly—thankfully—lost to the years. So where did Natalia get the mug?

=====

Clint is getting antsy. It's 7pm and no pizza yet. He's not sure if Nat is busy looking for the most ridiculous option among the delivery drivers of Brooklyn or is just aiming for an 11:59pm delivery to mess with him, but either way he's:

1. Screwed,
2. But sadly not literally, at least not yet, and
3. Hungry.

He throws together a kale, goat cheese and dried cranberry salad to tide him over, whipping up a balsamic vinaigrette with fresh tarragon from his kitchen herb pots. In his hermitude, NOT THAT HE'S A HERMIT, NATASHA, he's developed in to quite a skilled cook. Maybe the delivery gay—er, guy, will notice his appetizer course and be super impressed?

Nah, plan A, flex his biceps, is probably still the way to go. This salad is going to be fucking tasty but... dem pipes. He's admiring himself in the mirror, wondering whether to make some croutons, when the door buzzer rings. Finally! Time to pitch some woo, and then hopefully pitch a tent in his pants.

=====

Natalia is secretive, but tracking down the source of the mug is surprisingly easy: Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, who has taken to Instagram to bemoan the demise of his favourite mug. His favourite mug was Bucky Bear? Weirdo. Or is this part of one of the Widow's plans, with or without Steve, to send him a message? She's a subtle one.

Bucky still needs more information.

Barton's instagram is helpful here, too. He orders pizza 4 to 5 times a week from the same two or three places. Bucky bugs their ordering systems, and it's not long until he has a hit. An... opportunity to pose as an undercover pizza delivery guy, not a hit. He's not going to kill anyone over pizza today.

"That's a relief!" spits out the pizza delivery guy, just before Bucky slaps some duct tape over his mouth.

He's not super clear on whether the dude's outfit is part of a uniform, but just in case, he swaps in to the pizza guy's shirt, a faux-silk number with tigers and hibiscus flowers, along with a beige fanny pack stuffed with menus, loose change and small bills. He doesn't have time to grow a weedy little mustache to match buddy's facial hair, but that can't be a required part of the dress code. No one could possibly choose that manky chin caterpillar as a professional trademark. Could they? Well, no point worrying now.

He drops the pizza guy off at a small apartment behind a Russian grocery in Brighton Beach, passing over a few crisp bills to the babushka who answers.

"Let him go in six hours. Have Dima drop him here," instructs Bucky, handing over a take-out menu with the address circled.

"Should I rough him up, Зима?" she teases back, directing Bucky to set him down on a floral sofa with plastic arm covers.

"Is that what you call having tea with you, now?"

She grins and turns to the pizza guy, who is looking very pale behind his duct tape gag and blindfold. "You will help me make biscuits, malchik!" She pats his cheeks.

Pizza guy makes a confused whining sound like a lost puppy.

"Благодарю вас, Vera," says Bucky, kissing her cheek gratefully. He slips a finger under the bandana covering the man's eyes, then pauses, glancing over at Vera and lifting an eyebrow in question.

"No! Leave blindfold."

"As you wish." Bucky shrugs, dropping his hand. "Почему?"

She grins wickedly and leans in close. "So he cannot see secret biscuit recipe."

=====

The pizza is still mostly warm by the time Bucky gets back to Barton's block. He squares up his shoulders anxiously in the decrepit elevator up to his floor. This is an intel gathering mission and Barton is a professional. Bucky will need to be smooth to get an opportunity to find out about the mug.

Headshots from 2 miles away are in Bucky's comfort zone. Amateur theatrics: less so. The Winter Soldier occasionally worked undercover, but mostly Hydra had used him as a powerful but straightforward weapon. Point. Shoot. If they needed infiltration and trickery, there were the Widows, or one of SHIELD's field agents.

Now Bucky's up against both.

He takes a deep breath. He can do this. First step will be finding a way in to the apartment. He'll need Barton to remain conscious for questioning, so social finesse will have to be the way to go. Fake a bathroom emergency? Hmm.

He knocks; almost the second his knuckles touch the wood the door is flung open, revealing a shirtless Clint Barton, panting heavily. "Pizza guy! Want to come in?"

Well. Well that.

That was easy.

=====

Holy shit, pizza guy is stacked. And he came in! Oh this is worth all the teasing Natasha will heap on him, he is getting so laid tonight. Probably. Pizza guy looks a little stunned. Is that good? Or? He's staring at... oh fuck, Clint is still flexing.

He twitches his bicep one last time, trying to casually parlay it in to scratching his head. Pizza guy is just blinking, handsomely.

It turns out blinking handsomely is a thing you can do. This guy's FACE, wow. The jaw. The eyes. The eyes... look familiar? Why does he look familiar? No, no, settle down, Clint, he's probably just delivered pizza to you before.

"Want some... uh... pizza?" he offers. Pizza? Really? "Um, you're probably sick of pizza actually. I have, I made a salad! For you. I mean." Oh my god, this right here is why Clint hasn't gotten laid in so long. His flirting game is not on point. His flirting game is a third-hand copy of Monopoly missing all the tokens, with masking tape on the box saying FIFTY CENTS at a garage sale.

"Salad!" blurts out pizza guy. "Yes! Salad. I love... salad. I'll just... the bathroom. Real quick. First. I." and darts in to the hall closet, and then, realizing it isn't the bathroom, in to the actual bathroom.

Oh my god. Pizza guy is not only cute, he's just as hopeless as Clint. This is perfect. He is going to owe Natasha large and he doesn't even care, this is amazing.

Clint rushes to the kitchen and puts the salad in to a non-plastic bowl and transfers the pizza to an actual serving plate because he's classy like that, at least as far as Pizza Guy knows. There is a slight delay while he removes cobwebs and dust from the classy serving plate. He arranges everything nicely on the coffee table along with a couple of cold beers, and goes to undo an extra button or two on his shirt, seductive-like, only to realize that he isn't wearing a shirt. Oops. Well, even better. Pizza guy has already bought half the sales pitch if he looked at shirtless Clint and decided to come in. Aw yeah, this is in the bag.

=====

Bucky catches his breath in the bathroom after taking a quick picture of the contents of Barton's hall closet in an act of panic-surveillance. His mission instincts are not helping him tonight. He puts his head in his hands and breathes deeply for a minute, trying to calm down. The hibiscus/tiger shirt smells like cheap cigarettes, and he almost takes it off—Barton has no shirt, maybe this is an American etiquette thing these days? Maybe? Yeahhhh, no—but realizes in time that showing off his metal arm would kind of give the game away.

Okay. Okay. Heart rate nominal. Respiration rate high-normal. Time to deploy interrogation routine. Non-fatal interrogation routine. Subtle non-fatal interrogation routine. It's a mug, he can find out about a mug.

He flings the door open a little too hard and strides confidently to the living room, where dinner is arrayed on the coffee table and Barton is draped over the couch with a rose in his teeth.

Bucky blinks.

"Do you have any coffee mugs?"

Oh fuck, what happened to subtle?

Barton frowns in confusion, accidentally biting through the stem of the rose. He tosses it aside.

"Coffee! Do you have coffee. I mean. To go with. This lovely meal." Bucky winks, some long-buried suave instinct bubbling up to try to save him.

Barton brightens. "Do I! I have great coffee! I'll be right back." He tumbles off the couch like a puppy dog with six legs, and scampers, there is no other word for it, he scampers to the kitchen. After a few minutes he returns with a french press, two mugs, and coasters that look like targets.

"It'll be done brewing in a couple minutes. You take cream and sugar?"

"Sugar, please." Barton pulls some McDonald's sugar packets out of the pocket of his jeans and hands them over happily, passing Bucky one of the mugs. It's purple and says MARMALADE IS MY JAM. No Bucky Bear. Barton presses the coffee and pours Bucky a cup, them fills his own mug. Bucky peers over surreptitiously to look at this mug, to see if...

Barton is holding the mug up to face him, angled so the full text is visible: I'M GREAT AT BOW JOBS

Bucky gulps his coffee down in one long drink. Is that. Is that so.

Bucky is turning red and having increasing difficulty in holding on to his mission objective. Fuck, Barton is good. Focus, Barnes, focus. It's important to...

To...

Shit, why is this important? Bucky has a moment of cosmic smallness as he realizes he has full-on kidnapped a person to infiltrate a spy's safehouse to find out about... a mug with a cartoon bear on it. Maybe this is... a bit of an overreaction? He has a sinking feeling that he has flunked at normal, again, hard. Fuck. He's never going to... he's just...

Barton has hurriedly set down his mug. "Aw, mug no. I'm sorry. Was that too much? I don't mean to pressure you. I..."

Bucky blinks. "What?"

Barton waves at the mug. "The... sex joke? And the shirtlessness and the... look, my friend bet me I couldn't..." He trails off and puts his head in his hands. "Oh my god I am the worst. I'm so sorry, hot pizza guy."

Bucky blinks some more. "What?"

"I mean, pizza guy whose beauty I would never objectify? Although you are super beautiful, don't get me wrong, I'm just trying not to... oh my god, I am just making this worse, aren't I."

Okay, maybe Barton isn't a master interrogator. Maybe he's just... cuddly? Maybe all his mugs are stupid, the Bucky Bear one was a coincidence, and Bucky is... Bucky is sitting next to a hot guy with no shirt who seems to be flirting with him and maybe Bucky should like, pay attention to that in a non-military fashion.

Bucky sets down his mug and takes off his right glove, then tentatively reaches over to tip Barton's chin up. "Um."

Barton looks up, eyes full of stars and hope and dread and wow, they are very, very pretty eyes. Bucky did not notice that in his pre-mission reconnaissance.

"Yeah?"

Right, Bucky's turn to talk. "You're not... making things worse. I'm just. Um. Shy?"

Barton's turn to blink. "I'm not? You are? You mean..." He sits up straight, plucking Bucky's hand off his chin but keeping it tucked gently in his own hand, rubbing a thumb over it. "Hi, hot pizza guy. My name's Clint. Want to have dinner and possibly make out?"

Bucky realizes he's been staring at Barto... Clint. At Clint. He realizes he's been staring at him for almost a minute when Clint's face falls again and he releases Bucky's hand. Bucky raises his hands placatingly. "Yes! Yes. Um. That. Only..."

"Only...?" Clint sounds a bit panicked.

"Only," Bucky repeats, "I'm not actually hungry."

Clint stares at him blankly for a moment, doing the math, then the sun comes out on his face and his smile is unfairly nice to look at, and Bucky is looking at his lips so intently he almost doesn't catch the words they're producing, but—

"So we should skip to the possibly making out part?"

Bucky looks up, and he tries to answer, he really does, but his mouth is suddenly dry and he just nods, shyly, and dips his head down, demurely, and what is he, a teenaged girl now? Or... are teenaged girls even demure these days, actually? Maybe they never were, if his fuzzy memories of his own sisters are any indication.

Whatever, whatever, Clint is eating it up, roll with it, Barnes, and oh hey, now they're kissing, and this is.

This is.

Oh hell yeah, this sure is.

Clint's hand is drifting around his hip, caressing the outer edge of his thigh idly, then creeping up to gently slip under the hem of his shirt. Bucky is so aware of that square inch of skin right now, and normally A Random Patch Of Lower Back wouldn't rate in his top ten list but it's like a line of fire or sparks or stars is being laid down everywhere that Clint's fingers touch. Bucky's forehead is leaning against Clint's, and he's absently broken off the kiss to gasp in to Clint's mouth. Encouraged, Clint grins and his other hand joins in on the other side, gently stroking and exploring and slowly rucking up Bucky's shirt—

Oh no. Oh no no no. He's about to—Bucky has not thought this through. He stands up in a hurry, dumping Clint off the couch by accident as he does so. Clint does a backward somersault and lands on his feet and makes a gymnast's victory pose seemingly on autopilot, then shoots an anguished look at Bucky, or tries to at any rate, except Bucky has panicked and fled back to the hall closet he walked in to earlier, slamming the door behind him.

Bucky leans against the door, panting and sweating and fuck, fuck, fuck, everything is so screwed up, he is so bad at this, whatever this even is. He thought it was an intel gathering mission, and then he thought it was maybe a date and now he just thinks he's fucked up both things and he is a failure at being a normal human and a failure at being an enhanced operative and maybe he should just give up on trying to become anything, he's never going to—

"Uh... pizza guy? Are you okay?"

=====

Clint has been party to a wide variety of romantic disasters, large and small, from spilling ice down the back of a first date's pants that one time all the way up to his calamitous and extremely brief marriage and subsequent divorce. But no one's ever actually run away screaming from him before. Well okay lots of people have, but that was for work. And okay, pizza guy's not screaming, but he was clearly pretty upset and now he's hiding in the closet. This is possibly a new low.

Clint panics a bit and googles "MY DATE IS IN THE CLOSET WHAT DO I DO" and gets a bunch of results with advice on how to tell your parents you're gay, which is not actually that helpful in this non-metaphorical closet situation. He tosses his unhelpful phone on the couch and heads to the closet door. There's no answer when he asks if pizza guy is okay, but his frantic panting changes to a nervous silence. Is he holding his breath? Well. That's a... response at least?

"I'm sorry for whatever I did to make you uncomfortable?"

No reply.

"I've uh, never had someone hide in my closet before. Well on a date I mean, there was this one shootout with the tracksuit draculas, but that was really not romantic. Uh. Anyway. I'm guessing you're feeling kinda nervous?"

No reply, but he can hear pizza guy slide down the door to sit down on the other side. Okay, that's good, probably.

"If you need anything, let me know? If you can? I'm just going to keep talking, okay? If that's not cool, uh... knock on the door twice, and I'll stop. Okay?" He pauses. No knocking. "Uh... and knock once if it... is okay?" He pauses again and there's nothing for a long moment, and he's about to give up when there's a single, soft knock. Dawww. Okay, pizza guy's just incredibly freaked out. That's not good, but Clint can work with that. God knows he's had panic attacks in his time.

"Hey, okay, that's great. Yeah." Clint runs his hands through his hair and slides down the door, sitting on the floor on his side, back to back, maybe, with the freaking-out pizza guy on the other side. "Do you want some water maybe? Actually I think there's a canteen in the closet there somewhere, it might... oh. Wait yeah no whatever's in there you probably shouldn't drink, I'm not sure if I washed it out after Latveria. Heh. Funny story. So, Doctor Doom has a line of sparkling water that competes with La Croix. Well he did. Long story short, every 1000th bottle was poisoned, because his business model is more evil than profitable? Anyhoo. The kiwi flavour was actually really great so I snuck some home, because 99.9% chance of being okay is pretty good, right? Don't tell Natasha I did that though. Uh. Natasha. Not my girlfriend! Don't have a girlfriend! Not macking on you in bad faith! Wait, maybe I shouldn't talk about macking on you if you're freaking out. Uh. Natasha. Best friend. And a co-worker, but work is kind of... I guess I should say, I'm Hawkeye? The Avenger? I don't know if that's obvious. I hope that's okay. And that that's... not what you're panicking about? Uh. You, ah, you still okay in there?"

There's another soft knock. Hey! Hey. Yeah. Clint sighs in relief. "Aw, I'm glad. So. Remember the whole aliens invading the city thing from a few years ago? That's... probably a dumb question, that was kinda memorable. Anyway, I had panic attacks for like, years after that. There was this mind-control guy, and... well, my point is, I've been there. All the deep-breathing stuff never really did anything for me, but drinking water and having a snack always helped. So um. I'm thinking I'll get up and go to the kitchen, and when you're ready, if you want, you can come join me? No pressure, you don't have to touch me, you don't have to say anything, it's cool. You can come have a glass of water and some salad maybe? Or I could make you a PB&J or something? Or there's pizza, obviously. Shit, do you have to go back to work?" Clint drums his fingers on the floor, thinking. "I could... call them? I can say there's like, an Avengers emergency and I needed your help and you can't finish your shift? Would that, um, would that help?"

There's no knock, but after a moment, a crumpled take out menu is slid under the closet door with the phone number circled. Clint brightens up. "Yeah! No problem! I'll go do that and then I'll be in the kitchen, 'kay?"

=====

Clint has left the hallway, and Bucky intends to leave. He is firmly committed to seizing the opportunity to dash out the door before interacting with Barton any more and getting any deeper in to this datespionage disaster he has dug himself in to. He is... he is walking to the kitchen and standing in the door frame. He is waving tentatively with a shy little smile on his face at Barton, who is drizzling olive oil over a pan of bread cubes.

"Hey, you made it! I'm just making some croutons. Come in, have a seat! If you want!"

Bucky shuffles toward the kitchen island and pulls out a bar stool. Why hasn't he left.

"So I called your boss! He says it's cool that you have to help me out with top secret stuff. He says they were getting kind of worried because your next two deliveries didn't show, so they were happy to hear you were okay. Um. Sorry about that, by the way. I should have thought about like, the rest of your shift instead of trying to ambush you with my biceps."

Bucky stares at Clint.

Clint blinks. "Shit, did I say that out loud? Oh my god I am the least smooth person in the borough." He is sprinkling minced garlic over the croutons with an extremely liberal hand as he bemoans his lack of smoothness, and each garlic bit lands exactly on one of the chunks of bread, none hitting the parchment paper. Huh. Bucky has a sudden intense urge to see if he can do that too with his left hand's precision mode.

His left hand. Fuck, this is exactly why he should walked out the door.

Clint is still talking.

"...so I'm not trying to make this weird, or, uh, weirder, but if missing your shift makes things tight for you, uh, I could help out? Like replace your tip money? Or is that too—"

"I'm not really the pizza guy," blurts out Bucky.

Clint stops mid-sentence and processes this, putting the tray of croutons in the oven as he does. He turns back around to face Bucky. "You... literally brought a pizza to my door. That's kind of... the definition of a pizza deliver-er? Delivereer? Delivery person?"

Bucky is blushing furiously. "Yeah but I'm not. I'm." He runs out of words. Why didn't he just leave.

Clint inclines his head and shrugs. "Okay."

And that's why. Bucky is being a complete human disaster tonight in every way and Clint is just... rolling with it. Treating him kindly. Touching him kindly, but only when he wants it. It's... a lot. But it's a good kind of a lot. Bucky breathes out heavily and gathers up his courage. Fuck it. He's been trying to figure out the best way to start being a person again by planning some kind of elaborate reintroduction to Steve's life. Maybe it doesn't have to be elaborate. Maybe it doesn't have to start with Steve. Maybe it would be easier if it didn't start with Steve.

Clint is just waiting for him to be ready to talk again and has started adding embellishments to the fancy salad which he has retrieved from the coffee table. The dressing looks freshly made, nice. Bucky takes a deep breath.

"So I uh. It's a lot to explain. I'm." He bites his lip and decides to just go all in, and unbuttons the hibiscus shirt and shucks it.

"You don't have to undre—whoah," starts Clint, trailing off when he takes in Bucky's metal arm. Bucky peels off his other glove and sets it down on the counter with the shirt. As an afterthought he takes off the fanny pack too. If his cover is blown anyway, he might as well stop being a fashion criminal.

He steps back from his former pizza costume and looks up nervously at Clint.

"You're Bucky Barnes."

"I. Yeah. I am."

"Bucky Barnes delivers pizza."

"No!" Bucky pauses. "Well, yes, but just to you. I."

"Oh my god, Natasha put you up to this, didn't she. Bucky, I'm so, so sorry."

"What? No, Natalia had nothing to... why would she send an assassin to her best friend?"

"Have you met Natasha? Wait, no, pretend I didn't ask, that's probably a whole montage of weird Russian state secrets."

"We... have met. I shot her. A few different times, actually."

"Well, who hasn't, shit happens."

Which... okay.

Clint continues. "So this really isn't because of the bet?"

"What bet?"

"Tasha bet me that I couldn't ask out the pizza guy. Then she called in my pizza order to make sure I didn't cheat. Then you show up, mere hours after she was teasing me about having a crush on you. But you seriously have no knowledge of any of this?"

Bucky twitches. "Does this look like someone carrying out a carefully planned operation to you?" he asks miserably. He rummages through Clint's salad fixings and picks up a carrot and a knife to have something to do with his hands. "Hold on. A crush on me?"

Clint looks at the ceiling. "Caught that, did you?

Bucky is taken aback by this conversational turn. "You mean a crush on the pizza guy or on me me?"

"Uh. You you. You, Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes, you you."

"Oh," Bucky says, stunned.

Clint rolls his eyes. "Oh come on. Look at you. Look at that. How could I not?" He gestures at Bucky's naked chest, accidentally flinging some olive oil on to it. Bucky pauses and thinks back to the total precision of the garlic deployment. Maybe not accidentally, then.

Huh.

He shakes his head and resumes cutting in to the carrot. "Regardless. No. I had no idea about any of that. I was here to find out about your mug."

"Wait, so STEVE sent you? I thought he had no idea where you were."

"What? He doesn't. What—why would Steve send me?"

"Because that rat bastard broke my mug! Maybe he wants to know what other awesome mugs I have, so he can... okay, no, probably not." Clint frowns. "If Steve didn't send you and Natasha didn't send you, why are you... investigating my crockery?"

Bucky sighs. "Honestly, I'm not sure any more."

"Okay, I'm glad I'm not the only one who's confused."

Bucky takes a deep breath and looks down at the carrot, avoiding Clint's eyes. "I've been... watching Steve. Trying to... trying to figure out how to... come back. And I saw he had a Bucky Bear mug, which I didn't even... And then it was smashed one day. And I thought... I don't know what I thought. That it was a message for me?" He sets the carrot down in front of Clint. "It sounds stupid when I say it out loud. I've spent too many years around paranoid nazi lunatics. I'm having a hard time getting the hang of... not that."

Clint is distracted, picking up the carrot and holding it to the light. It's carved in to an elaborate blooming rose with hearts and stars circling the base of the petals. "Wow, this is beautiful."

Bucky, sheepish, scratches the back of his neck with the knife. "Oh. Sorry. Nervous habit."

"You carve vegetables when you're nervous? That's... specific."

"One of my handlers in the 80s was Thai. The Thai upper class is really in to decorative vegetable carving. I can do a really good Hanuman if you have a watermelon. Or the HYDRA logo, but I'd rather not."

"HYDRA trained you to carve watermelons?"

Bucky shrugs. "Honestly, it was kind of nice being electrocuted for getting flower anatomy wrong instead of for having feelings or wanting to be warm. I could study the flowers."

Clint looks horrified.

Bucky scrunches in to himself. "Was that too much information? I'm not..."

"Can I hug you?" blurts out Clint.

"What?"

"Gah, sorry, sorry, I just. That's an awful story and it's not your fault and I want to hug it better, only you kind of ran in to the closet when we were cuddling before so it's probably a dick move for me to ask you and—"

"Yes."

"Yes?"

"You can..." Bucky sets down the knife on the counter and steps back, hands trembling a bit. "You can hug me."

"Yeah? You're not gonna run for the closet again? I mean, if you need to, that's cool, just—"

"I'm not going to run to the closet. That was. You were about to uncover my arm and I panicked. But uh." Bucky laughs nervously and rolls his left shoulder, making the metal plates cascade down his arm as they recalibrate. "Cat's out of the bag now, right?"

Clint smiles, big and easy and open, and wraps Bucky in his arms, one big hand cradling his head. Clint's tall enough that Bucky can tuck his head in to his neck, and it's warm, and safe, and he smells so nice, like, kind of appetizing he smells so nice, and—

"Oh fuck, my croutons!" Clint lets go abruptly and races over to the oven, yanking out the baking sheet with his bare hands, then yelping and hopping around comically, passing the hot pan from hand to hand. Bucky reaches over with his metal hand and takes it from him. Clint stares at the metal hand for a moment. "Thanks! That thing's handy, huh."

Bucky gives him a withering glare. "I see what you did there."

Clint grins and shoots him some finger guns, then unclenches his hands and winces.

"You probably want to—" Bucky gestures with his free hand at Clint's hands, which are red and angry-looking.

"Right, yeah, that would probably..." Clint turns on the tap with his elbow and gingerly places his burned palms under the stream of water. "Ah, that's better." He cranes his neck, trying to peer over at the pan. "Are they burnt?"

"Your hands? Yeah, they look—"

"No, no, the croutons! Did I burn them?"

Bucky blinks. "Pal, your priorities are puzzling."

"Garlic is important, Bucky."

Bucky looks around but doesn't spot a pot-holder; he bundles up the discarded hibiscus shirt instead, hoping the material isn't too flammable. Although burning it might improve its appearance, come to think of it. He sets the pan down in Clint's field of view but—just in case—out of his reach. "The croutons are fine. They smell amazing."

Clint preens. "Thanks!" He turns off the tap and looks at his hands. "Eh, first degree, no biggie. Don't think they're even gonna blister."

"You get burned a lot?"

"I'm the only normal human on a team of super-people. I get everythinged a lot."

So he knows that Natalia is enhanced. Interesting. No, no, not interesting, that's not... Bucky shakes his head. God, if he could just stop thinking like he's on a mission for half a goddamn hour...

Clint peeks under the pan. "Your shirt gonna be okay?"

Bucky sighs. "'S'not my shirt. Took it from the pizza guy."

Clint's eyes widen. "Ohhhhh. So when you say you're not the pizza delivery—"

Bucky bites his lip, then starts carving up a radish to calm down. "...I mean that I kidnapped the pizza guy, left him with some ex-bratva babysitters, switched clothes with him, and took your pizza."

Clint narrows his eyes. Bucky cringes back a bit. "Were these ex-bratva people in tracksuits by any chance?"

Bucky unbends, puzzled. "Uh... no? Vera wears florals mostly. Dmitri's kind of a... The Gap guy?"

Bucky approves of the Gap. They understand that sometimes a guy needs to wear 10 different layers to confound surveillance. Or go boating in Nantucket or whatever normal people do with 10 layers of clothing. Bucky looks down at his shirtless chest. He is way, way outside his sartorial comfort zone this evening.

"Oh, okay, we're cool."

"You're not... alarmed that I kidnapped a guy?"

Clint waves his hands dismissively. "Eh, I've had weirder dates."

Bucky laughs, looking down. "I really haven't."

Clint grins. "Stick with me, pal, and you're gonna."

Bucky smiles shyly. "Yeah?"

Clint seems to remember suddenly that he was interrupted in the middle of an explicitly-sanctioned hug, and moves in happily to squash Bucky back against his chest.

Bucky wiggles in his hold. "Uh. Knife."

"Oh! Oops." Clint steps back, and Bucky sets the knife and a slightly squished radish, most of the way carved in to a delicate fern, on the counter. He opens his arms in invitation and Clint tugs him back in to his embrace, nuzzling the shaved side of his head against Bucky's forehead. It tickles. Bucky lets out a small, sweet, involuntary sigh. This is nice.

And weird, and definitely not how he thought this evening would play out, but... nice.

"So," Clint murmurs in to Bucky's hair. "Shirtless salad party?"

=====

Shirtless salad party turns out to be more like a slumber party than the backseat makeout Clint was originally hoping his night would turn in to, but it's fun. He remembers when Natasha still had her SHIELD training wheels on, suspicious of and suspected by everyone, and how hard it was to get her to turn off and relax, even for a moment. If Bucky is ready to let down his guard enough for the advanced seminar on post-assassin softness, Clint is SO there for hair-braiding and goofy movies and tasty snacks.

As long as it's still shirtless. Pal's got HECKIN' pecs, and Clint knows his own gun show is nothing to sneeze at.

Clint gives Bucky a sweet crown braid with some decorative greenery from the kitchen herb pots tucked in. Bucky raises an eyebrow when he is presented with the finished result in the mirror.

"What?" asks Clint, defensively. "Braiding's like fletching, it's totally a normal skill for an archer."

"No, I just... why is there basil in my hair?"

"It's pretty! And I don't have any flowers. Also pesto kind of turns me on."

"Pesto turns you on."

"You just watched me incur a garlic-related injury, hell yes pesto turns me on."

Bucky reaches up and unthreads one of the basil leaves, and, without breaking eye-contact, crushes it between two metal fingers, then runs them down Clint's bare chest. Clint shivers, inhaling deeply. "Oh fuck me," he murmurs.

"Mmm, first I get to do your hair."

Clint pouts.

Bucky giggles. Oh my god, Bucky giggles, that is not even fair. Clint's pout dissolves in to a huge dopey grin. Bucky swats him on the hip and shoos him back to the couch, where he proceeds to braid Clint's mohawk and spike it up with gel, sneakily transferring basil leaves over from his head to Clint's while Clint is distracted. Bucky is playing with Clint's hair, so he's very distracted. The result, when Bucky walks him over for his turn at the mirror, makes him look like a really punk rock rubber tree.

"Shit, where's that hibiscus shirt? This is a LOOK."

The hibiscus shirt has melted on to the bottom of the crouton pan by this point, so alas, shirtlessness must continue.

Clint is not resenting the way they're taking Netflix and chill literally, he's not, but his pants have other ideas. They're halfway through... wow, what are they even watching? He's been idly munching on Bucky's hair, in a sweet, nuzzly kind of way that is only maybe 40% motivated by the lingering basil scent, and had just teed up whatever was next in his queue. Natasha has his Netflix password—not that he'd given it to her, but no sense fighting the tide, they're spies—and her viewing preferences make his queue a little wacky. Clint's not sure if she actually likes watching home improvement shows and 60s sci-fi or just thinks they'll shake him up a bit, but they seem to be watching... someone renovate the space station from 2001: A Space Odyssey?

Anyway Clint hasn't been paying attention to the show and Bucky smells really good even discounting the basil, and by all means let us not discount the basil, and they both have super great garlic breath and his pants are way. too. tight. now and uh, should he lean in to that, or like, try to nonchalantly wiggle further away so he doesn't freak Bucky out again? On the one hand, he doesn't want Bucky to flee to the closet again. On the other hand, disengaging from this glorious cuddle puddle would be sad trombone in snow territory for sure.

"Do you think there are any happy trombones in snow?"

Bucky startles at this, apparently very engaged in watching the space real estate show, and leans back to assess Clint's face to see if this is a serious question or not. "Is that a metaphor—" he trails off as he realizes that his hand has drifted with his change in position and is now resting on Clint's crotch and there is really no literary device, subtext, or other ambiguity of any kind about the situation there.

"..." explains Clint.

"Well, your... trombone... seems happy? Am I the snow? Because I'm the Winter Soldier?"

His hand. Is still. On Clint's junk. "I honestly have no idea what I was talking about," breathes Clint, fully dicknotized at this point and feeling impressed with himself for pulling off a full sentence.

Bucky's hand tightens in an absent, anxious gesture, and then he freezes, hand clutched snugly around Clint's dick. There is a guy with a Skilsaw and a spacesuit on screen, they are discussing brass instruments in inclement weather, there is basil smeared on his chest, and Bucky Barnes now owns Clint's dick and there is not going to be any explaining any of this now or later, so fuck it, cards on the table—"I don't want to pressure you but if you want to borrow that I really, really, really need out of these pants."

Bucky breaks his deer in the headlights stare to look down at his hand, peering at it like it's somebody else's. He does not loosen his grip. "Borrow it?"

Clint goes to tug at the collar of the shirt he still isn't wearing and settles for fanning his face. "Start a petting zoo, have it for a snack, take it for a walk, whatever you want, just, just denim isn't very flexible, and SWEET MOTHERING CHRIST," he manages, as Bucky strokes along the outline of his cock with the firm metal finger of his other hand.

Bucky looks up, assessing. "You still watching that?" he asks, moving his hand away to wave briefly at the screen. Noooo! Hand! Come back!

"Noooo! Hand! Come back!" replies Clint. Well. That was smooth. "Uh. I mean. Nope. Not uh... kind of distract—AH AH AHHH—cted, from the, the." Clint lets that sentence just fall out of the sky and keens like a puppy as Bucky's metal hand returns to stroke his dick once more, very slowly. Clint pulls a quarter out of Bucky's ear, because you can take the boy out of the circus but you can't take the circus out of the boy, and flicks it over to the laptop on the coffee table, where it hits the space bar and pauses Netflix.

Bucky quirks an appreciative eyebrow at Clint's aim, which damn right thank you very much, and looks back down, humming thoughtfully. "I see what you mean about the denim," he says, and just. Clint is a sniper. Clint can be patient. Clint is like, super patient. Clint can wait in position for hours waiting for the shot. But there are LIMITS. Clint scrambles back in to motion, brushing Bucky's hands out of the way, releasing the button, fingers yanking on the zipper, then fumbling around for the weird hook thingy that is keeping the zipper from moving, why are his pants so COMPLICATED, who thought this was a good idea, fuck, there, at least he's not wearing his utility belt, and ahhhh oh god, sweet release, his cock springs up and out from Jeans Joliet, making his purple boxer-briefs tent out like a really inappropriate pop-up book.

Bucky sucks in an appreciative breath, then looks up at Clint, suddenly shy again. "Can I..."

"YES."

Bucky reaches out his right hand and uses the back of a finger to stroke along Clint's cock through the fabric, which is sporting a wet spot that is growing larger by the second, and 50/50 whether it's pre-come or Clint's actual brain leaking out, because YES PLEASE. Bucky shivers and curls in on himself a bit, resting his head on Clint's shoulder and stilling his hand, breathing heavily.

Clint shakes himself out of his lusty fugue state. "Oh, hey, hey, are you okay, Bucky?" He strokes his hair tentatively. "You know we don't have to do any of this, right?"

Bucky nods wordlessly, forehead still pressed to Clint's shoulder. Clint shuffles over a bit and pulls Bucky in to his lap and settles both his arms around him. "What's going on in there, sugar?" Sugar is maybe the wrong word considering the very savoury aroma profile attending their shirtless salad party, but something about Bucky, the way his hardness is tempered with hesitation, the way his resting murder face wants to know if this is okay pretty please, pulls sweetness out of Clint's mouth.

"I, I. I want to. I'm just. You're so. And I want. But I'm." Bucky blows out a long breath, building up steam for some actual sentences. "I want this. I want you. I'm just really, really out of practice. I've been alone for a long time. Not counting... well."

Clint nods.

Bucky lifts his head, eyes looking down at his hands, clutching each other and not Clint's cock, no, no, rein it in, Clint, it's feelings o'clock now, eyes on the prize. He goes on. "I thought I could, that I should just... dive in? Because now that you know who I am, this is—" he laughs a little hysterically "—probably my only shot for a long time, but I'm so..."

Clint frowns. "Hey, no, Bucky. We don't have to... I mean, I want to, too. I really want to. But there's no rush. We can just cuddle. We can just cuddle for fifty dates if you're not ready for naked time. It's all good."

Bucky looks confused. "Fifty dates? Clint, we can't... once Steve knows I'm here, I'll have to..."

Clint tilts his head quizzically. "How's Steve gonna know you're here?"

Bucky pulls back, eyes narrowing. "Uh... aren't you going to tell him?"

"Why the hell would I tell him?"

"He's... you work together. You're friends. He's been looking for me for, for years."

"Yeah, yeah, we're buds. But you don't want me to tell him, right?"

"Well, no..."

"So, I won't."

Bucky breathes out, hard, brow furrowing as he peers at Clint. "You won't? Just like that, you won't?"

Clint sits back and uses one hand to brush Bucky's hair back from his face. "Okay, let's get one thing straight. I am not telling Steve, or anyone else, anything about you that you don't want me to. Anything. As long as you're not hurting anyone, you get to decide who knows what you're doing. You. Not me, not Steve."

"Clint, I just kidnapped a guy."

Clint waves this off. "Whatever, he'll be fine. Get him a new, different shirt and you'll have done him a favour. I don't mean that kind of chump change shit, I mean like, it would take big deal bad behaviour to get me to rat you out, okay?"

"Kidnapping's not a big deal to you?"

"You are so focused on that! Dude, I've been kidnapped like three times this month, it's whatever."

Bucky looks like he's not sure if Clint is joking or not, but lets it go.

"Anyway, consent is important to me. If you want to stay out of Steve's hair... or... I guess keep Steve's hair... out of your... Uh. Look. I won't tell Steve. Bucky," Clint says, and tips Bucky's chin up with one finger, fixing him with an earnest gaze. "Steve broke my Bucky Bear mug. He can go fuck himself."

Bucky is silent for a long moment, then loses it and starts absolutely cackling with laughter. Clint grins and tugs him in to an embrace, rocking him gently and snickering along. Eventually Bucky settles down enough to form words. "You are something else, Barton."

"Aw, I'm Barton now? I thought we were shirtless salad buddies."

Bucky gets a soft look on his face. "So the Bucky Bear mug was your favourite, huh?"

Clint blushes. Well, at least he hadn't let slip that he had given it a name. "Yeah. It belonged to someone important to me."

"Oh."

"Plus it made me think of you, and you're like, super hot. So it made it hurt less, to remember."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah! Grief is way more awesome when you mix it with confusing sexual feelings about teddy bears."

"You know, I kind of miss the level of clarity this conversation had when it was about trombones."

Clint grins. "Yeah, kind of my superpower."

"Oh? I thought you were the only Avenger without powers."

"Eh, I may have been exaggerating. I've actually got three superpowers."

"Yeah? What are they?"

"Confusion, croutons, and I can stain stainless steel," Clint states proudly.

Bucky bites back a grin and nods solemnly. "Those are pretty impressive."

Clint nods. "Don't worry, I won't stain your arm, though. On purpose anyway."

Bucky leans forward, back in to the hug, and Clint tightens his arms around him again.

"Clint. Thank you."

"Hey, it's no problem, honestly, staining things takes so much effort anyway."

Bucky snorts. "I meant the not telling part. And the... the everything else part." He ducks his head down again. How is the world's most feared assassin so adorable? Has Clint's dry spell just really, really warped his standards?

Bucky snuggles in closer, nestling his head in the crook of Clint's neck.

Yeah, no, that's some weapons-grade cuteness.

"Sorry if I killed the mood," says Bucky in to Clint's neck. "But I am a ruthless killer."

"Me too! High five!" Clint throws up a hand and Bucky sits up and, after a moment of consideration, high fives Clint. Aw yeah.

"Your killer thing is apparently all hype though, 'cause like..." Clint gestures at his boxers. "I still need a cold shower. The mood is very alive. In my shorts."

"Attaboy," Bucky laughs, and oh, Clint could get used to that laugh. "What about... a hot shower instead?"

"I appreciate the idea, but uh, my shower stall is really not that roomy. Also I like to hear my partners and these suckers aren't waterproof." He gestures at his hearing aids.

"What about a hot shower... in bed? Hold the water? Wait no does that imply... oh god, I'm not trying to suggest..."

Clint is trying and failing to keep from laughing. "Oh my god, you're more awkward than I am, this is amazing, you're perfect."

Bucky sighs. "Let me try that again." He takes a deep breath, and says in a voice suddenly deep and rich and dipped in chocolate: "How about fucking, handsome? On your bed."

Clint's eyes widen. "YES. Yep. Uh huh."

Bucky stands up, a small smile growing more solid the longer he looks at Clint. Wow. Yes.

Clint stands up too, a bit dazed, and waves Bucky toward the hall. "It's the door that isn't the bathroom or the closet. Bucky, are you sure?"

Bucky leans in close and bites Clint's neck, then murmurs "Turns out when I'm not panicking about losing my cover it's a lot easier to appreciate my opportunities."

Clint claps his hands in excitement. "Okay!" he says, bouncing on the balls of his feet. Bucky, watching how this affects his boxers, licks his lips, then picks Clint up and tosses him over one shoulder. Oh FUCK. Clint groans involuntarily at this casual display of caveman super-strength, or well, super-soldier super-strength, then clears his throat and shouts "Remember! Not the closet!" as Bucky hauls him off to bed. Bucky snorts and swats him on the ass and Clint...

Clint is HERE FOR THIS.

=====

Bucky is NOT DISSOCIATING FOR THIS. Which... huh. Which is nice. Which is damned nice. Which is wildly exceeding his expectations for this evening, this year, this decade, frankly. Something had just clicked in the babbling nonsense he and Clint had exchanged leading to Clint's promise not to tell Steve about him, and it was like a switch flipped, the hypervigilant soldier went to doss down for a nap and Bucky Barnes, flirty motherfucker, is open for business. "Something." Someone, more like.

Clint's a spy. Bucky knows this. Bucky knows this from spying on him, so it's not like he can judge. Clint could be lying. Or Clint could be telling the truth and still just change his mind later. So, this is foolish. This is vulnerable. This could all fall apart so easily. But Clint makes it easy to believe that it won't, that if Bucky screws this up Clint will laugh and give him a do-over and some pointers and rebraid his hair with a new decorative herb.

His face flushes and he pauses for a moment at the threshold of the bedroom, remembering Clint's fingers on his scalp, the way everything tingled, and—god, he's so used to saving every little scrap of nice, hoarding the little moments of humanity for later, desperate to keep whatever crumb he could. But he's here for this, he's still here for this. He's still here and Clint is still here, and Clint is practically naked and warm and cuddly and eager. He gets to have more than the crumbs this time.

Bucky squeezes Clint's calf on impulse and carries on in to the room, tossing him on the bed. Clint does a backward somersault and unfurls in to a goofy seductive pose, head propped up on one bent arm. Bucky is pretty sure that if they were still in the living room Clint would have that rose back in his teeth. Bucky grins, leaps up, and does a cannonball in to the middle of the bed, his muscled and metal-laden frame shaking the bed a full 10 inches sideways and having the desired effect of knocking Clint out of his pose and now they're all tangled up, and someone is laughing, and it's him, he's laughing, until Clint, grinning hugely, catches his face up in his hands and kisses him quiet, then kisses him loud again as he trails down his neck, his chest...

"Oh! Sweetheart..." manages Bucky, and he can feel Clint grin against his chest, tongue still doing really excellent things to his nipple. Hnnnngh.

"So what do you like to—" tries Bucky, manfully struggling to get out words in the face of Clint's, uh, face doing tongue things.

Clint pauses and pulls back to glance up at Bucky. "I like lots of things. But if it's all the same to you—"

Bucky is about to interject, because indifference is DEFINITELY NOT HIS PRIMARY EMOTION RIGHT NOW, but Clint carries on.

"—I really, really want your cock in my mouth."

And:

1. Bucky can get behind that
2. Yep

Bucky has the self-awareness not to bother trying to speak again with Clint's mouth a hair's breadth away from his nipple, so he wordlessly reaches down to unfasten his jeans, supports his weight with one hand while using the other to peel himself out of them, and lets his now-exposed cock do the talking, and his cock is saying "AYUP" as clearly as possible. Clint looks delighted.

"You will NOT regret this!" he says, poking Bucky in the chest with a triumphant finger, and Bucky really didn't think he was at risk of regretting it in the first place, but oh god, wow.

His MOUTH.

"Hahhh..." says Bucky, and reaches his right hand up to bite it to keep back the flood of embarrassing nonsense threatening to boil out of him. Clint, not pausing in his apparent goal to tie his tongue in a knot around Bucky's dick, reaches his own hand up and pulls Bucky's hand out of his mouth, replacing it with his own fingers. WELL NOW. Bucky suckles on them, trying to translate his enthusiastic approval for the proceedings in to soft action, and succeeding, if Clint's moaning is any indication. Clint pauses to take a quick breath, then takes Bucky back down his throat with renewed vigour. His cock is hot and wet and throbbing in urgent reply to Clint's attentions, his mouth is pleasantly full of Clint's fingers, the only thing that could be better would be to be full of—but Clint's already there, his free hand reaching back to circle a wet fingertip around Bucky's rim, and Bucky is gone, Bucky is done, Bucky is tapping Clint's shoulder urgently with his left hand, because there is no time, he's going to... he's... Clint seems to understand, but just hums happily and he swallows around him, and Bucky is coming down his throat and he just keeps swallowing and Bucky maybe leaves his body for a minute, or maybe is seated more firmly inside it.

Whichever it is, his world narrows down to warmth and joy and the feeling of Clint's soft, fuzzy hair under his hand. Bucky keens softly, petting him. Clint gently disengages from Bucky's cock, which is twitching, oversensitive, and slips his fingers out of Bucky's mouth to wipe his own mouth with a smug smirk. Bucky does not begrudge him his smug smirk. Man fucking earned it.

=====

Clint is very pleased with himself right now. Bucky is stroking his hair and looking, honestly, kind of concussed. But in a good way. Clint turns his head to nuzzle the slightly prickly side of his scalp against Bucky's thigh. He wants to, jeez, purr or something, what is he, a cat person now? Thank god Lucky's with Kate this week and isn't here to see it. He settles on humming happily under his breath and waits for Bucky to be able to brain again. It takes a minute.

"Sweetheart," he says, and he sounds... awed. "Sweetheart," repeats Bucky, this time with a bit of a growl layered on. "That was amazing." Clint beams up at him. "Now what can I do for you?"

Clint is all ready to demur politely; he loves sucking cock and this was plenty, and besides, his other main interest in bed is being fucked in to the mattress, and there's no way Bucky is up for that after... after...

"Holy shit, how are you already hard again?!"

Now it's Bucky's turn to look smug, shrugging with false modesty. "Eh. Serum. Besides," he says, eyeing Clint up and down. "Just look at you, honey. Of course I'm hard again."

Clint takes a deep breath in, stroking an appreciative finger down Bucky's length. "I fucking love super-soldiers," he breathes. "Also I love fucking super-soldiers."

"Yeah?" says Bucky, raising an eyebrow. "I usually top. I... okay, I have only ever... it's been a long... Ah. I'm game to try anything you want, I just might need some, ah. Pointers."

Clint grins. "Oh, no, don't get me wrong," he says, gentle finger gone, now taking Bucky in a firm fist. "I want to sit on this gorgeous cock and ride it off in to the sunset."

Bucky's eyes go dark, fast. "That can be arranged," he says. Clint grins and sits up, reaching down to finger himself open as fast as possible, yes please. But Bucky shoots Clint a mischievous look, and abruptly Clint is in motion, Bucky using his uncanny strength to easily manhandle him up, over, and now he's sitting on Bucky's face, and there's a tongue lapping at his entrance, breaching it, fucking it, oh God.

"Don't think," gasps Clint. "Don't think you. Need any. Ungh!" Holy shit holy shit holy shit. "Any pointers," he finishes. Bucky doesn't reply; Bucky is occupied. Clint is going to d*i*s*s*o*l*v*e with pleasure before he even gets to—OH FUCK. Bucky has slipped in a finger alongside his tongue. Might need some pointers, he says. He's a troll, is what he is. A sex troll. A sexy sex... Clint circles his hand around the base of his cock and grips it tightly, desperately trying not to come before he can get that super-cock inside him. He's not laying good odds on himself, to be honest. Another finger joins the first. Realllly not laying good odds. He's sure he's about to lose it when he gets a sudden reprieve. Bucky withdraws his tongue and fingers and scoots Clint down far enough that he can speak.

"Saddle up," he says, that deep, growly tone back in his voice, and YES SIR, Cowboy Clint is ON THE CASE. He scrambles back and gets up on his knees, reaching back for Bucky's cock, hard and dripping pre-come, and the clasps the cockhead against his hole, closing his eyes and sighing happily as he sinks down on to it. This is not Cowboy Clint's first rodeo, dry spell or no, but it has been a while, and Bucky is... generously appointed. It's a stretch and it hurts, but in a pleasant way, like poking a loose tooth or stroking a healing bruise, which are pleasures that Clint has cultivated over the course of the many, many minor injuries his profession throws his way.

"This beats the hell out of falling off a building," he remarks in something of a daze as he lowers himself down the last inch.

"I'm glad?" murmurs Bucky, looking up at him heatedly and not without some confusion.

Oops. "Oh yeah. Soooo much better, baby," Clint purrs seductively, deciding to just lean in to the confusion. That is his super-power, after all.

Bucky laughs and runs his hands along Clint's thighs fondly. "Whatever floats your boat, pal."

"Mmhmm," hums Clint, happily, wiggling in place on Bucky's dick and then gasping at the pressure this produces. "Floatin'. Yup."

"You ah, want a hand there?" Bucky inclines his head toward Clint's cock.

"Honestly? No. I'm gonna come way too quickly as it is. You feel..." Clint closes his eyes and sighs. "Pretty great."

"I really do," says Bucky softly. Daww. "How about some less direct help," he continues, then grips Clint by the hips and raises an eyebrow in question. Clint nods enthusiastically. Bucky starts to slowly, gently fuck Clint on to his dick by lifting his entire body. Clint is very, very in to what is happening but still can't keep a corner of his mind from thinking "I have got to get a bow in this man's hands" out of sheer curiosity about what that kind of amazing grip strength could do with one. He already knows the guy has killer aim. Clint groans a little louder, and maybe it's the friction against his prostate and maybe it's thinking about some of the impossible shots the Winter Soldier dossier described. So sue him, he's Hawkeye, good aim is fucking hot.

"You know what," he puts in. "Screw waiting." He fists his cock and start pumping. Bucky grins and takes this as his cue to speed things up, thrusting Clint down in time to his hand's movements with a careful power that is really, really, really a turn on. Clint is going to have five little bruises on each thigh from Bucky's grip and he is going to fucking frame them and hang them on the wall, this is great, this is, this is, this is... Clint lurches forward as he comes, eyes flying open and one hand shooting out quickly to brace himself as he spurts on to Bucky's chest. Bucky's eyes are wide too, his mouth falling open as he comes again too as Clint clenches around him. They look at each other for a long moment, and fuck, Clint has always loved eye contact during sex, but this is some next level shit. Bucky looks absolutely broken open with pleasure, and hell, Clint figures he must look the same. He shakes himself out of his reverie and leans down to kiss the hell out of Bucky.

How did he get this lucky?

=====

Someone banging on a door wakes Bucky up abruptly and he shoots upright, reaching for a knife that isn't... he's naked, and... he takes a breath and takes stock of what's going on. Right. He's in Clint Barton's bedroom, where he'd fallen asleep curled around him. Fallen asleep and slept soundly for what must be almost 7 hours, which might be more than he's managed in a row since the early forties, not counting cryo. He looks over at the bed fondly at Clint, who is serenely ignoring the increasingly loud banging coming from the apartment's front door.

Oh. Right. Bucky crawls back on to the bed and shakes Clint awake, pointing at his hearing aids when Clint blearily looks up at him, a sleepy smile on his face.

"I'M ON MY WAY, YOU CAN STOP BANGING!" Clint yells once his ears are on again and he stalks out of the bedroom, naked, to answer the door. Bucky considers following him with a bathrobe or something, but his hypervigilance perks up and reminds him that whoever is at the door is at best a major liability. Right. Canoodling and salad time is over; it's time to get his fugitive back on.

=====

Clint does stop to peek through the door's peephole before answering it naked, but unless it's Simone with a plumbing emergency, whoever is making such an ungodly racket at... at whatever time it is, Clint's not sure, it might be the afternoon for all he knows, but it sure feels like too
early o'clock. Whoever's banging on his door has earned an eyeful of angry, sleepy naked guy, he figures.

It's just Nat, who has seen him angry, sleepy and naked any number of times. Clint stands down his cranky welcome speech, not because he's mollified, not before coffee, but because he knows it won't do any good. He sneaks a look back to the bedroom and notes that he did, thank god, remember to close the door. Bucky probably doesn't want a meet and greet with the Black Widow this morning.

"I take it things went well with the pizza guy?" she says, glancing at his lack of outfit briefly before carrying on to the kitchen to start some coffee, because she's met Morning Clint ever.

"Yes, as a matter of fact! You can give back my twenty, plus twenty more, and then you can please, please leave."

Natasha turns around at this. "Is he still HERE?" She looks delighted and this is bad. This is very bad. Clint runs to block the door to the hall, but he's too slow, not that he could stop her if she was determined anyway. She squirms past him and races to the bedroom. "Nat, stop, please! I am begging you!"

"I talked to Sal this morning, Clint," she says, walking in to the bedroom. Sal? Oh, the pizzeria owner. Wait... "He says Hawkeye took his most reliable delivery guy out on a top secret mission last night and he had to deliver half the pies himself. Isn't that interesting?"

"Nat..!"

Clint skids in to his room, ready to... he's not sure what. Break up a fight? Flee the country? Instead he crashes in to Natasha, who absentmindedly steadies him as she continues to look up at his ceiling.

Clint looks up. He cringes. "I'm so sorry, I swear I didn't know she'd come over."

Bucky grunts and hops down from where he had braced himself against the ceiling and one wall, holding a knife in each hand and wearing an old pair of Clint's sweatpants. They are not big enough in the thigh and Clint spends a little while appreciating this until Natasha interrupts with "Clint. Why is the Winter Soldier in your pants."

"Because I am one lucky motherfucker, Natasha," answers Clint, still looking at said pants. Natasha looks back over at Bucky speculatively; Bucky says nothing, but lowers his knives, flips thems up, and catches them facing down in one hand, apparently deciding the threat is over, or at least isn't one that can be resolved with knives. "Put on some clothes, Clint," Natasha says, and walks out of the room.

Bucky watches her go, then looks at the ground, hands clenching and unclenching. He looks resigned and so, so sad.

Well fuck that. Clint tips Bucky's chin up and looks him in the eye. "I will fix this," he promises, holding Bucky's anguished gaze for a long moment until he nods and looks back down. Clint strides out after Natasha, grabbing a handful of clean laundry from the basket on the floor on the way as an afterthought. Natasha is in the kitchen, fixing one cup of coffee and two cups of tea.

"You can't tell Steve."

She turns around, holding out a cup to him. "Oh can't I?"

Clint ignores the coffee. "Let me rephrase. You tell Steve and I am moving to my yurt in Mongolia and you will never, ever meet my six children."

Either his tone of voice or his continued lack of coffee drinking makes an impression; she drops her gaze first and sets the cups on the table. "You'd raise your children without their auntie Nat?"

Clint closes his eyes and sighs in relief. He's worked with Natasha for a long, long time, and he knows this tone of voice. It's the voice she uses when she thinks his improvised plan in the field is ridiculous but she's going to back him up anyway and help him make it stick. It's seen them both come out alive from a dozen impossible situations. Natasha loves to watch him squirm, but she also loves him, full stop, and she's always got his back. "Thank you," he says softly.

"Do I get to know how this happened?"

Clint looks up at the ceiling, just to avoid looking at her; there aren't any legendary assassins up there this time. "It's not really mine to tell."

"I'll tell Steve," says Bucky, appearing in the doorway. "But... not yet. I need more time." He fixes Natasha with a look just a bit too solemn to be pleading, like he doesn't quite believe she'll agree. She stares back at him for a long, tense moment. Whatever she's looking for in his face, she finds it; she says "Fair enough," and goes to sit at the table. She pushes the second cup of tea over to an empty seat. "Jam?"

Bucky laughs. "God, yes." She spoons some in to her cup and passes the jar over to him. Clint shudders in revulsion and takes the cup with coffee in it. "Russian weirdos," he mutters without heat. He's kept bags of Dilmah and a jar of jam in his cupboard for Natasha for getting on to a decade at this point.

Bucky reaches a foot over to rub against his under the table.

Clint reaches out a hand to either side, and his Russian weirdos each take one wordlessly.

He makes a mental note to buy more tea.

=====

Clint's not sure if they get a full fifty dates in; after a couple of months of wheedling and Natasha's continued reassuring silence to Steve, Bucky more or less moves in, and after that it's hard to figure out where one date ends and the next begins. Any time Clint tries to sit down and tot up the number he gets distracted by how Bucky is right there in his bedroom and Clint has the best possible problems, basically.

Anyway, it's six months later that Bucky decides he's ready to meet Steve again, so Clint manufactures an occasion with the power of barbecue. It's been way too long since the building had a rooftop party, plus it's almost Hallowe'en.

"Hey, thanks for inviting me, Clint," says Steve, setting a bowl of potato salad on the table.

"Nat said you were moping around the tower. I had to intervene."

Steve frowns over at Natasha. "I was not moping."

She hums noncommittally. "Maybe I just wanted a ringer for the pumpkin carving contest." Her entry in the contest does look pretty amazing: a little orange Black Widow is acrobatically battling a very orange villain, the flickering candle behind the image making it look like they're in a burning warehouse or something. So... Prague, Clint figures. Or was that Sofia? Maybe it was both; God knows they'd had missions turn ugly in the full rainbow of Warsaw Pact countries.

"Hah! I knew you didn't carve that by yourself," says Clint, stabbing an accusing finger at Natasha.

"Oh, hey, no, she did, I just drew the design," says Steve, scrupulously fair as always.

"You really think my knife-work isn't up to it?" puts in Natasha dryly.

"...Okay, good point." replies Clint.

"Not that it matters, we all know who's going to win," she continues.

"We do?" Steve looks over at the pumpkin table at the other entries. There's his and Natasha's, then a classic grinning face submitted by Simone's kids, a pumpkin with E.T. and the bicycle submitted by Aimee, a pumpkin with a BBQ on it in memory of Grills done by the college kids on the second floor, a pumpkin with a target carved on it by Clint—Natasha had already declared this to be disqualified after Clint had shot an actual arrow in to it to add verisimilutude—and a mystery pumpkin under a cloth cover.

"I mean, they all look great," he adds. "Lots of heart."

"Sure," says Natasha, "but then there's this." She whisks the cover off the final pumpkin. It's Hanuman the monkey god cavorting in a floral paradise, every inch of the pumpkin carved in exquisite detail with linework almost too fine to believe, the depth of the cuts carefully calculated to make the candle behind it give the illusion of motion. It almost looks like the monkey could reach out from the pumpkin and swipe your beer. Or crush your skull, maybe, Clint seems to recall that Hanuman is the patron god of something violent.

Steve's eyes widen. "Oh, wow. Who did that one?"

"That would be me."

Bucky steps out from behind the stairwell, looking a bit nervous. Steve is frozen in place, mouth working silently, eyes darting up and down before settling on Bucky's face. "Buck?" he asks softly

"Hey Stevie."

"Bucky!" Steve has flung himself at Bucky with the wild abandon he usually reserves for jumping out of quinjets. It would knock over a lesser man, but Bucky just rocks back on his heels slightly, righting himself as he tentatively returns Steve's hug.

"Yeah. I'm here."

"YOU'RE HERE," repeats Steve, stepping back to hold Bucky by the shoulders to look at him like he might vanish at any moment, then diving back in to hold on to him like a life ring. Bucky weathers it patiently; it's a full ten minutes before Steve winds down enough to let go. The two men wander over to a corner to talk intently, interrupted periodically by Steve reaching out to verify that Bucky is really, truly, actually standing there. Tears are flowing down his face. Bucky's expression is more stoic, but he's looking a little misty around the edges too. Eventually they can be heard laughing, and shortly thereafter they walk back, Steve beaming like a very patriotic lighthouse.

"Natasha! Did you know about this?" he asks excitedly.

Natasha puts a huge potato chip loaded with dip in her mouth and mumbles something that might be yes or might be no, then refuses to repeat her answer. Clint giggles.

"Clint? Did you?"

"Did I what?"

"Did you know that..." he trails off as Bucky walks over to stand behind Clint, wrapping his arms around his waist and hooking his chin over Clint's shoulder. "Uh. Never mind," Steve finishes.

"Okay!" replies Clint easily. "Oh wait, now I have a question for you."

"Oh?"

"WHY DID YOU BREAK MY MUG."

Steve blinks. "Your mug? Like, your face? I never..."

"No, my literal mug! My Bucky Bear mug! You murdered Muggy Barnes!"

"That was yours?" Steve looks over at Natasha in confusion.

"You named it Muggy Barnes?" asks Bucky.

"Yes it was mine! I stole it from Phil fair and square. And never mind what it was called," he adds to Bucky.

Bucky shuts his mouth, eyes twinkling. Clint is pretty sure he'll be hearing about this later. Oh well.

Steve looks chagrined. "I'm so sorry. It was an accident. Natasha gave it to me, and I was just... it reminded me... I got distracted and kind of... Look, I've been this size for about four years, that I was awake for anyway. I was too weak to open jars for the other 24. Sometimes I still forget, and... well, I'm sorry. If I'd known it was yours, I would never have..."

Clint takes pity on him and cuts off the stream of super-soldier super-guilt. "Well, since I get to keep the original, I guess I forgive you."

Muggy Barnes, senior, flicks Clint on the shoulder. "Be nice. That mug got us together."

Steve looks more confused than ever. Natasha looks smug. Clint frowns and looks at her. "Wait, did you engineer this somehow?"

"Will you look at the time!" she non-answers, waltzing off toward the stairwell door, ignoring the shouts from the three men behind her. "Goodnight, boys!"

Steve follows her and pulls the door back open, then steps back in surprise as it reveals not Natasha but a pizza delivery guy with a stack of boxes. He looks around the roof for a place to set them down, then catches sight of Bucky's face and freezes.

"You...!" he whispers, frozen in place, pizza boxes tumbling out of his arms. Steve catches them neatly and sets them down, then stands between the pizza guy and Bucky, ready to protect his best friend from... whatever a skinny pizza guy with a terrible mustache can do to a legendary assassin. Oh Steve, never change.

Clint turns to peer at the pizza guy. Didn't they burn that shirt? Dear god, how can there be two? Does he have a closet full of rayon tigers and hibiscus flowers? Clint shudders.

"Look, I'm real sorry about that night," starts Bucky, but the pizza guy waves this off and actually steps closer, an earnest look on his face.

"Sure, sure, whatever, you're forgiven. Just... you gotta tell me!"

"Tell you..." asks Bucky, confused.

"Where did you take me? I need to know!"

"Like, when I kidnapped you?"

"When else did you take me anywhere? Yes! WHERE IS VERA?"

"You kidnapped him?"

"Later, Steve."

"But..."

Bucky turns back to the pizza guy, frowning. "What do you need with Vera?"

"I need her biscuit recipe."

There's a silent pause, then Bucky bursts out laughing.

"You don't understand!" Pizza guy is indignant. "Those biscuits are like, like, cocaine! Only a hundred times better!"

Bucky pulls out his wallet and peels off a C-note and a business card saying IVANOVICH ALL-NIGHT MART. "She sells them out of their corner store. Here, have some on me."

Pizza Guy accepts the cash and card. "Hey, thanks! You're all right, you know?" He grins up at Bucky, then turns and walks out, whistling.

"I know," says Bucky softly, looking from Clint to Steve and back. "I really am."