Clues

Summary:
December 25, 2014: Clint leaves a couple of clues to follow for Kate

The Strip House

High end steak restaurant in the Village, NYC.


Characters

NPCs

  • HawkPuppy
  • Russian 'bro'

Mood Music:
None


There, hidden in the boughs of a Christmas tree in the Bishop apartment, a small wrapped present sits that hadn't been there earlier Christmas morning. It's wrapped in strains of purple paper, with a curly bow that couldn't have been done by anyone but a professional.

~

Kate was up early to go to the shelter, taking the women and children there to the Stark Foundation's Christmas party. So she's in a good mood, for once, when she comes back to the apartment. It falters, though, when she sees the present in the tree. She's had a few too many unusual visitors lately not to worry, at least momentarily. There's one easy way to fix that, though. Pulling out her phone, she snaps a picture of the box, sending it and a text to Clint. « Were you in my apartment? »

~

Clint's back at his place; haircut, check. Clothes back from the cleaners, check. Enough cash for the evening? When is it ever enough? But check.
The shower burns hot; grab that hot water when he can, and stepping out, he doesn't get the text immediately. HawkPuppy bounds at his feet, having laid at the door waiting for that moment when one of his two humans emerge!

"Hey, hey.. no.. you're gonna get fur— oh, man.."

*bound*jump*

Clint's got a firm hand on the towel, padding across the apartment for a cup of coffee he'd prepared but forgotten only moments before. On the way, his phone *boops* again, telling him in no uncertain terms that there's a message. He pauses to pick up the cell, which puts HawkPuppy into a frenzied holding pattern. Up and down, on and off the couch the puppy bounds, little barks are given just to let his human know that he's there, dammit! Attention must be paid!

"Hold on.. hold on.." is muttered, and the thumb swipes across the screen.

«Would I do tht?»

*bloop*

«Jst 2 deliver a present 4 u?»

*boop*

«Took HPs bone, 2.»

Clint looks up from his messaging and begins to make his way back down the hall towards the bedroom. "Will you stop that? I know you're only doing that because Kate's not here."

~

Kate lets out a relieved breath at the answer, a faint smile curving as she shakes her head. « You and the rest of the world, apparently. Just talked to Stark's people about security systems. » Because that's not going to throw him into a tizzy or anything. But now she can safely reach for the present, taking it over to the couch. She drops down, then takes another picture. Just to prove that Clint delivered something pretty, and wrapped. For posterity. Before she carefully opens the package.

The bracelet inside meets with a surprised oooh, before she takes it out, inspecting it closely. She can't quite help the goofy smile that follows, either. Without any further hesitation, she slips it onto her wrist, taking another picture to send back. « I love it! »

~

*bloop*

'…Stark's people… security systems…'?

Clint stares at the phone before tossing it down and looking at himself in the mirror. Not too many dents and dings. Nothing that hasn't healed to the point of not being overly concerned about it, anyway. Dark, pressed pants, dark pressed shirt, black tie. Not too bad. About time, security systems… And Stark isn't too bad. Unless, of course, he's met with a pretty face…

*boop*

The tie is hanging down on both sides, un-tied for the moment when the next message comes in. Picking up the phone once more, Clint looks at the screen and just stares at it for a long moment. Is that fear in the archer's eyes flickering?

~

The bracelet is silver, and if there are any others like it, there really are too few to mention. In that, and the coupling of the hawk and the arrow, it really was a no-brainer as to exactly -who- should receive the present. (Not that there was anyone else on his shopping list for the season, mind. But that's his secret!)

Now to figure out how to reply. Glad you liked it, thought of you immediately? No. Good.? Oh, hell no.

There's no reply immediately, then, as Clint stares at his phone, thumb poised but nothing comes until..

*boop*

«There's more»

Under the padding for the bracelet is an address, nothing more. It's set in Midtown, in a 'decent' area of town, mind. (If the address is Googled, it's 'Sunshine florist', Midtown East. 4.5 starred review.)

Now, the phone is tossed onto the bed, and Clint gets back to the business of tying his tie and trying to get it straight enough to look reasonable.

~

Kate arches a brow at the reply, going back to the box to pull out the card and take a look at it. "What are you up to, Barton?" she murmurs to herself, unfolding from the couch to go take a look at her closet. Meanwhile, she taps out an answering message.

« If this is someone impersonating Clint Barton, you should know that I have a very particular set of skills… »

Need something flexible. And warm, because it's bitter cold out there. Something she can play off if this isn't actually going somewhere. And something that'll look okay under a trench that can hide a bow. In case this is a ruse.

~

Coffee. Dammit. Keep leaving it everywhere.

Out from the bedroom, back to the bathroom where he left it, and then back to the living room with a bounding puppy at his heels once again. Raising his mug high, he's taking the quick sips from it so he doesn't get knocked by the exhuberance that is baby dog.

"Will you stop that- Oh. Okay. Food. We got that."

The path is to the kitchen where he settles his coffee and phone down for a moment, long enough to crack open a can of food for the dog. "Sirloin steak in gravy. What the hell?" The can is sniffed, and his brows crease, "How do you eat better than I do? Jeez."

Whines are the only answer as the little butt hits the floor and the tail wags excitedly. "Kate teach you that?" The food is spooned into a bowl and set on the floor, all while huge brown eyes follow every motion, ever movement. "Go ahead." Like a dart, the puppy is at the food, pushing the bowl around the floor in his desire to get to every drop that's in the bowl.

*boop*

Clint takes coffee, finally, and phone, and leans against the counter to read the message. A breathed chuckle sounds and he's almost ready to reply, Yeah, doesn't sound like me, does it? but resists the urge. Instead?

«1 time a yr, K. Sheesh.»

It's almost time for him to head out to the restaurant, anyway. "Okay, dog. Gonna tell 1C you're here."

~

The long black dress with the flowy skirt. That should do. Add some tights, no one will notice the boots underneath, and besides, there's snow out there. Travel bow and narrow quiver. And trench over it. Kate pauses long enough to put some make up on, covering the bruise at her jaw as well as she can. Three days in means it's at its most colorful by now. Awkward.

She pauses by the door, checking a mirror and glancing toward the windows with a sigh. "Safe as it's getting right now," she murmurs, then heads out for the florist.

~

Christmas Day. One would think that everyone is tucked in happily for the evening, but that's never the case for NYC. At least the rain/slush stopped, even if it's settled into puddles all along the streets and sidewalks. The lights that blink in festive red and green along the thoroughfare are as bright as they were the night before, as are the faces that pass.

There, the Sunshine Florist remains open in the evening hours, 'just in case'. There are even a couple of customers within, wandering around, looking for that perfect gift to bring home, for whatever reason. Refrigerators line one wall, premade bouquets with cute, funny and/or romantic sayings.

~

While Kate wanders out, Clint is locking the door behind him and heading down the stairs with a well-used heavy jacket. Now or never, buddy… and why the hell do I feel -more- nervous than when I proposed to Bobbi? It's only dinner.

And a present. And flowers…

Clint groans as he pauses at the front door to his apartment building, hand on the door, lingering there. Here, he's been worried about being stood up, and now? A deep breath is taken, and finally, the door is pushed open and he's outside, making his way.

"Hey, bro!"

Clint ignores the 'greeting' as much as he can, hand clenching his keys as he makes his way to the subway station. No trouble tonight. No. None. Zero. Nyet.
"We have to talk, you and me, bro. Yes?" One Russian appears, decked out in warm Russian finery, including the big fuzzy hat. Not quite Cossack-size, but it still makes a point. Hands are in his pockets as well, and he's walking beside the archer matching steps towards the hole in the ground.

"No, not tonight." Clint doesn't even bother looking to the side. "Catch me tomorrow. I'll be around. Or better yet, come by and screw up my New Years, okay?"

~

Kate looks around the shop as she steps inside with a jingle of bells on the door, curious. Flowers. This is new. It's nice, but it's new. And she's still not convinced there isn't something else going on here. She glances down at the card in her hand, then makes her way toward the counter.

"Hi," she calls over to the attendant, offering a small smile. "My…friend sent me here? I'm not one hundred percent sure what's going on. But it might be under Bishop, Kate?"

~

"Oh, no. We talk now, bro."

Clint's trying to keep his temper, he really is. It's Christmas! Though the closer they get to the stairs leading down, the more annoyed he's getting. Just before they reach the station, Clint pulls a hand from his pocket and backhands the Russian in the face with his left fist. *whoof* It's followed by a swing around, and a right hook strikes, putting the slightly pudgy Russian down onto the ground, blood streaming from his nose and mouth. "New Years. Really. I'll even have some vodka out for you."

Rubbing his knuckles, Clint descends and catches the sounds of trains moving through the station. "Goddammit.." One step changes to two steps on the stairs down, and jumping the turnstile, manages to get on the last car before it pulls out.

~

The florist shop smells like a barrage of flowers, from roses to lavender and everything in between. It's well lit, and the staff actually don't look as if they've been kicked because they're working Christmas Day. They greet Kate, though the look lingers at the girl's face. One steps forward, a smile rising and she is the one to start, "Kate.. Kate Bishop. Yes, that was set up yesterday." The young woman heads towards one of the refrigerators, chatting as she does, her tones light and happy. "He came in, looked a little lost." Pulling the door open, the girl pauses and her shoulders slouch, "I know it's none of my business, but…" Beat. "Did he…" and she makes the gesture around her jaw. Not all can be hidden from other women, after all. "I mean, I see it a lot." That last bit did sound somewhat apologetic, but it's apparant that perhaps she's something of a crusader, given her particular job? (All 'beaters' buy their wives/girlfriends flowers in apology, after all!)

Though now, she does pull out two things. One, a long red rose encircled by a splash of little white flowers, tied with a wispy red bow in a blown-glass bud-vase that is alive with light blues, purples and greens at the base. The other, another red rose, but to be pinned on a coat rather than worn. "I tried to tell him that girls get the 'wrist thing', but he insisted. Said something about how it would get ruined if you shot?" She's not at all sure she actually heard her customer correctly and it most assuredly shows.

There, on a tag on the budvase is written another address. This time in the Village.

~

"Huh?" Kate quirks a brow, then follows the girl's look and laughs suddenly. "Oh! Oh yeah, no," she grins, amused. "I do martial arts, took a tumble on the mats." A smile quirks as she looks at the flowers, spreading into another laugh at the explanation of the corsage. "Honestly, I'm kind of more impressed that you didn't have to ask him if someone'd been beating on him."

She pauses, though, and reaches into her pocket to pull out a small stack of business cards. This one isn't the Hawkeye card. This is the one that has a number and an address for the Eleanor Bishop Memorial Shelter and their abuse hotline. "I manage a shelter," she says more quietly. "If you run into that sort of thing…pass these out?"

"Oh!" The girl laughs and she nods, "You go, girl." It's an easy enough story to believe, after all. Kate doesn't look the sinking violet type, and coupled with the comment about 'shooting' from the guy who bought the flowers? She looks puzzled before she adds, "I didn't notice. But it was kinda cute. Had this puppy with him, picked him up, wandered in and just got lost in the room." There's a pause before, "First date?" To explain, she continues, "He wanted flowers. We tried to explain that it doesn't always work that way anymore on a first date because, well… he was cute, he looked a little lost and we wanted to be sure he was okay. Steered him away from daisies, and the orchids, though he really wanted the waterfall orchids," and there, she points to a cascade of elegant, exotic yellow and deep purple orchids all on one stem." The cards are gratefully accepted, and the girl nods, her own voice lowering to echo Kate's own. "Eleanor Bishop Memorial Shelter. I'll remember that, too." Reaching back, she puts one of the cards on the register and the rest, she cuts in half to hand to her co-worker before pocketing the rest. "Hope to see you 'round more, Ms Bishop. You guys seem really cute."

~

Clint's train is just pulling into his station, up in The Village. Taking the steps two by two once more, hands drop immediately into his pockets once he hits the surface and enters the cold from the artificial warm of the station. One block, the archer is rushing just a little to make the reservation for 'The Strip House'.

~

"He's always lost," Kate laughs ruefully to the shop girl, shaking her head. "But he tries. Good lord, the man tries." The flowers get another bemused look as she stands at the counter, pensive. "I'm not entirely sure what he's trying right now, though." Plucking the card from the vase, she types the address into her phone, smile quirking again when she sees what comes up.

"Thanks, ladies," she smiles warmly to the attendants, pinning the rose onto her coat and picking up the vase before she heads out to go to the restaurant.

"Mhmm.." the girl gives as a parting sound, and as the door opens and closes once again in Kate's departure, she's off to help 'the next customer'.

~

Clint makes it to the restaurant, and absently runs a hand through his hair. Oh yeah. Hair cut. Not much to 'straighten' there, and once he gets inside, he's 'Mr Cool'. It's only a few steps to the woman with the 'book' in front of her, and when she looks up, her expression is expectant.

"Two. Barton. Made the reservation…"

"I see. Three nights ago. Okay, there's a table for you, though…" It's pretty obvious she's not seeing a 'second' however, and brows rise in silent inquiry.

Clint keeps his scraped hands in his pockets and tries not to sound irritable, "She's coming." The Maitre D' arrives with menues and offers something of a stiff bow, "This way, sir, if you would."

The restaurant is -red-. Red walls host numerous black and white pictures of the rich and famous over the years, the decades, and the lighting is muted, with candles blazing on each white-clothed table for atmosphere. There's a hushed humm, and it's quite busy, considering the day. Waitresses buzz around, though their presence seems understated.

~

Kate doesn't know what time the reservation is, but she knows Clint well enough to know he's probably late. So she travels as quickly as she can, and when she comes up to the restaurant, she lets herself start to believe this isn't actually some sort of trap someone's set up.

« Nice choice in restaurants, » she texts from outside, standing just beyond the door. « You inside, or should I wait for you? »

Clint is actually there, seated, and has sent the waitress away for a couple of minutes, optimistic that Kate'll show before ordering a drink. (He won't wait -too- long, however. They've got good beer on tap!)

His phone buzzes in his pocket, and he pulls it out slowly and glances at the screen. A smirk rises to read the first bit, and he starts an answer. « Thought u'd like it. Inside now. W8ng 4 u be4 beer. » Someone really should tell him to stop with the text '1337'…

~

« Beer? Plebe. ;) » Kate sends the text, then steps inside to greet the hostess with a polite smile. "Hi, I'm meeting someone inside? Should be under Barton." She's already shrugging out of her coat, though not before salvaging the flower, and passing it and the out of place bow and quiver to the coat check.

~

« On. Tap. I could ask for bottled draft. » Is that a threat?

Clint's got a smirk on his face as he sets the phone down again, but as the seconds pass, he takes a deep breath, shifting some of the stuff that's on the table in front of him around. He's trying really hard not to keep looking at the entry way, but fails when the Maitre D' shoots past to the front of house.

"Yes, m'am. He's just gotten here. If you'd follow me?"

It is actually rather busy, and Clint's table is shunted somewhat in the back. Not the worst table, not by a longshot. (It's not the one by the kitchen doors!) He made sure of that; a little cash and a badge does go a long way. They're even polite to him!

~

Kate laughs when she gets the text, rolling her eyes and putting the phone away in her purse. If she's going to dinner with Clint, then she doesn't need to answer the phone. Everything else has a phone line that other people can answer. And it's Christmas. She can have one night to herself.

The black dress is actually a rather elegant piece in sleeveless chiffon, the skirt folded into countless tiny pleats. She's wearing the new bracelet, and her hair is swept up into a quick but elegant bun. And she did at least try to cover up the bruise on her jaw. She mostly did.

~

The moment Clint catches the pair heading towards the table, he palms the phone off and sticks it into his pocket and rises to his feet. He's dressed in all but a suit, complete with skinny straight tie(!) When he sees her, the smile rises and quirks to something a little lopsided. She got the flower, (obviously! She's here!) and looks lovely. It's when she gets closer that there's a touch of something not quite right, and once chairs are pulled and the waitress comes and goes for the drinks, Clint leans forward, his scratched hand gesturing towards his own cheek, his expression having shifted to something more like concern. "You got something there.."

No 'You look lovely tonight, Kate.'? It doesn't even occur to him, met with the fact that she's somehow gotten hurt.

~

"Wow, you look…" Hot. "Sharp." Kate still reaches over to straighten his collar, smirking and shaking her head to his comment. "Sorry, was running low on concealer, and someone was surprising me with presents and flowers and dinner," she says as she sits, letting the maitre d' push her chair in. She waits until he's gone to get a waiter before she adds any more explanation. "I got clocked by Captain Boomerang while I was dealing with the Golden Glider," she notes in an undertone. "Just a bruise, nothing that won't go away in a day."

~

Clint rolls his eyes briefly at the collar and tie adjusting, but it is undoubtedly necessary. And even if it isn't, there isn't a chance in hell that he'd tell her not to. He gets the chance to smell her shampoo, the 'essence' that is Katie.

Once settled, blue eyes don't leave her face, nodding at the information. His tones take something of a scoff, "Why do those names beg to be in some Sunday comic strip? I mean, Captain Boomerang and Golden Glider? I mean, really?" Though the fact that someone got a hit on her doesn't make him too happy. "Lucky shot?"

The beer comes with just the right amount of head on top, and Kate's drink is set down before her. Clint waits, smiles politely before he offers, "You look great tonight, by the way."

~

"Lucky shot," Kate agrees with a flicker of a smile, one that deepens at the compliment. "Thanks. I was sort of going for, uh." She laughs, setting the napkin over her lap. "Okay, one hundred percent honest? I was trying to make sure I'd be ready if it wasn't actually you. That's sort of been my life lately. I think I'm going to talk to someone about getting some sort of bag of holding for my things, you know?"

~

The polite smile warms for his dinner companion- that other one was for the waitress. Now that they're alone, or as alone as they can be in a restaurant that is slowly filling for the evening, Clint's brows rise and he echoes the laugh. "Bow or knives?" Now, though, he nods, the gesture a little rueful. "Yeah, I know the feeling. I was almost expecting that you wouldn't show, and I could see myself sitting at the table for hours." The smile quickly returns, and manages to reach his eyes, "Better than Harper?" Competition, ho!

Though, at the mention of a bag of holding, Clint puts a hand up. "Hold off on that for a little while, okay? I might be able to set you up with something." His last Christmas present that really isn't so much a 'present'.. even if it is. "I got one more thing for you, and you probably don't even remember my mentioning it to you. But I didn't bring it here. It's still at my place."

Now, Clint picks up his beer and there's a flicker of uncertainty that rushes past his eyes. It's a heartbeat, and passes before he offers, "Merry Christmas, Kate. Thought I'd try something different this year."

~

"Oh, we're going back to your place?" Kate asks, unable to resist the opportunity to tease. "Why, Mister Barton, I do declare," she says with a flutter of her lashes, fanning herself with one hand. She grins, reaching for her cocktail to hold it out to him. "Merry Christmas, Clint," she replies warmly. "It's been…one heck of a year, hasn't it? And it doesn't look to be slowing down, either."

~

Clint laughs at the reaction. "C'mon. Present. Flowers. Dinner? It's written in the 'Guy Book', Chapter One. Of course, that's all that's in there. One chapter. They don't even mention dancing. Or movies." He takes a swallow of his beer and replaces it, "Besides, the dog wants to see you. I think he's just humoring me."

Of course Clint notices that he didn't get a 'oh yeah, a hell of a lot better than Harper', but doesn't follow up on it. Not until after dinner and dessert. No dancing. "It's been a hell of a year, but I'm actually looking forward to the new year. We've got a ton of stuff that no one has ever even dreamed of, much less seen. Hell, there's been times when I've wondered if I should just turn my back and walk away from all of it and find some home somewhere and live a normal life. I can't. I'm afraid that today is probably the most normal day I've had in some time. Even then, one of my 'bros' wanted to talk to me on the way to the station."

~

Kate wrinkles her nose at the reminder of the Bratva. "I was seriously considering the benefits of living on a space station the other day," she admits. "I mean, I live in a nice part of town. We've got security. I keep the doors and windows locked. Except I had Damian dropping in one night, and then his grandfather the next night. Let me tell you, the whole being warned off of someone is a new experience for me, I'm pretty sure it usually goes the other way around."

~

"I dunno. I was thinking somewhere out in the country. Maybe move back to Iowa." Clint Barton, country kid? "There'd be room in the car for another." The offer is given so matter of factly, the chances are good that even he doesn't really realize it. -Of course- Kate goes everywhere with him!

"Space station is kinda cool. But your apartment; didn't you say that you were talking to Stark?"

The bit about Damian's grandfather dropping in gets Clint's attention pretty damned quickly. He looks at his dinner companion, brows rising, and no little amount of tensing, "Kate. Do I have to put a panic button in your pace that rings me? Warning you off Damian?"

~

Kate reaches for her purse, opening it up to show a bluetooth earpiece. "I've got one. In an emergency, it puts out a call to you, SHIELD, Oracle, Trent, the Red Team, and the Titans with a last known location and a recording of anything that follows." Her lips twitch in a faint smirk as she closes the purse and puts it back down again.

She takes a drink, shrugging one shoulder as she continues. "He put the sword away when I asked nicely, so it wasn't an emergency. But the gist of it was he doesn't want me hanging out with Damian anymore. By which he means he'll have me killed if I see him again." It's delivered flatly, as her brows furrow in a faint frown. "I don't think he needed to worry, though."

A pause, and she looks back up from her drink. "Iowa? Really?"

~

"Okay, I'll bite. Who'll have jurisdiction? That's a mess waiting to happen." Clint tics off each of the teams plus the loners. "Just stick with one or two, okay?" A soft whistle rises, though there is that relief that she's got so many different people to call on.

The beer is taken once again, and as the story is recounted, Clint takes another swallow. "Is that in a 'you broke his heart' sort of way, or a more 'I don't want you near him because we're going to the wierd side' sort of way, and they don't want you interfering?" Still, it does bug him; can't 'save' everyone, but when there is a friend involved? "Talk to your Titan friends about it? What was their reaction?"

The beer is set down again, and looking over his shoulder for the oncoming waitress for their orders, Clint's smile turns into a grin. "Yup. I was born in Iowa. On a farm. Me and my brother. Parents were killed in a car accident though, and we hit an orphanage. A real, live orphanage. Not 'foster care'. So, I actually know how to milk cows, collect eggs and ride horses… and stuff."

~

"Probably both," Kate grimaces in regard to the question of what sort of warning off. "And you should be grateful I haven't added Fenris and Constantine to the list yet." Speaking of people who don't really fit into traditional jurisdictions. "I told the Titans about Damian. They immediately went into 'change the passwords' mode," she adds, features darkening. Clearly, she's not very happy with that response. "Because, you know. That's going to make him feel wanted enough to-" She closes her eyes tightly, shaking her head and taking a deep breath.

"Anyhow. Sorry. That's…that's what it's gonna be. I don't think Damian's himself, but I don't know enough to do anything about it. And in the meantime, that woman is still out there. So." She lets out the breath, looking back up with a faint smile for the description.

"Green Acres, huh? Sorry, Barton, I'm more of a Park Avenue girl, you know?" she teases.

~

"Okay, okay. Grateful that you didn't go too over the top. Still don't know how that would work. I'd probably claim lead. But-"

Clint looks up at the waitress, and blinks before he scuffles, checking the menu quickly for what jumps out at him. "Um.. appetizer. Strip with bacon?" Everything else looks, well, not like he knows exactly what is in it.

There's a moment when the archer shakes his head in response to the Titan's reaction. "Damn," is whispered. "Nothing like a little concern. I get it now. They're not the warmest of people, huh. Which is kinda strange, considering." He chuffs a laugh that holds anything but amusement, "Not hard to get why's, then. Figure, you were the nicest to him, so he got a crush. All his other so-called friends probably didn't have a whole lot of time for him, so attention? Yeah, I get it."

Kate's response to his farm-life gains her a kick from under the table, his expression completely straight. "You mean to tell me you wouldn't even -try- it? Hell, I should subject you to it just so you can learn how to live off the land. Barns are kinda cool, though. Hay lofts…"

~

"You'd figure out who was best suited to whatever the threat was and let them take the lead," Kate counters with a smirk, pausing to point out a vegetable-based appetizer. "That's how the whole cooperation and teamwork thing works." She wrinkles her nose at the talk of a crush. "And yeah, he probably did. I feel kind of- I mean. I'm pretty sure I did the right thing, not leading him on. Not getting into something just to hurt him later, you know? At the same time, it meant he was just…open to the other influences. I know it's not my fault. It's his choice. That doesn't mean it doesn't make me a little bit sad. And worried for him."

Clearing her throat, she shakes her head and looks back to Clint, kicking back under the table. "Where do you get 2am dim sum on a farm, huh?"

~

There's a moment when Clint nods, a statement to end such thought of Kate disappearing, "All in an effort to get you back. I'd work with anyone." Not something he wants to consider.

"I'm glad you know it's not your fault, Katie. You're not responsible for everyone in this world." He pauses and chuckles, "Not even me, though I'm pretty sure I need the help at times." Times? "Lots of 'ifs' in there and you can't help but wonder if it'd have helped, but it's done." If the Titans had been more open? If Damian had found more friends?

A barked laugh sounds as revenge is taken, and Clint grins in his response, "About fifty miles away or so. Maybe. But probably not. But when was the last time you had milk straight from the cow?" Of course, that question is asked the -moment- the waitress finishes up the order, and the woman just sort of -looks- at him before walking back to the kitchen with the order.

Now, though, Clint holds up a hand. "Okay. I'm gonna ask. Can we try and avoid work talk tonight? Just… I don't know how to do normal much anymore, we don't, but I'd kinda like to try. Just this once?" He chuckles and shrugs a single shoulder, looking a little unsettled. C'mon, Barton! "You know, pretend it's a date or something?" Pretend? You're an idiot! Even Harper could do it!

~

"I'm pretty sure I even work talk on dates," Kate says ruefully, smile softening a bit as she looks back at him. "But yeah. I think I can try that. I mean. If this were a date." She quirks a brow, reaching for her glass again. "Because the girl at the flower shop, she thought it was probably a date. Said we seemed like a really cute couple." Hint. Hint.

~

"I kinda like the idea of just me and Kate, not 'the two Hawks'?" It's actually why he got jewelry first; a personal piece. The bit of information about the girl at the florist shop does get something of a facepalm. "She was on about 'first date' with me. How flowers aren't always 'the thing' anymore and how sometimes that could be seen as 'old fashioned'. Then, this one wasn't good, that wasn't the right one…" Still let it not be said that he isn't appreciative. What he did get, he's quite happy with.

The waitress comes out with a tray of food, moving around the table to set the appetizers down carefully; vegetables first, then the meat wrapped in cured meat. Clint looks up at her and nods his thanks before he looks across the table, brows rising. "Did she?"

~

"Well. Once I convinced her you weren't buying the flowers to apologize for beating me," Kate adds with a grin, gesturing to the poorly-hidden bruise. "Though that turned out well enough. I passed her and the other girl a few of the cards for the shelter. If that sort of thing happens often…" She trails off, lifting one shoulder. "At least they'll have somewhere to send them. The Stark thing was a huge success, by the way. I haven't seen the kids that happy in months. Or the mothers that relaxed."

~

See? Not talking about work. Work. Or at least their shared work. But, does that still qualify as work?

Clint laughs, "She had a funny look on her face when I told her 'no' on the wrist thing. She probably wouldn't understand that it would interfere with the bowstring. Last thing you want is to shoot rose petals tucked in your fletching." There must have been some subconscious thought that Kate would have brought her bow, then? Exactly how well does he know her? Obviously even better than he expected!

"She believed you, right?" For some reason, that sounds important to Clint, and his expression changes to match the concern in his tones. "I wouldn't hit you.. or really any woman. Ever. Not like that, I mean." His head shakes, and he's trying, "I hope she believed that I'm not like that. I mean, I suppose I can be a jerk. Anyone can, but not like that."

The food is served, Kate with her veggies, Clint with his meat, and there's the stabbing with a fork and dropping it onto one of the little plates. "'But, I was thinking about what it would be like. You know, and you'd probably catch a lot of flack from Bobbi, or 'Tash. Jessica, maybe. They'd all start taking bets on how long it takes before you hate me and join their side."

~

"Hey, the rose petals thing could be a cool signature," Kate grins. "Doesn't really go with the Hawkeye theme, though. Very dramatic, on the other hand. But yeah, she believed me," she adds, amused. "I know you wouldn't hit a woman unless she was hitting you," she chuckles, fading off as she takes a sip of her drink. A sip that slows, and lasts a little longer than usual at his last comment. Is he…serious? Like, really serious.

"I don't…think I could ever really hate you, Clint," she says slowly, setting her glass down carefully centered on the coaster. "I mean. I don't think they do either, honestly. You're too…you."

~

Clint looks at his dinner companion and chuffs a soft breath in a quiet laugh. "Yeah, I'm me. And I do the dumbest things because I don't think about them at the time. Can't ever retire because I'd be even worse than I am now." Putting his fork down, the archer sounds subdued. Honest. His voice is low, the tenor serious, "You're what I got left, Kates. If you hate me, well… I don't want that to happen." He chuckles, though it doesn't carry beyond the table. "Oh, they do. Just wait. And if they find out we're a pair? They'll try and talk you out of it." Shaking his head, Clint takes a deep breath before exhaling it in another laugh. "This is dumb. Why the hell can't I just say it?"

~

"I'm not going to hate you, Clint," Kate promises, shaking her head. "And I'm not going to run off, either. You're…" Apparently he's not the only one who can't just say it. She reaches for one of the stuffed mushrooms, catching her lower lip between her teeth. "Also, you can't retire. You took some time off to be dead, and I'm not training someone else to be my backup Hawkeye, so you're going to have to stick around."

~

Clint looks at his plate and stabs it idly, taking out some of his annoyance at himself on the food. One stab, two stabs… "I'm not going to die." At least he can get that much out. "Not anytime soon. I'll be old and retire out to some boring place in the midwest. Not Iowa." That last bit is given with something of a theatric mumble-poke.

Still, Clint can't get the thought out of his head, and the knife comes up, cutting up the meat. When he finally actually gets a bite, it gives him a chance to back off, regroup his thoughts. Of course, a couple of rapid swallows of beer will help that greatly as well. With the thump of the almost finished glass of beer back onto the table, Clint gives it a shot. "Do you want this to be a first date? I mean, it'd be nice and all. Something I really wouldn't mind. That is, if you wanted that, of course."

~

"Oh, you really wouldn't mind, huh?" Kate smirks, though she pokes a bit at her own plate. "Well. I wouldn't mind so much, either. If you didn't mind." She looks back up, smile crooked. "I mean. Some people might mind. Given that you're old and stuff," she teases with a wink. "But, you know. You're kind of pretty much the best thing in my life."

~

Kate's answer actually brings a smile to his face. There's a touch of boyishness in the expression, and it reaches the blue eyes clearly and easily. He chuckles and hangs his head forward, nodding, "There's gonna be tons of people who are gonna mind. But I have a feeling that you'll be hearing more of it than I will." Clint kicks at Kate under the table again, "I am not old. Jeez. You know, there's a saying, 'Don't trust anyone under 30.' So, I'm stickin' my neck out here." Of course, the same saying also goes 'Don't trust anyone OVER 30'… but he's not about to mention it.

"Yeah. You're pretty damned important to me. Hell. You still have one more present to open later. And no, it's not a cheap way to get you back to my place."

~

"Yeah, well. I wouldn't so much mind going back to your place." Kate pauses, hears herself, then turns bright red. "I mean. I mean, I didn't- That's not- Not that- Oh my god." She drops her forehead into one hand, wincing. "So, that took a record of five seconds before it got weird, huh? Go, Kate." Clearing her throat, she straightens back up. "I kind of feel weird about going home right now, and normally I'd go to your place when I felt like that."

~

Clint actually laughs, and is that a touch of red on his cheeks as he ducks his head again. It's a nervous laugh, one that echoe's Kate's almost exactly. "It wasn't me. And I think that might be a first, Kates." When he lifts his head, he's got one of those smiles, teasing. It shifts slightly, and suddenly, it feels a little warm in the room. He clears his throat and tugs on his collar in gesture before he smiles a tightlipped smile. "Yeah. I'll… uh…" Get the couch again tonight. "… walk the dog, though. Pretty sure no one is gonna come through the window, though. If they do, they'll have both of us to worry about."

~

"I'm sort of…" Kate reaches for her glass, finishing her drink and setting the empty glass where the wait staff can see it. "This might be weird. Just because, well. I mean, you've known me forever, right? I don't…date. I don't get romantic with guys. If I'm completely honest, I don't get really close with people much. I like my space. And getting close to people is scary. You know what I mean. You'll tell me if I'm leading you on, right?" she asks, and for a moment, she looks genuinely…vulnerable. In a way that Kate rarely is.

~

Clint's known her forever and has liked her for a good portion of that time. Not in a creepy sense, but there's been that urge to protect, to encourage, to teach. And the way Katie took to everything he's tried to teach her? Pride. Affection. And now?

"I've known you forever, and no. I don't think I've ever seen you date." Clint's listening now, and he slowly nods. "Katie, nothing is going to change. Or not a lot. Maybe you'll spend more time at my place, maybe I'll spend more at yours. Maybe add a movie night, and I'll get to have you lean against me again and fall asleep." And sneak out after I've crashed. Kate. Yes, you.

"If I suddenly get up and grab a cold shower, screaming in agony, that'll give you an idea, okay?" Clint's teasing, but there's something under it. "Seriously. Don't you dare worry. This is me. Got it?"

~

Kate lets out a soft breath, smile easing. "Yeah," she says quietly, leaning over to reach for his hand. "Yeah, I got it." Merry Christmas, indeed.

~

"Now we better actually eat something here. I got dressed up, tie and everything for this dinner." Clint points at his dinner companion (girlfriend!) with his fork. "Dinner. No dancing. But, when we get home, I have that last present. You can open it while I'm taking Dog for a walk. You probably won't have to lock the door."

The dinner is, well… while it may not be Michelin star restaurant, it's not for lack of trying. Filling. Meat. And has a great name.


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