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Stay (Wasting Time)

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“When you said ‘beach’, this really wasn’t what I was picturing.”

“What’s wrong with it?” Natasha asks over her shoulder.

“Well, there’s no sand for starters,” says Clint, gesturing at the rocky outcrop they were currently climbing over.

“So? This is more interesting,” Natasha replies. “It has rock pools.”

Clint raises an eyebrow in her direction. “Rock pools?”

“Yeah,” says Natasha, squatting down to look into a pool. “Look, there’s a crab.”

“I cannot believe you’re a rocky beach type of person.”

“What’s so great about sandy beaches?” Natasha asks, still peering into the pool. “You just lie on them, and then burn. Sand gets everywhere and fat men leer at you. Rocky beaches are much more interesting.”

Clint looks out to sea, shading his eyes to see the waves crashing against the craggy headland. He’s never understood how the sea is so calming and… grounding, but it is; the push-pull of the waves endless and soothing – like looking at the stars. Making you feel small and connected at the same time.

“OK, I don’t get the fat men, but I can see that being annoying,” he says, before turning back to her. “But lying on the beach is fun! You don’t have to do anything.”

Natasha looks up at him and then rolls her eyes. “Yes, because doing nothing is so interesting.”

Clint huffs as she stands to climb over rocks to reach the line of the sea, waves crashing dramatically up up up and the spray creating mists that blur the horizon and create little rainbows as the droplets catch the sunlight. He’d be worried about her on the water-slick rocks if she weren’t Natasha, and if she weren’t wearing diving shoes; the black rubber incongruous when paired with her forest green bikini.

A wave crashes into the rocks in front of her, and for a moment she is silhouetted against the spray, looking powerful and elemental; a water goddess raised from the sea to cast judgement on the land.

But then the water retreats and she’s just Natasha again.

“Look,” she says suddenly, “Pelicans.”

Clint looks in the direction she’s pointing and sees a line of five pelicans flying parallel to the breaking waves. Clint reaches Natasha’s rock to stand beside her and they watch as the pelicans fly out of sight behind the headland.

“And look,” Natasha says, quieter now that Clint is close, “An eagle.”

Clint follows her finger again and sees an eagle of some sort, turning lazy circles in the thermals coming off the cliff. They watch it for some time, periodically getting sprayed with seawater by the rising tide. It’s only when they start really getting soaked, indicating that it’s time to move or get dragged out to sea, that they move.

“C’mon,” Natasha says. “Let’s go round the headland. We can watch the sun set from there.”

“We could also get trapped by the rising tide,” Clint points out.

“Are you telling me you couldn’t scale these cliffs, Agent Barton?”

Clint rolls his eyes. “Fine, fine. Lay on Macduff.”

He gestures at her to move but she just smiles at him, open and happy. Glowing.

“You quoted it correctly,” she says, and Clint shrugs, grinning.

“I do listen to you sometimes.”

So Natasha leads him around the headland, just before the sea claims the path she’s picked out, and they sit on orange, sun-warmed rocks and alternate between watching the eagle turning lazy circles above them, the crabs scuttling around their feet and the sun setting the sky on fire.

“OK, you’re right,” Clint concedes a while later, as Natasha leans against his side and the sky turns orange and purple as the sun dips below the horizon. “This is better than a sandy beach.”

They do end up climbing the cliff to get out, though.