Until the age of five, Melinda was fairly certain she was going to be a dinosaur-fighting ballerina when she grew up. In her defense, out of the heavy schedule of after-school activities her mother and father had assigned her, she enjoyed Monday’s judo lessons and Wednesday’s ballet lessons best of all. And who didn’t want to fight dinosaurs?
Years later and tens of thousands of feet higher, she sat in the pilot’s chair gazing past her indicators and switches and decided she’d had a rather narrow view of her potential choices at the time.
It was going to be really nice having the weekend off. Maybe she’d cook a little something and have a little wine. She had that bottle of red that she’d been saving for a good day. Setting up the groundwork for a new S.H.I.E.L.D. probably counted as a good day. Hell, nothing had even blown up in the last month unless they’d planned the explosion.
Besides, it was only a matter of time before some sort of attack by robots from the future or evil aliens from the other end of the universe or Eric brought down unspeakable terror. Finally drinking that bottle of ‘97 and a nice long bubble bath as her homemade spaghetti sauce simmered to perfection was the ‘life affirming choice,’ as Skye would say. Maybe she’d bake a round of brie.
First unnerving thought: her tail was an amateur letting her spot them so early. Second unnerving thought was that the people following meant for her to see them.
Third: Or maybe it was just Clint Barton up a tree.
Whatever, she was determined to have her Good Day, make dinner, and drink that wine, even if she ended up with company.
Rounding the corner, she picked up the pace. Let them get tired trying to keep up. Besides, if she took too long, all the ripest roma tomatoes would be gone when she got to the Farmer’s Market.
As she debated whether to get a pint of honey or just a whole quart, her shadow made himself known by leaning casually against the booth, arms crossed over his chest.
“I was starting to wonder if I needed to shoot you out of a tree on the way home,” Melinda said not looking up and deciding on a quart.
“Well it’s good to see you too, Melinda. How nice of you to ask how I’ve been!” he said.
“Clint, I’m not amused,” Melinda made a point of frowning at him.
“Yeah you are,” Clint said, grinning at her.
“If I let you follow me home and give you food, you should know I’m not keeping you,” she said with a pointed look.
“But I’m housebroken,” Clint said, making a point to pout and clench his chest as if she’d wounded him. She just rolled her eyes.
“That’s not what Phil says.” She lifted an eyebrow and gave a small smile, testing. She had a feeling that was part of the reason he was here.
“Phil is such an asshole,” Clint frowned, visibly giving his shoulders a shake. “And I’m way better at personal space now anyway.”
“Right.” Melinda paid for her honey and turned. “Come on if you’re coming.”
“M’am yes m’am,” Clint barked falling into step beside her and taking the jar of honey from her hands.
Melinda wasn’t exactly sure why the archer was currently in her business but she suspected he wanted to know about Phil. Not that she was going to tell him anything. Clint should just get the courage to go talk to Coulson. But sometimes, you had to let them figure it out for themselves.
“You’re peeling the garlic,” Melinda said, after walking a block.
“I expect no less,” Clint agreed.
When it didn’t look like Clint was ever going to shut up and danced around what he really wanted to talk about, Melinda opened the wine.
After most of the bottle was gone and they’d eaten quite a bit of the spaghetti, Clint got quiet. The silence would have been welcome, but Melinda knew what was coming.
“You should ask Phil how he is,” Melinda said after the silence had drawn out to a near uncomfortable length.
“LIke he’d tell the truth,” Clint sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. When he looked at Melinda, she saw some of the worry he’d been keeping tucked away.
“Maybe he would for you,” she offered.
“What? If he won’t tell the great Melinda May, I can’t imagine what the fuck he’d say to me.” Clint’s jaw clenched and he swallowed down the rest of his wine.
“If this is about you being pissed off about me knowing he was alive when you didn’t, I’d hate to remind you that you’re a spy,” Melinda countered. “You could have looked. It’s not about shared history. Or about who Fury told what to. If you had a feeling, you could have looked.”
“When?” Clint asked incredulous. “After New York I got shipped off into some deep undercover bullshit in Beirut and then a couple assholes--that I call friends--burned the agency to the ground. Do you know how inconvenient it is to be in dangerous territory and your cover has been so blown that little kids know who the fuck you are?”
“My sins are out there too,” she said, quietly. Dangerous. She would not allow him to make her angry. She’d trash her apartment kicking his ass first.
“It’s not that all my dirty little secrets are out there, Melinda May,” Clint matched her tone. “It’s that I had to find out that our Phil Coulson, the only person you’d come back out into the field for, was alive. Finding out from a half ass encrypted memo that he’s alive is not the way it should have gone down. And that’s not the only thing that’s driving me crazy.”
“Ah,” she said and sighed. His concerns were hers.
“Yeah, ah,” Clint sank back into his chair and crossed his arms.
“I could say he’s as well as can be expected,” Melinda said. “I can say how he’s still very much Phil.”
“But you’re worried?” Clint asked, but it didn’t sound like a question. Melinda was worried. After the battle that took down Garret, something hasn’t been quite right about Phil. She’s truly afraid that they’re going to lose him. That he’s finally being overwhelmed by the alien DNA that put him back together. That she’d never be able to stop being angry with Phil for dragging her back out into the fold. For making her feel like she’d have to finish this even if he weren’t here.
“Yes,” she answered instead of saying all that, but Clint seemed to hear it anyway.
“Fuck,” Clint said.
“Pretty much,” Melinda agreed.
Clint laughed and then sighed deeply. “So I guess I’ll be paying a visit.”
“Wait until Monday and I’ll let you catch a ride,” Melinda offered.
“I wouldn’t say no to a ride,” Clint agreed amicably.
“Put dinner away,” Melinda ordered. “There’s sheets in the hall closet for the couch if you’re staying over. If I wake up to assassins that’ve found my apartment, I’ll end you and you won’t be worrying about any emotional reunions.”
“It’s comforting to know that you remain such a hardass,” Clint chirped.
“I advise you not to wake me before 8 if you want to keep all of your fingers,” she called over her shoulder walking down the hall to her bedroom.
She’d just have to have that bubble bath tomorrow after she’s run the stray off with a broom or maybe an order to commandeer some breakfast.