Though he accepts it as a part of his duty, the days Clint spends debriefing at the end of a tour are always some of the longest of an assignment. Knowing he's back in the States, but that he's going to be stuck on base until his superiors are satisfied drives him crazy every time it happens.
It takes nearly two weeks to get through the debriefing this time and it makes him suspicious about the meeting that appeared on his schedule this morning with only the name "Coulson" in the organizer, attendee, and subject fields. He has a feeling his life is about to get a lot more complicated and after the clusterfuck of his last assignment, it's just enough to have him driving as far away from all the military bars that surround Mayport as he can.
When he gets to Atlantic Beach, he pulls into the first bar he sees that doesn't look like it'll make him go deaf from shitty dance music and heads in to get as hammered as he can manage. As soon as he's inside, Clint knows he's probably just a little too old for the scene, but he doesn't care.
It only takes him a few more seconds to realize that it must be spring break and that gives him pause, but not enough to go find someplace else. He can get drunk and maybe laid just as easily here as another bar. And at least this place isn't crawling with the military groupies that seem to populate most of the bars around base.
A couple of beers later, he's starting to revise that opinion. The bar is busy enough that he's been stuck holding up a wall for the past twenty minutes and, despite the lack of shitty music, he's got a headache slowly building behind his eyes. He's sure the co-eds wearing tops that are really just a piece of fabric held on with strings are perfectly nice girls, but they're all very loud and giggly and he really just wants a little quiet conversation. Well, a little quiet conversation followed by a whole lot of no-strings sex.
Clint sees his chance and snags a bar stool when the previous occupants (yes, plural) stagger off across the dance floor. He hunkers down into the traditional bar stool slouch while he waits for the overworked bartender to make her way over to him.
He's down to the last inch of his beer when the space between his shoulder blades starts to itch. Someone is staring at him. He shifts a little and casually surveys as much of the bar as he can without turning all the way around. He almost jerks when he realizes that it's someone on the next stool over who's staring at him. It's pretty rare for someone so obviously pissed to get that close without him noticing. Clint glances over in that direction.
The girl sitting next to him is gorgeous even if she's scowling a little. She's wearing more than any three other girls combined and she's got a drink that is not any neon color, so Clint gives her a little smile despite being sure he's got at least eight or nine years on her.
She looks unimpressed and reaches out to push him back a couple of inches so she can go back to--oh--glaring at someone on the dance floor behind him.
Clint risks a look behind him and sees a guy who's probably about six four and built like a brick shithouse. He's talking to a girl in a string-top and not paying the slightest bit of attention to the girl on the bar stool next to Clint.
Clint sighs and slumps a little more. He's pretty tall (what? 5'10" is tall... ish) and about as built as eight years in the service could make him, but the simple fact is that he's built wiry, not bulky. Bar stool girl obviously likes them linebacker-sized.
He debates ordering another beer versus ordering a whole bunch of shots versus just going back to base and getting some sleep before his demonstration on the shooting range tomorrow.
Sleep is just about winning when bar stool girl drops two tequila shots in front of him and says, "Drink up. I'm at least two drinks ahead and you look like you can hold your liquor."
Clint jerks back, surprised again that a civilian girl managed to get so far into his personal space. "Excuse me?"
She gestures impatiently at the drinks. "You seem like you would hesitate to take advantage of a drunken me. I'm trying to fix that."
"Are you kidding?"
She gives him a flat, unimpressed look. "Do I look like I'm kidding? Listen, the math is simple: a few drinks plus you plus me equals sex. If you're not into it, let me know now and I'll stop wasting my time."
Clint isn't used to girls being so blunt about it. Normally a bar hook-up is flirting, a little kissing and "do you want to go back to my place for some coffee?" But hey, she's cute, she's a little weird but not in a bad way, and she wants to have sex with him. Clint is not an idiot.
Clint gives her one of his best charming grins and tips both of the shots back, one after the other.
She doesn't smile back, but her shoulders drop and when she orders more shots from the bartender her voice has lost some of its sharpness. Two more tequila shots appear in front of him and he takes those just as quickly as the first, grimacing a little at the smokey burn at the back of his throat. The girl seems to be unaffected but for the quick sheen of tears in her eyes that she shakes off as soon as they appear.
Clint turns on his bar stool to get a better look at her and she mirrors him, looking him up and down with enough slow appreciation to have heat building in his stomach.
"So, I'm Clint." He really would need to be completely shitfaced hammered not to want to know the name of the girl he's going to have sex with.
Her nose wrinkles a little and she pauses, but finally says, "Darcy. Can we skip the boring meet-and-greet portions of the night? 'Cause I really don't care what you do for a living or what your favorite TV show is."
He shoots people in the head for a living. And he spent the last two years in a hellhole on the other side of the planet, so he didn't get much in the way of current television. "You know what, I am totally fine with skipping those questions. Hell, let's make up some fun lies instead. I'm a circus performer. Big top circus, not any of that fancy French crap."
Her eyebrows rise. "Okay, I'll bite. What's your act?"
"The Amazing Clint, world's greatest archer. And I'm thinking you're... hmm. An equestrian or a tightrope walker?"
She's starting to look a little amused, anyway. "Fuck that. I want to throw knives."
Clint laughs and slides his hand under Darcy's hair, pulling her close enough to kiss. She smells like shampoo and some sort of light perfume that's a relief from the heavy scent of Axe and desperation in the rest of the bar. She wraps her hand around his wrist and pushes her tongue into his mouth. She tastes like tequila and something sharp from what she was drinking before. He leans into her and she lets him for a second before curling her leg around his hip and sliding forward until she is straddling him on the stool.
She's small and curvy, with softly curving hips that fit his hands perfectly. Clint tugs her closer and slides one hand up her back to bury it in the dark fall of her hair. She's grinding against him, not even trying to be subtle about it, and Clint gets hard so fast that it's almost painful.
She growls and bites his lip, a little love-nip. Clint threads his fingers into the hair at the back of her head and tugs, and her head drops back with a quiet moan.
He's mouthing a damp path up her neck when a sharp voice interrupts him. "Hey! Knock it off."
Clint reluctantly pulls his lips away from her skin and blinks at the bartender. "What?"
"Take that shit out of here."
"Are you kidding me?" Clint looks around the bar at all the couples flirting and kissing and humping on the dance floor.
Clint drops his forehead onto Darcy's shoulder, getting momentarily distracted by the soft swell of her breasts above the top of her shirt. He presses a quick kiss there before murmuring, "Hang on," and sliding off the stool. Darcy squeaks in surprise and gets her legs around his waist before she falls.
She pushes her fingers through the short strands of his hair and bites his ear. "The ladies is a single stall that locks."
He anchors his hands under her ass and stumbles towards the back of the bar. He's way too old to be having sex in public, but he's had about four drinks too many to even think about driving and he knows it's the same for her. A cab would take too long and if she's okay with the ladies room, he's not going to complain.
Through some miracle, the ladies' room is unoccupied when they get there. Clint fumbles the deadbolt closed behind them with one hand then pushes Darcy up against the nearest wall. She pulls his hips tighter to her with her legs, rubbing the inseam of her jeans up against his erection. He slides a hand down, flicking the button of her jeans open and unzipping them to reveal the edge of silky underwear.
She laughs quietly and wiggles, urging his fingers downward. Clint smiles into her eyes--a vivid dark blue, he notices now that they have better lighting--and slips his fingers under the edge of her underwear.
The crotch of her panties is soaked. He slides his fingers through slick heat, stroking around her clit and then into her cunt, plunging two fingers in hard and fast. Her eyes roll back in her head and she spasms around his fingers, moaning.
It's nearly impossible to keep her up against the wall and get her pants off at the same time, so Clint pulls his hand out of her pants, ignoring her indignant complaint, and swings her around to sit on top of the storage cabinet on the opposite wall. The cabinet is just the right height and Darcy's sharp grin lets him know it was a good choice. She shoves her hand under his shirt and peels it and his jacket off at the same time, dumping the whole mess on the floor. She makes a little noise in the back of her throat and runs her hands over his shoulders and arms.
He shivers at the soft touch of her hands and returns the favor, pushing her t-shirt up under her arms and leaning in to nose at the lacy edge of her bra.
Darcy is, to put it bluntly, stacked. Clint nibbles along the creamy, soft skin spilling over the edge of her cups while his fingers investigate the clasp of her bra. He figures it out and unhooks it with a murmur of satisfaction.
She pulls off her tee-shirt and lets the straps of her bra slide off down her arms. Clint takes a second to enjoy the view, then dives in to mouth at one of her nipples while his fingers play with the other one.
Her head drops back and she slides her hands over his back, arching up into the touch of his hands and mouth. He tenses up a little when her hands pause over the knot of scar tissue low on his back, but she moves on without asking him about it. She takes a moment to grope his ass before following the waistband of his jeans around to the front and working his fly open.
Darcy slides her hand in and grabs his dick in a firm grasp, no messing around with teasing first. Her eyebrows raise and a smug smile curves her lips. "Well, I can see you're not having any problem with whiskey dick."
"Hell no." Clint nibbles his way up her neck and whispers in her ear, "I plan to fuck you so hard you can't even walk tomorrow."
"Big talk, but can you back it up?" She says, giving his dick a long pull with a little twist at the end. Clint groans and thrusts forward into the air. God, he wants to fuck her.
"You tell me in about twenty minutes." Clint shoves his hands back into her pants, lifting her off the container and stripping them off her hips. He hesitates before setting her back down on the top of it bare assed, but she gives a quick wiggle and is sitting back down before he can even finish debating the issue.
She gets his jeans down around his knees and pushes him back a half a step to get a good look at him. "Oh, yeah. If this floor weren't disgusting, I would totally blow you right now."
Clint thinks about her mouth wrapped around his dick and has to resist the urge to offer her his abandoned shirts to kneel on. They are already going to be in the bathroom too long for any sort of plausible deniability and he wants inside her like crazy.
He must look especially conflicted because she laughs and produces a condom as if by magic. "Too bad. I give awesome BJs."
She gives him a couple of firm strokes and then rolls the condom on. Flashing him a grin, she says, "Time to put your money where your mouth is, cowboy."
Annoyed and turned on is a hell of a combo. Clint thrusts into her harder than he intended to start. She digs her heels into the backs of his thighs and groans, "Oh, hell yeah."
She's loud enough that Clint is afraid that asshole bartender is going to be pounding down the door in a few seconds. He grabs a handful of her hair and yanks her head back so he can cover her mouth with his. She bites his lip hard enough to really hurt and he can't help the hard push back into her. It's obvious she doesn't mind by the way her mouth falls slack and she lets his tongue slide in without any sort of resistance.
Clint drags her hips a little forward to change the angle. This time when he thrusts into her she actually yells, muffled by his mouth. Objective: G spot acquired, Clint thinks, then sets himself to pounding against that spot. Darcy's leg kicks out, knocks a paper towel dispenser off the wall and then she's coming, tight rhythmic squeezes around his cock.
He pushes as deep as he can into her and holds himself there while she shakes against him, panting against his mouth. When she's done but for a random twitch ever couple seconds, he pulls back just far enough to smirk at her and rolls his neck to work some of the tension out of his shoulders. "You ready for round two, princess?"
Darcy just blinks at him for a moment before shaking the dazed pleasure off her face and clamping down on him. "Bring it."
She's not making it easy for him to maintain his control, but Clint has pretty much literally made a career out of self-control. He starts with slow, deep strokes, pausing for as long as he can manage inside of her before pulling out again. Pretty soon she's making those delicious little noises again, moaning into his ear and tugging at his hips.
"Something you wanted, sweetheart?" he says, keeping his voice casual with an effort.
"Goddammit," she growls. She kicks at the back of his leg like she's trying to get a horse to go faster.
Clint feels an unexpected bubble of affection for this girl spring to life in his chest and has to fight down the urge to laugh. He must not be as successful as he thought, because she growls again and sets her teeth in the skin of his neck.
Of course she's a biter.
She's as ridiculous as she is gorgeous and after the fucking nightmare he'd been living in the Gulf, she's the best reminder he could have found that life isn't completely shitty.
He shakes himself free of her teeth and kisses her again, gently pushing her hair out of her face before hooking his arms under her knees and pulling her ass off the edge of the cabinet.
"Oh yeah, here we go," she says, grinning this beautiful manic smile up at him.
Clint fucks her hard and deep, letting go some of his self-control. She might have bruises on her thighs from it tomorrow but right now she is going fucking crazy under him. She's moaning and growling in this incredibly sexy, rough voice, "oh yeah, fuck me hard, god, Clint, fuck."
There's not quite enough room for her to lie back, so Darcy props herself on her hands and arches her back. Clint actually feels himself get stupider at the sight. "Holy fuck."
"What?" Darcy lifts her head just enough to catch his eyes and he's surprised when the question isn't joined by a saucy grin. It's as if she has no idea what a fucking temptation she is.
Clint just shakes his head and leans forward to catch the peak of her breast in his mouth. The pressure of his pelvis against hers is enough to have her yelling his name, shouting through another orgasm.
She throws one of her arms around his shoulders to hold him close and he licks a path up her chest to her mouth.
He kisses her deep and sloppy, swallowing the little whimpers she's started making every time he bottoms out inside her. He's close enough to coming that he's somehow lost the ability to kiss and breathe at the same time so he has to tear his mouth from hers to find the breath to speak.
He turns his face just enough to be able to whisper in her ear. "Darcy, baby, can you go once more?"
She shudders as his lips brush the shell of her ear and for a second he thinks her helpless nod is her only answer, but then she swallows heavily and hitches her hips even closer to him. "Do it hard. I want to feel you inside me for days."
Clint makes a strangled noise behind his clenched teeth and adjusts his grip on her, trying to get even deeper inside her while ignoring the constant stream of profane brilliance three-plus orgasms seems to have unleashed in Darcy.
She's got both legs clamped around his waist and he's panting like a bellows, face buried in the crook of her neck. He's holding onto control by his fingernails, determined to bring her off one more time.
The tone of her incoherent "Ah-- ah--" goes higher and then suddenly he can feel her tighten down around him as she throws her head back and yells. And Clint's coming so hard he almost goes blind with it, burying himself deep within her with a few final spasmodic thrusts.
He's shaking from exertion, sweat sticky and barely able to stay on his feet, but he can't stop himself from pressing his mouth to her shoulders and chest. When he feels like he can move without falling over, he cups the back of her neck and kisses her softly. She kisses back just as carefully, her hands lazily petting his back and the rumpled mess of his hair.
He doesn't want to move, to pull away from her in any way, but common sense is rapidly reasserting itself and he has to take care of the condom before he's too soft.
He lets go of her mouth with a final, chaste kiss and a sigh of regret that she echoes. He grabs the edge of the condom and pulls out of her carefully. He tosses it in the trash before finding her flip-flops tangled up in her jeans and sliding them onto her feet so she doesn't have to step on the slightly sticky floor. He helps her hop off the cabinet and makes sure she's steady on her feet, then moves over to the sink to clean up a little and pull his jeans up.
Which is when the intermittent knocking that he'd been vaguely aware of (with the small portion of his brain not dedicated to the best sex he's had in years) is replaced by a loud banging accompanied by demands to open the door before the manager calls the police.
"Fuck," Clint growls. The last thing he needs is to have to explain to his superiors how he got arrested for public indecency in a bar restroom.
"Oops," Darcy says, her eyes wide with suppressed hilarity, and she finishes scrambling into her clothes.
Clint makes sure they're both decent and gives Darcy a swift, deep kiss before opening the door to the clearly irate bar staffers.
Between convincing the manager that he doesn't need to call the cops and convincing the bouncer that no, he really doesn't want to take Clint on, it's a good ten minutes before Clint realizes that Darcy is gone.
Darcy knows she has to choose her perch carefully when Agent Coulson and his squad of jackbooted government thugs (Erik tm) finally return all of their equipment. She wants to be close enough to hear Jane snipe at Coulson and his people, but far enough away that she doesn't get drawn into the line of fire.
She also wants to have a chance to ogle some halfway decent eye candy before Jane starts cracking the whip on their plan to tear apart space and time to bring her prime eye candy back from his alien dimension.
What the fuck is her life?
She slides into the room just behind Jane and Agent Coulson, realizing from the glazed look on his face that Jane must have been talking physics at him the entire ride back from the super secret SHIELD base. His was a rookie move, letting Jane into his vehicle. Darcy knew better and had followed Erik to one of the transport SUVs.
She waits until Jane and Coulson seem to have settled by Jane's desk, then hops up on the filing cabinet behind them. The black-clad soldier boys have already started scurrying around at Jane's rather shrill direction, lifting and heaving with all their delicious might.
It's a shame they're all wearing shirts.
Darcy sighs with a mix of appreciation and regret, leaning back on her hands to watch the show. From the corner of her eye, she sees one of the lackeys stumble, and there's something familiar about the way he moves that catches her attention. His back is to her and he seems to be making an effort to stay out of her line of sight, but Darcy has never let a little thing like staring get in her way.
"Is there a problem, Ms. Lewis?"
"Hmmm?" She squints, as if that will kick her memory into action.
"Is there a reason you are staring at one of my men?"
Darcy knows Agent Coulson is asking her something, but she's almost remembered where -- "Oh."
"I totally had sex with that guy in a bathroom in Jacksonville a couple of years ago."
It's like one of those record scratch moments, because she doesn't say it very loudly, but pretty much everything around them just stops. The lackey who she's just identified as that guy she slept with at the Pickled Parrot (what a shithole of a bar, really) freezes in place, his shoulders up around his ears.
Coulson clears his throat. "Is that... going to be an issue?"
Darcy shrugs. "Nah, it wasn't like it was a traumatic experience or anything. Except for knocking the paper towel dispenser off the wall--that was pretty startling."
God, what was his name? Something that reminded her of a Western movie. It's on the tip of her tongue.
"Good, good," Coulson says, clearly nonplussed.
He's looking back and forth between Darcy and cowboy guy, obviously trying to figure out how one of his minions ended up having sex in a bar without his knowledge.
God, shit, what is his name? It isn't that Darcy's slept with so many guys she's forgotten their names, but she'd been pretty drunk by the end of the night, pissed at that douchewad Jeffrey and his parade of skanks. She'd been glaring at him from the bar, but then the lovely smelling stranger had distracted her so she'd plied ... him with drinks until he agreed to sleep with her. They pretended they were in a circus and he was --
"Clint!" She raises her arms in triumph and watches in fascination as the back of his neck turns bright red. She's a little pissed because sleeping with her? Absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about, for real. But then Jane pokes her - hard, ouch - in the side and she could understand not wanting your co-workers and boss to know every little thing about your life.
Clint sighs, loud enough to be heard all the way across the room and rubs at the back of his neck with the hand not holding one end of a markerboard. "Hey, Darcy. What's up?"
She grins. "Oh, you know. School. Work. Finding alien gods. Throwing knives."
He glances over his shoulder with a weird little smile. "Buying strangers tequila shots?"
She makes a dismissive noise and waves her hand. "Nah. The next bar confiscated my fake ID anyway."
Darcy is tempted to let her little joke go, but Clint's eyes bug out and Coulson sounds like he's about to stroke out so she rolls her eyes and reaches over Jane to pat him on the head. "Just kidding. I was totally 22 when I had sex with him."
That doesn't seem to make either one of them feel any better, but what can a girl do? She hops off the file cabinet and grabs the truck keys from Jane's desk.
They're going to need a lot more cereal to open a wormhole.
It turns out that some of the SHIELD lackeys who carried the equipment back in that day are actually staying at the lab to help Jane with her research. Darcy tells Coulson that he totally needs to have a color-coding system to make it easier to tell the difference between jackbooted thugs and jackbooted research assistants, but seriously, the guy doesn't even crack a smile. No sense of humor.
So Darcy is feeling increasingly useless, as the jackbooted research assistants seem to actually understand what Jane's yelling about at any given time. She spends a lot of time reorganizing the office the first few days, because really, what else is she supposed to do?
Four extra people means they run out of coffee in about a quarter of the time as they normally do, so she takes it upon herself to make a shopping list and head into town to stock up on coffee and Pop-Tarts. Her offering goes over well enough that she immediately starts planning another trip.
When she's heading out two days later, Clint suddenly appears out of nowhere just as she's about to climb up into the driver's seat. "Jesus, I'm going to put a fucking bell on you," Darcy warns, clutching at her chest.
"Where do you think you're going?" He seems pissed off and Darcy scoots around so the truck door is between them. She's not scared of him exactly, but she's never really thought about him as jackbooted thug as opposed to Clint-the-best-lay-ever.
"Do you not read the SOP memos?" Clint steps around the door and takes a half-step into her personal space. "I know you're not used to it, but those procedures are there for your protection."
"What memos?" Darcy does not take her personal safety for granted like some people - Jane - she could mention, so she's sort of confused.
Clint's scowls a little harder and puts his hand on the frame of the truck, hemming her in. "Goddammit, Darcy. You're not just looking at stars in the desert anymore. Do you know what certain groups would do to be able to harness this sort of power?"
"Hey, back off!" Darcy's just about had enough with his little intimidation routine and plants her hands on his chest and shoves. She only manages to move him back a couple of inches, but she considers it a moral victory. "I'm not an idiot. I haven't received any sort of memo from SHIELD at all."
Clint frowns. Well, he's been frowning the whole time, but this is more of a thoughtful frown and less of a yelling-at-Darcy frown. "Didn't you get the standard SHIELD orientation?"
"Uh, that would be a no," Darcy says. "Also, I'm not actually a SHIELD employee. Student here!"
Clint winces, apparently not happy to be reminded that she's a college student. Darcy isn't sure exactly what the age difference is, but she's guessing it's at least nine or ten years. "Someone should have signed you up for the standard orientation, whether or not you're a SHIELD employee. It's a matter of safety. The memos you haven't been getting would have instructed you that no one is to go off base -- I mean, leave the lab -- without protection."
Darcy reaches into her purse and pulls out her taser. "Dude, I got protection right here."
He steps in again and takes her hand to point the taser away from him. "What happens if it's not one man in a dark alley, Darcy? I'm talking about organized terrorist groups; well-funded armies of men and women looking for any chink in our defenses. How much damage can a taser do against that?"
She's shaking, just a little, because she hasn't really thought about the implications of what Jane discovered beyond getting Thor back. She hasn't really thought about why all the SHIELD research assistants even were jackbooted.
I'm not built for this, she thinks. Darcy knows she's good in a crisis and won't hesitate to use her taser if necessary, but something about this sort of siege mentality scares her.
Clint's face softens and he tucks her taser back into her bag before settling his hands on her waist and boosting her up into the truck. He pushes at her hip until she slides across the bench seat to the passenger side, then climbs up and settles himself behind the wheel. "Wal-Mart?"
Darcy nods and fumbles with her seat belt, trying to fasten it.
"Hey, relax, okay?" Clint reaches over and covers her hands with his, squeezing briefly before clicking the belt closed.
She blows out a hard breath and closes her eyes for a second, strangely comforted by touch of his calloused hands. "Right. Relax."
He squeezes one more time, then sits back to buckle his own belt. "Okay?"
She motions towards the road. "Wal-Mart calls. We have supplies to fetch."
It's kind of surreal to be wandering the aisles of Wal-Mart accompanied by a guy who's probably -- make that definitely -- armed and ready to take on an army. Darcy sneaks glances at Clint whenever he looks away, trying to figure him out. On the one hand, he's a quietly hot guy with a surprisingly sarcastic sense of humor; on the other hand, he probably knows like sixty different ways to kill someone with his bare hands.
"You're making me kind of nervous with the staring," he says.
Darcy jumps, startled. She thought she was being totally sneaky with the staring. She should have remembered he's Mr. Secret Agent Man. "You could totally kill me with this, couldn't you?" she asks, gesturing with whatever random thing she's holding at the moment.
Clint looks at the box of Frosted Flakes in her hands and his lips quirk up a little. "I don't think Tony the Tiger would approve," he says.
"Yeah, but -- "
"Darcy," he says seriously. He puts his hand on her elbow and pulls her a little closer. "I'm here to protect you. Don't think about it that way, it'll just make you nervous."
"Nervous! I think I have a right to be nervous," she hisses.
Clint shakes his head. "Finish buying whatever you need to buy, and we'll go somewhere and talk. Okay?"
Darcy huffs a sigh. "Fine," she says.
Twenty minutes later, the back of the truck packed with office supplies and non-perishable snacks, Clint pulls off the state highway and parks under the canopy of an abandoned gas station.
"Wow, you really know how to treat a girl."
Clint unbuckles his seat belt and turns to face her. "Do you really want to have this conversation in a Starbucks?"
"Hell, no. Their coffee sucks." Darcy makes a face. "I don't get what there is to talk about. You're here to fling yourself between me and danger."
Clint taps his fingers on the back of the seat. "Yes, that's oversimplified but basically right."
"Okay, so, what else needs to be discussed?"
"Listen, Darcy, if you're not comfortable with being involved with SHIELD, I'm sure we can pull a few strings and get you sent to another lab. Somewhere safer."
Darcy boggles at him. "Okay, seriously? Who the hell are you to decide where I can go and what level of danger I'm comfortable with?"
"That's not what I'm--"
"Listen, Mr. Secret Agent Whatever --"
"My last name. It's Barton."
"That's the part you're going to argue about?" She shakes her head and gets back on track with her rant. "Listen, Mr. Secret Agent Barton, I'm the only one who gets to decide what I can and can't deal with. Me. Don't go trying to take away my personal agency, that's bullshit."
"That's not what I was trying to--"
"And anyway, it's not like it matters." Darcy crosses her arms and tries not to pout. "My semester is finished in a few weeks and then I'll be done. Graduated."
"That's good, though, right? Once you've graduated, Dr. Foster can hire you --"
"Clint, I'm not a scientist." As had been made very clear to her the past few days.
"I needed 6 more science credits to graduate. My degree is in Political Science." She thought everyone had known that since the tall, blonde SHIELD lab assistant had made her assessment of Darcy's skills very clear.
Darcy isn't sorry at all that she spiked her Splenda with Ex-Lax.
"Exactly. So in twenty-five days, I will pack up my iPod and return to Santa Fe to start preparing for the GRE and applying to graduate school."
"Oh." He seemed unable to say anything more than that and it was starting to piss her off.
"That's probably why Coulson didn't bother to send me any of the orientation stuff."
A muscle knots in the side of Clint's jaw. "It doesn't matter whether you're going to be for three weeks or thirty years, you should have had the orientation for safety's sake. I will be making my opinion on that known."
Darcy twists her mouth to hide her grin. She doesn't doubt it at all. Clint appears to be fully capable of mouthing off to anyone, up to and including that (creepily intimidating) Nick Fury guy who'd stopped by one day.
Honestly, it's part of why she likes him.
"Okey dokey. And I will be sure to read all the SOP memos or whatever from now on." She gives him a sloppy salute. Clint sighs.
"Just remember to dive for cover at the first sign of anything -- and I mean anything -- going weird, and I will keep your cute little ass as safe as humanly possible. Deal?"
Darcy narrows her eyes at him and considers it. "Deal."
They carry the shit in from Wal-Mart together and Darcy can just see the way Tall Bitchy Blonde Lab Assistant is giving them the stink-eye. Apparently she thinks that Darcy is moving in on her rightful prey.
Clint has never even given her a second look any time he's been in the lab.
Not that Darcy has been paying attention or anything.
He helps her put the cereal and Pop-Tarts away, then leaves with a squeeze to her shoulder and a quick wink that has her flushing pink and glaring at his retreating back. Awesome. If the seething silence from the other side of the lab is any indication, Darcy is in for a great week.
It turns out that the supply runs are a mixed blessing.
Even though it makes her feel a little like the hired help, getting out of the office every few days is a welcome break from all of the heavy duty science that's been happening lately. Darcy does her best to assist where she can, but she really doesn't have any of the knowledge necessary to be truly helpful.
But being in charge of the shopping does mean that she's in charge of the snacks and, in the middle of the desert, sometimes a handful of Skittles is the only thing standing between a girl and madness.
She'd also never admit it, even under the most onerous of tortures, but she likes it that Clint is the one who goes with her most of the time. He's smart, willing to carry the heaviest bags, and hilariously deadpan about most everything. It almost makes her wish they'd been able to spend more time together when they first met, but there was no way she was going to risk getting arrested for lewd conduct or whatever.
He also makes her feel safe, which is another thing she'll never tell another soul. Ever since he pointed out the potential danger, she's noticed that there are always at least four jackbooted persons of the non-research type hanging around the lab and he's usually one of them. Somehow, knowing he's hanging out on the roof, fully armed and ready for anything helps cut down on the overwhelming terror that sometimes springs up on her.
She doesn't really like to think about what that could mean. It's too much on top of the thought of graduation and having to go back to Santa Fe, so she ignores it as best she can and concentrates on what she does best.
"Tell me again about how Thor was all wet and dirty when he kicked everyone's ass."
Clint makes a face and passes the slow moving station wagon in front of them. "Darcy, come on."
"Come on, what? The only thing that could make that story better would be if he'd been shirtless or, oooh, naked."
He doesn't say anything, but the look he shoots her says what the hell more eloquently than any words ever could.
"His pectorals actually ripple. I mean, they say that in romance novels all the time, but I'd never seen it in real life before. And he had, like, an eight pack or something. It was unreal. Though to be fair to mere mortal men, he does have the whole god/alien thing going."
Clint looks like he just smelled something bad, but keeps his mouth shut, obviously trying to ignore her.
She squints at him a little, trying to figure out how much more he can take before he pushes her out of the moving car.
A lot more, she decides.
"I wonder if he's proportionate? Hah, maybe that's his real hammer and MewMew was just a distraction."
Clint's eye is twitching a little and she's pretty sure he's about ready to break.
"Do you think he's cut? I bet he isn't."
"Oh my god! What is wrong with you?" Clint doesn't take his eyes off the road, but the way he's glaring at the windshield makes her think that if he had any superpowers, there would be two holes burned right through it.
Darcy can't keep a straight face anymore. She starts laughing so hard that the seat belt is the only thing keeping her from sliding right off her seat. "I thought for sure the thing about MewMew would get you. Good job, soldier."
Clint's nostrils flare, but he keeps his mouth closed.
Darcy marks off a score on an imaginary scoreboard. "That's Darcy Lewis one million--Clint Barton zero."
Darcy's no rookie at dealing with petty, interoffice bullshit--the department mixers for the Poli-Sci department should be used as a training ground for intelligence agencies--so she's been ignoring Dr. Julia Clifton, PhD, PhD from the moment she showed up and tried to put her stuff on Darcy's desk. She counts to ten and ignores the way she talks over Darcy at every available opportunity. She lets the comments about her lack of appropriate education go because they're actually true. She is in no way qualified to be Jane's lab assistant, especially now. She grits her teeth and runs to the grocery store (now with added armed escort!) when Dr. Clifton "couldn't possibly eat this processed poison."
What she absolutely will not do, however, is let this particular sort of bullshit go.
Ever since the day earlier in the month when Clint had gone to Wal-Mart with her, Dr. Clifton has been relentless in her quiet comments about Darcy, her intelligence, her fashion choices, and her moral fiber, of all fucking things. Apparently, someone finally informed Dr. Clifton about Darcy and Clint's little encounter in Florida.
All of that is fine, though. Darcy is willing to be put up with being called a stupid, frumpy slut if it means Dr. Clifton comes off looking like a crazy, irrational bitch.
Which she totally does.
No, what finally pushes Darcy over the edge is the whispered conversation she hears when she's crouched behind the file cabinet, trying to fish out the papers she dropped.
"It's ridiculous we were pulled off the Banner project and stuck out in the middle of nowhere because some second rate stargazer thinks she found a god." Ah, the dulcet tones of Dr. Julia Clifton.
"Julia, there is more than sufficient evidence that the alien entity traveled via an Einstein--"
"Please, Scott. We all know Dr. Foster only wants to find the bridge so she can get laid. She's just as much of a whore as that half-wit assistant of hers."
Oh, she did not just say that about Jane.
The entire office seems to go silent and Darcy feels like she's moving in slow-motion as she stands up from behind the filing cabinet. "Oh, you did not just say that about Jane," she hears herself saying as if from a distance.
Julia stares down her long nose at her. "Listening in on other people's conversations now. Typical."
"Apologize right now, or so help me I will--"
"Listen, you little liberal arts major--"
Some distant portion of her brain is aware that this is not a good idea, but Darcy has reached thermonuclear blast levels of anger. Darcy pulls the taser out of her purse and levels it at Julia. "Apologize. Right. Now."
Of course, that's when Jane and Agent Coulson walk in.
"Is there a problem, Ms. Lewis?"
Darcy smiles, but doesn't take her eyes off of Julia, who is starting to look a little freaked out. "Just a little misunderstanding. Once Dr. Clifton apologizes, things will be just fine."
"You can't just --" Jane tries to move towards her, but Agent Coulson pulls her back behind him.
"I'm sorry, but I'm not letting this go, Jane." She firms up her grip on the taser and stares at Julia. "I said apologize."
Which is when Clint, who Darcy hadn't even seen enter the room, suddenly slides up next to her and does this total ninja move that results in him snagging the taser right out of her hand.
"What the fuck?" Darcy is still boggling at Clint's ninja skills when Julia starts screeching about how Darcy should be canned and arrested.
Clint pockets the taser and moves in between Darcy and Julia. His face is totally blank but somehow he's giving off the impression of being much bigger and more intimidating than usual.
"Calm down, Dr. Clifton," Coulson says smoothly. "I'm sure this whole thing is just a misunderstanding."
"A misunderstanding? That crazy bitch just pulled a taser on me!"
"You totally deserved it!" Darcy bounces up on her toes, flooded with adrenaline and itching to go after Julia, but pretty sure Clint's not going to let that happen. "You called Jane a whore!"
Julia looks like she's going to deny that, but there are one too many murmurs of agreement from the gathered peanut gallery, so she just crosses her arms and tries to look traumatized. "No matter what I said, it doesn't warrant pointing a weapon at me. Don't you agree, Clint?"
Clint's, "That's Agent Barton to you, Doctor," overlaps with Darcy's frustrated shout of, "Oh my god."
"Darcy, please calm down." Jane has finally worked her way out from behind Agent Coulson and is skirting around Clint. "I'm sure you misunderstood her."
Darcy snorts. "After the past couple of weeks, I'm pretty familiar with what Dr. Clifton sounds like when she's calling someone a whore, believe me."
This seems to get Clint's attention. "What? Has she -- "
"Never mind." Darcy waves him off and looks at Agent Coulson. "I don't give a shit what she says about me. She can think I'm mentally challenged, white-trash slut all she wants because at the end of the month, I'm done here. Also, fuck her, I know I'm awesome."
Not even a crack. Jesus, Coulson is one stone cold motherfucker.
"What I will not allow her to get away with is the same level of disrespect for Jane. I am more than willing to spend the night in your little desert Gitmo for wanting to shock her ass as long it gets that through her skull."
"You're quite the little spitfire, aren't you," an unfamiliar voice says.
There's a guy leaning casually against the door to the lab. He's wearing very dark sunglasses and what even Darcy recognizes as an extremely expensive suit. Mystery guy has dark hair, almost black, and a neatly trimmed goatee. He raises an eyebrow and says, "I like that in a girl," and suddenly Darcy knows who he is.
Holy shitballs. That's Tony fucking Stark.
Darcy says the first thing that comes to mind, which is, "Holy shitballs, you're Tony fucking Stark."
"I get that a lot," he says. He straightens up and walks into the lab. Everyone is staring at him silently. It's kind of weird how he's immediately the center of attention.
"I bet," Darcy says. She gives him a good look as he gets closer. "I thought you'd be taller, though."
He sighs. "Yeah, I get that a lot, too." Tony fucking Stark wanders over to the whiteboard and silently reads Jane's calculations, tapping a finger thoughtfully against his chin. "Dr. Foster," he says.
"Yes?" Jane asks, a little breathless. Her cheeks are flushed.
"Your work has a lot of promise. When you're ready to move into the experimental phase, have your people contact my people. I may have a few ideas about powering the Einstein-Rosen Bridge."
Jane visibly controls the urge to squee. Darcy figures it's kind of like having Stephen Hawking check out your math, or something.
He nods at Agent Coulson. "Phil."
"Mr. Stark. I was not informed you were planning a visit."
"Spur of the moment thing. You know how it is." He puts his hands in his pockets and rocks back on his heels. "There's not much for me to do at the house while it's being repaired, so I figured I'd see what other little projects you had going."
There's something about his face that makes Darcy think he's not telling the whole truth and, if the Eyebrow of I-Sense-Your-Bullshit is any indicator, neither does Agent Coulson. "I find it hard to believe you have nothing to do after the past few months."
Darcy never thought she'd see a billionaire look sheepish, but he even manages to make that look expensive. "Pepper may have gotten a bit sick of my," and he actually makes finger quotes, "'interference' with the architect and contractor, so she made a very credible threat to my personal happiness that I chose to take seriously."
He grabs a marker and starts making corrections to Julia's whiteboard. "Who did this? This is sloppy work."
"It's just the first draft of some thoughts," Julia says through clenched teeth.
He stops what he's doing, squinting at her before dropping the marker onto the rail and turning to Darcy. "I do not believe I've had the pleasure, Doctor..."
"No doctor, just me. Lewis. Darcy Lewis."
"Undergrad. Finishing up my degree."
"Which is in -- no, let me guess." He squints at her thoughtfully. "Political science."
Darcy's eyes widen briefly and then the light bulb goes off. "You totally cheated! You already knew that."
He shrugs. "I cheat all the time. It's the best way to win. So, Ms. Lewis, I understand that you threatened to taser someone?"
Darcy bristles. "She deserved it!"
At the same time, Julia shrieks, "She's a sociopath!"
"Now, now, children. Settle down," Tony says, then winks at Darcy. "May I see the taser?"
Darcy crosses her arms and shoots Clint a sour look. "Someone resembling a jackbooted government thug confiscated it."
Clint winces and looks to Coulson for a nod, then hands the taser to Tony.
"Hmmm. Standard design. Cheap and underpowered." Tony hands the taser back to Darcy. "I'll make you a better one."
"You'll what?" Darcy, Coulson, and Julia say simultaneously in very different tones of voice.
He ignores all of them. "What are your plans for after graduation?"
She shrugs and tucks her taser back into her bag. "Finish applying to grad school."
Tony makes a thoughtful noise. "I don't think so."
"How would you like a job, Ms. Lewis?"
Darcy could only blink. Tony Stark was offering her a job? "I just tried to taser someone and am probably headed for a little cell somewhere."
"You will not be going anywhere." He smiles. "I've been watching the security footage from the lab. She totally had it coming."
"Mr. Stark, I'm afraid I can't let you dictate the circumstances of this situation." Agent Coulson steps forward, trying to separate Tony from the group. "SHIELD has a very specific policy about violence in the workplace."
"What's SHIELD's policy on bullying in the workplace?" Tony crosses his arms and stares at Agent Coulson. "Can you tell me, Phil, how many times Dr. Clifton has called Ms. Lewis some variation of 'whore' or 'stupid' in the past month?"
Darcy feels herself turning red when Jane and Clint both look at her and it's a fight to keep her head up. Stupid Dr. Julia.
"Besides," Tony continues smoothly, "Who exactly is it that has full autonomy with regards to the day-to-day operations of that little old initiative your boss set up? Oh, I believe that would be... me."
Coulson looks mildly annoyed. It's the strongest emotion Darcy has ever seen him exhibit. "This lab is a SHIELD facility. It's not part of the Initiative and you do not have authority over it."
Tony shrugs. "Yes, but I do have full authority to hire people for the Initiative, and once I do, you don't have any hold on them. So, Miss Lewis, I do hope that you're looking for a job, because I just hired you."
Darcy gapes at him. "What?"
Tony takes her hand and slips it into the crook of his elbow, leading her towards the door. "Let's talk about your salary, benefit package, relocation bonus, and other sundry things."
Clint absolutely is not pouting on the roof of the lab.
It's been two days since Tony Stark blew into town, created an enormous uproar, and generally ruined Clint's life. He gets the feeling that's a pretty common situation where Tony Stark is concerned, but that doesn't mean he has to like it.
Following his little performance, Dr. Foster demanded all of the security tapes of the lab be reviewed immediately by herself and Agent Coulson. Two hours later, a grim-faced Dr. Julia Clifton was escorted out of the lab and, hopefully, away from any sort of SHIELD project where Clint would have to avoid her in the future. Aside from not returning her obvious affections at all, he's really not happy about the way she treated Darcy right under his nose.
He hasn't even seen Darcy except in passing since he disarmed her and apparently got put on her shit list right below Dr. Clifton. Clint is a trained operative, but apparently he must have missed a day, because there's no way a college girl should be able to duck him as completely as Darcy has managed to in the past couple of days.
If she'd just stop following Tony Stark around and listen to him for a second, she'd know the only reason he'd taken her taser away was because she was making the security team very nervous and he was trying to stop her from getting tasered herself.
But she's not even looking at him right now and he doesn't have the excuse of accompanying her to Wal-Mart anymore. Tony had waved his hand and suddenly trucks with the Stark Industries logos were arriving every morning, loaded with really expensive coffee and food.
And cinnamon Pop-Tarts, specifically because Darcy had mentioned that she loved them and half the time she couldn't find them at Wal-Mart. Tony had presented Darcy with a package of them and she'd squealed and thrown her arms around his neck.
Clint had been pretty neutral about Tony Stark in the past, but he was beginning to really dislike him.
As far as Clint can tell without obviously stalking her, Darcy has been spending most of her time working with Tony's people on arrangements for the new Avengers Initiative building. Yes, building, since apparently Tony had outbid Trump on a building in Manhattan just because he liked thwarting him. So the Avengers Initiative, which had originally been totally under SHIELD control, was becoming more and more under Stark's control.
Yeah. Clint really disliked that guy.
He was starting to think he might have to talk to Fury about getting assigned to the Avengers Initiative. Not because he wanted to keep an eye on Darcy and was worried that Stark would put her in a dangerous situation and then not protect her adequately.
Not only because of that.
Yeah, Clint doesn't even that believe himself. He knows the way he knows where a target is going to be that if Darcy is at the Avengers Initiative, he needs to be there too.
Even if she's not talking to him at the moment.
"Stop laughing, Tasha. It's really not that funny."
Oh, it really is.
Clint tips his head back against the flimsy wall of the barracks SHIELD had erected in the desert. "I don't know why I'm friends with you."
Because I have absolutely no sympathy for your pathetic love life.
"Hey, for a while you were my pathetic love life." Clint grins at the ceiling. And what a fantastic couple of months that had been.
He can hear her make a dismissive noise in the back of her throat. I'd been hit in the head too many times.
Clint laughs. In straight up hand-to-hand Natasha could wipe the floor with him nine times out of ten. "My ego is glad we broke up, anyway."
Pfft, your ego can suck it. Describe the look on Coulson's face again when she announced you'd had sex in a bathroom.
"Natasha, come on. I called you for help."
Why on earth would you do that?
"That's a question I'm asking myself right about now."
You love the abuse, she purrs in an absolutely filthy voice. Clint makes a small choked noise in the back of his throat. Yeah, she's his friend now, and yeah, his life expectancy is probably a lot higher now that they're not fucking, but come on. He's not dead.
"Come on, Natasha," he says--well, to be honest, probably whines.
She heaves a big, dramatic sigh. So, let me get this straight... you're hung up on a girl you had sex with in a bar bathroom two years ago, who threatened to taser a co-worker and got hired on the spot by Tony Stark.
"It sounds all sordid when you put it that way."
Hmmmm. There's a faint tapping sound that Clint identifies as the sound of Natasha tapping her viciously long nails on a nearby flat surface. And so you're thinking of joining some special ops team that Nick Fury is putting together? Sounds shady.
"I can't tell you too much about it. Classified, you know the drill."
Well, you'll be based in New York, anyway, instead of the ass end of nowhere like you have been.
Clint pauses. "I didn't tell you that."
No, you didn't. He can hear the laughter in her voice as she adds, Don't let them put you in anything too ridiculous, darling. No purple unitards or anything like that. Ugh, so tacky.
"Tasha..." Clint can't really ask anything without running into one classified wall or another. "Shit. Okay, never mind all that. I actually called you because you're a girl. Woman."
And you want my girl-woman advice?
Well, my first bit of advice is to stop being so jealous of Tony Stark. He's hot and he's Iron Man, but he's also sort of a dick and very taken.
"Just because he's a man-whore doesn't mean he's taken."
Let's just say I have some inside information that he's definitely off the market.
How the hell would Natasha have that sort of inside information? "Okay, so, stop being jealous. Anything else?"
I can't say for sure since I'm not there, but I'd say chances are good that you're treating her like a delicate flower that desperately needs your protection. Stop that, too.
Clint opens his mouth to protest, but he's honestly not sure if he's going to protest that Darcy actually does need his protection or that he's acting like that in the first place, so he says nothing.
Exactly. Natasha's voice is dry. I know you have that whole white knight thing going on, but most women want a chance to save themselves first before you go all Rambo.
"She's a civilian. She doesn't have any training."
If she's going to be working with Tony Stark then that will need to be rectified. Still, being a civilian does not necessarily equal being helpless. Particularly when she's got a taser in hand, apparently.
"All right, all right, I'll try to stop being... too protective. But I'm still going to protect her if shit goes down, Tasha."
I wouldn't expect anything less. Now, I know this last one is going to be difficult for you--stop being a creepy stalker.
"Hey!" Clint says indignantly. He's like the opposite of a creepy stalker. He beats stalkery ex-boyfriends up for fun.
Are you or are you not currently running 24-hour surveillance on her?
"Well..." Clint coughs uncomfortably. Sometimes it's really awkward to have a friend that knows him this well.
Stop that. It's a terrible habit and it'll get you dumped. Again.
"I just want her to be safe."
I mean it, Clint.
"Okay," Clint says, crossing his fingers.
Uncross your fingers and promise me.
It's not charming or whatever it is you're telling yourself. It's creepy and you need to stop. Natasha is using her 'no-bullshit' tone that Clint had learned to listen to no matter what.
"Fine. Fine. I'll disable everything in the morning." And he'd done such a good job hiding the cameras in her tiny apartment, too. "Anything else?"
Just... let her know you care. Clint can almost see the sour face Natasha is making at herself. That's the most important thing.
"Hey, it's true, you do have a heart!"
Laugh it up, Cupid. You know I know where you sleep.
"Love you too, Tasha."
She makes a scoffing noise and the call abruptly cuts off. Clint can't help grinning. Somehow, talking to Natasha always makes him feel better. Maybe she's right about him being a sucker for abuse.
Clint laughs to himself and heads upstairs to run surveillance on the lab. And definitely not stalk Darcy.
One of the reasons Clint hadn't really argued with Natasha when she ended their relationship was that she seemed to the exact opposite of a good luck charm. In the nine weeks they'd been together, he'd had more ops fall apart than in the rest of his career combined. He wouldn't go as far as to say she was cursed, but sometimes it felt like it. So, of course it's less than four hours after their phone call ends that a dozen or so para-military guerrillas surround the lab for the express purpose of kidnapping Stark for ransom.
Had they not gotten the memo about him being Iron Man?
It's chaos in the lab when the thugs storm it, people fighting, scientists yelling, and Jane throwing reams of paper at anyone who wanders too close to her white board. The enemy had done some weird fucking thing to disable all the guns in and around the building and Clint is re-evaluating his decision to not carry his bow everywhere.
It's a sheer fucking miracle that no one has been hurt yet, but the SHIELD scientists are well trained in the art of duck and cover. The only wild cards are Jane's team and Stark. Jane is holding her own with office supplies and Erik has taken cover under a metal desk.
Clint does his best to keep his eye on Darcy as he tries to avoid getting stabbed by the guy who's got him pinned down on the far end of the lab, but the fucker is proving to be better with a knife than Clint had expected. Darcy is currently crouched in the corner, hugging her messenger bag to her chest. Her eyes are wide and terrified, and seeing her like that hurts more than the cut he can feel bleeding along his ribs. Her gaze darts to Stark for a second before focusing back on him.
He takes out the guy he's fighting but two more take his place and he doesn't bother to bite back his growl of frustration. He sincerely hopes she remembers her promise to keep her head down in the face of danger until he can get to her because if she doesn't, he's going to have to kill a lot of people really fast to protect her.
Clint takes advantage of the two guys he's fighting bumping into each other to check on Stark again. He's fighting as best he can, trying to get to the briefcase tucked next to Jane's desk, but he's obviously used to the advantages of his giant, indestructible metal suit because he's taking a hell of a beating. He sees Stark get in a lucky punch and knock his guy out, but it leaves his back open to the giant thug creeping up behind him. Before Clint can shout a warning, Darcy is darting out from her hiding place, taser at the ready.
All Clint has time to think is oh holy mother of fuck before Darcy tasers the guy and he goes down with a strangled scream. The men who had been keeping Jane occupied and out of the fray without really threatening her turn their attention to Darcy, obviously pissed. Clint honestly has no idea what happens in the ten seconds between seeing the look on their faces and covering Darcy's body with his own as Stark finally gets the Iron Man suit on, but he's got blood on his hands and his heart is racing from adrenaline.
As soon as he hears the backup team arrive and clear the room, he rolls off Darcy and roughly yanks her to her feet. "What the fuck do you think you were doing?"
"What did I tell you? I said if something happens get down and stay the fuck down." He gives her a little shake even as he ask himself what the hell he's doing. "Tasering a fucking giant does not sound like staying down, Darcy!"
"Stop it!" Her eyes are starting to get shiny and he can feel her shaking under his hands, but he still feels wild-eyed with fear for her. There's a fucking slide show going on in the back of his head that's filled with all of the ways that Darcy could have ended up dead.
"No, you promised! You--"
Getting tasered hurts a hell of a lot more than he remembers.
Clint drifts in and out of consciousness for a while, slowly becoming aware of the familiar beeping of medical equipment. He's in the infirmary, then. He's not really sure why he's in the infirmary, but he's not looking forward to finding out why. Hopefully this time it won't involve traction.
Slowly, he also becomes aware that two people are arguing near him. He's not quite up to following the conversation yet, but the sound of a quiet argument is unmistakable. Clint opens his eyes and immediately closes them again, blinded by the harsh overhead light. He cautiously squints and identifies the people who are arguing -- Tony and, huh. Darcy.
What the hell are Tony and Darcy arguing over? He thought the two of them were inseparable now. That they were -- what does Clint's niece call it? Oh yeah. BFFs.
"--no permanent damage, I promise." Tony's voice is trying to be soothing, but it's got an edge that means he's said the same thing at least twice before.
"Then why is he still twitching?" Darcy somehow manages to yell without raising her voice at all. It would be impressive if it didn't send a icepick of pain directly through his ear to the center of his brain.
Clint feels the muscles up and down his thigh jump in some unfathomable rhythm and realizes he's the one they're talking about. Another series of muscle spasms flutter across his chest and he forces his eyes open. "What the hell happened to me?"
"Oh my god." Darcy is suddenly right next to him. "Do you know who you are? Do you know what year it is? Who's the President?"
Clint blinks, then groans involuntarily at the sudden swell of pain behind his eyes. His whole body feels bruised and weird. "This isn't one of Jane's soap operas, Darcy. I haven't lost my memory."
Tony is absently flipping through the chart that was hanging on the end of Clint's bed. "I'm glad to hear that. So, you remember everything that happened?"
Clint's eyes widen and he makes a brief and ill-advised attempt to sit up in bed. He points accusingly at Darcy. "You tasered me!"
Darcy steps back and crosses her arms over her chest. "You deserved it!"
He gapes at her for a second, but another series of twitches interrupts whatever he was going to say to her. "What the fuck did you shoot me with? I've been tasered before and it didn't feel like this."
"Stark Industries prototype." Tony lets the chart clang against the foot of the cot. "I juiced the standard taser up a little for Darcy."
"A little?" Clint points to his face where he can feel the small muscles around his left eye jumping.
Tony shrugs. "It's a first generation."
"I'm still fucking twitching!"
Tony waves a hand dismissively. "That should wear off soon. I think. Pretty sure, anyway."
Clint closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. Keeping his voice carefully calm, he asks, "And was this first generation, souped up taser tested on anything living before I got shot with it?"
Tony gives him the utterly charming Tony Stark grin that Clint absolutely hates. "Well, there was the thug that Darcy shot right before you."
Clint is still spluttering when Tony checks his watch and says cheerfully, "And now I'm about four hours late for a meeting, so I'd better get going before Pepper threatens to quit again. You kids have fun!" And with that, he's gone, leaving an awkward silence in his wake.
Clint hauls himself up a little higher so that he's leaning on the wall behind him and glares pointedly at Darcy.
After almost a minute of mutual glaring, she demands, "What?"
"Aren't you going to apologize?"
"Me?" Darcy sounds insulted, as if he should be the one apologizing. "What for?"
"You tasered me!"
"You yelled at me!"
"You tasered me with an experimental weapon!" Clint feels this point cannot be emphasized enough.
"You shook me!"
Clint tries not to wince at that. He was probably out of line. "You were supposed to stay down!"
"I had to help Tony!"
"Don't give me that. He can defend himself--"
"That asshole was sneaking up on him!"
"--just fine. He's Iron Man, for fuck's sake!"
Clint wasn't sure when they started yelling, but by this point they're both shouting at each other, so he's not surprised when the ward door bangs open. He is surprised when it's Colonel Fury and not a medic that stomps through.
"What the hell is going on in here?"
Clint snaps to attention. At least, as much as he possibly can while sitting on a cot and twitching occasionally. "Colonel Fury."
"Agent Barton." Fury looks back and forth between Clint and Darcy. "So, would one of your care to explain to me why you're arguing like kindergartners?"
"She tasered me--" "He shook me--" Darcy and Clint say at the same time.
"I have read the incident report," Fury says. He has this way of talking that manages to sound coldly menacing even when it's something as neutral as asking for more coffee. The cold menace is turned up to eleven right now. "I am aware of the specific chain of events that led to the current circumstances. What I do not know is why two people who should be old enough to know better are arguing like six-year-olds in a sandbox."
Clint stares at the bump that his toes make under the thin sheet. Every so often one of them twitches. He feels like a total idiot. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see that Darcy looks just about as chastised.
"Now," Fury snaps, "what the two of you are going to do is show some goddamned maturity and apologize to each other."
Everything in Clint that isn't "Agent Barton" rears up in defiance at being ordered to apologize and he has to grit his teeth against his automatic fuck you very much response. From the look on her face, Darcy feels the same way, but neither of them are stupid enough to act on that impulse in front of Fury.
Colonel Fury does not look impressed with their lack of sincerity, but lets it go. "Ms. Lewis, I have some paperwork that needs your attention. If you would care to step out in the hall, I'll join you in a moment."
She pauses and gives Clint a look he doesn't quite know how to interpret before nodding and heading towards the door.
Fury waits until she's gone before he asks, "Are you sure you want that transfer to the Avengers Initiative?"
Clint only has to think about it for a second before nodding. "Yes, sir."
Fury smiles. It's kind of terrifying. "Then welcome to the team, Agent Barton." He sweeps out the door in a swirl of long black trench coat.
Clint is left alone with the intermittent twitching of his muscles and his own racing thoughts. The transfer to the Avengers Initiative makes sense from a career perspective, but he's not able to lie to himself that that's his only motivation.
If he's going to be honest with himself, a big part of it is Darcy.
What the hell is he doing, seriously? He's too old to be chasing after a girl twelve years his junior who apparently hates him now. Well, maybe she doesn't hate him -- but she definitely doesn't like him much anymore.
It's really pissing him off because before the taser incident, they were getting along together really well and he thought maybe they were going somewhere. She's smart, sarcastic, brutally honest, and a whole lot of hot packed into a short, voluptuous body. Basically, Darcy is his Kryptonite.
Clint bangs his head against the wall. He's so fucked.
"I don't think I can do this."
Tony takes a gulp from his omnipresent to-go cup of coffee and grins at her. "Of course you can. I have every confidence in you. I have no doubts you'll soon be pushing me around just as much as Pepper does."
Darcy throws her hands in the air. "But I'm not some kind of super-woman like she apparently is! I have no idea how to do this."
Darcy is not one for self-doubt most of the time, but setting up a secret headquarters for superheroes is completely out of her experience. The building Tony ended up buying for the Avengers Initiative had to be completely remodeled before it was deemed ready for use, but now that all of the bulletproof glass and motion sensors in the venting have been installed it's all up to her.
Well, partially up to her. The ground level is slotted for retail shop rental that Stark Industries will handle and the second through twenty-fifth floors have been earmarked for Stark Industries offices and labs. SHIELD will be responsible for the twenty-sixth through thirtieth floors, but that still leaves fifteen levels for Darcy to play with.
Tony tut-tuts at her. "Ms. Lewis, you must have more confidence in yourself. Did you or did you not taser a god?"
"Well, yeah." Darcy crosses her arms, adding, "But he didn't have Mew-Mew with him, so it wasn't really a fair fight."
"I don't believe in fair fights, Ms. Lewis. I believe in winning." Tony winks at her.
Darcy rolls her eyes. "Yeah, yeah, but that has nothing to do with the current situation, which is that I have no fucking idea what I'm doing."
"It has everything to do with it. See, I believe in giving yourself every possible advantage. Which is why I invited Pepper here to have lunch with you and initiate you into the secret society of women who--"
"--have to spend all their time bullying Tony Stark into living up to his responsibilities?" a new, feminine voice asks.
She looks like a model.
That's the first thing Darcy thinks when she sees the tall, willowy redhead in the doorway.
The second thing she thinks is, Holy fuck, I want those shoes.
"Pepper Potts. And you must be Darcy. Tony's told me quite a bit about you." Her smile is real and friendly, but there's a watchful quality to her eyes that reminds Darcy of Clint in a weird way.
Jerk. She feels herself getting all riled up again at the thought of how he treated her and she has to work to push down the annoyance. Her distraction means she nearly misses the way Tony lights up when he sees Pepper.
"Hi. Hello." Tony practically skips to the door and gets right up in Pepper's space. "You're late, Ms. Potts."
"Even I can't control the traffic, Mr. Stark." Something small changes in her face and Darcy realizes that it's not just Tony. They're actually together.
Either Pepper isn't as smart as Tony says or Tony isn't the giant man-whore he used to be. Darcy is hoping for the latter.
"Hmmm, I'll have to get on that," Tony says. Darcy can practically see plans for some kind of traffic-controlling device building themselves in Tony's head.
Pepper sighs, saying, "After you finish redesigning the mini clean water plants and the engine for the--"
"Right, right," Tony waves his hand dismissively. "Those'll take me a couple of afternoons, tops. So, where are you planning on taking my newest minion?"
"Hey!" Darcy says. She's not a minion.
Pepper frowns. "What have I told you about that?"
"What?" The mock innocent face really does not work on Tony Stark.
"The minion thing."
Tony heaves a giant, put-upon sigh. "That calling sentient, feeling human beings 'minions' is insulting and devalues both them and me."
"You'll always be my head minion, Ms. Potts." Tony leans in to murmur into her ear before darting back out of reach. "Now what are you to up to today?"
"Lunch," Pepper says. "And some shopping."
"On my credit card?" Tony asks.
"Of course, Mr. Stark," Pepper says smoothly. Darcy is kind of in awe of how subtle their flirtation is. It's like watching a black-and-white movie, The Maltese Falcon or something.
"Try not to bankrupt the company. Only one pair of Louboutins."
Pepper smiles and tilts her head a little. "I make no promises." She turns to Darcy and asks, "Are you ready to go?"
"Oh yeah," Darcy says.
Darcy is worried about lunch since she's not exactly dressed for the Four Seasons, but Pepper directs the driver, an aptly named Happy, to a little hole in the wall Indian place that she promises Darcy will be the most delicious food she's ever had. They chit chat semi-awkwardly over their menus, but once the samosa appetizers are delivered, Pepper sits back in her chair and brushes a wayward piece of hair back into place.
"You're probably wondering what the hell you've agreed to right about now."
Darcy feels a huge weight lift off her shoulders. It wasn't that she was afraid Pepper was going to be disappointed by her insecurity, but she sort of was. "Yes."
Pepper laughs and helps herself to a little mint sauce. "I cried myself to sleep every night for a month when I first started working for Tony."
Her mouth is full of fried potato goodness, but Darcy figures her wide eyes are question enough.
"I wasn't much older than you are now and my job was, and is, extraordinarily demanding."
"So how did you..."
"Get used to it?" Pepper smiles, the look in her eyes far away. "Time and growing into the position, which I realize isn't really a help right now."
Darcy makes a face. "Not really, no."
"For the moment -- keep in mind that you are the conductor of this symphony. You don't have to know how to do everything, because you can hire people who do know how to do these things. Also, I'm going to give you access to my Rolodex, which isn't really a Rolodex so much as it is a carefully cross-referenced database which includes contact information and evaluations of every single contractor, consultant or business that I've ever dealt with."
Darcy's eyes are huge. "Oh my god. I could kiss you right now."
"Only if Tony gets to watch." Pepper slaps her hand over her own mouth. Darcy can feel herself gaping, just a little, and neither woman moves until Pepper lowers her hand, shifting in her chair. "Can we pretend that didn't happen?"
Darcy nods even though every bit of her is desperate to ask Pepper what the actual fuck?.
"Excellent." Pepper spears a piece of pickled cauliflower with her fork and obviously starts making a mental list. "So, you need access to those files... and also The Talk."
"My mom handled that when I was eleven, but thanks." She's twenty-four, for god's sake.
Pepper laughs. "Not that talk. The one on superheroes and handling the egos behind the mask."
"Seriously," Darcy breathes, "You are my fucking superhero right now."
Pepper flushes pink, but smiles.
Watching Pepper shop for shoes is what Darcy imagines watching Alexander the Great plan invasions would be like. It helps, of course, that she seems to have the catalog memorized and the sales staff know her by name. She sends four separate people to the back room with a list of a half-dozen pairs each to fetch for her. When everyone has delivered their boxes, she separates them by color and style before trying each pair on and walking swiftly up down the length of the store several times.
A couple of pairs are dismissed as soon as she slips them on and several more don't pass the walking test, but at the end there are still a dozen and a half pairs of expensive, gorgeous, slutty shoes surrounding them. Pepper stands in her stocking feet and surveys them all before turning to Darcy. "Which do you think?"
"Uh." Darcy stares at Pepper for a second before looking down at her silver sequined Converse. "Business or pleasure?"
Pepper's smile is sly and a little dirty. "Oh, Darcy. Shoes are always both."
Darcy laughs, turning a little pink. She's normally pretty shameless, but something about Pepper's combination of utterly serious, buttoned-down business wear and flirty little smile is surprisingly dirty. "I like the maroon ones with the stacked heel," she says, then adds hastily, "but I'm sure you know shoes a lot better than me."
Pepper's eyes sparkle. "Don't worry about knowing shoes," she says. "In the end, it's all about desire. Which pair do you want?"
"Huh?" Darcy says, guiltily dragging her gaze back from the black knee-high boots with the slight platform heel. "Oh, I don't need--"
"Nonsense," Pepper says. "Tony's paying. It's good for him."
In the end, despite Darcy's protests, she leaves the shoe store with not one but two pairs of amazingly well-fitting, comfortable, drop dead sexy boots. She's not sure how much they cost, but she's afraid that the total would cover her apartment's rent back in New Mexico for several months. Maybe even a few years.
To her relief, Pepper doesn't suggest any other shopping after the shoes. They leave the store (with Happy burdened down with shopping bags) and head back to what they've started calling Avengers' Tower. Pepper checks her smartphone and tsks. "Tony has a meeting in ten minutes on the other side of town. What do you want to bet that he hasn't left the Tower yet?"
Darcy laughs. "I don't think I can afford to take that bet."
The next few days are eye-opening for Darcy. She shadows Pepper as she goes about her daily routine of putting out Tony-created fires, running a multi-national corporation, and superhero wrangling. She's exhausted by the time she falls into bed each night, her head aching from the overload of information and procedure and her stomach full of some of the most decadent food in New York.
The hotel that SHIELD had originally arranged for her to stay in while she waited for the living spaces in the Tower to be ready was deemed 'unlivable' by Tony so he had Pepper book her into a suite the floor below the penthouse in his hotel. Literally his as in he bought it on a whim the year before. It's luxurious and completely over the top, but Darcy misses her tiny student housing apartment and the feeling of being in her own space.
She hates to admit it, but she also misses Clint. Oh, she's still pissed as hell he had the gall to put his hands on her like that and if she ever sees him again, she's going to make him sorry he ever did, but they'd been becoming friends and she misses that.
Darcy also misses the way he looks in his little para-military get-up, but that is not a thought to be having while she's in bed, feeling slightly fragile and homesick. There's a part of her that is afraid that her motley assortment of furnishings and decorations won't fit into this new life. That she won't fit into this life of high rises and superheroes. She pulls one of the cloud-soft feather pillows over her head and screams into it. It's after three in the morning and her brain has picked the worst possible night to keep her awake.
Tomorrow is the big day, after all. The official unveiling of the official headquarters to the members of the Avengers.
Such as they are.
Right now the full line-up is Tony, a "intelligence specialist" named Natasha Romanoff, and a scientist named Bruce Banner. There's like a dozen bedrooms on the living quarters level of the Tower, so Darcy has to assume that the plan is to expand the team eventually since three people does not an intimidating group make.
She knows that Tony would like to recruit Thor, whenever he returns from Valhalla or whatever. The news from New Mexico doesn't sound great, though. Jane's video calls have a brittle feeling of forced cheer these days and Erik looks increasingly rumpled and worn. Darcy misses them, but she knows she couldn't really have stayed on at the research lab, even if she hadn't threatened to taser Dr. Julia. Not unless she wanted a career of fetching coffee and Pop-Tarts for the people doing the real work.
She's useful here. She's getting shit accomplished. Tony is a completely brilliant engineer and inventor, but he doesn't care about organizational details. Darcy fucking loves them. She can and will organize the shit out of this fucking superhero team.
It's with that frame of mind that Darcy waits in the reception area of the Avengers tower the next day, clutching a clipboard and a giant cup of coffee. Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner are due to arrive any minute now and Darcy is ready. She is fucking on this.
Even if she's crapping her pants on the inside.
She's not sure what an "intelligence specialist" brings to the table, but Tony had pulled her into a conference room yesterday to explain exactly why keeping Dr. Banner on an even keel was of utmost importance.
Darcy's not too proud to say that she had to sit down when Tony had started up the shaky surveillance footage of an unassuming man completely changing his shape and rampaging through the room before disappearing out the hole he'd made in the fucking cinder block. She hadn't said anything as the screen abruptly switched to static, but at Tony's expectant look, she shrugged and asked calmly, "So decaf only for Dr. Banner?" She's pretty sure she managed to conceal the fact that her hands were shaking.
Dr. Banner is the first person to show up, sliding through the main doors precisely one minute before eight in the morning.
"Dr. Banner? I'm Darcy Lewis, Lead Coordinator for the Avengers Initiative." She manages to refrain from rolling her eyes at her newly minted title. She hadn't thought she needed one at all, but Tony and, surprisingly, Pepper had been adamant they find the proper description for her role. It had take two days and several conference calls with Agent Coulson and Colonel Fury before "Lead Coordinator" had been approved by everyone involved.
Even if Tony still insists "She Who Must Be Obeyed" would be perfect.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Lewis." Dr. Banner's handshake is firm, but not crushing.
"And you must call me Bruce." He smiles. "Who else of our little band of brothers will be arriving today?"
"Band of only two-thirds brothers, actually. Tony Stark and Natasha Romanoff should be arriving shortly." Shortly, in Tony's case, generally being anywhere from half an hour to five hours late, but he's got Pepper riding herd on him today. He should be relatively on time.
"A small team, but perhaps that's best at the outset," he says with a small smile and goes to inspect the row of potted plants by the window.
She's not quite sure what to make of Bruce Banner. He's almost creepily calm. Then again, considering what happens when he gets angry, Darcy supposes that some serious anger-management classes couldn't have gone amiss.
The outer door swings open and Tony sweeps through in grand style, followed by a moderately-cranky looking Pepper and an absolutely gorgeous redhead who must be Natasha Romanoff. Darcy moves forward with a welcoming smile, then stops dead in her tracks when someone else follows them through the door.
Clint fucking Barton gives her a little smile and hitches a large backpack higher on his shoulder. "Hey, Darcy," he says.
"Clint." She looks around for some sort of explanation for why Clint Barton is standing in the entryway to Avengers Tower. "What are you doing here?"
He smiles and his annoyingly green eyes crinkle at the corners. "Well, apparently, I live here now."
"But only members of the Avengers -- and me -- live at the Tower. Were you looking for the SHIELD office? It's on the twenty-sixth floor, but no one is there yet."
"Nope." He shakes his head. "I'm definitely here for the Avengers Initiative."
"No you're not."
He frowns. "I'm pretty sure I am."
"And I'm pretty sure you're not." Darcy tries to loosen her grip on the utterly fantastic tablet Tony had made for her. "Do you know why?"
"Please. Enlighten me." Clint is starting to look pissed now.
"I know you aren't here for the Avengers because I am the Lead Coordinator of the project. That means that even if Colonel Fury had been overtaken by some form of alien mind control and decided to assign you here, I would have processed your paperwork."
"And I take it you haven't?" Clint is smirking now and Darcy just knows she's going to ruin her only chance at Bruce and Natasha seeing her as a professional pretty damn quick here.
"No, I haven't. That means you are here without permission, so get the hell out of my building."
From across the room, Tony says, "Actually, it's my--"
Darcy throws up a hand and says, "Zzzzt!" Tony subsides.
"I'm afraid I can't do that." Clint swings the oddly shaped backpack off his shoulder and places it carefully on the ground.
"Well, I'm afraid you're going to have to." Darcy can hear her own voice getting shrill. She really wishes she hadn't decided against carrying her taser.
"On whose authority?" His arms are crossed across his chest, and part of Darcy can't help but appreciate how it stretches his shirt sleeves across his biceps.
"I am the Lead Coordinator -- "
"What does that even mean?" he asks, and Darcy wilts a little, because yeah, as titles go that one's pretty meaningless.
She rallies, though, saying, "It means that without paperwork, there's no way I'm letting you in."
And that's when her tablet beeps, announcing the arrival of a new email. Darcy glances down and reads the title of the email: Barton, Clint - SHIELD transfer approval. Well, shit.
Deciding discretion is the better part of valor in this case, Darcy closes her eyes for a moment and takes a deep breath. She smiles pleasantly as she blinks to resettle her contacts and forcibly drops her shoulders. "Welcome to the Avengers Initiative, Agent Barton."
Clint's self-satisfied expression makes her want to throw things, but she is absolutely not going to give him the satisfaction of any more of a response. "And welcome everyone. As I said, I'm Darcy Lewis, Lead Coordinator for the Avengers Initiative. I will be conducting your orientation and helping you get settled."
The scripted speech Pepper had helped her write settles her nerves and temper enough to where Darcy can forget that she's wearing the only semi-professional outfit in her limited wardrobe. She feels an odd sense of power that came with knowing she had organized much of this. "Beginning tomorrow, the retail shops and spaces occupied by Stark Industries and SHIELD will be opened up and employees will begin moving in their equipment. As long as you are in civilian clothes, you can use this entrance to access the Avenger's headquarters. There are other entrances if you are in costume or injured."
She turns and starts towards the bank of elevators visible past the security desk. "You will all be issued a badge that will allow you clearance through the security here and access to the restricted floors of the building."
Darcy strides past the six elevators and heads towards a secured door. "If you are going to either SHIELD or Stark offices or your apartments, you can use the regular elevators, but if you're here on Avengers business, only this elevator can get you there. It also stops on the residential floors."
When they're all in the car, Darcy swipes her card and enters her access code into the panel. "You will all have an individual access code in addition to the card and there are Stark designed biomechanical scanners that will verify everyone in the car has the clearance necessary to enter Headquarters."
Darcy isn't sure how long Fury had been secretly planning on adding Clint to the team, so she's not positive the elevator will work, but the quiet chime as it begins moving lets her know it wasn't a spur of the moment decision.
Heads. Will. Roll.
She covers her annoyance with a bright smile directed at Natasha and Bruce. "Once we're done touring the facility, we can look at the apartments. Even if you aren't planning on living here full time, we thought it would be nice for everyone to have a place if they're working late or something big is happening."
Darcy is uncomfortably aware of Clint's stare boring into the back of her skull for the remainder of the tour. She catches herself getting nervous and rushing through her explanations and forces herself to slow down. She's a professional, goddammit. She can do this.
After Darcy finishes the tour but before she's managed to get all of them to finish filling out their paperwork, Tony decides that he's bored and they all need to go out to lunch. Darcy tries to beg off, but Tony is, well, Tony, and she's unsuccessful. Darcy heaves a sigh and resigns herself to a very long, very awkward lunch.
She didn't take into account the fact that Tony seems to think that any business lunch can only be improved by the addition of copious amounts of alcohol.
She'd been too nervous to eat breakfast, so Darcy's head is feeling kind of floaty by the time that their entrees come. Because the universe hates her, she's seated directly across the table from Clint. Tony has been dominating the conversation, of course, which has meant that Darcy has been able to keep from meeting Clint's gaze by pretending to be fascinated by Tony's stories. Which are actually pretty fascinating, so at least there's that.
Eventually, though, Tony gets a call that he says he has to take (from someone he refers to affectionately as "Roadie") and steps away from the table, leaving an awkward conversational lull in his wake
"So, Darcy, how is it you came to be associated with this motley crew?"
Darcy blinks heavily and stares at Bruce for a moment, trying to force his words to make sense through the champagne fog. "I was working in New Mexico when Thor fell out of the sky."
Natasha nods like this makes sense, but Bruce looks confused. "Thor, God of Thunder?"
It sounds so dirty and Darcy can't help but snort into her glass. "Well, I don't know that for sure, but having seen him shirtless, I'd say yeah." She pauses as that train of thought hooks on to another one and she jerks her thumb in Clint's direction. "And I had sex with that one in a bathroom when I was twenty-two."
Of course Tony slides back into his seat just in time to hear that. "Oh, Ms. Lewis. You and I must have a talk about keeping secrets from your employer."
Clint isn't saying anything, just turning bright red and staring at his plate. Bruce squints at her, then at Clint, then at Darcy again, and asks, "How long ago were you twenty-two?"
There's a tiny snort of laughter from Natasha's end of the table. Clint looks up long enough from his plate to glare at her, which only makes her start to laugh harder. Darcy isn't quite sure what to make of that.
Pepper clears her throat. "I'm sure we'd all like to start this team with a clean slate and put any history or interpersonal conflicts behind us."
Tony has his chin propped on his hand and is giving Darcy a very intrigued look. "Come now, Ms. Potts, I for one would love to hear this story."
Darcy is about to refuse because it's a ridiculous request from a ridiculous man. She takes a breath and opens her mouth to say 'no', but the hot glare Clint sends her way when it looks like she's going to indulge Tony has something childish and vindictive bursting to life in her chest . It's completely out of proportion to the entire situation, but she can't stop herself from giving Clint a dismissive once-over and shrugging. "There really isn't that much to tell."
A shocked and awkward silence falls over the table and Darcy regrets letting her temper and hurt get the better of her. She feels her shoulders fold in a little before she squares them up again to apologize and take her probable firing like a big girl.
"Oh hell no." Clint is out of his seat by the time she looks up. He skirts around the end of the table, yanking her out of her chair and towing her towards the front door.
Darcy instinctively uses one of the moves from her self defense classes to break his hold on her wrist. Clint looks about as surprised as she is that it actually worked.
Darcy puts her hands on her hips and glares up at him. She's wearing the boots Pepper bought her and is pleased to find that she doesn't have to glare nearly as far up while wearing them. "Don't fucking drag me anywhere, you asshole."
Clint pinches the bridge of his nose. "Darcy, would you just come with me so we can discuss this without an audience?"
Darcy glances behind him. Oh yeah, everyone in the restaurant is staring at them.
The maître d' clears his throat. "Miss, would you like me to call the police?"
"Not necessary. But thanks." Darcy waves off Tony, who's standing near the table looking about as pissed off as she's ever seen him. "We'll be right back."
Without meeting Clint's eyes, Darcy grabs hold of the lapel of his jacket and starts towing him toward the door.
He only lets her pull him until they're outside, then he digs his heels in and she's forced to turn around. "What the fuck, Darcy?"
She has to fight down her instinctive desire to push back just as hard and blows out a hard breath. "I'm sorry. That was uncalled for."
"And a lie." Clint crosses his arms over his chest, but somehow ends up looking more petulant than intimidating.
Darcy can feel a smile tug at her mouth. "And a lie."
The fight obviously drains out of him and he drops his arms, scrubbing a hand through his hair. When he speaks, his question is more plaintive than anything else. "What the fuck, Darcy?"
Darcy shrugs awkwardly. "I don't know. I was just -- I was so mad, and you wouldn't apologize, and I just got madder--"
"--and then I was kind of a dick, which really didn't help."
Darcy stares at him. He's got this adorable, wry half-smile, and despite her anger she finds herself thawing to him. "And then you were a dick," she agrees.
"But can we agree that you were being unreasonable too?" he asks, ducking his head and looking up at her from under his eyelashes.
Dammit, his eyes are so pretty, Darcy thinks, biting her lip. "...yeah, I kinda was too."
The door to the restaurant is flung open and Tony strides through. "Are you two fucking yet? No? Probably a good thing, because we need to get going. Fury just called me. There's a situation developing in Times Square."
Clint catches Tony's eye from across the sidewalk they're loitering on and has to bite his lip to stop from giggling. Captain fucking America is alive and, okay probably confused and depressed but--alive! Clint doesn't pretend to know what goes on in Nick Fury's head, but he'd be willing to bet his last three combat pay bonuses that, sooner rather than later, their little team will be getting a patriotic boost. He beats out a quick tattoo on his leg, but stops when Natasha sends him a dirty look and rolls her eyes.
Whatever, he saw the look on her face when Colonel Fury briefed them. Dr. Banner seems baffled about the entire thing, but Clint can't be bothered to explain it to him because Captain America is so fucking awesome he can barely contain himself.
The man punched Hitler, for chrissakes. If that isn't the definition of fucking awesome, Clint doesn't know what is.
Fury has the team waiting just outside the SHIELD perimeter in Times Square in case things with Captain America go pear-shaped. Pepper and Darcy are being driven back, under protest, to the Tower by Happy the ridiculously named chauffeur. They barely have a chance to get in place before a guy in a white tee-shirt and khakis comes barreling out of a building Clint knows is a SHIELD facility.
Even at this distance, Clint can see that the guy is tall, blond and ridiculously handsome. He stops right in the middle of the square and starts staring around at the giant billboards. Yeah, Clint guesses that all has to look pretty strange to a guy who's been frozen for 70 years.
Fury appears out of the crowd and starts talking to the guy. Clint can't hear what he's saying, but the guy--Captain America--slowly starts looking a little less freaked out. Goddamn, Fury is good.
After a few minutes, Fury leads the guy towards an unmarked SHIELD vehicle that had unobtrusively pulled up next to them as they were talking.
Clint's earpiece buzzes lightly and he hears Fury's voice say, "All of you, meet back at the Tower. I'm going to show our guest around a little and then bring him by to meet you."
Clint feels a little let down that they didn't get to do anything, but hell, they're going to meet Captain fucking America.
"So, now how do we get back to the Tower?" Banner asks, looking a little lost.
Clint glances around at the rest of the team and shrugs. "Call a cab?" he says.
Tony is standing on the sidewalk with his hands in his pockets, clearly waiting for something. Like fucking magic, another of his really ridiculously expensive cars pulls up next to them and a guy in a chauffeurs' uniform hops out and holds the driver's side door for Tony. "Thanks, kid," he says, then gestures at the rest of them to get in.
Clint exchanges a look with Natasha. "Tony fucking Stark," he says quietly. Natasha smirks but doesn't say anything.
It's not until they're all shuffling around the lobby of the Tower that he realizes Darcy hadn't had a chance to give anyone their badges before they'd gone to lunch. He's worked for SHIELD long enough to know better than to test out their security measures without a plan in place, so they're stuck waiting for Darcy to fetch them after Tony calls her.
The door that leads to the hidden elevator opens and Darcy pokes her head out, pointing at Tony. "You see what happens when you don't let me finish my tour?"
"Yes, yes." Tony shoos her back towards the elevator and gets the rest of the moving after her. "Never again shall I thwart your administrative sorcery."
"Damn straight," she says, pretending to glower but her lips have a little pleased curl to them. Clint really wants to kiss her right now.
The elevator music is "Girl From Ipanema." Clint wonders whose horrible sense of humor he can blame that one on. Probably Tony.
Darcy leads the way into a large room with floor to ceiling windows along one wall and a number of couches and comfy chairs scattered across the impractically white carpeting. Part of Clint's head notes how difficult getting blood spatters out of that carpeting would be. Clint tells that part of his head to fuck off.
Darcy sits down on a couch across from Natasha and Clint. "So, since Tony didn't let me finish the tour, I didn't get a chance to let you know your uniforms have been delivered and are in the closet in your rooms. If there's any problem with them, please let me know." She pauses, frowning at Clint. "I'm not sure what to do about you, since I wasn't informed you were joining."
Natasha laughs quietly and elbows Clint in his side. Goddamn, her elbows are pointy. "I'm sure Colonel Fury thought of that. Purple spandex, Barton. With a big purple mask."
Clint rolls his eyes at her, but doesn't trust the speculative look on Darcy's face. "No."
"Come on." Darcy gives him her best begging face, all big eyes and pouty mouth. "For me?"
"Absolutely not." As nice as it is to have her attention again, Clint is weak, but not that weak. "I'd rather not be laughed off the field of battle."
"Fine." She's a little huffy, but he can tell it's mostly for show. "Do you want to see your apartments now?"
"We're actually waiting on Colonel Fury and...a guest." Tony kicks back in his chair and sets his feet on the table, only to have Darcy wing a coaster at his throat.
"Feet off the table. Were you raised in a barn? Jesus." Darcy pulls her tablet towards her and starts poking at it. "A guest? Who? Do I need to set up access for him? Her?"
"Him." Clint can't help the goofy smile he can feel forming on his face at the thought of meeting Captain America. "I'm not sure about access. Can Fury override the elevator security to get him up here without it?"
"He can, yeah." Darcy glances from Tony back to him. "What am I missing? You and Tony both look like Christmas came early."
Clint laughs. "What do you know about Captain America?"
"Uh, that he's not real? The US Army created him as part of the pro-war effort propaganda machine. They dressed some guy up in the suit and sent him on USO tours. All of the stories about him fighting the Nazis come from the propaganda comic books created by the Army. Captain America is about as real as Uncle Sam." Darcy crosses her arms across her chest and adds smugly, "Political science major with a history minor. I kill at Jeopardy."
Tony and Clint exchange looks, both of them grinning. "Impressive, Ms.Lewis," Tony says. "Except for one part... Captain America was real. In fact, is real, and he's on his way here with Nick Fury."
"What?" Darcy tilts her head to the side and scowls at them. "God, you two are such boys sometimes. I'm not dumb enough to believe that Colonel Fury is about to roll into here with the Army's version of Santa Claus on his arm." She makes a scoffing noise.
"We're not pulling your leg, Darcy." Clint appeals to Natasha, "Tell her!"
Natasha has been watching the byplay with a secretive little smile on her face. Clint has a feeling that she's building up blackmail material for later. Sometimes being friends with her is a mixed blessing. "I do not know if Captain America was a real man. The KGB certainly believed that he was real and that he crippled the Nazi war effort on the Western front. The man that Colonel Fury spoke to bears a striking resemblance to the description of Captain America in the KGB's files. Beyond that, I cannot say."
"How does that even make sense?" Clint can see the door opening behind Darcy, but she just talks louder when he tries to shush her. "World War II was seventy years ago. Even if Captain America were real, he'd be at least ninety and need an adult diaper."
"Apparently, I was frozen in a block of ice near Norway."
Darcy closes her eyes and Clint can see she's swearing under her breath before turning around to face the door. Whatever smart-ass thing she was probably going to say never appears and she audibly swallows before saying, "Um. Hi."
Clint looks at the man accompanying Colonel Fury and has to stop himself from giving a little wave like Pepper is. Holy hell, Clint thinks, Captain America is an attractive man. He takes a second to glance around the table at his teammates. Dr. Banner--Bruce, he'd said--looks curious and like he wants to scrape off some skin samples for his lab. Natasha has managed to keep her face mostly expressionless, but there is a faint wash of color high on her cheekbones. Tony--Jesus fuck, Stark be more obvious--looks like he's about to club Cap over the head and drag him off to some dark corner somewhere.
Clint would be more surprised by that if he wasn't fairly sure that Captain America is the kind of handsome that people are attracted to regardless of gender preference. Hell, probably alien species would find him attractive.
"Hi," Captain fucking America says with a bashful, yet blinding grin. "Nice to meet you. I'm Steve Rogers."
Clint is possibly imagining the love-struck sighs that follow that introduction. Okay, he hopes he's imagining them.
"Tony. Tony Stark. Great to meet you. Really, big fan of your work," Tony says, about as close to babbling as Clint has ever heard him. Steve Rogers smiles back at him and shakes his hand, looking bemused when Tony hangs on just a little bit too long.
"Stark? You wouldn't be related to Howard Stark, would you?"
"Yes, I am. He was my father," Tony says.
Steve frowns. "Was?"
"He passed away some years ago," Tony says. At Steve's frown, he says, "Sorry, I didn't know that you knew him."
Steve shrugs, his mouth turned down at the corners. "I guess I'm going to have to get used to the fact that the world has moved on while I've been frozen for seventy years."
Before the somber mood can settle in, Fury nudges Steve further into the room. "This is the team I was telling you about. Since today is their first day of operation, you'll be getting in on the ground floor."
"Oh, Colonel, I'm not sure..." His voice trails off and Fury pushes him down on the couch next to Darcy. "Everything is so different. I'm not sure I'll ever catch up."
"Nonsense." Fury gestures at the rest of the group. "They have weeks of team building to do before they'll be ready to go out on assignment. Ms. Lewis here is the perfect candidate to help get you up to speed."
"Me?" Clint would laugh at the way Darcy squeaks her question if he didn't realize she'll now be spending several hours a day with Steve.
"History and politics are the most important thing for him to be briefed on and you are qualified for that."
"Okay, but - "
"But none of that left-wing, hippie bullshit you learned in college."
Steve obviously winces at Fury's coarse language and Clint can't wait for the first time Darcy drops the f-bomb in front of him. Which, if his calculations are correct, should be within the next five minutes.
"Can I have access to your top-secret files?" Darcy blinks guilelessly, but even Steve looks a little disbelieving.
Fury looks at her like she's crazy. "Hell no!"
"Then he gets the same history the rest of us did." Darcy crosses her arms and grins at Fury, who looks like he's already reconsidering this idea.
Steve speaks up before Fury can get into it with Darcy. "I'm sure whatever information Ms. Lewis can give to me will be very useful in getting me up to speed on the 21st century."
Darcy's smile turns a little more predatory than Clint is comfortable with. "Please, call me Darcy."
Ignoring the byplay, Fury gestures toward Bruce and Natasha. "And this is Dr. Bruce Banner and Natasha Romanoff."
Clint zones out through the rest of the pleasantries because Darcy has put her hand on Steve's knee. Clint kinda wants to punch one of his childhood heroes in the face.
Eventually, Steve moves Darcy's hand off his knee with an awkward smile and Clint's blood pressure goes down to the point where he can pay attention to the conversation again. "What are you a doctor of?" Steve is asking Bruce.
"Physics. Specifically, nuclear physics."
Steve nods but looks a little perplexed. "So you're... support staff?"
"Oh, no, Bruce is a full member of the team," Fury says. "He turns into a nine-foot tall force of pure destruction. You should see him knock a hole in a cinder block wall."
Natasha clears her throat. "I have a question about that, actually. So, the Hulk form is essentially mindless, correct?"
Banner looks a little uncomfortable. "Not precisely. Hulk has a sort of limited intelligence."
"So how do we know that he won't attack us instead of whoever we're going up against?"
Clint is pretty interested to hear the answer to that himself.
"We're still working out the details of that." Fury makes a dismissive motion that in no way eases Clint's mind about the whole Hulk scenario. He really needs to read the dossiers in his bag. "Captain Rogers, welcome to the Avengers Initiative. The rest of you, behave."
And then he's gone.
"I hate it when he does that." Tony sighs and pushes his fingers through his hair. "Darcy, can you..."
"On it, Mr. Stark." Darcy has her tablet out and is clicking merrily away. "One of the apartments here will work until Captain Rogers is familiar enough with his new environment to decide where to stay. I've set him up with an Avengers expense account to take care of clothes and toiletries. Should I petition Colonel Fury for seventy years of back pay?"
Tony laughs. "And that's why I hired you."
"Oh, I don't need seventy years of back pay, Ms. Lewis." Man, Steve's earnest face is so real it almost looks fake to Clint.
"Living is expensive, Captain. And the U.S. government needs to be penalized for not looking after its assets as well as they could have." Tony rubs his hands together, probably dreaming about battling it out with Fury on the salary issue. "My dad spent years looking for you and never once did the Army offer its assistance after the initial search."
"He did?" Steve looks so honestly happy about that that Clint feels vaguely uncomfortable. He's not used to people being so... open.
"He did," Tony nods. "Didn't find you, but found a whole lot of viking artifacts, Bronze age ships, stuff like that. Dad built a museum for all that stuff in Brooklyn," he says dismissively, like it's totally normal to own your own museum. Hell, he's Tony Stark--he probably owns several.
"I'd like to see that someday," Steve says.
"It's a date." Grinning, Tony smacks his hands together. "Ms. Potts, clear my schedule for Saturday night." Pepper's eyebrow raises, but she types something into a tablet without further commentary. "Ms. Potts and Ms. Lewis, buy yourselves something pretty. We'll make this a double-date."
Pepper's raised eyebrow is accompanied by a pointed cough. Tony apparently realizes that this is, maybe, a little weird. "In fact, let's make this a team-building exercise. Natasha and Clint, and..." He looks at Bruce, apparently stymied. "Well, Natasha, Clint, and Bruce, you'll be a threesome. How does that sound?"
"Unlikely," is Natasha's answer. Clint laughs hard enough to distract himself from Tony's assumption that Steve would be Darcy's date.
Tony sighs as if Natasha was being deliberately stubborn. "Don't close yourself off from opportunities, Agent Romanoff."
"Let's drop this for now, shall we?" Natasha gestures at Steve. "We're making the Captain uncomfortable."
Steve is turning a particularly vibrant shade of red that has Tony staring at him in fascination again. "Um."
"Right, right." Tony stands up and offers Pepper his arm. "I believe we need to tour the living accommodations still. Correct, Ms. Lewis?"
"Hm?" Darcy breaks off her own fascinated stare and shakes her head a little. "Oh! Yes. The tour. Let's go."
Clint utilizes over a dozen years of training and slips between Darcy and Steve as they all head towards the elevators. He hesitates for a second, then lightly settles his hand on her lower back. He feels a moment of real terror when her head whips around towards him, but after a long, expressionless moment, she smiles and drifts a half a step closer to him.
Take that, Captain America.
Darcy isn't sure just what about a Brooklyn museum full of Viking artifacts requires a dress, let alone a new dress, but she's learned to just accept Pepper's lead on things like this. And since Pepper had shoved her into a dressing room in a tiny boutique with an armful of bright fabric, a new dress was obviously necessary.
She just isn't sure this much dress is necessary.
Or, rather, this little dress.
It isn't that the dress is indecent in any way--Pepper has way too nice of taste for that--it's just that Darcy is used to being a lot more covered. Eh, whatever. She watches herself shrug in the mirror as she makes sure her hair isn't sticking up anywhere. She knows she looks hot and she'll get used to looking down and only seeing cleavage in a little while. The bigger question is whether Clint will get used to it.
In the past couple of days, they've fallen right back into their pre-tasering relationship and Darcy is surprised by how much of a relief it is. She hadn't realized how much she had invested in their little flirtation, but now that she does, it's a question of where she wants it to go.
Well. She's pretty sure where she wants it to go involves orgasms. The question is, where she wants it to end up. And where he wants it to end up. Darcy tugs at her hair in frustration and decides not to think about it anymore right now, because it's just making her crazy.
"What do you think?" she asks, stepping out of the dressing room and twirling. The dress is teal and makes her eyes look gorgeous, not to mention what it does for her boobs.
Pepper nods, smiling approvingly. "Yes, that will do nicely. Now we just need the perfect shoes to go with it."
"Surely we don't need to buy shoes just for this... oh, hell, what am I saying? Of course this needs new fuck-me shoes." Darcy is pretty sure that Pepper has forever ruined her for normal, doesn't-cost-an-arm-and-a-leg shoes.
"And earrings," Pepper says, and Darcy can't dissuade her before they're sweeping out the door with a mission. Happy pulls up at the curb like magic and they're off.
Darcy occasionally thinks about her life in New Mexico--Pop-tarts, tiny apartment, no car, a wardrobe consisting of tee-shirts, two pairs of jeans and six pairs of Converse--and feels like she's on a different planet. It's not bad, but sometimes she feels homesick for normalcy.
Strangely, a four hundred dollar pair of shoes cures that.
The 'why a new dress' question is answered a couple of days later when the society news is full of Tony Stark's short-notice museum benefit. Darcy sighs and sends Coulson an update, knowing full well SHIELD will have a team in place before the day is out if they're all going to be out in public together. This whole museum field trip has all the earmarks of a disaster, even if only Darcy seems to be aware of that at this point.
She pulls up her to-do list and sends a silent thank you to to Natasha for taking Captain--"Please call me Steve, miss"--Rogers under her bossy little wing. They're currently out shopping for clothes, and as much as Darcy would like to have him for her own personal dress-up doll, she's pretty sure that wouldn't go over well with anyone.
Darcy is still handling his world history and politics lessons and trying to get him up to speed on pop culture, but he's obviously less than comfortable with her free-wheeling, modern ways. The look on his face when she'd played him a Lady Gaga video will stick with her for a while, that's for sure. He's just so hot that she can't remember to treat him like her grandpa.
Not that Natasha treats him like an old man, but she's definitely more...something than Darcy. Something that Steve responds to, at least. It might be her bossiness. He was in the military. He's probably got a thing for that.
Darcy sighs and puts down her tablet. She needs to take a break from answering emails. Some caffeine would probably help too.
When they were setting up the Tower, Tony ordered an insanely complicated, stainless steel Italian contraption that makes every coffee-based drink known to man. No one knows how to operate it. So next to the several-thousand-dollar espresso machine is a high-end but perfectly normal drip coffeemaker.
Darcy is leaning against the kitchen island, zoning out and staring at the coffee dripping down into the pot. So Clint's voice saying "hey" next to her ear makes her jump about a foot and shriek.
"Jesus fucking Christ!" she yelps and smacks him across the chest.
"Ow! What'd I do to deserve that?" he asks, pouting.
"Fuck, warn a girl." Her heartbeat is pounding and she can taste adrenalin. She's awake now, that's for sure.
"I could've tromped in here like Hulk and you wouldn't have heard a thing. What's so fascinating about the coffee maker?" he asks, sitting on the kitchen island next to her.
"Nothing." Darcy brushes her hair out of her face and crosses her arms, scowling. She's not about to tell him that she'd been daydreaming about him picking her up and fucking her against the kitchen island. His ego is big enough already. "Do you have your tux for tonight?"
Clint makes a face. "Why would I wear a tux to a museum?"
"That utter bastard." Darcy lets her head thunk down on the the cupboard door a couple of times. "He put together a last-minute benefit at the museum. It's black tie."
"Why the hell would he do that? And why didn't I know about it?" Clint looks like he's working up an impressive mad.
"Because he can." Darcy considers not answering his second question, but full disclosure is probably her best bet at this point. "And because he's still mad at you for grabbing me the other day."
Clint's mad face immediately melts into his worried one. "I didn't hurt you, did I?" He reaches down to tug at her sleeve, obviously trying to see if she's bruised.
She's not, so she lets him push her sleeve up, liking the feeling of his warm hands on her skin. "Please. I'm not a delicate flower. I had way more bruises after Jacksonville."
Clint obviously doesn't know whether to be upset or proud about that. "Oh."
"So, yeah. Give him a little while to see that you're not an abusive jackhole and he'll mellow out." Darcy decides not to mention that Clint's hand is still on her arm, his thumb absently drawing circles on her skin. "Anyway, tux?"
"Luckily, I have decent one and won't end up looking like an asshole next to whatever expensive bullshit he'll be wearing."
"Why do you own a tux?" Darcy realizes that sounded kinda judgy and backpedals. "I mean, you don't really seem like the... tux type?"
"Natasha made me after the first time I showed up to something in a rented tux. She said it was totally unacceptable and made me look like a high schooler at prom." Clint smiles, looking nostalgic.
Darcy has a sudden suspicion. "Were you guys... together?"
"For a few months. Then we both agreed that my life expectancy would be vastly increased by not dating her." Clint grins. "Basically, everything about dating me drove her batshit crazy. And the feeling was mutual."
"Oh." Darcy fiercely tells herself that she has no reason to feel jealous. Dammit.
"Are you jealous?" Clint looks like Christmas has come early.
"What? No. Don't be ridiculous." The coffee maker beeps that it's done and Darcy busies herself pouring two mugs. She doctors hers just the way she likes it (skim milk and half a packet of Splenda) and hands the other one to Clint, black.
"You are. You are totally jealous." Clint takes a giant gulp of the coffee as if it isn't basically boiling hot. Darcy winces just watching that.
"You're a jackass." Darcy hides her smile with the lip of her coffee mug.
"Children, children," Tony says, banging his way into the kitchen trailed by a quietly amused-looking Pepper. "Do I need to separate you?"
Clint leans up against the cupboard next to Darcy, overlapping her shoulder with his. "Nope. We're good."
Tony makes a little frowny face at how close they're standing. "Are you sure, Ms. Lewis? I can send him out for... something."
Darcy has to roll her eyes. "It's fine."
"So you say." Tony pokes at the shiny coffee-making monstrosity before pouring himself a cup from the regular pot. "Are you all ready for tonight?"
"I am. And that reminds me," Darcy says, squaring her shoulders. "Is there anyone else you failed to tell that this is a black-tie thing tonight?"
"Did someone not know? Sorry about that." He completely fails to look guilty even when Pepper crosses her arms over her chest and glares at him.
"Don't let it happen again." Darcy mirrors her stance, ignoring the way it makes his and Clint's eyes drop to her chest. "Seriously. Do not do that again."
Surprisingly, the evening goes off with only a couple of minor hitches.
It would have been nice to know that Howard Stark had also used the museum as a shrine to his rather frightening obsession with Captain America before Steve walks into the middle of it all. Steve manages to keep it together until they round a corner and encounter life-size wax museum sculptures of Steve in the Captain America costume standing next to a dark-haired guy in a dark blue uniform.
Steve says something under his breath that Darcy can't hear and turns away. Luckily for everyone, Steve does not turn into a nine foot tall green ball of rage when he is upset. He just turns big, sad eyes on Tony and heads towards the door leading to the next room. Natasha shoots a truly poisonous look at Tony before mumbling something in Russian that has Tony wincing and instinctively covering his groin.
Natasha sniffs and stomps off after Steve, slipping her hand into the crook of his elbow when she reaches him and patting at his arm with her other hand.
Huh. Darcy did not see that one coming. Though, really, Steve had slept through all of the Cold War, so he didn't really have that whole instinctive anti-Russian thing going on.
Pepper has cornered Tony between two display cases with first editions of comic books in them and is very obviously delivering the sort of low-voiced lecture that leaves a person feeling like complete shit.
Good for her.
Darcy leaves her nominal boss to his just desserts and turns to Clint. "So, I hear there's dancing in one of the other rooms."
A slow smile warms his eyes and he holds out his hand in invitation. "Shall we?"
And if Darcy feels like she's answering more than one question when she says yes, no one but she needs to know that.
He doesn't tuck her hand into the curve of his arm like Steve did to Natasha, but the weight on his palm on her back is just as nice. He leads her to the small reception hall where the band is crowded into the corner and pauses at the edge of the dance floor.
"So, I feel like I should warn you that I pretty much suck at dancing."
Darcy's watched him move enough to find that pretty hard to believe. Her face must make her doubt obvious because Clint ducks his head and rubs at the back of his neck. "It's true. Two left feet and a shocking lack of rhythm."
She shrugs because that doesn't really matter to her. She just wants to be close to him. "Clutch and sway?"
He laughs and steps out onto the floor, pulling her into his arms. "Clutch and sway is my best move."
"Oh, I doubt that," Darcy says. She didn't realize how dirty that would sound until she said it, a predicament she finds herself in... kind of a lot.
Clint grins down at her. "Why, Ms. Lewis, you'll make me blush."
It's true that he has no rhythm, but he smells nice and has really strong arms, so she accepts his lack of moves and just tries to steer them clear of other couples. Across the small dance floor Steve and Natasha are doing the tango or something. Whatever, Darcy doesn't know classical music. Anyway, they look really good together.
"Cut it out with the Ms. Lewis bullshit," she says. "I get that enough from Tony. We fucked in a bathroom two years ago, I think that means you can use my first name."
"About that," he says.
Darcy raises an eyebrow. This oughta be good. "Yes?"
"You were over 21, right? I mean, you said you were, but I didn't know if you were just trying to cover for me, or--"
"Clint." He stops babbling. "I wasn't lying. I was totally 22."
"...by two weeks."
He drops his head down onto her shoulder for a moment and sighs heavily before straightening back up. "Okay."
"What's the big deal?" Darcy truly is confused about this. "It's not like I was sixteen or something."
"Please never say that again." Clint closes his eyes briefly. "It's just that there's a world of difference between a girl still in college and a thirty-three year old man who had just spent eighteen months in Afghanistan. Every month you can give me makes me feel less like a dirty old man."
"But you are a dirty old man."
"...what?" Clint looks a little ill.
"Relax, soldier. It's part of what I like about you," Darcy says, winking at him.
"You," he says, pointing a finger at her, "Are going to be the death of me."
"Hmmmm." Darcy pretends to consider this while they just barely avoid running into another couple. "According to Cosmo, I haven't reached my sexual peak yet, so I'd say yeah, it's a definite possibility."
Clint actually does run into another couple at that.
Having Clint walk her to her door is a little awkward when she can see Steve doing the same for Natasha on the other end of the hall. It sort of puts a damper on her vague plans to hike her dress up and jump on him, but she rolls with it.
"Thank you for the dancing tonight."
It's not bright enough in the hallway to see if Clint is blushing, but Darcy is willing to bet her first month's salary that he is. "It was my pleasure. You looked beautiful tonight."
"Thank you." She rolls her eyes, but it takes all of her willpower not to fist-pump in triumph. "Your tuxedo looked decidedly non waiter-like as well."
Clint laughs and Darcy gestures towards her half-open door. "Do you want to..."
"I do, but you're got an early morning shopping call with Pepper and Natasha that you don't want to miss."
It's true that there is a shopping spree planned as her graduation present, but sex with Clint? Would totally trump that.
Something on her face must make her opinion on the subject clear because Clint leans forward and brushes a kiss across her cheek. "It's not every day you get to pick out a completely new wardrobe on someone else's dime. I'll be here when you get back."
"Also, Pepper indicated that if I made you miss the shopping trip she'd make my life severely uncomfortable." He spreads his arms helplessly. "What can I say? She's one scary woman when she wants to be."
"Fine." She knows she sounds a little huffy, so she smacks a loud kiss on his mouth before smacking him on the ass and stepping into her apartment. "Now get out of here and stop tempting me."
He gives her a little wave and heads down the hall towards his place. Darcy hangs her head out the door to watch the way his ass moves under his pants and gives him the finger guns when he catches her. He's still laughing when she closes her door.
Of course Tony Stark puts one of his private planes at their disposal for the trip to New Mexico for Darcy's graduation. He couldn't possibly do something as normal as buying them tickets on a commercial flight.
But even as Clint is bitching about Tony Stark's ridiculous extravagance under his breath, he's still cracking open the jars of imported olives in the wet bar. Hey, momma Barton didn't raise any idiots.
Darcy is running late, which is just as well... considering that she doesn't know that he's coming along on this trip. But hell if he was going to let her wander alone back into New Mexico, where a killer robot from outer space or Valhalla or some damn place ripped a town up and almost killed her a few months ago. No killer Norse robots are getting anywhere near Darcy, not while Clint's on the job.
The wheelie stairs rattle with the sound of hurried footsteps. Clint hears Darcy's voice calling, "Hang on, coming through, running late," and he turns just in time to see her step through the airplane door like something out of his (almost) most perverted dominatrix librarian fantasies.
She's wearing one of those tight button-down shirts that always makes him want to unbutton it just a little bit more, an above knee-length skirt, and boots that go up to her knees, leaving just a little bit of bare leg showing between the hem of her skirt and the boots. Oh man, the boots.
Holy shit. Clint doesn't realize he must have said that out loud until Darcy glares at him and demands, "What?"
"You're just... um... boots," he says helplessly. Fuck.
"Yes. I am wearing boots." Darcy hands her bag off to the flight attendant at her elbow with a distracted smile and swipes at the strands of her hair that have escaped the loose bun at the back of her head. "What are you doing here?"
"I can't accompany my... you to your hard-won graduation?" Shit.
"Your...me?" Darcy looks amused, which is better than pissed. Maybe.
Clint figures he has two options here. He can either pretend he has no idea what she's talking about or man up about the entire situation. "Yes?"
Darcy's smile is just smug enough for Clint to realize he's been played.
"Well, if you're going to accompany me to my graduation and you don't have any specific reason for wanting to do so... then you must be here to work. Right?"
"...right," Clint says, with a feeling of impending doom.
Darcy sits down and produces her tablet computer from a new leather shoulderbag. "Let's talk about SHIELD's expense report forms."
Several hours later, when the plane lands in a little airfield outside of Puente Antiguo, Clint staggers off the plane with much the same feeling as having survived a battle against all odds. He's faced Hydra agents with less tenacity than Darcy Lewis making sure that forms are properly filled out.
Her reaction to the receipt for over five hundred dollars of archery supplies scribbled on a fast-food napkin had been... memorable.
"Darcy!" A small, dark-haired woman in an over-sized plaid shirt and jeans runs across the airfield, yelling. Clint reflexively checks his weapons before he recognizes her as Dr. Foster. Dr. Selvig trails several steps behind her with his hands in his pockets.
"Oh my god, Jane!" Darcy beams and practically tackles Dr. Foster with a hug.
They dance in a circle as they hug it out, squealing and making an ungodly amount of noise for two tiny women. When they finally finish and Dr. Foster steps back, her mouth drops open. "What the hell, Darcy?"
Dr. Foster gestures at Darcy's hotass outfit. "You look like some sort of naughty school teacher."
"Yeah?" Darcy grins and holds out her hand for a high five. "That is exactly what I was going for."
Dr. Foster sighs, but slaps her hand against Darcy's. "What am I going to do with you?"
Darcy hugs Dr. Selvig, then turns around with a brilliant smile and says, "You are going to suffer through my graduation with me and then we're going to gas up the truck and drive out to the desert to stare up at the stars for old times sake."
"Oh! Oh yes, it's perfect that you're here now," Dr. Foster says, clasping her hands together. "I think I have it this time. I mean, I think that I can bring Thor back. We'll go into the desert tonight and fire up the machine."
Dr. Selvig frowns worriedly and says, "Jane, you've tried so many times before..."
"And it's never worked, yes, I know," Jane says. "But last night--well, it was about 3 AM, so technically this morning--I came up with a change to the calibration that I think really might work. Come on, what do we have to lose?" Jane smiles brilliantly and grabs Darcy's hand, apparently taking it for granted that Dr. Selvig will be swayed by her argument.
Darcy follows along for a few feet as Jane tows her toward a SHIELD-issued SUV, then slows to a stop. Jane tugs at her hand, confused. "What's wrong?"
"We're not driving to Santa Fe."
"What do you mean? Do you not want to go to your graduation?"
"Not really, but I am anyway. No, I mean why would we drive two hours to Santa Fe when we have a plane right here?"
Jane, Dr. Selvig, and Clint turn simultaneously to look back at the Stark Industries plane. Clint squints dubiously. "You sure Stark would be okay with us hijacking his plane?"
Darcy snorts. "Dude, at this point I'm expecting Tony to offer to buy me a plane one of these days."
Yeah. Clint really doesn't like that guy.
It doesn't stop him from herding Jane and Dr. Selvig towards the plane when Darcy turns the big, sad eyes on him, though. She waits until they've disappeared inside the cabin to pull him down and brush a kiss over his cheek. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Clint lets his hands drop down on to her hips. How has he not kissed her for real in years. "You realize, of course, that we're only going to be in the air for about thirty seconds, right?"
She shrugs and walks her fingers up his arms to his shoulders. "Tony insisted, actually. He made some sort of deal with Agent Coulson to limit Jane's exposure."
Clint feels a bubble of admiration grow in him for this girl. "Tony made a deal?"
"Well, someone told me once that certain people would kill for what Jane is working on. I might have dropped a word in Agent Coulson's ear."
He thinks her version of casual needs some work, but he finds it charming nonetheless and tugs her up onto her toes and into a hug. "Someone told you that, huh?"
"Just some SHIELD thug. You know the type." She pushes her face into the curve of his neck, but he can feel her smile against his skin.
"Handsome and daring? Ouch!" Clint drops Darcy back down to her heels and claps a hand over the spot on his neck he could feel bruising already from her bite. "Dammit, Darcy, my shirt isn't going to cover that up."
"I know." She gives him a smug smile and the damn finger guns again before turning towards the plane. "Get a move on, Agent Barton. We've got a flight plan to follow."
Clint drops his chin down to rest on his chest for a second. It's going to be a long afternoon.
Truer words, Clint muses as he squirms in a godawful uncomfortable seat in the stands, waiting for another endless speech to be over. It's been a long damned time since the last time he attended a graduation ceremony and they have not gotten any less painfully boring in the intervening time.
To his right, Jane is sitting forward on the edge of her seat, apparently riveted by the current speech. Clint squirms again and risks a glance to his left. Dr. Selvig happens to look over at the same time and Clint barely manages not to wince. Great, awkward small talk time.
Dr. Selvig clears his throat and says, "Darcy is a wonderful girl."
Oh, god, it's worse than he thought. It's The Talk.
Clint nods. "Yes, she is," he says cautiously.
"She's smart, funny, clever as a whip. Brave, too. But the thing about a girl like Darcy is that she may seem very tough--"
"Oh, I know she's tough, Dr. Selvig."
"Call me Erik," Dr. Selvig says. "As I was saying, she seems very tough, and in some ways she is. But in others she is very sensitive. She may not show it, but she can be hurt badly by the wrong words."
"I would never knowingly hurt her," Clint says. "You have my word on that."
Dr. Selvig appraises him for a few seconds. "I believe that you mean that. And you had better not go back on that promise or you will discover just how inventive a scientist can be."
"Noted," Clint says.
"And you can add me to that threat, too." Jane has turned around to face them. "Darcy is like my little sister. If you hurt her, I swear that you will regret it for the rest of your life."
"If I ever knowingly hurt her," Clint says, looking her in the eyes, "I absolutely know that I would regret it for the rest of my life."
"I knew I liked you!" Jane chirps, and surprises the hell out of Clint by hugging him. "Seriously, though," she murmurs into his ear, "if you ever hurt her, just keep in mind that my boyfriend is a god."
Clint winces, but says honestly, "Frankly, if I ever do get stupid enough to hurt Darcy, I'm more afraid of what she would do to me."
Both Jane and Erik visibly pause to think about this before nodding in unison and turning back to the stage where it looks like they've just started handing out diplomas. He pays attention for a moment and hears the dean announce Aaron Aaronson, cum laude before groaning and sinking back into his uncomfortable seat.
There are a lot of students sitting down there to get through.
He knew he should have liberated some of the booze from Tony's plane.
"It's time to get drive to the middle of the desert and drunk dial a god!" Darcy's voice echoes strangely across the desert, distorting it until Clint can barely recognize it as hers.
Jane is apparently on board with Darcy's plan because she yells out a deafening "Woo hoo!" before hooking her elbow through Darcy's and turning towards the small parking lot.
Erik exchanges a glance with Clint and sighs heavily, then follows Jane and Darcy as they practically skip to the SHIELD-issued SUV parked next to the airfield.
Clint manages to slide into the driver's seat at the very last moment, neatly snagging the keys from Jane's hand. She's a brilliant astrophysicist, but Clint has seen how she drives. Jane gives in with little more than a frown and she and Darcy chatter all the way back to the converted service station that still serves as their lab.
While Darcy changes into something more field-trip appropriate, Jane picks up--or rather, instructs Clint to pick up--a massive metal contraption that she refers to as "Igor." They get it loaded into the back of the truck along with a supply of blankets, some hot cocoa in a thermos, and a bottle of cinnamon-flavored vodka that Darcy unearths from the depths of a filing cabinet. Clint once again takes the wheel as they head out into the desert sunset.
Luckily, Jane has their destination programmed into the GPS because she's either already drunk or she gives the worst directions in the entire world. Eventually they reach the right spot, though how this section of desert differs from the rest of it is a mystery to Clint. If it weren't for the SHIELD perimeter set up around it, he would have been hard pressed to tell it apart from every other sandy patch.
Once they're parked, Jane has him haul Igor up to the roof of the truck, then shoos him away while she and Erik fuss with buttons and dials until they both are satisfied. Jane punches a final button and, while Clint can't see or hear anything, there's a definite sense of something happening that he can't quite quantify.
"That was it?" Darcy is shifting in place next to him, a mug of spiked hot chocolate already half-finished in her hand. "What happens now?"
Jane hops down and steals the remainder of Darcy's drink. "Now we wait."
Erik gingerly climbs down the ladder attached to the side of the truck. "If our calculations are correct, the pulse we just sent out should resonate with the energy signature originating from Thor's home galaxy. Even if, as we theorized, his end of the bridge has been damaged, this should be enough to weave the broken ends back together."
That explanation makes about as much sense as any science does to Clint, so he just shrugs and settles down on the tailgate of the truck, his eyes on the sky.
Darcy sits down next to him, her hands cradling a fresh mug of spiked hot chocolate. "I've missed it out here," she says, looking up at the sky. "Almost no light pollution, so you can see so many more stars than in the city."
Clint looks up at the stars for a moment, then looks back down at Darcy. She's much more interesting than a bunch of stars. Plus all that empty sky and the desert reminds him just a little bit too much of Afghanistan.
He shakes off that thought, not really wanting to go down that particular memory lane while sitting in the middle of the desert, and that seems to catch Darcy's attention. She nudges him with her elbow and points to where Jane and Erik seem to be doing theoretical math in the sand with a stick. "Are all scientists that dedicated?"
"I've really only worked with SHIELD scientists, so I'm pretty sure they're shouldn't be measured by any standard yardstick."
Darcy laughs. "Yeah, I guess Bruce is not your everyday geek."
"Exactly." Clint doesn't even want to start thinking about Dr. Banner and his mostly empty file of contingency plans if The Hulk ever goes berserk near Darcy. All of the files Fury had given him pointed towards nothing short of extremely lethal force even slowing The Hulk down and Clint really doesn't want to do that to a teammate no matter how big and green he is at the time.
Darcy finishes off her drink and sets the mug down in the back of the truck. She fidgets in place for a few seconds. He is about to ask her what's wrong when she sighs heavily, picks up his arm, and drops it around her shoulders. "You could give a girl a complex, I swear to god, Barton."
Clint laughs a little and tugs her closer. "I'm a little taser-shy. Sue me."
She makes a huffy noise and settles against him, squeezing his knee before sliding her hand halfway up his thigh. "Don't tempt me. Tony's made some upgrades."
"I'm not sure whether to be terrified or aroused at this moment," he says. Darcy's hand is really close to some interesting areas, but the thought of what those "upgrades" might be has his libido very confused.
Darcy laughs and squeezes his thigh, really not helping matters at all. "How about both," she suggests, leaning her head against his shoulder.
Clint nuzzles against the crown of her head, breathing in the scent of her hair. She smells like cinnamon, cookies and something he can only describe as sexy. "Both works," he murmurs.
Darcy leans her head back, looking up at him. In the moonlight, her eyes look very dark. "I missed this. Let's not fight like that again."
Clint snorts. "Uh, have you met us? I think the chances of us not fighting again are about as low as an oversized coffee maker and some scribbles in the sand calling a Norse god across the universe."
"Point," she says, wrinkling her nose adorably. "Clint Barton, you're kind of being an idiot right now."
"How so?" he says, a little stung.
"Because I've been giving you the kiss-me-now look for like five minutes and you haven't--"
Clint muffles the last few words of her sentence with his lips. Darcy tastes like chocolate and vodka and her mouth is hot and wet. She giggles into his mouth and pulls back a little. "What?" Clint asks.
"This," she says, swinging a leg over and straddling his lap.
Clint spares a thought for Jane and Erik scratching in the dirt less than ten yards from them, but propriety seems entirely overrated when he's got Darcy in his lap again. He slides his hands back towards her ass from where they automatically landed on her hips, but a flash in the sky distracts him before he gets halfway there. "Uh. Is that normal?"
Darcy looks up and squeals. "Jane! Holy shit, Jane!"
Jane and Erik are already on their feet, peering up into the swirling light show in the sky and completely ignoring the sandstorm that has kicked up out of nowhere. Darcy scrambles off his lap and grabs his hand to yank him away from the dubious safety of the truck towards the other two.
They're on the outskirts of the storm, close enough to have to squint against the blowing sand, but far enough away from the apparent center that Clint feels safe enough staying there. He really wishes he had more than one gun on him, though.
He has to close his eyes against a brilliant flash of light and when he reopens them, five figures are standing inside SHIELD's perimeter and he doesn't need Jane's ecstatic cry of, "Thor!" to let him know he needs to call Coulson ASAP.
Thor has gotten even hotter in the intervening time, Darcy decides. He's grown his hair a little longer and it's really working for him. She's got a good vantage point to watch it in motion, as he's currently swinging Jane around--like, literally swinging Jane around in a circle--and proclaiming loudly how happy he is to see her.
Darcy looks over at the Warriors Three and Sif, who are huddled together watching Thor and Jane. Sif is clasping her hands together and beaming, Hogun and Fandral are grinning with their arms slung over each others' shoulders, and Volstagg is surreptitiously wiping his eyes before blowing his nose.
"Hey," Darcy says. The four Norse god-alien-whatevers look at her and Darcy realizes she has no idea what to say. Well, alcohol always goes over well. "Uh, want some vodka?"
"My lady Darcy!" Fandral says, grinning and walking over with his arms spread for a hug. "You look radiant, as always."
"Why thank you, my lord," Darcy says as she hugs him back. Next to her, she can hear Clint make some kind of growling noise. If he's jealous of Fandral, that's fucking hilarious, as Darcy is totally certain that Fandral and Hogun are an item.
Darcy hugs Volstagg, who always smells like a pig roast (but in a good way), and Hogun, who shocks her by actually smiling at her.
Sif clasps arms with her before drawing Darcy into a hug. "Wonderful it is to see you once more. We thought the bridge between the worlds was broken forever."
"Jane fixed it. Not even the laws of physics were going to keep her from her god-alien-whatever booty call," Darcy winks. Sif looks politely nonplussed. Apparently "booty call" doesn't translate.
Above the noise of Volstagg greeting Erik, Darcy can hear Clint on the phone with Agent Coulson and knows she needs to get everyone moving before they're stuck here all night being subjected to a SHIELD debriefing.
Better to ask for forgiveness and all that jazz.
"Hey, Thor?" Darcy tries not to look too closely at where Jane's hands are. "Can you get yourself and Jane back to the lab? I'm going to drive everyone else."
Thor half bows towards her and hauls Jane tight up against his side. She's smiling wider than Darcy has seen her smile in months. Kissing the top of Jane's head, Thor says, "It will be my pleasure. We will see you there in a short while, I assume?"
She salutes him and pushes at Sif, Hogun, and Fandral until they get into the back of the truck. "Volstagg, I'm afraid you're going to have to ride on top."
He laughs and jumps up onto the roof of the truck, rocking it on its suspension. "I look forward to it."
From behind her she hears Clint say, "Of course, sir. I'll do my best," before hanging up the phone. "Darcy, where did Thor go?"
"He and Jane flew back to the lab. We're going to meet them there before heading out to Jim's Place to finish celebrating my graduation."
"That dive bar? What? No. Listen, Coulson says we need to stay here. They're going to send a team out."
Darcy raises an eyebrow. "Hey, Coulson may be your boss, but my only boss is Tony Stark. And one thing I can absolutely guarantee is that Tony would be in favor of getting shit-faced hammered at this juncture."
Clint scowls and crosses his arms. "You're not seriously thinking about taking a bunch of Norse aliens out to a shithole bar."
"Thinking about it? Hell, I'm doing it," Darcy says. She opens the door of the truck and hops up into the driver's seat.
"Yeah? Well, I think your plan might have a bit of a problem," Clint says. He's dangling the truck keys from his index finger.
Darcy grins. "Who do you think was the keeper of the spare keys?" she asks, producing a set of keys from her pocket and starting up the truck. She slams the door closed and puts the truck in gear. Rolling down the driver's window, she waves and says, "Don't wait up!"
"No, no way," Clint says.
"Yes way," Darcy laughs, driving slowly away from him.
"Shit!" Clint yells. "Darcy, hang on!" He's actually running after the truck.
Darcy puts the brakes on. "You going to behave or do I need to leave you in the desert?"
"Goddammit. Yes," Clint growls.
He flings himself into the passenger seat with a huff that makes Darcy laugh as she eases the truck back towards town. "Don't be such a party pooper. We'll go out, have a few drinks, raise a little hell, then head back home. The SHIELD flunkies can harass us all in the morning."
"Fine, but if Coulson pitches a fit, I'm blaming you."
"Go right ahead." Darcy grins. She knows exactly how that would go. "I'll just direct him to Tony."
Clint makes another little growly noise that reminds Darcy of just how long it's been since she's had the chance to have sex with him. Hmmm... that could be a plan for later. Thor would no doubt be keeping Jane busy and she's sure the Warriors Three plus Sif could keep Erik's attention from any dark corners.
Darcy zones out a little thinking about that, but the lights of town bring her back to herself and she rolls to a stop outside the lab. Jane's trailer is dark, but it's not rocking, so she figures Jane got all weird and awkward and is now treating Thor to an incomprehensible lecture on exactly how she broke time and space to bring him back.
But just to be sure she lays on the horn before leaning out the window and shouting, "You have two minutes to get your pants on before I come in!"
Volstagg's laughter shakes the truck and Darcy grabs Clint by the collar to pull him into a quick kiss before she hops out of the truck to head into the lab.
"Hey, it hasn't been two minutes." Clint is out of the truck and leaning on its open door.
"Duh." She walks backward for a few steps. "As if I'd give up a chance to maybe see Thor naked."
"Darcy..." he says, looking pained.
"Hey, I still got questions about Mew Mew that need answered," Darcy says, winking. Clint's incoherent sound of disgust follows her into the lab.
Thor is, sadly, fully clothed, though she truly does appreciate the leather pants on him. He still looks blissfully happy but his eyes have glazed over at whatever Jane is going on about. Darcy catches "phase shifting" and "quantum realities" before she interrupts Jane's monologue. "Hey, so I was thinking, we should take everyone out to Jim's Place tonight."
"The bar?" Jane asks, her nose wrinkling. "Darcy, I don't know if that's such a good idea..."
"Of course it is. I've managed to graduate with a BA in something mostly useless and you broke the laws of physics to bring your hot alien boyfriend back across the universe. This deserves a celebration."
"Agreed! We shall celebrate until the sun rises and the cock crows thrice," Volstagg thunders, making Darcy jump. She hadn't realized that the four of them--five, she sees Clint pouting at the back of the crowd--had followed her into the lab.
"Indeed, my lady Darcy is both beautiful and wise," Fandral adds, taking Darcy's hand and kissing the knuckles. She can practically feel Clint's blood pressure rising from here. It's awesome.
"What libations does the mortal realm have to offer?" Sif asks. Darcy really isn't sure how a woman built like Xena, carrying a big-ass sword, manages to look so doe-eyed and innocent.
"Oh, my friends," Thor intones, "let me tell you of the wonders of the boilermaker."
Darcy sprinkles salt along the wet line she just licked on Sif's chest and is sure, somewhere in New York, Tony Stark's perversion alarm just started ringing in his head. Sif herself only raises her eyebrow as Darcy shoves the lime wedge between her teeth with a grin before reaching back to grab the tequila shot off the bar.
"So the order is lick, salt, lick, drink, lime." Darcy has to shout to be heard over the hooting and hollering of the bar patrons, but takes Sif's serious nod to mean she understands. She shoots a wink at Clint before leaning forward again to lick the salt back off Sif's chest. The very expensive tequila--thank you, Tony Stark--burns less than Darcy is used to and the smokey flavor sits heavy on her tongue before she pulls the lime from Sif's mouth with her own.
Darcy spits the wedge into her used shot glass and gives the bar victory arms in response to their cheers. When she turns back to Sif, the other woman is absentmindedly rubbing the left over salt crystals off her skin.
"It is my turn now, yes?" Another cheer goes up at Sif's question and Darcy holds her arms out in supplication. Sif smiles for a moment before a thoughtful frown takes over. "You are wearing too many garments."
Volstagg laughs and chases his most recent novelty shot with another giant mouthful of Miller Lite. "You are always a sly one, Lady Sif."
Sif ignores him and begins unwinding Darcy's scarf from around her neck. She piles it on top of the coat already on the bar stool and pulls at the collar of Darcy's sweater. "What are you wearing under this?"
Darcy knows she shouldn't, but that last body shot was her seventh drink so not even Clint's increasingly vocal protests are going to stop her from pulling her sweater off and standing proudly in nothing more than a lacy camisole. Really, they're just layers she won't need to remove when she trips Clint into a dark corner later.
"Lick, salt, lick, drink, lime?" Sif holds the lime up in front of her mouth and Darcy takes it with a nod. She pulls her hair back behind her shoulders and tips her head back to give Sif all the space she needs to work.
And if that puts Clint directly in her line of sight, she's not going to complain.
Sif's tongue is hot on her skin and Darcy smiles as much as she can around the lime wedge. Bottle of good tequila? Forty dollars. Set ups for shots? Another twenty. The look on Clint's face when a hot alien goddess licks her cleavage? Priceless.
Sif sprinkles the salt across her skin, grabs a shot glass, and obviously takes a moment to review the procedure one last time before taking a deep breath and leaning back in to lick up the line of salt. She makes a pleased face at the smoky taste of the liquor then delicately bites the meat of the lime wedge without removing it from Darcy's mouth.
When she pulls back, Darcy spits the wedge out and can't help but shout, "Who's next?"
Clint is in front of her before anyone in the bar can even respond and since she can only see the back of his head, she has to guess what sort of look he's giving that makes everyone, even Thor slide back a step. He stays like that for another moment, then turns around. His arms are crossed and he's got his Disapproving Agent face on--the one that makes Darcy want to do filthy things to him--so she leans back against the bar and gestures to the bottle at her elbow.
"How about you, then, cowboy?"
Clint doesn't bother with the salt or the lime or even a glass. He just takes a swig off the bottle, then steps up even further into her personal space, crowding her against the bar. He catches her hair in his fist and pulls her head back just enough to get at her mouth. He licks the taste of lime off her lips before kissing her in a truly dirty manner.
For about two seconds.
Then he's whispering be good into her ear and pulling back to the edges of the group again.
Darcy's knees have gone weak. She hides it by leaning back against the bar again, fanning herself with her hand. Holy shit, she wants to do such bad things to that man.
Sif leans against the bar next to her. "The sight of another seemingly gaining what he desires can motivate even the most stubborn of men," she says, nodding in Clint's direction.
Darcy's mouth drops open. "You did that on purpose?"
"Indeed." Sif pulls the bottle of tequila over to her and takes a shot right from the bottle. "I too have experience in wooing a foolishly stubborn man. Subterfuge is a time-honored tradition for a woman caught in such a situation."
Darcy looks around the bar--at Thor, who is whispering sweet nothings into Jane's ear; at Volstagg, who is double-fisting a creamy purple shot and a pitcher of their finest Miller Light; at Hogun, who is slowly and meticulously sampling the bar owner Jim's surprisingly large collection of single-malt Scotches; and at Fandral, who has accumulated a large pile of colorful little umbrellas in his apparent quest to try every single girly drink known to man. She turns back to Sif with her eyebrows raised. "...Hogun?"
Sif literally doubles over in laughter. "I... but... no, no--" she finally gasps. "Fandral the bold would surely slit me from stem to stern should I attempt any indelicacy with grim Hogun."
It takes Darcy's tequila-loopy mind a second to translate that from Space Viking-speak. "Are you telling me Fandral would cut a bitch if you tried anything?"
"Yes!" Sif says. "He would indeed, as you say, cut a bitch most grievously!"
Darcy grabs the tequila bottle from Sif and takes a swig. "I so called that one." She eyes Sif sidelong. "So who's jerking you around, if you don't mind me asking?"
Sif sighs heavily. "I cannot say. It is a foolish fancy and one not worth wasting one's breath upon."
Darcy wrinkles her nose. "It's not Thor, is it?" She's reassured by Sif's horrified face. Jane is brilliant and hot, but Sif is a goddess. She's not sure that Jane would stand a chance if it came down to a competition for Thor.
Though Darcy would totally have Jane's back. And she'd make Clint back her up, too. Speaking of Clint, where the hell is he? Darcy squints around the bar but can't find him anywhere.
"Nay, not Thor," Sif says, taking a swig of tequila. "I should be lucky to be hopelessly enamoured of a good, brave man like Thor."
Darcy winces. "So the man of your dreams is bad and cowardly?"
"That is an understatement," Sif says gloomily. She takes a deep swig of the tequila and visibly throws the sad mood off. "Come, we should join the merry-making! I think Volstagg is about to drink directly from the ale keg."
"He's doing a keg stand?" Darcy snags the bottle back from Sif and takes a swig. "All right, I gotta see this."
Darcy isn't sure how long she's awake before she's awake. She's floating on a lingering bubble of tequila and dehydration that she knows will burst the moment she moves more than a fraction of an inch. It's why she's ignoring the taste in her mouth, the insistent press of her bladder, and the fact she's pretty sure she's curled up on top of a filing cabinet.
Drinking with alien gods is a terrible idea.
She thinks about getting up and finding some water, but something is wrapped all around her and she's fairly sure if she moves at all, she'll plummet to her untimely death. She can hear someone moving quietly around the lab and she slits her eyes open just enough to see who it is.
It's Clint, of course.
A part of her is horrified he's seeing her like this because she knows exactly what she looks like after a night of--Jesus, did she do body shots with Sif?--heavy drinking and it's not pretty. The other part of her wants to get off this cabinet and doesn't care how it happens. She manages to work an arm free of whatever is wrapped around her and flail it in Clint's general direction.
Darcy waits a few seconds, but when it seems like that didn't work, she repeats the gesture, this time adding a whiny noise to get his attention.
Clint turns around. "I see you're awake finally," he says, loudly enough that it echoes inside of Darcy's head.
Darcy whimpers. "Not so loud."
A bottle of water appears in front of her. "Hold out your hand," Clint says, not at all quietly. A couple of ibuprofen are dropped into her outstretched hand.
Darcy spends a few minutes trying to figure out how to take the ibuprofen without sitting up or really moving her head at all. She finally manages to boost herself up on one elbow and drink the water kind of sideways. The cold water lands uneasily in her unhappy tummy.
Clint is watching her with narrowed eyes. "You going to puke?" he asks.
Darcy moans out of equal parts hangover and embarrassment. "No," she mutters. With a Herculean effort, she manages to sit up all the way, leaning back against the wall. She plucks at whatever the thing is that's wrapped around her. It appears to be wool blankets, maybe, or... cloaks. It's totally the Asgardians' cloaks. And also, she appears to be wearing only a camisole and jeans.
Fuck, what did she do last night?
There's a buzzing sound at her hip. Darcy manages to dig her phone out of her jeans pocket and takes a look at it. Holy shit. There's like 53 messages on it. And they all appear to be from Tony.
Darcy decides that between voicemails, emails, text messages, and--she squints at the symbol, trying to figure it out--what appears to be a video message, she's least frightened of checking her text messages.
PICS OR LESBIAN MAKEOUTS DIDN'T HAPPEN, the first text message reads.
What the hell did she do last night?
She must have said that out loud this time because Clint huffs out a laugh and says, "Do you want a chronological list or alphabetical?"
Darcy moans again and covers her eyes with her hands to try to sort out the fragments of memories bouncing around her head. "I... drank. Then I did body shots with Sif. Volstagg did a keg stand. I called Tony?"
Calling Tony is the point where her recollections pretty much break down. She peeks out at Clint from between her fingers as he leans against the filing cabinet next to her. He counts off on his fingers as he speaks. "You called Tony. You made out with Sif. You called Tony again. You asked to watch Fandral and Hogun make out. You and Jane danced on the bar Coyote Ugly style. You asked to watch Jane and Thor make out. You sang Lady Gaga with Erik in the truck on the way back here. You asked to watch me and Thor make out. You tried to stick your hand down my pants, then you climbed on top of the cabinet and passed out."
Darcy thinks about that a second and says, "Best night ever!" When Clint hangs his head the line of his shoulders reminds her of another bar. "Second best night ever," she corrects herself.
He smiles like he's trying not to. "Well, I hope it was worth it because Coulson and his team will be here in less than half an hour. And I'm betting at least one of those messages from Tony is going to start a fight about who gets to keep Thor and his buddies."
"Oh, Agent Barton. Why do you always doubt me?" Tony's voice echoes across the lab and Darcy has to fight not to wince. "I am definitely going to start a fight about that. But only from across the country. I've got the bigger Stark Industries jet waiting at the airfield, so let's go."
"Go?" Darcy has to squint to keep her thoughts focused. She slithers off the filing cabinets, fighting her way out of the embrace of half a dozen huge wool capes. "Coffee?"
Clint suddenly appears next to her, wrapping a plaid shirt around her shoulders. Darcy looks down and realizes that her boss has now seen her in a peach-colored, lacy camisole. She looks up and thinks, well, this really can't make her relationship with her boss any less appropriate.
Tony has the look on his face that Darcy can only describe as "Boobs, yay!" Pepper is standing next to him looking amused and yet steely. "There's coffee on the plane, Darcy," she says. "But first I'd advise more water."
"Uncle Phil is less than a half hour behind me, so we need to collect everyone and get a move on." Tony waits in the doorway for her to start moving and when it doesn't happen immediately, he claps his hands a couple of times. "Come on! Chop, chop!"
If Darcy were any less hungover she would slap him in the face right this second. As it is she leans heavily against Clint's shoulder and says, "Rock-Paper-Scissors for who has to wake up Jane and Thor?"
Clint just sighs.
The plane hits a small pocket of turbulence and Darcy makes a grumpy noise in her sleep before turning over to bury her face against Clint's stomach. He'd managed to get her to drink several bottles of water before she decided to pass out in his lap, so hopefully when she wakes up, she'll be less of a crabby, hung-over zombie and more of a human being. He pets at her tangled hair until she settles again and he rests his head against the leather head rest with a sigh.
"Up past your bedtime, Gramps?" Tony is smirking at Clint over the blue lenses of his douchebag glasses, obviously ignoring the fact that he's eighteen months older.
"You try corralling five drunk aliens, two drunk scientists, and Darcy all night then see how tired you are." He isn't even exaggerating. Trying to keep some vague idea of confidentiality in place with the eight of them doing body shots and drinking the bar dry had pretty much tapped him out.
Maybe he is getting old.
Tony just snorts. "Amateurs."
Clint doesn't have the energy to argue with him, so he just shoots him the bird and closes his eyes. He hears Tony grumble at him before getting up to go bother someone else. He thinks maybe he'll try to get a little sleep himself, but before he can even start to slow his breathing, he hears someone clearing her throat. It's all he can do to stop another sigh from escaping at the sight of Jane hovering over him.
"What's up, Dr. Foster?"
Jane drops into the seat Tony abandoned and clenches her hands together nervously. "Is Darcy okay, really?"
"What?" Clint glances down at the woman sleeping in his lap. He thought she was fine--happy, even.
"It's just such a big change for her and I know she was worried about what she was going to do after graduation and it seems to be so much responsibility and--"
"Dr. Foster. Jane." Clint waits until she's settled back in her seat before continuing. "I can't speak for Darcy, but she seems fine. She is amazing at her job. I can't imagine this venture being successful without her."
In a heartbeat, Jane's worry disappears and a worrisome glint appears in her eyes. "Are you sure that's not a biased opinion, Agent Barton?"
"It's not." Tony throws himself into the seat next to Jane and stacks his feet up in the curve of Darcy's knees. "Talk to me about how you changed the face of science last night, Dr. Foster."
Clint tunes out their science chatter, knowing he only has about ten seconds before they pass his, admittedly, limited understanding. Before he joined SHIELD, he never would have predicted that one day he would fly across the country on a private jet with two scientists, Iron Man, and five Norse gods. He considers that it's probably a bad sign that he's pretty blase about the whole thing.
Somehow, he's sure it's all Tony Stark's fault.
Darcy makes another grumpy noise and rubs her forehead against his stomach before turning over, blinking awake. She grunts a questioning noise at what he knows is the goofy smile on his face, but he only shakes his head and helps her stand up so she can stumble towards the bathrooms. He already knew he was pretty far gone for her, but the fact that he finds bleary-eyed, puffy-faced, pouty Darcy to be totally adorable... yeah, he's fucked.
Across the aisle, Thor is very obviously mooning in Jane's general direction as she grabs the tablet out of Tony's hands to correct whatever he's pointing at. Thor meets Clint's eyes and they exchange a smile of yeah, I'm totally whipped. Clint thinks Thor is a pretty all-right guy for being some kind of Norse/alien god.
If he were going to dislike Thor for anything, it would probably be for his completely bright eyes this morning after drinking what Clint was pretty sure was several liters of alcohol. Apparently, the alien gods among them are immune from things like hangovers or, you know, shame, since Sif and Fandral are quietly planning another field trip when they "are free from this great mechanical beast."
Clint decides discretion is the better part of valor on that one and is leaving it up to Pepper to keep Tony out of that discussion. He focuses his attention instead on the woman coming out of the bathroom and heading towards him. He never really expected to feel this way about anyone, let alone a girl more than a decade younger, but he isn't going to lie to himself. Somehow, Darcy has managed to embed herself into his life and he wants to keep it that way.
The change in cabin pressure lets Clint know they're approaching New York, so he pulls Darcy down into her seat and gets her to drink another bottle of water before fastening his seat belt and getting ready for what he's sure will be a stern lecture from Agent Coulson.
He hates it when that happens.
Once they're on the ground, there's a lot of flurry getting everyone to the Avengers Tower. Darcy is obviously trying to help, but she's more or less useless and Pepper finally puts her in a car with a cup of coffee she's made magically appear. Darcy pouts most of the way back to the Tower, but the caffeine does its job and she's close to normal by the time they step out of the car.
Agent Coulson is waiting for them in the Tower's entryway. He doesn't say anything, not even to Tony, he just pins Clint with his most deeply unimpressed look and sighs almost inaudibly. Clint can feel himself wanting to shuffle his feet and start apologizing for everything he's even thought of doing wrong in the past forty-eight hours.
Coulson is really only second to his mother with his ability to make Clint feel really, really guilty.
"Let's get our guests set up and meet in the conference room in...an hour?" Tony doesn't give anyone time to disagree before separating Coulson from the group and herding him towards the elevators. "Phil and I will meet you there."
Even Coulson induced guilt isn't enough to stop Clint's first thought from being that an hour isn't nearly enough time to spend getting reacquainted with Darcy. Something must show on his face because Darcy makes a face at him and says, "Not until I've showered and had a gallon of coffee, soldier."
Which is fair, he supposes. In the spirit of cooperation and expediency, though, he helps Darcy get the Asgardians sorted into guest quarters and settled in before following her towards their apartments. He doesn't even bother to drop his bag off at his place before following her into hers.
She turns around with an eyebrow raised. "Something you wanted?" she asks with a half-smile.
Clint picks her up by the hips and shoves her against the wall. "You have no fucking idea."
Darcy seems to have a good idea, though, as she responds by wrapping her legs around his waist and sticking her tongue down his throat. "We... don't... have time... for this," she mutters between kisses.
"Yeah, we do," Clint says, shoving his hand under her shirt and getting a handful of her awesome breasts. The smell of her--vanilla, musk, a faint hint of lime and tequila--is making him feel fucking drunk.
"No... seriously... we've gotta meet them in the conference room in twenty minutes and I've still gotta take a shower." Darcy is not making her case any stronger by raking her fingernails down his back, though.
Clint grinds his cock against the crotch seam of her jeans. "I'll shower with you."
"That never works," Darcy gasps. She puts her hands against Clint's shoulders, effectively holding herself out of range of kissing. "Plus I don't have any condoms."
Clint drops his head and sighs. "Dammit. Doesn't Stark stock this place with condoms?"
Darcy snorts. "As he told me when I was ordering supplies--if he's not getting laid in Avengers' Tower, nobody's getting laid in Avengers Tower."
"I knew I disliked that guy for a reason."
Darcy laughs and wiggles until he lets her down. "How about this for a plan: You go and watch the pissing contest over Thor while I go on a supply run since I don't really need to be there. After Tony gets his way, you come back here and we have a lot of sex."
"I'm intrigued. Define 'a lot of sex' for me." Clint can't stop himself from slipping his arms around her waist and settling her body against his.
She makes a little humming noise and noses up under his chin to kiss his neck. "Let's just say that Steve better hope Tony thought to soundproof these apartments."
He doesn't have time to respond to the utter depraved hotness of Captain America hearing them fuck before Darcy is pushing him away from her and towards the door. "Now get the hell out and go be a good little soldier."
Clint manages to steal one last kiss before she closes the door on him. He thinks about skipping the meeting and sneaking back into her apartment, but the click of the deadbolt makes up his mind for him and he heads towards the conference room with a sigh.
Two hours later, Clint escapes the conference room with the feeling that he's lucky to have gotten out with his life. Tony and Coulson had spent about twenty minutes icily sniping at each other before Thor and Sif had figured out that they were fighting over who got "ownership" of them.
That had gone over poorly, to say the least.
Some fancy talking from Coulson and Pepper (Tony's attitude had not been helping) got them past the near intergalactic diplomatic crisis. Clint wasn't quite sure if Coulson was deliberately flirting with Sif, but he'd shown a previously hidden ability to charm angry Norse goddesses.
Clint would give him shit for that later, but he's too afraid of Coulson's inevitable revenge.
Eventually, they came to the agreement that the Asgardians would function as diplomatic liaisons to the Avengers. Clint couldn't wait to hear Fury's reaction to that one, but apparently Fury was too busy with working on funding for his enormous, ridiculous flying fortress or some shit.
"My lady, perhaps I could take you and the Warriors Three on a tour of the facility," Coulson says, putting out an elbow which Sif places her hand over with a smile. Smooth.
Clint decides that this is his cue to slip quietly out the door and go looking for a certain hot, petite brunette. He'd been expecting her to come in and start living life on the edge by heckling Coulson and Tony. Where the hell is she, anyway?
Clint checks her apartment--the door is unlocked, her purse is gone, and she's not waiting for him in her bed. He checks his apartment, but nothing has been moved since he flung his travel bag in there earlier. He checks the break room and one of the workout rooms before remembering all public areas are subject to video surveillance and heading towards the security office.
It only takes him a few minutes to find footage of Darcy leaving the Tower, but none showing her return. He doesn't even consider the possibility that he's overreacting when he activates the communicators Tony insisted they all get used to wearing.
All he says is, "Darcy's missing. Conference room in five minutes."
Clint is the last person to the conference room and it's chaos. The volume ratchets up a couple of notches when walks in, but a sharp whistle from Tony finally quiets everyone down.
Clint nods his thanks and cues up the fast forwarded security footage on the large monitor. "Darcy left to run a quick errand nearly two and a half hours ago and has not returned yet. Before you ask, I know she was planning on returning directly to the Tower from her errand. We had plans and I know she was looking forward to them."
There's an undercurrent of conversation in the room and Clint can hear Jane's worried voice above everyone else's. Coulson steps away from Sif and sits at the computer terminal in the corner. "Every administrative SHIELD employee is implanted with a GPS enabled tracking device. It's a part of their employment contract and is administered on their first day of orientation."
Clint steps in close behind him and watches as he navigates through several dozen screens before a street view map of New York appears with several blinking dots showered across the city. A legend along the side shows a list of names, none of which are Darcy's.
"Move it, Phil. Watching you with this is like watching a caveman try to operate an Etch-A-Sketch," Tony says. Coulson gives him a long look and then nods, moving wordlessly away from the terminal.
Tony cracks his fingers theatrically and then starts typing. The screen goes black with green letters as Tony types faster than Clint can follow. He doesn't know enough about computers to have any idea what Tony is doing, but eventually Tony stops on a screen that looks exactly like all of the others, frowning thoughtfully at it. "Huh," he says. Clint can't tell if that's a good huh or a bad huh.
"Well?" Coulson asks.
"This is strange," Tony says. He points to several lines of gibberish on the screen. "So, those are how my Stark Tech GPS trackers show up on the system normally. ID number, name, current longitude and latitude, past longitude and latitude."
"Mr. Stark," Pepper says. Her arms are crossed and a high-heeled shoe is tapping. "Why, exactly, is my name on that screen?"
"Great example!" Tony says, smiling at her. "Pepper Potts, longitude this, latitude that. We can see that Pepper is in the Avengers' Tower right now and that a few hours ago she was--" he types something and a map appears onscreen. "Here."
"We're going to have a talk about this later," Pepper says quietly. Clint would not want to be on the other end of that particular tone.
"And a few lines down, we can see that Darcy Lewis was in the Avengers' Tower a few hours ago and that now she is..." Tony sits back from the terminal, his face grim. "Nowhere."
"How is that even possible? A person can't just disappear." Clint is doing his best to ignore the grim recitation going through the back of his mind of exactly how many ways someone could disappear.
The look Tony gives him before turning his attention back to the keyboard says he knows what Clint is thinking. "What worries me is that someone out there managed to block my tracker. There shouldn't even be anyone out there who can detect it let alone disable it."
On the monitor, Tony has obviously hacked into the New York City traffic camera network and is flipping through footage of the street outside the Tower, trying to find Darcy. He finally hits on her exiting the building and heading left towards where Clint knows there's a CVS several blocks down. Tony manages to split the feed so he can bring up each camera as she moves into its range. Less than a block from the drugstore, there's a blip on the screen, then she's gone.
"What the fuck--" After a few minutes of frantic typing, Tony slams his hands down on the desk. "Right. There is someone out there with superior technology and it's pissing me off."
Clint can feel panic start to claw at his gut. How the hell can they find one girl in a city of millions when it looks like she just blinked out of existence? Before he can do something stupid like run down the street shouting her name, Agent Coulson steps into the center of the room.
"We are not without resources of our own. I have a call in to the leader of the X-Men requesting their assistance. Agent Barton, you have had contact with the...independent agent known as Spider-Man. Contact him if you can and see if he's heard anything."
"I'll call Reed Richards and get his people working," Tony adds. "If they're on planet."
"There are certain people I can contact." Natasha has her phone out already and is scrolling through its menus.
"I bet Daredevil would help us, too."
Clint stops trying to figure out how the fuck he's going to find Spider-Man (who just shows up out of the blue every so often to watch basketball games and eat all of Clint's Doritos) to stare at Steve. "Daredevil is an urban legend."
Steve rubs the back of his neck. "I met him? The other day?"
Coulson obviously wants to question Steve about this turn of events, but is distracted by the ringing of his phone. "Coulson here."
"Seriously, Daredevil doesn't exist," Clint says.
"He's a nice guy. Knows his New York history." Of course Captain America would become buddies with an urban legend in the day and a half they were in New Mexico. Of course.
"Please confirm--are you telling me that there's a giant mechanical crab in New York Harbor?" Coulson's voice is still perfectly level, but that sentence gets everyone's attention.
"Didst thou say a giant crab?" Thor looks excited. Sif and the Warriors Three exchange looks of commiseration.
"Yes." Coulson has that look of why the fuck am I part of this insanity? again. "There is a giant crab in the harbor. Apparently it's the work of--"
"Doctor Doom," Tony interrupts. "Again? Seriously? When you start recycling evil plots, it's time to throw in the mad scientist towel."
"What does this have to do with Darcy?" Clint kind of wants to punch all of them in the face.
Coulson actually looks sincere when he says, "Agent Barton, I'm sorry, but this is a clear and present danger to civilian life and property which is going to need to take temporary priority over locating Miss Lewis."
"You can't be serious."
"I'm sorry, but the danger to civilian life is--"
"Fuck you. Darcy is missing," Clint rages. He turns away, unable to bear even looking at the compassion on Coulson's face.
"Listen, Barton, we're going to get Darcy back," Tony says. "Coulson, you take Thor, Sif, and the Wonder Trio. Plus Banner. He'll have fun beating up a giant crab and it's been a while since he's gotten his walkies." Thor looks dubiously at Banner but doesn't comment. A ripple of green passes over Banner's skin before he closes his eyes and pretty obviously does some yoga breathing.
"Those of us who actually know something about investigation are going to stay here and keep looking for Darcy. Oh, and the Captain will stay too, because being able to fling an indestructible shield around might come in handy."
Coulson opens his mouth, probably to argue, Clint thinks ungraciously, but Natasha strides back in before he can say anything. "I have information. My contacts tell me that the Winter Soldier has been making inquiries about the Avengers and their personnel."
"Who the fuck is the Winter Soldier?" Tony looks even more irate that someone with a codename has managed to outsmart him.
It's Agent Coulson that answers. "The Winter Soldier is a former Soviet asset who now works as a free agent."
"Great. A fucking Soviet assassin has Darcy." Clint wants to punch something. "This still doesn't tell us where she is."
"Wait. Wait wait wait." Tony spins back to the computer and starts typing again. "The Stark Tech tracker is powered by the biomechanical processes of the body, so unless it's surgically removed or its subject dies, it can't stop broadcasting."
"You think she's dead?" Clint is really glad Jane asked that because he as a feeling if he'd had to, it would have been even more hysterical sounding.
"No, I'm saying I just need to find a manufactured dead spot someplace in the city. Can you imagine hundreds of New Yorkers with dropped calls? It doesn't happen, so if I can find something that's not there, I'll bet that's where she is."
None of that makes any sense to Clint, but Jane is nodding her head, so he's going to go with it.
"Prince Thor," Coulson says respectfully. "Would you and your companions be willing to do battle with the giant crab in the harbor?"
Thor grins, brandishing his hammer. "We would be most honored to rid your fair city of this foul crustacean. Warriors Three, Sif, Sir Banner, with me!" He pauses to sweep Jane into a huge, theatrical kiss. She stumbles slightly and has to sit down, her cheeks flushed, after Thor releases her.
Clint doesn't wait for them to leave before he's crossing to Natasha. "Tell me everything you know about the Winter Soldier."
She pushes her hair back from her face in a rare gesture of nervousness. "There's not much that I can tell you. From what I've gathered from the hacked KGB records I've seen, the Winter Soldier was an operative for the KGB from just after World War II to the collapse of the Soviet Union."
"But for that, he'd have to be..."
She's nodding. "Either there were several Winter Soldiers, or he's someone who doesn't age. Mutant, superpowered being, or..."
"Got it!" Tony yells. "Cell phone dead zone, centered around several blocks of warehouses in South Bronx."
Clint locks eyes with Natasha. "Let's go."
There are dwarves doing that Russian kickdancing thing on top of her head.
What the hell? Is she hung over? Did she get drunk with the Asgardians? Again? That must have been a hell of a night.
Darcy groans and tries to sit up. And fails.
It's then that she realizes she's already sitting up. Darcy's eyes fly open. She's tied to something upright--maybe a pipe of some kind? She's in a big dark space, maybe a warehouse. It smells like damp concrete and she's cold. And there's a guy with long, dark hair crouched about ten feet away from her doing something with a box of wires and shit.
Darcy considers playing possum for about two seconds. But honestly, there's no way she's going to be able to keep up a fake unconsciousness for long. Darcy knows her own strengths, and keeping her mouth closed is not one of them. "Hey," she says. "Hey you, kidnapper-y dude."
He ignores her.
Darcy sighs. "So, you may not realize this, but you're about to be in a fuck-ton of trouble. There's no way my friends aren't going to find me."
He snorts quietly and continues ignoring her. What the hell is so funny about that?
"Things might go better for you if I'm not tied up when they get here." She shakes her arms a little, but the cord she's tied with doesn't make a sound against the pipe. "Come on."
Again, nothing. This guy could give Coulson lessons on stonewalling a girl, Jesus. She tries to rein her mouth in, knowing she probably shouldn't antagonize her captor, but it's seriously boring just sitting here all tied up. Darcy ponders this for a second, pretty sure that even with a team of superheroes out looking for her, she should be feeling much more hysterical about this turn of events. "Did you drug me?"
That at least gets a glace over his shoulder, which she's taking as confirmation.
"Son of a bitch! Are you telling me I made it through six years of college and got roofied on the way to CVS?" She lets her head drop back against the pipe and figures she should be more worried about what her hair is touching, but apparently Long Hair McAbduction over there sprang for the good stuff.
"If I get a hangover from this I'm going to be seriously pissed." Have they figured out yet that she's missing? She'd figure that Clint would have caught on pretty quick after he went looking for her and didn't find her. As long as they've been dancing around the question, she knows he's aware of exactly how sexually frustrated she is by now.
Goddammit. She and Clint should be fucking right now.
Darcy narrows her eyes and glares at the guy, who continues futzing around with wires and tech bits while ignoring her. There's something weird about his left arm. The sleeve of his black coat is ripped and she could swear that the skin of his arm is... silver?
"Is that...? Holy shit. Do you seriously have a metal arm? Is that, like, a robot arm?"
The guy continues to pretend to ignore her. Hah. He can try, but Darcy has perfected the art of being annoying.
"Seriously. You have a robot arm. That's fucked up." Darcy thinks about it for a moment. "How does it attach? Does it come off? Can I touch it?"
"What? No," the guy says, then glares at her as if it's her fault that he just failed the strong-and-silent test.
"Come on. My great-grandpa had a wooden leg, but nothing like that. Let me see." Darcy tries to reach towards him, totally forgetting she's tied up. "Goddammit."
He turns around again, but Darcy has his number now. The robot arm is his weak spot.
"Is it just your arm or are you all robot like that Small Wonder kid?" She has to shake her head to get rid of the image of him dressed in the same get-up as that girl. "Man, I hated that bitch."
He's still facing away from her, but he's managed to angle his body so she can only see his right side. "Aw, don't be shy. I'm not judging your robot arm. Accidents happen, I know. Car accidents, motorcycle accidents, boat accidents, plane crashes, train derailments, uh, high explosives. Or is that a sensitive subject?"
The guy has given up ignoring her and is straight up staring at her now.
"Shit, sorry. I'm don't mean to mock your disability. Though, you did drug me and kidnap me off a busy street, so it's obviously not slowing you down much. You should do a PSA about that." She spends a few seconds trying to imagine pitching that to the "The More You Know" people before giving it up as hopeless. "Or not."
Darcy's ass is starting to fall asleep from sitting on the cold concrete and she wiggles to get some feeling back into it. She's starting to get annoyed by this whole situation. Where the fuck is Clint? They would be gearing up for round two or three by now if she weren't being held captive by Cool Hand Luke over there.
Speaking of her extremity-challenged captor, the more she looks at him, the more familiar he seems. Jesus, does she know this douche?
"You look familiar. No, I mean really, really familiar. You didn't go to school in New Mexico, did you?" A horrible thought occurs to her. "Oh man, we've never had sex, right? That would be awkward. I mean really, once C--my boyfriend gets here, he'd kill you extra just for that."
Darcy pauses to consider that possibility. "But I'm pretty sure I'd remember fucking Luke Skywalker. Unless it was, like, pre-Cloud City Luke Skywalker."
"What is wrong with you?" the guy finally demands.
Darcy beams. "Darcy Lewis, one million points; robot arm guy, zero."
A beeping from the box of techy bits next to him interrupts whatever he was going to say and all vestiges of human emotion disappear from his face. The change is startling enough that Darcy swallows down her comment about RC cars and pushes back against the pipe. She manages not to flinch when he comes closer, but not when he pulls a thin, terrifying blade from somewhere. "Hey, hey. There's no call for that sort of violence."
He ignores her and slices through the cord tying her to the pipe. The knife disappears back to wherever it came from and he pulls her to her feet. "Time to get to higher ground for the show."
Darcy stumbles over her feet as he grabs his box of tech stuff. "Show? What show?"
"Your friends are coming." He pushes her into a stairwell and bars the door with a heavy steel beam. "Up. Go."
She starts up the stairs, unbelievably relieved that she's finally being rescued and at the same time terrified that someone is going to get killed because she was dumb enough to get kidnapped off the street. She stumbles again and he prods her in the back with his fucking robot arm. "Keep moving."
"I'm moving, I'm moving!" The weird numbness around her emotions is starting to dissolve. Unfortunately, that means that she's actually starting to feel scared. Darcy takes a deep breath and tells herself fuck it, she's not going to let this asshole push her around. Well, realistically, she is because he's got a bunch of weapons on him and she's unarmed, but she's going to make it as irritating for him as possible. "So was it your robot arm that pushed you into a life of crime? Like Doc Octopus, but with less, um, appendages?"
No answer. They get to the top of the stairs and he pokes her in the back again when she pauses at the fire door. "Pushy, pushy," she mutters, shoving open the heavy door and stepping out onto a walkway.
They're a lot higher up than Darcy expected. The walkway runs around three-quarters of the second floor of the warehouse. To their right, there are a few doors that look like they lead into offices. "Go through the first door," he growls.
"You could say please," Darcy snaps. "Just because you're a kidnapper doesn't mean you have to be rude."
"Would you please go through the first door so that I don't have to knock you unconscious again and drag you in there?"
Darcy gulps. "Okay, you make a convincing argument."
She pushes the door open and finds herself in what looks like a mini-command center. There's an obviously new table set up in the middle of the room, covered in a laptop, monitors, and various electronic stuff. Her abductor pushes her down onto one of the folding chairs. "Stay there."
She instinctively wants to stand up and argue, but the drugs in her system are fading rapidly and fear is creeping up on her again. She sits in the chair and watches as he wakes the laptop and starts bringing up video of what she assumes is the area surrounding the building. At first she can't see anything but empty streets and broken windows. Seriously, where the fuck did he take her that there's no one around in the middle of the day?
He must see something she can't, because he makes a little noise of satisfaction and focuses his attention on a screen in the middle of the table. Darcy squints and can just see Steve and Clint's costumed forms creeping along the shadows. Her eyes flick over the other screens, looking for the others, but she can't see anything.
"I...arranged for Victor Von Doom to test one of his creations in the harbor. I expect the good Dr. Banner and Agent Romanov are dealing with that."
Darcy hates Doctor Doom and his crazy-ass creatures. Seriously, what kind of name is Victor Von Doom, anyway? Dude was practically guaranteed to become a crazed super-villain with a name like that.
She watches Clint ghost his way towards the door with her heart in her throat. He seems ridiculously vulnerable, even though she knows that he's wearing Kevlar from head to foot. But he's not a super-soldier like Steve--he could seriously die if he gets shot. Darcy's shaking. Fuck. Where is Tony?
That question is answered as she hears a giant boom at the same time as the monitor showing a view of the inside of the warehouse roof shows Tony in full Iron Man armor blowing through the ceiling. Darcy cheers inside. Tony is going to kick One Armed Jack's ass.
Robot arm guy presses a button and suddenly Tony goes from hovering in mid-air to dropping like a stone. There's an audible thud as he hits the ground. Darcy screams. Robot arm guy is actually laughing.
"What the fuck did you just do?" Darcy yells.
"EMP," he says. "Damn, that was beautiful."
"Oh my god, you asshole!" Darcy stands up, about ready to punch the one-armed wonder in the face, except that then without even turning to look at her he points a big fucking gun right at her head. Darcy sits down.
On the screens, Clint and Steve have reached the warehouse and are having some complex hand signal conversation that results in Steve taking a step back and kicking the door open before diving inside and rolling to his feet, shield at the ready and a gun in his other hand. Clint follows him in, an arrow notched in his bow.
Her captor makes a thinking noise and presses another button on the little box Darcy is really starting to hate. She can't quite see what it triggers, but both Clint and Steve turn to their left and fire at something in the shadows. It obviously doesn't work because Steve pulls Clint behind him and holds up his shield to deflect a jet of fire.
"Damn," One-Armed Jack mutters. "What the hell is that thing made of?"
Ordinarily being reminded of the material the shield is made of (vibranium) would make Darcy giggle because, well, sometimes she has the sense of humor of a twelve-year-old, but right now she's so terrified for Clint that she can't even breathe.
Darcy looks around the room desperately for something she can use to hit him, but the room is pretty bare. A hint of movement in the exposed beams and pipes of the ceiling catches her eye. Is somebody up there? Darcy looks away immediately so as not to draw her captor's attention.
Clint and Steve are fighting what look like dog-sized spider robots (the hell?) and Tony is still lying flat on the floor of the warehouse. It has to be Natasha. Oh my god. Darcy has to distract him while Natasha gets in position to take him down. Holy shit, she's not trained for this.
She can't take on a guy like this physically, not without her taser, but one thing Darcy has always had going for her is a big mouth and a hell of a set of lungs.
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Darcy yells as loudly as she can. "Seriously, robot spiders? Who does that? Are you like, junior Doctor Doom over there? What the hell? Why are you kidnapping innocent administrative assistants off the goddamn street? You fucking roofied me, Captain Hook, that is not okay."
"I should have given you a stronger dose." He stops pressing his little buttons of mayhem to glance at her. "This is just a job, sweetheart. No hard feelings, right?"
He presses about six buttons in rapid succession and the robots go crazy. Most of them sprout giant pincers and jump on Steve, biting at his shield and costume. The remaining ones turn towards Clint. For a moment none of them move and Clint uses the opportunity to shoot one with one of his weird specialty arrows. Two of the others distract him with giant spouts of fire and he doesn't notice the third dropping down from the rafters until it's right in front of him. It looks a little different from the others and it takes Darcy a second to realize that's because there's a giant gun mounted on top of it.
"Don't--" The robot fires on Clint and he goes down in a heap. Darcy's voice dies in her throat because he's not getting up. He's wearing Kevlar, but she's done the research and knows it's not impermeable and he's still not getting up.
There's a weird buzzing in her head, but Darcy finds that she can't worry about it because Clint hasn't moved and she can't see if he's even breathing and that bastard who kidnapped her is laughing under his breath. She stands up, not really remembering telling her body to move. The fucker who probably just killed Clint starts to turn towards her, frowning and probably getting ready to point his stupid gun at her again, when she picks up her folding chair and hits him in the face with it.
Several things happen in quick succession then--the guy backhands her across the floor, Natasha jumps on him, and his gun goes off. Darcy screams, certain that he's just shot Natasha, but she must be okay because she's backflipping off of his shoulders and going after him with some insane ninja moves. Natasha kicks the gun out of his hand and it goes skittering across the floor.
They're moving so fast that Darcy can't even really keep up with what they're doing. Natasha tries to kick him in the head, he grabs her leg, and she uses her other leg to sweep his legs out from underneath him. They go rolling across the floor and crash through the door of the office, ending up out on the walkway. There's a flurry of movement as they disengage and come back at each other, punching and blocking, neither one of them seeming to have the advantage.
The gun is on the floor about ten feet from her. Neither of them seem to be paying her any attention. Darcy crawls across the floor, staying as low as possible. She's never used a gun before, but it's just point and shoot, right?
It's a lot heavier than she expected. Darcy grabs it and moves in a crouch to next to the doorway, peering out at where Natasha and the guy are still ninja-fighting it out. She has to wait until they separate, because there's no way she's going to risk shooting Natasha.
Darcy keeps her eyes on them, not letting herself look over the edge of the walkway. If she sees Clint's body she's just going to lose it, just break down and cry. She has to keep it together. Darcy raises the gun and braces her right hand with her left because her hands are shaking so badly.
After what seems like forever there's a moment where Natasha kicks him in the chest and somersaults away from him. Darcy pulls the trigger and there's a huge boom and the kick of the gun feels like it's just broken her wrists and the guy staggers. She got him. Oh holy shit, she just shot someone.
Not fatally, though, because he rights himself on the railing and takes off running for the exit on the other side of the building. Darcy thinks about shooting at him again, but Steve is clambering up the framework of the balcony like a monkey and she's afraid she'll shoot him by accident. He ends up on the balcony about ten feet in front of her abductor, but freezes as the guy approaches him. He turns to watch him run with a look on his face that Darcy can't identify and doesn't care about because Clint got shot and is probably dead and it's all her fault.
She doesn't realize she's still holding the gun until Natasha gently slips it from her hands.
She doesn't realize she's shaking until she tries to stand up and can't quite manage it.
She doesn't realize she's crying until she hears her voice echoing off the exposed rafters.
Because Clint is dead and it's all her fault.
It's only his years of training that stop Clint from gasping for breath and clutching at his chest when he rockets back to awareness. He can't remember exactly where he is or what the situation is--aside from completely FUBAR--but that always happens right after he first gets hurt.
And he hurts like a motherfucker. It feels like he took a slug in the chest that his body armor just barely stopped and he can almost hear the bruise creeping under his skin. He can smell gunpowder and wet concrete and it doesn't feel like the Middle East. Eastern Europe, maybe?
Above the adrenaline-fueled beating of his heart, he can hear a woman crying as if her heart were breaking and a low murmur of voices trying to comfort her. Something about her voice stirs his memory and he strains to make the connection before realizing Holy shit, that's Darcy and I got shot by a robot spider.
He pushes aside the pain in his chest enough to stagger to his feet. He has to stop and rest his hands on his knees once he gets there because, Jesus, he hates getting shot. Darcy obviously hasn't noticed him getting up because she's close to hyperventilating despite Natasha's best efforts to calm her down.
"Pull yourself together!"
Natasha Romanov. Not his first choice to comfort anyone.
He catches his breath and starts towards the staircase he'd noticed earlier, nearly tripping over the crumpled mess of Iron Man on the ground. He debates leaving Tony there, but he isn't sure what sort of air filtration system the suit has when it's offline. He braces himself and leans down, searching for the manual release Tony had shown them in case of emergencies.
The faceplate of the Iron Man suit slides back and Clint hears, "--fucker! Sonofabitch!"
"You okay there?" Clint asks, resting his hands on his knees again. Being bent over is slightly less excruciating than standing up straight. "I thought the Iron Man suit could deal with an EMP."
"Most EMPs, yeah. This one was special. Where's the asshole who hit me with it? I hope Natasha's standing on his balls." The chest of the Iron Man suit slides open and Tony starts struggling out of it.
"You good?" Tony grunts an answer and Clint figures that he's done his duty and it's now time to continue gimping his way to the stairs so he can comfort Darcy, who sounds like she's close to going completely hysterical.
He hears Natasha yell, "He's not dead! For fuck's sake!" There's a brief pause and then he sees Darcy's head pop over the edge of the balcony.
"Clint?" she gasps.
Clint waves a little, feeling himself start listing to one side. "Hey, baby." The sight of her, in one piece and looking none the worse for wear, makes the little clenched place in his heart start to relax.
Darcy shrieks. "Oh my god!" Her head disappears and Clint figures that she's running for the stairs. He stays where he is, because he's starting to seriously doubt that he could make it up the stairs at this point.
Steve has appeared from somewhere and is helping Tony out of the pieces of the suit. There's something off about Steve, Clint thinks--he seems a lot more broody than normal.
The fire door slams open and Darcy comes running towards him. "Clint!"
He braces himself as best he can, but she stops just shy of barrelling into him and wraps her arms around herself. He can see she's shaking, just barely holding it together, but she's not moving any closer. "Darcy?"
She takes two steps forward and slides her arms around his waist, fitting herself just under his chin. She presses her face against the skin of his neck and squeezes him gently. He winces at the added pressure, but slings his arms around her shoulders and lets her take a little of his weight because he's honestly not sure how long he's going to be on his feet.
He can feel her shuddery breath fanning against his throat, but she doesn't seem to be actively crying any more. Clint cradles the back of her head and rests his cheek against her hair. He rocks them in place a little and turns his head just enough to press a kiss to her forehead. "It's okay. I'm fine."
"I thought you were dead." Her voice is muffled against the hollow of his throat. He can feel the side of his neck growing a little damp.
"Oh, baby," Clint says, nuzzling the crown of her head. "I'm so sorry."
"Not your fault. His. One-Armed Jack. Asshole," she says, the sentence punctuated by a loud, watery sniff.
"One-Armed Jack?" Clint repeats, frowning. His eyes meet Natasha's over Darcy's head. Natasha knows something. He knows her tells and she is definitely worked up over some piece of information.
"Luke Skywalker. Post Cloud City," Darcy clarifies. Clint can only assume that means after Luke lost his hand. His girl--such an adorable geek.
"He's gone," Natasha reports, her arms crossed over her chest.
"I shot him," Darcy says in a tiny voice.
"You shot him?" Clint asks, trying not to sound shocked but probably not succeeding very well.
"Uh-huh." Darcy nods vehemently against his neck. "With his big penis-compensating gun. Dick."
Clint huffs out a small laugh that feels like getting kicked in the chest and leans against her a little more heavily. "Are you okay? He didn't hurt you?"
She shrugs and presses against him. "He roofied me, tied me to a pole, and hit me in the face, but I'm okay."
"What? Let me see." He nudges her face up and turns her into the weak light from the overheads. There is a giant bruise starting to appear on most of the right side of her face and Clint wants to kill everybody. "Goddammit."
Darcy shrugs again and moves back against him. "I hit him first. With a chair."
"Good." He feels a little vicious burst of pride. That's his girl.
"Steve, no. Don't put your--Hey, hey, hey! Hands!" Tony's voice goes up really high at the end and Clint turns just in time to see Steve step back quickly, his hands held up defensively. Tony is half out of the Iron Man suit, the bottom half of him still encased and pinned to the ground.
The remaining half of the front doors to the warehouse give way with a booming sound as Thor strides in, trailed by the Warriors Three, Bruce Banner, Sif, and Agent Coulson. "My friends!" Thor shouts cheerfully. "We have achieved great victory against the monstrous crustacean. How have you fared upon the field of battle this fine day?" He doesn't appear to actually look around until he reaches the middle of the warehouse, at which point he pauses and Clint can practically read the thought of not very well, I see going through his head.
He notices belatedly that Thor is clutching a mechanical crab claw that is almost as tall as he is, much like a small child with a teddy bear.
"Is that..." Darcy asks slowly.
"A giant crab claw?" Clint says.
"Well, I guess at least it's a robot crab claw? I mean, a real one would be... ugh. The smell," she says, wrinkling her nose.
Thor claps his hand on Bruce's shoulder, almost sending the scientist sprawling. "Bruce the Hulk has proved himself a fine companion upon the field of battle! He single-handedly ripped several of the foul monster's legs off. Songs shall be sung of this day!"
Sif and Coulson are standing close together, both giving Thor identical looks of why is this my life. Clint briefly considers the possibility that the two of them might hook up, but it's too terrifying. It's like imagining his high school math teacher hooking up with Chyna.
"I hate to interrupt story time, but... little help here?" Tony asks, waving at them from the ground.
"Is this your suit of armor, Son of Stark?" Thor turns towards Tony and surveys the scene for a moment before handing his crab claw off to Steve absently. Steve staggers a little. "I have never seen such a thing before."
"Not surprising considering I created it..." Tony's voice trails off as Thor leans over him and peels the bottom half of the Iron Man suit open as if it were tinfoil. "Myself."
Thor grabs Tony under his arms and picks him up off the ground like a child. He holds him there, feet dangling several inches off the ground and peers into his face. "Are you well, Son of Stark? The failure of your armor did not injure you?"
"My armor didn't fail." Tony struggles for a moment, but stops when he seems to realize that movement only makes him look like an angry kitten hanging in Thor's hands. "I'm fine, Thor. Please put me down."
"I am glad you are unharmed." Thor gently sets him on his feet before clapping giant hands on his shoulders. "Your lady-wife threatened me with grievous injury should you perish. She is quite frightening for a Midgardian wench."
Tony opens and closes his mouth several times, very obviously trying to decide which comment to answer first. He closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose. "Please never call Pepper a 'wench' again."
Coulson has been talking quietly on his cell phone in the background for a few minutes. He slips the phone back in his pocket and claps his hands together. "Gentlemen--and ladies--if I could have your attention for a moment."
Thor talks right over him. "Of course I would never speak of your lady-wife with any measure of disrespect! She is a fine woman who will provide you with many healthy sons."
Tony chokes on whatever he was about to say. "Pepper... would... oh god, never tell her that."
Sif rolls her eyes and steps forward, loudly banging the hilt of her sword on her shield and shouting, "Lend your ears to the words of the Son of Coul, for he brings to you wise counsel. In other words," she says more quietly, shooting Coulson a mischievous smile, "Shut the fuck up."
Tony mimes zipping his mouth and throwing away the key. Darcy snickers a little.
"A full SHIELD clean-up team is incoming, ETA four minutes. They will sterilize this incident site. Please gather any personal items you do not wish to become evidence," Coulson says with a meaningful look at Thor. Thor retrieves the giant crab claw from Steve and hoists it over his shoulder jauntily.
"Transportation and medics are incoming as well, should you have need of them. Ms. Lewis, Agent Barton, please avail yourself before returning to headquarters to debrief," Coulson says with a tiny smile and a nod.
Darcy gets her shoulder under Clint's and helps him over to one of the abandoned crates as everyone else meanders out the door listening to Thor recount their battle with Dr. Doom's giant crab.
She settles next to him on the crate and rests her head on his shoulder. "Hey, Clint?"
"A debriefing is going to take hours." Darcy makes a disgruntled noise and pouts up at Clint. "I was looking forward to our sex marathon."
The thought of being naked with her sends a jolt through him that almost masks the pain. Almost. "Darcy, baby. I hate to burst your bubble, but there's not going to be any sweet, sweet love making tonight. I think I'm going to fall over."
She sighs heavily. "That's okay. I never made it to the drugstore anyway."
Listening to Thor describe the battle with the giant robot crab while high on the truly excellent painkillers the SHIELD medics had dosed him with is one of the most awesome experiences of Clint's life. (Except for anything Darcy related, of course.) It's like he can almost see the scene playing out in the air in front of his questionably focused eyes.
It takes an effort of extreme will to pull his attention back to Coulson when he starts talking. "Thank you for your… colorful narrative, Thor."
"You are welcome, Son of Coul." Thor leans back in his chair and it creaks alarmingly. Clint holds his breath, pretty sure he'll rupture something laughing if it breaks and dumps Thor onto the floor. The chair holds, though, and Clint lets out a gusty sigh of relief.
"Ms. Lewis, do you feel up to debriefing?" Coulson swipes through several screens on his tablet before looking up.
Clint groggily swings his attention to his left just in time to see Darcy take the icepack off her face and set it on the table. "I just want to get it over with."
Coulson manages to look sympathetic. "Why don't you start with when you left headquarters?"
"Okay, so I was walking to the CVS that's just a couple blocks over and then--nothing--and then I woke up tied to a pipe in that warehouse. That asshole roofied me. Like, seriously, six years of college and nothing, then I get roofied on the way to CVS. Fucker."
Clint makes a sympathetic noise (okay, maybe it's a grunt) and pats her on the leg. Well, tries to pat her on the leg. His hand ends up flapping in the air somewhere in the vicinity of her knee. Darcy gives him that smile of oh my god, my boyfriend is a dork and puts his hand on her leg. Clint smiles back at her, probably pretty goofily. Whatever, he's on drugs.
"So, after I woke up and yelled at him, One-Armed Jack--"
"He only had one arm?" Steve is sitting forward on the edge of his chair and holding onto a coffee-table book with white knuckles. Clint squints at the spine of the book and makes out something about Star Spangled. Huh, weird.
"Yeah, he totally had a robot arm." Darcy sounds kind of excited about it. "It was silver and moved like a real arm. He wouldn't show it to me, though, I just saw it through a rip in his sleeve."
"Then what happened?" Coulson asks.
"So then he hustled me upstairs and we watched on his monitors while Tony came busting through the roof. And then the guy hit a button and Tony fell like a stone. Looked like it hurt."
Tony makes a face. "I'm fine. I just want to know how that guy neutralized my Stark Tech. That shouldn't have hit me--I protected the suit against EMP attacks over a year ago."
Darcy shrugs. "I don't think he had time to take anything with him, so everything should still be at the warehouse."
"We'll have everything that we collected available for your review, Mr. Stark." Coulson makes another note on his tablet, probably giving Tony permission to tear everything apart. "What happened next, Ms. Lewis?"
"Clint and Steve kicked in the door. He pressed another button and released the robot spiders. I noticed Natasha in the rafters and tried to keep him distracted, but he had more buttons and one of the spiders had a big gun and --" She breaks off and takes a deep breath, twining her fingers with Clint's. He squeezes back and she gives him a shaky smile before continuing. "The spiders swarmed on Steve and the one with the gun shot Clint. I hit the guy with my chair and he hit me in the face. Natasha dropped out of the rafters and started kicking his ass. He lost his gun at some point and I picked it up. When I had the chance, I shot him, I'm not sure where--"
"She grazed his right arm." Natasha adds.
"Then he ran off and, um, things get a little cloudy after that." Her face is bright pink by that point and Clint knows he shouldn't, but he pulls their hands up and kisses the back of hers.
It's at that point that the debriefing room door bangs open and Nick Fury comes stomping in, demanding to know, "What the hell have you people been doing?"
Clint sees Tony get that look on his face that always means he's about to say something sarcastic and shit-stirring. "Oh, you know, just saving the world, rescuing the girl, that kind of thing. I mean, if I understood your recruitment speech correctly, that's what you wanted us to do, right?"
Coulson stands up hurriedly. "We had a few situations pop up this afternoon, sir. Fortunately we were able to deploy the personnel necessary to resolve those situations without--"
"Massive property damage?" Fury's voice is reaching that pitch and tone that says Drill Sergeant to Clint's hindbrain. He straightens up in his chair, fighting the urge to come to full attention. "I just had a memo cross my desk which listed a preliminary estimate of fifty million dollars of damage to the harbor and neighboring facilities. The mayor wants to know who's responsible for that damage."
"Well, there was a giant mechanical crab," Tony says offhandedly. "I think we can safely say that Doctor Doom is responsible for that one."
"Eye-witnesses state that a large projectile weapon--possibly a tire-iron or a hammer--smashed all the windows of a five-story warehouse simultaneously. You wouldn't happen to know anything about that, would you, Stark?"
"Oh, Tony was busy rescuing the girl, so that'd be Mew Mew," Darcy says, clearly not expecting the entire room to turn and stare at her. "What?" she says.
"Mew Mew?" Thor's face is twisted in displeasure. "You refer to the mighty Mjolnir as 'Mew Mew'?"
"Nevertheless," Fury interrupts whatever Thor was going to say. "I would like some explanations, Agent Coulson."
"Yes, sir." Coulson stands up a little straighter and Clint feels better about his own reaction. "A person we have preliminarily identified as the independent agent known as The Winter Soldier abducted Ms. Lewis for reasons unknown at this point--"
"I think he was testing you." Darcy's voice is slightly muffled from the icepack she has pressed to her face again.
"I think he was hired to see what you were capable of. He said that he arranged for Doctor Doom's giant crab as an additional distraction."
"You didn't think this was important to mention before?" Coulson isn't banging his head on the table, but he looks like he wants to.
"I forgot! I was traumatized!"
Coulson's face clears at the reminder their civilian aide was caught in the middle of this. "Of course, I apologize. Is there --"
"I think he was Bucky." "I slept with him in 2008."
Steve and Natasha's voices overlap and it takes Clint a second to separate what each of them said.
"Who's Bucky?" Darcy asks.
Steve is staring at Natasha. "In... 2008?" he asks. "How was he--I mean, did he seem okay? Was he disoriented or confused?"
Natasha shrugs elegantly. "He seemed fine to me. We were both on a job in Prague--the same job, as it turned out. I didn't know he was the Winter Soldier at the time."
Steve opens up the big coffee table book that he's been clutching this whole time. "Is this the man you... knew in Prague?"
Half the page is taken up by a photo of Steve in the Captain America uniform next to a guy with dark hair in a WWII-era Army uniform. They're grinning at the camera, standing with their arms around each other's shoulders in front of a half-destroyed German tank.
"That's him," Natasha confirms.
"Oh my god, that's totally One-Armed Jack!" Darcy yelps.
"He's alive," Steve whispers. He drops the book and grabs Natasha by the shoulders, beaming at her as he says, "Bucky's alive!" Natasha looks a little taken aback, but she's almost smiling at him.
"Heart-warming as this revelation undoubtedly is, it does bring up certain questions. Romanov, Rogers, you're with me," Fury says, stomping towards the door.
The two of them scramble out of their seats to follow Fury before he gets too far away. An awkward silence descends over the rest of the room for a few moments before Coulson clears his throat. "Well. I think that's enough for today. Prince Thor, if you and your companions will come with me, we have a bit of paperwork to finish. The rest of you are dismissed."
Clint stays where he is as everyone else starts to file out of the room. He's not too proud to admit he's going to need help out of his chair, but he is too proud to ask while Thor or Tony Stark is in the room. Once everyone else is gone, he sits quietly with Darcy for a second before she leans forward to rest her head on the table, then levers herself up.
"I am exhausted. I feel your age."
"Ha ha. You're hilarious." Clint thinks about smacking her ass, but moving even that much seems like too much for him. The pain of his ribs is starting to break through the drug haze. "Help me up."
She pulls him out of his seat and he wraps an arm around his ribs when they feel like they want to break free of his skin. "You okay?"
Clint grunts and doesn't even bother trying to straighten up all the way. "I would really like to be in bed with you right about now."
"The feeling is mutual soldier, but I think having sex right now would kill both of us." She shuffles him towards the elevators, taking the weight he's resting on her easily enough
"Not sex, just sleeping." He manages to reach forward and hit the down button.
"Yeah?" She presses the button for the residential floor once they're in the elevator. "I'll admit the thought of my empty bed is pretty lonely."
"My place or yours?" He doesn't even have the energy to make that as sleazy as it deserves.
Darcy laughs. "Whichever is closer, tough guy."
Darcy drifts in that halfway place between awake and asleep, the remnants of a dream about riding My Little Ponies with Natasha and Pepper slowly peeling away from her mind. She's warm and comfortable, Clint a solid weight in the bed next to--and half on top of--her. She stretches as much as she can under him before collapsing back into the mattress and brushing a kiss over the curve of muscle pinning her upper body to the bed.
She can smell his sleep warmed skin and the weird soapy tang of his cheap-ass shampoo and it sets off a frustrating tingle in her ladybits. It's been almost two weeks since her little adventure with the Winter Soldier and Clint has has been next to her every night since.
In a completely platonic fashion.
Darcy is about ready to call bullshit.
Sure, the first couple of days neither of them could really move without wincing, but her bruising has been gone for days and Clint got the okay yesterday to go back on light duty, so she'd thought for sure last night was going to be full of sexy fun times. Instead he'd spent the evening at the range firing arrow after arrow into moving targets.
She's pretty sure he's having some extended internal freak-out about her getting abducted, but seriously--it happened, she's fine, he needs to get over it. She's not quite to the point of giving him the "buck up, soldier" talk, but she's getting close to it. The only reason why she hasn't is that Natasha, of all people, actually asked her to be sensitive to Clint's fragile emotional state. Darcy had to have a drink to get over the weirdness of Natasha being concerned about anyone's emotional state. Natasha is awesome, but her therapeutic approach is usually more of the "get over it or I will stomp on you with my terrifyingly tall heels" kind.
Clint shifts and mumbles in his sleep. He settles with his arm draped over her waist and his face buried in her shoulder. Darcy uses her newly freed right hand to stroke his short, bristly blond hair. Clint nuzzles her shoulder, but his breathing doesn't change. He's still dead to the world. Darcy strokes the shell of his ear, amused when he twitches a little in his sleep. She's kind of curious about exactly how much she could get away with before he wakes up. Not that she'd molest him in his sleep or anything. Much.
He's got a knot of white scar tissue on his left collarbone. Darcy traces it with her fingertips, wondering what it's from. A bullet? A knife? She knows he was military when she met him in Florida--okay, fucked him in a bar in Florida--but it's clearly something he doesn't like to talk about.
The reminder of Clint fucking her in the bar in Florida sends another tide of warmth through her body. God, that had been amazing. It's just a crime that they haven't fucked in every room in Avengers' Tower yet. Or, y'know, any room in Avengers Tower.
She scratches her short nails down his ribs, curious if he's ticklish at all, and can't decide if she's surprised or not when he rockets upright, arms wrapped tightly around his midsection to protect his vulnerable spots.
He looks around frantically for a second before recognizing his surroundings and flopping back on to the bed. "What the fuck, Darcy?"
She shrugs and twists around until she's plastered against him. "I wanted to know if you were ticklish."
He just stares at her for a second before huffing out a little laugh. "You couldn't have asked?"
"Who says yes to that?"
"True." Clint settles back into the pillows and closes his eyes as if he's going to go back to sleep.
"Oh, no, you don't." Darcy pokes him in the ribs again, riding out his reflexive twitch. "It's Saturday and, barring another giant crustacean attack, we are off today. We are going to get up, brush our teeth, then get back in this bed and have the kind of sex that will make Tony Stark blush."
"Oh, really?" He raises his eyebrow at her, but she can feel his dick twitch in his boxers against her leg, so she's not fooled.
Sitting up, she throws the blankets to the end of the bed. She smacks him on the ass on her way to the bathroom. "Get a move on, soldier."
A couple of days after the Winter Soldier thing, they'd come back from yet another debriefing with Director Fury to find both of their apartments stripped bare. Tony was waiting for them at the end of the hall and had ceremonially presented both of them with a key to their new suite, calling it "The love nest," while waggling his eyebrows at them ridiculously. Pepper had given him the why do I put up with you, you ridiculous man look, but Darcy could feel her design touch in the suite's quietly stylish furnishings. The bathroom is all Tony, though: shiny black marble, chrome, and a shower large enough to have an orgy in.
They each have their own sink in the bathroom, which is a luxury Darcy has never actually experienced before. Clint gets finished brushing his teeth a few moments before her and disappears from her peripheral view. She wonders for a second what he's up to and then she hears the shower turn on.
Ah-hah. So she's not the only one who's been getting ideas about that shower.
Darcy finishes up hurriedly and turns around to see that Clint has taken the initiative on getting bare-ass naked. He's standing under the waterfall spray, already soaping himself up. She leans casually against the edge of the sink and raises her eyebrows at him. "I can come back if you're busy."
Clint smolders at her, making a beckoning motion. "Get that adorable little ass over here."
Darcy knows she's far gone for him when instead of cracking up at the cheesiness of that line, she actually feels herself getting wet for him. She slowly peels her tee-shirt off, feeling his eyes on her. Clint starts stroking his cock with a soapy hand as she even more slowly slides her panties off, bending over a lot more than is strictly necessary in the process.
She pads across the tile floor, stopping and leaning against the edge of the shower enclosure. "Was there something you wanted?" she asks, stretching a little and rolling her shoulders back as she speaks. Clint's eyes glaze over a little as he watches her boobs shift.
"Come here." He pushes open the glass door and wraps his soapy hand around her wrist. He doesn't yank on her arm, just keeps a steady hold as she steps over the small marble lip and into the cavernous space. He hits a chrome lever with his other hand and the second rainfall shower head starts up.
Darcy moves under the spray, letting it soak her hair into a dark curtain around her face before tipping her head back and stretching her arms towards the ceiling. She hears Clint make a strangled noise but before she can open her eyes to check on him, she feels his hands on her ribcage, his thumbs brushing the underside of her boobs.
Darcy smiles to herself. Guys--so predictable.
She lets her arms drop down on to his shoulders, linking her hands behind his head and shuffling closer to him. He's all hard muscle and bone against her curves and the contrast is enough to make her head spin. She hasn't really had the opportunity to explore his body as thoroughly as she'd like to, but that's about to change if she has anything to say about it.
Clint steps closer in to her and she can feel a definite hard nudge against her tummy. He nuzzles her neck and mutters in her ear, "You have no idea how crazy you make me."
"The feeling is--oh--mutual," she whimpers as Clint bites the side of her neck. He traces the side of her neck with his tongue, then chases a water drop down her cleavage, pausing to nibble the soft undercurve of her breast before closing his hot mouth around one of her nipples. Darcy throws her head back, feeling water pouring over her head and body as Clint sucks at her nipple. "I'm totally gonna drown," she says dreamily.
"Hmmm," Clint hums against her breast. He pulls back and looks up at her, his eyelashes wet and spiky. "We can't have that. Safety first," he says, steering her to the gigantic bench on one side of the shower stall.
"I don't believe that these handbars are all needed for ADA compliance," Darcy says, raising her eyebrow at the more interestingly placed handbars around the bench seat.
Clint chuckles. "You really gonna complain?" he asks, pushing her gently down to sit on the bench.
"No, I--uh, definitely not complaining," she says as Clint kneels in front of her.
He shoulders carefully between her legs, stretching up to catch her mouth again. She scrubs her fingers through his wet hair as they kiss, not really paying attention to what she's doing until he's pulled back and she realizes she's somehow managed to shape his short hair into a little faux hawk. She snorts a laugh before flattening it back down and leaning forward to kiss him again.
He makes a quiet noise against her lips when she rubs her tongue on the roof of his mouth and kisses a line down her jaw to her throat. "How much will you kill me if I leave a mark?"
Darcy is torn. On one hand, she sort of loves the sting that heralds a mouth leaving a mark. On the other, she's not sixteen and she's afraid if she leaves this room with a half dozen hickeys, Steve will spontaneously combust from secondhand embarrassment. And she doesn't even want to imagine the commentary from Tony. She decides to compromise with herself. "Nowhere I can't hide it if I need to."
Clint looks up at her from where he was brushing kisses over the expanse of her neck and he seems surprised that she agreed at all. She shrugs and he grins at her, smacking a kiss on her mouth before ducking down to pull her nipple into his mouth. It sends a shock of pleasure through her and she tips her head back to rest on the shower wall.
"God, I hope Tony didn't put any cameras in here," she tells the ceiling.
Clint lets go of her nipple and smirks up at her. "You don't have to worry about that. Natasha had a little conversation with him." He nips the top of her breast, adding, "Now, why are we talking about Tony while you're all naked and glistening?"
"Hmmm, good--oh, good point," she moans as Clint pinches both of her nipples simultaneously. His mouth is on the top curve of her left breast and she's pretty sure he's leaving a hickey, but she can't object to his choice of locations and honestly her higher brain functions are kind of shutting down at the moment.
Then he slides his mouth from her breast, down over her belly, to the curve where her leg meets her hip, and Darcy decides that thinking is totally overrated anyway.
Clint nips the inside of her thigh and Darcy squeaks embarrassingly. He spreads his hands over her hips and tugs her forward until her ass is almost hanging off the edge of the ledge and her legs are spread wide open, the undersides of her knees resting on his shoulders. Clint nuzzles the insides of her thighs and then pauses, just breathing on her cunt without touching her with his mouth.
Darcy squirms as best she can in this position. "Clint! Don't fucking tease me, you fucker."
"Well, with sweet talk like that, how could I resist?"
His mouth actually feels hotter than the water still showering down on them. Darcy moans as he drags the flat of his tongue along the length of her slit. He pauses and smiles up at her. "I've been fantasizing about the way you taste for two years."
Darcy is about to make some kind of smart-assed comment, but it flies out of her head the minute he puts his tongue back to work, lapping delicately at her clit. The light touches are driving her crazy--not enough stimulation to really get her off, just enough to get her to the edge and keep her there. She can feel the heat pooling in her lower belly, building up with no way to release the tension until suddenly Clint starts sucking on her clit hard at the same time as he slides two fingers into her cunt and she's gone, coming hard, hearing her voice echoing off the shower walls.
He doesn't let up, crooking his fingers inside her and pushing her higher. She's not sure how many times she comes, how to count where one orgasm stops and the next begins, but she's not exactly paying attention to specifics at that point. All she can think about, all she can feel is Clint. His hands are calloused and strong on her and in her. His mouth is a soft and hot contrast to the prickle of stubble against her thighs.
Clint flattens his tongue against her clit, but doesn't move it beyond keeping a firm, steady pressure. Something about the change in stimulation ups her response and her leg jerks out in a kick before settling back on Clint's shoulder. Abruptly, everything gets to be a little too much and Darcy has to push him off her. "Enough, enough. Holy shit."
Clint sits back on his heels, looking happy and more than a little smug. "You doing okay there?"
"Unggh." Darcy scrubs her hand over her face and shudders once before slithering down to straddle his lap. "Shut up and let me blow you."
His eyes unfocus and he makes a hurt sounding noise in the back of his throat. Darcy can feel her own smile get a little smug. She leans forward to lick the taste of herself off his mouth. "This floor sucks to kneel on. Let's hit the bedroom."
She slides off his lap, grabs his hand and leads him into the bedroom. Darcy glances back and he has the most shit-eating grin on his face. She's pretty sure she's grinning loopily too, but that's okay. It's been two years--way, way too long for her not to have sucked his cock.
Darcy leads him to the bed and pushes at his shoulders to make him sit on the edge of the bed. Clint smirks at her and sits sprawled with his legs spread suggestively apart. His cock is thick where it rests against his inner thigh. Darcy leans over him, deliberately letting her hard nipples slide across his skin as she grabs a pillow from the head of the bed. She puts the pillow on the floor in front of him and kneels on it.
She sees him looking a little skeptical about the pillow and just shrugs at him, saying, "Hey, I'm not 22 anymore--my knees get sore."
Clint winces and covers his eyes. "I'm a dirty old man."
And that? Will never stop being funny to her.
Darcy smacks his thigh. "Buck up, soldier. I'm not even gonna mention how I was in fifth grade when you entered Basic."
"Oh my god," Clint says despairingly.
She decides she's tortured him enough for now and leans forward to flick her tongue across the slit of his cock. That gets his attention. Clint sucks in a breath as she traces her tongue lightly around his cockhead, feeling his cock harden against her lips as she leaves little butterfly kisses down the length of it.
His thighs tense under her hands and she digs her fingers into the edge of the muscle to keep him from moving too much. She's got a plan and she's not going to let his impatience move her along before time. She licks him again, up the length of his cock then curling her tongue to pull the first couple of inches into her mouth. She sucks on him gently for a moment before letting him fall from her mouth.
"Darcy, please." His voice is rough, as if he's already been making a lot of noise.
She leans up to kiss his chest, licking at some of the water left there and nipping the swell of his pec with sharp teeth. "I'm just getting started, baby."
He collapses back against the bed when she ducks her head back down and bites along the tendon of his inner thigh. She can feel him shifting around and when she glances up at him, she isn't surprised to see he's propped himself up on a pile of pillows and bedding. "Comfy?"
Clint wiggles down into the mountain of expensive, soft bedding. He pauses, reaches behind his shoulder to poke something into a better shape, wiggles again, then sinks back and spreads his arms wide. "Do your worst."
Darcy looks him over like an expensive buffet. "Oh, there are so many things that I could do with you right now," she muses.
Clint's eyes widen. "Uh, you're making me a little nervous here."
"Good." Darcy grins. So many options... she decides, with a little twinge of regret, to hold off on the more elaborate options until they've had time to get used to each other in bed. Or, y'know, until Clint is come-stupid and easily suggestible.
She licks the tip of his cock like a lolly pop, enjoying the faint whining sound he makes when she lashes the sensitive spot under the head of his cock with her tongue. She can feel his whole body jerk when she goes from that to sucking the entire length of his cock into her mouth with no warning. Darcy relaxes her throat and goes down as far as she can, letting the tip of his cock bump into the back of her throat. She pulls off and says smugly, "Yep, still got it."
"Huh?" Clint asks incoherently.
"Nothing." Darcy winks at him and sucks the head of his cock back into her mouth.
She wraps her hand around the bottom of his cock, squeezing carefully in rhythm with the movement of her mouth. Clint makes a loud noise when her other hand skates over the delicate skin of his balls and buries both of his hands in the tangled, wet mess of her hair. She stops moving for a second, but when he doesn't try to use his grip on her hair to pull her down on his dick, she gets back to the business of making him crazy.
Darcy would never call herself slutty, but if her six years at college had taught her anything beyond the futility of eight AM classes, it was that sometimes the simplest way to do something was the best--and blowjobs were no exception. Sure, everyone knew at least one person who could do something freaky and impressive when it came to oral, but once the novelty of it was past, good technique would win out every time.
With that in mind, Darcy closes her eyes and concentrates on giving Clint the most thorough and comprehensive BJ he's ever had the good fortune to receive. In a gratifyingly short period of time, he's gasping "Darcy--oh my god, Darcy--" and filling her mouth with salty liquid. She swallows most of it, but she's well aware that she's giving him a little taste when she crawls up onto the bed to give him a kiss. She's always considered the sign of whether a guy deserves for her to swallow being whether he whines about tasting his own come in her mouth. To his credit, Clint doesn't even flinch.
Clint has collapsed back into his pile of pillows, panting. Darcy curls up next to him and observes how much of a wreck she's made him with a definite feeling of pride. Hell yeah, she's still got it.
After a few minutes, Clint regains control of his motor functions well enough to scatter his nest of bedding and sprawl out. Darcy props herself up on her elbow next to him and rests a hand on his chest, feeling his heartbeat start to slow. "Should I give you some time to recover?"
"Holy shit, Darcy," Clint says with feeling. "I can't feel my toes."
"Sorry, maybe I should have kept your advanced age in mind and taken it easier on you," Darcy snarks, giggling and wriggling to escape when Clint rolls over on top of her and starts tickling her ribs. Unfortunately, he's had a lot more unarmed combat instruction than she has (which is to say, any at all) so she's pretty much fucked. "Uncle! Uncle!" she gasps.
"Winner and still champion!" Clint's eyes are shining with pleasure and happiness. He collapses against her, not even bothering to take any of his own weight and what little breath she had left after all the laughing is forced out of her lungs in a huff.
She pokes at his ribs until he shifts over enough for her to breathe. He grumbles a bit at being made to move, but settles against her easily enough, pushing his face into the space between her neck and shoulder. Darcy brings her hands up to hold onto his arm where it's wrapped around her stomach. His skin is softer than she would have guessed, layered over muscle and tendon and bone. It's a little surprising because she knows he's not one for fussing about his appearance, but she likes it.
His breath is slowing against her throat and Darcy thinks she could sleep too if it weren't for the fact that her stomach is trying to eat itself. A loud, yawning gurgle from her midsection breaks the easy quiet of the room and she feels Clint jerk fully awake. "What?"
Darcy laughs and rolls out from under his arm. She manages to untangle herself from the wet mess they've made of the bedding and leans back in a sharp arch once she's on her feet. Clint's glazed look is definitely ego boosting, but woman cannot live by sexy times alone. She leans forward to smack him on the ass. "Let's go. We need sustenance."
Darcy snags one of his tee-shirts from the drawer and throws it on along with a pair of his boxers. Advantage to having a boyfriend who's not Thor-sized: his clothing is just big enough on her to be super-comfy but not ridiculously huge. Clint has mostly stopped complaining about her stealing all of his clothes.
The suite has its own tiny kitchenette, though they eat most of their meals in the big main kitchen with whatever members of the team happen to be around, plus assorted random drop-ins. Clint's little buddy Spider-Man practically lives at the Avengers' Tower, though he's so paranoid about keeping his identity secret that he actually eats and drinks with his mask pulled up just enough to expose his nose and mouth. Wolverine drops by every so often for just long enough to drink all their beer and offend the hell out of Pepper. (Surprisingly, Natasha gets along well with him.) Not to mention Steve's friend Falcon and Tony's friend Rhodey. But this morning they are definitely too fucked-out and stinking of sex to emerge from the suite without another shower.
Darcy starts the coffee pot going and opens the fridge, looking over the contents with a critical eye. Eggs, green peppers, onions--omelet it is, then.
"Anything I can do?" Clint asks. He's also tossed on a tee-shirt and a pair of boxers and looks adorably mussed and sleepy.
Darcy tosses the onion and green pepper at him. "You're on chopping duty, soldier."
He pulls a knife out of the block on the counter and races through the vegetables, somehow managing uniform little squares in about a tenth of the time it would take her to mangle half of an onion. When he's done, he makes neat little piles on the cutting board and steps in behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist. He stays pressed against her back as she cooks the omelets and assembles their plates, shadowing her steps to the breakfast bar that separates the kitchen from the living room. He drops into the chair next to her and leans over to nuzzle affectionately at her neck before digging into his food.
"Where did you learn to cook like this?" Clint doesn't even bother to swallow the food in his mouth.
"It's just an omelet." Darcy feels herself blush at the praise, though.
"When you've lived on mess hall cooking and MRE's for most of your adult life, any home cooking is delicious. But seriously, Darcy, this is awesome."
"Thanks." Darcy shoves a forkful of egg into her mouth and leans against him.
They eat quietly for a few minutes before Clint sits back in his chair. "So I've been thinking."
It's on the tip of her tongue to make a smart ass comment about Clint thinking, but there's something in his tone of voice that makes Darcy put her fork down and pay attention. He's fidgeting in his seat, pushing the few little bits of pepper left on his plate around on his plate and generally looking ill at ease.
"Okay," Darcy says, keeping her voice gentle. "What's up?"
"So, we've been living in the, uh, the "love nest" for a week now." Clint starts flipping his butter knife end over end absently.
"A week and a half, yeah."
"And I didn't want to push you on stuff, but it's been a week and a half. And with what we did this morning--"
"You mean the hot, sweaty sexing," Darcy interrupts.
Clint stops flipping the knife and looks at her with intense eyes. "Yeah," he says huskily. Darcy actually feels herself blush. "I was wondering, if, you know, where this leaves us and what you want out of our relation--I mean, association--"
Darcy finally takes pity on him, but she can't help but tease him a little. "Why, Agent Barton, are you asking me to go steady?"
Clint sighs and drops his head a little. He looks up at her through his eyelashes, smiling ruefully. "Darcy Lewis, you are possibly one of the most frustrating people I've ever met, and I'm ridiculously in love with you. Will you go steady with me?"
Darcy's mouth drops open.
She can feel herself blinking stupidly, but--what? Love? They aren't there yet, are they? She likes Clint and is obviously crazily attracted to his hot ass. And even if he hadn't led a rescue team to save her, she definitely trusts him with her life and her body. She thinks about the irrational rage she feels when waitresses or baristas shove their boobs at him when they're out together. And then she remembers the absolute devastation she had felt when she thought that he'd been killed by the robot spiders, and she knows.
Sweet baby Jesus, she's in love with Clint!
The smile is fading from his face when she surfaces from her epiphany and something empty and bleak is happening behind his eyes. She shakes her head before touching his face with careful fingers and leaning forward to press a chaste kiss to his mouth. "Can I wear your letterman's jacket?'"
"What?" Now it's Clint's turn to blink and look confused. It's only fair.
"Your letterman's jacket. It's traditional. Or I can wear your class ring. It'll have to be on a necklace, because I don't think there's any way in hell it's fitting any of my fingers or even my thumb." She waits for a few seconds for his brain to come back online, then pokes him in the chest. "Well?"
He's starting to look a little less gobsmacked. "Okay, you're going to have to accept the fact that I am a dumb male, and I need emotional-type stuff stated very clearly and not just hinted at. Are you saying that you..."
Darcy grins at him. "Yeah, that's what I'm saying. I love you too. Although I think I indicated that pretty clearly when I threatened to burn down the world when I thought that you were dead."
"Hey, I was a little unconscious at the time," he objects. He's staring at her and starting to grin. "You love me."
Darcy rolls her eyes. "Yeah. Do I need to say it again?"
"You might need to repeat that a few, I don't know, million times or so." Clint nods at their plates. "You done?"
"Yeah, I--aaaaaaaah! Put me down!" Darcy squeaks as Clint sweeps her up off her barstool and over his shoulder. "You are a terrible human being."
Clint smacks her sharply on the ass. "You love it."
The sad thing is, she sort of does. She normally doesn't enjoy this sort of manhandling and maybe it's all the blood rushing to her head, but it's not bothering her right now. Also, she's in groping range of a world class ass and decides to take advantage of that.
"Hey!" Clint nearly stumbles when she gets both of her hands on his ass and squeezes. "Watch the hands, missy."
"Oh, I am. Trust me." Darcy can't help the awed tone of her voice. She lets her hands ride the flex of muscle as Clint walks towards their bedroom.
He doesn't answer, which is a little strange since he usually loves their banter just as much as she does, but she's willing to let it go until he leans down to deposit her on the bed and his face is bright red.
"Are you blushing?" This is fantastic. She scrambles up to her knees on the bed and leans in close.
"No!" His ears color even more at his denial and Darcy has to bite her lip to stop the excited squeal from escaping.
"You are! You are totally embarrassed by a little friendly groping!"
"Shut up." He rolls his eyes, obviously realizes the futility of expecting her to listen to him and strips off his shirt instead.
"Mmmmm." Darcy totally can't help the appreciative sound that escapes her as she checks out his bare chest. Clint isn't huge like Thor, but he's cut.
Clint looks deeply torn between embarrassment and preening. Darcy reaches out a hand to trace the curves of his pecs. He catches her hand in his and holds it against his chest so that she can feel his heart beating.
"Are you sure?" he asks. "I mean, really sure, cause I gotta warn you, I'm not exactly undamaged goods. I've done a lot of stuff I can never tell you about, the docs tell me I have PTSD, and my job is... well, I'm a totally non-powered human with a bow going into battle with a Norse god, the Hulk, and a guy in robot armor." He's smiling a little lopsidedly, but Darcy can see the worry in his eyes.
Darcy sighs. Talking about emotions is such bullshit. "I'm the adopted child of a Jewish professor of mathematics and a lapsed Catholic professor of women's studies. I grew up thinking that it was normal to have arguments about metaphysics at the dinner table. I've never had a relationship last longer than eight months. Most of my ex-boyfriends have cited an off-putting tendency towards sarcasm and emotional distance in breaking up with me. Also, I steal all the covers and will never, ever admit that I snore."
Clint tilts his head to the side as if he's deep in thought, but his greenish eyes are totally amused. "Welllllllll... that's a hard sell, but I think that I can put up with the snoring. If you can put up with my nightmares and general messiness."
"Deal," Darcy says. She gives him her sultriest look and adds, "Now, you want to get back to the ravishing?"
Clint immediately grabs the hem of her shirt and pulls it up over her head. He throws it over his shoulder and pushes his boxers off his hips, kicking them in the general direction of the hamper. He really wasn't kidding about the messy thing, Darcy has noticed. He hooks his fingers into the waistband of the boxers she's wearing and she flops back down onto her back to let him pull them off.
The appreciative look he gives her is gratifying and Darcy takes the opportunity to stretch her arms over her head, arching her back and generally being shameless. She hasn't even finished her stretch when she feels the bed dip under Clint's weight. She opens her eyes to find him kneeling next to her, his hands hovering over her boobs.
"What's the hold up?" She drops her arms and gives a little shimmy, wanting his hands on her more than she's wanted anything in a long time.
Clint shakes his head at her, then lowers his hands just enough to brush his fingers over the dip and curve of her collarbones. He follows the path of bone and skin to her shoulders then down her arms to gather her hands in his. Darcy feels a bubble of something bright and soft burst to life in her chest when he kisses her palms and holds them against his chest for a second before twining their fingers together and swinging one leg over her hips.
He settles their joined hands next to her shoulders and leans forward to give her a toe-curlingly intense kiss.
Darcy chases his mouth with hers as he pulls away, but there's only so far she can chase him with her hands still gently pinned by her shoulders. Darcy huffs and pouts as she flops back down.
Clint's eyes glint wickedly up at her as he starts nibbling his way down her neck. "Something you wanted?" he asks, his lips tickling her neck as he talks.
Darcy wiggles as much as she can in her current position. "Someone in this bed is being a total tease."
"Now why would you say that?" Clint asks innocently, plucking at her nipples with his lips and tongue.
Darcy makes an incoherent but convincing argument for him being a total tease as he works on her nipples until she's squirming and moaning. He looks smug when he sits back, his mouth wet and his eyes sharp with desire. Smug is a good look on him, but Darcy is pretty sure she prefers him dazed with lust. She swallows a couple of times to get her voice back to something approaching normal. "You should stop dicking around already and fuck me."
Clint's hands clench on hers for a moment and he sways forward, dropping his head down to meet her mouth when she leans up. It hurts her neck to hold her head up like this, but there's no way she's going to stop kissing him when he's got his tongue moving against hers and she can feel how hard he is against her stomach.
He's moving his hips in little pushes, rubbing the head of his dick in circles on her skin. Darcy wants her hands free, wants to be able to touch all of his hot, smooth skin. She shakes her hands free of his and fists her fingers in his short hair, pulling him down until she can lie back and feel his weight on her.
Clint makes a desperate sounding noise into her mouth and shifts his hips until he's between her legs. Darcy wraps her legs around his waist and has to resist the strong urge to use that leverage to pull him right inside of her.
Clint makes a strangled groaning noise and drops his forehead onto the pillow next to her head. "Fuck. Condoms."
"Condoms, fuck," Darcy agrees. It takes her lust-hazed mind a couple of seconds to catch on to the problem. "Oh! I picked some up."
"Where are they?"
"Bathroom medicine cabinet."
"Fuck, too far!" Clint moans. "Are there any--"
"In the night stand? Worth a try," Darcy gasps as she stretches across the bed and scrabbles for the handle of the bedside table. Clint takes the opportunity to start nibbling down her side toward the dip of her waist. "Not helping."
Clint nips the swell of her hip in response. Darcy renews her scrabbling efforts to open the drawer. "Got it!" She holds up a handful of condoms victoriously, shoving them at him.
"Those weren't there yesterday," Clint says, then shakes his head. "I don't care. I take back every bad thing I've ever said about Tony Stark. Well... most of them."
"Enough talking, more fucking," Darcy says, flopping onto her back and watching greedily as Clint rips the condom package open and starts rolling one onto his cock. She makes grabby hands at him the second he's done, not even caring that she probably looks ridiculous. He moves into her arms, resting his weight on one hand and using the other to guide his cock into her.
She tips her head back, moaning lowly at the stretch of her body around him. She hasn't had sex in just over a year and didn't exactly feel comfortable bringing any toys into a place where Tony Stark probably had cameras everywhere, so the feeling is just on the right side of too much.
"Oh, fuck. Darcy." Clint shudders above her, flexing his hips to get as deep as he can into her. He buries his face in her neck, breathing hotly against her skin and very obviously restraining himself from leaving a hickey the size of Texas.
"Fuck me," Darcy moans. Clint pulls back until the head of his cock is barely inside of her and then slams all the way in. Darcy groans deeply, throwing her head back against the pillow. Clint is hot and hard and perfect inside of her. She buries one of her hands in his short hair, the other scratching her short nails down the back of his neck and onto his shoulder.
Clint gasps and bites her neck, so Darcy scratches his back again, which makes him fuck her even harder. It's like a feedback loop of awesome fucking.
Clint grabs her hips in his hands and does some kind of sex-ninja move that ends up with him on his back and her straddling him, still fucking. Darcy is kind of curious if they teach sex-ninja moves in SHIELD training, but that's a conversation for another time. She braces her palms on his chest and kneels up, using the leverage to get his cock exactly where she wants it, slamming into her G spot. She's suddenly on the edge of coming, tightening down on Clint's cock as the pressure builds and builds and finally breaks.
"Oh yeah, right there--oh fuck, Clint!" Darcy is barely aware of yelling as the orgasm rolls through her, all of her muscles locking up for a measure of eternity before turning to water. She collapses against his chest, unable to stop the small, helpless noises she makes every time he thrusts into her. She tucks her face into his neck and attaches her mouth to his skin, trying to muffle herself.
All it does, though, is transmit the vibrations of the deep sounds Clint is making directly to her bones. His hands clamp down on her hips, holding her still as he fucks up into her. She's going to have bruises from his grip and he'll probably be horrified at himself, but she knows she's going to stare at that shit every morning in the mirror until they fade. She sucks on his skin, craving the taste of his skin. She's vaguely aware she's leaving a very visible mark on him, but she can't bring herself to care.
Clint thrusts up, hard, one last time and holds himself inside her, his hips making tiny hitching motions as he comes. Darcy shudders, her body tightening down on his in response, and she pulls her mouth back before she bites him. He melts down into the bed with a muttered, "oh holy fuck," his grip on her hips loosening to a caress.
Darcy snuggles down onto his chest, waiting for her heart to slow down. She lies there with her head pillowed on his shoulder as their breathing slows in tandem. After a few minutes Clint mutters, "Condom," and Darcy makes a face at the feeling as they separate. She settles back into the pillows and listens to the quiet noises Clint makes as he pads into the bathroom to dispose of the condom.
Her body feels all happy and loose. Darcy stretches luxuriously, enjoying the feeling of having been well and truly fucked.
"You look adorable," Clint says.
Darcy opens her eyes, not having even realized they'd closed, and blinks at him. She makes grabby hands in his direction. "Come cuddle."
"Going back to sleep?" Clint asks, sliding back into bed and arranging the sheets over them.
Darcy makes a quiet humming noise. "Sleepy time now."
"Sounds good." Clint wraps his arms around her and kisses her on her bare shoulder. "I love you."
"Love you too," Darcy murmurs as she drifts off into sleep.
Natasha, Jane, and Pepper are about fifteen minutes late, which doesn't surprise Darcy since she's already working on the damage report forms from the Central Park Zoo incident. Apparently Loki had gotten bored sometime that morning and decided to turn all of the zoo animals into their Ice Age equivalents and set them free. Darcy had never heard of the giant short-faced bear before this afternoon, but the news channel footage of Cap punching out a twelve-foot tall bear is now engraved on her memory.
"Sorry I'm late," Natasha says, sliding into the booth across from Darcy.
"No problem, I figured you might be. Pepper already called and she and Jane will be here in a while." Darcy saves the report she's working on and puts the tablet away in her purse. "Margarita time? I already ordered the giant nacho platter."
The bar they're sitting in is... not really a bar, exactly. Well, it looks like a bar, down to the faintly sticky wooden tables and vintage Hamms Beer sign, but it's in the Avengers' Tower and entirely owned and run by SHIELD. Director Fury had apparently decided, after a few near-misses involving off-duty SHIELD agents getting chatty while drunk, that it was safer to have his agents drinking at an establishment where everyone, including the wait staff, had security clearance.
Once their drinks arrive, Natasha tells Darcy about the events of the afternoon, culminating with, "So that's when Fury had to tell Thor that he couldn't allow him to keep a smilodon as a pet."
"He wanted to keep a saber-toothed tiger as a pet?"
"He said it reminded him of his mother's cats. Apparently the smilodon was almost as big."
Darcy almost chokes on her blue raspberry blended margarita. "I'm sure Jane would've loved that. Can you imagine the litter box?"
The nacho platter arrives then and they're distracted by cheese-covered deliciousness for a while.
"So you're doing what now?" Darcy asks, swirling her straw around in her half-melted margarita.
"Director Fury wants the Winter Soldier. He's either immortal or in possession of some sort of cryogenic preservation device, so the Captain and I have been tasked with retrieving him." Natasha finishes her margarita and waves the waitress over for a refill.
"Is Steve okay?" Darcy has noticed an edge of… something happening with Steve ever since the rescue mission last month.
"He is." Natasha seems convinced of this. "He is worried about what happened to his friend, but knows he can't trust him."
"Poor fucking Steve." Darcy can't imagine having to come to terms with losing everyone, only to find out your best friend has become sort of immortal assassin super-villain.
Natasha hums in agreement as she picks through the nacho platter, looking for the perfect chip. "The Captain is much more vulnerable than his appearance would suggest."
No fucking shit, Darcy thinks. For all his huge, beefcake-ness, Steve is a squishy marshmallow on the inside. "Is he talking to anyone about all this?"
"He refused the counselor SHIELD offered, but--" Natasha breaks off and, if she were anyone else, Darcy thinks she'd be blushing.
"But?" Something occurs to her. "Please tell me he's not taking advice on how to deal with things from Tony Stark."
Natasha laughs and drains this drink as well. "No. No. I've--He's asked my opinion on several things and I've answered the best I could."
Darcy signals for refills before Natasha can. "That's good. I was afraid he was letting everything bottle up."
"I've been trying to help him out with adjusting. I know what it's like to have your entire world change suddenly without your consent." Darcy is horribly curious about the backstory on that, but Natasha has the expression on her face that Darcy has learned means that a conversational tangent is over.
"So," Darcy says, watching Natasha steadily demolish her third margarita. "It seems like you and Steve have gotten... close."
"If the question you're dancing around is whether the two of us are having sex, the answer is yes." Natasha rolls her eyes. "You Americans, always so prudish about sex."
"Well, I kinda figured that when I saw Steve with a hickey. Either it was you or Tony's man-crush had finally gotten out of control."
Natasha snorts. "Don't be ridiculous. Tony knows that Pepper would murder him."
"True enough." Darcy and Natasha clink their margarita glasses together, laughing.
Darcy is thinking about letting it go, but she's never been good at resisting curiosity. "So, you and the Winter Soldier had a thing together a few years ago, huh?"
Natasha shrugs elegantly. "We had a fling during a job in Prague. It was the height of foolishness to get involved while on assignment, but he was... compelling. I figured we'd never see each other again."
"That's gonna make things kind of awkward."
Natasha tilts her head to the side and gives a Mona Lisa smile. "Perhaps. Perhaps not." Evidently not about to explain what she means by that, Natasha raises her eyebrows at Darcy. "So, how are things with Clint? Is he being good?"
"Oh, yeah." Darcy can't help her salacious tone. Thinking about Clint brings it out in her. Besides, weird or not, it's not like Natasha doesn't know just how good Clint can be.
"He'd better be," Natasha says a little ominously, and Darcy is suddenly reminded that Natasha used to scare the shit out of her. "Oh, look, there are Pepper and Jane."
Jane is wearing jeans, boots, and a plaid shirt that is so large Darcy suspects she stole it from Thor. Pepper clicks along behind Jane in her usual exquisite heels and perfectly stylish businesswear.
Jane slides into the booth next to Darcy. "It's my fault that we're running late. Pepper had to drag me out of the lab."
Darcy grins at her. "I'm shocked."
Pepper sits next to Natasha and elegantly sneaks a nacho. "So, what have we missed?"
Natasha's smile is a bit sly when she calls the waitress back over and tells her to bring a bottle of Partida tequila, four shot glasses, and a whole mess of chicken tacos.
A year ago, if anyone had told Darcy she was going to be having drinks with Jane Foster, the Black Widow, and Pepper Potts at a bar secretly owned by SHIELD, she would have laughed in their faces. And then asked what they were drinking.
But what the hell, this is her life now. And it's pretty fucking awesome.
Thank you to everyone who has given us feedback, kudos, and encouragement during the writing of this story. This story would probably not exist without your enthusiasm and cheerleading.
We know that there are some loose ends (Natasha/Bucky/Steve-type loose ends) left at the end of Gift of Asylum, but that's a story of its own and one we are not going to be writing immediately, if ever. (Though if we did write it, it would be titled What the Hell, Why am I Not Dead, and What the Fuck is Up With this Robot Arm: The Winter Soldier Story.)
Thanks, guys. You are all our favorites.