There was nothing, Darcy Lewis decided, that couldn't be solved with tequila.
A near-death experience? A heartbroken boss? A complete reordering of your perspective on the universe? The wrongful seizure of portable music devices?
Yep, tequila could make all of that better. It could do what neither a little exercise nor a whole lot of chocolate could.
Darcy had sped out of Puente Antiguo at midday, inexplicably claustrophobic at the idea of staying in Jane’s empty research lab another minute. She thinks they -- well, Thor, anyway -- has an agreement with that irritating Man in Black, and that means the feds should be returning everything. But Darcy supposed they had bigger fish to fry -- news crews from as far away as New York had blanketed what was left of the town, and government suits in the movies always seemed to want to suppress that shit.
She, Jane and Erik had spent yesterday pitching in around town. Thor’s freaky, plus-sized Iron Man had done a number on Puente Antiguo. And Jane seemed to need to stay busy, and, to be fair, their help was needed.
But Jane was still scarily silent. When Darcy had asked for the truck keys late this morning, she hadn’t even launched into her usual speech about obeying traffic laws, filling up the gas tank and not picking up hitchhikers. (Which Darcy had totally not ever done, and she resented that it was part of the lecture. She carried a Taser, for crying aloud. She knew how to be careful.) Jane, head buried in her notebook and surrounded by reams of scribbles, had thrown her the keys without a second look.
Darcy wasn’t even sure if she was allowed to leave. The guy who worked at the pet store had told her a suit had told him everyone should stick around town for now.
But Darcy was having none of that. This was America, damn it. She could go where she wanted -- it was in the Constitution. And, okay, so maybe the suits didn’t have a firm grasp on constitutional rights -- they certainly wouldn’t know the Fourth Amendment if it pinched them in the ass -- but they already had her iPod, and she had to draw the line somewhere.
And she was drawing it with a very large credit card bill soaked in margaritas. Twelve dollars may be the most she’s ever paid for a single drink in her life -- hey, she was a college student -- but the bartender wasn’t being stingy with the tequila. And Darcy honestly didn’t think she’d ever be able to drink a watery margarita at Applebee’s ever again. Because, wow. Who knew they were supposed to taste like this?
Clint Barton rolled his neck slightly as he wondered if this day would ever end.
He hadn’t complained when Coulson had nodded his head at the girl speeding by in a beat-up pickup. A chance to get out of picking up debris and taking cost estimates for another afternoon? He had smirked at his partner from yesterday, tossed him a jaunty wave and scrambled into the nearest SUV before the other man could complain to Coulson in time to stop him.
Of course, that had been nearly six hours ago, and the subject showed no signs of leaving. Actually, judging by the number of glasses he’s seen delivered to her table, he’s not quite sure she should leave anyway.
Clint had followed her the short ride into Santa Fe and then nearly lost her in traffic. He had then spent several hours tramping around narrow sidewalks that offered few places to hide as she wandered in and out of art galleries and shops. He was relieved when she finally stopped for a bite to eat, mildly ashamed to realize how unused to the altitude he was. He was getting soft. As she sat outside with her burrito, he kept her in his sights while he people-watched -- he was pretty sure he even saw Gene Hackman -- from the plaza across the street.
Then she had moved to this patio bar -- the view was fantastic; he had to give her that -- and started to mainline margaritas. Clint had been nursing a beer for the last hour to fit in, but he was starting to feel distinctly out-of-place as the tiny place started to fill up. Soon, people were going to want to sit at his table -- and hers -- so he needed to decide if he wanted to break cover.
After eyeing the three touristy-looking guys who were watching Darcy with far too much interest in their eyes, Clint mentally shrugged. He waved the waitress over and sent over another one of the ridiculously expensive drinks the girl had been downing. What the hell; he’d expense it.
But he started to think it wasn’t it his best idea when he caught her eye after the waitress pointed him out. Yeah, he’d been trailing her all day, but he hadn’t *really* looked at her yet.
And he was far too old to be buying a girl her age drinks. He really didn’t want to know what the waitress thought of him at this moment.
But he smiled at the girl anyway and gestured to the empty chair next to him. She bit her lip -- and she needed to not do things like that; he was *working* -- and then walked over after throwing a sidelong, almost worried glance at the three guys one table over. His smile turned genuine -- this one was smarter than she looked.
“Hi,” she said cheerily. “I’m Darcy.”
Okay, maybe she could stand to be just a little more cautious.
Darcy had not thought this day out. All she wanted to do was get the hell out of Puente Antiguo and clear her head. But she was suddenly realizing that her method -- so many drinks she’d actually lost count but was pretty sure only numbered four, okay, maybe six -- meant she probably needed to figure out a plan for tonight.
That left three options -- more abuse to her poor credit card, calling Erik, or suckering some guy into taking her home.
Taking her home to Puente Antiguo, that is, not to his home. Well, probably. No, definitely. Maybe.
But she really liked the look of this guy, and that wasn’t just the tequila talking. He had a lady-killing smile, but it wasn’t because he was smooth -- that was just the way he smiled. Darcy leaned over, resting her chin in one hand.
“So, Clint, you visiting Santa Fe?”
“Something like that,” he answered. “It’s... not what I expected.”
“That’s the charm of it,” Darcy told him earnestly. “You think it’ll be like, cowboy hats and cactus everywhere, but instead it’s just this very chill little city in the mountains where no one cares if you live in flannel.”
“I love it here,” she continued. “If I ever win a million dollars, I’m so totally buying a house here. And a dog. Everyone has a dog here.”
Darcy truly loved it here -- all the adobe, the utter lack of tall buildings so you could actually see the sky, the dusky Southwestern decor and the maze of streets that randomly curved and changed names.
Clint just laughed, in turn slightly leaning in to her.
“A million dollars?”
“At least. You should see how much houses go for up here,” Darcy said seriously -- well, as seriously as one could be after having ingested plenty of tequila. “It’s a tragedy.”
“I came up here -- well, near here -- for an internship,” she continued. “I applied for every internship I could find within a 45-mile radius. Apparently, I should have been a science or engineering major -- I only got accepted into one,” she finished with a sad sigh, knowing she could be blowing her shot with this guy by disclosing that she was still in college.
Instead he laughed easily. “You applied for internships based on where you wanted to live for the summer?”
“Like there’s a better way?” she waved her hand dismissively. Her method made perfect sense. “I did the same when I picked colleges, although it means I’m at the school with the creepiest mascot in the country.”
“Which is?” Clint was smiling easily at her, like he was genuinely amused. That sort of thing could go to a girl’s head.
“The Horned Frog,” she answered, wrinkling her nose. “It doesn’t sound so bad, but you should see the thing at games. Creepy, buggy eyes and this really disturbing, bumpy head. It’s not something you want to meet on a dark night.”
Seriously, Darcy wanted to know who thought that mascot was a good idea. It was the stuff of nightmares.
“Wait -- TCU? You wanted to live in Texas?”
“What? I like purple,” Darcy said defensively. Creepy mascot aside, that purple was a distinctive and totally kickass school color. And Fort Worth wasn’t so bad, really. I mean, it’s not like she lived in Dallas.
“How do you pick where to live?” Now she was just fishing for information on him, but maybe he wouldn’t notice.
“I’m the wrong guy to ask,” Clint replied, draining his beer. “I sort of fell into every job I’ve ever had. I grew up, well, performing, but that was just the family business, so to speak. I was something of an athlete, but that doesn’t really take you anywhere unless you play a team sport. So I joined the military. Now I just do what others tell me to do.”
Darcy ran her eyes up and down his form speculatively. He certainly looked fit, and it did explain the confidence -- she had yet to meet an athlete -- or a military guy, for that matter -- who didn’t carry himself as if he was the greatest thing since the invention of Tang.
The patio was filling up rapidly now and becoming almost uncomfortably crowded. This was no way to pick someone up, Darcy decided, as someone jostled her hard enough that her arm slammed into the table.
“Hey, Clint,” she said after she tipped the rest of her margarita goodness down her throat. “You feeling lucky tonight?”
“I think we have different definitions of ‘lucky,’” he told Darcy in a serious voice about 20 minutes later.
“C’mon, this is the only nearby casino I haven’t been to yet. My boss hates these places,” she laughed, pulling on his arm as they walked away from his SUV. “Besides, how else am I going to win my million dollars so I can buy my house?”
“You’re ridiculous,” he told her, wrapping an arm around her waist. Hey, it was just his job, not that loved feeling her nestle into his side. “Nobody wins money at these things.”
Darcy just looked balefully up at him and rolled her eyes. “Pfft. I’m awesome at cards. You’ll see.”
And he did see. Clint wasn’t quite sure how she did it, but she definitely won more than she lost. He fed some quarters into a noisy slot machine to humor her, but he was content just watching her wheedle money out of gaming tables. She looked absolutely ridiculous in her chunky sweater, heavy glasses and combat boots, but Clint thought it probably worked to her advantage, especially once they hit the poker tables.
“You’re amazing,” he told her two hours later at the bar. “How did you know he was bluffing?”
Clint was a trained S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but poker, in his opinion, was one of the world’s great mysteries.
“I just did,” Darcy shrugged. “Plus, I had a good hand, and I knew it was good enough to take a chance on.”
He raised an eyebrow at the shot glass that she pushed in front of him.
“Drink up,” she instructed him. “I’m way ahead of if you count the hotel bar from earlier.”
Clint didn’t feel that was a fair point -- that was hours ago, and she had shaken that off already. And he was working. Well, sort of. Technically.
He glanced at the shot and then back at her slightly pouty mouth. She fluttered her eyelashes at him, and Clint couldn’t help but laugh.
Let’s face it: He was long past “just” working. And he could handle one drink.
The problem was, one drink blended into two and then four and then he lost track. But he had a sinking feeling they should have stopped at least two drinks ago.
She had brushed her fingers against his lips and then tugged him up from his chair. The next thing he knew, she was getting a room key from the hotel from desk and, oh my God, this wasn’t happening.
“Darcy--” he tried one more time once she put the room key in the door, but this time she simply cut him off with a kiss.
And he was gone. She was warm and soft and lush. She tasted -- like he probably did -- of liquor, but also of something sweet.
Of course she fucking tasted sweet.
Clint shouldered the door open, wrapping Darcy close to him. They stumbled over to the bed, hardly noticing the heavy wooden furniture in the darkness.
Clint pushed her down by the shoulders before covering her with his body, snaking an arm around her waist and yanking her closer.
He couldn’t get enough of her. There were a million reasons why he shouldn’t be doing this -- the age thing, the S.H.I.E.LD. thing, the not-being-honest-thing, the alcohol thing -- but he was long past listening to reason.
He wanted to hear her scream.
Darcy moaned when his mouth left hers to trail down her throat. He hurriedly yanked off her sweater -- there was just too much damn fabric between them -- and pulled the satiny cups of her bra aside. He suckled each generous breast -- why was she hiding these under that sweater? -- loving the feel of her hands on his head.
“Clint,” she breathed, her hands moving down to pull at his shirt.
He lifted up so she could remove it and watched as she undid the front clasp on her bra and shrugged out of it.
She smiled up at him, and he smiled -- a bit goofily, probably -- back down at her.
He licked a slow path down her torso as he undid her jeans and then sucked hard on the skin where her leg met her hip. Darcy half-screamed, pushing her hips up toward him. Clint slid her pants and underwear off entirely and settled between her legs.
He really needed to know if she tasted sweet everywhere.
This man was making her absolutely crazy, Darcy decided.
His hands, hardened with calluses, rubbed along her stomach and thighs, setting her skin on fire. Each stroke left her skin more sensitive and his mouth --
She shuddered as she felt him circle his tongue around her clitoris, crying out when he sucked on it for one glorious, brief moment.
“Clint!” She was pretty sure she actually saw stars.
Darcy had never felt so alive, so awake, the pleasure cutting through the haze of alcohol.
“Please,” she begged, clutching his shoulders and tilting her pelvis upward. She didn’t quite know what was she was asking for -- more? less? harder? -- just *please* Clint, please.
She felt his breath tickle her as he laughed softly. Clint slipped a finger inside her and curved upward, searching for that. Spot. Right. There.
Darcy moaned and moved her hips, pushing down greedily on his hand as he continued to lick with quick, deep strokes. She felt herself pausing right on the edge, so, so close. Clint added another finger, and she dropped off the cliff, screaming his name and clenching tight on his fingers. He continued to lap at her, unwilling to let her down easily as she quivered underneath his mouth.
“Oh my God,” she breathed, as he starting revving her up again, feeling the pleasure deep inside her start to stir again.
Clint laid soft kisses on the insides her thighs. “Still with me, sweetheart?” he asked.
“You bet,” Darcy answered breathlessly, tugging at his arms in an unspoken request.
Clint slid up the bed to face her, a definite self-satisfied smirk curving his mouth. Darcy wanted to roll her eyes at that but, damn, he had been just as good as he thought he was.
“I hope you don’t think you’re done yet,” she told him before leaning over to kiss him. She could taste herself on his lips and felt a rush of satisfaction to realize that he even smelled like her now.
Clint nuzzled her neck and laughed. “I may never be done with you,” he whispered as he slipped out of his jeans and rolled atop her.
Darcy sighed as he moved to cover her and ran her hands across his muscled chest. She arched her pelvis up impatiently, already needing more of him. She bit her lip as he nudged at her entrance, infuriatingly holding himself back. She pushed up even harder, whimpering as he continued to tease her.
“Clint! Damn it!” Darcy narrowed her eyes and gave a mighty heave at one of his shoulders, tumbling him to the bed. His irritating smirk growing wider as she moved to sit on top of him.
Darcy reached down for his length, lifted herself up and sat, suddenly, down on him. She felt a sharp bolt of satisfaction to see that smirk drop off his face as he slid inside her. She began to rock gently against him, moaning at the feel of him stretching and filling her.
“Darcy,” Clint murmured, clamping his hands to her hips to pull her down on him harder, all teasing gone.
The heat was almost unbearable, and Darcy began to speed up her strokes, one hand wandering up to pinch her nipples.
“Fuck,” Clint breathed as he watched her move on top of him. Darcy could feel the heaviness inside her accelerate as he watched her with that dark gaze, consuming her.
She was close, so very, very close. Darcy lifted up and slammed back down on him faster and faster. She felt Clint’s thumb brush across her clit, once, twice, again and then --
Darcy threw her head back and screamed, her orgasm roaring up and radiating through her as she spasmed around him. Clint hissed and then sat up and wrapped an arm around her to pull her closer.
“Darcy, baby,” he moaned into her neck, licking and biting her. He was going to leave a mark, but Darcy couldn’t make herself care. The only thing that mattered was the feel of him pressed into and along her.
She laughed a little as he spun her around and then tumbled her on her back, never pulling out of her. He was exhilarating. And she would never get enough of the feel of his weight atop her.
Clint grinned down back at Darcy before catching her lips with his.
Unlike sex with any other woman he’d been with, being with Darcy was just fucking fun. Yeah, it was hot, she was gorgeous, and he got the biggest thrill ever out of making her scream. But this wasn’t just sex. There was something else, too -- they were *happy* together. They fit together -- she knew just how to move, knew just how badly he had wanted her draped over him without him having to say a word; she just wanted it, too.
Clint deepened the kiss, satisfaction shooting through him when she moaned into his mouth and wrapped her legs around his back.
He dropped his head down next to hers and tried desperately to grab a hold of his control again. Clint so wasn’t ready for this to be over yet. Over meant dealing with reality and the possibility that she would slap him.
He slowly pushed into her and pulled out even slower, setting an excruciatingly slow pace. Her hot wetness welcomed him each time, and, despite himself, he could feel his breath quickening. Darcy began to arch up to meet his every stroke until he burying himself in her so deep he wasn’t quite sure anymore where he began and she ended.
“Clint,” she moaned in an impossibly sexy breath that nearly made him lose it all right then and there.
He slammed into her even harder, nearly frantic with want, needing her to make that sound again. He kept up the rhythm, lifting one of her legs up and pushing her knee back so he could get a better angle to bury himself even deeper. He tried to hold on, but the feel of her, the sound of her... He was drowning in her, and then suddenly she was crying out, a familiar clenching pulling on him, and that was it for Clint Barton.
He followed her over the edge with a yell, stars exploding behind him.
After a long moment -- he wasn’t exactly sure how long he laid there on top of her; it felt like both too long and not long enough -- he lifted his head and dropped a quick kiss on her lips.
They fumbled under the covers, and he nestled behind her as they settled under the sheets. He wrapped an arm around her, his hand flattening on her stomach.
He would never, ever regret this night -- how could he, when they fit so perfectly together? -- but he needed to figure how to make sure it wasn’t their last. Because Clint couldn’t go without having her again.
Darcy slumped at the Jane’s kitchen table, half-heartedly poking at a Pop Tart. She hadn’t eaten much yesterday, but she just couldn’t quite find it in herself to dig in now. Her stomach roiled, and while she would like to blame it on the alcohol binge of yesterday, she knew that fluttery feeling had everything to do with the ridiculously hot guy she had left at a hotel room nearly an hour away.
So sue her -- she had panicked and dashed out, getting the hotel to arrange transportation to Santa Fe so she could pick up Jane’s truck and run back home. It had seemed like a good way to calm her nerves -- she needed to regroup and get her shit together. Because obviously she was freaking out because she had slept with a perfect stranger, not because she just had the most amazing sex of her life with a guy she didn’t even know. Obviously, she told herself.
But, deep down, Darcy was pretty sure that she would never see Clint again, and somehow that was only making the panicky feeling grow worse.
“Darcy!” Jane hurried into the building, her moping stage clearly over and, apparently, turning into a madcap-let’s-get-shit-done phase. “What are you doing just sitting around? We’re expecting our things back today, and I want to get to work right away.”
“Darcy?” Jane peered at her and then sighed loudly. “Please tell me you didn’t stay out all night drinking. I need you functional today. We have a wormhole to build.”
Darcy groaned, resting her head on the table. Oh God, just kill her now. Why couldn’t Jane be a depressed robot for just one more day?
She stayed there, waving off Erik and his chiding glance, until she heard vehicles pulling up to the lab. Because she could get smashed and sleep with incredibly sexy strangers if she wanted to, damn it, and she didn’t need a lecture about it.
As soon as she heard voices -- including Jane’s, loud and excited -- Darcy reluctantly drained the rest of her coffee and chucked the half-eaten Pop Tart in the trash. It was cold now, anyway.
She moved over to Jane’s desk and dubiously looked at the clutter. It looked like the papers were haphazardly arranged in piles, and she didn’t want to mess up whatever system Jane may have going on, however unorganized the mess may look.
Instead, she started moving chairs to the walls so they were out of the way. Hopefully, Jane could get the delivery guys to arrange everything how she liked; Darcy really didn’t feel like interior decorating today. Actually, she didn’t feel like doing much of anything today, except maybe walking out into the desert and screaming in frustration. Why the hell had she run out of that room this morning?
“That box can go over there,” Jane was saying as she walked in. “Hey, Darcy, go outside and see if you can find my computer. I need to get that set back up right away.”
Darcy peeked in the box a man in black, military-style fatigues was carrying in. “Is my iPod in there?”
“Out, Darcy,” Jane answered firmly, that brisk air of let’s-get-shit-done still swirling around her.
Darcy rolled her eyes and walked outside. Because, hey, maybe she could find her iPod while looking for Jane’s computer.
She walked up to the guy who was unloading the back of a black van. Darcy was vaguely annoyed by that -- a whole squad showed up to clean them out, but they only send two guys to bring it all back? Really? -- because she now sees a lot of unpacking in her immediate future.
“Hey, I’m supposed to be looking for a desktop computer --” she started to say. But her tongue got tangled up once the man and his very familiar-looking shoulders turned around.
“Oh, shit,” she said, stupidly.
“Hi, Darcy,” Clint said, looking vaguely uncomfortable. He ran a hand over his head in a clearly nervous gesture.
“Shit,” Darcy said again. Why wouldn’t her brain kick in today? Shit.
“Agent Barton,” the somewhat prissy and unflappable man Darcy remembered Thor called “Son of Coul” came around the side of the van. “Please remember we’re on a schedule here.”
“Yes, sir,” Clint answered absently, still staring at Darcy.
The suit walked off toward Jane’s lab, then cocked his head and paused. He turned around to study the pair of them for a long moment before walking off again.
Darcy blinked and then ran her eyes up and down Clint, last name apparently Barton, and even opened her mouth, but nothing came out. It was disconcerting to see him stuffed inside fatigues when she knew what lay underneath, had run her mouth across those shoulders and felt him on top of her and, okay, it was totally time to stop thinking about that.
“You’re a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent,” she said flatly, just because, well, there was no harm in making sure.
Clint nodded his head and ran his hand over his hair again, making it stick out everywhere more than it already was. “I was going to tell this morning. But you were gone,” he finished in a slightly accusing tone that Darcy didn’t think was fair at all.
Wait, he was “going to tell her?” Why would he -- Darcy narrowed her eyes and walked closer to him, her temper starting to spark. “You knew who I was?”
“Uhhh,” he responded unhelpfully.
“Why would you -- Wait, were you *following* me yesterday?” she demanded, her voice rising. Why else would he have approached her if he knew who she was? He was the one who bought her a drink at that totally cool hotel bar. Oh. My. God.
“Look, Darcy, I --”
“Nuh-uh,” she said firmly. She was right in front him now, five feet and four inches of fury. “I. Don’t. Want. To. Know. I really, really don’t, so you should just stop talking right the hell now. I have a Taser, and I’m not afraid to use it.”
She blinked suddenly and then was furious at herself -- she was *not* going to cry, goddamn it. She took a deep breath and continued in a tight, but quieter, tone. “Jane wants her desktop immediately. Bring that in first.”
Darcy calmly walked back inside, ignoring the burning gaze she could feel radiating from Clint. She ignored Jane’s questions and headed straight for the bathroom. She shut the door, squeezed her eyes and screamed.
Then she splashed some water on face, dried off with a towel and sedately went back outside to completely ignore the very existence of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Clint Barton.
It just wasn’t fair, Clint thought sullenly.
Last night had been so amazing; how was it fair for this day to be so terrible? It had started when he had woken up with an eyeful of blinding sunlight instead of an armful of Darcy and gotten steadily worse from there.
He was in the doghouse with Coulson for not checking in last night, and while being on a supervisor’s shitlist normally wouldn’t bother him.... He kinda liked Agent Coulson. The guy had ice in his veins, and he didn’t mind it when Clint didn’t play the role of Nice Little Yes Man.
There were worse people to work for.
Darcy was understandably furious with him -- he should have told her before, well, certainly before they stumbled into that hotel room and probably before he watched her totally bamboozle that middle-aged man at poker. Although he thinks that, “Hi, I’m Agent Clint Barton,” would probably not have gotten him laid.
Clint tried all afternoon to get Darcy to at least look at him, but she was doing an excellent job of skirting him in a room that wasn’t actually that large. He was trying not to make a scene -- he could feel Coulson watching them and he *really* didn’t want to have his talk with Darcy in front of his boss -- so he let Darcy’s pint-sized boss order him and his partner around.
When everything was finally to her satisfaction, he waited for Coulson to make his goodbyes and exchange final reminders on who to call about satellite access and what they needed to do to secure funding for some gizmo or another. Then he walked up to Darcy from behind and placed a hand on her shoulder.
He couldn’t leave without trying to fix this.
“Clint,” she said in small, sad voice. “Don’t. Please don’t.”
He shut his eyes suddenly, the hurt cutting deep. He turned and walked a half-dozen steps before abruptly wheeling on his feet and going back to her. This time, he didn’t bother to stop a respectable distance behind her. Clint wrapped his arms around her and breathed in her scent. He laid a soft kiss just under her ear and felt a wild flare of hope when he felt her shudder against him.
Clint gently turned her in his arms and framed her face with his hands. “I’ve got a few things to do -- work stuff -- and you’re pissed at me,” he said. He smiled then, ruefully. “And you probably have a right to be.”
He ducked down and kissed her deeply, putting everything he felt into it. He ran his tongue along hers, delved her mouth for one long, amazing moment and then gently sucked on her lower lip as he broke the kiss.
“Atlantic City. New Year’s Eve -- the poker room at Casear’s,” he told her. “I’ll be waiting.”