Darcy's owned the taser about four years, so it's not like the big bad world is a surprise.
But then she came to the desert. And the big bad universe? Okay, yes, that wasn't something she'd counted on. Stars are shiny, really complicated when you're actually digging into them (or Jane is, and you're holding the bucket), and waaaaay up there. Until stuff falls out of them and into your life. Then you come to grips with the fact that you can put the god of thunder on his ass, but enormous metal guys who spew exploding fire are more than likely only the start of what you can't take down.
To say that's a perspective shifter is a definition of "understatement" that Webster will never get.
Still, it's not like that kind of thing is going to happen every day, right?
"So much extra credit," Darcy hisses at Jane, because it needs to be said, but anything louder would definitely get the attention of the two tall, dark and wolf-like guys down there in the lab. It's too bad the ladder to the roof isn't one of those self-retracting fire escape ones. Of course, these things can probably jump over small buildings or something, and SHIELD still hasn't agreed to turn her phone into a taser. That's in her bag, which is in the drawer, which is right behind Thing 2. So this officially sucks.
Jane just shushes her, then winces, hard, as Thing 1 lifts their largest photometer, peers at it, and chucks it over its shoulder. "Damn it," she mutters, moving back from the hatch and jabbing at the device in her hand another few times.
"Seriously, did they give us one with bad batteries? Can we get our taxes back?"
The look she gets for that really was called for. She shrugs. But instead of responding, Jane leans to the side, her eyes narrowing.
Darcy freezes. What? she mouths.
Jane looks uncertain enough that Darcy dares to turn slowly toward the town behind them. Most everything is still under repair from when fire-spewing metal guy dropped by, which does a pretty good job of obscuring the dark blob moving quickly from packed sand to smooth street. From up on the roof, though, it's soon easy to tell that it's one of those black SUVs, and just as obvious that it isn't a battalion. It had better not only be Coulson and his government-sanctioned sarcasm.
The truck stops a block away, and a guy gets out and starts running low and fast along the line of buildings. No one comes out after him. Darcy checks, a couple of times.
Jane's mouth is open, looking as confused as Darcy feels, which is not comforting at all. Then the guy ducks around to the left and reaches to take something off his back that turns into a—
"Bow and arrow?" Darcy pulls her phone back out of her pocket, but it's too late to snap a picture for confirmation, he's already out of sight. "Oh my god," she says, "SHIELD sent us Robin Hood."
A high giggle escapes Jane before she slaps a hand over her mouth.
Then there's a bellow, and they both jump. A crash makes Jane close her eyes with a pained expression, and the arm Darcy puts around her is only partly for comfort—using it to get them as far away from the hatch as possible also sounds like a good idea. A human (maybe) shout from the other side of the lab leads to another bellow, and then a howl of pain that cuts off suspiciously short. Darcy decides right then that there is nothing they could pay her that would compensate for cleaning the lab after this. That's what top-secret flunkies are for.
There's silence for just long enough that Darcy takes hold of one of the chairs, ready to start swinging at anything. Jane's face goes serious and she's reaching for the other when a voice calls out, "Friendly! Coming up!"
Darcy keeps the chair, but the head that appears at the hatch is entirely human, and Jane immediately runs toward it.
He pulls himself up fully onto the roof with arms almost as impressive as Thor's, which is enough to be distracting. "Handled, yes, ma'am."
"'Handled,'" Darcy says. The guy quirks an eyebrow at her, then glances at her grip on the chair and both eyebrows rise. She calmly lets go of it and tugs her sweater back into its proper position.
Jane clearly doesn't care what exactly "handled" means. She slips around him and starts down the ladder, and he turns toward her with one hand up, warning, "I wouldn't go—"
"It's the only way down," she says without stopping.
He grimaces with an audible sigh.
"She'll be more disturbed by whatever they broke," Darcy tells him. "And jumping off the roof really isn't an option. Tom tried it once. Messy. Loud."
The hand he brings up to cover his cough doesn't quite hide the way his mouth curled. Reluctantly intrigued by the continued hints of human behavior, Darcy looks at him more closely, ignoring the sounds of irritated distress filtering up from below.
"Soooo, are you Robin Hood? I understand dropping the green—the black works—but where's the hat? And the tights?"
He blinks, then scrubs a hand through his short hair. "Ah, no. And please don't ever suggest that to them."
"Darcy! Call Eric! God, this will..."
Jane's voice fades out as she likely heads off to examine another broken piece of equipment. Darcy looks at the hatch, then back at the guy. "Should I call Eric? Or do you have any pull with Coulson?"
Suspicion narrows his eyes. "You want SHIELD to replace everything?"
"Damn straight. And get us a better panic button."
"In return for...not suggesting that I'd look good in tights," he says slowly.
She gives his legs a good up and down, letting herself enjoy the moment, and the skin-tight fit. "Yeah, you probably would." He lets out a half laugh, but she shakes her head. "No, it'll be in return for not mentioning to Jane that you might have broken some of that very expensive and irreplaceable stuff down there."
Enlightenment dawns, and she was right, not standard-issue flunky, because he nods and sticks out his right hand. "Understood. Clint Barton, Avengers Initiative."
She takes it, hers feeling very secure in that grip. "Darcy Lewis, Thor retrieval unit."
He grins. "Okay. Let's see what we can make SHIELD do."
What SHIELD could do ended up involving a lot of bits and pieces that Darcy only recognized because they were the same ones SHIELD had grudgingly returned—in bits and pieces, thanks so much—the last time the universe broke into town.
"This really needs to not become a habit," she tells Clint over coffee.
"Meeting like this?" He cocks his head at her. "I thought it was going pretty well."
She shrugs, but doesn't disagree. It was almost the end of the third day after he'd showed up in non-combat clothes with some real flunkies, all the parts, and some seriously outrageous stories that have admittedly made the re-assembling time go faster. Now, though, they're back up on the roof so that Jane can't just point at something else they need to move right then and there. He's been a handy excuse for breaking for sustenance.
"Needing replacements," she clarifies. "It would be a lot easier, I'd think, if nothing got stolen or broken in the first place."
When he doesn't respond immediately, she glances over. He's got the same kind of look on his face as her dad did right before he gave her the taser.
"What?" she asks.
"Since Dr. Foster won't come in to SHIELD—"
"Really no, but it's fun, the way you guys keep trying."
"I'm sure," he says with only a bit of the smirk that she's already getting a kick out of pulling out of him. "But that means that she—you—aren't under the facility's security. So..."
He pauses again, but this time Darcy can guess where he's going. And it isn't that big a deal, she doesn't think. Although it does help that it's coming from Clint and not Coulson, who can make getting a pony seem like it's a punishment.
"We get to keep you? I sure hope you come with money for food. We have to ship it in now, you know."
"I..." He let out a surprised half chuckle. "No, not just me. There'll be a rotating detail. All of whom will come with a stipend for expenses, I promise."
"Cool," Darcy said. She gave him a smile. Clint and some other guys won't replace the town of people who might never return, but they'll be company. Not bad company, either, if he's anything to go by.
"It won't be me sitting around," he warns. "We will be out of sight, for the most part."
"Whatever. We're where the fun is. Or the coffee, anyway."
After a week, Darcy is confused. Which isn't that unusual, but this time it doesn't involve particles or myths.
She's seen three other SHIELD agents on patrol, or whatever they do to be a detail. In fact, she's seen two of them more than once, which means that the rotating is happening. And they've all said hi, stopped by for water or coffee, depending on whether it was high noon in freaking Arizona or the dawn was just breaking. They're nice enough, and knowing they're out there actually takes away some of the tension Darcy hadn't realized was around.
But she hasn't seen hide nor hair of Clint since the last day on the roof.
"'For the most part,' he said. Sure, the rest of them meet that description," she tells Jane.
Jane hmms, but doesn't take her focus off the charts laid out on the table between them. When Darcy sighs loudly and kicks her chair around into a spin, Jane finally looks up. "Maybe he's better than they are at staying out of sight."
"He's got a giant bow," Darcy points out. "How stealth is that?"
A throat clears above them.
Darcy and Jane go still.
Resigned, Darcy quietly asks, "Him?"
Jane's glances up at the roof hatch they always leave open in the afternoon to let the heat escape, and the corner of her mouth kicks up as she says, "Yep."
"I wouldn't say no to some of that coffee," Clint calls down.
Darcy rolls her eyes and yells back, "You know where the stove is."
Jane is kind enough to smother her laugh.
An hour after sunset it's cool and dark enough that Jane takes the truck out for more readings. That's when Clint comes down the ladder.
Darcy ignores him as he walks over and pours himself a mug of lukewarm coffee. She continues to ignore him when he comes up to peer at the graphs and photos they have pinned to the board.
It's harder to ignore a sweaty, muscled guy when he's sitting on your desk. Go figure.
"Are you up there every day?" she asks as she circles another number Jane might want to know about.
"Most of them," he confirms. "When I'm not on top of the diner. Or the gas station. The sight lines are best here, though."
Three questions run through Darcy's head, but when she finally looks up and meets his eyes, she's decided that the one that most needs answering is, "How?"
Clint doesn't pretend to not understand. Just nods at one of the many metal supports that allow the building to have its open structure. "I climb."
She narrows her eyes at him. "When somehow no one is looking out the glass walls?"
"I'm fast," he shrugs.
And okay, that pretty much leads to the second, bigger question. "Why?"
That makes him look away, but Darcy doesn't feel any satisfaction. Three days and some stories that were probably made up anyway do not a friendship make, but still.
"Distraction," he finally says. He twists his neck, a quick grimace passing over his face, and sighs. "You could be one."
Darcy tries to cover her surprise by crossing her arms and giving him a cool look. "A distraction?"
His eyes come back to hers, then drop to—oh. It's been a while, there hasn't been anyone worth it in this town, but sure, she could be a distraction. The chill of the desert night is finally sinking in, and normally now is when she would reach for the extra layers she has learned to always keep handy even in the middle of summer. This time, she doesn't, and when she bites her lip, Clint's focus sharpens even more and locks onto her mouth.
She clears her throat and he blinks. "Um, right. Well, as Jane loves to remind me, I have to work a certain number of hours each day. And sometimes night. But not all of them, and you're not always..." Unsure what to call it, she waves a hand in the general direction of the roof. "On guard, or whatever. Right?"
That brings back a hint of the sly grin she's always enjoyed. "I have to sleep, too," he points out.
"Okay, but... Four of you, 24 hours in the day. Even I can do that math."
He opens his mouth, but then pauses and lets out a wry huff.
"What?" she asks.
"I was going to say 'there are rules,' but considering what I know about Coulson..."
She leans forward. "Oooh, seriously, what? Dish."
Clint shakes his head. "You've never met Natasha, have you?"
"Coulson's...girlfriend?" Darcy hazards.
A full bark of laughter tells her, no.
"It would almost be worth risking my head to be there if you ever called her that," Clint says through another laugh. "Just...I'll be fine if he decides to say anything."
"Then, deal?" Darcy sticks out her hand. Clint just looks at it with a confused frown, so she lays it out there. "Working hours are sacred, but we can find out how distracting we can be at any other time. Deal?"
"I'm always going to be on call," he warns.
She tilts her head, curious. "Afraid I'll be too distracting?"
The smile that makes its way across his face this time is nothing but challenge. "Deal," he says, and they shake on it.
Two "dates" never really get anywhere—the first, thanks to Jane (unintentionally, Darcy is almost positive), and the second, thanks to SHIELD (she's not willing to put anything past Coulson) and the universe (which is seriously just fucking with her, she's decided).
But the second, besides making a run for scariest day ever, marks the first time she actually sees Clint in action. And after is when she discovers that the only thing hotter than watching that pinpoint focus is being the target of it.
So, it turns out that distraction isn't really an issue. Apparently they've graduated to "incentive."
It takes a full month, but Jane still catches on sooner than Darcy thought she would have.
"You're always singing along with your iPod," Jane says, "but now you're dancing with it, too."
Darcy feels her cheeks heat. "Really?"
Jane slants her a look. "It actually seems to be improving your focus, so...carry on, I guess."
"Oh wow," Darcy says, eyes wide with faker than fake shock. "Did I just get your blessing to be screwing the help?"
Jane's mouth drops open, and Darcy starts laughing.
"'The help?'" Clint asks that night as he draws his talented fingers down her side and under her shirt.
"Eavesdropping isn't nice, you know," Darcy sighs. Her head tips back when he cups her breast, and she brings her legs up to wrap around his hips. "And what happened to no distractions?"
He grins at her, and then puts his mouth on her through her shirt and bra and—
"Oh my god," she gasps, surprised but not shocked to feel the edge of his teeth. "Okay, that's a better distraction, yes, you win."