"Pint of Stella, right?" Clint says, putting the glass down in front of Darcy before he slides into the booth across from her.
"Yeah, thanks." She smiles and wraps a hand around the cold glass.
"Cheers." He clinks his glass against hers and takes a sip, so she follows suit. The beer is cold and crisp and just right after a long day. She lets herself relax into the worn vinyl of the booth, vaguely wondering when the others are going to show up.
"Sweet Child o' Mine" starts playing and she leans forward so she can be heard over Axl Rose. "I love this song."
Clint grins. "I know. You sang it at karaoke a couple of weeks ago."
She covers her face with her hands. "Oh god, I thought we agreed to never discuss that again."
"But then we couldn't talk about Tony wearing a feather boa and shaking his maracas during 'Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Baby.'"
Darcy groans. "An image I'm still trying to repress."
"Even Fury almost cracked a smile when that hit YouTube," Clint continues, "but I think the best part of the night was Thor tearing it up to 'I Will Survive.'"
"I notice you haven't mentioned you and Steve dueting on 'Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.'"
It's Clint's turn to wince. "It's really hard to say no to him."
"Well, I for one enjoyed your Andrews Sisters impersonation."
"I was going more for Bette Midler."
Darcy's in the middle of a sip of beer and ends up spraying most of it at him when she laughs (the rest goes up her nose and goddamn, it stings).
"Oh my god, I'm so sorry," she says, still giggling as she tries to pat him dry with the tiny, damp cocktail napkins that came with their beers. If she does it for a little longer than is polite, it's only because he's so warm and solid through his black t-shirt. He wraps his hand around hers and lowers it to the table, but he doesn't let go, which is kind of nice, except she's still clutching the tiny, damp napkins.
"I honestly didn't think he had it in him," Clint says, shaking his head.
It takes Darcy a second to follow. "Oh," she says when she gets it. "You obviously haven't seen his movies."
"Oh yeah, before he actually went into combat he made a bunch of propaganda films. He also did USO shows."
He lets go of her hand. "How do you even know that?"
Darcy drops the crumpled napkins on the table and dries her hands off on her pants. "I was a history major before I switched to poli-sci." And also, they'd talked about it a little, though he'd been more embarrassed than proud of it. She takes another sip of beer. "Why do you think I was the one assigned to catch him up on the last seventy years?"
Clint shrugs and finishes his beer. "Another round?"
"Gimme a minute." She tips her glass back and downs what's left. She licks her lips and closes her mouth over the burp that follows, hoping he doesn't hear but resigned to the fact that he probably does, because that's when the music stops for a few seconds and everyone in the bar realizes how loudly they've been talking. He grins, though, so she figures he doesn't care, and pushes her glass across the table to him. "Okay."
By the end of the second pint, she's forgotten that she was ever expecting anyone else to join them.
After the third pint, she says, "I need to leave now, or I'm gonna have to pee before I hit Atlantic Avenue."
"Thanks for the overshare."
"Hey, I work for SHIELD. I'm all about transparency."
It's his turn to snort beer through his nose. "Well, as long as it's your tiny bladder and not the company that's sending you fleeing into the night..."
She grins at him, and it feels really wide and goofy on her face. "Totally not the company."
He grins back, just as goofy. "Okay, then. I'll walk you to the subway."
It's only a couple blocks, but he holds her hand the whole way, and before she heads down the stairs, he kisses her. His mouth is warm and beery, and he's a good kisser--not too sloppy, not too aggressive with his tongue. She thinks they made out after karaoke night, too, but she's a little hazy on the details and since nobody's said anything, she figures it didn't really mean anything. She's only tipsy this time, so she'll definitely remember it--her lips tingle for a couple of stops and she's warm and happy the whole ride home--but she's not going to get her hopes up.
The next time they go out, he takes her to a bar on the Lower East Side.
"The mac and cheese is supposed to be awesome," he says, holding the door open for her, "and the beer selection is great."
Happy hour runs until seven, so the place is pretty packed, and they have to squeeze in next to each other at one of the long picnic tables. Darcy swings a leg over the bench and scoots closer to Clint so she can hear him over the noise. They order the mac and cheese and the Brussels sprouts, and he has a long discussion with the server about the various beers on tap.
Darcy's already made up her mind. "I'll have the Chelsea Blackberry."
Clint grins. "I like a lady who knows what she wants." He orders the porter and they exchange sips of each other's beers while she tells him about changing her major three times (journalism to history to poli-sci) and how she got the internship with Jane that eventually led her to where she is now.
"I needed the credits and there were only a handful of physics majors, all of whom had already tried working with her. She's a little...intense, and I think it freaked them out, because her work was so far out there, you know? They didn't want to hitch their wagons to her star, in case she was wrong."
He hums in agreement; he's an active listener--he makes encouraging noises when she pauses and asks questions when she isn't sure she has anything else to say. "But you weren't intimidated?"
"No, more like, I didn't understand any of it anyway, so the fact that it was super-theoretical instead of just regular-theoretical didn't bother me. It was all numbers on a graph to me, you know? And I liked the idea that she was going to make this breakthrough when all these old white guy scientists were telling her she was crazy."
Their food arrives and they split the two plates.
"This mac and cheese really is good," she says, swallowing down a tasty, cheesy forkful. "So you ran away to join the circus when you were a kid? I didn't think people actually did that." He shrugs and looks away, and she mentally kicks herself. "Sorry. I forget sometimes that just because I've read someone's file doesn't mean they actually want to talk about their stuff."
"No," he says, giving her a rueful little half-grin. "I don't mind telling you about my stuff. I actually want to tell you about my stuff. Which is kind of neat, actually. It's just--" He laughs softly. "I've gotten used to not being able to. A lot of what I've done is--"
"Yeah, that. And it's hard to get involved with civilians. But you're not--you're like, the best of both worlds."
She laughs, surprised and touched. "That is the nicest thing you've ever said to me." She bites into a Brussels sprout, which crunches nicely between her teeth. "Of course, you've also nicknamed me 'Tiny Bladder,' so I think you still have some ground to make up here."
He holds his hands out in a helpless gesture. "It's true."
"Three pints is a lot," she says. "Not to mention all the water I drank to avoid a hangover! And then I had to go all the way to Park Slope on the subway."
"You can always stay over at my place," he says.
She's been leaning in closer to hear him, trying not to get distracted by how nice he smells or the way his mouth looks really soft while he talks, and she thinks she definitely didn't hear that right. She shakes her head and laughs again, a little nervously this time. "We'll see."
He reaches out and cups her cheek, the calluses on his hand rough against her skin, and a little shiver of desire shimmies through her. She shifts a little closer, meeting his kiss this time, the taste of porter dark and rich on his tongue, and then his phone goes off, emergency ringtone.
"Shit." As he jumps up, her phone stars buzzing too. "Come on." He tosses some cash on the table and they head out onto the street to grab a cab.
A black Bentley pulls up instead and the back door opens. "Coulson said you might need a ride," Tony says. "Hop in."
They pile into the car next to him.
"Thanks," Clint says.
Darcy smiles and tries not to think about how disappointed she is that she and Clint aren't going to get to make out in the backseat of a cab before he takes off into danger.
It turns out to be some B-list villain trying to make his bones, which means the Avengers handle it pretty easily, but Clint's still a little banged up the next time Darcy sees him.
"Hey," she says, "I see they let you out of the infirmary."
"It's nothing," he says. "Some dings and bruises couldn't keep me away. " He puts his arm around her shoulders and tucks her up against his side as they head to the bar. It's a nice surprise, and she likes feeling his solid warmth pressed up against her, reassurance that he's really all right. He puts his mouth right up against her ear and says, "But you might have to be the serving wench tonight."
Darcy shivers and covers it with a laugh.
They find a corner table and settle in, Darcy facing the television so she can watch the baseball game.
"The Yankees," he says with a sniff. "You might as well just root for the bad guys."
"You sound like Steve."
"Man's got a point." He frowns around the lip of his glass and then takes a sip of beer.
"You'd like them better if they didn't win as much?"
Clint laughs. "I'd like them better if they didn't win at all. But I'm a Cubs fan, so what do I know?"
Darcy leans close and clinks her glass against his. "Not much about winning, I guess."
"Ooh, sick burn."
It doesn't stop him from kissing her good night, though, and as she rides the subway home, she wonders if there's ever going to be anything more between them than haphazard beery make-outs.
"So, hey, you free tonight?" Clint asks, sitting down next to her in the cafeteria.
Darcy pulls her hair back into a ponytail so she doesn't end up with a mouthful of hair while she eats, and shakes her head. "Sorry. Steve and I are going to the Yankee game."
She smiles excitedly at him. "Yeah, Tony gave me the tickets. Apparently, he only likes to sit in the luxury box, but these are right over the dugout on the first base side."
"And you're taking Steve instead of me?"
Something in his voice makes her look up from her soup, confused. "You hate the Yankees."
"So does Steve!"
"But he hasn't been to the new stadium. I thought it would be cool."
"You could have asked me first. I mean, we've been dating for weeks."
She shakes her spoon at him. "I didn't think you'd be interested." And then the rest of what he said hits her. "Wait, what? Dating?"
"Dating. You know, going out, having a few drinks, getting to know each other." He leans in close, then, gives her a little smug smirk. "Making out."
She stares at him in shock. "What are you, like, thirteen?"
He jerks back, smirk gone. "What did you think we were doing?"
"Beer and make-outs! I don't know." Her chest gets tight and her stomach twists and she can't figure out yet if she's going to laugh or cry. "You never said anything. I figured you had a bad case of the beer goggles or something."
"I didn't think I had to."
"Here's a little bit of advice, from me to you," she says, and her hand shakes a little when she puts her spoon down. "If you want to date me, you have to let me know that's what's going on." She waves a hand a wildly, and he grabs it and kisses it, which means maybe laughing instead of crying. "And anyway, dating is, like, going to dinner and a movie or something, not just hooking up after a night at the bar and then acting like it never happened afterwards."
He huffs a little nervous laugh and shakes his head. "Okay, clearly we fail at dating." He doesn't let go of her hand, though. "Wanna skip right to being a couple?"
It's Darcy's turn to grin smugly. "As long as the sex is good, I'm in."
His laugh this time is loud enough to turn heads. "It will be," he says, leaning in close, his voice low and full of heat. "I promise."
Darcy feels a little thrill run through her. "I can't wait to find out." She picks up her spoon again, takes a mouthful of soup, and then, "But I'm still going to the game tonight with Steve."
"Yeah, sure, whatever." Clint waves a hand. "But I want you to come home to me."
Darcy's answering smile feels ridiculously wide and goofy. "It's a date."