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1985

 

Tomorrow, the circus will arrive in Guadalajara. There'll be a parade, which in the current cold snap isn't going to be fun, and they'll be in the city for weeks. Living on a field, sure, but there'll be buildings and cars and trash. The sky always seems smaller in the city, too, with so many lights hitting the clouds and smog until the sky is low over his head and he finds it harder to breathe.

Right now, though, the sky is clear and big, a huge dome curving over him and the whole damn world, hung with stars that are nothing like stage lights. Clint, lying on the roof of his boyfriend's trailer, shifts so his head is cushioned by his arm and idly tries to find constellations.

Ramón, lying next to him, laces his fingers with Clint's, and says nothing. Tomorrow morning, when everyone is awake, it'll be noisy with English and Spanish and circus-slang being shouted here and there. Tomorrow day (and night, and the days and nights after), it'll be loud with the parade and the crowds, with all the cars and the general din of the city.

But right now, it's quiet, with the wide, open sky full of stars and all the possibilities in the world. Even Ramón is still. His hands move, his body tilts this way and that as he talks; Ramón moves in ragged jeans and faded T-shirts like he's never left the stage and is about to leap, grab the trapeze and fly.

Not that the stillness lasts.

Ramón shifts slightly to kiss him, all slow and lingering so they don't disturb anyone, and there's nowhere else Clint'd rather be.

 

1989

 

By some miracle of Army bureaucracy, he and Bobbi got leave at the same time, so they packed up her car and just drove until they felt like stopping. And here they are, on some obscure little beach in the middle of nowhere, listening to the waves and watching the stars. Or, well, Clint's listening to the waves and Bobbi because, spur of the moment roadtrips aside, Bobbi is a girl who likes plans. She's full of them, her mind conjuring them up until they spill out and fill the air with earnest possibilities.

(Not that she'd appreciate being called earnest.)

She's talking about when she gets out, about getting to college, about studying biology or chemistry or maybe both, and Clint's got some idea that this is all supposed to be...

He doesn't know. Romantic, maybe? Beautiful star-sparkling sky, nice beach, his girl spinning visions of the future and maps of how she's going to get there.

But he listens, and the open sky isn't working like it should, because he's finding it hard to breathe.

She gets out next year.

“Marry me,” he says, and Bobbi stops mid-sentence, her mouth still open.

“Huh?”

He's grinning at her because this could work, it could, he doesn't do plans, but this is a brilliant one. “Barbara Morse, will you marry me?”

She says, “Yes,” and she only says, “Yes,” before she reaches over and kisses him, no clever comment or sarcasm like there would be if she caught his true meaning:

Don't leave me behind.

 

2011

 

He can't concentrate on the sky.

It's curved like he's inside a giant globe, all wide and full of stars, but it's just cosmic sleight-of-hand. The stars aren't neatly pressed against a surface but scattered throughout time and space. Probably half of those stars are just illusions, the ghostly aftermath of suns long since destroyed.

Somewhere amongst those stars is Loki. Somewhere amongst those stars are the people who gave him that damn sceptre. He'd settle for just killing Loki, but he wasn't allowed.

Natasha shuts the door of her car with a quiet thump, and he can hear the crunch of her boots as she walks around the vehicle. She leans against the car next to him, hands in her pockets and body slouched. The slouch is deceptive – she could slide into action on a hair-trigger – and that makes it a little easier to breathe.

“Long weekend coming up,” he says eventually. “We could take off.” Properly, not just driving to the nearest rest stop outside San Diego's sprawl.

“We could,” she allows, and he can feel her glancing at him out of the corner of her eye. Then she says, “Clint.”

“I'm fine.” It's automatic, and so blatantly incorrect that even he has to fix it. “I'm better.”

She hums noncommitally, and then moves so her head rests against his shoulder. “Where would we go?”

“No idea,” Clint admits, and the idea pleases him. “Just, you know. Wherever.”

“I'll even let you drive,” Natasha says, voice wry enough that she's putting it on. For him, to make him smile.

It works. “I knew I married you for a reason. Road-trips.”

“I thought it was because I bring you coffee.”

“I'm a complicated guy,” he says with a grin, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. “I can have many reasons.”

That gets a soft laugh and he smiles, presses a kiss to the side of her head, and remembers how to breathe.