Darcy makes him take the long route.
It's not nearly as frustrating as it could be – traffic at 11am on a Tuesday is still crappy, but it's not 3:30 on a Friday, so whatever. Normally, when they miss the Stark Shuttle to Montauk, he drives hard down the Long Island Expressway until they hit 24. There's something relaxing for him about the direct efficiency of the New York State highways, especially in June. Green trees and tourist luxury cars whipping by and the faint scent of salt water, mixing with the normal summer stink of petroleum and hot concrete.
Darcy, though. She's a fan of the back roads. Well, as 'back road' as any road Long Island has to offer. She'd spent the last four days outlining the marvels of local routes and thoroughfares versus the homogenized monstrosities of modern-day construction – Fuck you, and the tank you rode in on, Eisenhower! – and honestly, the only reason he'd agreed was because she'd been so damn sincere about the whole thing.
It's probably all the time spent with Steve, but Clint's appreciation for sincerity and genuine feeling have gone up in the last few years.
Besides, what was an extra hour or two in the car when they were on vacation?
And they are. On vacation. And going to fucking Montauk. To stay in a ridiculously proportioned house owned by one of his teammates. And wasn't that a mind fuck? Definitely not something he'd seen himself doing when he'd been eighteen. Hell, there were a lot of things he'd seen and done that the Iowa public school system, then circus, then army had never prepared him for. But vacationing in the not-Hamptons? Yeah, he'd never seen that one coming.
Clint can feel the tension in his hands ease, the further down 27 they get. They're out of the tight traffic, truly on Long Island and out of the Burroughs; Darcy has her bare feet on the dashboard, hair whipping in the wind while she sings along to something slow and sweet on the radio. She's got on sunglasses and he can see the dark pink of the straps of her swimsuit through her t-shirt. She's beautiful in the summer sun, and he's sure he looks like a complete idiot, gawking when he should be paying attention to the Prius in front of him.
He loves the picture she makes. Loves that she's here, with him, right now.
"What you thinkin' 'bout, Barton?"
Clint just shakes his head, and turns back to the road. He should be over blushing. He's not. "Happy thoughts, Lewis."
"Perv." Darcy makes a face, but her tone is as warm as the day. "Seriously, though. What's going on in that brain of yours. You're, like, smiling a lot, and I'm not sure I'm okay with that."
He flips her off to hear her giggle, and passes the Prius. "Just happy."
When he looks over again, she's smiling too. Free and open in ways that he really doesn't have the words to describe. And then she's reaching over, wrapping her fingers around his and squeezing. Her grip firm, and warm from the sun and her body.
"Me too." She winks at him and holds up the little notebook she'd been fiddling with since they crossed the Brooklyn Bridge earlier that morning. "Now. What should I put down for you on the list?"
"Seriously? You're making me stop there?"
"Dude, what is your problem with Target? And if you start off on a rant you memorized from Jane, remember, I spent nearly a year with her, and have that crap memorized."
"-homophobic agenda was pretty directly addressed by their stock-holders, like, six years and a majority stock holder buy-out ago. Seriously, Clint, a year."
Snickering, he edged back into the center lane. They were nearing Ilsip, and yeah, say what you want, he knew which battles to pick and which ones to cede. Most of the time. And Darcy's weird and disturbing love affair with Target was not going to be this vacation's Bunker Hill. He was saving that particular designation for movie night. "Just put me down for a case of Dr. Pepper. Tony swears the staff drinks it, but I know he just empties mine out to piss me off."
"And it only took you four years to realize it? Yeesh. Good thing I picked you for your looks."
He swats the side of her bare thigh, laughing as she squeals and nearly drops her notebook. The resulting glare is impressive, as is punch she throws at his bicep.
"Cackle all you want, Barton. The Target list is sacrosanct, and you KNOW this!"
Clint just rolls his eyes and tries to surreptitiously rub his arm. "You are getting entirely too violent. You might want to keep an eye on who you're taking behavioral cues from."
"Please. If I did that, we'd stop hanging out, permanently. Or did you blank out our standing Sunday morning self-defense classes?"
Yeah, that wasn't going to happen. Those sessions were usually the highlight of his week. Though, there had been a lot more highs than lows in his weeks lately. It's a strange realization to have, and a good one. He smirks and relaxes back into his seat, letting the conversation drift, and it's not long before Darcy is twirling her pen, revising her list for the shopping trip to come.
It's odd that he's in such a reflective mood.
Not that he isn't regularly caught up in his own head, but it's strange today. Still, it had been an odd couple weeks. Less in the way of missions and more in the way of physical therapy. He's hit forty pretty hard, but considering his day job, he really shouldn't be all that surprised. His last physical was fine; the latest in a long line of physicals that have all said pretty much the same thing. Great shape, considering his lifestyle.
He has absolutely no idea why it's bothering him so hard today.
Clint sighs and flexes his fingers around the steering wheel, then shrugs the shoulder that's been getting more stiff with inactivity lately. Yeah, he's fucking lying to himself.
He's sitting in a Stark-paid-for SUV, wearing a SHIELD-issued t-shirt, headed to a Stark-owned vacation home with his Avengers-met girlfriend. Like it or not, his life is a patchwork of SHEILD and Stark and The Avengers, and all of that is wrapped up in whether or not he can keep up. And no, he's not stupid enough to think that his friends and girlfriend will dump him if he has to step back. Or retire.
Jesus, he hasn't even thought that word before. Not in relation to himself, at least.
It doesn't help that several of his teammates refuse to age.
He knows it's bullshit to be jealous. And not just because the reality of semi-immortality has been contemplated, debated, and angsted over by pretty much everyone he knows. Steve survived seventy years on ice. Thor is thousands of years old. And Bruce and Natasha... Yeah, he's not drunk enough to really go down that mole tunnel either.
But it's hard being one of the ones left behind. He sees that reflected in Tony, and in Jane. Feels it in his stiff shoulders, and the way Fury keeps dumping more and more recon in his direction.
He takes a deep breath. Draws everything deep into his lungs, and slowly lets it out. He's been putting a lot of this off for a while. Pushing and delaying it until he can run it over in his mind. Looks like this vacation might be time to try and figure some things out.
Clint doesn't jump at Darcy's quick prod, but it's a close thing. "What?"
"Target! Second left!"
She's right. He knows better to get contemplative while driving. It never ends well, even in non-mined areas of the world. "Are you still on about that?"
"Barton, if you don't turn on the blinker in the next block, I'm seriously withholding."
"Please. I know how horny you get around seawater. Pull the other one."
"Condoms are on the list, as is my BC refill. I called it in before we left."
He turns on the blinker, and is rewarded with a longer than necessary, but completely welcome kiss to his temple. He leans into, tilting to face her, just a little, as she pulls away. Her eyes are solemn and bright, so close to him. Gently, she lifts a hand and runs it along the side of his face closest to her.
"It's gonna be okay, you know?" She smiles, a crooked little thing, and it rattles him down to the bones.
"I love you." He says, absently pushing down on the brake, and meaning it with everything he has.
Her smile widens, flashing white teeth, and warming everything about her expression. "I love you too, you big pouter. Now come on, we've got some hazard pay to waste on the economy."
Clint lets himself laugh, and make a left hand turn into the parking lot.
It's not better, exactly, but there's two empty weeks in front of him filled with nothing but Darcy and time. He'll get there.