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Sandcastles

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Clint’s heart clenches at the way Maggie leaps back off the sand the second her foot touches, starting an odd dance before she finally manages to gather her courage up to step onto the sand, clutching tightly to the bucket and shovel that Darcy got on her last trip.

She had bought them for herself, but some bribing of Phil to let Maggie go down to the beach and asking Darcy to borrow them, Clint had managed to put together a small beach day for them.

Well, less beach day and more like beach afternoon, but still.

He waited patiently and made sure to lay the towels out and she made beeline for them, overwhelmed by the different texture. It took an hour to coax her to join him where the sand was damp so they could build sandcastles and she buried her feet into the wet sand with an odd look on her face before she helped him build the sandcastles.

If she had been four or five, Clint would have found it amusing or even adorable, how she reacted to the sand and even the way she began to explore how to build a bigger sandcastle.

However, as a teen…

It just made Clint’s heart hurt because of what they took from her.

Even he had memories of the beach that were relatively nice.

Clint looked up as he heard someone approaching and gently tapped Maggie's shoulder. She looked up at him before twisting around to follow his gaze to where Phil was waiting, off the beach, still in his suit. "Time to get ready for dinner," he stated. Maggie beamed and stood up, trotting over to him while Clint collected the things they brought with them.

She reached out and hesitated, her hands covered in wet sand, before she pulled back, obviously trying to get the sand off when Phil reached forward to gently take her hand. "Clint, Stark is taking everyone to a buffet," Phil stated and Maggie immediately shrunk down slightly while Clint made a face.

“Why?”

“You’ll need to ask Stark. Maggie, do you want to go or do you want to stay here?” Phil responded.

Maggie just kept quiet, swinging her arm slightly so Phil’s moved as well. “We’ll discuss it on the way back to the mansion,” Phil promised and Clint wrapped a protective arm around Maggie’s shoulders as they began to walk up, the girl smiling brightly at the contact. He let his arm drop to run ahead so he could put the stuff away before going to get ready, leaving Phil to try and urge her to speak her mind.

Clint paused at the top of the small road, hoping to get a glance of Phil and Maggie when his eyes instead fell on the ocean.

He stared, trying to figure out what it was he saw, when Phil called, "If you don't hurry up, we'll have no choice but to stay home."

Clint laughed and saluted before he frowned at the waves. He shook his head and headed inside.

It was probably just a glare of sunlight hitting the water oddly anyway.