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Operation: Normal Life Is So F*cked

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The only thing the text that pops up on Darcy’s lock screen says--aside from confirming her on a charter jet leaving from Dulles in 4 hours--is you had me at cock-blocker. Darcy stares blankly at her phone, not comprehending what she’s seeing at first, and then almost dropping it when it finally makes sense and the sudden surge of adrenaline leaves her shaky and breathless.

They’ve talked about this, she and Clint, planned out what to do if the proverbial shit/fan scenario rears its ugly head. She’d listened, she really, really had, but having it actually happening is an entirely different thing. Clint had told her that might happen, too, so at least she’s right on schedule. Everyone around her is chattering on, no sidelong glances or weird behavior, so whatever’s going down is still in the early stages and she can deal with that. She knows she can. She takes two deep breaths and mutters, “Go,” and she’s off. Fortunately, she’s done enough with her lunch that she can just bundle everything up into the trash and slip down the steps at the Metro stop two blocks away. She thinks about calling an Uber, but the first rule of being on the run (which Darcy thinks she officially now is) that Clint had drummed into her head is to act as normally as possible, and Ms. Darcy Lewis, intern for NASA’s Public Information Office, does not have money to blow on a car to go home from a Saturday of museum-hopping on the National Mall.

Once she’s on her train with nothing to do but ride the Red line all the way up past the Cathedral, her thinking brain kicks in and she finds that she’s not really all that surprised that Operation: Normal Life Is So Fucked is in process, not with all the weird shit that’s been happening lately. Clint probably hadn’t been supposed to let her review the copy of the Sokovian Accords that had been forwarded to him, but he had. He’d been serious about being out of the game, so she’d pretended all her reservations about the accords didn’t matter. He’d let her, but even before the attack on the UN, she's pretty sure she’d known it was only a matter of time.

She’d definitely known it when Clint had taken the call from Cap and left with a kiss and a “the less you know, the safer you are.” They’ve talked about that, too, about how she is under orders to spill everything if somebody grabs her, to not be a hero, just keep herself as safe as possible. It’s part of the deal that comes along with Hawkeye, the freaky, scary part to be sure, but one that she walked into with her eyes as wide open as Clint could get them.

Since he left, her days have been spent piecing things together--the CIA’s counterterrorism group is good, but they’re overworked and they can’t get every piece of video scrubbed off the web instantaneously. They get a lot, sure, but Darcy doesn’t need what the news might need, nothing big or clear or coherent, just the flash of the shadow of an arrow. Once she has that, she can infer a lot from what’s been released publicly--like how Captain America isn’t agreeing with the accords--and logical guesses--like how the guy with wings who’d been spotted with Cap in DC is probably still hanging with him, thus, ipso facto, with Darcy's own Avenger. But even if she doesn’t need much, she does need something. Half the reason she’s out wandering around the Smithsonian is because she hasn’t seen anything even peripherally Hawkeye-related for for days and days now, and staying in the apartment and jumping from conspiracy blog to conspiracy blog is a recipe for crazy-making tears.

Darcy makes herself walk casually from the Metro to her apartment, keeping her head down and letting her hair out of its ponytail to hide her face. Once she’s inside her little studio and the deadbolt’s thrown and the blinds still down from her sleepless night, she gives herself two minutes to freak out, and then gets on with the next part of the drill.

She usually carries her stuff in a backpack. The guy at the desk next to her gives her a hard time about how big it is and how she can’t possibly need to carry that much crap around, but (aside from how she’s the one who always has what somebody needs, from a laptop and extra chargers to actual notebooks and pens to snacks and tampons) the real reason she carries it is that she has a duplicate one that’s packed with everything she might need, all ready for if she has to run.

Which is now, she guesses. And there’s no time for dithering, not if she’s going to make it out to Dulles in the time she has.

“Right,” Darcy mutters to herself. She figures she can talk to herself here, get her act together for when she has to be super casual in public. She grabs the cash out of her day-to-day backpack--about five hundred dollars in small bills (so she’s not screwed if she has to run with just that)--and stuffs it into her go-bag, on top of the windbreaker that has another couple thousand in a mix of currencies. Clint has a duffel of his own sitting next to her backpack, but she thinks carrying two bags would look weird. She does grab his cash windbreaker, though. If they find her, the fact that she’s carrying two instead of one is going to be the least of her worries.

The only thing she does that’s not strictly on the Run!Darcy!Run checklist is to send her weekly Check-This-Out-When-You-Surface-Out-Of-Your-Theories email to Jane. She always sends it on the weekend, so it’s just normal behavior. This week is full of the coverage of the accords and the aftermath of the UN bombing and is skewed toward the side of things where people are starting to question the official story. Jane is smart; Darcy is sure she can figure it all out.

Once that’s done, Darcy is gone. The subway trip out to Reston is nerve-wracking, but ultimately uneventful, as is the express bus transfer for the rest of the way to the airport. She gets to the main terminal with a little over two hours to spare and makes her way to the charter jet hangars without any problem. She holds her breath when she hands over her not!Darcy IDs, and maybe she should worry a little that her super hero knows how to lay his hands on fake drivers licenses (and passports to match! Darcy is trying really hard not to think about that right now) but no one so much as blinks twice at her.

The charter is going to the Canary Islands, some kind of flora/fauna photography tour, which at least means everyone assumes that the reason she’s clutching her backpack even in her seat is because she has camera equipment worth a small fortune in it. It also means that once they take off, they’re not bound to the two little bottles of booze like a commercial flight. The partying begins immediately and nobody pays attention to where Darcy’s tucked into her little corner at the back of the plane.

She naps a bit on the flight, because that’s another part of the checklist: sleep whenever possible. It’s not much, but she gets a couple of catnaps in, enough to pretend it’s Hell Week again and keep going. The partying photographers leave her once they all clear Customs in Tenerife, but just like clockwork, once she gets her burner phone plugged in and turned on, another flight confirmation pops up. This one is a commercial flight to Zurich, and then there's a train to Paris and more public transportation to Orly. She staggers her way to the gate in the latest text only to trip out in a monumental panic attack when they tell her this flight is going to Wakanda, where, the last time Darcy checked, people are not at all happy with the Avengers.

“Miss?” the woman at the gate asks, her face full of concern. "Do you need assistance?" Darcy manages to wave her off and gets to a plastic covered chair so she can sit and shake for awhile.

“Okay,” she whispers to herself. “Okay, if they wanted to do something, they could have done it anywhere along the line.” It’s not terribly convincing, but she doesn’t think she has a better option. They--whoever ‘they’ might be--presumably know her new identity, so running isn’t really an option. She tells herself that only Clint and Coulson knew about the cock-block comment in the first place, and even if someone had found out, nobody but Clint would think ‘you had me at cock-blocker’ would be a comforting thing to hear. Even if 'they' were somehow making him do all this (she has no idea why she would matter, but hellooo, panic is not rational) she'd be willing to bet they'd think he was messing with them and make him use something else.

“Miss,” the lady at the gate says again. Her English is very good, with only a slight accent. “I am terribly sorry you are not feeling well, but we must finish boarding.”

Darcy doesn’t remember actually deciding anything, just finds herself on her feet, showing the gate agent her confirmation number and trudging down the jetway to the plane door. This one is full of study-abroad students. Darcy doesn’t look too out of place, but god, she feels ancient next to them all. She mutters something about an overnight Atlantic flight and jet lag, and her seatmate lets her hide behind her hair and pretend to sleep.

She dozes off a couple of times, but keeps jerking back awake within seconds. By the time the plane lands, her body clock is so messed up she has no idea what month it’s supposed to be, much less what time. The kids are all revved up and excited, spilling out of the plane and down the steps, straggling across the tarmac with barely controlled energy. They get split up according to where in the country they’re going to study, each group trooping off to their own van until it’s just Darcy leaning against the wall, trying to catch her breath in the heat and humidity. It takes the organizer-dude three times calling a name before Darcy remembers that it’s her new name he’s saying.

“Sorry,” she mumbles. “I hate flying. The dramamine makes me stupid.” She manages to stop herself before she totally babbles on. It’s yet another of the life-on-the-run lessons: less is more. Clint had rolled his eyes as he’d told her that, because by then, he’d damn well known that her life motto is something along the lines of ‘If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing to excess.’ She keeps herself distracted enough that she doesn’t totally freak out until she sees the black SUV waiting for her, tinted windows and all. Her guide smiles encouragingly at her, but clearly is done with her and her spoiled American neediness. It’s that more than anything that gets Darcy over to the car--it’s a very normal reaction, not one of a henchman delivering his victim. She’d want to slap her silly, too.

He opens the back door for her and she puts on her big-girl panties and climbs in.

“Hey, darlin’,” Clint says. Darcy would like to say it’s a big, romantic moment, but she actually just drops heavily into the seat and bursts into tears. There is some satisfactory cuddling, but mostly she just ends up wasting valuable making-out-in-a-chauffeured-vehicle time on some (very well-deserved but still stupid) sobbing. She'll still classify it as a more than acceptable outcome to the situation.

x - x - x

Sex against the wall in a palace hasn’t even been in contention for Darcy’s Bucket List. (Okay, it's really a wall in a guest house on the palace grounds, but seriously, who would have thought it could be so much as an aspirational possibility?) She metaphorically outlines it in gold and sparkles before very ceremoniously checking it off her mental list and starts thinking about what else she hasn’t imagined as possible.

x - x - x

“Prison?” Darcy screeches. Clint winces. “Prison?” She gapes at him for longer than is probably attractive, but some of the crazier conspiracy blogs had had a lot to say about the topic, none of it very nice. “Oh, let me at Stark Industries' Glass Door rankings.”

In the overall scheme of things, skewing employee satisfaction rankings isn't much, but Darcy feels a little better with every downvote.

x - x - x

“HAH,” Darcy yells, stabbing her finger at her new (non-Stark) tablet. Next to her, Clint groans and pulls the pillow over his head. It’s late enough in the morning that Darcy doesn’t feel the need to control her cackling though, so after a few minutes of playing ostrich, he surfaces and lets her show him the article in Science Today reporting that Dr. Jane Foster has parted ways with Stark Industries to accept a grant to study the possibilities of augmenting current astrophysical monitoring equipment with vibranium. “I knew Jane would figure it out. Suck. It. Tony. Stark.”

“Jesus, woman, you’re vindictive,” Clint mumbles.

“Damn straight,” Darcy answers, but since he’s curled into her and is dragging his mouth across the skin of her hip, she lets the rest of her tirade go and concentrates on the good stuff in her New Normal.