“So explain to me why you're the one certifying me for my driver's license again?” Steve looked to Clint walking next to him, who shrugged.
“You think I can't do it?”
“No, not at all,” he backpedaled. “Sorry. That's not—“
Clint grinned and gestured to the black sedan ahead of them. “Relax, Cap, I'm just messing with you. That one,” he said, tossing the keys in an overhand throw.
Steve snatched them out of the air with one hand and circled around the car to the driver's side. He started to unlock the door with the key, then remembered there was a button now. He pressed it twice and the locks clicked open.
Once inside, Steve took the time to adjust the seat and the mirrors and poke around, finding all the buttons and switches he may or may not need.
Clint watched with amusement, slouched back into the seat, arms crossed over his chest.
When Steve finally inserted the key and twisted it, Clint turned to look at the car in front of them.
“I've got level seven clearance, if only because that's what we,” he gestured with a finger between them, “are classified as. They didn't just give me that as a courtesy though. I had to earn it like Phil and Nat and Hill and everyone else. Which means, yes, I am qualified to certify you and any other agent of SHIELD on a great many things. But, since I'm me , they tend to assign someone else.”
He pulled down his sunglasses an inch and said, smirking, “You just got lucky today because Nat and Phil are both busy preparing a briefing for a mission that can't be pushed back and Hill is on 'carrier bridge duty this afternoon. Back out of the parking spot and head for the street,” he said, pushing the glasses back up and nodding at the northeastern corner of the garage. “We're going west on 4 th .”
Steve nodded, checked his mirrors and over his shoulders, then shifted gears. It was an automatic transmission—no one had said anything, but Steve suspected they were concerned about him handling a clutch. He hadn't said anything either, just smiled slightly at the thought. It wasn't like that was the only option available when he'd learned to drive the first time or anything.
If anything, they ought to be more worried about him driving without the clutch, but he was adaptable, Tony's complaints to the contrary aside.
“Shouldn't you have some kind of form to write things down on at least?”
Clint tapped his temple with one finger. “Unless you're planning to fail really horribly...”
“Generally, no, I don't plan to fail.”
“Then I think we'll be fine. Whenever you're ready.”
Steve eased off the brake, rolled slowly backwards, and turned the wheel for a perfect three point reverse.
Clint said nothing until he stopped, checked both ways, and pulled carefully out into traffic.
“Drive three blocks and then we're going to turn right.”
Steve nodded and flipped on his signal, checking his mirrors and over his shoulder for cars, then slid neatly into the next lane. He silently counted the required seconds off in his head before flipping the blinker back off.
Clint had been staring at him, but he relaxed with a huff when the clicking fell silent.
“So how're the art classes going?” he asked eventually.
Steve checked his blind spot for bicycles, and slowed down for the turn, stopping completely when the light changed to yellow, and ignoring the honking behind him.
“Good,” he said, looking away from the pedestrians filling the crosswalk. “I mean, drawing hasn't changed that much since the thirties, but a refresher in the basics never hurts.”
“Wait, I've seen your stuff. You can't CLEP out of that shit?”
Steve frowned and glanced over, but the light turned green, so he checked his peripherals and then pressed the gas pedal gently.
Once he'd completed the turn, he said, “Where next?”
“Two blocks and take a left.”
Steve nodded and changed lanes, squeezing between two slower moving cars and glancing over at the car that had been behind that raced into the open spot ahead of where he'd been. He shook his head, but said, “What's CLEP?”
“I don't know what it stands for, but it means you take a test and get the credit without having to waste time and money taking a class for shit you already know. Darcy was able to CLEP out of all of her English requirements because she took a bunch of AP—advanced placement,” he explained automatically at Steve's frown, “classes in high school. She tried to CLEP math and science too, but only got half of the math credits and none of the science.” He huffed a laugh. “How she gets on with Dr. Foster, I'll never know.”
Steve shrugged. “She told me she doesn't actually understand scientifically most of what she's reading, but she gets the patterns and can deduce enough of it to be able to put it into a logical order. Then it's just editing for grammar and readability,” he grinned and looked over after braking for the light ahead, “on a purely linguistic level, if nothing else.”
Clint huffed a laugh and raised a hand, but Steve was already refocused on the road and saw the traffic moving. He put it down without saying anything.
“I don't know if it's possible to CLEP,” he raised his voice in question, and saw Clint nod when he checked his side mirror, “out of art classes. I mean, I guess I could have asked my professors to advance me or something, but,” he shook his head, “like I said, it's good to review the basics sometimes. And it's not like I'm in any hurry. I don't exactly need the degree for my job,” he said dryly, making Clint laugh.
“So why are you getting it then?” he asked.
Steve remained silent through the left turn, changing lanes again and waiting for a gap in the traffic—and past several Clint would have taken, if the twitching fingers on his thigh were any indication—then swinging around and into the proper lane.
He gave the question some thought as he continued driving, Clint patient enough to wait him out, though he did direct, “On the right up here about three blocks is a Thai place. Parallel park and we'll grab lunch.”
“Okay,” Steve said, changing lanes again.
When Steve still hadn't answered, Clint said, “You don't have to answer if you don't want to. I mean, shit, I never even finished high school, so, you know, not like I can judge anyone's reasons for wanting to go to college.”
Steve frowned and did take his eyes off the road for a moment to look at his teammate. “You didn't finish high school?”
Clint chuckled and shook his head. “Nah. Nowadays, I guess a kid who joined the circus could probably do it online or something, but back then it just wasn't possible.” He shrugged. “Didn't much matter anyway. I may not have ever read Moby Dick or learned the Pithygory theory or whatever—”
“Pythagorean theorem,” Steve corrected automatically in a murmur.
Clint waved a hand, “Yeah, that—but I got enough education in practical, real life stuff, so I figure it balances out. And, according to Phil, I apparently know all the math stuff anyway, since I guess I use it when I shoot. I'm not like Tony, though, where I can speak in algebra or calculus or whatever. I just...” He shrugged. “It's more of a feel than a think, you know?”
Steve did, actually. He could do his sums, of course, and even a few of the formulas and things, but when he threw his shield it was less calculations and more gut instinct.
“There!” Clint said, sitting forward and pointing. “Parking spot just past the restaurant. Hell yeah, the parking gods are smiling down on us today.”
Steve smiled wryly at that, and slowed, flipping on his blinker to indicate his intent.
Clint remained silent while he executed his parking maneuver, then nodded as the engine cut out. “Good job on that. I know people who've been here since they were kids who can't parallel park to save their lives.”
Steve shrugged. “Is that the end of the test?”
Clint thought for a moment, lips pushing out in a considering moue. “Yeah, we'll call it good, I think. I can give you a rundown over pad thai if you want it.”
“I do. The rundown and the pad thai.”
Clint smiled. “Excellent. You're buying right?”
Steve laughed and checked before opening his door. “Sure. I'll buy.”
Clint nodded and got out on his side.
It didn't take long to be seated, even with Clint asking for a specific booth in the corner, and while they waited for their food, Steve said, “Even if I don't need to go to college to be an Avenger, I guess I feel like not doing so would be a waste of a good opportunity. Especially since apparently the Army is paying for it.”
Clint nodded. “GI Bill?”
“I think I qualify for that,” Clint said, then shrugged again. “Just don't know what good it would do me, and, like I said, I didn't technically finish—or start , if we're being really picky—high school, so I'm not sure I could do it anyway.”
“I'm sure something could be worked out—” Steve started, but Clint waved him off.
“Probably. I'm surprised Phil hasn't hounded my ass about it more, to be honest, but, eh. It’s not a big deal. I'm doing just fine without.”
Steve frowned, but let it drop for now. He wondered if Natasha could help him persuade Clint otherwise, or even Coulson himself.
Though if Clint really didn't care, he supposed that was his business. It just seemed a shame to waste the chance to go to college when it was so much easier nowadays. If Tony were here, he'd probably take the time to point out that it was, in fact, not 1942 and Steve needed to stop thinking it was.
That was a whole other can of worms though.
“So,” Steve said, then paused to thank the waitress as she set their plates down. When she left again, he said, “How did I do?” and scooped up some noodles.
Clint slurped down his first mouthful and then shook his head on a laugh. “You did great, Cap. In fact, I'm wondering if you and Phil aren't putting me on.”
“How so?” Steve asked.
“Because if I didn't know better,” Clint said dryly, “I'd think you've been practicing that exact route until you got it perfect.”
“I thought you chose the route?”
“I did,” Clint said. “That's how I know better. But, seriously, that couldn't have been more textbook perfect if you tried.”
Steve considered that, then shook his head. “I'm sorry, I don't understand. This is a bad thing?”
Clint laughed loud enough to draw a few looks from nearby tables, then said, “No, Cap, not at all. I guess I just expected something a little more... I don't know. You being...” he gestured with his fork, “ you and all, I didn't think you'd feel the need to go exactly the speed limit or check all of your mirrors every damn time you need to change lanes.”
“But it's the law, isn’t it?”
Clint sighed and stirred his noodles, then scooped up a mouthful. “Yeah, I guess it is.” He snorted softly. “I guess it is,” he repeated, and sounded rueful. “I just didn’t expect the guy who jumps out of airplanes without a parachute and against orders to...” He shook his head. “Well, anyway, you passed with flying colors. Congratulations.” He raised his drink and waited for Steve to tap it with his own glass.
They talked about other things as they ate, but Steve wondered about Clint's assessment of his driving. He'd seen the way other people drove, of course—Tony was a menace behind the wheel, even if he didn't ever actually get in accidents, which seemed to only be by the grace of God—but, well, this had been a test of his skills.
There was a time and a place for driving the way everyone else seemed to consider the standard, but it certainly wasn't while he was being observed specifically to see if he knew the rules.