“Come on, please?” Clint’s voice rose a few octaves as he pled his case to Bucky.
“Why waste the time?” Bucky asked, collapsing his rifle and packing it back into his case.
“It's not like you have anything better to do. You really want to hit the strip, get drunk, gamble? None of that sounds appealing to me and I know it's not exactly your scene either. It’s like a two hour drive, I just Googled it and the way you drive we can cut that down to like 45 minutes, so plenty of time.” Clint gestured wildly and Bucky felt a twinge of fear for the safety of the phone still in his hand.
“I understand that it is accomplishable. My question is why bother, we've got the room still. I don't see the appeal of driving two hours into the desert to then have to drive back to catch a flight in the morning.”
“So that's your plan! Stay in the room and sleep? Boring!” Clint collapsed dramatically onto the bed before continuing “And between the shitty hotel bed and post-mission adrenalin there's no way you're going to be able to sleep anyways, and you know that.” Clint may have a point but Bucky wasn’t about to admit that.
“If you're that desperate for something to do I'm sure there's something Las Vegas strip has to offer you.” Bucky tried to appease him.
Clint responded with an exaggerated look of disgust and by making a very mature fart noise. Bucky allowed him to pout for a minute before relenting.
“Yes!” Clint shot up off the bed. “Let's go!”
Bucky insisted on taking the time to pack up all the gear and take it with them. He didn't want to leave it in an unsecured hotel room and declared it was easier to just bring it with them so that way they could go straight to the plane in the morning. But it was less than a half an hour before the two former assassins pulled out of the hotel parking garage. After fighting through the city traffic they finally broke free on to the US-95.
Clint reclined his seat all the way back, his sunglasses covered his eyes and his head leaned back against the headrest. He propped his boots up on the dashboard and crossed his arms across his chest, seemingly content to sleep the ride away.
Bucky didn't mind, it was typical Clint behavior. He’d gotten used to running missions with Clint, something he thought would never be possible. Ever since Natalia had gotten hurt and took some time off he and Clint had been paired together. Even now, nearly a year later and Natalia back on full duty, more times than not he found himself backing up Clint or the other way around. They worked well together and Nat seemed content with the new lineup.
Clint had been right, the GPS declared it a 2 hour and 23 minute drive. However with Bucky behind the wheel and sparse traffic in the late afternoon he cut it down significantly. Clint slept through the turn onto the NV-373, Bucky barely slowing as he flew over the cracked pavement, the desert whizzing by outside the car.
Only 45 minutes after getting out of the city Bucky finally slowed, making the turn onto the CA-190. Clint roused himself from his nap to sit up, he pushed his sunglasses up onto his head to see better in the fading light.
“Still 30 miles till we get there.” Bucky informed him, picking up speed again after the sharp turn.
“We timed this perfect.” Clint said, looking at the clock in the dash. “We’re gonna be there just before full dark, we might even catch the sunset. Plenty of time before we gotta turn around and head to McCarran.”
Clint’s excitement seemed to bubble up out of him. The fact that he was genuinely pleased by the prospect of making it to the peak in time for sunset had nothing to do with Bucky’s decision to increase his speed a bit more. The road was well maintained but twisty and narrow, it provided an excellent opportunity for Bucky to hone his precision driving skills.
“Fuck.” Clint laughed. He grabbed onto the oh-shit handle and held on, giggling, as Bucky turned what should have been a 40 minute drive into 15. The last half mile up to the peak forced Bucky to slow, the twists and turns too tight for anything faster than a crawl.
Then they were there. Bucky pulled in the parking lot, backed into the space with the best path for a quick exit and put the car into park. They exited the vehicle together, Clint taking the lead and Bucky a step behind at his shoulder, watching the rear. Even on a tourist jaunt neither of them could drop the body language or habits of years of training. Within moments every vehicle in the lot was cased, all the sightlines and points of entry and exit memorized and every person assessed for their possible threat levels.
They headed down one of the paths until they stood at the very edge of the vista, looking out at the Death Valley basin. The two of them stood there in silence, on odd image surely. Two heavily muscled, large men both in need of a shave in dark tactical clothing standing shoulder-to-shoulder admiring the sunset.
“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.” Clint turned his head to look at Bucky as he delivered the quote. “This is where they filmed the part where Luke and Obi-Wan are on Tatooine looking down Mos Eisley." All of a sudden he realized that Bucky might have no clue what he was talking about.
“You know the Star Wars movies? Ah... there a bunch of movies directed by this guy George Lucas. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away? Help me Obi Wan Kenobi you're my only hope?” Clint was starting to feel self-conscious of his rambling when Bucky turned away from the fading sunset to lock eyes with him. Clint couldn't help but gulp nervously, regretting his decision to share the piece of trivia. Bucky's serious face was intimidating, even to the most hardened agent.
“Han shot first.” Bucky’s poker face cracked when his lips twitched.
Clint laughed, relieved, and gave Bucky a shove, “Aww, man you had me freaking out.”
Bucky gave in and smiled “Of course I’ve seen Star Wars Barton, I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
Clint was grateful that the sun had finally slipped below the horizon, leaving them in darkness and hiding his blush from Bucky. He tipped his head back to watch as more and more stars appeared. He felt Bucky’s eyes on him for another moment before he too looked up at the sky.
“Did you know Death Valley is world’s largest dark sky reserve?” Clint asked after a few moments of silence.
“Huh, cool. You really did your research didn’t you?” Bucky answered, still admiring the Milky Way, “You’d think you were trying to impress a date or something.”
The lack of response was deafening, Bucky could feel Clint’s body go stiff next to him before he leaned ever so slightly farther away. Bucky instantly missed the heat of their shoulders touching, even though he hadn’t even noticed that they had been before Clint broke away from the contact. He slowly turned his head to look at Clint.
“Barton, is this a date?”
“Umm…” Clint shifted his weight, and reached up to rub the back of his neck.
“It is isn't it?” It was a question but Bucky stated it like it was a fact.
“Yeah, I guess, I mean, that’s what I was hoping for” Clint admitted.
“Why didn’t you just ask me out you dumbass?” Bucky asked, genuine confusion in his voice.
“I did ask!” Clint flung his hands out, “I said, and I quote, want to go stargazing with me. Which I feel like is pretty straightforward and obvious date activity, but you said and I quote again, why the fuck would we go stargazing, and then I said cause it would be nice, and you made a very rude noise, and then-” Bucky cut him off before he continued, he wouldn’t have been surprised if Clint had kept going until they caught all the way up to now.
“Okay, yeah, I was there.” Bucky held a hand up, “I’m sorry, I guess it never occurred to me that was what you were going for.” Bucky grimaced, feeling like an ass.
“Dude, we spend a ton of time together, and I definitely like you. I don't know, I thought you might...” Clint trailed off and shuffled his feet, not meeting Bucky’s eyes.
“I’m not sure I’d be very good at a relationship.” Bucky admitted.
Clint started to turn away “Yeah, I get it, sorry, nevermind we can pretend like this never happened.”
Bucky reached out and grabbed Clint’s arm, pulling him in closer. “No, I’m not saying no. I just, I do like you and I trust you, and I like spending time with you and if sex is on the table I’m very much interested.” As Bucky spoke he reeled Clint in closer, until they stood face to face with no more than a hair's breadth between them. Bucky’s grip on Clint’s arm gentled. “But I really should warn you, I’ll probably make a shit boyfriend. I don’t know if you know this but I kinda spent 70 years being mind-controlled and tortured.”
Clint blew a raspberry, “Whatever, I was mind controlled by an alien god, which totally trumps plain old human torture.”
Bucky continued over the interruption, knowing if he got sidetracked on the who-had-it-worse game they would never get back on topic. “Also I have bunches of memory problems, so I’ll probably forget things like your birthday and anniversaries and whatnot. Then there's the fact that I’m pretty messed up, you know from the torture and stuff, I’m legitimately damaged.”
“Yeah, well I’m right there with you buddy, and I don’t mind broken, my favorite coffee cup is broken.” Bucky would have been worried Clint was making light of a serious situation, but he knew that was just how Clint dealt with stuff. More importantly, he had never seen Clint’s eyes as serious as they were right now. Clint’s hands came up to rest on Bucky’s hips. Bucky would swear he was the first to lean in, Clint would also swear he had been the one to initiate the kiss.
Regardless of who started it, it was surprisingly gentle. Just a brush of lips. Bucky's hands ran up his arms and over his shoulders to cup his face while Clint’s wandered from Bucky’s hips to wrap around his back. They broke apart for a moment, resting their foreheads together breathing in the same air, before diving back in. This time it deepened, becoming passionate. Clint ran his hands down Bucky’s spine, pulling him closer until there was no space left between them and he could feel the beating of his heart against his chest. The next time their mouths parted they were both panting.
“Getting arrested for public indecency would be bad.” Bucky said, but he kept holding Clint tight.
“Well, we did come all this way, maybe we should look at the stars some more?” Clint suggested after catching his breath.
They rearranged themselves, once again standing side-by-side with their heads tilted back, but now with Clint’s arm wrapped around Bucky’s waist and Bucky’s hand in Clint’s back pocket.
“The stars are really beautiful.” Clint said, Bucky made a noise of agreement.
“You know what else is beautiful?” Bucky turned his head to look Cint dead in the eye, if he was going to do this Bucky wanted to see it. Clint was grinning ear to ear when he delivered the “you are.”
“Seriously?” Bucky sighed. “Did you just meme at me?”
“Yup” Clint chuckled leaned in to kiss the tip of Bucky nose. “Buckle up babe, I’m awesome.”
Bucky just sighed again, a smile on his lips, and tipped his head back again to admire the stars. They really were beautiful.