Christmas Gift Fic #9
(technically still Christmas where I am!)
Okay, here’s another. I might get a couple more out this weekend, but I hate to promise that.
@whyarealltheurlsarlreadytaken asked for: can you do a ‘run verse au where darcy and clint have a romantic relationship.
I hope this is kind of what you wanted. It got away from me a little bit. … enjoy!
Darcy couldn’t sleep.
Well, no, that wasn’t right. She did sleep, and she slept hard, for about four hours. And now she was wide awake staring into the dark.
SHIELD was gone. Weird. And freaky. It hit her every now and again, just out of nowhere. Wham.
Except, it wasn’t entirely gone. It was just underground now. Like she was, here in her pitch-black room, in a bunker complex, with all that was left. That was the freaky part. How fragile it all felt. Not just the agency, but the world. Everything felt egg shell-thin.
Licking her dry lips, she reached out to turn on the lamp. It was old, part of the ancient equipment and furniture leftover from the base’s early days, and it cast a sickly yellow light over the small, private quarters she’d claimed while she was lending a hand at the Playground. She would so make a shopping run at some point, when she could get away for a day. There was just so much cleanup to do, to get started on, to dig out, to glue back together. And so few hands to help.
Phil was out there now, somewhere in that shaky world, looking for his agents, trying to round up who he could. They were starting to trickle back in ones and twos, here and there. Sometimes he’d even find a whole pack of them, gone to ground in some forgotten bunker or safehouse, holding tight together while the foundations fell out from under them.
Rubbing a hand across her eyes, Darcy swung her legs out of bed and let out a long breath. The clock — a regular, old-fashioned, tick-tock, with hands and everything, clock — read a quarter after 3. Ugh.
Her thoughts ticked along with the little second hand — too much to do, too much to do, too much to do. As soon as she drifted from that hard sleep, into something lighter, her mind filled up with all those too many things, and now she was wide, damned awake. Bleh. She loved her father, but sometimes it sucked to be his daughter. He’d probably never slept a whole night through in his entire life for just that reason; the tick-tock brain that never stopped.
She laughed at herself and stood . That was such a creakily retro analogy for Tony, he’d be horrified by it. So, of course, she made a mental note to share it with him at the earliest possible opportunity.
Standing, she took a moment to stretch, trying to do something positive, good for her, self care, that sort of thing. Plus, she had such a crink in her neck from being wedged under floor plates and behind cramped server racks trying to fix everything Hydra broke and trying to upgrade everything else. The stretching helped a little, and woke her body up a little more, so at least she had some of the energy her brain was demanding. And then she went out into the dim corridors, only every third bulb lit for night-time lighting and power conservation. 70-year old diesel generators and stealth power grid taps could only take them so far.
Darcy had them on an arc reactor now, though, and Tony had been surprisingly peaceable about that suggestion — well, they argued a little, but that was them. It helped that Phil immediately promised its existence was need to know, and only he and May would know anything about it. Well, and Darcy, but she was the one who installed it and who would maintain it. When the device came in disguised as a Newegg box, Phil gave her a tired smile and tried to joke she was the electrical systems chief now. Then he begged her not to blow up what was left of SHIELD. ‘Cause he was a funny guy like that.
The corridors were empty as she wandered down to the hanger. The Bus needed a little more work, though all critical systems were up and humming. Now, while it was quiet, she’d take care of her pretty flying baby.
There was an eerie stillness as she walked, her eye picking out the old SSR eagle painted on a wall, and her steps sounding particularly echoy. With the twisting halls, endless side rooms, and all, it was like a pretty sweet first person shooter where she got sucked back in time to fight an alien invasion in the fifties or something.
She wasn’t sure how far the base extended, parts of it were still closed off, again, to conserve energy. And because there were only a couple dozen people knocking around the place. It was better to cluster everybody closer, it made everything feel less lonely and depressing. Except, it still felt lonely and depressing. Though, maybe that was because it was 3am, the most depressing hour of the night.
When she got to the Bus, she went up to the lounge first and started the coffee maker, then she sat at the briefing table and called up the systems. Avionics were good, flight good, servers good, nav good, some of the lab systems were still a little wonky and something was slowing transfers to the main base servers. That might be software, but it could be hardware, too. Skye was software, but so many of the systems were slagged, hardware was a real possibility still, too. She’d go over it again.
“So, according to Natasha, you’re not my trainee anymore.”
Darcy jerked and nearly fell out of her chair. Putting a hand to her chest, feeling the wild hammering of her heart, she turned a heated glare on the man who was leaning against the opening to the lounge.
“Damn it, Barton. What the actual hell?”
“Wow, no you aren’t.”
He pouted and stepped into the room, walking over to the bar and the coffee maker. “I am. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“What are you doing here?” she demanded, still trying to settle the surge of adrenaline.
Darcy let out a whoosh of breath and ran a hand through her hair. “It’s 3:30 in the morning, I wasn’t expecting anybody to be around; this place is like a post-apocalyptic horror movie at night. Forgive me for being wigged at you popping out of nowhere.”
He poured them both a coffee and brought her a mug. “Okay, for real, sorry. I got in a couple hours ago, you were already asleep. May found me a bunk, but I couldn’t sleep either. I’m still on Prague time. Sucks. What’s your excuse?”
She wrapped her hands around the warming mug. “Stark brain? I was asleep, but then, you know that bit where you kind of wake up to like roll over or something? My brain kicked in with all the shit I’ve got to do, and I couldn’t stop thinking and here I am.”
He nodded soberly and sipped at his coffee. “Sucks,” he said again.
“Yeah. Are you sticking?”
“Yeah. Or you gonna take my dad up on the full-time Avengers gig?”
“I don’t know,” he said, shrugging. “Honestly. That’s why I’m here, I told Phil I’d talk to him first. I owe it to him.”
“I guess you’re all in,” he said, voice mild and free of judgement one way or the other.
“I guess I am,” she admitted.
“Is that what you want?”
“If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here.”
“Is that true, though?”
She cocked her head and thought about it. “Yeah. I really think it is.”
“Okay. Cool.” He tapped his long archer’s fingers on the mug. “This spooked Nat pretty good. I think she’s out. Or, maybe like a contract player. If Phil needed something, she’d help, but, you know what I mean.”
“You’ve got options, you know? Like, you could do anything, go anywhere, work for anybody. Some of these people, SHIELD was all they had, but you’ve got … well, everything.”
“Because I’m the spoiled rich kid, right?” She bristled a little and narrowed her eyes at him.
“Don’t get like that. It’s true and you know it.” He swept an arm out over the table in a broad arc. “The world is your oyster. You could go get five doctorates like your dad, go start up a company in … whatever it is you’d want to do. What would you want to do?”
“I don’t know.”
“I never knew, Barton,” she said quietly. It was true, it was her thing, it had to be all over her evals. Maybe he never really believed it, or never understood just how completely absolutely true that was. She never knew what she wanted. Never. And it wasn’t something she ever felt really comfortable with. Everybody around her was so focused and she was … aimlessly drifting.
“I had vague ideas, some kid fantasies, you know, but never anything I was super into,” she said, forcing the words out. “I picked political science because I’ve always been interested in people, in how the world works, and, of course, with a father who’s a defense contractor, government was something I was tangentially familiar with. But, even that wasn’t really a passion. I never had one. I always envied my friends who did, you know? Who knew exactly what they wanted. Like Rico and his computers, and Marley and design. But me? I never knew. And,” she smirked over at him, “I thought you knew that.”
He stared at her for a long moment. Long enough that she looked away, staring down into her mug. “I told you I never saw you. You are a mystery to me. You’ve been my trainee for over a year, and I don’t know hardly anything about you.”
“You know plenty.”
“What if I wanted to know more?”
“I don’t know what that means. Like, what? My favorite color?”
“Red,” he said immediately. “That one I know.”
She laughed and looked up at him. He smiled back.
“Purple,” she said, jerking her thumb at him.
Clint raised his chin and sniffed. “It’s the color of royalty, you know.”
“Sure,” she said with a little smile. “So, what do you want to know?”
“What would you do? If you could do anything at all … which, you know, you actually can. What would you do?”
“Come on, Darce,” he whined.
She shook her head and jabbed a finger down on the table. “This. For real. This is what I want.”
He chewed on that for a second and then countered with, “You were in SHIELD to help your dad, I know that.”
“Yeah, and then SHIELD fell down. I know how big this is, how hard this will be, but …” she leaned towards him, intent and focused. “When we were in those tunnels and you were being an asshole—”
“Hey,” he protested and frowned.
“You were,” she insisted.
“I … was,” he admitted contritely. “Yeah, sorry.”
She waved it off and forgave him with a smile. “Anyway, when I saw those people on the platform. I knew. For the first time in my life, Clint, I knew what I wanted. I knew what I could do. Me. I could help those people. I could help the world. Phil told me I could, and you and Nat, and my dad, and Thor, and everybody. But, that moment is when I knew it for myself. I could do it, I had the resources, the training, the knowledge, the contacts, everything … I could do it. I can do it. It’s what I want. I want to rebuild SHIELD.”
Darcy waited for him to respond, but he just pursed his lips and stared at her thoughtfully. Again with the staring. And it was his 'watching her like a hawk’ (ha ha) look. Uncomfortable. Sucking in her cheeks, she looked back at the systems readouts for something to do, for anything to distract her from the sudden super intensity.
Her relationship with Clint had always been pretty relaxed, even when they were training. He liked team sports, and beer, and cheesy movies, and 80s action shows, and they could kick it in easy conversation. She’d tease him about being a disaster, but she admired him, too. Admired his dedication, his skill, his way of looking at the world in all its simple and complex messiness — which was basically Clint in a nutshell anyway. But, this … early morning talks where, because of exhaustion, overwork, whatever else, she let herself open up in a way she never really liked to. This was new, and sort of uncomfortable, and really with the staring already. God, Barton.
“Okay,” he said at last.
“I’m in. I’ll tell Phil when he gets back.”
Darcy looked up and frowned. “Wait, what?”
“I’m in with SHIELD.”
“Oh,” she said and tried to think of what she ought to say to that, she wasn’t expecting it. In fact, she was pretty prepared for both Nat and Clint to bail. “Well, good. Yay. Glad to have you.”
“Yep,” he said, his voice bright as he nodded and grinned. “I believe you.”
“That you’ll rebuild SHIELD.”
“Well, I mean, Phil —”
“Yeah, you and Phil. It’s called conviction.” He gave her a crooked smile. “I think you’re nuts, but I like it. That’s my kinda crazy.”
She laughed and gave his leg a little nudge with her own. “Jerk.”
“Yep.” He propped his chin on his hand and kept watching her. “You’re not my trainee anymore. You’re like … what? Like, Phil’s number two or three?”
“Four or five? Or lower? I don’t know. May, then maybe … I don’t know. You or Hartley?”
“Oh, is she here?” he asked, looking interested and pleased. “Awesome. She’s wicked with a knife.”
Darcy grimaced. “We, uh, maybe don’t get along so well. Maybe?”
“Oh …” He thought about it for a second then nodded. “Yeah, I can see the personality clash. Give her a chance, though, she’s good people.”
“Yeah, that’s what May says.” Darcy shrugged. She could give Hartley another chance, but would Hartley give her one? Maybe she’d have to work for it. Ugh. “Her team, though … I mean, Idaho’s okay, I guess. Though, Christ, he thinks he’s a world-class chef and I swear to you, he could burn water. And Hunter’s just straight up obnoxious.”
Clint’s eyebrows rose. “Lance Hunter?”
“You know him, I guess,” she said, pressing for that story. They’d be a weird combination. Probably not something anybody’d want to witness.
“I do. Sort of. It’s a long story,” he said with a sigh. “We have an ex in common. Way awkward.”
“His hell-beast ex-wife? His words, not mine.”
Clint snorted a surprised laugh and it took him a second to stop chuckling. “That’s the one. Ha. Oh, yeah. I should buy him a beer. Awesome.”
“Come on, she can’t be that bad.”
With a challenging look, Clint straightened up and started to tug off his shirt.
“What the hell are you doing?” Darcy asked, alarmed and startled and not prepared for the Barton striptease.
“I’m going to show you the scars.”
Darcy laughed and lunged forward to catch the hem of his shirt before it could clear his chest. She tugged it back down. “Keep your shirt on, geez.”
“No, you’ll be impressed.”
“I’m plenty impressed, promise. Please, keep your shirt on.” She had a hard enough time not staring at his arms, she didn’t need him to strip for her, too. He was a damned attractive guy, and she’d always noticed that. He was also a dozen years older than her and her SO. It was just … some things were not for thinking about too long, or else that way lay heartbreak or something. But she liked his squishy face, and his dumb boy sense of humor, and his frankly magnificent arms, and his crazy intense focus when he was being all sniper dude. Ugh, no Darcy, don’t go there.
He was looking mulish and he jerked up the side of his shirt anyway, ignoring her protests and pointed to a scar low on his back. “That one.”
“She stabbed you?”
“No, but I got stabbed because of her.”
“Well … ouch?”
“Yeah, totally. That hurt.”
“Kiss it and make it better?”
She gaped at him for a second and shook her head like she misheard. “What the hell was that?”
“I don’t know?” he said, scratching the back of his neck. “Reflexive? Don’t make it weird, Lewis.”
“Screw you, Barton,” she said, laughing again.
“But, you know, if you wanted to, I wouldn’t stop you.”
“Who’s making this weird?”
“You.” She was still laughing, though, because, really, Barton?
“But, uh …” he moved his hand from his neck to rub at his ear. “If you wanted to, maybe, go out for coffee sometime.”
Her mouth went dry and there was a strange fuzzy buzzing in her head, because he couldn’t have just asked what she thought he asked. Right? “We’re having coffee now.”
“And it’s good, right? What is this?” He looked down at this mug before picking it up and draining the last. “Too good for an airplane and way too good for SHIELD.”
“Phil’s a coffee snob.”
“Oh, right.” He stood up and walked away to grab the pot. “More?”
He poured them both another and then sat down again, fidgeting with his mug. “I meant it, though. Like, maybe someplace with normal people. And we’d go, you know, as normal people.”
“Neither of us are normal people,” she said quietly.
“Normalish. You’re not my trainee anymore,” he said again. Then licked his lips nervously and took a big gulp of coffee. “Believe it or not, I’m usually better at this. You are damned hard to read. Also,” he held up a finger to make a point, “I am not afraid of your dad.”
“Noted.” She rubbed at her eyes and tried to sort through the last five minutes. She didn’t … no, she didn’t ever expect this. “For real?”
“Yeah, I mean … uh, if you want. I’d just …”
“What about Natasha?”
He gave her an understanding smile and shook his head. “Darce, Nat is my best friend. That’s like … I don’t know, you and Rico.”
“Oh,” she said and made a face. She loved Rico, but yeah, no, she would not date Rico. That would be too weird. “I don’t know what to say.”
“Well, hey, if you’re not into it, that’s okay. No harm, but …” he trailed off and was silent for a moment before he continued. “I like you. I’ve always liked you, like as a person, you know? You’re fun, you’re weird — in a good way — you’re easy to be around. I don’t know. I just, I like when we watch the A-Team and drink beer and talk about whatever the hell. I like laughing with you.”
“I like that, too,” she said quietly, really trying to take this all in. Well, if nothing else it sure as hell shorted out her brain, wiping away that endless tick of 'too much to do’.
“We could give it a try,” he suggested. “Frankly, I think we’d make a badass pair. I can really see it. You’d bring it with the high tech, I’d bring it with the sniping, then we’d go out for Coronas and tacos and be awesome. I’m liking this.”
“Coronas and tacos,” she echoed, still trying to work through the short in her brain.
“With lime. For both, of course, because fish tacos.” He leaned towards her, his eyebrows raised and something open and hopeful on his impish face. “I like being around you, not a lot of people get me, but you do, and you make it so damned easy to just be, if that makes sense.”
“It does,” she agreed, because, well, it was always easy to be with Clint. Not lazy easy, but like she didn’t have to think about who she was with him. She just was herself. Whatever and whoever that was. And he was way opening himself up here, so she should probably give him some of that back. It was only fair. “I think I could go for Coronas and tacos. I, uh, you know, every guy I’ve ever dated, it didn’t always go so well, because I was keeping secrets. Which, of course, you know.” She narrowed her eyes at him. “Olympic sport?”
“I wasn’t wrong,” he grumbled, “you’re good at it. I mean, come on. I’m a spy. Hell, you even pulled one over on Nat. Crazy.”
“I guess I did.” She mused on that for a second. That was pretty good. “Anyway, you know my secrets now. That’ll be new.”
“Oh, you’re still a damned mystery, for real. I’m not just saying that.”
Her lips quirked up into a little smile. “I keep you on your toes, Barton.”
“Please do.” He reached out a hand and tapped the back of hers. “No pressure. Just, you know, tacos. See what happens.”
“My dad throws you off the building.”
“I’m still not afraid of him. And, I have a grappling hook arrow.”
Darcy laughed. “Of course you do.”
“It’s 93 stories.”
He thought about that and winced. “Well, uh, I’ll call Thor. Teamwork, yeah!”
And finally that reserve she’d built around herself for her whole life started to crack. Maybe not entirely done away, but a little light was getting through. She reached out and touched his face. “I like your squishy face.”
“It’s not squishy,” he said with a pout.
She poked at his cheek and laughed when he snarled. “Handsome face.”
“So … tacos?”
“It’s like four in the morning.”
“Tacos. Tonight,” she agreed.
He grinned. “Awesome.”
Darcy gave his cheek a last pat and sat back. “You know, I think there are rules about agents dating.”
“Then I’m out,” he said easily and without hesitation. “I’ll tell Phil.”
“Come on, we could use you.”
He thought about it for a second then shrugged. “There’s like thirty agents left. What’s Phil going to do? Ground us? Though, you know, I could do the independent contractor thing, too. I can still work for SHIELD, but be out of the chain. That actually might work better. With the Avengers and all.”
“SHIELD’s been my world for a long time, Darce. I think I’m ready for there to be other things in my life now, you know? I’m good by that.”
“I am. You had your revelation in those tunnels, and I had mine. And, I think that’s part of why I got so mad at you. It wasn’t the secrets, I just …”
“I was keeping them from you.”
“Yeah,” he admitted and bowed his head. “I want more. And, I let myself believe I had it, and then I realized I never really told you that, and you were keeping these secrets, and people were shooting at us, and I could have lost you right there. And … I didn’t like that. It freaked me out, too.”
She let that sink in for a minute before taking his hand. “Okay. So tacos tonight and then we see what happens.”
Giving his fingers a squeeze, she laughed. “High bar, Barton.”
“I’ll clear it,” he promised with a cocky smirk.
“Just so you know, there aren’t any more secrets. Okay?”
“Okay,” he accepted that with a nod. “But, I want to hear about those fantasies you had as a kid about what you’d do when you grew up.”
Clint guffawed and tugged on her hand, pulling her closer to him. “Really?”
“That’s a gimmie,” he protested. “Every kid wants to be an astronaut.”
“And an architectural mad genius who designed secret lairs.”
“Okay, you’re not far off of that one. You could totally pull that one off.”
“I know, right? So close.” She leaned up and kissed his cheek. “I’ve got to actually work on the one secret base I’ve got on my hands now, though, so it’s time for you to take a hike.”
He returned her kiss with one of his own. “Okay. Fine. I’m tired now.” He stood up and pointed a finger at her. “Tonight. Tacos.”
“Tacos. Tonight,” she agreed again, smiling.