The ride back to the nursery was quiet and Clint kept one eye on Darcy and the other on Cap.
Clint shook his head. Could’ve been worse. They could have sent General Ross and his goons and no way would they have given the team any kind of a grace period.
“Who’s Peggy Carter?” Darcy asked him out of the corner of her mouth, clearly picking up on the tidal wave of tension rolling off of Steve.
“Captain Peggy Carter,” Clint muttered back. “Good officer. Transferred over from the RAF a few years back. She was never part of the Avengers mission, but she knew some of the details and was consulted from time to time.”
Clint glanced at Cap. “She was close to some of us more than others.”
Steve snorted and looked at Clint. “Subtle, Hawkeye.”
“Calling it like it is, Cap,” Clint said.
“You two were dating?” Darcy asked.
“No, no,” Steve said blushing and shifting in his seat. “We worked together. We… It, um… Look, it’s complicated.”
“Gotcha,” Darcy said. She twisted her lips to the side. “She, um, said she was a friend and that she wished that stretched further than it did.”
Steve turned his head to look out the window and didn’t say anything.
Clint frowned and gripped the steering wheel tighter. Typical, he thought. The second you think it’s safe and good, it all goes to shit.
He felt a slight pressure and looked down to see Darcy’s hand resting gently on his thigh. He glanced at her and she gave him a smile and a squeeze of her hand. He smiled back and covered her hand with his.
Well, he thought pulling onto the highway. It’s not completely shit.
They arrived back to the house just as Sadie was closing up the shop. Darcy lugged the food into the house and Clint and Steve went to find everyone else. They eventually gathered around the base of the irrigation system.
“What?” Tony said, on his back beneath the lower row of sprinklers, Thor nearby with the remains of a wheelbarrow. “What now?”
“We just ran into Captain Carter,” Clint said.
“What?” Thor asked, standing up, screwdriver held tightly in his hand. “She’s here?”
“Yeah, and she’s given us twenty-four hours to get things done and then she’s moving in,” he said.
“They have Carter looking for you?” Phil asked. He nodded. “She’s the best.”
“It is something of a compliment,” Natasha added, getting to her feet and dusting off her jeans. “It means they aren’t underestimating us.”
“Compliment or not,” Thor said. “We must finish this tomorrow.”
“Agreed,” Steve said nodding. “How’s it coming along?”
Thor grinned. “It’s our best one yet.”
Bruce chuckled and shook his head. “I still can’t believe this works.”
“Never doubt the classics, my friend,” Thor said clapping a hand on Bruce’s shoulder and making the man stumble a bit. “And with your compounds, it will be truly dangerous.”
“Amazing the things you can create with compost,” Bruce said lightly.
“Look, the deadline isn’t that big of a deal,” Tony said getting to his feet. “We knew this needed to get this done tomorrow, so that’s what we do. Doc, Thor, keep on keeping on.”
“Hey, Team Awesome!” Darcy shouted from the porch. “These burritos aren’t going to eat themselves.” She paused. “Actually they might. They’re so good they might attempt some kind of burrito cannibalism movement. Which is just too scary to consider, so get your butts over here.”
“I like that girl,” Tony said.
So do I, Clint thought as they walked towards the house. How the heck am I going to leave her?
As if reading his thoughts, Tasha flicked the back of his head with her fingers. He turned and glared, but she just said, “She’s not as fragile as you think she is. Go with your gut, Barton.”
“That’s annoying,” he told her.
“I know,” she said brushing past him to claim her share of the tacos, leaving Clint to grit his teeth and follow her in.
After dinner was demolished and Clint had done what he could to help Thor and Tony with their respective ‘projects’, he headed up to the roof to check on his weapons and get things ready. He spent a good thirty minutes cleaning and oiling and setting up. Then he looked around and realized that the only thing missing from his space was Darcy.
So he went to find her, lightly swinging from the edge of the roof onto her windowsill. The window was open so he swung inside, perching on her window. She looked up from her seat in the middle of her bed and smirked.
“What took you so long?” she asked flipping her hair over her shoulder, looking fresh and clean in a tanktop and baggy shorts.
He shrugged. “Had to clean my weapon.”
“Dirty.” She grinned and patted the bed next to her. “Come and veg with me while watching a classic.”
He noticed a laptop situated on chair next to her bed. The screen was paused and Clint squinted at it. “Is that Madonna?”
“It is.” She stretched out on her stomach and Clint gazed at the curves of her body as it moved. “I give you Desperately Seeking Susan, an awesome film that should be watched during times of great stress. Simply allow yourself to get into the groove and mock the clothes and be thankful you aren’t married to a man who sells hot tubs for a living.”
Clint took his boots off and joined her on the bed, stretching out beside her. “Sounds good.”
“Plus,” Darcy held up her finger, “you can see Rosanna Arquette’s side boob at one point.”
“Making it worth the price of admission,” Clint said kissing her bare shoulder. She smiled at him, bright and open and something in his chest tugged and he smiled back.
She reached out, tapped play, and the movie started up. Clint lay there on her bed watching a movie he hadn’t seen since it came out. He actually remembered sneaking into the movie theater with some of the other kids from the circus and enjoying being in a place with air conditioning and cushioned seats. This time it was different, with the warmth of Darcy next to him, her body shaking with laughter and poking his arm right before her favorite parts.
When the infamous side-boob scene came on, Darcy nodded approvingly and then looked over at him.
“Pretty racy for a PG-rated movie,” she said.
“Seen better,” he said deliberately eying her cleavage. She smacked the back of her hand on his shoulder. “What? I’m just sayin’. I had my mouth on those last night and it was as close to a religious experience as I’m ever going to have.”
Darcy’s eyes widened and then she did something amazing: she blushed and ducked her head, letting her hair cover her face.
“Whoa, whoa,” he said brushing her hair away from her face. “I didn’t mean to embarrass you.” He thought for a second. “Actually, I kind of did, but I can take it back.”
She lifted her head and pounced on him. He laughed and rolled to his back, Darcy on top of him. “Don’t you dare take it back,” she said poking his chest. “No one has ever said something that dirty to me before and I liked it, so no take-backs.”
“Good,” he said reaching up, his hands framing her face. “I meant it. Do you know how hard it’s been today? To not throw you over my shoulder and take you somewhere where I could make you scream?”
She stared at him again, her breath coming faster; his own breathing sped up in response.
“Well, in that case,” she said her fingers teasing the hem of her top. She paused and gave him an apologetic look. “I have to warn you. I’m not wearing one of my good bras.”
“Honey, they’re all good bras,” Clint said.
Darcy snorted. “While the double D part of me begs to differ, I appreciate the sentiment.” Then her shirt was up and off and she was kissing him.
It was slower than the night before. Clint took his time, kissing and touching all the parts of her he'd missed before. He moved down her body and spread her legs, while she clutched at his hair. He licked into her and did his level best to make her come with his tongue and his fingers. It was only when she was shaking and pulling at his shoulders, did he rise up, quickly get a condom on, and slide into her. He made a noise low in his throat and kissed her, her tongue seeking out every crevasse of his mouth.
She pushed at his shoulders and lifted her hips so he rolled to his back, Darcy perched on top of him. She sat up and his breath caught in his throat just looking at her. When she started to move, so fucking slowly, his breath came back to him and he smoothed his hands up her sides and cupped her breasts.
Her hips stuttered when he pinched her nipples and she narrowed her eyes at him, then ground down on him and shifted, taking him in even deeper. His eyes rolled back in his head. “Fuck, Darcy.”
“Oh, yeah,” she said picking up the pace and riding him, her hands pressed flat on his chest. “That’s it. Like that.”
He palmed the space between her breasts and moved his hand down, resting just above where they joined. His thumb brushed lightly on her clit and her head fell back as she came, her body flushing pink. Her hands curled on his chest, and her hips rolled sharply, triggering his own orgasm.
His hands gripped her waist tight and the groan that came out of his throat was so low and harsh it stung. She fell forward and her hair curtained their faces as she kissed him slow and sweet.
Later they stretched out naked on their sides and watched the end of the movie. Clint spooned up behind her, his hand smoothing over her stomach and the indent of her waist, and he knew he had to tell her what he’d been thinking all day.
“This isn’t a one-time thing,” he said, resting his chin on her shoulder. He felt her look over at him.
“Good,” she said snuggling into his body. “I like you too much for it to be a one-time thing.”
“Good.” He took a deep breath. Christ, why was telling her how he felt so fucking hard?
“What?” she asked turning on her side to face him. “What’s up?”
“So, look, I’ve been coasting,” he said after clearing his throat. “Just going with the flow because that’s what I do. I go where I’m told. But, not anymore.” He looked at her. “I’m going to figure out a way to stay. Here. In Florida.”
She blinked up at him. “Why?”
His heart crashed down to his gut.
She didn’t want him to stay. She didn’t want him. Oh, fuck that hurt. He thought he might throw up.
Which must have been visible on his face, because she gasped and said, “Oh, God! Not like that! No! Sorry!” She leaned up and framed his face with her hands and laughed. “Not like that. I just meant… Look. Wherever you go next? I’m coming with you.”
His heart had just crept back up to his chest with her apology, but her ‘I’m coming with you’ sent it crawling back down to his stomach.
“You’re what?” he asked.
“I’m your new handler,” she said smiling. “Road trip, baby!”
His brain shut down completely and knew he was missing something. “You’re what?”
She pushed at him, getting him back on his back and her on top, his hands settling one again on her hips.
“You guys are innocent. Everyone knows it.” He started to argue and she put her hand over his mouth. “Everyone knows it. Especially the people that framed you all. Now,” she flipped her hair over her shoulder, “I know nothing about launching an investigation, but I do know how to get people together and to spread the word on a very limited budget. So, congratulations! You are now part of a team that helps people!”
“What?” he asked. “I’m what?” Clint was lost, but felt sucked in by her enthusiasm in spite of himself.
“Look. You guys need to clear your name and prove that you’re innocent,” she said. “And the best way to prove that is to show what you’re capable of. The good you’re capable of. What better way to get people on your side than to do amazing things. Do you know how many people like me you guys could be helping?”
Clint frowned considering that no, he hadn’t really thought about it before.
“I mean, can you guys really keep doing what you’ve been doing?” she asked cupping his face. “Staying on the run? Drifting? And most importantly, staying apart?” She shook her head. “You guys need to be doing something and that something needs to be good.”
“Which is where you come in?” he asked slowly.
She shrugged, which did miraculous things to her body. “I just did a little bit of research before you came in; there are a lot of people out there who need help. And hey, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But wouldn’t you rather be helping people and following your mission statement instead of doing odd jobs in North Da-freaking-kota?”
“That kind of goes without saying,” Clint said, the idea of keeping busy and sticking with the team getting more and more attractive as he thought about it. He refocused on Darcy, looking at him patiently. “Does Sadie know about this?”
“Are you kidding? She’s already looking for a safe, reliable car for me,” she said sliding off his body and curling next to him.
“How much driving do you intend to do?” he asked, still thinking about logistics.
“However much it takes to get you guys out there and your names cleared,” she said.
He shook his head. “It’s too dangerous. I know you like your taser but you have no self-defense skills.”
“So teach me,” she said through a yawn. “Natasha’s already agreed to show me some moves and Val is going to teach me Shooting 101. I like learning, so teach me something.”
“I don’t know,” he said frowning.
She sat up again and faced him. “Dude. Do you want me around?”
“Yes,” he said automatically. “I do. A lot. More than I know how to deal with.”
“Well, likewise,” she said kissing his lips lightly. “Not to mention, I think I need to do this for you all. I want to do this for you all.”
A strange feeling filled Clint’s chest and it took him a moment to realize that it was hope. Or at the very least, something like hope. Not to mention gratitude for the woman in his arms.
“You realize that I’m going to be coming with you,” he murmured. “I’m not letting you roam the country all by yourself.”
“I know,” Darcy said sleepily settling back down by his side, movie forgotten as she curved around him. “Sadie’s looking for cars with seats that fold down in the back. And decent suspension.”
“Good woman,” Clint said smiling at the ceiling.
“The best,” Darcy said turning her face into his skin.
She was asleep within minutes, leaving Clint thinking about reliable cars and driving down unfamiliar roads with Darcy at his side.
There it is, man, he thought. That chance at that whole ‘home’ thing. Go for it, Hawkeye.
He fell asleep with a smile on his face.
“Enjoy,” Darcy told a customer as she handed them a bed of impatiens. She gave them tight smile and turned back to look at the nursery. Customers were dotted about, the Avengers blending in with them seamlessly. She could see Steve and Thor’s blond heads doing something near the greenhouse and Tony was still doing something out in the field.
It was only ten in the morning and they had decided at breakfast to not call Connor and tell him to get his scheming butt over to the nursery until later in the day. The anticipation of everything finally being over made her hands shake and she shoved them into the pockets of her jeans. She felt a little better when she saw Maria watering some of the bedding plants without her usual finesse, the water going everywhere but the flowers.
“I would really like this day to be over,” she muttered. She spotted Clint on the roof and sighed. “Well, I sort of want this day to be over.”
If everything went the way it was supposed to, then Connor would back off, Justin Hammer would back off, the Avengers would scatter into the wind before the troops rolled in, and Darcy would start her new project which she was calling Find the Avengers Good Work to do in Order to Help People and Clear Their Names.
She made a face; she really needed to work on that title.
A few hours later, everyone congregated in the shop, making the small space seem even smaller.
Before Tony handed Sadie the phone, he asked, “Are you ready for this? Can you be demure?”
“Sweetie,” Sadie said. “I know how to make a phone call and I know how to act. I was in all the local theatre group plays, including the lead role a few years back.”
“Playing who?” Steve asked.
“Fanny Brice in Funny Girl,” Darcy said grinning.
“I said ‘demure’ not fabulous,” Tony said.
Sadie took the phone from Tony and held it up to her ear. Darcy leaned forward, Clint’s hand coming to rest on her lower back.
“Hello? Is that Connor?” Sadie asked cheerfully. “It’s Sadie Lewis, dear. Why, I’m fine, fine. And you? How you doin’? Coping with this awful dry weather? Oh, I know it.”
Tony practically vibrated on his feet as Sadie chit-chatted and rolled his hands to get Sadie to move along. Phil nudged his shoulder and said quietly, “Don’t rush her. Chit-chat is a southern tradition. It would look suspicious if she didn’t.”
Tony glanced at him and then at Maria and Darcy who were nodding. He rolled his eyes.
“Oh, well, you tell your Aunt Mabel ‘hello’ for me,” Sadie said. “Now, Connor, the reason I called you up, well. If you wouldn’t mind doing me a big ole favor and telling your friend, Mr. Hammer, that I’ve got something on my property that I’m sure he’d really enjoy seeing.”
She waited and a big smile spread across her face. “Oh, Connor, honey, don’t play dumb, it doesn’t suit you. You just tell Mr. Hammer if he’d like to take a gander at what Mr. Stark has been up to, come on by this afternoon. After closing time, if you don’t mind. No need to provide more gossip to that old rumor mill.”
Her smile turned wicked and Darcy felt a little thrill trip up her spine.
“We’ll see you then. Bye now!” Sadie hung up the phone and handed it to Tony.
He took it and regarded her with utter reverence.
“You’re a goddess, Mrs. Lewis and I would very much like to buy you a drink when this is all over,” he said.
“Charmer,” she said smacking his shoulder lightly. “And they’ll be here at four on the dot.”
“Which is in half an hour, so we’d better get things in place,” Steve said. He looked at the rest of the team. “You know what to do.”
Everyone nodded and dispersed, Clint tugging on Darcy’s hair before he went up to the roof.
Darcy watched the last car of satisfied customers leave the parking lot and tried not to feel like she was going to burst from nerves. She hadn’t seen Clint or any of the others since the group had headed off to the battle stations. She saw Jane in the distance, standing in the door way of her lab. Darcy waved and Jane waved back and then disappeared back inside to man her own station.
Sadie and Maria locked up the shop and met Darcy in front of it. Phil and Natasha joined them, both looking minimalistic in their simple black shirts and black jeans. Darcy considered making a joke, but figured it probably wasn’t the best time.
“Here goes something,” Maria said looking around and putting her hands on her hips.
“Ladies, it’s going to be fine,” Tony said appearing from out of nowhere and dusting off his hands. “We’ll get the bad guys figured out and send them on their way and all will be well. Oh, and I fixed your irrigation system.”
“You did?” Sadie asked her eyes going misty and looking utterly touched.
“Said I would,” Tony said awkwardly and not looking anyone in the eyes. “Works better than new and runs off of solar power with a backup generator. It has three settings. Just keep the gears greased and it will last forever.”
“Thank you, Tony,” Sadie said smiling at him and taking his hand. “I mean that, thank you.”
“Hey, it was fun,” he said looking embarrassed. “Seen Cap anywhere?”
A low whistle came from next to the greenhouse.
“Ah, there he is,” Tony squinted at the odd pile of lumber. “Can’t believe he let Thor build another one of those things.”
“What has Dr. Banner been working on?” Maria asked. “Or should I not ask?”
Tony grinned. “It’s probably better to see it in action rather than explain it.”
Another whistle sounded out from the house.
“Someone’s coming,” Phil said, he and Natasha gave each other a glance and then split up.
“Dare I ask?” Sadie said watching Phil go behind the shop.
“Crowd control,” Tony said casually.
“And somehow I’m not reassured,” Darcy said, her nerves spiking as three black SUVs drove up.
“Overkill,” Tony said derisively. “An ostentatious show of force. When will the man learn that less is more?”
“Coming from you that’s a bit rich,” Maria said the instinct to tease Tony overriding any anxiety she might have.
“Yeah, but I do it with class,” Tony said smiling as Connor, another man wearing a gray suit and glasses and a whole bunch of goons in black got out of the SUVs. “Justin! Welcome to Florida! Enjoying your stay?”
“It’s lacking a few of the more metropolitan aspects that I enjoy,” the man in gray suit said with a smug smile. “But the locals more than make up for it.” He grinned at the ladies and Darcy fought the urge to kick him in the balls. “But what are you doing here, Stark? I mean, last I heard, you and that little boy band of yours were on the run. Why Florida?”
“First of all, there’s a woman on the team who could twist you into a pretzel without breaking a sweat and why not Florida?” Tony said smiling and spreading out his arms. “I’ve got time on my hands and it’s got some charming people. So! Let’s turn that question back to you! What are you doing here, Justin?”
Hammer opened his mouth, but Tony interrupted him to say, “It couldn’t have anything to do with all that money you owe to those gentlemen in New York, could it?”
Connor looked sharply at Justin who just laughed nervously and waved a hand at him. “No idea what he’s talking about. Stark, I’m just helping out a friend who’s been having some trouble making some folks see sense.”
Sadie straightened up. “I beg your pardon? Ladies, is he referring to us?”
“You know, I think he is referring to us,” Maria said narrowing her eyes at Hammer.
“And not very nicely,” Darcy said putting her hands on her hips. “You aren’t very nice. We don’t like not nice people.”
“We most certainly don’t,” Sadie said.
Hammer eyed them all and looked a little uneasy.
“They’re a force to be reckoned with,” Tony said happily. He turned to Connor. “You really shouldn’t have called this guy in. You’re way over your head and I suggest you go now.”
Connor eyed Tony and his gaze flickered over to Hammer who didn’t look at him, just nodded once. He shook his head. “I’m staying, Mr. Stark. Do your worst.”
Darcy snorted. Well, his funeral. “Bad decision, dude. Really bad decision.”
“Thanks, Darcy,” Tony said grinning at her. “By the way, remind me to talk to you about a new phone. You’re going to need one for that little road trip of yours.”
Darcy gave him a thumbs up.
“But first!” Tony shook his head. “As you ladies know, you have a conduit straight to the Florida Aquifer in your backyard.”
“We do indeed,” Sadie said.
Tony looked at Connor. “Which you knew too, and it was the main reason for wanting to buy the land. How did you put it, Darcy? ‘Come and get water straight from the source?’” He turned to Hammer and pointed a finger at him. “And you! You need money! What better way than to buy up land that has access to a pretty water source and hold somebody, possibly the government, most definitely land owners and developers, hostage.”
“What?” Connor said furiously turning to Justin.
Hammer shook his head and laughed. “That is…preposterous.”
“It really is,” Maria said sounding disgusted. “It’s kind of the oldest trick in the book. Was that the best you could do?”
“You have,” he waved a hand in the air, “no proof for any of that.”
“Sadly, you’re right,” Tony said sighing. “But, we do have proof of your fellas in black damaging property, attacking the lovely Mrs. Lewis over there, and trying to run Miss Lewis off the road. I’m pretty sure the bits of paint left on Miss Lewis’ truck will match the make of your ride over there.”
“Not to mention a little thing called insurance fraud,” Darcy added. “Companies don’t like it when you mess with their stuff.”
Hammer glared at Tony and then laughed. “Fine! Fine, you want me to admit to my dastardly plans? Okay, I will. It’s why I’m here. Met Connor here and heard about his plans and thought: hey, why the fuck not? I’ve got nothing to lose, so let’s see what I can do in Florida.”
“Jesus,” Connor said taking a step back and looking ill.
Whoa, news to him, Darcy thought. Sucker. Shoulda picked your friends with a bit more care, dumbass.
“I admit it wasn’t the most sterling of plans,” Hammer said, before grinning. “But hey? It led me here and to you. There’s an awful big price on your head.” He stuck his hands in his pockets and rolled on the balls of his feet. “All I need to do is make one little phone call and you are back in the slammer.” He turned to Darcy, Maria, and Sadie. “And then you ladies are arrested for harboring a criminal.”
Darcy actually growled and took a step forward, Maria grabbing her arm at the last minute.
“Feisty, nice,” Hammer said with a smirk. “But, naturally, it doesn’t have to go that way. You can always just sign on that little dotted line and we’ll get out of your hair. Or well, you’ll get out of our hair. And we’ll even pay you to do it.”
“Not a chance in Hades,” Sadie said her drawl and derision coming through. “You just try it you low-class, unimaginative hack.”
“Exactly how I’d put it,” Tony said. “I wouldn’t go calling the cops. They aren’t going to come.”
“How do you know?” Connor asked.
Tony looked taken aback. “I know everything.”
“You really don’t do subtle, do you?” Darcy asked.
“Too boring,” Tony said. “Look, gentlemen. Give it up. We don’t want to make you cry like babies.”
Hammer made a movement with his hand and one of the goons took a step forward. An arrow appeared out of nowhere, thudding into the ground in front of him. He jumped back.
Darcy’s eye widened and she grinned. “Oh, this is going to be way more fun than it should be.”
“Don’t do this, Justin,” Tony said seriously. “I outnumber you. I outsmart you. I out-pretty much everything-you. Go home. Work for the mob if you need money quick. They’re not as bad as you hear. Or hey, the government is always looking for a few good men, but don’t mess with us.”
“Sorry, Stark,” Hammer said. “Your head is worth more than I could make in a year and there are a lot of people out there who’d like it on a platter, so…”
He stepped back and gestured at his men to move forward. Darcy and her family moved back and Tony yelled, “Now!”
A yell came from near the greenhouse and a loud creak was heard, before a massive pile of compost hit three of the goons, causing them to cry out and fall back onto their SUV. It didn’t take them long to figure out that once the stuff was on them, they were stuck. Literally. As in they couldn’t move.
“Bruce is a freakin’ genius,” Maria said gripping Darcy’s arm tightly.
“Tell me about it,” Darcy cried grinning and watching the goons try to break free of the quickly solidifying compost mixture.
Phil and Natasha came out of nowhere and immediately disarmed and took out another four guys. Clint’s arrows kept coming and he pinned two guys to the SUV by their clothes.
Another yell came and a second barrage of compost hit the remaining guys; followed by another and another, until all the goons were knee deep in solid compost.
“It’s all natural,” Darcy yelled at them. “So you don’t need to worry about anything bad for you.”
Maria laughed and Darcy looped her arm with hers and watched as Connor ran back to his car, only to be stopped by two of Clint’s arrows pinning his arm to the car door by his jacket, followed by a pile of sticky compost.
“Shit!” Connor looked at Sadie. “Mrs. Lewis, I promise you, I had no idea this man was planning on using your land that way. I only wanted you to sell it so I could build on it.”
“I know, dear,” Sadie said sounding genuinely sorry for him. “But you still brought him in and let him hurt my property and try to hurt my family.” She shook her head. “We’re going to let the law deal with this, son. I’m sorry.”
Connor closed his eyes and slumped against the door, his head thudding on the window.
Hammer looked around at his men in various states of injury and glared at Tony; who just shrugged.
“I told you not to mess with us,” he said. He checked his watch. “And I do believe the cavalry will arriving momentarily, so we’ll vamoose and let them deal with you. Toodles!”
He turned to the ladies and smiled. “Ladies, it was a genuine pleasure and let me know if that irrigation system ever gives you any trouble.” He winked at Darcy. “You, I’ll be talking to. Soon.”
“Thanks, Tony,” she said while Maria held out a hand for him to shake. He gave Maria’s hand a smacking loud kiss and when Sadie gave him a hug that he returned it by picking her up off her feet.
The rest of the Avengers appeared one by one, Steve giving Darcy a big grin and getting a kiss on the cheek from Sadie. Natasha gave her a solemn nod and wink while Phil stood nearby, determinedly not looking at her. (Ouch, Darcy thought absently. Phil’s going to need pie after this.)
A familiar blue Cadillac pulled up and everyone looked over at Val as she got out. She eyed Hammer and Connor before shaking her head. Then she walked over to the group.
“I’m glad I caught you,” she said looked around the yard and then at Sadie. “I take it things have worked out?”
“Of course. They’re good people,” Sadie said, she checked her watch. “But they don’t have much time, Val.”
“I know.” Val sighed and then handed a flash drive to Steve. “This is for you.”
“What is it?” he asked taking the flash drive with a curious look.
“It’s everything that Commander Fury managed to send me before the end,” she said. She held up a hand when everyone exploded. “Wait. The only reason I didn’t hand this over when you went on trial was because of the note Nick sent with it.”
“He suspected the others, didn’t he?” Phil asked. “The council. He suspected that the team might be compromised and used for the wrong purposes.”
“But why?” Thor asked, his handsome face hard and hurt. “Why would they betray us like that?”
“I don’t know,” Tony said fiercely staring at the flash drive in Steve’s. “But I’m going to find out.” Natasha cleared her throat. He rolled his eyes. “We’re going to find out.” He looked at Darcy and pointed at her. “And she’s going to keep us busy and make sure we’ve got fans, aren’t you?”
“I love a good project,” she said shrugging her shoulders. “Just be ready to get your hands dirty again.”
“My favorite thing to do,” Tony said. “Let’s go, people. Big guys with guns are coming!”
She looked around for Clint as she heard Maria tell Bruce to send over as many ideas for the flower beds as he wanted.
Darcy finally spotted Clint and his duffle bag come around the side of the house.
She ran towards him and he grinned as she launched herself at him. He caught her and spun her around.
“Nice shooting,” she said breathlessly, her hands framing her face. “That was so cool. Think you can teach me how to do that sometime?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I can,” he said kissing her, his tongue sweeping into her mouth; her heart raced and her stomach fluttered. “Be seeing you?”
“Count on it, Hawkeye,” she said smiling and kissing him hard, putting everything she had into it. He groaned and kissed her back just as hard.
“God, I don’t want to leave you,” he said pressing his forehead to hers.
Darcy’s eyes stung with tears. She still couldn’t believe that it was over, they’d nailed the bad guys, and now he was leaving. “I know. Me neither,” she said. “Kiss me again.”
She did her best to catalog the feel of his hand on her face, the heat of his body against hers, and the scent and taste of him.
“Hawkeye! Gotta go!” Steve called out.
“Darcy,” he said looking torn as he pulled back and set her down on her feet.
“It’s going to be fine,” she said firmly, knowing that it would be and feeling it deep inside. “Just you wait.”
He nodded and kissed her quickly, then headed towards his old clunker, Steve already in the passenger seat.
Darcy waved and caught sight of Thor finishing off what looked like it had been an epic kiss with Jane. Jane was smiling and pushed at him a little to send him on his way, her face beet-red and her eyes shining.
Darcy stood looking down the road watching them leave, ignoring the sounds of Connor and Hammer bickering behind her. A sharp word from Val soon had them both shutting up. Sadie came up and slipped her arms over her shoulders.
“You’ll be seeing him soon,” she said her voice a comfort in Darcy's ear. “My brave girl, off to right some wrongs.”
“Oh, I know,” Darcy said around the lump in her throat. “Never really liked saying good-bye is all.”
“I know, honey,” Sadie said squeezing her tight.
They were still staring down the road when a convoy of military jeeps pulled up.
“Hi, Captain Carter!” Darcy said cheerfully and waving. “Lovely day, isn’t it?”
“It most certainly is,” Peggy said with a wry smile. She eyed the men covered in compost. “Dissatisfied customers?”
“Bite your tongue,” Sadie said. “Our customers are always happy with their purchases. These gentlemen are for you.”
“Oh?” Peggy said looking interested.
“You’ve got at least two counts of property damage, one count of bodily harm and one shiny slice of computer fraud,” Val said walking over. She smiled. “Captain.”
“Ma’am,” Peggy said with a nod. “Looks like I’m going to be busy for the next few days.”
“Hope it won’t take you away from anything terribly important?” Sadie asked.
Peggy smiled. “No, I shouldn’t think so. I’ve got time.”
Darcy grinned and hugged her grandmother even tighter.
“He sent you what?” Darcy asked Jane over the phone.
“He sent me a set of miniature apple trees that his family cultivates,” Jane said, her happiness and disbelief obvious in her voice. “You know, because I work with small stuff.”
“Thor does realize that apples don’t grow so well in Florida?” Darcy asked leaning against her slightly used Ford pickup truck.
“Yeah, but I can work with that,” Jane said. She lowered her voice. “I’m thinking of coming out there to meet up with you guys. New Mexico has some amazing stuff going on. In terms of crop genetics, of course.”
“Oh, of course. And yes. Come,” Darcy said. “You, Natasha, and I can drink tequila and watch the boys do heavy-lifting. It’ll be awesome.”
Jane snickered. “Oh, when you see Bruce, tell him thank you for the sketches.”
“For the fall displays in the flower beds,” Jane clarified. “They look really good and Maria’s already started planting.”
“Ooh, send pics, dude,” Darcy said.
“Naturally,” Jane said. Darcy heard a loud beep in the background. “Oh, that’s my program done. Talk to you later!”
“Give my love to everyone!” Darcy said.
She hung up and tapped a note onto her Stark Industries Exclusive phone, courtesy of one Pepper Potts, then closed her eyes and tilted her head back in the sun. The dry New Mexico breeze fluttered the hem of her dress around her knees as she waited near the bus station in the middle of nowhere.
Her eyes opened when she heard the rumble of a Greyhound bus. It came to a creaking stop and people started to exit the bus. An exhausted family of four got out, dragging their backpacks behind them, followed by a couple of elderly couples and some students.
Then Clint stepped out, his face sliding into a grin as he sauntered over to her.
“Hey,” he said dropping his duffle bag on the ground and pulling her into his arms. Darcy pressed her face into the junction of his neck and shoulders and kissed his skin, breathing in deep.
“Hey yourself, Hawkeye,” Darcy said, pulling her head back and meeting his eyes. “How’s it going?”
“Better now,” he said before lowering his head and kissing her. She pulled him closer and kissed him back, the kiss quickly turning intense and just shy of dirty.
“How was Colorado?” she managed when they came up for air.
“Too many trees and mountains and dumb, bad guys,” he said running his hands down her sides and lifting her up to press her against the side of her truck, her legs hooking around his hips and her skirt sliding up.
“Yeah, I heard all it took was Thor doing his looming thing to get them to scatter,” Darcy said looping her arms around his neck.
“Pretty much,” he said with a shrug. “But I got a chance to re-build a log cabin. That was cool.”
“My very own Bob Vila,” she said kissing the tip of his nose.
“You want me to grow a beard?” he asked.
“Naw,” she said nuzzling the side of his face, shivering at the feel of his stubble scraping against her cheek. “I like you all fresh-faced.”
He snorted. “So, where are we going and do I have time to get you naked before we get there?”
“Well, to answer the first part of your question,” she said. “We’re going to a town a little north of here that needs some big, strong people to scare off some oil prospectors from drilling into their heritage center.”
Clint smirked. “Admit it. You wanted to take this job so you could say that you took a left at Albuquerque.”
“A girl’s gotta have her priorities,” Darcy said shifting her hips and making him moan. “Oh, and in answer to the second part of the question?”
She put her mouth next to his ear. “We’re not due there until tomorrow afternoon and guess who’s booked a room in a motel fifteen minutes from here?”
He looked deep into her eyes and said, “That sounds like a plan.”
Darcy grinned. “I do like it when they come together.”