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Marked By You (In the Worst Way)

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Darcy knows, from experience (unfortunately), that sometimes your soulmate sucks. She was 12 when her parents divorced. They were soulmates and they couldn’t stand each other.

“Sometimes, you gotta do, what you gotta do, Darcy-girl,” her mom had told her.

She walked out on her and her dad that night.

She’s remarried now, with a new family all her own, and Darcy isn’t bitter.

---

His (she’s assuming it’s a him) words are printed along her ribs, have been her whole life, and if what they say is anything to go by, she’s probably going to get into a lot of trouble before she meets him. (She’s wrong, trouble gets into her.)

---

Clint can confirm that soulmates suck. His is his best friend, his partner in all the ways that matter, except for the one way he wants the most. (He’s had her. Had her.) But she moved in and out of his life so quickly and years later he’s still reeling, and silently thinking of her as an anomaly, but then she’s still there, and still pulling his ass out of the fire more times than he can count. (Somedays he just wishes she’d let him burn; others he wants her to stay and burn with him.)

When Clint meets Darcy, after New York, he matches her tit for tat.

He strolls into the lab behind Thor one afternoon, in attempts to pull Jane from work to enjoy the nice weather with him outside.

Clint gives Darcy a warm once over, and then another for good measure. “What’s the gist, physicist?”

She’s tapping a pen between her open lips, and smirks up at him, “Is that right, Rambo?” she asks back.

Thor moves hastily to make introductions before he drapes a muscled arm around Jane’s shoulders and steers her to the door, while she whines about the calculations that still need to be completed this evening before they can move on to practical application when Tony gets back from Malibu tomorrow.

Clint leans his beefy forearms on Darcy’s desk next to her computer, “so, Boondock Saints: best movie ever or best movie ever?” he asks with a grin and a wink.

Darcy mimics his posture, poking at his wrist with the end of her pen, smearing lipstick lightly across his skin, “Big Bang Theory marathon? I picked up a combo pack between here and New Mexico, and have yet to watch any of it in order.” A smile stretching across her painted lips.

He’s not her soulmate, but he is nice to look at.

They enjoy shows about physicists and movies about Irish brothers and talk. Everything and nothing, all at once. She tells him about his words, and her parent’s divorce, and how her uncle’s words burned into his skin at fourteen and said, ew gross, and how his soulmate is a bitch. He tells her about Nat and how they met and how they wear each others words, but she’s marked herself with the words of a man she can’t find and that she was his but now she’s not.

Darcy gets it. But she’s still hopeful that hers will turn out ok, and Clint doesn’t fault her for that. Then she tells him about the time she thought her high school principal said the words on her ribs and he laughs and laughs.

---

Darcy isn’t sure how they got around it, but now that she thinks back on it, they first time they met, they didn’t actually speak.

Steve was giving him a tour of the labs, and he was rocking the hobo chic (with leather!).

“Sup, Steve.” Darcy says in greeting, not bothering to look up from inputting Jane’s latest bender math into the system to triple check then check again.

“This is Dr. Foster’s lab: she’s our resident astrophysicist, but likes to collaborate with Stark on occasion, and Bruce when he’s around. Darcy’s her assistant.”

“Assistant, gopher, heterosexual lifemate,” she says with a nod.

He nods back, and ducks out before Steve can continue.

---

Clint is devastated. He hides it really well, but with the closed lip manner he’s exuded around the team, they can put a guess on what’s up.

Darcy just waits.

He shows up in the kitchen one morning while she’s plowing through a bowl of cereal and attempting to re-read data. He looks like shit.

“You look like shit,” she says by way of greeting.

He nods solemnly, “I know.” It’s quiet, defeated, and he pours himself a bowl of cereal as she slides the milk towards him.

Darcy eyes him over her glasses, not that she can see him but it’s her dad’s patented look (that he learned from his mother). “Want to talk about it?”

He shakes his head no.

Darcy resumes her studying. “Does it have anything to do with tall, dark and broody?”

She doesn’t need to look at him to see the slight nod. She didn’t even need to ask.

---

It’s not that she’s not allowed to be on this floor, it’s just that she’s probably not supposed to be? Jane’s the one with the real clearance level and she needed Darcy to get this machine or reader of some kind from the storage area, so Darcy takes her badge (most original code award goes to Jane Foster for: 1234) and wanders very confused for several minutes until she thinks she finds what she’s looking for.

What do you think you’re doing down here?

It’s not harsh, or cold, but when she turns and sees the smirk on his face, she knows.

Tumbling down the rabbit hole, obviously.

He stiffens immediately. The smirk is gone, and the cold mask is there.

She squares her shoulders and looks at him, challenging. She knows those are her words on skin. Just as he knows his words and tingling on hers.

“What do we do now?” she asks quietly.

He takes a step back, and that tells her all she needs to know. “I’m with- I can’t. Natasha,” he mumbles before disappearing out of the doorway.

Darcy slumps against a rack of equipment and takes her time collecting herself before returning to give Jane her stupid-meter.

---

“Soulmates suck,” Darcy whimpers and she sinks into the couch next to Clint.

He turns his head to look at her, hair flat, eyes red and brimmed with tears, posture lifeless. He clicks his tongue, “C’mere, honey,” he says and pulls her into his chest. “JARVIS, dim the lights please,” he asks quietly into her hair.

“Of course, Mr. Barton.”

Clint fumbles with the remote in his other hand, but let’s Darcy cry into his shirt as the first chords of Blood of Cuchulainn strum in the background.

Chapter Text

"Ya know, not that I was expecting an epic romance to last throughout the ages, but seriously?" Darcy says into her glass before taking a healthy swig. "I get saddled with a soulmate who's all like, 'Thanks, but no thanks, I'm happy with the deadly redhead assassin (I trained) who likes to wrap her thighs around my head every other day,'!"

Beside her Clint winces and Jane clicks her tongue. Across the table, Thor does his best to look diplomatic.

"In all fairness, you could not expect James and Natasha to cease their relationship just because one of them discovered their soulmate, Darcy," Thor states, not unkindly.

Clint's wince turns into a grimace as he plays with the condensation dripping down the side of his glass.

Jane, just pulling her face out of her cell phone asks without tact, "Wait, thigh-headlock every other day?"

"Other times I imagine them fucking like psychotic Russian rabbits on the first available wall," Darcy intones dryly, "or door, countertop, lab table, floor mat, gym equipment..."

At this Clint takes to pounding his head on his arm resting atop the table in time with Darcy's declaration of fuckable surfaces.

"I believe your point has been made, Darcy," Thor says reaching to ineffectively pat Clint on the shoulder.

Jane observes the two sullen individuals across the bar top from her, "why don't you two date?"

Darcy's resting bitch face should be answer enough for Jane. Clint just lifts his glass and gulps down the entire beer, making Thor signal to the waitress for more drinks.

The wet smack of Clint's glass draws Jane's arched eyebrow in his direction. "Because I don't want to be her rebound," he states, a self-deprecating smile tugging the corners of his mouth wide.

Darcy spins in her chair to eye him, "you wouldn't be my rebound! I totally saw you first, if anything he would have been my rebound for you."

Clint's bitch face clearly says that he thinks she's drunk and he moves her fresh beer closer to him.

 "Ok, right, so what he is my soulmate, I was totally macking on you first." She makes grabby hands for her beer while he bats her away.

Jane's face is back in her phone, but she pushes her glass to Darcy.

"Is that right," Clint's fingers fold over Darcy's wrists stilling them from reaching for anyone's beer. His eyes shining, "Rambo?"

Darcy blinks, "that accent should be illegal." 

Clint pulls her fingers to his mouth and kisses them gently.

Darcy's dropped jaw and high flush signal to Thor to nudge Jane. Her smirk at Darcy's mild flailing and general face of that-just-melted-my-panties is victory enough.

He only has just enough time to throw what he figures is enough cash for the tab at the table (he misses and Thor picks it up) as Darcy drags him toward the door.

---

Clint finishes the map of her body that he started months ago with his eyes, and later fingers, with his tongue. 

Darcy makes him you'd-never-be-my-rebound chocolate chip pancakes in the morning. They get whipped cream all over the sheets. If they spend the rest of their afternoon naked it's only because they had to wait until after they laundered the food stains off of the sheets before they could get started on their own clothes.

---

They've been together four months when Clint gets word of an assignment from Director Coulson. They have new intel on a Hydra instillation, a series of labs and server station.

It's a huge opportunity, and a big deal. They can make a serious dent in their forces by taking out this facility and Darcy is all for it (because fuck Hydra), until she realizes that Clint is going away on assignment with his soulmate.

She would like to think that she's not the jealous type (she's not, really) but something about this is striking a chord of unease in her stomach. She won't tell him not to go, this is his job, but she doesn't want to sound petty by warning him to watch out for Natasha.

It's about this time that she starts to receive sit-rep emails from Coulson with the latest check-ins from the Winter Soldier while on his mission in EBF. She asks Coulson about this all with an unhappy eyebrow, and he replies that Barnes requested that she have the information available to her because she is his soulmate (he wants her to know (this is his first acknowledgement that they are)), and this worries her.

She's breaking her promise of no sad goodbyes to Clint by racing from the Director's office back to his apartment. They said goodbye last night (with yummy fondue), and she breezed out this morning with a kiss and a 'See you later, honey!' like they'd normally do.

But her elevator stops and opens and Natasha steps inside and Darcy all but falls out.

It is by far the most awkward situation Darcy has ever experienced and she so hates her life right now.

Natasha doesn't acknowledge Darcy's constant side-eyeing, and doesn't seem phased by the clammy chill of the awkward-turtle atmosphere.

"I'm glad you and Clint managed to find each other, he needs someone who understands what he's going through," Natasha says, "for now."

Darcy's fish face is evidently no surprise. Natasha doesn't continue and Darcy will swear that the elevators have slowed to give her time to compose herself to ask, "excuse me? For now what?"

"James had told me about you two; he is with me, but he has distanced himself and I believe he will attempt to," she pauses, for effect or to find her fucking words but Darcy is a hairsbreadth away from screaming. "Repair the damage he caused upon his initial discovery as to who you were. And while I have no immediate plans to reopen that chapter of my life with Barton, certain things are just inevitable."

The elevators open and Natasha strolls out and disappears before Darcy can wrap her head around this brand new information.

And her initial reaction is gut-wrenching fear as she mashes buttons and prays to Thor, and his dad, and his awesome mom (rest her soul-if that's what they have) and sprints to his apartment. But it's empty.

---

She waffles on telling Jane, and elects for half-truth (Barnes started reporting his check-ins to her, Clint is away with Natasha and Darcy is sick with worry). Jane is distant, (she's mostly recovering for a Science! binge) but supportive; blindly saying that Darcy's concerns are unfounded because maybe Barnes is just being a good person, and Clint loves her. He hasn't said as much yet, but it's pretty fucking obvious (he always falls ass over tea-kettle, faster than Tony can design and fabricate his next power suit).

Clint's check-ins come through Coulson on a daily, and usually are high inappropriate with innuendo, but sometimes there are selfies and sweet talk.

---

Darcy's in the lab on a Thursday when the doors hiss open and she hears the clatter of a duffle. She looks up and reacts the same as him launching herself into Clint's arms in the middle of the room.

He breathes in her smell and whispers harshly into her hair, "I missed the fucking shit outta you, babe."

Darcy replies wetly in agreement.

"So I have this crazy, awesome idea," Clint's grin is wicked and very wide. He takes her arms from around him and holds them between their bodies.

"If you plan on taking me in a very harlequin-novella style here at my station, I'm not opposing, but Jane might," she grins.

"No, no," he chuckles, "not that."

Which sounds an awful lot like 'not yet!' to Darcy. She squeezes his hands in encouragement and offers an affectionate smile.

"Let's get married." His face has that wide open grin, eyes shining and hopeful.

Darcy's immediate response is to squeal, kiss him, and then flail while trying to wrap herself around him chanting "yes, yes, yes!" in a manner which draws Jane's attention, if only momentarily.

Clint squeezes her tight and breathes out, " well that's a huge relief, because I already have your words."

Darcy stills as that sinks in and she pulls back to look at him confused before he rubs her fingers reassuringly and she notices, circling his ring-finger, in her handwriting, Is that right, Rambo?

"That is genius!" Darcy smiles excitedly.

Jane finally speaks up with, "I know, you're welcome," and of course her hands were all over this.

---

They pick out a ring together, and Clint lets Darcy win on the simple cut and small carat.

"It's ok, you'll let me upgrade you in a few years," he winks and her heart swells.

---

She never wanted to ever experience this. If there was cruelty in her soulmate for rejecting her nine months ago, there's more when he's blocking her exit and pleading with her to wait, hear him out, and don't walk down the aisle to another man.

"Move Barnes," she hisses and is not dealing with this fucking bullshit.

"Please, just two minutes, I need to know you're sure," he's holding up his hands non-threateningly.

"You were sure," Darcy spits back, she flat out refuses to cry angry tears and melt her make-up on to her wedding dress.

"I thought I was. And then I thought that maybe Natasha and I were wrong; we rejected you both in pursuit of what we thought once was true love and tried to force a platonic bond where fate forced our hands. I can't lie to myself anymore, and-and-and, say that I don't believe that we need to give this a shot. ‘Cause I'm not so sure if what I thought was right anymore," his eyes show desperation, and his hair is flopping over to the side where he drags his right hand through it every three breaths.

Darcy takes a moment to collect herself, absorb, sort and plot all of this new data and takes a deep, soothing breath. "Well, I am sure, so that should answer your question," she says as she gathers her small skirt and moves past him toward the door.

"Natasha asked Clint the same thing."

Darcy freezes in place, the beginnings of a gross sweat collecting at her shoulders. "What," she spins around, "what the fuck do you mean?" She glares at him.

"She went to him again last night-" (Darcy cannot contain her outburst of "AGAIN?!")"-after he said no to her on their last mission. Natasha and I both believe that certain things you just don't fight," he moved closer to her, reaching out to caress her fingers, still red and raw with healing. She flinches back, not letting him touch Clint's words on her third finger. "So think about it, please, Darcy."

She sneers up at him and plans her strategic getaway so she can still make it down the aisle before Clint starts to worry. "You're a fucking asshole, Barnes. Truthfully, you and I would have never lasted because I was half in love with him from the start and I'd rather be with someone I chose, than someone fate stuck me with."

---

When she walks down the aisle it's to a Beatles' song. Clint's crying happy tears and cannot move his eyes away from her.

He's probably told her a handful of times (seven, she's counted) that he loves her since she's said yes, but when he says it now, it means something completely new and wonderful.

They exchange their words instead of rings, and make everyone laugh at the silliness of their vows ("I promise not to leave my bow, or any of her maintenance supplies in bed." "I promise not to yell at you about everything, when I'm only really mad at you for one thing.")

Jane cries throughout the ceremony, and wasn't smug about the fact that she was the one that got them together (like she was every other day).

---

Darcy knows, from experience (really), that sometimes your soulmate sucks. But she also knows that sometimes when whatever-out-there decides that this is your person, the missing half of you, they can be wrong.

Nine-and-a-half days out of ten, Darcy and Clint are seriously fucking happy.

And Clint knows that if Darcy ever gets cornered by Natasha or Barnes again she will shoot them.

Clint will back her up because he's her husband.

But also because he chose her too.