But he was dead, and Clint couldn't be reminded more than with the physical absence of his mentor from the craft he was on. It was little random moments like this that made him miss the only handler he personally loved, that much more. And his mood for the mission soured more than it already had.
That wasn't safe.
Agent Miles raised an eyebrow for nobody to see when he heard that little sigh at the end Clint gave. Most would have missed it, but not him. Plus the fact that he just used his first name, that's how he knew something was really getting to him.
"Nicholson, out of your seat. Go away, preferentially far away from here. 'Far' as in near the end of the Quinjet kind of 'far'." Miles ordered in authority.
"But- I don't wan- I'd rather not sit near Agent Romanoff." Nicholson stumbled over his words.
Clint gave him a pointed look at his choice of words. That wasn't nice.
"I mean- uhh...you know. She scares me." The young pilot whispers in embarrassment.
"And I don't?" Clint rose like a predator to its full height, using the piercing gaze he reserved for people who deserved it on Nicholson and a voice so dangerously low.
The guy gulped. Strike Team Delta really did earn their name and fame for a reason.
"Yes. Yes you do sir. Definitely. Absolutely." Nicholson scrambled out of his safety straps and walked away awkwardly, constantly looking back to the cockpit area with uneasiness.
Clint and Miles simply stared back.
Nicholson sighed in resignation as he dropped into a space not too near to the Black Widow, nor the two who sent him there. He stared at Agent Barton who now took the place of co-pilot, observing as him and Miles kick up a hushed conversation that couldn't be heard, albeit several words he could barely pick up.
Natasha on the other hand could feel a new presence in her surroundings, discreetly cracking an eye open enough to see their co-pilot across her. He was looking on intently at something to his right. Following his line of vision silently, she saw her partner and their main pilot talking like they were long-time buddies. Which they kind of were, she conceded. Or as close to a close buddy one could get as a SHIELD agent.
Music blasting in her ears, she obviously couldn't make out what they were saying, and her lip-reading proficiency wasn't up to par either. She found herself having little desire to find out what they were talking about, with enough things on her mind. She closed her eyes again, returning back to her soundless thoughts.
Back at the cockpit, Clint was comfortably strapped in as co-pilot while Miles was just shooting him looks from his left.
"What?" Clint caved.
"I sent Nicholson away for a reason." The aged pilot was waiting for an elaboration.
"Really? Here I thought you'd rather have me to be your co-pilot. You trained me to fly this thing after all. Well, I don't feel special anymore Miles." Clint replied smartly in mock disapproval.
"Cut the crap Barton."
"Don't know what you're talking about."
"You called me 'Tyler'. You don't hear me calling you 'Clint'."
"I seem to remember vaguely several instances actually. How about that time when I was dying?"
"Which time? You're always dying." Miles smirked, shaking his head.
"I knew that entire initial hardcore-badass pilot was just an act. You were giving me such a hard time when I first got into SHIELD. But obviously you're just a giant teddy bear beneath all this muscle." Clint punched the guy hard on the arm.
Miles made a face, but thought of how Clint's description was more true of himself rather than of the pilot when he replied, "Bullshit."
"Could hear you yelling my name, despite how delirious I was."
"No I didn't."
"I recall a 'Clint you impulsive and irresponsible son of a gun, you better stay awake back there or I'll personally kick your ass off the jet and into the Dead Sea, pun intended!' threat." The archer mocked with a deeper voice.
"One time, just one time."
"Thought I didn't hear it, did ya? See, I knew you liked me."
"You make it easy whenever you're bleeding out on my aircraft."
"You're such a softie Miles."
"Okay wait no, no. We're not talking about me, we're talking about you."
"My life's boring, let's talk about yours."
"No can do bud. What's going on with you? It has something to do with Romanoff, doesn't it?"
The tone of the conversation instantly turned somber. It was quiet for a while, but long enough for Miles to think that the agent beside him wasn't going to talk at all.
"Lotsa stuff if you really need to know." Clint revealed in a controlled voice.
"Only with your partner?"
"For the most part."
"Hell...you'd probably know it anyway when you don't see us on same missions anymore." Clint shrugged, like he had been doing with everyone recently.
"No way." The pilot caught onto Clint's implication with his words.
"Fury can't do this, he's ruining the best team in SHIELD."
"Wasn't his idea."
Clint sighed with his soul, "Yup."
"Would the Director even approve it?"
"I'd rather not think about it." The troubled agent's head hung slightly as he murmured his words softly.
Miles stared at the young man he had grown to care a great deal for over the years, now lost in his thoughts. The atmosphere needed to be lifted a little,
"I know you two are close, sorry 'bout it Copper. Hope it works out for you in the end." He nudged Clint with an elbow.
That did the trick. It broke Clint out of his reverie, extracting from him a real laugh that made the side of his eyes crinkle.
"Again with the nicknames. Every single time Miles, doesn't it get old?"
"Nope, and here's a suggestion. Stop coming back here smelling like blood. Then I'll stop calling you Copper, 'cause damn kid you sure as hell always smell like it."
"It's in my job description."
"Well, dirtying the place isn't."
"It's not like you're the one cleaning it up."
"I hate it when you're right. Now get some sleep, go. Shoo."
"It's like everyone's suddenly a mom these days." Clint grumbled to himself like a child, still staying put in the co-pilot's seat.
"And get me Nicholson back. I figure he's sweating buckets of nerves by now."
"On the contrary, he's been pretty focused on us."
Miles turned his head abruptly, only to see his young co-pilot whip his head away from their direction as Clint continued without having to look back once, "I've felt his eyes on us the whole time."
"Can't say I'm surprised by how you sense things like that. Not after twelve years with a punk like you. I am not impressed Barton. So not impressed. At all. I expected something cooler."
"Using the word 'cool' doesn't suit your age Miles. It's like a grandpa saying YOLO. I learnt that one from Stark."
"What's YOLO? Is it a new swear word, are you baiting me into swearing?"
"It means 'you only live once', which is a pretty good motto to go by seeing what we do for a living."
Miles tried uncertainly, "YOLO. YOLO, YOLO. Kids and acronyms..."
Clint laughed under his breath at his pilot's behaviour, but his smile faltered when he was reminded of something he didn't want to remember.
"You know Miles, you sound like-"
"A grandpa?" The pilot rolled his eyes.
The archer gave a long exhale, "Coulson actually...You sound- you sound like Phil."
The spirit was dampened once again. But Miles didn't let the conversation end there, "I miss him too kid."
"I wish he was here."
"Chin up Barton. Coulson would've smacked you on the back of your head all the way to China right now if he saw you like this."
"That he definitely would." Clint conceded, unstrapping himself from the seat and giving his friend a pat on the shoulder before walking off.
"Agent Barton?" Nicholson's voice sounded hopeful and near pleading.
"Yeah yeah, you can go back now." The tougher agent waved him back towards the cockpit area.
"Thank you, thank you." The young pilot rushed off his seat like he was sitting on hot iron, an amused scoff heard from the archer.
Clint didn't take Nicholson's place but instead chose another seat nearer to the front of the Quinjet and settled himself for the journey. Sleep? Not likely. But he closed his eyes anyway.
Kinda like a meaningless filler chapter so I can buy some time to get some inspiration back...I'm trying to get some shit together woohoo! In other news, did anybody watch CA2:WS yet? WHAT. THE. HECK. PLus, arrow necklace HELLO WHAAAT damn I can't wait for the next Avengers movie to find out where the heck was Clint Barton while shit hit the ceiling in SHIELD.