a study in murphy’s law ; barton + hill


The corner of his mouth lifts in amusement if only because Maria is a couple of steps ahead of him and can’t see him do it.

“Aren’t I always on my a-game?” Clint retorts, not expecting an answer.  He hefts his bag a little higher up on his shoulder, securing it, and he lengthens his strides for a few steps in order to catch up with her.  Clint easily falls into step beside her and matches her step for step.

It isn’t the tightest window of time on a mission objective that he’s ever worked with – there was that one time in Prague where he was in and out in under six hours – but it doesn’t leave much room for error.

Clint comes to a stop in the taxi stand line and shoves his hands into the pockets of his jacket, his fingers curled lightly against his palms.  For a brief moment he does the same as Maria and looks past her shoulder, taking in the people standing in line in front of her, the travelers walking briskly by the line trailing their suitcases, talking or sending texts on their phones.

He slides his gaze over to meet hers after another moment or two spent observing their surroundings.

Where he was cracking jokes earlier, now his expression has slipped into neutral, his mind set only on the objectives they’re meant to accomplish here.

“Yes, ma’am,” he agrees.  “I’m following your lead.”

It’s been far too long since she was last in the field and even longer since she’d last been out in it with a qualified ( to her standards ) agent. She can see from the corner of her eye the moment when he shifts into work mode, it’s the subtlest of shimmers that otherwise is indiscernible to anyone not looking for it. 

Her mouth tilts, barely, briefly, and then it’s gone, swallowed by the neutrality of her hard-lined expression. 

“Of course.” 

The assent comes out easy, but there’s a thin layer of something that could be sarcasm if he wants to take it that way. The line moves quickly, they’re efficient enough and soon they’re knocking shoulders in the back of a cab that’s dodging potholes while it jets toward the city. Maria’s on her phone, scanning over the mission details. It doesn’t occur to her that the vehicle’s slowing, that they’ve suddenly come to a snarl of traffic just outside the city center. 

“What’s going on?” A frown, she leans forward between the break in the seats. The driver’s speaking rapidly- Romanian, her Slavic language skills are poor- and gesturing toward the traffic and people threading through the maze of standstill cars. 

     “–există un protest în față , dor..

     “A protest?”

Fingers curl around the edge of the headrest, the driver puts the car in park.

     “Don’t do that.” She looks at Clint, as if she somehow expects something of him. “He’s not moving.”

The driver sputters again, shrugging and making a sweeping gesture toward the thrall of people and cars. Maria sighs, thrusts a couple of rubles toward the man who nods, gestures again, still murmuring half-angrily. She nods toward the door, pops the handle and slides out, joining the growing crowd of people chanting, all aimed toward the city center. Her eyes catch Barton’s across the top of the car, irritation alight in the flash of her irises. 

“Try to keep close.”


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