"It's a wonder you haven't broke into the Olympics with those kinds of credentials," Clint said dryly. Chuck's robust laughter momentarily broke his focus from the Hunter.
"Say, why don't I set up a target," Chuck said and gave the counter an enthusiastic smack with his hand. "Let you get a feel for the bow."
Taking his eyes off the Hunter, Clint looked to the left and the right of the aisle. A rack of pink meaty blobs the labels insisted were fishing bait jutted out in the pathway to his right. On his left there was a display stand of packaged golf balls. There wasn't much space to move but what worried Clint the most was customers, especially kids, wandering around and not paying attention.
"Inside," Clint asked, placing the Hunter on the counter.
"Don't worry, it'll be fine. I'll help you out with some pointers."
"You wouldn't happen to also have some pointers for treating arrow wounds, wouldja?"
"You're a funny guy," Chuck said, chuckling while he reached for a practice target. "I'll tell you what, I'll shoot first so you can see how's it done."
"You don't have to-," Clint weakly protested.
"Now watch carefully here. You want a nice even stance," Chuck instructed as he got in position. He was as graceful as an ox but his stance wasn't bad. It was a simple even stance with feet spread shoulder width apart though the minimal string clearance wasn't ideal for a barrel chested man like Chuck. "Pull back the arrow and let it fly." The string hit Chuck's arm and skewed the shot, the arrow hitting three inches off center. The arrow wouldn't have hit dead center judging by his arm position though it showed Clint that Chuck wasn't just all talk. "Go on, give it a try."
Clint could already hear the lecture Steve would launch into about responsibility and as a veteran Avenger he was supposed to be an example to the younger members but still the Hunter found its way into his hands. Some things were too good to pass up.
"Okay but I'm not that good."
Rather than taking up the even stance Chuck used, Clint positioned his feet with his left foot angled toward the target and his right heel lined up with the toe of his left in an uneven stance mainly used by expert archers. He notched the arrow and drew back the string to the anchor point on his cheek. He took aim at the target and released the string. The string launched the arrow forward through the air. The arrowhead pierced the target with a soft thump.
"You"¦you hit the center," Chuck said dumbfounded.
Clint grinned and replied nonchalantly, "Beginner's luck."
"Yeah. You're a natural." Chuck regained his previous bravado, adding, "I mean, you're no county champion but you've got potential."
Clint frowned. A dead center shot should have instilled more than five seconds of humility in a bigheaded clerk. It wasn't worth the risk of hitting a bystander. Worst yet, he could get lectured for nothing. He put the Hunter down on the counter. "I think I'll leave the archery to Hawkeye."
"Hawkeye? Forget that guy. All of those Avengers are doughy pretty boys with steroids and surgery. Now you have some real talent."
"Doughy," Clint silently mouthed, hand on his stomach. He would rather stare down the Kree Army than tell Wanda her breasts aren't real or that Natasha isn't a natural redhead. There were some things even he didn't have the courage to say. "Those Avengers saved your butt at least a dozen times in the last year alone. It wouldn't hurt to show a little gratitude."
"Easy big fella. I'm not saying they aren't great but you'd think they'd be able to keep those Doom guys locked up," Chuck didn't skip a beat, adding, "But now you've got some real potential and because of it I'll throw in the arrows for half price."
Clint was about to point out Doctor Doom was Reed's pet project, not the Avengers, among other less tactful arguments when his tirade was interrupted, "Whoa, is that"¦"
The stunned expression painted on Chuck's face was enough to divert Clint's interest away from the insult against the Avengers. He looked over his shoulder to see Jan pushing the squeaky wheels of the shopping cart, a shoe box nestled in the child's seat. So she could buy a pair of sandals in under an hour.
"Janet Van Dyne." A grin returned to Clint's face. He turned back to Chuck, asking, "Do you want me to ask about the plastic surgery or should I?"
"Hey now, wait a second."
"Hey Jan," Clint called, "settle a bet between me and my new pal, Chuck. Did you get the full face lift or just the eyebrows?"
It was a dangerous question to ask. There was no way to guarantee Jan wouldn't throw a tackle box at his head. Clint was banking she would read his face and voice and recognize his intent to torture Chuck opposed to teasing her beauty regiments. Lucky for his head, Jan had caught on even if the skepticism across her face showed her confusion.
Chuck's face had become as white as a ghost. "Mi-Miss Van Dyne, please ignore him. He's just joking."
"Don't get shy now," Clint said, "After all, those Avengers are just, how'd you put it, pretty boys with steroids and surgery."
"You misheard me. That's what I-I said they weren't. The Avengers are heroes. You've saved the world a dozen times in the last year alone."
"They have potential but they aren't two time county archery champs like Chuck here," Clint said. His grin grew as he continued to turn Chuck's words against him.
Jan raised her eyebrows. "Two times?"
Chuck flushed. "It's nothing compared to what you do."
"He's so modest," Clint said and pointed to the target. "Why look at that beautiful shot he took. Only a couple inches off the center."
"I'm no Hawkeye," Chuck said, shaking his head.
Clint's smile turned wry. "Who is."
"Are you done," Jan asked though he had a feeling she wasn't talking about him ogling the archery bows.
"Yeah, I'm done." Unable to resist one last jab, Clint turned to Chuck, saying, "I hope you don't mind if I come back for tips sometime."
"Uh, yeah, sure," Chuck replied and bashfully added, "It was a pleasure to meet you Miss Van Dyne."
Jan nodded and gave Chuck a polite smile. "Likewise."
The cart was turned around and Jan pushed it out of the sports department with Clint walking beside her. Behind them Clint heard the rustling of Chuck putting away the Hunter and the practice target. He looked to Jan, waiting for the reprimand as they moved out of listening distance from Chuck. She didn't say anything immediately. She didn't look angry either.
"Have fun," Jan finally asked.
Clint grinned. "Always do."
@Rogue - Hope ya like it, mate. I'll try to start posting some of Treading the Wind and Rain tonight if my computer doesn't freak out on me.
@Brian - Haha, working on it! I might actually have a new short story done soon. It's something I wrote once when I couldn't sleep but never got around to finishing.