Summary: The second Phil laid eyes on the green teddy bear perched atop of his desk he knew Barton was up to something. He just wasn't sure what.
All the Stuffed Animals at the Fair
It was dark outside and a cold wind and slow drizzle set the stage as they waited for their target to arrive. Everyone was alert, finger-on-the-trigger and ready to obey the first order given to them. Until then, lines were ordered into radio-silence.
"So, what's your favorite color, Sir?"
Phil Coulson resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He knew radio-silence meant nothing to Clint Barton unless the situation deemed it absolutely necessary. Absolutely necessary in Clint's opinion, that is, and since that always differed from his own, this was not a new situation of any kind. "Radio-silence, Agent Barton."
Clint's huff was loud and clear over the comm. "That's not exactly a color, Sir."
"The target is nearing from the south-east at rapid speed, Sir." Someone suddenly warned, voice a whisper over the comm.
"Everyone in position." Phil ordered. "Eyes on the target, Barton."
"And in case you were still wondering, Barton. It's green."
"How are you holding up, Captain?" Phil asked the man walking next to him as they made their way to his office.
"Just Steve, please." Steve Rogers replied with a soft chuckle.
Phil nodded, feeling slightly gleeful he was now allowed to call his childhood-hero by his first name. "Same for you, then."
Steve gave him a small smile and nodded. "Thanks." From his heartfelt tone it was obvious he understood there weren't many people allowed to call Phil by his first name.
It made Phil feel grateful that Steve seemed to like him and happy at the prospect of maybe even befriending him in the future. "So, how have you been?" He asked again while they rounded a corner and his office came into view.
Phil was now the Avengers' official handler nanny was more like it, though. But two months, one week and four days after his near-death experience by the hands of the God of Mischief, he still wasn't cleared for anything but deskwork. And he was allowed to do deskwork simply because he refused to stay home. So at this point, being the Avengers' handler meant he had to regularly check up with Steve to see how he was adapting to the new world. All other tasks were temporarily taken over by Agent Sitwell because even Phil had to admit that dealing with Tony Stark at this point was bad for his health.
"I've been good," Steve nodded with a relieved smile. "I think I've gotten used to most things now and Tony is bringing me up-to-date as far as technology goes."
"Good," Phil said and then swiped his ID-card over the automatic lock of his office. He opened the door and gestured to his desk while he himself turned to the other side of the room. "Take a seat, I'll just put these files away."
"Phil?" Steve suddenly asked, slightly hesitant. "Is that
Phil knew for a fact that he himself hadn't put anything in his office that could make Steve want to question it. So when he turned around and saw Steve frowning at a green teddy-bear perched atop of his desk, he needed to blink an extra time to take in the scene. Then, he strode forward and lifted the bear cautiously, giving it a few gentle squeezes and shakes. For all he knew it was a bomb, after all. It only took him a few seconds to conclude that it wasn't a bomb. That left him looking at the bear which had an ugly bright-green color and black beady eyes and wonder who in their right mind would give him a bear. A green one, no less.
Of course it would be Clint. It all made sense now. Why he'd suddenly asked for his favorite color a few weeks ago. It made Phil realize he'd been fooled.
"It's kind of
cute." Steve offered softly, amused.
Phil blinked, looked at Steve and then at the bear again. No, it was a lot of things but cute wasn't one of them. So, he opened one of the drawers of his desk, stuffed the bear into it and closed it before sitting down in his chair.
He looked at Steve who was watching him with an amused expression and as if he hadn't just found a bright-green teddy-bear sitting on his desk, said: "So, it's good to hear you are getting along with Stark. How about the rest of the team?"
Steve chuckled and gave Phil a knowing look before he answered.
It made Phil wonder if Steve knew something he didn't.
It was a few days later that Clint got back from his OP in Poland. It then took him another few days to finish writing his report. So when Clint finally walked into Phil's office to hand in his report the green bear had been stuffed into Phil's drawer for six days.
Clint didn't knock he never did and when he walked into the office, Phil caught the way his eyes searched the room. He couldn't, however, read the other's expression as Clint draped himself in the chair in front of the desk, waving his report in the air. "It's finished. I even filled out the questionnaire." He said, looking smug and sounding proud.
For any other Agent taking three to four days to finish a report would be a long time but for Clint it was actually quite fast and it made Phil wonder why. "To what do I owe this pleasure?"
Clint smirked. "Well, I was gone for two weeks and since you're not allowed to do any fieldwork I thought you would be glad to see my face. Everyone knows I'm your favorite so you must've missed me."
Phil resisted the urge to roll his eyes at Clint's cocky words but he also didn't comment on the fact it had been awfully silent the past two weeks. "And you even filled out the questionnaire?" He held out his hand for the report.
"Yeah," Clint grinned and handed Phil the small stack of paper. "I think I deserve at least a compliment."
Phil flipped open the file completely ignoring Clint's fishing and took a quick look at the contents before looking up at Clint. "It says here you were injured."
Clint shrugged. "Nothing big, just a scratch."
"Doesn't justify the lack of a medical report." Phil sighed. Unless bones were broken or he was visibly hurt, Clint filed all his injuries as minor and deemed a visit to the medical bay unnecessary even though it was procedure. He'd never admit it out loud, but it worried Phil that the other was able to not be worried about his own health.
Clint frowned. "So you want me to get a medical?"
"Four days after the OP."
"If you'd done it right away you wouldn't have to do it now."
"It's just a scratch, Sir." Clint argued.
Phil sighed again. "It's procedure."
Clint snorted and shook his head. "It's bullshit."
"No, it's for your own safety." Phil shot back and then blinked in surprise at his own words. He'd spoken the truth but never before not even in more heated discussions between Clint and him had he blurted his worry like that.
Clint paused, too, for a moment and then a grin broke on his face. "Aw, Coulson, I knew you cared."
His surprise now gone, Phil rolled his eyes. "Just get your medical, Agent."
"Anything to make you happy, Sir." Clint chuckled and then raised an eyebrow. "So did you get it?"
Clint didn't need to say what he was referring to, Phil knew. With his lips set in a thin line he nodded, not happy at all with the fact he'd fallen for whatever joke Clint was making.
Something that looked a surprising lot like disappointment flickered over Clint's face. But it was only there for less than a second so Phil told himself he must've seen it wrong because right after, Clint smirked. "You didn't like it?"
Phil raised an eyebrow. "The green is so bright the bear nearly glows, Barton."
Clint's smirk widened. "It does, actually. But only in the dark. You didn't notice?"
Phil almost felt guilty for having stuffed the bear down his drawer.
"Actually, I didn't since I made sure the bear is safely out of sight."
Clint frowned. "Did you now."
Phil nodded, suddenly feeling slightly uncomfortable but careful not to show it. Clint was acting different and he couldn't shake off the feeling the bear had something to do with it. But when he spoke next, he swore it was not certainly not to try and assure Clint of anything. "In case it wasn't obvious, teddy-bears aren't really my thing."
"Right," Clint grinned. "Got it, Sir. No more bears."
Phil nodded and said "thank you" though he couldn't help but fear this wasn't over yet.
A week and a half later, the Avengers were out to save the world again. Something with a possible alien attack in Alaska, Phil wasn't sure because he still wasn't the Agent supervising the team of superheroes.
Seriously, he couldn't wait until his next check-up in ten days, hoping to be cleared for fieldwork again. He was getting restless and the fact everyone else was out to save the world was unnerving. Especially since Clint was often away on solo missions too and while the other was usually his main source of irritation next to Tony Stark, of course he now realized he was also the only person to simply drop by his office for a random chat.
Suddenly someone knocked his open office-door. "Agent Coulson?"
He looked up to see a junior Agent standing in the doorway, holding a cardboard box. He immediately had a bad feeling. "Yes?"
uh, package was delivered for you. When I got in just now reception asked me to bring it to you."
Giving the Agent a single, curt nod he gestured to an empty spot on his desk. "You can put it down there and get back to what you were doing."
"And close the door when you leave, please."
After the Agent had left Phil pushed his papers aside and lifted the box to the empty spot in front of him. Even before seeing the Alaska post-office stamp, he knew who had sent him the package he didn't receive packages on a regular basis, after all.
He got himself a pair of scissors and wondered what the hell Clint was doing. Besides, when did the other even have time to buy him the
whatever was in the box? It wasn't like the Avengers had a regular lunch-hour while saving the word. He'd have to ask Steve about that.
He cut the tape and opened the box. When he saw the green giraffe, though, even he had to stifle a laugh. Only Clint Barton could accept the fact that 'bears weren't Phil's thing' and get him a giraffe instead. Not just any giraffe. No. Because Phil was now holding a 10 inch high dark-green giraffe with black spots.
It looked even more ridiculous than the bear.
Why Clint would do this was truly beyond him. Without another thought, he opened a drawer and stuffed the giraffe into it next to the bear.
The Avengers were back due lunch-time and Phil was waiting patiently for them to arrive. Steve had called in to let him know their job in Alaska was done and they were on their way home. Because even though someone else was supervising this OP, Phil was still the one person they trusted most.
Of course, Phil had taken the opportunity to ask if Steve wanted to drop by his office upon his return.
He knew it was a somewhat childish curiosity that made him want to ask Steve when exactly Clint had bought the giraffe. It was the kind of curiosity he only ever felt when it came to Clint. It had startled him the first few times but by now he knew how to handle it. He'd found out the hard way that ignoring his curiosity only made it worse. He'd also beaten himself up about it the first few times due to his position and working-relationship with his Agents he wasn't allowed to feel anything but professional towards them. But Clint had always been different so Phil had decided that this was okay since it was only curiosity anyway and how could one not be curious when it came to the archer?
There was a knock to the door. "Phil?"
He looked up from the report he was reviewing to see Steve standing in the doorway.
Phil nodded, gesturing for Steve to sit down in the chair in front of his desk. "Just got back?"
Steve sat down and nodded. "Yeah, the others are still getting their medical but I was cleared so I thought it would be best to drop by right away."
"Appreciated." Phil nodded. "How are the others?" He then asked. Because even though he'd been quite annoyed by being assigned to the Avengers at first he now started to genuinely care about their well-being.
"Clint has some minor injuries and Tony has
well, he was being Tony and his suit got dented quite a bit so they're doing an extra check-up on him just in case. The others seem to be fine but since I left right away I'm not sure."
Phil nodded, grateful for the information and surprised Clint actually went to the medical. He didn't mention it, though. "And the OP?"
Steve smiled. "A success."
"Good," Phil nodded. "And when did you finish the OP?"
Steve frowned. "Is something wrong?"
The corner of Phil's lip quirked up the tiniest bit in amusement. He should've known Steve would ask that. He wasn't being very tactical about this but he didn't really care or have to. This wasn't a OP and he wasn't going to treat it as such.
"Not really. I just wanted to ask something about your OP."
Steve grinned at him. "About the giraffe?"
Phil nodded, refraining from sighing. "I figured you'd know about it, yes."
Steve chuckled and crossed his arms in front of his chest. "I think you'll have to ask Clint about it. He won it for you fair and square after all."
Phil was slightly surprised at that. "He won it?"
Steve nodded. "He did, but as I said, you'll have to ask him about it."
Phil wondered if he'd ever get to hear what he wanted if he were to ask Clint himself. He found that hard to believe.
His doubt must've shown on his face for Steve said: "I'm sure he'll give you an honest answer if you ask the right question."
He wanted to ask what the right question was, he really did. But not only would he look extremely foolish for asking, he was also pretty sure Steve wouldn't tell him anyway.
"So, was that all you wanted to ask?" Steve asked with an apologetic smile. "I don't mean to be rude but I'd like to check up on everyone now."
Phil nodded, unable to keep himself from smiling a little. Steve really was a good team-leader. "Yes, that was all, really."
Steve laughed and when he made his way to the door, Phil followed. "Thanks for stopping by."
At Phil's words Steve turned to smile at him again with that secretive smile and said: "You're welcome, Phil." He then turned around and left.
"Phil? Rogers and you on first name base now, huh?"
Phil startled slightly yes, he wasn't too afraid to admit that at hearing the sound of Clint's voice.
He turned to see the man standing in the hallway opposite of the one Steve had walked into and he didn't look all that pleased.
Phil, though, wasn't sure how to react so instead he ignored the question as he did with every single one of Clint's questions he didn't know how to answer. "Agent Barton," he nodded. "I heard you got your medical. Everything's all right I can assume?"
Clint looked slightly annoyed for a second and then grinned, walking into Phil's office saying: "Were you worried about me?"
Phil raised an eyebrow while he made his way to his desk. "I'm impressed, actually."
Clint chuckled as he sat down, looking at Phil smugly. "Good to know I can still impress you, Sir." He then glanced at the door and looked back at Phil. "So what did Rogers want?"
For a moment Phil considered telling Clint it was none of his business. But if he wanted to know why the other was doing this he'd have to be honest. Clint was a SHIELD Agent, he'd know right away if he was being lied to.
"I asked him to drop by, actually." He admitted.
Clint frowned suspiciously. "Why?"
Even though he had expected Clint to be curious, Phil was still slightly surprised. It wasn't like the other to ask this many questions that could be considered personal. Clint might joke around with others whenever it pleased him but he always kept a distance on a personal level. A distance that seemed to be getting shorter between Clint and him and strangely enough, Phil didn't care. So with that in mind and the fact he wanted to know what exactly Clint thought he was doing he said: "I wanted to know when exactly you had time to get me another ridiculous stuffed animal on your OP."
"What did he say?"
Phil sighed softly. "To ask you."
Clint grinned widely at that.
"He also mentioned you won them."
Clint nodded smugly. "I did."
Clint shrugged. "There was a carnival."
Phil frowned. "When did you even have time to do that?"
Clint shrugged again. "We were waiting for our pick-up and it doesn't take me all that long to win something." He flashed a quick grin at Phil and then looked around the room. "So where is he anyway?"
Phil raised an eyebrow. "He?"
"The giraffe I won you. He's got amazing colors, don't you think?"
"Not exactly." If Clint had wanted to get him a nice giraffe he should've gotten it in the proper colors. Surprised at his own thoughts, Phil told himself he didn't want any kind of stuffed animal so whether it came in green his favorite color but not for a giraffe or any other kind of color didn't matter anyway.
Clint shrugged and looked around the office again, almost eagerly. "So where is he?"
This time, Phil was the one looking smug when he said: "I've got several drawers that fit that size stuffed animal."
It was later that he realized he should've asked Clint why he was winning him stuffed animals at fairs.
Four days later Clint was sent out again and Phil knew he would get another stuffed animal sooner or later.
This time, it turned out to be sooner because only two days after Clint had left he got a call from Steve.
"Phil? I've got a package here with your name on it." And damn him for sounding so amused.
Phil frowned though. "At Stark Tower?"
He wanted to ask why but he didn't need to. Clint wasn't stupid and probably wanted to avoid leaving a trail for whatever hobby-less and bored-out-of-his-mind person was keeping a tab on stuffed animals being shipped from fairs. Stranger things were monitored.
He glanced at the stack of files on his desk and said: "I'll pick it up after work."
Steve chuckled. "Tony will have died from curiosity by then."
"It'll toughen him up."
At the end of a relatively long but boring day, Phil drove to the Stark tower or the Avengers mansion as Steve sometimes called it fondly.
When he entered, he was greeted by JARVIS, who informed him the package was in the living-room at the top floor.
When he stepped into the living-room, he found Steve reading a book and Tony and Bruce watching TV.
Next to the TV stood a 5 foot tall cardboard box that made Phil think: 'well, that's probably not going to fit into my car.' That thought was followed by a more rational one, being 'what the fuck does Clint think he's doing?'
He didn't let his thoughts show however and instead looked as blank as ever. He merely blinked at the box and turned to Tony, who was watching him with a smirk. "I see you've managed to outlive your curiosity."
Tony's smirk widened. "You underestimate me, Agent." He then stood up and moved to stand next to the box, giving it a pat while looking at Phil. "I had JARVIS do a full-body
err, full-cardboard-scan on this the moment it was delivered."
He should've known that Tony would have done such a thing. It did leave him to worry slightly, though, because the other was still smirking and that couldn't mean anything good. He silently cursed Clint and his childish antics and yet again wondered what the meaning of this was.
"Did you now?" He merely asked, even though he really wanted to demand the three men who were all either grinning or smirking at him to just spell everything out for him letter for letter.
Tony nodded, almost eagerly and then his expression turned almost wicked. "Yes and since you are visibly dying from curiosity I'll be my generous self and share the contents of the cardboard-box with you."
"Oh, the generosity." Phil deadpanned and crossed his arms in front of his chest. Truth be told, he really was dying to know.
Tony grinned in the way only Tony Stark could grin and then patted the side of the box again. "This, my friend, is a body pillow."
The side of Phil's lips quirked a bit in annoyance he knew bloody well what a body pillow was and fuck Clint for getting him one but that was all emotion he showed.
He didn't need to say anything, either, because with a small frown on his face, Steve looked at Tony and asked: "What's a body pillow?"
Bruce snickered and Tony laughed, waving a hand at Phil. "It's your pillow so you explain." He said with a grin and Phil was sure of it an glint in his eyes that was pure evil.
Phil cleared his throat, slightly embarrassed now, and looked at Steve with what he hoped was a calm and patient smile. "It's an oversized sort of pillow, body-length. They are used to support the body during sleep or rest and in some cases they can relief one of back pains incurred by sleeping in a wrong position. Some other people use them for a more
sexual form of relief, though."
Steve frowned. "How does that
" Then he trailed off and flushed. "Oh. I think I get it."
Tony smirked. "Yeah, you get it buddy." He then turned to Phil again. "So what are you going to do with it?"
Phil turned from Tony to the box. That was actually a good question.
"One thing's for sure, the box won't fit in your car." Steve added this two cents.
"Well, whatever's in the box might fit whether it's a body pillow or not." Bruce said with a shrug.
Phil pinched the bridge of his nose. They were all right and there were no excuses he could think of for not opening the box right here and right now.
A few minutes later Phil had gotten himself a pair of scissors and with what looked like practiced ease he cut loose the tape wrapped around the box. When he opened it, though, he could only blink and stare while Steve and Bruce chuckled and Tony was doing very bad job at trying not to burst out laughing.
Phil was quite certain his brain malfunctioned when trying to come up with the proper reaction to the current situation, for he blurted: "That's not a body pillow."
"Ah, no it isn't." Bruce commented with a shit-eating grin. "It's a penguin."
"A five feet tall one." Steve managed through his laughs.
That's when Tony burst out laughing.
'Great,' Phil thought, looking at the huge stuffed animal that was now his, 'I've got no drawer that will fit that.'
When Clint got back three days later and all but barged into Phil's office without any real reason, Clint's entire face lit up and then he burst out laughing on the spot.
Because Phil had decided that he definitely wasn't going to keep the huge penguin at his apartment not with the joke going around it was actually a body pillow in disguise. So instead he'd given it a place in an empty corner of his office, to the amusement of everyone who saw it. Including Clint, obviously.
The laugh so open and free sent a shiver down Phil's spine. It's something new, something unexpected and while it didn't show on his face, it did take Phil by surprise. "Agent Barton," He then called out, the edge of his lips curved up slightly in amusement. Because while he was surprised, he was still Agent Coulson and that was a role he slipped into flawlessly whenever the situation deems it necessary.
Clint's laughing subsided.
"Is there anything you wanted?" He asked, even though they both knew why Clint was there.
"Not really, Sir. Just here to check if Pingu reached you safely." Clint said, sitting down.
"Don't you mean Stark Tower?" Phil raised an eyebrow.
Clint shrugged with a somewhat sheepish grin. "It reached you."
"It did." Phil said, lips in a firm line as he thought back to that night. "But next time the package doesn't go to Stark Tower, Barton, or there will be consequences."
It wasn't until Clint blinked at him owlishly that Phil realized exactly what he had said. But he couldn't take it back the fact he'd just blurted what he'd been thinking something that hadn't happened, ever before all of this. But when he saw the twinkle in the other's eyes and the grin that appeared on Clint's face, he didn't want to take his words back anymore.
He was shocked by his own thoughts, his own feelings betraying him. He wasn't an idiot. He knew what these feelings were. They left him reeling, wondering why now? And why on earth Barton?
He was shaken from his thoughts when Clint spoke, smug and visibly happy. "Assuming there's a next time, Sir? That's very conceited, isn't it?"
Phil frowned. Here was yet again a hint showing this was somehow more than just a joke. But he didn't have a clue what this could be other than a way to try and embarrass him. "Is it really conceited if I'm merely asking not to be made fun of in public?"
Clint hesitated, his expression falling. "No Sir," He then said, voice slightly strained and his entire posture distant. "I'd say that's a fair request."
Phil nodded. There wasn't anything more he could do. He'd obviously fucked up but as long as he didn't know what, he couldn't attempt to fix it.
"Speaking of embarrassment," Clint broke the awkward silence that had fallen over them. He grinned even though it was a small one in comparison to the ones before and nodded his head towards the penguin. "Are you sure you want to keep that here?"
"I'd rather keep it here than at my apartment." He admitted.
Clint raised an eyebrow.
Phil sighed. "Stark made the joke that the penguin was a
Clint burst out laughing again. "Seriously, how can you say that with a straight face? That's fucking hilarious."
Phil didn't say anything. He merely watched Clint laugh, feeling strangely relieved.
Then, Clint's laugh died down and he leered at Phil with a smirk. "It's actually not that bad an idea when you think about it."
Phil waved at the penguin. "By all means
Clint shook his head. "No can do. It's your gift so if anyone should use it, it's you."
Phil raised an eyebrow. If Clint wanted him to take the bait then sure, he would. "So you want me to get myself off while rubbing against a 5 feet penguin. A penguin you gave me?"
Clint flushed slightly. Then he got a hold of himself and flashed Phil a flirty grin. "If I can watch."
Phil shook his head trying not to imagine that scene because he was quite certain he'd never be able to forget it. He really needed to end this conversation before he'd say something he would later regret. Not only because the vision of Clint in his bedroom in a non-professional way was starting to look appealing.
So he stopped the conversation in the only way he knew was always effective. He asked: "Was that all, Agent Barton?"
Later, when Clint had left and Phil was contemplating leaving the last report for what it was and just go home to sleep did he realize something.
Clint had called the penguin a gift. Something he'd given Phil because he'd wanted to. Like a teenage boy winning a stuffed animal at the fair for the girl he liked to make a good impression before he asked her out.
Phil had worked long enough with Natasha Romanoff to know her quite well. He knew, for example, that what seemed to be accidental touches were her way of giving you a hug. He knew to look beyond her expression and to read between the lines. She was, deep down, someone that cared and would defend those she cared about above all else.
Clint was the one person she cared about the most not as a lover, they were past that, but more as a little brother and it so happened that Phil had hurt Clint. More than he'd anticipated, he couldn't help but think when Natasha slipped into his office and locked the door.
She leaned against the door, hands folded behind her back and her sharp eyes fixed on Phil's.
"Agent Romanoff, what can I help you with?" Phil asked, not sure what to expect and thus threading carefully.
"Phil," Natasha sounded slightly angry and disappointed, but only when one listened as closely as Phil always did when it came to her. And there it was. The sign she cared, that this was personal and it was all Phil's fault. "He isn't joking around."
Phil sighed showing Natasha more than he'd allow others to see but heck, Clint and Natasha had always been special, closer. "I know."
Her eyes narrowed and he lips, painted red and luscious, set in a thin line. "Did you know when you told him you thought he was
how did you say it? Making fun of you publically?"
Phil felt a pang of guilt. He'd jumped to a conclusion too fast and had said some hurtful things. Then again, how was he supposed to know he was being wooed with stuffed animals? They didn't teach you how to recognize those situations during SHIELD training. He looked straight at Natasha as he honestly yet softly admitted: "I realized when he left."
At his admittance Natasha's expression softened slightly and she seemed to relax a bit. She took a few moments with her next question and then softly, perhaps a bit cautiously, asked: "What are you going to do about it?"
Phil knew what it was. It wasn't the stuffed animals. It was Clint's feelings for him which were now made clear by Natasha.
He sighed softly. He didn't have a clue what to do with Clint's feelings. Not when he wasn't even sure about his own.
He shook his head. "I don't know."
Natasha blinked at him, almost like she'd expected Phil to know exactly what to do about the situation. "Try not to hurt him." She eventually said although Phil knew that underneath the request was a threat.
He looked at Natasha and nodded. "Of course."
Natasha gave him a smile. It was a small one but it reached her eyes and it made her look relaxed, human.
Phil knew that her business with him was finished now but she didn't leave. Instead she asked: "How was your check-up?"
Phil pinched the bridge of his nose, not wanting to think about that horrendous check-up. Granted, it had just been a regular check-up, the results just hadn't been what he'd hoped and wanted them to be.
"Oh," Natasha merely said, looking down and seeming to contemplate something.
"It's all right," Phil said, shrugging. "I can catch up on paperwork this way and I'll be cleared in no time." Even though he knew that right now it was wishful thinking rather than the truth.
"You better." She huffed. "For as far as I know Barton is driving Agent Sitwell completely crazy." She smirked.
It was already getting dark by the time Phil arrived at his apartment-building. When he walked through the lobby towards the stairs, he was called to a halt.
"Philip, wait a minute." July, the elderly landlady of the building, stood in the doorway of her ground-floor apartment, smiling at him.
"Good evening, July."
"A package was delivered for you," she said. "Want me to get it for you or would you like to join me for a cup of herbal tea?" She looked him up and down and with a friendly smile added: "You look like you could use some herbal tea. Life must be pretty hard for a detective."
He resisted the urge to sigh. He'd been in for a few cups of tea with July and in the end she would always question his love-life and when July found out that no, there still wasn't anything to tell she would always try and set him up with her daughter. Nonetheless, Phil never refused no matter how dreadful the conversations were. Because July's daughter was her only child and she happened to live in the UK. So Phil understood why he was invited and that's why he never refused.
He was lonely too, sometimes.
The moment he was safely at his own apartment Phil allowed himself to relax. He shook off his suit-jacket, lost the tie somewhere on his way to the couch and when he finally sat, kicked off his shoes. Then he unbuttoned his white button-up, shrugging it off and revealing a simple white undershirt. He made his way to the fridge, sock-clad feet patting softly against the hardwood floor. He got himself a cold beer and a pair of scissors, moving to sit down on the couch and ready to find out what Clint had won him this time.
He opened the box, more eager now than he'd previously been, he noticed. He paused for a moment, trying to analyze his feelings. After all, he had to understand what exactly he felt for Clint before he could decide what to do with the other's feelings.
But the truth was that deep down he already knew what he felt for Clint. Or rather, he knew what he would feel for Clint if this continued any longer. He'd been in love before.
Of course, the situation was different all together from the time he'd fallen head over heels for some girl in high school. However, he could remember the feelings, the happiness although short-lived. But it was clear that unlike Bethany Simmens, Clint did return his growing feelings.
However before he could allow anything to happen between Clint and him well, anything other than Clint winning him a carnival worth of stuffed animals he needed to talk with Fury.
He'd promised Natasha not to hurt Clint, after all. While he would no doubt hurt the other by rejecting him, he was sure he would hurt Clint much more if he would have to break up with him during the course of their relationship. Not because fraternization between Agents was against the rules it was, yet there was absolutely no-one who adhered that rule. But Phil would rather break Clint's heart than get him killed in the field during an OP because he was too emotionally invested to make a clear choice. So he needed to talk to Fury, because he'd known the man long enough to know he would tell him if he thought Phil couldn't deal with a relationship with Clint out in the field.
With a sigh he leaned back, looking at the package for a few moments before taking a big gulp of his beer. He was turning out to become an emotional sap in his old day, he thought amused. He took another swig before putting his bottle down and turning back to the box.
When he saw the violet Care Bear, dressed in a nurse outfit, lying in the box he laughed like he hadn't in a very long time.
Still chuckling, he lifted the bear out of the box and saw a note lying on the bottom. With a wide grin still on his lips, he put the bear down against his left thigh and grabbed the note.
Heard from Tash you're still stuck to your desk so here's nurse Care Bear to make sure you'll get better quickly.
It was a happy, almost joking kind of note. But it sent Phil into silence, a rare happy smile on his lips and his heart skipping a beat. Because this was the first proof proof that hadn't come in the form of stupid jokes or a stuffed animal that Clint cared.
Before he went to bed that night he stuck the note onto his fridge with a magnet, staring at it a good minute feeling warm and loved. When he entered his bedroom he put the bear down at the foot of his bed and the moment he wished it a good night he knew he was falling hard.
It took a bit over a month before Phil had the chance to talk to Fury.
During that period, he'd seen very little of Clint but he had instead received an amount of stuffed animals that he was quite certain would be enough to start his own stall. It was a wide arrange of merchandise he had, too. From normal animals to cartoon characters and he even had a life-size Whinny de Pooh. Almost all stuffed animals were put into a closet at his apartment and when Fury walked into his office one Wednesday afternoon, Phil couldn't help but feel relieved. If only for the lack of space left in the closet to put any more stuffed animals, he needed to sort things out with Clint as soon as possible.
Fury, who hadn't seen the inside of Phil's office after this whole ordeal started, took his time taking in the fact that there was a 5 feet penguin in the corner of Phil's office and a green teddy bear on his desk.
He turned to Phil with a smirk which with Fury was never a good thing and said: "This new obsession of yours, should I mention if for your next psych-evaluation or will it be sorted out by then, Phil?"
This was the reason why Phil considered Fury a good friend. He knew when Phil needed to talk about something and always gave Phil the opportunity to actually ask what he needed to. Whether that was dressed up with a smirk or a stare didn't matter, his questions were always genuine.
"I hope to have figured it all out by the end of the day." He told his friend, inviting Fury to sit down with a wave of his hand.
Fury nodded and then sat down, swinging his legs up to rest them upon Phil's desk casually although if one looked closely enough his entire posture screamed he was dead serious about this. "Is he causing you a lot of grief?"
Phil considered the question for a moment before shaking his head with a sigh. "I fear I'm the cause of my own grief this time."
Fury raised his one visible eyebrow. "So he has succeeded in getting into your mind?"
Phil shook his head, the barest hint of a smile on his lips. "Not just my mind."
Fury sighed but amusement was clear on his face, almost like he'd seen all of this coming even before it had started. "A job well done on his part. So why haven't you figured it out, then?"
Fury knew why Phil hadn't figured it out yet, Phil was sure of it. But this wasn't just an OP they were talking about, these were feelings and every topic regarding emotions was threaded carefully without too many questions being asked.
Phil folded his hands on top of his desk and looked at Fury, explaining: "Before I can safely say I have figured this out, I need to know if getting into a relationship with Barton won't cloud my judgment. I need to know that my emotional investment in him won't push me to make the wrong decisions in the field."
Fury smirked at the question.
Phil couldn't help but sigh. "You've thought about this already."
"I saw it coming by miles." Fury said. "Even if I hadn't, I trust your judgment, Phil. I know you'll make the right call because you think rationally. Not only that, I like to think Agent Barton wouldn't allow you to make the wrong call."
Phil gave his friend a small smile. "That's good to hear, Director."
At least now he knew what to do.
Two days after his talk with Fury, Phil had his medical. This time he was deemed healed on all accounts and thus cleared for fieldwork again. He contacted Fury right away, requesting an OP. The other had laughed an told Phil he'd take care of it. So now, Phil was impatiently waiting to hear something anything about the OP.
Suddenly Clint barged into his office, a grin on his face and a file in his hand. "So this time they actually believed you when you said you were fine?"
He watched the other sit down, saw the file thrown onto his desk and he suddenly felt the urge to call Fury and thank him.
Phil nodded. "Yes, it only took a little bribing too." He deadpanned.
Clint laughed and then nodded at the file. "So you're all ready for this?"
Phil couldn't help but allow a small smirk to his lips. "Worried, Barton?"
Clint grinned. "Wouldn't want you to die, Sir."
"And I wouldn't want you to kill Agent Sitwell, so let's assume I'm ready." He then took the file. "So what do we have here?"
Clint flinched at the question. "It's an easy one. A single person could do it, really. Right down the corner, too, so no flying is involved."
Phil frowned and quickly scanned the file. Clint was right. It was a ridiculously easy operation in a town just a five hour drive from New York City. His job would be to sit around and give Clint intel if he needed any. No real work, no danger but at least he was out in the field again.
"I'll be getting these kind of OP's for a while." He said. He couldn't blame anyone for it, really. He knew he should take it easy and allow his body to get back into shape. He also knew damned well that if he'd been a rookie Agent someone less experienced, less important he wouldn't have been cleared yet. He had to take it easy.
"I will contact Fury, though." He said, looking at Clint. "It's unfair if you are stuck with me throughout this."
"I don't mind, Sir." Clint said with a small smile. "Just happy you are still alive." When he said it, his voice cracked slightly and Clint turned his head away.
Phil's heart ached, itching to stand up and hug Clint. But he didn't couldn't because he himself could barely believe he was still alive. Instead, he gave Clint a small smile and a nod. "Me too."
Clint laughed, muttered "you better" and then things were back to normal whatever that was.
Phil looked at the file again. "So, ready for a road-trip?" He'd be lying if he said he hadn't missed this.
The OP had been easy, as expected.
Clint had been in and out under the hour and all Phil had done was sit in his car and wait. Well, there'd been a lot of thinking as well but that had nothing to do with the OP.
He saw Clint sauntering over to the car and started the engine, ready to go. But Clint didn't get into the car. Instead, he walked over to Phil's side and tapped the window with a grin.
Phil opened the window and raised an eyebrow. "Yes?" He asked, even though he was wondering in excitement what the other was up to. Would this be it?
Clint's eyes twinkled in excitement, it made him look younger, happy and Phil's heart skipped a beat. The archer then nodded to his left. "I noticed this carnival on my way back." He paused, searching Phil's face. Apparently he found what he was looking for, some tension left Clint's shoulders and he grinned a bit wider. "Would you mind popping by for a bit? I swear I won't be long."
Phil counted to three to keep himself from making an undignified sound. "On one condition."
Clint raised an eyebrow, curious yet excited. "Which is?"
Phil killed the engine and turned to Clint again with a smirk. "I get to pick what you'll be winning for me."
The stall they stood at was probably the shabbiest at the fair, but Phil had insisted on this one. It was the only one with the stuffed animal he wanted Clint to win for him. Plus, the stall was called Robin Hood which got Clint to agree. He loved his archery, after all.
"So," Clint leaned against the stall, facing Phil and a smirk on his lips. "Which one do you want me to win for you, darling?"
Phil felt his heart skip a beat at the endearment, even though it was said in playful banter it still sounded like a promise.
He glanced at the stall-owner who mumbled "let me know when you're ready," and then pointedly turned away. Then, Phil took a few steps closer to Clint right into his personal space, making him tense slightly at their closeness and leaned his hip against the stall. He grinned momentarily, making sure he'd caught Clint's eyes, before he turned his eyes to the stuffed animal he wanted, hanging from the ceiling of the stall.
He knew Clint had followed his eyes when he heard the other gasp softly.
"I want you to win me that hawk." Phil said, more heartfelt than he'd intended but he guessed he could do with a little emotion in his voice on this one. With Clint, he could afford to show himself.
When he turned back to look at Clint, the other was watching him hopefully, the grin on his face faltering a bit out of nervousness and Phil fell in love all over again. This was Clint, the person no-one but Phil and perhaps Natasha got to see.
"Any particular reason for that, Sir?" Clint asked.
Phil smirked. "I'll tell you when you've won it for me."
Clint's eyes widened a bit at those words and then he grinned. "Well, that should be a piece of cake."
Getting back to the car, Phil felt completely at ease. Clint had won him the hawk and for the first time since all of this started he was confident things were finally going to turn out in his favor.
He put the hawk in the backseat, unable to keep himself from smiling at it, and went to sit down in the drivers' seat because if he drove, at least he wouldn't feel like he'd done anything on this OP even if it meant he was Clint's personal driver.
When Clint was sitting in the passenger seat next to him, Phil shot him a look. If he were honest, he'd admit he couldn't wait until they were back in New York so they would have a chance to talk about this, all of it, in private. Somewhere private that wasn't the car, because he'd rather not be the cause of a car-crash and with Clint and the feelings bottled up between them, he had no idea what would happen.
He started the engine and turned on the CD-player and with the soft sounds of jazz playing through the car, he drove off.
But after only five or ten minutes of driving, he noticed Clint staring out of the window. His shoulders were hunched and he'd turned his face so Phil couldn't see his expression but he didn't have to. Clint was tense and that worried him.
"Everything all right, Agent?"
Clint nodded but didn't turn his head to Phil. "Just fine, Sir." He said although his tone didn't fit the words he spoke.
That's when it hit Phil. The tone, the posture and the way he was being ignored
Clint was insecure. Which, now that Phil thought about it, he had all right to be. Because they hadn't spoken a word about what had happened between them. And while he himself was content with waiting to talk to Clint when they got back to New York, the other could very well believe Phil was ignoring what had happened and pretending it wasn't there.
So, he reached out a hand and placed it comfortably on top of Clint's knee. He allowed a small smile to his lips and glanced at Clint who was looking at him with big, surprised eyes before turning back to the road. "Good," he said, a warmth in his tone that felt alien even to himself.
Clint's breathing stilled for a moment and then he let out a breath. "Yeah,"
Satisfied with Clint's relief, Phil pulled back and pressed a button on the steering wheel that would sent a call out to Fury right away, before placing his hand on the wheel again.
The dial-tone of Fury's phone rang through the car and he picked up after two rings, saying: "Agent Coulson."
"Director." Phil greeted the other. "The OP was finished successfully. We are now on our way back to New York."
Fury hummed his acknowledgement. "Anything else I should know?"
Phil considered his options for a moment and then said: "We will be in for debriefing in the morning."
When he glanced at Clint the other was looking at him, his expression a mix between surprise and excitement.
Phil decided he loved that look on the other's face and quirked his lip into a smirk.
"Agreed," Fury's slightly amused answer echoed through the car before he hung up.
Phil took a small breath, taking a moment to come to terms with what he'd just offered Clint. Then he turned to look at Clint again who was still looking at him with that same expression with a small smirk, feeling hopeful. "Or will that be a problem, Agent Barton?"
Suddenly Clint chuckled and he shook his head, looking at Phil with a grin. "Not at all, Sir. Not at all."
"Nice place you got here," Clint grinned when he sauntered through Phil's living-room, poking his head around corners in curiosity.
"Thanks," Phil said, removing his suit-jacket with a relieved smile and making his way to the fridge. "Beer?" He called out.
"Sure!" Clint called back.
Phil got two beers from the fridge and uncapped them before making his way to the living-room. Clint wasn't there, though, and he frowned. He put the beers down onto the coffee-table and while loosening his tie walked to his bedroom that being the only room in his apartment aside of the bathroom he figured the other would probably be there.
He found Clint standing in the middle of his bedroom, staring at his bed.
He leaned against the doorway and watched the other with a small smile.
"You kept it." Clint said, turning to look at Phil with surprise written on his face and hope shining in his eyes. "You kept it and put it at the foot of your bed."
Clint smirked and slowly stepped towards Phil. "Why Agent Coulson, does that mean you like me?"
Phil grinned now that Clint was standing right in front of him and, within the walls of his apartment, he reached out a hand to cup the other's cheek in his palm. "I let you woo me with stuffed animals and had you win me a hawk. If you haven't figured that out yet I would say you are not the asset SHIELD assumes you to be, Barton."
Clint seemed surprised for a moment and he swallowed. Then he raised his eyes to meet Phil's expectantly, bobbing on the balls of his feet. "Yeah, now that you have that hawk
what are you going to do with it?"
The insecurity in Clint's voice made Phil want to hug Clint and never let him go. He knew the other had been hurt by the people he'd trusted most and it hurt Phil to think about it. But it made him proud, so proud, to see Clint standing in front of him, ready to put his trust his heart in Phil's hands. And, unlike all others that had before, Phil wasn't about to let Clint down.
"I'm going to treasure it and never let it go." He told Clint, reaching out a hand to take Clint's and squeeze it gently.
"Why?" Clint asked, tongue tracing his lower-lip.
Phil knew it was his last resolve, his last shred of doubt and if he gave the right answer Clint would be his and his alone. Being so close to that, he hadn't realized just how badly he wanted that. But his heart, his mind, his entire body was screaming to have the other, safe in his arms and never let him go again.
"Because you succeeded, Clint." He said and he was certain that by now his face was portraying exactly how he felt inside. "You caught me and now you have me right where you wanted. Because I know you love me and I love you too and I want "
"Okay, I get it." Clint mumbled, cheeks flushed slightly in embarrassment.
Phil raised an eyebrow and smirked. He'd succeeded. "I can continue if you want. You have a lot of qualities that I find "
"I'm gonna kiss you now." Clint interrupted him and sealed their lips together.
It started as a tender, sweet kiss but the moment Phil slipped a hand down to the nape of Clint's neck and rested the other against his side, Clint pressed his body forward against Phil's with a happy sigh. Then, a wet tongue was lapping at Phil's lips, begging entrance, and hands were on his back, stroking, feeling, making sure that this was real.
When their kiss broke, they stared at each other for a few moments, both breathing slightly more heavy then before and Phil was sure he had a goofy, ridiculous grin on his face.
Then, Clint's gaze wavered and he uncertainly glanced at the bed.
Phil felt his heart clench and he lowered his hands to take Clint's in his, squeezing softly. "That can wait." He promised. He could wait and he would, for as long as Clint wanted or needed him to. He knew that with Clint, trust was something one had to earn and sharing the intimacy that would later come with their relationship would take a humongous amount of trust. Luckily, Phil was nothing if not a hard and patient worker.
Later that evening, they were sitting on the couch in Phil's living-room. Clint was pressed against his side, legs and feet folded aside him on the couch and his head resting against Phil's shoulder, watching TV.
"So," Phil started, turning his eyes away from an episode of Policewomen of Maricopa County to look at Clint with an amused expression. "Stuffed animals?"
Clint grinned. "It worked."
Phil rolled his eyes not going to admit that yes, yes it did. "Of all things in the world
Clint had the decency to flush slightly but his grin didn't go away. "It was 'Tash's idea."
Phil raised an eyebrow. "Somehow I find that hard to believe."
Clint snorted. "No, really. She said she was sick and tired of me moping
When I won that bear at the fair it was just for fun. I mean, yeah, I won it for you but I was just thinking of keeping it at home. But then she had to go and ship it, to you! And I guess
I was hopeful, so that's why I went along with it."
Phil blinked. "For how long
?" He asked, not really asking a question but Clint would know what he wanted to know. Had he been blind for such a long time?
Clint grimaced for a fleeting second and then shook his head, grinning at Phil again and raising a hand to stroke the hairs at the nape of Phil's neck. "It doesn't matter. Got you now." He pushed himself up and kissed the other. Then he settled down against Phil's side again and they spent the next few hours like that, huddled together on the couch watching thrash-TV.
Yeah, they would be just fine.