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This’ll be the day that I die

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The first thing Coulson hears is the quiet strum of a guitar and the smooth, dulcet tone of someone singing, as he emerges from the office building. It’s well past midnight, and while SHIELD headquarters is anything but empty, the parking lot where he’d left his car is, and he wonders just who would be singing. There aren’t a lot of musicians in SHIELD, and contrary to what some think, the Initiative most certainly isn’t a boy-band.

A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile.

The agent rounds the corner, and finds Clint perched on the roof of his car, legs crossed with a guitar in his lap. Where the younger man got the guitar, he doesn’t know, Clint is known for having the oddest collection of things every now and then, and talents beyond what everyone else sees. The fact that he’s on the roof fails to surprise Coulson, he’s known Clint to have strange habits and a liking for the higher ground.

Clint’s not in uniform either, instead clad in faded jeans and a loose T-shirt with a jacket draped over, and Coulson suspects that the bag which sits next to him contains the bow and arrow he always carries with him. There’s a pair of boots on the ground, much to the older man’s amusement, and a quick once-over of the archer reveals bare feet tucked away from the chilly night.

And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while

Judging by the angle, Coulson guesses that it’s most likely that Clint hasn’t seen him, but if he knows the archer, it’s also highly likely he’s already been spotted - the lack of reaction from the younger man means absolutely nothing - and Clint doesn’t mind Coulson watching this impromptu performance.

His fingers are agile and steady, and Coulson manages a ghost of a smile. Clint has always had gifted fingers, and it’s really no surprise that the archer makes strumming a guitar look so effortless - he makes shooting an arrow look simple too - but the singing, now that’s one thing that Coulson wonders how he’s managed to keep it under wraps for so long. It’s doubtful that any others would have heard the archer sing; Natasha maybe, but not other agents, and it makes Coulson feel a little warm that Clint trusts him enough to show this other side of him.

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step

It’s an old song, one which the agent is familiar with; McLean’s American Pie, but the way Clint sings it -

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

- how it’s so full of loss and grief and Coulson just knows that he blames himself for the situation which killed one of their junior agents and put Natasha and a few others into medical - it had been a freak accident, nothing anyone could have done to stop it - has put another crack in Clint’s armor. The archer hasn’t said a word, but Coulson has known Clint long enough and knows him well enough to just know, what the younger man will never say.

He strides across the parking lot, before coming to a stop beside his car. The archer hasn’t greeted him, and it’s somewhat unnerving to see the cheerful, brashly cocky young man quiet, expression unreadable.

“Clint?”

This time the archer stops, fingers resting lightly on guitar strings as he turns to face Coulson. Those blue eyes are filled with exhaustion, partly from the assignment that had taken too many days and partly because Clint blames himself. The tension is obvious is the archer’s posture, and it makes the agent sigh.

There’s a smear of ink on his hand as he holds it out, lips set into a wry smile - it must be pretty damn cold up there where Clint is sitting, and the younger man is barefooted as well - gesturing for him to come down.

Clint’s lips twitch in response, but those nimble fingers go back to the guitar and Coulson finds himself momentarily mesmerized by the archer’s voice, eyes drifting to the line of his jaw and further down along his throat as he sings, almost honey-sweet and silk-smooth and Coulson could probably kick himself for letting his thoughts drift into such cliched notions.

Bye, bye Miss American Pie
Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry
Them good ole boys were drinking whiskey in Rye
Singin’ this’ll be the day that I die

He swallows as the last note trails off and Clint slides off the top of the SUV, bag, guitar and all. The half-grin that Clint manages - it looks a little forced, but the archer looks better than five minutes ago - only draws a single, raised eyebrow from Coulson, before he hands him his boots.

“McRory’s should still be open. I could use a drink,” and you could too, but the second half goes unsaid as Coulson unlocks the car, watching as Clint places the guitar and bag on the back seat, before tugging on his boots.

“Me too.”

This’ll be the day that I die