As long as he'd known Coulson, both as superior and, more recently, as lover, Clint Barton could honestly not remember ever seeing the man so nervous. Most people wouldn't have noticed, especially not with how good the man tended to be at hiding stuff like that, but Clint was observant, and better yet, he knew Phil. And even without his standard suit- just wearing a sweater and jeans- with his fingers drumming on the steering wheel and his head bobbing slightly as they drove down a run-of-the-mill Ohio street, Clint knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was nervous. He smothered a smile. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, I'm..."
"You're nervous as hell."
Phil glanced over at him, eyebrows knitting together. "I wouldn't go that far."
"I haven't brought anyone home for Christmas since I was in college. And absolutely nobody liked her. ... Which, okay, fair enough, she turned out to be overbearing, emotionally manipulative, and thank God I figured that out in time, but that's not the point. Plus I haven't gotten to come home for Christmas myself in a couple years."
"Which is probably why Fury threatened to suspend you if you didn't take the time off on your own."
"Really. Don't worry about it. I will do my very best to be as perfectly lovable as possible."
"Clint, you do that naturally." And with that he was pulling up to the curb in front of a regular old two-story house, the very picture of middle-American suburbia. Really, it was the kind of place that Clint thought only actually existed in commercials, complete with a snow-covered lawn and Christmas lights bedecking the house. He was still staring when Phil spoke up again. "Here we are. Can you help me get the presents out of the trunk?"
"All twenty thousand of them?" Clint replied with a grin, getting out of the car.
"Sixteen. And that doesn't count yours."
"Sixteen? Good thing SHIELD pays well."
"Two parents, two sisters, one brother, one sister-in-law, two brothers-in-law, five nieces, three nephews. Sixteen. And as far as my family's concerned, I'm a state department pencil-pusher."
Clint just laughed. "As easy as that is to see, it's still impossible to see."
"Still haven't figured out exactly how to explain ending up with you." Phil opened the trunk and looked thoughtful. "Actually, I'm still not entirely sure how to explain that even without the cover story."
"Dashing superhero, well-put-together government bureaucrat who never does anything exciting ever. Two ships, somehow destined not to pass in the night." He grinned at the look on Phil's face and pulled both sacks of presents out of the trunk. "Don't worry. If it comes up, I'm a master bullshit artist, you should know that by now."
"Oh, I'm very much aware. Here, hand me one of those."
"Nope, I got 'em. Go say hi to your family."
Coulson shook his head, closed the trunk, and headed up the walkway, Clint right behind him. After Phil rang the doorbell, it wasn't very long before the door was answered by a woman a couple years older than he was, who promptly gave him a hug. "Phil! God, we're glad you managed to make it." She stepped back with a smile and glanced over at Clint. "And this must be--"
Whatever Clint must have been was interrupted by the high-pitched excited shout of a five-year-old girl barreling directly into Coulson's shins and hugging him around the knees. Coulson laughed almost incredulously and lifted her up. "Emily, wow, you've gotten so big." He shifted a little and held up a hand. "Gimme five." Clint could hardly keep the grin of his face as the kid-- Emily-- promptly gave the raised hand a good smack. Phil set her back down and ducked down to her level, ruffling her hair a little. "Go ahead and let everyone else know we're here, kay?" Emily nodded solemnly and turned and ran back down the hall as Phil stood back up.
"Right, where were we? Right. Clint, this is my sister Sarah. She's the oldest, and the one that kept the rest of us in line." He smiled a little. "Sarah, this is Clint Barton. I'd call him my boyfriend, but that doesn't even begin to sum it up."
"Phil, did you honestly make your boyfriend carry all your gifts?"
Clint laughed and shifted the bags so they were both in his left hand as he shook Sarah's. "Don't get him in trouble, I insisted."
"About time you found a keeper, Phil. Come on in, you two. Mom's baking the cookies right now, but we can at least introduce him to everyone else."
Phil smiled back at Clint as they stepped inside and Sarah closed the door behind them. "Well, ready to meet the crew?"
"Chez Coulson, here I come."
They got down to the living room in short order and the place was fairly well packed. There was a huge, brightly lit Christmas tree in the corner, with tons of presents already underneath. There were Christmas knicknacks all over the place, Christmas music playing from Pandora on the TV, and not only were the couches and recliners full, some of the dining room chairs had been dragged in for extra sitting space, and some kids were still on the floor. And once Phil walked in, there was a rather joyful uproar. He'd seen Coulson get crowded with people with paperwork, he'd seen him surrounded by hostiles with weaponry, not to mention getting ringed by needy Avengers, but he can safely say this is the first time he'd seen the man mobbed by family and accosted for hugs. While Phil was taking care of that with his customary aplomb (and a much larger smile than usual), Clint maneuvered around the edges of the room and safely set the bags of presents over by the tree. He was fairly sure that at any moment, his lover would be starting the introductions, and having his hands full during them would make it more than a little bit awkward.
Before long, people were getting settled again, and then, over some of the residual din, a question came. "Phil, aren't you going to introduce your friend?" asked a man sitting on a recliner, who was obviously either Phil's dad or his clone who happened to be artificially aged for a couple decades. Clint was betting on the former.
"I was waiting for mom before I started," Phil replied, glancing around.
"Go ahead and start, Phillip! I'll be out in a minute, I'm just tossing this batch into the oven! God knows I'll be out before you get through everyone anyway," Phil's mother's voice drifted in from the kitchen.
Phil laughed a little, stood in the center of the room, and beckoned Clint over. He made his way over next to him and Phil rested a hand on the small of his back. "Right. I'll try to get this done in a somewhat organized fashion."
Clint just chuckled and shook his head. "Of course you are," he murmured, eliciting some laughs by those close enough to hear. Nice to know that some differences not withstanding, Coulson was still Coulson whenever.
Phil just shook his own head and started. "First of all, everyone, this is Clint Barton, and if I started to describe him, I'd be doing it all day, but trust me, he'll be doing plenty of speaking for himself."
Grinning easily, Clint shot back with, "'Course I will. First of all, nice to meet everyone in advance, I'll try to remember all your names." And he would, he had a good eye for detail, and it was Coulson giving the briefing, so how would he not?
"Right. First of all, that's my dad, Gary. Everything I know about timely and appropriate responses, I started to learn from him." Clint grinned and most of the family seemed amused. Obviously a man to be reckoned with.
Phil continued. "You've met Sarah already. Sitting next to her is her husband Alan. They have three daughters." He gestured as he pointed people out. "In age order, Leigh, Abigail, and Christina. Leigh's in law school, Abbie and Chrissie are both undergrads, but Abbie graduates this spring." There was a round of hellos and nice to meet yous and smiles from all three of them.
Phil moved on. "Then you have my second sister, Laura, and her husband Bill. They've got two kids in high school, we've got Andrew and Maggie." Andrew gave the customary 'hey' of an average teenager, and Maggie, who must have been a bit shy, was sitting a bit wide-eyed in the corner, and just waved.
"And last but not least, we've got my big brother Greg. That's his wife Candace. Brendan there's his oldest son, from his first marriage. Then we have Michael, and you've already seen Emily."
"Oh, as if they're last!" Phil's mother emerged, then, a dishtowel over her shoulder, and gave him a hug. "I'm last but not least."
Phil grinned and kissed his mom's cheek. "Right. Clint, this is my mother, Anne. Mom, this is Clint."
Clint promptly found himself met with a large hug. "I've heard so much about you, Clint. It's wonderful to meet you, and merry early Christmas."
"So what is it you do, Clint?" asked Laura.
"Oh my God, mom, he's an Avenger, he's hot g-- Hawkeye." Maggie'd finally spoken up, and was just as soon shutting her mouth and turning bright red the way only a mortified fourteen-year-old girl could. Clint somehow managed not to crack up and shot her a smile. God. Hot guy. He had the best code name ever.
"That would be me, yes," he said, to varying degrees of surprise or the lack thereof.
"Wait a second. Phil, how on earth do you end up dating an Avenger?" Greg spoke up. "Other than maybe Tony Stark, because I think that guy dates everyone."
Clint cut in before Coulson could promptly have a coronary at the thought of dating Tony. He was already doing well not to start twitching. "Funny story, actually. I was at a Starbucks, I go to pay, and I figure out I'd left my wallet back at the mansion. Well this guy here offers to pay for my drink. We get to talking, we hit it off, the rest is history." It was even sort of true. He'd just left out a lot of the background and details and the 'Well, damn, Coulson, you're buying me a drink, you want me to put out?' and the eyerolling but somehow not exactly being able to deny it just because of the years of unacknowledged sexual tension. Best day at Starbucks ever.
"Wow," Sarah said. "My baby brother, dating a superhero."
"I want to be a superhero," Emily piped up. "And a princess. A princess superhero."
Clint grinned and crouched down to her level. "I bet you'd be a great one. Get a little bigger, I'll teach you everything I know about archery, and then you can have my spot on the team after I retire, deal?"
She grinned. "Deal."
Well, now that the cat was out of the proverbial bag to everyone in the room, Clint and Phil sat on a couple folding chairs that Alan had grabbed for them and started fielding the inevitable barrage of questions. Phil let Clint take most of them, which made sense as he was getting most of them. It was a hell of a getting to know you scene, and, holding hands with Phil and surrounded by friendly faces, it was the most comfortable metal folding chair Clint had ever sat in.
Phil's room growing up had been, of course, converted to a guest room by this point. But it still made Clint happy to know that that's where they'd be staying. He stretched out on the bed as Phil changed into the customary old t-shirt and shorts he wore to sleep. Despite the fact that he'd had quite a few, he almost wished he'd smuggled a few more of Anne's sugar cookies upstairs as a pre-bed snack. But they'd still be there in the morning. As Christmas Eves went, this had been one of the best in years, as far as he was concerned. And Christmas day was going to be much the same.
He smiled, content. "Phil?"
"Yeah?" Coulson replied, climbing into bed next to Clint.
"You have a great family. Really."
Phil smiled. "I know. I wish I could see them more, but I really appreciate the times I do get to. Especially when it's all of us."
"So you think Michael's going to get you to wear those reindeer antlers again tomorrow?" He could not begin to describe how happy he was that there was officially photo evidence that that had happened.
"Much to my chagrin... Oh, and I'm sorry for the unexpected fangirling from Maggie. I really didn't see that one coming."
"Oh, come on, Phil, that was the best part of the night. Well, other than the antlers."
"I will never live those down, will I? All I need next is a ridiculous reindeer sweater with a jingle bell nose, and you'll never take me seriously again."
Clint laughed. "You know, just when I think I have a bead on you, you go and surprise me again. Love how many sides of you there are."
Phil shot Clint a smile. "Thank you. The feeling's mutual."
His returned smile turned a bit impish. "So can I call you Uncle Phil from now on?"
"How about if I ask really nicely?"
He grinned. "Buzzkill."
"Love you too, Clint." Coulson leaned over Phil and turned off the bedside lamp. "Now get some sleep."
"What did you get me for Christmas?"
"You know, you're worse than Emily. Go to sleep, you'll find out in the morning."
Phil shut him up the best way possible. With a kiss.
As he settled in to sleep, Clint knew he'd have to coerce Phil to bring him back a whole lot more. But first thing was first. Christmas morning was going to be phenomenal.