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Over Easy

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When he thought about it (as little as he ever actually wanted to), he realized how inevitable it was. They were just fundamentally different people, and their respective rough edges, instead of fitting tightly together like a jigsaw puzzle, turned out to rub against each other uncomfortably. It was one of those situations where anyone else would say it's nobody's fault. Just one of those things that happened. Of course, Phil wasn't most people, and he was more than willing to put the lion's share of the blame squarely where it belonged-- on his own shoulders. He wasn't an emotionless automaton, despite what any number of junior agents half-jokingly whispered behind closed doors, but he did a good enough impression of one that relationships weren't his strong suit. Agent Barton (No, Clint. Now and forever, in his head, only Clint), however, hadn't been fooled. He'd spotted the path through to what Phil was just as easily as he'd ever spotted anything and he'd given Phil an opportunity. Another chance to grab the brass ring that he'd always ignored in favor of duty, and damn his optimism, he tried for it.

He wasn't surprised when it fell through.

Ultimately, Clint needed more than Phil was able to provide. It wasn't that he didn't want to, it was that he was unequipped. He just wasn't good at being emotionally demonstrative, and when he tried it always made him feel clumsy and awkward, as if he was making things worse. Turned out he was.

He could barely even remember what sparked the argument that had ended it all. He just knew that he'd finally closed up one too many times for a relationship to be tenable.

It was better for everyone involved.

And he didn't let it affect the job.

Neither of them did, in fact. In the office or in the field, it was business as usual. Same as before, same as ever. It made it easier, made it simpler, made things all right. Back to normal. Things were fine.

Not that that stopped the reactions. As much as Phil had assumed the other Avengers would have squarely focused on Clint's well-being, there was still no small amount of attention being sent his way for some reason. Romanoff would bring coffee by his office (always appreciated!) and ask if he wanted to talk about it (not necessary). Rogers was giving him sympathetic looks when he thought Phil wasn't looking, and even Stark was being something close to tolerable. It toed entirely too close to affecting the job for his liking, but all he could do was continue to show that everything was fine. It had slowed some, but it still continued. It would taper off eventually.

It had to. His personal life never touched the job. The job was too important.

~~

He was working late. Not that that was by any means out of the ordinary. In fact, he hadn't gone home at all the night before. Reports needed to be filed, and Phil had a coffeemaker in his office for nights just like this. Nobody else touched it because he arguably made ‘nights like this’ coffee strong enough to eat through roofing tiles. He didn't mind it, though. It was one way to make deadlines.

He finally dropped off all his reports and made his way out of the building at half past three in the morning. He drove to his apartment, got in the door, and managed to remove his jacket, tie, and shoes before flopping on top of his bed covers and falling directly off to sleep.

When he woke, it was not to the harsh buzz of his alarm. That was the first indication that something was off. The second was the daylight streaming through the window. His eyes flicked to his clock. He should have been at work hours ago. He sat up quickly, and realized two more things. One, his sheets were over him, and two... he smelled bacon and eggs. He didn't think he actually had any eggs in the fridge. Or bacon, for that matter. He was pretty sure the contents of his refrigerator consisted of some almost-expired milk, some leftover Chinese, one open box of baking soda, and a bunch of condiments.

Mystified, yet cautious, he wandered out and towards the kitchen before freezing in the doorway. Standing at the stove, frying up some eggs, was Clint. This was no part of any scenario he had ever envisioned over the weeks since it ended. Before he'd even started to wonder if it was possible to slip away unnoticed, Barton spoke up. "I talked to Fury and got you the day off. Sit down. I doubt you've had an actual breakfast since the last one I made you."

He couldn't argue the point. He sat wordlessly at the kitchen table. After another couple of minutes, Clint put a plate in front of him, with eggs, bacon, and some toast, and sat across from him with a plate of his own. He finally managed to speak. "What are you doing here?"

Clint actually smiled. "What do you think?"

Phil looked at his plate, smiled a little himself, and started in on the food. He'd need the energy for this conversation. But he also knew he wouldn't regret it. Forget fine. They were returning to good.