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50,000 Unstoppable Watts

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The wound's a through-and-through, two neat holes where the bullet went in a few inches below his ribs, and came out a little lower in the back. The blood is bright red and oozing sluggishly, so maybe he got lucky. Maybe the bullet didn't hit anything important on the way through, Phil hopes, picturing the trajectory, recalling what possibly lies in the path between the two wounds—liver, gallbladder, kidney. All things he'd like to keep intact. He's also got a graze on his arm, two fingers that don't want to bend right, and he's just figured out it's not just water that keeps running into his eyes, but he's alive and back in the boat.

"How ya doin', sir?" Barton shouts over the wind rushing through the gaping hole in the side of the boat's cabin, the hole Phil fell through, along with a Hydra agent who is most likely sinking to the bottom of the ocean right now. Barton doesn't actually look over at him, just looses an arrow and reaches for another from the quiver propped in the captain's chair.

"Priorities, Barton!" Phil shouts back over the sound of the boat's engine screaming. There's something wrong with it; they're not moving as quickly as they should be given how hard the engine's working, and there's black smoke pouring out of the hold in the back. He tears a flimsy gauze bandage in two, gritting his teeth against the spike of pain as he slaps the pieces down over the bullet holes. "Don't worry about me."

It's the wrong answer, because it makes Barton thinks Phil's hiding something. His eyes flick in Phil's direction as he reaches for another arrow, his attention divided for only a few seconds, and it doesn't slow him down. He's still focused, still preternaturally accurate, and doesn't even seem to be aware that he's dripping wet and--except for his arm guard and his shooting glove--completely naked. He didn't bother to put his clothes back on after he hauled Phil back up into the boat, which would be the weirdest thing about the last hour or so of Phil's life if not for the fact that they were also attacked by giant aquatic bat things and an unexpected squad of Hydra agents at the same time. (The difference between them being the Hydra agents are now all dead, because they're much easier to kill than the aquatic bats.)

Phil's own mangled shirt and coat are piled next to him in a sopping heap, because he didn't have the luxury of stripping down before he ended up in the water. His pants are already starting to rub uncomfortably, and they feel like they weigh about fifty pounds; Barton was smart to ditch his uniform before he jumped in the ocean. Phil fishes his tie out of the pile and sticks it in his pants pocket, just in case it's not totally ruined. His mother gave it to him.

The tape in the boat's first aid kit is a joke, so he digs around in a storage compartment that looks promising, and eventually finds a roll of duct tape. While he's doing that the boat begins to pitch and rock more violently, which means they're probably past the breakwater now--it's a miracle they didn't hit it--out in the open water where the waves are bigger. He's not sure if that's a good thing or not. He sees Barton give him another quick glance as he turns away from the hole and tries again to steer the damaged boat, but it's still no use, it doesn't respond at all, just keeps chugging along on an unchangeable course. They can't stop, they can't go faster, and they can't steer. And Barton has less than half a dozen arrows left.

Phil rips off a piece of tape, leaving bloody fingerprints all over the adhesive side, and pats it down over the bandages where they're already sticking to his skin from the blood alone, then winds a strip around his torso a couple times just for good measure. Through the boat's windows he can see dozens more bats taking to the air, breaking the surface of the ocean one by one, trailing water behind them as they flap and scream, throwing themselves at the boat, scrabbling against the glass of the windows. Barton grabs another arrow but doesn't bother with his bow, just clutches it in his hand and uses it to defend the hole in the wall, which is now being attacked by three bats at once.

"Coulson, what the hell are these things?" he yells as one claws its way past him and thud squishily onto the floor. He kicks at it with a bare foot as one of the ones clinging to the jagged edge of the hole tries to claw at his face.

"I have no idea," Phil manages as he tries to push himself up onto his knees and find the nearest weapon, which conveniently turns out to be a spear gun. He doesn't fire it, just jabs it at the bat's face, and it falls dead with a shriek. Something squelches unpleasantly when Phil pulls the spear back out. Barton buries his arrow square in the throat of the bat intent on slicing his face open, but it falls backwards and takes the arrow with it before he can pull it free.

The other bats abandon the hole in favor of circling the boat and screeching at them. Barton lifts his bow and sends another arrow on its way, and a few seconds later the boat rocks with the force of a nearby explosion. He grins and reaches for another, waits for the chance to do as much damage with it as possible. Phil's vision swims a little--he's maybe more hurt than he realized--and then his earbud suddenly crackles, and Phil's never been so glad to hear Tony Stark's voice in his entire life.

"I've got you on my HUD, three minutes out," Stark says, and Phil sees Barton nod; he heard it, too. Phil lets himself sit back down as another arrow leaves Barton's bow. Out over the water, a bat screams and dies.

They'll survive for three more minutes, Phil's sure of it. He's sure of Barton, who he can trust to do the heavy lifting until Stark gets here, because Phil is--Phil is hurt bad, there's no fooling himself. He leans back against the wall, spear gun clutched in his cold hands, and tries not to slip into unconsciousness.

"You stay with me, Coulson," Barton says right at that moment, as if he knows. Phil turns his head and fixes his eyes on him, just as Barton pulls the last arrow from his quiver, all quick, efficient motion. He's always been so damn dependable, so damn resourceful. He's always been Phil's favorite, and never more so than now. Phil focuses on him and resists the urge to check his watch. Two minutes and change now, probably.

Barton carefully sets the last arrow in place against the string of his bow, hands deft and sure, jaw set in determination. He's seen Barton's arms plenty, Phil thinks hazily as his own blood drips off his chin onto the strip of tape across his chest. Everyone's seen Barton's arms, in all their bulging, vein-roped glory, because his uniform is specifically designed to make sure that's the case. And Phil's spent plenty of time admiring those arms from behind his sunglasses, from the other side of the smokey one-way windows in the gallery above the shooting range, from the receiving end of jumpy video feeds.

But what Phil hasn't ever seen is the way, when Barton nocks an arrow and draws his arm back, his whole body works at it, the muscles Phil never knew he had in his back and shoulders rippling and clenching. Phil's mouth goes dry as Barton pivots his upper body, adjusts his aim, and he sees the ridges jump to life in Barton's flat stomach, the ladder-like cords of muscle that cover his ribs. He looks improbably strong, impossibly confident, and reassuringly deadly. He looks like nothing can touch him, even when he's naked and soaking wet and outnumbered and down to his last arrow.

The boat bucks and dips over a big wave, and Barton adjusts to keep his balance, the big muscles in his ass and thighs flexing to absorb the motion, his bare toes digging into the dirty floor of the boat. His aim never wavers, his eyes never blink. His entire body is taut and focused, drawn as tight as the bowstring he holds in his steady fingers, and Phil Coulson realizes even though he's going to make it, he's absolutely going to survive this, he is still totally and completely fucked.

The End


[Image description: naked WWII gunner]

Also available as a podfic by lattice-frames! <3

[Image description: Cover for podfic]