Everything is really, really loud. The bright light hurts Clint’s eyes; he burrows his head under a scrap of fabric that smells like him, feels safe.
"...Where is he?! Has he been shrunk? Teleported? Work with me here, Thor, what can your brother do?"
Clint whimpers. There's no call for Tony to be so deafening.
"My brother would always choose to enact the biggest mischief he can think of, but I do not think he would harm Hawkeye; it would not serve his purpose at present. However I do believe I can hear something coming from yon pile of garments left behind; perhaps if you would hold your peace for a moment...?"
"What in the hell does that mean?"
"It means shut up a second, Tony," Natasha snaps.
Finally, blessed quiet. Clint decides it's safe to crawl out. His legs feel strange; come to think of it, his arms don't really feel like his arms, and when he tries to straighten...
'Oh, hell no,' he thinks, looking down at his hands only to be met with furry paws instead of the fingers he expects. "Thor, what the fuck did your fucking brother do to me?" he yells--only he doesn't, because no words appear from his lips. Instead, there's... barking?
"My most sincere apologies, Clint," Thor says, while huge arms scoop him up and lift him until he's looking at Thor's distraught face, blue eyes sad. "It appears that my brother has turned you into a small dog."
"No shit," Clint yaps. To his surprise, Thor ducks his head, like he understood what Clint just said. "You can... understand me?"
"My father created the All Speak. I can understand everything, in any language that is spoken, included that of canines. I can assure you this condition is not permanent. That would require a far greater level of magic than my brother would be willing to expend for the sake of mischief. We will simply have to endure until it reverses itself."
"'Endure,' he says," Clint bitches. "You're not the one stuck in dog form for however long!"
"What's he saying?" Tony demands.
"He is not happy," Thor supplies with a wince.
"No shit," Tony snaps. Clint looks at him approvingly. There's a reason Tony's his favourite.
Natasha sighs. Clint turns his head to find her, feels a draft over the back of his hind legs as he -- apparently -- wags his tail at her. Gah, this is beyond embarrassing.
"Oh, look, he likes you," Tony says. Clint growls; it feels good. Much more effective than swearing, which directed at Tony is like water sliding off a duck's back. Tony's face falls; he gets these sad eyes when he looks at Clint, and he smells wistful--which apparently is now something that Clint can tell, Jesus, could this day get any weirder? He sighs, wriggles in Thor's hands until Thor passes him to Tony, and then licks his face behind the lifted visor of the armour. He's a little blinded by what a huge smile he gets back for that.
"What's happened? Where's Hawkeye? Why are you holding a Corgi?" Steve demands as he runs up.
"You mean why am I holding Clint," Tony corrects, since it's the answer to all three questions. Clint barely hears him, because he is frozen with fury -- Loki turned him into a Corgi? He's a lap dog now?!
"Why is he growling? Is he in pain?" Steve asks, a distressed frown on his face.
Thor, relegated to interpreter for the duration of the... incident, explains.
"...A Corgi, he couldn't have turned me into something big and fierce, no, it had to be a a damn Corgi," Clint yaps on, five minutes later, when he feels a warm hand settle on the scruff of his neck and lift him out of Tony's arms -- which is kind of a relief, because metal? Not so comfortable when you're a small dog, damn it.
"Widow, Cap, you're overdue for a briefing. Iron Man, you're done, head on home. Thor, you too, take the Hulk with you. Barton, you're staying with me, you need to be checked over. I've called in the vets."
"The vets?" Clint howls, outraged.
Coulson merely sighs. "Stop that infernal noise, who did you think would make sure you're okay in this shape?"
"Not the fucking vets, Jesus, Thor, you tell them that if they come at me with a rectal thermometer I am going to give them all rabies, I fucking swear."
"Son of Coul, Clint says--"
"I think I get the picture. No one's gonna touch your privates, don't worry. I'll whisk you out of there if they even reach for the snipping scissors."
Strong hands close on him when he tries to wriggle out of Coulson's grip. "Barton, calm down. You'll be done in no time."
Clint settles, albeit extremely reluctantly. "This is no time to decide you have a sense of humor, fucking hell," he grumbles.
True to Coulson's word, the vets pronounce him completely healthy, and no one even reaches for his ass or balls, which is good for them, because Clint is suddenly in possession of a bunch of very sharp teeth and isn't shy about using them.
Coulson nods when the vet gives him the all-clear and turns on his heel, clicking his fingers. To his horror, Clint's legs move to obey before he can even think to stop them. He jumps off the examination table, slinks sullenly after Coulson as he leads the way away from medical bay and up to the briefing rooms. Coulson holds the doors open for him obligingly, which Clint grudgingly appreciates. This 'having four legs' thing is kind of relaxing, actually; he's certainly faster that way, even if he still doesn't manage to trip Coulson up, the man is some kind of machine.
He doesn't get yelled at, either, which is kind of strange. Most of Clint’s superiors in the past have eventually sent him packing, sooner or later. Coulson, though, appears utterly unruffled, face stuck into that irritating mask of polite interest that Clint itches to crack at the best of times. Clint doesn't like mysteries. He decides to explore the new advantage he's found himself with, and sniffs the air curiously.
Coulson smells... amused. Clint blinks, taken aback. Well, that's a new one. Huh.
Coulson pushes another door open, and Clint breaks into a trot to keep up with him. He only sees shades of black, white, blue and yellow now, but his eyesight is as sharp as ever, if not sharper. There's Steve and Natasha, sitting close together, heads bowed, conferring in a low voice. They break it off the second they see the two of them.
"Is he all right?" Steve demands.
"He is perfectly healthy, Captain Rogers. We'll just have to wait for the spell to reverse itself. Until such a time I propose he stays confined to either the Avengers mansion or to HQ, your call."
"We're taking him home with us," Steve says immediately. He smells protective, worried. Natasha nods, face set. She smells even more worried than Steve.
"Guys, I'm okay," he tries to tell them, but to his frustration only yaps come out. He hates the look of fleeting panic that flashes over their faces.
"Very well. Take him to the mansion, but make sure you bring him back here with you as well. Agreed?"
"Yes, sir," they both say. Steve gets up and rounds the table, kneels in front of Clint, offers him a hand.
"Come on, boy," he cajoles, running it over Clint's fur. It's... kind of nice, actually. He takes a step forward, lets Steve pick him up and cuddle him to that massive, warm chest of his. The heat is delicious; he curls up against it, huffs contentedly. When he looks at Coulson, he catches a flash of smile that transforms his whole face, punches Clint in the gut. Coulson smells relieved, fond, and for a second Clint can't breathe from a realisation that feels a long time in coming -- Coulson genuinely cares for all of them. This isn't just his job; he's not watching their backs just because he was assigned to keep them in line. He does it because he wants to.
It's a shock that follows him all the way home, curled on Steve's lap as Natasha drives them out of downtown Manhattan.
The days blur for Clint after that. Apparently being a dog is exhausting, and the moment he lies down somewhere for more than ten minutes, he falls asleep. The naps make it hard to keep track of time, especially when it's mostly spent in the mansion -- since Loki's latest attack, the other villains have been awfully quiet.
Life as a dog in the Avengers mansion ought to be the best thing -- he gets plenty of attention, JARVIS lets him out for a walk as often as he likes (scratching at the door is particularly satisfying every time Tony does something degrading like picking him up and making cutesy faces at him while he growls), and all the food he can eat.
Unfortunately, it's not the best life for a dog that is in fact Clint, and thus sentient. Even Thor forgets sometimes that Clint is still Clint inside, and tries to get him to fetch. Obtaining canine instincts in addition to being aware of everything you're doing is hell, because while Clint the man wants to tell Thor to fuck the hell off, Clint the dog yaps happily and runs after the ball, only remembering himself when he's got it in his mouth and is trotting back to Thor. It's humiliating, especially because it feels so good to be patted on the head and called a 'good dog'. It's even more frustrating the way people's faces fall and they smell upset when Clint growls at them, because it hurts both the dog and the man.
Eventually, he just can't do it anymore. Fuck it, he's a dog. Certain things feel good even if he doesn't think they should, and he's never been the kind of person to deny himself something just because he's not supposed to enjoy it. To hell with it.
So he jumps in Steve's lap when Steve smells sad, or when he pats at his knee hopefully, and lets Steve's huge, warm hands pet him until he's comatose from bliss; and he allows Tony to play with him, and licks his face when he can wriggle close enough, and lets the way Tony laughs--so happy it's almost painful--make him happy, too. He lets Darcy take him for long walks until he's pleasantly exhausted, and he doesn't bite Natasha when she fits a Louis Vuitton leather collar on his neck, because he looks damn fine in it, if he says so himself. Hey, it's a dog's life, and if they want to spoil him rotten, who's he to ruin their fun?
And if sometimes he can't breathe from how much it fucking sucks that no one but Thor can understand what he's saying; and if he stops sometimes, on one of his and Darcy's walks, and stares into the distance, longing for a bow in his hands so much it tears him apart inside, well. No one needs to know about those moments.
The only person who still talks to him like he's Clint Barton is, perhaps not so strangely after all, Coulson himself. He comes over every day (it's the only way Clint can keep track of how many days have passed, the moment Coulson walks through the door), and lets Clint trot at his heels as he finds each Avenger in turn and checks in with them. He never pets Clint on the head when he comes in or when he leaves; he never tries to throw a ball for him, or call him a "good boy". Clint's so pathetically grateful he could howl.
So he doesn't understand why, around the tenth time Coulson walks through the front door, he starts to resent it. Coulson treats him like a person, still, an annoying person maybe, but a person nonetheless. Why the hell would Clint want him to pet his head? It makes no fucking sense.
Clint doesn't like mysteries any more as a dog than he did as a man. Clearly, further exposure to this phenomenon is needed. So when Coulson tries to leave for the twelfth time, Clint sprints after him and hops in the driver's seat of Coulson's boring government sedan, refusing to budge when he's ordered down.
"Barton," Coulson barks, but Clint just trots over to the passenger seat and plants his doggy ass down, lets his tongue loll, excitement curling in his gut.
"He probably needs a break from the house, poor thing," Steve says, concerned. "He's been holed up here for almost two weeks. He could do with a change of scenery. I'm sure he won't be any trouble."
Clint whines, begging and hating himself for it, but fuck if he's not going nuts cooped up in the house when he can't even hold a book, let alone a bow. Coulson throws him a look, then sighs. "Fine," he says, climbs inside the car and shuts his door, lowers the windows. "You can get him the next time you come in."
Steve nods, relieved. "Sure, Phil."
Coulson sighs again, but he doesn't smell angry, just resigned, and Clint will take it. He turns to the door when they leave the driveway, poking his nose out over the window and relishing the wind in his fur, lifting his ears.
"Don't fall out," is all Coulson says, but he lowers the window as far down as it'll go, turns on the radio to a Classic Rock station that makes Clint grin, tongue lolling out again. He never would have figured Coulson for a Pink Floyd fan, but he's unmistakably humming under his breath when Wish You Were Here comes on. The guy's full of surprises.
Clint feels better already when they reach HQ; the change in scenery alone palpably lifts his mood. He jumps out when Coulson holds the door open, pads happily after him and into the elevator.
Before they've even reached the floor where Coulson's office is located, there are three people in the elevator with them, all demanding Coulson's attention. He listens to each of them, gives directions, accepts the files they push in his hands, signs paperwork. Clint huddles in the corner behind Coulson, whose legs block Clint from the other people, making sure he doesn't get trampled. It's... probably the kindest thing anyone's ever done for Clint of their own volition.
When the elevator opens on the 27th floor, Coulson marches out, nose already in one of the more urgent files he's been handed. Clint follows, trying not to get distracted by all the new smells, so many strange people in the place, so many trails to follow. Then Coulson clicks his fingers again, and just like that Clint's mind sharpens, refocuses, the overwhelming stimuli falling away. He wonders where Coulson learned to do that; then again, the man's superpower appears to be capability. He might have been born knowing.
Coulson's office smells soothing, familiar. It takes Clint a moment to realise it's because it smells of Coulson, the warm, woodsy smell of his aftershave, a hint of bergamot from his soap. Clint feels something inside him unclench, a ball of anxiety he hadn't even realised he'd been carrying.
There's a sofa hugging the wall, a cushion at one end. Clint considers it, looks down at his dirty paws. There's nowhere else he can be out of the way, though. Unless...
Coulson sits at his desk, paperwork already spread all over the top. Clint slinks closer, shimmies between Coulson's leg and the edge of the desk, curls up near his feet. He feels a little ridiculous, like the worst kind of stereotype, sleeping at Coulson's feet, he'll never hear the end of it, but it feels... safe. Nice. Clint hopes Coulson won't kick him by mistake as he sets his head on his paws.
He's out before he can even finish the thought.
He wakes when the chair moves back and the foot his head's been resting on shifts, trying to slide from under him carefully. Clint’s up and looking around before he even knows what he's doing; the only thing that stops him from freaking the fuck out at finding himself boxed in between wood on one side and someone on the other is the smell.
Oh. He's in Coulson's office, of course.
"It's almost three. I'm going for some lunch, come on. You must be hungry, too."
Clint's stomach rumbles. He's ravenous.
Coulson strides down the corridor again, still reading. Doesn't the man ever rest? Clint thinks, stretching his legs by springing to the end of the corridor and back before walking placidly by Coulson's side. It's easy to find the cafeteria -- he just needs to follow his nose, if not Coulson's footsteps.
"Coulson," someone calls; Clint turns to find Fury bearing down on them, frowning at him. "Is that..."
"He needed a break, sir. He's no bother."
'No bother' is not how he'd have liked to have been described, Clint thinks sourly. Fury sends a considering look between them before nodding.
"All right. If anyone can keep him in line, it's you."
Clint wants to growl, so much, but even he has a self-preservation instinct. Something tells him that if he wanted to bite Fury, he'd break his teeth on him.
Fury leaves them alone after that, and Coulson just turns placidly towards the double doors where all the yummy smells are coming from, propping one open with his foot for Clint to follow.
He doesn't expect what happens when people spot him.
"Oh my goodness, he's adorable!"
"Is he yours, Phil?"
"Or is it a she?"
"It's a he," Coulson says mildly. This doesn't really do anything to deter his admirers. A geeky-looking guy with glasses crouches and scratches behind his ears, which feels nice, and an older woman with steel-gray hair tickles his chin.
It's a marked difference to how people normally react when they see him. Normally they tend to walk right past, with merely a glance in his direction. Clint's kind of grateful Coulson didn't mention who he was -- sure, it's strictly need-to-know basis, but Coulson could have been an ass about it.
He's left alone after a while, and he looks around until he spots Coulson at the end of a table on the other side of the room. He pads over, sniffs to see what Coulson got for himself. Some kind of fish, salad. Ugh.
A cardboard plate is lowered in front of him, filled with chunks of steak. That's more like it. He gobbles it all up, traitorous tail wagging behind him. Coulson doesn't move until he's finished, which is smart, because Tony discovered the first day after Clint was changed that moving close to his food before he's done is a big mistake. Then it's back to the office, where Clint finds that he's not sleepy in the least anymore. He dozed away the whole morning, and now he'd like a walk, please and thank you.
When he noses at Coulson's leg, he's given a discouraging look. He desperately wants to go out, though, and there's a perfectly nice garden quad in between the buildings that house SHIELD. It's just a five minute walk away; surely Coulson can work outside as well as in. He whines, paws at Coulson's foot.
"Barton, I'm working."
"You can write your report outside," Clint barks. Naturally, this goes right over Coulson's head. Miserable, Clint flops by Coulson's feet again, resentfully turning his back to him.
The shadows shift and lengthen; the light outside fades, and so does the quiet hum of noise in the open space on the other side of the door. Coulson doesn't move except to reach for another file. Clint can feel his legs aching from all the lying down; he gets up, stretches, goes exploring. He jumps up on top of the sofa, just to see what Coulson would do, but he pays him no mind. Fuck this. He noses the door open wider than the crack it was at, thinks he's been perfectly stealthy about it until Coulson's voice makes him freeze in place.
"If you get lost, I'm not coming after you," he says. Clint looks back; Coulson's head hasn't lifted. He feels the intense desire to stick his tongue out at him. He knows this place perfectly well; he's not going to get lost.
Three hours later, Clint plants his butt in the middle of a corridor several floors away, and admits that he's fucked. Damn it, every floor looks the same when you're a foot tall, and his nose has been no help at all; he can't catch Coulson's scent anywhere. Looks like he's spending the night here, before someone finds him in the morning and calls someone who calls someone who calls Fury and Fury kicks his ass out. And on top of all that he really needs to piss, but if he goes here he's going to be mocked for the rest of his natural life, however long that ends up being.
He flops down, puts his head on his paws, sighs. This being-a-dog business sucks.
"Barton," Coulson's disembodied voice carries from the direction of the elevator. Clint's up and running so fast that he barrels into Coulson's legs before he can skid to a stop. Coulson takes a step back inside the cabin, sighs, mouth quirking. "You're coming home with me tonight, it seems."
Clint wags his tail. That sounds like fun.
The fresh night air is bliss in his nose; he sniffs happily, bounds away so he can do his business against one of the small trees that dot the quad. Coulson waits patiently for him, two minutes, three. Clint so doesn't want to go back inside. In the end, Coulson fishes his car keys out, dangles them from his finger.
"Look, I'll go get the car. See that passage? That leads out to the street. Meet me there in five minutes, all right?"
"Sure," Clint yips.
Coulson hesitates before he walks back inside, looks back. "Watch the traffic," he says, then disappears through the door.
True to his words, slightly longer than five minutes later Clint trots out to find Coulson idling against the sidewalk. The passenger door pops open, and he takes a flying leap inside, scrambles up into the seat. Coulson pulls the door shut behind his back; he's leaning close, and Clint can smell how tired he is. For the first time he wonders if that's now all of Coulson's days go, when he isn't in the field with them -- reams of paperwork, closed off in his office all day, people coming to get a piece of him any time they need to.
Coulson winds the window down again, and Clint sticks his nose outside, paws braced on the door. They're on the other side of town before long, and Coulson's pulling up outside a nice five-story building in one of the quiet neighborhoods. He climbs out, Clint at his heels, beeps the car locked and trudges up to the front door. They scale the stairs up to the forth floor, and Coulson turns to the right of the staircase, flicks on the light switch next to the doorway, locks the door back up once Clint has darted inside.
Clint can't help himself -- he must explore immediately. Three doorways lead off the spacious entryway, right, left and straight ahead. Coulson walks a little way to the right, opens the door-- "Bathroom," then comes back and goes left-- "Bedroom," then returns to the center and opens the last door straight ahead-- "Living room and kitchen."
Clint pays him no mind. He's already nosing inside the living room. A long, soft-looking couch lives in the middle, facing a state-of-the-art entertainment system, and there's a table with four chairs in one corner of the open space, on top of which there's a pile of files and more paperwork. A small kitchen takes up the far corner on the right. It looks surprisingly lived-in, the countertops housing a coffee machine, a waffle maker, three huge canisters that proclaim to be “coffee,” “sugar,” and “flour,” a spice rack, a set of kitchen knives, a microwave. That's all Clint can see from his vantage point; curious, he trots forward, makes to jump on the sofa.
"If you're going up there, come with me first," Coulson says, and leads the way back to the bathroom. He wets a washcloth, crouches down. "Paw," he directs. Clint lifts it obediently, and Coulson wipes it, careful, thorough. "Next."
Feet clean, Clint lopes back to the living room, scrambles up on the sofa. There's a bread bin at the far end of the counter, a drier next to the sink. The cupboards are closed; he's going to have to wait to find out what's in there. There's a small bookshelf in place of one of the cabinets, though; it's full of books, spines worn, clearly used. Huh.
"Right, I'm not going to make up any rules for you; you're welcome to come and go. If you chew or break something, you're paying for it when you're back to human. Touch those cooking books and you'll never find out how long that'll take."
Clint feels the strange need to salute; he does, because he's still Clint Barton, no matter the shape. He lifts one leg, touches his paw to his forehead. Coulson snorts, turns on his heel and walks away. Two light thumps signal him kicking his shoes off, and then the door to the bedroom closes quietly.
Clint paws at the cushions before slumping on top of one. He's almost dozing when Coulson comes back out, changed into a loose pair of pants and a t-shirt with The Clash logo on the front of it. He looks--soft around the edges, even more tired now that he's out of his suit. He takes two bowls out of the top cupboard in the middle, fills one with water and places it on the floor. It's only then that Clint realises how thirsty he is; he rushes over and laps half of it in one go. When he takes a step back at last, Coulson picks it up, refills it, returns it to the floor.
"Are you going to bite me if I try to feed you dog food?" he asks, a thread of amusement threading in his voice. Clint growls a little, shows him his teeth. "That's what I thought. I don't have anything but leftover Chinese tonight--"
Clint barks eagerly. That's A-okay with him. Coulson's mouth curls in that fond smile again, and he reaches for the fridge. Clint misses the actual appearance of the food because he's too busy stopping himself from rising on his hind paws and trying to lick Coulson's face. It's completely ridiculous; Coulson would never allow it. He doesn't even know where such a stupid idea came from.
Coulson empties the contents of a box of chicken noodles into the bowl; Clint nudges his hand in his haste to get at the food -- the steak at lunch was a long time ago. Coulson hesitates, then Clint feels the lightest of strokes over his head before the hand lifts and Coulson turns away. It nearly chokes him, how much he wants to run after him, jump up to be lifted. This is not what he should want from Coulson at all.
He busies himself with eating; to his endless consternation, the Chinese just doesn't taste the same to his doggy taste buds. It's still palatable, though, and he's not going to complain. When he's licked the last of the sauce out of his bowl, Clint looks around again, to see Coulson crunching on a piece of toast with what looks (and smells) like some cheese on top, nothing more. It's... kind of sad. He notes the tired slump of his shoulders, the way his eyes are narrowed against the flickering light of the TV screen. His feet are propped up on the coffee table, and once he's pushed the last of the toast in his mouth, he sets the plate down and shifts until his head is pillowed on the back of the sofa. Clint pads over, hesitates, then takes a flying leap on top of the cushions. Coulson spares him a glance, but says nothing, so Clint settles down, back pressed to Coulson's hip.
Coulson doesn't move. His hand is lying on top of his thigh, but he doesn't reach over, doesn't pet Clint's fur. Just like back at the Avengers mansion, this seems to rub Clint up the wrong way, even though there's absolutely no reason it should. He turns his head and looks up at Coulson, who has his eyes closed. Stealthily, Clint rises, places a careful paw on Coulson's leg. Coulson cracks one eye open, observes him steadily. Then he lifts his arm away from his thigh, holds it up in invitation. Clint slinks up, stretches over him, basking in the heat that emanates from his body, pillows his head along his leg. Coulson's arm comes down, and his fingers thread into the fur of his back; they flex, and Clint immediately goes boneless. Ugh, he is never getting up again, the man's hands are magic.
Coulson obliges wordlessly, scratching gently against Clint's back, behind his ears. When he gets to his neck, his fingers snag on the collar Natasha put there. He stares a moment, before his mouth curves and he huffs out a laugh. Long, nimble fingers have it off in a flash.
"You don't need a collar, Barton; it's not like you're in any way controllable, in or out of it," he says fondly. One hand moves down from his throat, pets his chest, his belly. If Clint was a cat, he'd be purring his head off by now. Instead, he lets out a content little huff, sprawls over Coulson's lap, tail wagging slowly.
He doesn't remember the moment he nods off.
When he wakes, light is still flickering on the walls from the TV screen, but there's no movement at all. One of Coulson's arms is curled almost protectively around him, while the other lies lifeless on the sofa next to his hip. Clint turns to look, worried; but Coulson's chest rises and falls easily -- he's out like a light.
Clint has never seen him asleep. The creases along his forehead are there even in repose, although they're not as deeply etched as during the day. His mouth is slack and open just a little, while his lashes rest against the tops of his cheekbones.
He is utterly, indescribably beautiful.
The thought startles Clint badly; his body goes tense. Coulson reacts like the hardened soldier he is -- his eyes snap open, case the room, while his fingers grip over Clint's fur. Clint can sense the very moment Coulson realises he's home, and the weight on his lap isn't life-threatening. He lets out a long, shuddering sigh, fingers unclenching. Clint pushes himself to his feet, braces his paws over Coulson's chest, looks him in the eye. The corner of Coulson's mouth curls, just slightly, and his eyes soften.
"Barton," he says, voice coming up through Clint's paws and into his chest, "has anyone ever told you staring is creepy?"
Many, many times, as a matter of fact. Clint hasn't let that bother him before; no reason to start now. He darts in and licks Coulson's face, just to the side of his mouth, darts away again as Coulson's arms close on empty air. He dances at the edge of the sofa, ass in the air, tail wagging as he braces himself for retaliation; he's expecting a cushion to be thrown at his head for that at the least.
He isn't expecting Coulson to burst out laughing, full-out, unchecked. It surprises him so much that he freezes for a long moment; and that's when the anticipated cushion materialises, smacks him lightly on the muzzle as it's thrown in his face.
"Asshole," Coulson mutters, but he's still grinning, the back of one hand wiping against his mouth distractedly. Clint immediately wants to lick him again.
"Just for that, you can sleep on the sofa," Coulson declares, but when Clint's ears droop and he lowers his head, Coulson merely sighs and walks away, doesn't try to stop Clint from following.
Coulson, it seems, for all his superhuman bad-assery, is just as susceptible to a pair of puppy eyes as the rest of them. Something to file away for future exploration, Clint thinks as he slinks on his heels, jumps up on Coulson's bed, pads around to find the perfect spot in which to sleep, flops down happily.
"Move over," Coulson says when he emerges from the bathroom in nothing but a pair of lounging pants. Clint loses a little time staring, so long that Coulson says, "I mean it, you want to sleep in my bed, fine, just move over. That's my side."
Reeling from the thought of Coulson assigning him a side in his bed, Clint complies, moves across (it's cold, but it'll warm up quickly enough). Coulson climbs under the sheets, puts his hands over his face.
"What am I doing," Clint hears muffles into his palms before Coulson sighs, deeply. "Just tonight," he's told, but it sounds nothing like Coulson's usual implacable directives, more Coulson trying to convince himself.
Clint wonders whether it's because he's currently dog-shaped, and Coulson's a sucker for animals. The thought makes him strangely despondent.
Coulson drifts off after a little bit of shuffling under the blankets to get comfortable, but Clint lies awake, head propped on his paws, and watches him, chest feeling tight for no reason he can distinguish. Eventually he creeps over, settles his back against Coulson's side, and lets his light snores lull him to sleep.
He drifts awake with his bladder fairly screaming at him. It's still dark outside, not even a hint of blue along the edges of the window. The room is a little lighter, lit by the dim glow of Coulson's alarm clock. When he tries to move, he's startled to feel an arm across his middle, something pressed against his shoulders. A huff of air informs him that said thing can't really be anything other than Coulson's face, pressed to his fur. He doesn't understand why that sends a tight burst of pleasure through his chest, right where Coulson's arm holds him close.
He would lie there a lot longer if he wasn't worried that he'd pee the bed and Coulson would kill him. So he wriggles around, ignoring the soft noise of protest that Coulson makes, and nuzzles his face, cheek scratchy with stubble, eyes squeezed shut. When that doesn't work as well as he'd hoped, he smirks to himself and presses his cold, wet nose to Coulson's mouth, licking across his lips. Coulson jumps as if scalded, so hard that he has to flail to stay on the bed.
"Barton, what the fuck," he rasps, making a face and wiping at his mouth. Clint jumps off the bed, trots over to the door, and yips encouragingly.
Coulson flops back down on the bed, throws an arm over his face. "Fuck me," he groans, heartfelt.
Clint blinks at the bed, at Coulson sprawled on his back, bare chest tautly muscled and covered in fine hair, head thrown back baring his throat, and the thought crystallises in his mind all of a sudden -- do not pass Go, do not collect $200 -- he wants to. He really, really wants to.
Coulson takes him for a walk after much cajoling on Clint's part, dressed in sweatpants he'd snatched from a basket of clean laundry and a sweatshirt to match. He looks rumpled, still sleepy even if his eyes are sharp and aware. The cold air does wonders for Clint's head, though sadly it doesn't manage to erase the unsettling revelation. All of a sudden, he feels awkward pissing in front of Coulson, which, how fucked up is that exactly? He is a damned dog, it's not like Coulson's watching him piss naked.
...Except that under his fur, that's exactly what he is. Holy Jesus fuck. He has got to stop thinking that way, or he's going to make himself utterly insane.
Coulson, to his credit, carefully looks away when Clint lifts his leg. He wants to kiss the man, which, again, he is currently a dog, not to mention that Coulson would be about as amenable to kissing human-Clint as he is dog-Clint.
He makes sure to run extra-fast around Coulson when they turn back to the apartment, because that thought is certainly not bothering him. At all.
The ride back into the city is slower than last night, even though they set off just as the sky starts to lighten in earnest. Clint doesn't see much of it, even though he's got his nose pressed to the window again, because the thing is.
The thing is that he is a terrible human being. Technically human. Probably a terrible canine being, too, come to think of it. It hadn't stopped him from lurking outside the bedroom door, watching Coulson put on his suit. All right, he looked away when Coulson came out of the shower, but only because it didn't occur to him what was happening inside the bedroom until it was too late. The image of Coulson's shirt sliding over his broad shoulders isn't one Clint's going to forget in a hurry.
The trip up to the office isn't much different than the last time; people mob Coulson the second he walks inside. Clint is starting to feel ever so slightly put-out by that; surely they don't need to be quite so enthusiastic to pounce on him.
He's in for a surprise when they reach Coulson's office, though, because there's a familiar scent hanging in the corridor; true enough, Coulson opens his door to find Natasha perched on one of the chairs before his desk, one leg propped on the seat, chin on her knee. She unfolds gracefully when they walk in, smirks a little to see Clint padding in at Coulson's heels. Clint wants to stick his tongue out at her.
"Got that thing you asked for, sir," she says, cool and professional except for that twitch in the corner of her mouth that Clint knows means nothing but trouble.
"Thank you, Agent Romanoff," Coulson says. He smells like he's blushing, blood rushing up his neck even if Clint can't see any evidence of that at all.
Then Natasha steps away from the desk, and Clint can do nothing but stare. There's a small doggy bed under the desk, exactly on the spot where he'd curled up on the floor yesterday afternoon. His heart starts beating faster.
"I can't believe you got me a bed," he says--barks, really. Natasha and Coulson share a look; Natasha grins. It's terrifying.
"I think he likes it," she says. One sharp canine glints in the light. She looks much more fearsome than Clint, and he's the animal right now.
"Does that mean I can't sleep in your bed anymore? Because I can't say I like that deal all that much."
There's a choked sound, and Clint whirls round to find Thor frozen in the doorway. Oh, crap.
"Don't say a word. You owe me for your brother's bullshit, Thor," Clint warns, and okay, so it comes out as a whine. The important thing is that no one else finds out what he just said, even though it's not at all what it sounded like.
"Thor?" Coulson asks, eyeing Thor's reddening face.
"It is nothing. Clint likes his new bed, though not as much as his old one."
"Bastard," Clint growls while Coulson smells flushed again. Thor smirks.
"I have a feeling I'm missing something," Natasha says, looking between the three of them shrewdly.
Clint doesn't like her focus at all. He pads over to his new bed, noses around.
Natasha smirks. "I thought you'd want to go back home by now. Aren't you bored here all day?"
Clint backs away from her, plants his ass in the middle of the bed and flops down, growling. They'll have to wrench him away from Phil's office if they want him to leave.
...Phil's office. Oh, fucking fuck, he is screwed. When he looks over, Thor looks utterly shocked. "What?" Clint barks, cornered and furious.
"Natasha, I do believe our friend will feel better to be in the center of things. I am sure he was getting bored in the mansion, too."
Natasha sniffs, looks down at Clint, who fights the urge to hide. He does tuck his muzzle between his front paws, looks up through his eyelashes. She frowns.
"That is so unfair, Barton. We need to find a way to change him back faster, he is impossible like this."
"I agree," Phil murmurs. Something stabs Clint right through the chest with the words. Of course Phil would want him changed back. He's probably sick of Clint invading his space. He closes his eyes miserably.
"I do not think the spell will last much longer. It has almost been two weeks, and my brother will have lost interest long before now. I would be expecting a reversal any day now."
Clint ought to feel relieved about that. Natasha and Thor certainly look it. Phil... doesn't smell relieved. Clint doesn't understand any of this.
The day is long and trying after that. Phil is buried in work again, leaving Clint alone with his thoughts, which is about the worst thing that can happen right now. He can't escape, can't shoot away his disquiet, can't clean his bow until he feels more settled. He can only lie in his (extremely comfortable) doggy bed, smell Phil's clean, masculine scent, and stew.
God, he should have gone with Natasha.
He's surprised, then, when Phil rises after a mere few hours, picks up a load of files and his lightweight laptop, and clicks his fingers again. Clint rises obediently (the very fact that he isn't pissed about that is terrifying), and follows Phil down the corridor, to the cafeteria where Phil picks up a take-away cup of their biggest coffee and a sandwich, and into the elevator. They emerge at ground level, and Phil leads the way back, the same route they took last night--
Clint, working out at last where they're going, rushes off ahead. He has to stop to wait for Phil to get close enough for the door sensors to catch him, but then the doors swoop open and he's outside again, in the large, green quad. It's a beautiful day, mild enough that there are several people dotting the picnic tables set out, paperwork fluttering in the breeze. Clint darts away, running fast and hard, getting his blood pumping. He does a couple circles of the pathways, whizzes up and down the length of the diamond-shaped area, pads over the grass and flops over, relishing the coolness over his fur.
When he thinks to look again, Phil is nowhere to be seen. Not to be deterred, Clint starts making the rounds, nosing around each table until he's at the other end, in a spot of sunlight that's still close to a tree spreading its branches over the other side of the table. There Phil sits, tapping away at the keys, referring to his papers every now and again. Clint stops when he's a little way away, watches as the air sends the short hair over Phil's head fluttering, his tie lifting on the current. Something inside Clint cramps with an emotion he is scared to death of identifying.
Phil looks up when Clint comes closer and flops at his feet, tongue lolling. The smile that lifts the corner of his mouth squeezes around Clint's heart until he can't breathe from the tightness in his chest. It's small, but it sends the corners of his eyes crinkling, warm and fond. Clint comes to the troubling realisation that he would do virtually anything to have that smile directed at him again.
This is getting dangerous for Clint's health. Because if Thor is to be believed (and he is), he's going to regain his human shape any day now, and then what will he do? He won't be able to curl up at Coulson's feet whenever he liked; he sure as hell won't be allowed to sprawl all over his lap and beg to be stroked. He's not even going to think about being allowed in Coulson's flat, his bed. That way lies madness. The thought of losing this, Phil calm and relaxed in his company, sharing his space without a thought; of being able to touch him whenever he liked, under the pretext that he isn't himself right now -- it twists Clint’s insides and fills them with lead. He slinks closer, pillows his head on Phil's shoe nearest to him, presses his side against his ankle. Phil looks down, surprised, but doesn't push him away, resumes typing like nothing at all's the matter.
Fuck. Clint had better take what he can get, while it's still on offer.
He doesn't leave Phil's side once during the day. When, a little later, Phil picks up his stuff and returns to his office, Clint follows dutifully, perhaps not as eager as yesterday but certainly willing. He reclaims his doggy bed, curling up with his nose near his tail, as small as he can make himself. Perhaps if he just holds very, very still when he's back to human, he might be allowed near again? But Coulson will never be as loose around him as he is now, he'll sigh and pinch the bridge of his nose and give him that bland smile that might actually kill Clint if he sees it directed at him again, after the change the past 24 hours have brought.
And let's be honest. He can be quiet and still as a mouse in the field, but off it? Quiet is not the word used most often to describe him. Silent, creepy, annoying -- sure. Peaceful -- not so much. There's no way Coulson will be willing to let this arrangement continue. He closes his eyes, drifts off without realising again, safe, heartsick, tired of thinking of all the ways he isn't enough.
He wakes when a hand strokes over his head, gentle, soft. He jumps to his feet, disoriented again, looks around wildly to find Phil on one knee at the edge of the desk, hands carefully held in plain sight.
"Time to go home," Phil says with a quirk of his lips. He smells tired again, but not exhausted, like yesterday. Maybe the fresh air and change of routine did him good, too. Clint slinks out from under the desk, licks Phil's fingers that are resting on his knee. They twitch, and then lift, scratching just behind his ear, down his throat.
"Come on, we need to stop for some food. How about steak tonight?"
Clint pants, licking his lips. "Sounds fan-fucking-tastic," he barks. Phil's lips quirk up again.
They stop by the grocery store on their way back to Phil's place, and Clint is left to sullenly car-sit while Phil takes his time inside. The sky is surprisingly light; when Clint thinks back, the clock had pointed to something like six p.m. when they'd left the office. It's unheard of, to see Coulson leave so early. Clint grins; it feels nice to be important enough for someone as stoutly devoted to his job to change his schedule because of him. Even if it's probably because he's a dog right now. He harbors no hopes that this status quo will hold for long.
Phil returns weighed down by grocery bags, which he stows away in the boot before Clint can try to smell what's in them. The ride to the apartment is quick from there, and it's not long before Clint's having his paws washed again and he can take a flying leap onto the couch while Phil lugs the shopping into the kitchen. He starts emptying the bags -- there's steaks, potatoes, pasta, tomatoes (fresh and canned), a couple tins of tuna fish, a jar of mayo. Looks like food for a few days; Clint can't really see Phil shopping more often.
Phil gets out a baking tray, drizzles some olive oil over it and slaps the two stakes on top, waiting for the oven to heat. Meanwhile, he washes a potato and sticks it with a fork a bunch of times, shallow and fast, wraps it in a paper towel.
"Potato?" he asks over his shoulder. Clint shrugs as best he can.
"Sure," he yips.
Phil turns, gives him a proper smile. "One for yes, two for no?"
"Asshole," Clint barks (once), baring his teeth. Phil makes a strange noise; his back is already turned by the time Clint works out it's a smothered laugh. He'll just bet Phil's grinning down at the second potato while he gives it the same treatment as the first.
He sticks one potato in the microwave and sets the timer for eight minutes; then he places the baking tray in the oven, adjusts the heat setting. Then he comes over, switches the TV on before disappearing in the direction of his bedroom again, the already-familiar thuds of his shoes hitting the wall by the door marking his path. Clint slumps down, head propped on his paws, watches the black-and-white image of a football game. This being-a-dog thing makes it hard to work out which team's which.
He's growling at the screen when Phil comes back, clad in the same pants from last night, a soft-looking t-shirt stretched over his chest. His arms are strong, tautly muscled. Clint, can't take his eyes off them, or his hands, his fingers. He shivers. Fuck, he needs a distraction.
"Who's playing anyway?" he bark-growls. Phil looks at him, follows his disgruntled glare to the TV.
"Baltimore at Pittsburgh," Phil says after squinting at the screen. The fact that he has to check makes it clear he only switched it on for background noise. Clint's not a huge football fan anyway, so he paws at the remote until he works out how to hit the channel button with a claw. Phil doesn't protest, which proves Clint's theory. He flips through cooking shows and news and nature programs and music channels until he hits on an episode of New York Ink and snuffles, pleased.
"Seriously?" Phil says while he flips the steaks in the oven.
"Shut up, I love this show," Clint barks.
"That was more than two barks. You're not sticking to the system."
"I'll system you in a minute."
Phil snorts a laugh. It's not like he could have understood, but he appears to be proficient in tone of bark-growl as well as voice. Clint settles down to watching Ami bleep-swear on the screen and threaten to quit again, while the others mostly ignore him. The tattooing itself is what captures Clint, the whole process from appointment to design to application. He's always loved watching the tattoos take shape, finding out what makes them special to the people who get them done. He's absorbed while Phil putters about in the kitchen, and it dawns on him when he hears plates clack onto the counter just how quietly, soothingly domestic the whole setting is. For the first time in his life, it doesn't make him want to run. It makes him want to get off the couch, walk over to Phil working at the counter and slide his arms around him, press a kiss to the back of his neck.
This can't be happening. Lust is one thing; Clint’s fine with that, it's familiar, nonthreatening. These are uncharted waters.
"Come on, then," Phil calls, and Clint hears his bowl click softly on the floor. He jumps off the sofa and gallops over, burying his muzzle in the food, gobbling up chunks of delicious meat and potatoes. There’s some kind of tasty sauce mixed in, a product of Phil’s cooking magic. Phil is a great cook when he puts his mind to it, apparently -- nothing overly complicated, simple food done well. Clint, a steak-and-potato man any day of the week, appreciates that more than strictly advisable.
Once dinner is over, they migrate to the sofa, and Phil lets Clint flop over his lap again, hands automatically going for his fur, sweeping up and down his side, over his chest and belly, other hand playing absentmindedly with his ears. Clint nudges at it, turns his head to lick at his fingers, tasting the gravy Phil had made, and under that ink, paper, a trace of gun oil, a hint of soap. Clint is scared of how comfortable it makes him feel, to have the warmth of Phil's body under him, the scent of him in his lungs. Phil sighs midway through Cake Boss, and there's a subtle unwinding of tired muscles, until Phil is sprawling with his feet up on the table, head pillowed on the cushions behind his back. The exhale he lets out is pure relief; not long after, his breathing evens out, and his hands still on Clint's fur. Clint only moves far enough to make himself comfortable, and settles down for his own nap.
Like this, head resting on Phil's stomach and rising gently on every inhale, the whole being-a-dog thing isn't so bad at all.
Clint wakes up in Phil's bed again. He knows that's where he is, because he faintly remembers Phil carrying him there in the middle of the night, shuffling not unlike a zombie. He remembers cool, smooth sheets, Phil's arm resting over his middle, remembers metaphorically shrugging and slipping into a deeper sleep with Phil's breaths gently ruffling the fur at the back of his neck.
Phil's still there, face pressed between his shoulderblades, almost like a kiss. The difference is that there's nothing between Phil's face and the skin of his back, no fur, nothing. He raises a hand, looks at it blearily in the dim pre-dawn light. It is unquestionably a hand again, five digits, familiar notches over the skin. He's back.
Phil hums and presses in closer, lips touching his skin softly, sweetly, completely unintentional. Clint swallows painfully, closes his eyes in despair for a moment before he starts the long and finicky process of extricating himself from Phil's grip without waking him. He hopes against hope for a break; Phil is nothing if not competent, and this could turn really ugly if he gets startled -- especially because Clint is human-shaped again, and by the feel of it, entirely naked in Phil's arms.
...God, why did he have to go and think that? There's an overwhelming ache in his chest that tastes a lot like a loss, one he doesn’t know if he'll be able to push past and forget. What’s worse, he's excruciatingly aware of the way Phil's body presses to his all the way down, the tickle of chest hair over the small of his back, the way one leg has insinuated itself between his, the top of his thigh pressing snugly against his ass, just touching his balls. He must have been half-hard already without noticing, because he can actually feel the head of his cock rubbing the sheets under him when it lengthens and fills all the way. Forget black ops training -- this is the most cruel torture he has ever endured.
He has to get away before Phil realises he's been spooning Clint the man, not Clint the dog, and everything between them turns awkward as all hell. It physically hurts to lift Phil's hand away from his stomach, the reluctant flex of fingers against his skin obviously a case of mistaken identity; God only knows whom Phil is dreaming he's holding. Clint has never been so careful in his life as he is now, sliding away from the only place he wishes he could stay forever. His hips shift, driving his cock over the mattress again, and he bites his lip to keep back any kind of sound. He forces his breathing down into light, controlled exhales, creating the illusion of untroubled sleep while he uses every trick in the book to make this as smooth an extraction as he can.
Deep down, Clint knew it wasn't going to work from the start. He hasn't even made it halfway across his side of the bed when he's suddenly flat on his back, an arm pressing against his throat, just hard enough to make the threat unmistakable. Phil's hazy eyes blink down at him, still mostly asleep but rapidly clearing. They stay like that for long, dragging seconds, made worse by the way Phil's hip presses against Clint’s hard-on, which is unhelpfully refusing to dissipate, and Phil really can't miss that.
The wrench away is, yes, just as painful as Clint had anticipated. Phil lets go of him like he's scalded himself; in the blink of an eye he's at the other end of the bed, in a half-sprawl that leaves him looking vulnerable and rumpled and so breathtakingly gorgeous Clint aches for him.
"Barton," he rasps, taken aback. Somehow it sounds different when he says it now, all the now-familiar affection drained out of Clint’s name.
Clint shrugs. "I'm back." Get it together, asshole. He smirks, and if it feels like it's going to crack his face in half, well. "Back to human, at least, thank fuck."
Phil--Coulson, better get used to that again, the sooner the better--Coulson stares at him, mouth slightly open, a look in his eyes Clint can't hope to place. Then -- Clint watches as his expression shifts, his posture straightens, until it's no longer Phil sitting on top of the tumbled sheets, but unquestionably Agent Coulson of SHIELD, no matter how tousled.
"Good to have you back, Specialist," he says; God, the distance in his voice is crushing.
Normally Clint would be getting up and out of the bed as he is, naked and unashamed, playing the role of Clint Barton to the hilt; but he's feeling a little too exposed right now, too unsettled, not quite himself yet.
"Do you have a pair of pants I can borrow?" he asks, forbidding himself to cringe at the way it comes out, way too lost for comfort. He sets his jaw. He can do better than that.
Coulson's eyes flicker down to his chest and back up. He swallows, which Clint doesn't expect and isn't sure he didn't imagine. Coulson straightens, gets out of the bed with a sparsity of movement that is the truest indication of just how deadly he really is, if anyone's looking closely enough. He doesn't say a word, just opens the third drawer of the chest closest to the bed, takes out a folded t-shirt and a pair of pants indistinguishable from the ones he'd worn around the apartment the last couple of nights, tosses them to land in front of Clint. Then he excuses himself, perfectly polite, as bland as ever, and leaves the room.
Clint feels sick. He doesn't know if it's some leftover magic trace from the reversal of the spell, or another reason he'd rather not think about, but he doesn't let it distract him. He gets off the bed, too, erection mercifully gone without a trace, and pulls on the clothes. They are soft, and they smell like Phil. His eyes prickle, and there's a weight in his gut that makes it hard to breathe. Well, that part of his life is well and truly over now; he might as well get used to it.
He dresses quickly and shuffles out, goes into the kitchen. Everything looks strange from this height, nothing like what he'd gotten used to -- it's a lot smaller, for one thing. The coffee-maker looks reassuringly simple, but he can't remember where the coffee is in the cupboards, he hadn't really been paying much attention the morning before, what with watching Coulson dress. He clenches his hands into fists over the counter, pushes back the urge to slam them down. It's not going to help a single thing.
Coulson emerges after a while, already buttoned-up and pristine, just like always. His eyes are hard, and there's a tick in the muscle of his jaw. Clint sighs quietly to himself. The next however-long-it-takes isn't going to be pleasant.
"Medical bay first, so you can get checked out. Then, depending on the results, you should be free to go back to the Avengers mansion," Coulson says.
Clint nods -- it's all there's left for him to do.
The drive in is the quietest yet. They don't speak, and there's no radio to distract Clint from his brooding. Coulson won't even look at him; his hands rest at ten and two on the wheel, fingers wrapped around the leather. Every now and again, they flex out of the corner of Clint's eye, but his hands don't move from their position.
They don't speak to each other when they get to HQ. Coulson tells the medics that they woke up this morning and Clint was back to being human-shaped, and the medics fuss and poke at him and make him take utterly unnecessary tests that Clint complies with anyway because it's easier than complaining when Coulson hovers in the corner of the room, as far away as he can get from him without leaving altogether. He smiles at the nurses and agrees cheerfully that yes, it's good to be back, all the while fighting hard to keep the easy grin on his face from slipping away.
He's given the all-clear after a few hours that feel like an age, and he's pulling his t-shirt back on when Coulson speaks to him at last.
"I'll arrange for a car to drive you home. Be outside in ten minutes," he says, and before Clint can respond at all, Coulson is out of the door without looking back. Clint swallows down his bitter disappointment, and gives the doctors another pleased smile, a shrug.
He's not disappointed when he finds a nondescript black car waiting for him outside, a junior agent at the wheel. That would imply expectations, and he learned a long time ago not to make that mistake. The result is always the same.
The mansion, when he makes it through the door, is quiet, almost too much so. It's barely nine in the morning, but Steve and Natasha at least ought to be up by now. Clint wanders the downstairs, pokes his head in the rec room, but it's empty and dark. The kitchen is also deserted; so Clint decides to look in the one other place he's pretty sure there ought to be at least someone.
Even before he pushes the doors of the gym open, he can hear thumps from the inside that make his bones ache in sympathy.
Steve sees him first, which is not lucky for Steve because he's sent flying a second later by a well-placed kick in his side. Steve rolls when he lands, though, so the knee aimed for his head smacks against the mats, not his skull. Then Natasha turns to look at the door, too, a relieved look passing over her face.
"Hey, you're back," she says; it's kind of sweet how warm she sounds.
"Clint, hello! Good to have you back with us," Steve adds. It's not his fault that his choice of words sends a jab of misery through Clint's gut. He smiles, fights to make it unforced, pleased. He should be ecstatic that he's back to normal; he doesn't know what's wrong with him, with his stupid head, that it feels like a prison sentence instead.
"Yeah, thank fuck," he says, what he told Coulson, too, because it's good to have his arms, his hands and fingers back. First stop is going to be the firing range; he's gone two weeks without the feel of it, he's dying here.
He avoids the piercing look Natasha throws him, asks after the others, nods when he's told they're still in bed, taking as much advantage of the strange lull in supervillains as they can squeeze in. Steve lopes after him when he makes a beeline for the kitchen, because he still hasn't had coffee, chattering happily as he brings Clint up-to-date with the past couple of days. When they get there, the coffee pot has started brewing already, which means Tony is either waking up or coming out of his workshop in search of it, they'll find out in a minute. It's a routine, as much as they can have one, something familiar and grounding.
While Clint drinks his coffee and continues to dodge Natasha's relentless attention, Steve makes himself a pan of eggs, slides most of it over toast and drenches them in ketchup, then digs in heartily. Tony appears when he's halfway done, eyes narrowed to almost closed, hair all over the place. He pours and drinks his first cup of coffee without looking around, and he's halfway through his second when he sniffs his way over to the leftover eggs in the pan, a fork placed thoughtfully next to it -- Steve knows Tony well. Tony scarfs them down, mouth still full when he looks around properly for the first time. His eyes widen and he swallows, making a startled noise.
"What, no more puppy? That's a shame, man, I'll miss the little guy."
Clint huffs, but at the same time he can't contradict the sentiment. He's going to miss being a puppy very much, too. Life was easy, then.
He leaves them in the kitchen, getting on with their morning while he makes a beeline for his room, where he strips out of the borrowed clothes like they're on fire. His skin tingles all over; he leaves them where they drop, hates himself when he decides against a shower because that will mean washing away the phantom scent of Phil's skin. He is so, so screwed he doesn't know what to do with himself. In the end, he climbs into a SHIELD-issued jumpsuit, jams his feet into a pair of sneakers and heads for the shooting range.
He only realises his hands have been shaking when he grips his bow and they still, settle over the cool surface, fingers wrapping themselves around the frame. The bow sings in his grip, impatient, eager. He takes a deep breath, lets it out, forces the tension out with it until his mind is clear, calm, for what feels like the first time in forever. It helps a little with the awful yammer in his head, all these emotions he doesn't know how to deal with, that he's never allowed to get this out of hand before. He lets loose arrow after arrow, and uses each one of them to pin down the tangle of feelings that threaten to choke him.
He doesn't feel any better when it's over, but at least his head remains clear, issues compartmentalised until he can deal with them without losing himself. So what if he has somehow fallen in love with Agent Coulson? It's not the end of the world. He'll just pretend nothing's out of the ordinary -- he's good at that, had plenty of training over the years.
He can get through this. He will. This curling misery in his chest can't last forever.
Determination or no, Clint avoids Coulson's office after that. When, inevitably, they all get called into HQ for debriefing and training, he goes where he's told, sticks to the job. Doesn't take off on his own like he used to, certainly puts a stop to the fucking stupid habit of bothering Coulson on the flimsiest of pretexts. He makes a point of being loud and obnoxious like always, because even more than wanting to avoid thinking about it, he wants to avoid talking about what happened. He doesn't miss the way the others watch him, clearly seeing something's different but, thank God, attributing it to his transformation rather than the outcome. The one mandatory psych session had been bad enough; he's pathetically grateful that he'd managed to come out of it without raising any flags.
Eventually, however, something occurs to him that he'd missed at the start -- in order to pretend that everything is normal, he's going to have to bite the bullet and see Coulson, seek him out, even, take the familiar route to his office and confront Coulson in his lair. Because otherwise the discrepancy is going to be far too obvious to these people who are used to looking for the slightest thing out of place.
He gets his chance when he returns from a solo assignment for SHIELD instead of the Avenger initiative, and has to report to the agent in charge himself. Who is in his office. Of course. Clint takes a deep, cleansing breath, lets it out on a controlled exhale, and steps inside the elevator that will take him up to office level. He puts his back to the wall, on the other side of where Coulson's legs had shielded him once, because there's only so much he can put himself through, and he's not above admitting that some things are just too painful to remember. The cabin fills slowly the higher up he gets, agents who eye Clint warily and give him as wide a berth as they can in the cramped space. He smirks to himself bitterly as he remembers how the man in the glasses had cooed at him when he had been a Corgi, the feel of the lady in the green shirt's fingers through his fur.
Whatever. It's so far from what he wants it's on the other end of the scale.
He's almost grateful to exit the elevator at last -- that is, until he remembers why he's visiting this particular floor, and his relief dies a swift death. The corridor is familiar; it smells a little different, but his nose can't compare with his doggy counterpart's for sensitivity. It stretches before him like a route to certain ambush; he grits his teeth and sets his feet moving, striding quickly past open-plan cubicles and office doors to reach the end. The door is cracked open, signalling that Agent Coulson is inside and available.
Clint swallows dryly, pushes his shoulders back and knocks.
"Come," Coulson directs, which Clint hasn't heard before because he never used to wait for a response before barging in. Coulson looks up from his papers when Clint steps inside; his eyes widen a fraction for a moment before his back stiffens and his face sets into the usual bland mask.
"Barton," he says, nodding lightly. "I see you're back. Talk to me."
It's so normal, so... reassuring to hear the words that Clint's chest aches. If there's nothing else on offer to him, he'll take this, any day.
"Sir," he says, and proceeds to outline the mission outcome as concisely as possible. He doesn't trust himself enough to relax around Coulson just yet; he doesn't know what might come out of his mouth if he tries it. Coulson listens without interrupting, eyes only narrowing when Clint relates the junior agent's fuck-up when giving orders -- it's a good thing they're all soldiers with plenty of experience, or things might have gotten tense for a moment there. Coulson's frustrated exhale tells Clint plenty about the dressing-down in that agent's immediate future.
"No casualties, then?"
"No, sir. All present and accounted for."
"That's a relief. I notice you're favoring your right arm, Specialist."
Of course he does. "It's nothing, sir."
"Is that an 'it's nothing, sir, it's just a flesh wound,' or is it really nothing?"
Clint bites down on a goofy grin; he remembers seeing the Monty Python DVDs on the small shelf under Coulson's TV at his apartment. The thought is painful, but it doesn't feel like it's going to cleave his heart in two. Perhaps this is progress.
"I'm all right, sir. Nothing a few stitches couldn't fix."
Coulson's jaw ticks a little, which doesn't exactly surprise Clint, because his earlier revelation of Coulson's emotional investment in the team is still fresh in his mind. Clint doesn't let it mean anything more than that.
"Go clean up and get some rest, Barton," he's told, with an edge of warmth that Clint refuses to cling to, because he can't, he can't let himself hope like that.
Just before he turns to leave, his eyes catch the edge of color under Coulson's desk, by his feet. It's the same muted red as his armor, and it looks soft--
--It's his doggy bed, he'd stake his left index finger on it. What the hell is it still doing there? It's been well over a week, and it's not like Clint will still need it.
Perhaps Coulson is thinking of getting an actual dog to fill it. Clint holds his breath, fights to stop his face betraying the way the thought just punched him in the gut. Coulson had seemed happier when Clint the dog was around; it would do him good to have a pet to care for, to replace Clint.
He about-turns and gets the hell out of there, before he does something stupid like yank the bed from under the desk and throw it out of the window. The shrinks are just itching for an excuse as it is.
Things are really, really quiet when Clint comes to, hushed in a way no New York apartment can be, even with noise isolation. He tries to blink his eyes open, but it's an effort; his eyelids feel like they are weighed down with lead. His head is a little fuzzy, which clues him in that he's not exactly waking up from a good night's sleep. When he manages to open his eyes a crack, the room is dim, but his eyeballs still ache, pupils shrinking down to adjust for the light. He tries to raise his head to look around; the spike of pain in his neck and right shoulder quickly dissuades him, and he can barely hold his gasp back. He doesn't feel panicked; his brain lets him know what his nose suspected -- he's in a hospital. No other place on Earth smells quite like it. Crap, what's he done this time?
His right hand is sore, and when he lifts it, he sees a needle tapping his vein, a see-through tube feeding something colorless into his bloodstream. Upon further inspection, he recognises the room -- it's in the Stark Wing, the one that the hospital is threatening to rename the Avengers Suite because they're the most frequent patients. The artificial quality of the light suggests it's late, most likely nighttime, so he's going nowhere fast.
He lies back, tries to piece together the circumstances that have landed him flat on his back again. He recalls something (a lot of things) burning, shockwaves rending the air, broken remains of buildings flying at him from all sides. He remembers falling, an awful weight landing on his chest, his neck. Sure enough, when he tries to sit up his ribs protest violently, abused muscles and bruised internal organs making it impossible to do anything more than think about moving.
A soft noise at the side of the bed makes him brave letting his head fall to the left, away from the worst of the pain. There's a hand resting very, very close to his; when he concentrates, he can just about feel a hint of warmth coming from the fingers that lay precisely an inch away from his. He follows the hand up a suited arm, over a chest the breadth of which is faintly familiar, along a tie he recognises with a jolt and up to Coulson's face, eyes closed in sleep. He looks awful, deep lines etched into his forehead and around his eyes, mouth thin and downturned. His eyes twitch beneath the lids; he's dreaming, and it's not restful, Clint can tell even through the fog in his head. What is he doing here? Clint hasn't been changed again or anything; his hands are still hands, not paws, and when he sticks out his tongue all he touches is skin. There's no need for anyone to sit by his bedside that he knows of.
Yet here Coulson is. Clint lets his eyes fall down to Coulson's hand again, so very close yet painstakingly not touching his, like Coulson hadn't let himself close the final distance, but couldn't stay away, either. Something twists in Clint's chest, sharp, painful, warm. What if-- Could it be that--
No one can answer those questions but the man by his bedside, and Clint's not waking him up for the world. Even asleep, Coulson is a solid, reassuring presence, and Clint has never felt safer than when he's with him. He breathes in, picks up his courage and moves his fingers, just a little, lets them rest tentatively over Coulson's--Phil's. Please, he thinks to himself, oh, please. He's never wanted anything more than he wants this, the quiet connection between the two of them, the chance to have Phil by his side, to come home to.
His eyes close without consulting him, lulled by the soft huffs of Phil's breaths, the feel of Phil's fingers under his. His heart flutters in his chest once, then slows; he lets himself slip away again.
The second time he wakes up is considerably louder than the first, even though he can see they're trying to be quiet. There hasn't been a single thing invented yet that can keep a room full of superheroes quiet, however. He opens his eyes to Natasha punching Tony in the arm and hissing at him to shut up, Tony's wounded expression, the roll of Steve's eyes. Something pats his right arm; he turns his head to see Bruce smiling at him, clearly relieved.
"Sorry about them," he says quietly, throwing the others a mean look. "They've been worried, you know how they get."
Clint smiles, fondness curling in his chest, and nods lightly.
"How are you feeling?" Bruce asks, eyes checking the levels of the drugs still being pumped into him.
"Like something ran me over," Clint rasps, winces. Immediately there's a glass pressed to his lips, Bruce's other hand lifting his head a little. He drinks, grateful, tries not to choke when the others realise he's awake.
"My friend!" Thor booms; the only thing that stops Clint from sustaining further damage from one of Thor's crushing hugs is Steve's timely intervention. "I am so pleased to see you awake," Thor says earnestly, beaming.
"Good to see you too, buddy," Clint manages, grinning. The others crowd around his bed, familiar, friendly faces shining with relief.
"Seriously, I gotta design you and Natasha better armor," Tony grouses, poking at the stitches in Clint's right arm that disappear under the sleeve of the awful hospital gown he's been put in. "This is getting old. You're way too exposed in those flimsy SHIELD suits."
"Better armor isn't going to stop half a ton of rubble from taking us out, Tony," Natasha says, but it's fond rather than scathing, which really says everything.
They stay for a while longer, before Clint starts to droop again, which he hates -- he can't stand feeling so helpless, so weak, but they're dozing him with the heavy-hitter drugs because of his cracked ribs, and they're making his thoughts blur unhelpfully. He's clear enough to notice that the chair by the bed is unmistakably empty, though. He wonders with a tightening in his chest what Phil thought when he woke, if he even noticed at all -- if he was even real, not a figment of his sad, desperate imagination.
Steve ushers everyone out of the door a few minutes later, lingers behind with a promise to visit again as soon as they're allowed. "There's security at the door," he tells Clint, "so don't worry about anyone unauthorised getting in. And if they fail, Phil's at the other end of the corridor, and you know no one's getting past him that isn't supposed to."
"Phil's here?" Clint mutters, fighting against the pull of sleep.
"Sure. He hasn't left since we brought you in. He spent the night here, I thought you might have seen him?"
"I thought I dreamt that," Clint whispers, fingers twitching. There's a whole flock of agitated butterflies in his stomach making a bid for escape.
Steve smiles, kind, too shrewd -- people often underestimate how smart Steve really is, mistaking simplicity for stupidity (to their detriment). "I'm pretty sure you didn't. I'd expect another visit soon, if I were you. He's been worried."
A month ago, Clint would have scoffed at that -- Coulson, worried? About him? Yeah, good one.
Now? He has to grit his teeth not to grin stupidly. Steve sees it anyway, he's sure; his lips twitch happily, and with a wave he's out of the door, letting it close softly behind him. Clint closes his eyes, lets the tight clutch of control slip from around his chest, just a tiny bit, just enough to allow tentative shoots of hope to take root.
He sleeps again, drifting in and out of a doze that makes it hard to keep track of time, leaves him more tired when he wakes than he was when he fell asleep. Finally, a long, long time later, he surfaces and his head is clear, thoughts sharp and true once more. It looks like the middle of the night -- the lights of the city glint through the windows, leave orange and red and yellow reflections over the windowsill, on the wall across the room. It's soothing, like he can just lie there and things will be all right in the end.
His body still hurts -- in fact, the pain is more pronounced than the dull ache from earlier, which tells him they're weaning him off the hard drugs and onto something lighter. It explains the sudden and much appreciated clarity of thought, and Clint wants that a lot more than the lack of pain. He's never trusted drugs that won't let him think for himself.
He turns his head, and at first he wonders if he's still dreaming, but the details are too sharp -- the open collar, the tie knot tugged loose, the way hair falls across Phil's forehead, giving the illusion of softness, of submission to the fact that he's human, too. He's asleep again, but he looks marginally less dire than last night, the lines not quite so deeply etched into his face, his mouth pouting open a little, relaxed instead of tense. His hand is next to Clint's again, even closer than last night; Clint can feel the buzz of nearness that proximity causes, scant millimeters away. He smiles this time, a delirious rush of joy that he can't contain breaking free over his face. Just maybe, this time, he'll get lucky.
When he moves his fingers so they overlap with Phil's again, Phil shifts in the uncomfortable plastic chair, eyelids fluttering in a way that threatens imminent discovery. Clint has seconds to make a choice -- plenty of time for someone like him, who is used to weighing risks and benefits with less. He leaves his fingers where they are, hopes like hell he won't get it thrown back in his face.
Phil's eyes snap open a moment later, clear and focused from the start, like the soldier he is. They fix on Clint's face, dart around the room to secure it, return to the monitors beeping peacefully into the night, then over to Clint's face again.
"You should be sleeping," he says, voice a little rough from disuse. He makes to straighten -- Clint feels the tension in his hand preparing to move away -- feels, too, the moment Phil realises his fingers are pinned down by Clint's, however lightly. He stares at them unblinkingly, but doesn't move. In fact, his hand settles back over the sheets with a single twitch of the index finger that feels like a caress against Clint's skin. He sees Phil swallow and lick his lips, sees the deep breath he takes.
"So I guess we should talk about this," he says quietly. Clint loves him so much in this moment, clearly unsettled but willing to push it down for Clint's sake.
"I guess we should," Clint says. He's willing to say anything, do anything, if he has even the slightest chance of convincing Phil to give this a go.
Phil swallows again; then his thumb comes up, strokes a careful path over the side of Clint's hand, along the length of his little finger. Clint inhales sharply, heart pounding. He can't even understand how the smallest of touches can affect him like this, but he can't deny the rush of blood to the head.
"Thank you," he blurts out. Phil gives him a questioning look. "For bearing with me when I got changed. You didn't have to."
Phil huffs a laugh, shakes his head. "You were the cutest thing I'd ever seen," he says with the air of an admission. "Your eyes are a danger enough when you're human; as a puppy, you were ruthless."
Clint tries to digest all that, thinks he fails. He gets stuck somewhere between Phil thinking his eyes are a danger to him, and the realisation that Phil had caved to every one of his demands while he'd been dog-shaped. He wonders how the fuck he missed that one before.
Phil clears his throat; Clint watches, fascinated, as a hint of pink brightens his cheeks. "I liked having you around," Phil confesses. "The apartment and my office feel empty without you."
"Is that an invitation?" Clint probes, because yeah, he's an asshole, that's still news to anyone?
Phil rolls his eyes, sighs. "Yes, any time you happen to turn into a dog again, feel free to invade my home."
Clint simply can't resist poking at the edges of this thing between them. "...Just while I'm a dog?"
Phil looks at him steadily. "No. Not just when you're a dog."
Clint starts grinning then, victorious. "You missed me," he says smugly.
Phil's lips twitch. "The bed's been cold without your furry ass."
And just like that, the atmosphere shifts completely. Clint's smirk fades into something softer; he feels absurdly shy, and he's never been shy in his life, but Phil seems to bring it out in him. How do you tell someone that you missed being a dog, something he trusted enough to let it see the man behind the suit, to press his face against its fur, to let it curl over his chest while he held it close, like it's precious?
"I missed you too," he says softly in the end, catching Phil's eyes, allowing Phil to see his own soft underbelly behind the armor. His fingers tighten a little, curling around Phil's on the bed. Phil's eyes are dark with something that sends a shiver down Clint's spine, but they are warm, too, relieved. His hand turns under Clint's, until their fingers fit together and Phil's hand closes on his.
"Clint," Phil says, and God, his name on Phil's tongue, Clint can barely take it. He wants to kiss Phil so desperately that his chest is tight with it, his lips tingling with need.
"Kiss me, please," he says, because he still can't move all that well but he thinks he might die if it doesn't happen soon, now. Phil rises immediately, shifts to sit on the bed close to Clint's side, leans in until he can brace an arm by Clint's right shoulder, lowers his head. The first touch of his lips sends a jolt of pure longing through Clint's stomach.
"Please," he breathes against Phil's lips, and Phil closes in at last, fits their mouths together, lips moving sweetly against Clint's. Clint closes his eyes and tries to memorise the feel of it, the familiar scent of warm sandalwood that comes off Phil's skin, the taste of black coffee on his tongue. He cranes his neck, wanting to get closer -- his only reward is the screaming tension in his shoulder when he stretches still-damaged muscles, and he gasps before he can bite it back. Phil breaks the kiss instantly, starts to rise.
"No!" Clint yelps desperately. "Stay. Please."
Phil settles his weight back over the sheets carefully, looking ready to jump away at any moment. There's a pinched look on his face, like he's berating himself.
"If you tell me we shouldn't have done that, I'm going to punch you so hard," Clint threatens, despite the fact that it's a threat he most definitely can't back up right now. Phil smiles, though, so that's okay.
"It wouldn't have killed us to wait," he says ruefully.
"You never know, might have killed me," Clint grumbles. His hateful brain starts down the track of thinking that clearly Phil isn't as desperate as him for getting closer to each other; Clint should probably curb that desperation of his, he's sure it makes him look pathetically eager--
"Stop," Phil murmurs, leans in and kisses his lips again, his cheek, his temple, his eyebrow. "I want to. I want to kiss you, and I want to touch you everywhere, and give that smartass mouth of yours something else to do, and find out what your skin feels and tastes like without the fur getting in the way. But I want more for you to not be in pain while I do it. Sounds fair?"
Clint nods, even though yeah, he's disappointed they won't get to do that immediately, because Phil's words have lit a fire inside him that he knows will be a long time in quenching, until he's fit enough for all the things he wants to do to Phil.
"I don't have to like it. And it doesn't mean that you can stop kissing me in the meantime, clear?"
"Yessir," Phil says, laughing. "Crystal." He steals another kiss before pulling back. "You're going to be a holy terror until you get your way, aren't you?" he sighs. He doesn't sound like he's complaining -- more like he's resigning himself to his fate. Clint grins up at him, skin tight over the bruise on his cheekbone, not like he gives the slightest fuck.
"You know it," he crows, smug and gloating. "I want you, and I'm not going to let a measly four cracked ribs stand in my way."
Phil's answering grin slips a little; his eyes drop back to Clint's chest, linger over the place where bandages hold it together under the hospital gown.
"Hey," Clint says softly, reaching to trace Phil's arm with his right one, careful with the needle still stuck in him. "I'm alright. I'll heal. It's just a flesh wound, sir."
Phil looks up, startled, before he breaks down into actual giggles, slapping a hand over his face. "God, I'm doomed," Clint hears threaded through the laughter.
"But what a way to go, eh, sir?" he says, squeezing Phil's fingers with his own, smiling wide and bright and happy. He's not letting go any time soon.
Phil doesn't sleep in his bed that night. In fact, it's two full weeks before Clint can coax him to even lie down next to him at all, let alone spend the night. Phil complains that he doesn't play fair; Clint maintains that looking at him is no crime. He can't be blamed for taking advantage of the tactical knowledge that Phil had handed him that night in the hospital, when he let slip that factoid about his reaction to Clint's eyes.
Two and a half weeks later, though, Phil is lying on his side in the bed in his apartment, with Clint sprawled on his back on his side of said bed. It's the same now as it was when he was a dog, which is a symmetry Clint can't complain about. Phil fusses madly in his way, which is asking Clint if he's comfortable and if he needs things every two minutes.
"Just for you to stay here and not run off," Clint tells him in the end, hand tracing Phil's arm again, their positions mirroring the ones in the hospital, with Phil on the other side of him this time. Phil subsides, props his head up on his elbow and watches Clint with a strange look in his eyes, a mix of caring and affection and something darker, something almost possessive.
"What's that look for?" Clint asks in the end, because it's not like he's psychic about Phil just yet.
"I like this version of you in my bed even more," Phil murmurs; out of nowhere, heat curls in Clint's gut, migrating lower.
"Fuck," he complains, because it's not like he can do anything about that, not yet; he can't push Phil on his back, straddle his lap and show him just what he's doing to Clint with all that teasing. He's been expressly forbidden to engage in any strenuous physical activity for at least another week -- which Clint's been pushing against every day for the past ten days, but Phil is ruthless when it comes to following doctors' orders.
"Soon," Phil tells him now, and wow, that is not helping.
"You're kind of an asshole," Clint bitches.
"Look," Phil says consolingly, "if you're a good boy about this, we'll get there a lot sooner than if you end up breaking a rib just to be contrary."
Clint grumbles some more, because he's been in close proximity to Phil for almost the whole three weeks since his discharge, and it's getting harder and harder not to climb all over Phil, pin him down and suck him until he screams.
"This is all your fault," Clint complains, waving at his hard-on that certainly wasn't there five minutes ago. "You are a tease, Phillip Coulson, don't think I don't know what you're doing, you are bribing me with sex, that is not fair play."
"It's working, though," Phil says smugly. Clint scowls, but the hell of it is, yeah, it kind of is. Certainly he hasn't gone on to re-injure himself, which he would have if Phil hadn't been dogging him all the time.
"Ugh, I hate you," he moans.
"Sure you do," Phil agrees placidly, because he knows full well Clint does nothing of the sort. Clint's preparing to whine, to punish Phil for his deviousness, when the breath tangles in his throat -- Phil's hand has moved to rest squarely on his cock, over the same borrowed sweatpants. Clint groans pitifully, bucking into the touch just enough to not cause a stab of pain.
The hand grows more firm, pushes down. "On one condition. You stay still, and you don't move. If you can't do that, tell me now and save yourself the frustration when I stop halfway through."
"Evil," Clint hisses through his teeth, but stills his hips. "Fine."
Phil looks down at him sternly -- the effect probably would have been stronger if his pupils hadn't been completely blown from anticipation. He eases the waistband down under Clint's ass, over the arch of his rigid cock, sweeps it down his legs and away. The t-shirt, sadly, stays in place -- it's too soon for that, but frankly Clint will take what he can fucking get at this point and be grateful.
What he can get, he thinks while he fights to draw breath, is apparently Phil's mouth pressing to his lower belly, kissing down his groin, rubbing his lips against the head of Clint's cock, a little damp already because it's been an ice age since he's done this.
"Jesus fuck," Clint grunts, trying to push up into the touch. Strong hands wrap around his hips, press them down. The feel of it makes stars explode behind his tightly shut eyelids, makes him groan breathlessly. "Phil," he begs.
Phil relents, lets his lips open, slides them over the head and down Clint’s shaft. His mouth is hot, wet, so very welcoming; Clint is having trouble holding on already, and that's before Phil takes him down all the way, throat closing around him.
"Oh god," Clint gasps, hands clenched tightly into the sheets, fighting to keep his back from bowing because it will jostle his still-tender ribs. He swears some more, half-shaped words while Phil sucks him, mouths at the head, flicks his tongue over his balls in a way that is probably illegal in several states. He's helpless to hold on, all the build-up of the past weeks, even longer, the desperate longing he'd pushed back for the past month and a half, virtually exploding through him at the touch of Phil's tongue to his ass, just the tip of it, just licking over the rim. He keens with need, bites his lip hard, groin tightening until he knows he's not going to be able to hold back any longer.
His voice is thready when he bites out, "I'm going to-- Phil," and Phil lifts his head, takes him back into his mouth, sucks over the head. That's pretty much him done, thanks very much, enjoy the rest of your evening, peace out.
Clint’s panting when he's done, a sharp sting in his chest from the rapid rise and fall, but nothing that he can't handle, nothing damaging, and he'd endure so much more to have this again, as soon as he can. Phil's hands are still holding him down; he's got his forehead pressed to the top of Clint's left thigh, breathing hotly over the skin, fingers flexing over the hipbones. He shudders when Clint unclenches one hand from the sheets, runs his fingers through his hair, thumb stroking at his temple.
"God, I want you to fuck me," Clint breathes, licks his lips. "Your cock, I want it inside me so bad, I can't wait until I can feel you opening me up, sliding all the way in."
Phil groans, bites lightly into the skin under his mouth. "Clint, fuck, you don't even know what you're doing to me."
"Show me," Clint coaxes, fingers closing around Phil's neck and pulling his head up. "Come up here and kiss me, and then show me. I want to see you."
Phil complies easily, crawls up on all fours and leans in, takes his mouth hard, lets Clint chase the taste of himself inside when he presses his tongue between his lips. Clint's hands get busy drawing the zip of his jeans down, flicking open the button, sliding them down his ass enough so he can get a hand inside his boxer-briefs. Phil gasps in his mouth when his fingers find him, close around him. Phil's hips drive him inside Clint's fist, hard and fast while Clint holds tight. It's dry and dirty and desperate and Clint can't stop kissing Phil, biting at his mouth, tangling their tongues together until Phil's moaning and riding Clint’s leg, panting wetly over his lips. His cock jumps in Clint's fist, jerks, and suddenly the slide gets a lot easier, Phil's come smoothing the way for Clint's fingers.
Phil sags beside him, half on his side, half still leaning against Clint's body. He worms his leg between Clint's as Clint wipes his hand off on the ruined sheets and sighs, curling his clean hand over the small of Phil's back.
"Well, that was a nice taster. Just what every agent needs, incentive to get better," Clint teases languidly. Phil huffs a laugh into his collarbone, head carefully pillowed on the ball of his shoulder, which can't be comfortable for him but he's been impossible when it comes to what he feels threatens Clint's recovery.
"I hope you appreciate the full service SHIELD provides. Not many other people benefit from such an arrangement."
Clint lifts his head slowly, arches an eyebrow. "I should fucking well hope not," he growls. Phil's mouth twitches -- and so does his cock, soft now against Clint's hip. Interesting.
"I was speaking figuratively. You can't imagine ours is the only arrangement within the agency."
Clint lies back down, mollified. "Fair enough."
Phil presses a kiss against his chest, then shifts until his head is lying on his pillow, body still curled against Clint's side. "I was sure you'd see it my way. Now, sleep."
Clint sighs. Phil is the bossiest lay he's ever had. Also the best -- and, if Clint has his way, the last. He might not be a dog any longer, but he's not above staking his territory, however covertly. By the way Phil's hand curves possessively over his hip, he doesn't think Phil will mind.
He lets his head fall to the side until his lips are almost touching Phil's forehead and, just this once, does as he's told.