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The thing is, Phil keeps dying. It's really hard on Clint's nerves.

The first time, Phil bled out in Chechnya, his dress shirt stained crimson by two bullet wounds. It was just Clint and Phil -- they'd been cut off from the cavalry -- and Phil had coughed unexpectedly, tried to make out a few words, and then just died.

Clint freaked out. They'd been flirting for months, and there he was lugging Phil's body down a mountainside in the former USSR, his head full of regrets and things left unsaid and unspeakable lewd acts never committed. Then Phil took in this shuddering breath, coughed again, and said dimly "Ow," because the moment Phil had moved Clint dropped him on a particularly rocky bit of the path he'd been following.

"Thanks for not leaving me behind," Phil said, pulling himself off the ground and examining his ruined shirt ruefully.

"Wha-- huh-- the fuck?" Clint managed, eloquently.

Phil waved a hand dismissively. "Long story. Need to know only."

"Goddammit, I needed to know!" Clint exploded, then took Phil's face in his hands and kissed him thoroughly. Phil's lips parted beneath his willingly, his tongue grazing Clint's teeth, and just when the kiss was starting to get really interesting, the sound of a chopper interrupted them.

"Time to head back to base," Phil panted. His hand was on Clint's lower back, and didn't seem inclined to move.

"Right," Clint said reluctantly, pulling away. "We're going to talk about this again."

"This this, or this this?" Phil asked, a smile quirking his lips.

"Both," Clint said firmly.

*

So every once in a while, Phil dies. It's not through incompetence -- he's a fully trained agent with an exceptional range of survival skills -- but more to do with the fact that life in the field for SHIELD is increasingly odd and dangerous.

Clint still freaks out a little when it happens, because his boyfriend is dead and then he's not. The mechanics of the whole thing are weird. "So you're not a zombie, right?" Clint asks in bed one night.

Phil traces lazy circles on Clint's bare shoulder and says wryly, "I haven't eaten your brain yet, have I? Not that there's much of a feast there."

Clint sighs. "I'm serious. When did it first happen?"

Phil rolls on his back, pulling Clint down with him so that he can kiss Clint's temple. "I was in the Marines, took some enemy fire. By the time the medics got to me, I'd already come back."

"You do age, right? I mean, you look older than you did when I first met you."

Phil shakes his head. "You know how to flatter a guy, don't you?" As Clint punches him in the shoulder, Phil shrugs. "It's not like I came with a manual, Clint. I know I have more than nine lives. I know it takes a little longer each time for me to come back. Other than that, it's guesswork."

Clint lets his head rest on Phil's chest, listening to the steady thump of his heart. "You could, you know, try not dying."

Phil kisses the top of Clint's head. "I'll work on that."

*

Loki is a mean son of a bitch, and when he stabs Phil through the heart with his magic staff, Clint takes great pleasure in putting an arrow through him. Stark and Cap and Tasha and Thor do the mop up, while Clint gathers Phil into his arms and drags him to the SHIELD infirmary.

He waits.

On the third day, Thor murmurs -- in an Asgardian booming sort of way -- something about Loki's magic undoing the magic of the son of Coul. Natasha guides him away, leaving Clint to his vigil.

He waits.

He's still waiting.

*

 

 

 

 

 

Phil coughs and opens his eyes. He looks at Clint who, frankly, looks like shit, and smiles slightly. "Miss me?"

(You didn't think I was going to leave it like that, did you?)