It's Clint's fault.
Of course, most things in Phil's life are Clint's fault. That extra large stack of paperwork on his desk? Clint. The fact that he's on first name terms with all of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s medical staff? Clint. The dirty laundry decorating his floor? Clint. There are good things too. He probably would have died years ago if it weren't for Clint's sharp eyes. It's thanks to Clint scaring off the junior agents that he's able to make it home at a decent hour. Clint's the reason that Phil actually leaves his bed with a spring in his step, instead of feeling as if a cloud of imminent doom was always hanging overhead. Because of this, Clint's usually able to weasel his way out of the worst punishments.
But this, Phil thinks as a non-S.H.I.E.L.D.-issued car pulls up, isn't one of those times.
It had started when Phil took a shower. Clint had been napping on the couch. What could possibly happen? He wasn't a child, he didn't need constant supervision (contrary to popular belief), and so Phil hadn't thought twice about it.
(In retrospect, the very act of thinking that everything would be okay had clearly doomed Phil.)
After he'd finished and dried off and dressed, he followed Clint's voice to the kitchen where he heard the most terrible thing that could ever be uttered.
"Sure, we'd love to take Marly for the day."
Phil lunged at Clint, intent on relieving the other man of his phone. Unfortunately Clint was a highly trained S.H.I.E.L.D. agent-slash-former circus worker and he was able to successfully evade Phil while hammering out the details for Marly's visit (Tuesday, from 5 am to about midnight). By the time he'd managed to tackle Clint to the ground, he was already saying goodbye.
"Yeah, I'll give Phil your love. He's really sorry to have missed you. Bye Annie!"
Phil elbowed Clint's face into the floor and stole his phone back.
"Sorry, she hung up. Said she had to go put the kid down," Clint said, after liberating his head from the floor-and-Phil's-elbow sandwich it had been in. The bastard was grinning. Phil was going to kill him. And then he was going to find Loki and have him bring Clint back to life so that he could kill him again.
Phil angrily dialed his sister's number as he stood.
"She's not going to answer, you know. She never answers when she's trying to put Marly to bed," Clint sang from the floor, grinning like a hyena. Phil gave him a kick.
"Ow! Hey, what was that for?"
"You're an ass."
Clint followed Phil out the kitchen and back to the living room.
"Hey, come on. What's wrong? You love Marly. I thought you'd be happy to spend some time with her."
Phil sank to the couch. "Of course I love her."
"Then what's the problem?"
"Clint, look around you. We can't bring Marly here."
Clint, to his credit, actually made an effort to search for what Phil could be talking about. "Okay, yeah...I'm really not seeing it. Place looks spotless. We'll just tell Tony to keep the robots in his workshop and--"
"That's exactly it."
Phil mentally composed a quick list of all of the reasons why he loved Clint. He cursed himself when he realized common sense wasn't on it. He was actually going to have to spell it out.
"We share a house with a philandering mad scientist, another scientist with extreme anger issues, a Norse god, and Natasha."
"You forgot Steve."
"I'm pretty sure Steve is safe to have around babies."
"So...you're saying 'Tash doesn't like kids? Because I'm pretty sure she wouldn't kill Marly even if she hates babies. She's got standards."
"That's not what I'm saying."
"Okay, yeah, Tony probably doesn't like kids, but I'm pretty sure we can convince him to stay in his workshop all day. Hell, he'll probably do it anyways. And Thor's great with kids! Remember last week when we took down those Doombots in the park and Thor kept the kids busy so they wouldn't cry because their field trip got ruined?"
Phil sighed. "I'm not going win this argument, am I?"
"Nope." Clint sobered and finally joined Phil on the couch. "Come on, Phil. You've pretty much not had the chance to see your niece since she was born. Don't try to tell me that doesn't kill you. It's just one day. What could go wrong?"
He leveled a look at Clint. "Do you really want me to list it?" And he could, because Phil has done it before. He's mapped lists out in his head every time an op's gone wrong. He fills legal pads as he sits in his office with bullet points about why it's so important that he keeps his family as far away from his work as possible. But Clint's family now, too. And even though he'll never admit it, Clint clings to the idea of them having a normal family the way he never has before. And normal families usually don't balk when asked to babysit.
He looked at Clint, who had the most heart-wrenching hopeful look on his face, and he wanted to run. No matter how relaxed his body language, Clint's eyes are always intense. They're the sort of eyes that see everything, on the field and off. Phil will never admit it to anyone, but every time Clint focuses that same intensity on him, he's willing to do whatever it takes to get Clint what he wants.
The world will never know how greatly it has benefited from Phil's self-control.
Unfortunately, not even Phil Coulson can withstand the intensity of Clint's eyes when combined with the promise of seeing his niece.
On the couch beside him, Phil's phone rang and Clint took a quick glance at the caller id before placing it in his hand.
"I get it. It's not the sort of life you want a kid around." He dropped a kiss on Phil's head before standing and leaving the room.
Phil answered the phone just before it went to voice mail.
"Annie, hi. Yeah, he let me know you called. No, we'd love to have her--"
In the other room, Clint let out a triumphant whoop.
At 4:47 on Tuesday morning, Phil gave Clint a kick.
"My sister will be here in thirteen minutes. You are not greeting her naked. Get up."
Clint just burrowed more deeply into his blanket burrito. Phil moved to the other side of the bed and took hold of the edge of the sheets.
"One more chance. Get up."
Phil gave the sheets a hearty tug, sending Clint rolling out of bed onto the floor.
"What the fuck?!"
"Twelve minutes. Get dressed." Phil headed for the door. "And make the bed."
Clint threw a pillow at his head.
Ten minutes later, Clint shuffled into the kitchen pulling a shirt over his head as Phil set his phone down.
"Annie says they're running late," Phil said, handing him a cup of coffee.
"'Course they're running late. It's ass o'clock in the morning. And Annie's always running late." Clint slumped against the table. "Why are we doing this again?"
"Your idea, remember?"
Clint hummed and dropped his head on Phil's shoulder. "I have shitty ideas. Don't listen to me."
"I don't know," Phil said, thumbing the ring on his finger. "Sometimes they're pretty decent."
They sat in silence, alternately inhaling and drinking their coffee. Bruce wandered in for coffee, muttering under his breath about results, before shuffling back out. Steve came in, and sat with them for a while before leaving for his daily run.
Finally, at a quarter to six Annie arrived, breathless and balancing Marly on one hip. Clint immediately reached for the sleepy girl and disappeared in the direction of the living room.
"Sorry about that. He's been really looking forward to this."
Annie laughed. "It's your own fault for keeping him all to yourself. You should come by sometime. You're turning into a stranger."
Phil's apology was cut off by a car horn.
"Now it's my turn to apologize. I know I said we'd visit but we had such a hard time getting Marly up. We have to run. Dave promised we'd be there before eight and it's a two-hour drive. Thanks so much for taking her for the day. She's a good kid, but I can't imagine her sitting through a funeral, never mind the drive there and back."
"Don't worry about it. If it gets too late for you to drive, just give us a call. Clint'll love to have her overnight."
They hugged, and then Annie ran back to the car and Phil carried the day bag that had been packed for Marly inside.
He rolled his eyes as he caught sight of the blanket fort Clint and Marly were in the process of assembling. Maybe this wasn't such a bad idea.
By one o'clock, the blanket fort had ballooned in size (mostly thanks to Tony showing up and insisting on "upgrading" it to be more structurally sound and then adding every single blanket in the mansion to it). They ate lunch in the tent, and then Marly passed out for an afternoon nap.
"She's a pretty cool kid," Clint said from his place at the entrance of Tony Stark's Blanket Monstrosity. Marly had made him promise to guard the fort while she slept, and he seemed to be taking it a lot more seriously than he took his actual job.
Phil paused from where he was picking up the few of Marly's toys that hadn't made it into the tent. "Let me guess, you two are BFFs now."
"Shut up. You know what I mean."
"I really don't."
"You know, she's a kid. Doesn't even bat an eyelash when Captain America walks in the room or freak when Iron Man helps her build a tent. She doesn't care that they're superheroes or whatever. That's pretty cool."
"She's barely two. I highly doubt she even knows she's in a house full of superheroes."
"Oh come on, she has to know her favorite uncle's one of the greatest heroes on the planet."
"I'm hardly a superhero, Clint. I just make sure you guys get your paperwork in on time."
"What makes you think I was talking about you?"
Phil threw one of Marly's plastic dinosaurs at Clint's head.
"Shut up and start cleaning, Barton. That's an order."
Clint jumped up and gave a jaunty salute. "Sir, yes sir!"
Their cleaning spree is interrupted by Thor entering the room. He was visibly nervous, and anything that could make a god nervous clearly did not bode well for the rest of them.
"Have you seen my brother?"
Especially if Loki was involved. He had more or less made peace with the Avengers (emphasis on the less) and had moved most of his magical machinations elsewhere. Where, they still weren't entirely certain, but he seemed content to leave Earth alone for the moment. He had even helped them on a few occasions, apparently loathe to see his current base of operations be destroyed by villains who, in his words, "lacked foresight."
Regardless, it didn't mean that the god was welcome to come and go from the Mansion as he pleased. Phil mentioned as much and Thor responds with something about bi-weekly brotherly bonding and Phil really doesn't get paid enough to deal with these people.
And that's where Phil makes yet another major mistake. He stopped thinking about cleaning up his niece's dinosaur toys and instead said something about getting Loki out of the Mansion. And Loki may have not been visible, but he was near enough to overhear and immediately retaliated.
At least, that's hopefully what happened because otherwise Loki would have had to have planned to attack them with children's toys and there is only so much crazy Phil can tolerate in his life.
So, suddenly, there were dinosaurs.
Dinosaurs grown from Marly's toys and Phil tried to not think too hard about that as he dodged a giant, plastic dinosaur foot.
He did not whip out his sidearm because he was a highly-trained S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and highly-trained S.H.I.E.L.D agents do not shoot at toys regardless of how large they may be. (And yes, he was armed while babysitting his niece, because he knew what his life was and recognized the importance of proper preparation.)
Marly thought the entire thing was a new fun game, and Phil had the grace to thank whatever power was in control of his life for granting him that small blessing.
The Avengers had all assembled but really, there isn't much to do because while Loki had animated and enlarged the dinosaurs, they aren't rampaging or anything. Bruce had suggested it had something to do with the fact that none of the toys were predators, just long-necked leaf eaters and smaller, plated, lower-lying leaf eaters. Clint said it was because Marly had boring toys and had earned himself a kick in the shins from her.
Since the dinosaurs seemed mostly interested in gnawing on the nearby flora, and the Mansion was now in need of renovations, the Avengers were spread out on the lawn. Thor had disappeared. Bruce was reading under a tree. Steve was polishing his shield, and Tony was beside him muttering about engineering trees to provide more shade coverage. Natasha was (god help them) stalking the dinosaurs. Clint was shooting arrows at an apple on Marly's head.
Clint was shooting arrows at Marly's head.
Phil would have shot him, but it wasn't worth the paperwork. Instead he gave Marly over to Steve and dragged Clint off for the worst lecture he'd been given since the first time he had jumped off a building to make a shot.
When he got back, Steve was sketching and Tony was in his armor, flying around with Marly.
And then his phone rang.
He figuring that Fury had probably heard about the herd of dinosaurs grazing the grounds of Avengers Mansion and didn't bother to look at the caller id before answering. "Stark, put her down and don't take any more minors flying without permission from their guardians. This is Coulson."
"Who is Tony Stark taking flying?"
Well shit, it was Annie. Phil was just grateful that she was only calling. It made it much easier to lie through his teeth to her.
"No one. He thought it was a good idea, I shot it down before anything happened." Clint mouthed something at him, looking suspiciously like "Liar, liar, pants on fire." "How's the funeral?"
"As well as you can expect a funeral to go. The service is over and we're about to head over to the...well I don't want to call it an after party. I was just calling to make sure everything was going okay over there?"
"Yeah, we're great. We're fine. Everything is fine. Marly loves everyone. Stark built her a frightening large blanket fort and she recruited Clint to patrol the perimeter. Later, Natasha and Thor are going to braid her hair."
"Are you sure everything's okay? You sound stressed out. Look--the funeral's over, we can head back early and pick her up if you're overwhelmed. I know you don't really do the kid thing."
"My work day involves keeping Tony Stark from destroying all of New York with science experiments gone awry. I think I can handle Marly until tonight."
"Annie, don't worry. Everything is under control."
The dinosaurs chose that moment to start roaring at each other. Phil should have known better than to expect things to go smoothly.
"Phil." Annie's voice had a frightening calm to it.
"Did I just hear Godzilla?"
"If you say that technically, it isn't Godzilla, then I swear to god Phil I will kill you. And your fancy little agency will never find your body. Dave and I are leaving now. We will be there in two hours. If she is being mauled by Godzilla or god help me, flying around with Iron Man you will regret it."
"Annie, that's really not necessary. I've got everything under control and the dinosaurs are herbivores anyway."
"Did you just say 'dinosaurs'?"
Phil sends Clint inside to hide while Annie gives him the most terrifying dressing down he'd ever had. He's almost proud of the fact that his baby sister could probably give Fury a run for his money. He tries not to shudder when he imagines the holy terror the two of them could be if their forces were combined and decides against it. Instead, he nods and apologizes profusely and promises that it will never happen again.
She snaps that he's damn right it will never happen again because Marly is never visiting the Mansion again and if he wants to see his niece he'll have to take time off from work to visit them.
Clint appears at his elbow and insists that they'd love to visit and they'll be by for Thanksgiving.
That pacifies Annie, and she allows Marly to say goodbye to everyone (even Tony, and Phil tries really hard not to think about the way that she seems to like Tony better than her own uncle).
"Well," Clint says as Annie and Dave's car pulls away, "that went well. We should do that more--"
"Finish that sentence, and you'll be sleeping on the couch for the next month." Phil turns to glare at him. "We are never doing that ever again. Got that?"
"Whatever you say." Clint shrugs. "You gotta admit though, Marly clearly loved it."
"I'm trying really hard not to think about that."
"Who knows? She could be the next generation of superhero. Clearly it runs in the family."
"For your own sake, you better hope not. Annie would kill both of us."
"Come on, Phil." Clint grabs Phil by his belt loops and pulls him closer. "It was nice having her here."
"Maybe," he acquiesces. "But we are never doing this again."
"You're just mad she likes Tony more than you."
"She does not."
"Does too. She likes Tony better and you're jealous."
And yes, Phil does have the the tiniest bit of jealousy that Marly had taken to Stark so quickly. But Clint doesn't need to rub it in. But there's only two ways to stop Clint once he's started, and Phil would rather not taser his husband on the lawn of the Avengers Mansion. People would talk. So Phil closes the distance between them and kisses the jackass.
Behind him, a dinosaur roars.