Clint folds his arms and raises an eyebrow. Phil doesn’t even look up from his desk. Since they’ve been in Subterranean Secret HQ, New Mexico, they’ve both been scandalously busy, by which Clint means that there has been no scandal, no quickies against Phil’s office door and certainly no high-altitude kissing. It’s not been Clint’s favourite mission.
‘Natasha just left,” says Clint. He gestures at the door. “Russia.”
Phil lifts one shoulder in a shrug. He’s not even committing to the shrug. Clint feels neglected.
“She tells me you’re dating a cellist.”
Phil stops writing.
Phil does not look up.
“Phil, why did Natasha tell me you were dating a cellist from Portland?”
“Presumably, she’s been talking to Pepper Potts.”
“Ah. Yes. Of course.” Barton wrinkles his brow. He’s demanding explanations and they’re not forthcoming.
Phil sets down his pen. This is progress. “Ms Potts asked me if I was seeing anyone.”
Barton takes a step forward. He doesn’t like the sound of this. He’s seen pictures. Pepper Potts is hot. “Why does she care about your love-life?”
Finally, Phil looks up. His lips quirk into a smile. “Because she’s a friend, Clint. You’re familiar with the concept?”
“Yeah, I am but I didn’t think you were.”
“Thank you, Barton. See, this is why people think you don’t like them. You say hurtful things.”
Clint snorts. “Stop deflecting. Cellist. Portland. What the actual fuck?”
Phil shrugs again but this time it’s a proper one; it’s devil-may-care Dolce-and-Gabbana. “She called to update me on a Stark contract and asked if I was seeing anyone. I saw your recurve bow and you know - “ (Clint doesn’t know.) “- it made me think of cellos.”
Clint opens his mouth to speak and then closes it again, frowning. There has been some catastrophic breakdown of logic and he doesn’t even know where to begin.
“Bows.” Phil pauses. Clint waits. “Cellos have bows. One bows. There’s a bow.” Phil sighs and lifts his palm to his forehead. “It wasn’t my finest hour.”
“Sir, I’m not moving to Portland to maintain your cover. You know this, right?”
“Relax, Clint. I said she was from Portland, not that she was there right now. Although that might be an easier -”
“She?” Clint blinks. “You’re dating a female cellist from Portland?”
“You did get the part where she’s fictional, right?”
Clint folds his arms and looks away. It’s a childish ploy but it sometimes works. He hears the scraping of the chair legs on the floor. He fights not to smile but it’s a lost cause when Phil’s arms slip around his waist.
“It’s okay,” says Phil softly. “You don’t have to get a sex change or learn the cello.”
“And we’re leaving Maine right out of it?”
“Actually, it’s Oregon.”
Clint lets out a low whistle. If his arms are around Phil, it’s because it’s impossible for him not to reciprocate Phil’s gestures of affection, rare as they are (unstudied as they are). “Wow. Cross-continental relationships are a total bitch.”
Phil hums and kisses Clint briefly. “Back to work, Barton.” He smiles (and it’s impossible for Clint not to reciprocate). “Dinner, later.”
“You mean midnight vending machine food, don’t you?”
“Don’t tell me I don’t know how to show you a good time.”
Clint laughs and ducks his head slightly to kiss the corner of Phil’s mouth. “Later, then. But only if you let me have all the yellow M&Ms this time.”
He strolls away, to the sound of Phil’s soft laughter, and it’s a sort of warm glow in the pit of his stomach and it’s nothing like the harsh cold light of that fucking cube. He hoists himself up to the highest perch to watch Selvig and wait.
He’s good at waiting.