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Cast Me Gently Into Morning

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The first thing Phil hears when he and Clint step out of the elevator into the Tower’s main living quarters is the loud clang of a dropped pot and Tony Stark cursing from the kitchen.  The second thing he hears is JARVIS’ calm “Welcome back, Agent Coulson.”

The cursing in the kitchen stops abruptly.  “That wasn’t funny, JARVIS,” Stark says, and Phil realises with shock that Tony actually sounds . . . shaky.

“It was not intended to be humorous, sir,” JARVIS replies, and then Tony appears framed in the kitchen doorway staring in shock at Phil where he stands, leaning heavily on Clint’s shoulder.  Clint tenses slightly beside him, and Phil squeezes his upper arm in reassurance.  Phil is still reeling from the recent revelation that he is, in fact, still alive.  Even better, so is Clint, and Phil finds he no longer cares what anyone else thinks of him . . . of them.

Phil has a moment to appreciate the rare sight of Tony Stark speechless, then the other man exclaims, “Agent!” and smiles widely.  

For a second it looks like Tony’s actually going to hug him, but Clint fixes Stark with a glare, exuding ‘back off’ vibes and Phil says, “Watch it, Stark.  I can still tase you.”  Tony backs up, hands in the air and a ‘who, me?’ expression on his face.  Clint huffs, but Phil’s known him long enough to know he’s secretly amused.

Clint starts to lead him toward the hallway Phil knows houses Clint’s room, but Phil stops him with a hand on his arm and says “Couch.”

“Phil,” Clint starts, but Phil cuts him off.

“I’m going to have to talk to everyone soon and I’m not having the whole household traipsing through our room.  The couch.”  Clint sighs, but alters his trajectory to lead Phil over to Tony’s sofa and Phil sinks gratefully into the plush velvet cushions.  His shoulder has been aching for the last half-hour and he leans back with a sigh.  Clint sits down next to him, legs curled up, side still plastered against Phil’s.  They haven’t broken contact for more than a few seconds since Clint found Phil in the empty storeroom where Fury’d stashed him after telling everyone he’d died.  Considering Phil had thought Clint lost to him once Loki took over the archer’s mind, he’s not complaining about the contact.

Stark plops down in the armchair facing the couch and studies Phil intently.  “Fury told us you’d died.”

Phil opens his mouth to explain and hears Clint mumble “Fury’s an ass.” He holds back the instinctive urge to reprimand Clint for disrespect because Clint’s right, Fury is an ass, and Fury’s handling of Phil’s ‘death’ - not to mention his neglect of the Avengers in the aftermath of the battle - have made Phil lose most of the respect he’d had for the man.  From what Clint’s told him, Fury pretty much left the Avengers to their own devices once the crisis was over - didn’t even make sure Banner and Rogers had a decent place to stay - and if it hadn’t been for Stark of all people tracking them down and offering them room in the Tower the Avengers would have been scattered to the four winds.  

“The report of my death was an exaggeration,” Phil tells Stark, his inner nerd relishing the opportunity to actually use the line.  Clint rolls his eyes, but he also presses closer to Phil with something like a shudder.  The events of the past five weeks are something neither of them will get over anytime soon.  Phil knows his lover still has nightmares where Phil dies and Clint’s the one holding the staff - it had been one such nightmare that had woken him up after they’d both fallen asleep in Phil’s bed in the storeroom and all Phil could do was hold Clint tight to his chest while the archer shuddered and sobbed into his neck, whispering reassurances into Clint’s ear, reminding him that he was there, he was alive, he was real until the archer eventually calmed down.

“Are you going to be ok?” Stark asks with rare seriousness.  Phil sighs.

“I got stabbed in the chest, Stark.  It’ll take awhile, but yes, eventually I’ll be fine.”

“You know you’re staying here, right?  Fury obviously lied to us for a reason, and I don’t trust him as far as I can throw him . . . without the suit.  I’ll fix you up a room, should be ready by tonight.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Phil says.

“Look, don’t argue with me.  This is one you aren’t going to win.  You’re part of this damn team, and you’re injured, and I don’t want you anywhere we can’t protect you.  And if that damages your pride or whatever, fucking get over it because . . . “

“Tony!” Phil interrupts and smiles slightly at the poleaxed look on Starks face at hearing his first name come out of Coulson’s mouth.

“I don’t mind staying here.  I just meant that you don’t need to fix me up a room.  I already have one,” and Phil raises his hand where it’s clasped in Clint’s to emphasise his meaning.  Clint looks a bit worried, but Phil squeezes his hand gently.   Trust me.

“Wait . . . what?”  And that makes three times Phil’s stunned Stark into speechlessness, and that’s got to be some kind of record.  “You and Barton? he asks incredulously.  Then he turns to Clint, “You and Coulson?   Seriously?

“Is it really that hard to believe?” Clint mumbles, and his shoulders hunch instinctively.  He starts to pull his hand from Phil’s but Phil holds on tight, not letting him hide this, and turns to glare at Stark.  Stark takes in Clint’s posture and gets it immediately.

“No, no, I didn’t mean it like that.  I just didn’t think Coulson did . . . . relationships.”

Phil rolls his eyes, but inwardly he’s impressed.  He hadn’t expected self-absorbed Tony Stark to pick up on Clint’s insecurity and immediately address it.  Then again, he also never expected Stark to take to this team thing as well as he has.  Working together in the field is one thing, but inviting them all into his house . . . making sure they were all taken care of . . . that was above and beyond what Phil had thought the man capable of.  Maybe he’d underestimated Stark after all.

“I am human, Stark.  Hard as that may be for you to comprehend.”  Stark grins.

“Well you do do a good job at hiding it,” he snarks back, and Phil feels Clint start to relax.  Stark stands up from his chair abruptly.

“Well, this deserves a celebration!  JARVIS, can you ask Bruce and Steve to come up here please.  Don’t tell them why.”  Stark flashes a conspiratory smile at Phil, and Phil decides to let him have his fun.

“Dr. Banner is in his laboratory so technically I should be asking him to come down, sir.”

“I don’t care if you tell them to moonwalk, I just want them here.”

“Very well, sir” JARVIS replies, unruffled, and Phil hears Tony mutter “insolent program” under his breath.

Stark heads toward the kitchen again, apparently intent on concocting something for the ‘celebration’.  Clint starts to stand up to help but Stark stares him down and points his finger at the couch.  “Sit.  Snuggle with your boyfriend or whatever.  I’ve got this.”

“Husband, technically,” Phil corrects Stark and the other man shakes his head.

“How the hell did I miss that?” He asks, rhetorically, because Phil can think of a number of reasons why Stark wouldn’t have caught on to their relationship, the biggest one being that Clint was working for the enemy the first time Stark had seen him, but that’s not something he’ll ever say.  Clint clearly feels guilty enough already.  

Instead, Phil leans back against the cushions and tugs on Clint’s arm until he curls up against Phil’s side, head burrowed against Phil’s shoulder, and sighs contentedly.  Phil turns his head and presses a kiss against Clint’s hair, tugging at his hand where it’s still entwined with Clint’s so that the archer’s arm rests across his belly in a loose embrace.  

Phil listens to Tony puttering in the kitchen and Clint’s soft breathing near his ear and allows himself to believe that everything is going to be ok.