If anyone were to ask Clint to describe Agent Phil Coulson - which fortunately no one has - he would say that the man is an enigma wrapped in a riddle surrounded by a conundrum. And he’d say it with a completely straight face. He’s known Phil Coulson for a long time now and he knows that most people, including agents who’ve worked with him for years, and therefore ought to know better, would describe Coulson as bland, stoic, boring, unimaginative, in other words the perfect standard government issued G-man. But they couldn’t be more wrong and Clint knows it.
For a secretive government agency, supposedly filled with the best and the brightest, hand-picked for their skills at observation, spying, field skills, analysis etc etc, SHIELD is either surprisingly lazy or surprisingly willing to accept gossip at face value. If asked, for example, most of SHIELD would tell you that Agent Coulson brought Hawkeye into the agency. As a matter of fact, it was Agent Sitwell that Fury sent out to bring Clint in. Clint had made it pretty easy on Sitwell; given his circumstances at the time the security SHIELD could offer was more than worth giving up some rapidly diminishing illusions of freedom in the outside world. It wasn’t until after he’d been brought in and signed on the dotted line for Fury that the agency discovered that a stickler for the rules like Jasper Sitwell and a Specialist like Hawkeye, the proverbial loose cannon, were not a match made in heaven. After some strenuous disagreements on missions and one prank too many back at HQ, Clint had started the monotonous rounds of working with any and every handler they had going. Until his file arrived on Agent Coulson’s desk.
Because here’s the thing, Coulson is not your typical G-man. Despite that carefully honed agent persona, which should not fool anyone as sharp as most of the people in SHIELD are supposed to be by the way, Coulson is anything but a straitlaced by the book kind of guy. Coulson had worked out early on that Hawkeye worked best when allowed some flexibility and he trusted the archer to have the tactical awareness not to screw up a mission or risk anyone’s life with a bad call. Clint can still remember the relief the day he’d told Coulson split seconds before a mark had arrived that he was changing the plan and received a simple ‘Copy that, Hawkeye’ in his ear instead of a tirade of abuse and orders to stay put. Yep, they work well together, no doubt about that.
That’s another thing that you’re likely to hear if you ask around casually at SHIELD. They’ll tell you that Hawkeye only ever works with Agent Coulson and refuses to work with any other handler. That’s laughable in itself, of course. Clint’s good at his job but not irreplaceable. The day Hawkeye becomes a diva is the day that Nick Fury will turf him back out onto the streets to fend for himself. Not that he couldn’t of course, but he’s kind of gotten used to it here. As it happens, Clint is willing to work with any and every handler sent his way, even if he’s not always happy about it - there’s no rule that says he has to like his colleagues, just be willing to work with them. So yeah, he works with Sitwell, Hill, anyone they throw at him. Even Fury on a few memorable occasions. If you asked him though he’d always say that he prefers to work with Agent Coulson.
Agent Coulson, he of the wry small smiles, wickedly sharp intellect and dry as the desert sense of humour, all subtly hidden behind those incredibly sharp suits. Clint can never believe that other people don’t see through it the same way he does. He asked Natasha about it a year or so after he brought her in when she’d had time to get to know Coulson for herself.
‘You mean why doesn’t everyone see the wit that can flay the hide from your back without you even noticing or that he’s clearly one of the most deadly field agents this place has to offer and find that adorable?’ Natasha leaned casually against the doorframe of the range and threw him a dangerous smile.
Clint frowned slightly as he nocked his next arrow and drew; adorable wasn’t really what he’d been trying to convey.
‘I’d say it probably has more to do with our slightly peculiar takes on the world than a problem with anyone else’s,’ her smile turned to a predatory smirk. ‘He is delicious though isn’t he? Sadly he seems to be immune to my charms - or at least the ones I’ve tried so far. Hmmm...maybe I need to be more subtle, like you said, he’s a guy who appreciates the subtle things in life.’ With a wink at Clint she swivelled on her heel and was gone, presumably to plot the seduction of Phil Coulson and Clint didn’t know whether to be jealous of Coulson or grateful not to be in Tasha’s sights.
Clint therefore, feels that he is completely justified in blaming Natasha for the introduction of the words adorable and delicious to his mental description of Agent Phil Coulson. Hawkeye spends a fair amount of his mission time peering down a sniper scope at one person or another, so he has ample opportunity when he’s covering Coulson’s ass on said missions to use some of that time to check out his handler’s ass and consider whether Natasha’s opinion has merit. A dangerous game to play, of course. He should have known that Tasha would be right, Phil Coulson was definitely delicious. Adorable is a little harder to judge through a scope and needs further testing before the hypothesis can be confirmed or discarded. It doesn’t help that Coulson is basically the poster boy for competence and, given his background, competence is one of Clint’s major turn ons.
Which has all led to the rather uncomfortable position that Clint finds himself in now. Coulson, Phil, remains something of an enigma to Clint but now Clint (who tries not to lie to himself if he can help it, though pretty much everyone else bar Phil, Tasha and Fury, is fair game) has to admit that he’s attracted to his handler. Who, in his enigmatic way, appears to be totally oblivious. Which is, Clint keeps reminding himself, a good thing. He’s never asked Tasha how Operation Seduce Coulson went for her, but he has a feeling that it didn’t go quite the way she’d hoped and he’s not sure he’d handle rejection very well.
There are no fraternisation regs at SHIELD though, Clint checked in a moment of overwhelming hopefulness. Apparently Fury thinks they’re a waste of time as relationships with outsiders don’t tend to go too well. Something about people not understanding that their partner’s can’t tell them anything about their work, or where they’re going or how long they’re going to be away. That sort of thing. They tend not to understand the stresses and strains of everyday life in SHIELD or the occasional need to talk to someone who does understand after a mission. And there are always missions in far flung locations where agents can be posted if cooling down periods are required if things don’t work out.
To be fair, not much has changed since Clint’s revelation about Phil. Its not as though he gets to spend that much time alone with Phil anyway, even when they’re on missions together. Hawkeye and Back Widow make an excellent team and are frequently sent on under cover missions together. Just as often Clint is part of a larger team providing sniper cover or long range tactical info and on top of that he often doesn’t see Phil for weeks or months at a time, which is both a blessing and a curse. Clint feels like a teenager with a crush on a teacher. But they do have an easy working relationship on those missions they have together and Clint would rather never say a word than sabotage that ease with a man he respects so much.
Then the Avengers Initiative starts to become a possibility rather than just a vague whisper in the corridors. Phil disappears more often to unknown locations and is called in to meetings with Fury and out of the room for need to know phone calls. He looks, to Clint’s eyes, a little more tired, a little more frayed around the edges. Its both endearing and intoxicating but what stretches Clint’s patience almost past breaking point is Phil’s new habit, late in the evenings when almost everyone else has left HQ, of taking his tie off and undoing the top two buttons of his shirt.
Its just...Its just so different to normal daytime work Phil, who’s always impeccably dressed. Sure Clint’s seen him with his jacket off in his office in the heat of summer or even occasionally with his sleeves rolled up, but he’s always impeccable when he leaves the relative comfort of his own office. Clint tries not to think too hard about what it says about himself that he’s gotten to the stage of being turned on by occasional glimpses of someone’s forearms. He feels like a Victorian gentleman catching sight of a flash of ankle.
Strong muscular forearms are one thing though, this new unbuttoning is something quite different. If it was only the tie and one button it probably wouldn’t be such a problem. Its the second button - that’s the thing about it. The tie and the first button let Clint see the strong column of Phil’s neck in all its glory and that would be more than enough to feed Clint’s fantasies for a long time. But the second button, the second button exposes a lot more skin to Clint’s view and it seems to have an almost exponential impact on his ability to process and form coherent thoughts and sentences.
That V shaped area of chest and throat that’s unveiled to view suddenly, it looks so vulnerable and so powerful at the same time. Clint’s totally confused by it. It draws his hands towards it like a powerful magnet, its so exposed, the hair of Phil’s chest visible between the edges of the shirt. Clint wants to trace the edges with his fingertips, wants to spread his hand in the centre of the exposed skin and see if he can feel Phil’s heartbeat, see if its affected by Clint’s touch. At the same time it simply reinforces the strength that Phil always radiates. There’s just enough on show to indicate how well put together Phil must be under the rest of his suit. Clint’s torn, he desperately wants to touch but he’s equally desperate not to be rejected and make things awkward. That second button tends to completely fry Clint’s brain whenever he runs into Phil down at the range or in the corridors. Its also led to an unexpected spike of jealousy as Clint tries to work out who else is still in the building, who else might be being treated to this vision of an unbuttoned Phil Coulson.
Clint has yet to see Phil actually in the process of taking the tie off and undoing the buttons and a large part of his brain, labelled self-preservation, tells him that’s a good thing. He’ll freely admit that he considered using his skill set to stalk Phil in the ducts and vents to see it happen, but in the end he felt like too much of a creeper and couldn’t do it. Besides Phil always seems to know where Clint’s lurking at any given time, suggesting that either he really is that good a field agent/secret ninja or that SHIELD have taken one of the many opportunities when Clint has been unconscious in Med bay to implant a tracker. He wouldn’t put it past Fury but he suspects that Phil really is just that good, he has a tendency to look right at wherever Clint is and roll his eyes. Or just tell him to get lost if that’s what he needs. Whichever, Clint is turned on, frustrated, entertained and just outright impressed as always.
They’re just finishing a mission in the back of beyond in eastern Europe, Clint isn’t quite sure where anymore given how much they’ve been moving about over the last month, but its finally over and they’ll be heading home soon. They still need to be certain they haven’t picked up any tails, so Tasha and a couple of the younger agents have taken one route out while Clint and Phil take another. Its been a fairly simple job, picking up intel here and there, trying to identify trustworthy sources from false leads but its been long and tedious and everyone is tired and glad to be heading out. Clint’s spent most of the mission with either Tasha or one of the junior agents but Phil decided he didn’t want Clint travelling back the long way with the junior agents.
‘In case any of your bad habits start to rub off on them, Hawkeye. Its bad enough when they hero worship Black Widow but the idea of a whole tribe of junior agents trying to emulate you is enough to give anyone a migraine.’
‘Aw, boss, just think how much fun it would be watching Hill and Fury if they start trying to hide in the ceilings.’
‘Barton, tell me you did not suggest that they try to surprise the Director and Deputy Director when they get back.’
‘No, sir. I definitely did not suggest any such thing. If any of them do try it, it will be entirely of their own volition and imagination. Besides, you don’t believe any of them will be able to make it into the ceilings or ducts without being spotted do you? Its not as easy as I make it look you know.’
Clint dumps his duffel by the bed closest to the window in their room for the night and flops onto it on his back, crossing his legs at the ankles, hands tucked behind his head.
Phil shoots him a glance from the corner of his eye as he opens the door to their tiny bathroom and mutters, ‘Nothing about you is ever easy, Barton.’
He comes back out, drops his own bag by the other bed and sits down on it tentatively, letting out a curse as it sinks heavily beneath him. Clint grins, he knows damn well that Coulson hates soft beds, claims they’re bad for his back. If he was feeling generous he could offer to swap beds, his does seem a touch firmer, but before he can open his mouth, Phil’s back on his feet, striding to the window to pull the curtains and quickly check the quiet street outside the run down guesthouse they’re staying in.
Clint sits up and swings his legs over the side of the bed, pulling his hoody off over his head at the same time. He’s tired and the idea of a shower and sleep is appealing right now. Phil beats him to the bathroom though, and bends his head to the sink to throw cold water over his face. Straightening up he grabs a towel from the rail and mops his face dry. Clint can see the slight droop to his shoulders through the open door that indicates that Phil’s as weary as he is.
Phil reaches up to hook a finger into his tie and start to pull it loose. Behind him still sitting on his bed Clint freezes. He can see Phil in the mirror opposite the open door of the bathroom. He can see him loosening the tie and, dear god, yes, he’s going to take it off. Phil takes his time, loosening the knot first rather than yanking at it, his strong sure fingers ease the lengths of the tie apart and he smooths them down either side of his jacket. He raises his hands back to his throat and undoes the first button with a tired sigh that Clint can hear from his side of the room. Clint has given up on breathing himself, desperate not to distract Phil, hoping for that second button. He’s in luck. Phil unfastens the second button and uses one hand to spread the neck of the shirt wider. Clint drinks in the pale skin now in view before raising his eyes - to meet Phil’s in the mirror.
Clint feels his face flush with shame at the realisation that Phil has just seen him leering at him as though he were doing a striptease. He waits for Phil to say something, to tell him to cut it out and behave like a professional.
Phil doesn’t say anything though, just keeps on looking back at Clint until he turns around and comes back into the bedroom. He’s still looking at Clint as he steps back towards his bed and raises his hands to slide his jacket from his shoulders. Clint swallows hard and it sounds loud to his ears, as though people in the street outside should be able to hear it. Phil’s eyes drop from Clint’s face to his lap and back again and Clint realises with mounting horror that not only has he been sitting here staring at Phil, not speaking, barely breathing, he’s also hard, obviously so. Mortified Clint raises his eyes back to Phil’s and he’s about to apologise, try to cobble together some sort of explanation, though really what can he say? That’s when he notices that there is a definite hint of pink along Phil’s cheekbones, and yes, intriguingly down his now clearly visible neck as well.
Phil slides the tie from his neck and drops it over the jacket on the back of a chair. He raises an eyebrow at Clint and crosses his arms defensively over his chest.
‘I did say nothing about you was easy, Clint. I’ve been trying to see if you were interested for a while but you’ve never given the faintest hint of being interested.’
Clint’s on his feet before he’s even realised what he’s doing, he can feel the grin on his face spreading so far its making his face ache.
‘I’ve been interested, Phil. My god, its been all I can do to keep my hands off you for so long I’ve forgotten what its like not to want you. Fuck, I’ve actually been trying to avoid you in the evenings so I won’t pounce on you when I see you like this, all unbuttoned and informal.’
Phil doesn’t waste any time, just crosses the room until he’s right in Clint’s space, lifting a hand to Clint’s waist and it hits Clint that he can do this too, that he’s allowed to touch, to taste. He slides an arm around Phil and tugs until they’re pressed together from hip to chest using the other to curl a hand round the back of Phil’s neck and hold him still so that he can finally, finally lean up to press his mouth to Phil’s.
Its nothing like any kiss he’s ever had before, Phil’s lips are firm but move gently against his, slow and easy where Clint would have expected hard and desperate. The gentle rasp of Phil’s stubble against his own in contrast to the smooth flesh of his lips makes Clint’s head spin with sensory overload, especially when Phil opens his mouth to take Clint’s lower lip between his teeth and suck gently.
Clint gasps and slides his tongue out to run across Phil’s upper lip encouraging Phil to let him inside. He can feel Phil’s smile as it tightens his lips before he opens up for Clint, his tongue slideing sensuously against Clint’s encouraging him and then things do get a little heated and they’re both breathing heavily when they pull back for air.
Pressed together as they are, Clint can feel just how hard Phil is against his hip and it takes all his willpower not to just rut against him here like a horny teenager. He wants to take his time, enjoy every last moment in case Phil decides this is a one off event, though he’s gonna do his level best to prove to Phil that he can’t get better anywhere else.
‘You’re thinking too much, Clint,’ Phil says and his voice is a low aroused rasp that Clint could roll around in all night. He leans forwards and overbalances them both so that they fall gracelessly onto Clint’s bed. Clint growls low in his throat and wraps his legs around Phil’s waist before grinding upwards making them both groan. While Phil’s distracted he shifts his weight and rolls them so that he’s straddling Phil’s waist and suddenly there’s a whole new rush of sensations as there cocks shift together and Clint can’t help rocking there for a moment or two making them both curse and gasp.
He looks down at Phil and fuck, nothing and no one has ever looked better than Phil does right now. He smiles down at that open V of Phil’s rumpled untucked shirt and takes the opportunity to do what he’s wanted to for so long. He runs his fingers along the edges of the shirt making Phil bite his lip and his hands clench where they rest against Clint’s thighs. He reaches out and places his left hand in the centre of the V and spreads his fingers wide so that he can feel Phil’s heart beating hard and leaves it there for a moment while he leans down for another kiss, gratified when the tempo increases as the kiss turns sloppy and filthy when he sucks hard on Phil’s tongue.
Clint sits up and starts to unbutton the rest of Phil’s shirt, knocking Phil’s hands away when they try to help.
‘You have no idea how long I’ve been wanting to do this, don’t spoil my fun.’
‘Might’ve known you’d have a suit fetish, Barton. Just wait til you see what I can do with my ties.’
Phil’s grin is slow and easy and Clint feels like someone just punched the breath right out of him because he’s never seen such an open smile on Phil’s face.
Its like he’s just been shown a whole new side of this man he’s been observing and trying to pin down since they first met. He has a feeling he’s about to gain a whole lot more information for his description of Agent Coulson, none of which he’s ever going to share with anyone else whether they ask or not, because hey he’s possessive. Yet, he thinks that perhaps he was right in the first place, Phil Coulson is an enigma, but now he’s Clint’s to try and puzzle out and there’s nothing Clint loves more than a challenge.