Phil Coulson liked his job. He liked being good at it, capable of handling whatever came his way, even when it surprised people. When Barton became his semi-feathered shadow, they expected him to blink and flail and maybe ask Fury to do something about it. But Phil barely missed a stride and gracefully accepted the apple left at his elbow when he hadn't even realised he was hungry. He still wouldn't talk about the weekend he'd spent with the Hawk and his report was notoriously tight-lipped, not that anyone aside from Fury had looked at it. Really. Some people asked him directly but it was rarely done and never twice.
The gossip-hungry gazes grew more curious but increasingly circumspect when Clint appeared in Coulson's office one day as if by magic. No one said a word but they all wondered what had finally caught the raptor's attention and drawn him beyond the edges of his own head. Phil wouldn't tell them; he wondered sometimes himself but decided that it must have been a combination of patient silence and talking about himself when the other man needed him to.
Clint still didn't say much when they met for lunch but Phil could see less tension in those shoulders so he wasn't too worried.
As focussed as he was on everything that Fury set in front of him and watching after his Hawk, it took Phil an embarrassingly long time to catch on to the meaning of baubles left with dinner at his desk when he was too tired to go home. The blanket that he had awoken beneath last week had "C.B." well-stitched into a threadbare seam and a "P.C." in shaky thread just beside it. He bundled it carefully in a desk drawer out of the way and pretended not to notice Clint's gaze scanning the room for it. The next time Phil found a slumbering sniper in his supposedly securely locked office, he just smiled and tucked those bare, loved seams around thin ribs and tired shoulders. He liked the way Clint smiled and hummed softly, relaxing a fraction more when fingers brushed the skin of his neck.
Watching the other man sleep, Phil wondered what he should make of behaviours that might be courting if they were animals (or certain X-Men). Eventually he decided that the knowing looks were worth the way Clint softened and leant close when Phil made like he didn't notice.
It all came to a head one night when Fury told him to take some downtime and Phil didn't seem to want to leave Barton behind. He found himself on the pristine-and-barely-used couch that S.H.I.E.L.D. had procured for him with a sleepy sniper snugly against his side, leaving a cushion and a half unused.
When he rose to get the popcorn that had been requested between feature films, Phil found his fingers trailing down Clint's arm flung across the back of the couch where he'd just been. The bare skin was warm and when the Hawk just cocked his head and smiled without even looking up, Phil knew that this wasn't acting or basely instinctual -- he'd been dating Clint Barton for what would probably be months now when he thought about it. He smiled to himself and retrieved the popcorn. He could just guess what Stark would make of this.