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The USS Shield

Chapter Text

The first time Phil notices Clint Barton, the man is - there is no other word for it - swaggering across the east courtyard in a set of tight fitting standard-issue first year workout clothes. Phil is on his way to his fourth-year strategic command initiatives lab and he doesn’t pause to watch the man stride across campus.

But he does slow down a little.

He is watching carefully enough to note the honest-to-goodness bow slung over the man's shoulder and the quiver of arrows with bright red fletching and has time to think: really? Before the sliding doors whisper open and he steps into the command lab.

 

 

The second time is one evening later that same semester. Phil is going quietly out of his mind trying to finish three separate projects on time and his steps are unusually hurried as he walks past Commander Chow's office. The raised voices catch his attention, though, and Phil finds his steps slowing. He doesn’t gossip himself, but he does like to know things.

"You disobeyed a directed order!"

Starfleet offices are sound dampened, but it would take warp shielding to keep Chow's voice from ringing clear when he's angry. He sounds furious now.

Phil can almost hear the shrug in the slight pause before the other person speaks.

"I got the job done. And -" the male voice rises slightly, overriding the angry splutter, "I showed initiative."

"You showed you have a problem with authority."

"We won the exercise."

"This is Starfleet, Barton. Not the circus. The point isn't to -"

"Finish the objective? In record time?"

Phil has to stifle a smile. He can practically hear Chow's teeth grinding.

"There will be an official record made of this incident and you will report to Lt. Riarow in the morning for janitorial duty. And you WILL correct that mouth of yours before you end up in this office again or I swear on the Holy Rings I will have you drummed out of Starfleet so fast your knees will be shaking. And I no I DON'T care how many Admirals swoon over your target scores as you go."

Phil hears the sound of a chair scraping back and hightails it back to the engineering lab. But he pauses at the corner to watch the man coming out of Chow's office.

It’s the archer with the cocky smile, and despite his words the man's shoulders are stiff as he walks back along the corridor.

Barton, Phil thinks. And leaves.

 

 

After graduation Phil spends a year aboard the USS Endeavour and another on the USS Hiro. He practices his mask of quiet efficiency and receives a recommendation for clear-headedness in the face of danger when a routine mission to Vega 6 exposes a hidden piracy group. Phil takes over the conn when Lt Niral is injured and takes out one of the pirates who beams onto the small starship's bridge before having his face smashed into the engineering console and waking up thirteen hours later in the infirmary.

"I think we should work on your hand-to-hand," Lt Commander Fury says when Phil opens his eyes in medical.

"Ow," says Phil.

 

 

Phil begins working out in the mornings with Fury and his group of 'volunteers'. The lieutenant commander has gathered together a select group of officers who, as he puts it, 'distinguished themselves in unexpected situations'. They each get a commendation and chance to beat each other up on the practice mats at 0600.

Mostly Phil earns himself bruises. He had taken the hand-to-hand requirements needed at the Academy, but he hadn't been prepared for Fury's level of training. The man knows tricks Phil has never heard of before.

"Got that one from a Romulan," Fury says one morning after flipping both Phil and Ensign Sitwell on their asses.

"Yes, sir." Phil agrees from the floor.

Fury grins.

 

 

He finishes his tour on the Hiro six months later. Phil is debating his next choice of assignment when Fury informs him he's been accepted into an advanced training course in Coercion Resistance and Strategic Initiative back at the Academy and promptly escorts him to the transporter room. Phil's bag has already been delivered to San Francisco.

"Enjoy yourself, Ensign."

Phil raises an eyebrow. He'd spent time in the morning practicing the move. "I'm going to spend six months with my head being held under water, sir."

Fury grins again. It’s getting eerie. "Exactly."

 

 

Phil does spent an inordinate amount of time with his head being held under water. He also learns how to withstand extreme temperature variations and has one particularly heart-pounding encounter with vacuum, throughout which he tells himself Starfleet isn’t actually trying to kill him. The calm look he has been perfecting becomes less a mask and more a part of him, but he is hardly unflappable.

"You want me to what?!"

Commander Hein smiles politely at him. "Teach third-year strategic initiative planning. Second semester."

Phil tries to rein in his reaction. "I'm here to learn strategic initiative planning."

Hein smiles again. "Which is why you will teach it." She raises an eyebrow. It's better than his.

"Yes, sir." Phil says.

 

 

Phil spends the four month semester alternating between wanting to bang his head against a wall and actually doing it. The cadets in his class have been told they'd been volunteered for remedial logic studies, which would have been appropriate. Phil likes to fantasize about how long it would take them to make a Vulcan start bleeding from its eyes.

"I don't need to disable the secondary power coupling if I'm going to blow up the console from the next building."

Phil would give Barton seven minutes. Four if he were trying.

"Barton, you realize not every scenario can be fixed with an exploding arrow?"

Barton grins. "Most can, sir."

 

 

Phil takes his class on field-trips to demonstrate via example that Barton is wrong, wrong, oh so very wrong. Which works out pretty well until he proves that he’s right.

Phil shakes still burning bits of Douglas Fir out of his hair. "I would have thought that shot was too far for you."

Barton looks wounded. Phil is forced to hide a smile. "Yes, yes, my mistake."

 

 

His students all pass his class with honours but Phil only forwards three names to Fury's inbox. The Hiro is in space dock after an incident with a Cardassian destroyer. Fury has been promoted again.

They meet for drinks the day after class ended. "You're shipping out tomorrow on the Lexington," Fury tells him.

Phil reaches for his steak sandwich. "Deep space mission?"

Fury gives him a blank expression, "That's what it says on the tin."

Phil nods and takes a bite of his sandwich. He'll pack extra phasers.

 

 

He makes it back to San Francisco to watch his students graduate. Barton’s got a recommendation for outstanding achievements best left unspecified, and his grin when he looks over the crowd and sees Phil is blinding.

Phil smiles back. It hurts his still-healing jaw, but it’s worth it.

 

 

After graduation Barton disappears into a Starfleet black box and Phil worries Starfleet is focusing too much on the man's aim.

"He's a brilliant tactician", Phil argues with Fury when he sees Barton's name beside Specialist on an undercover op. Fury's eyebrow lifts, the new eye patch leans the old look a new menace.

"I did read your reports, Lieutenant."

"He needs a structured team setting or Starfleet's going to burn him out."

"I'll see what I can do," Fury promises.

 

 

Seven months later Phil gets the call.

"Barton's gone rogue," Fury announces when he thumbs on the comm at 0330.

"Where?" Phil askes, instantly awake.

"Romulus," Fury tells him.

Phil is on the Remington on an actual deep space mission this time.

"I'll need a ride," Phil tells him.

"I'm on it," Fury promises. "Starfleet owes me for not listening when I put in his request for transfer."

 

 

Phil spends four weeks on Romulus tracking Barton down. When he finally finds him the archer is waiting for him in a Remus building block with a drawn arrow and a brilliant smile.

"Coulson!" he grins, then dips his head to indicate the half-Romulan woman sitting with narrowed eyes at his side. Phil has never once seen her during his surveillance. "Can we keep her?"

 

 

The woman's name is Natasha Romulos and she doesn’t say a single word to Phil until they are sitting alone in Fury's office and she has a knife pressed to his belly.

"I work with Barton," she tells him, her accent a remarkably perfect Brooklyn.

"You will work with anyone we say you work with," Phil counters calmly.

Romulos frowns at him. "Who is 'we'?" she askes. "I don't trust Admirals."

"Me," Fury says. He walks into the office wearing his captain's pips.

Natasha sizes him up. Then she lets go of Phil's shirt. "Okay," she says.

 

 

Romulos spends two months being debriefed by Starfleet and Barton spends three weeks in the brig for dereliction of duty. Phil finishes his tour on the Remington and gets promoted before spending the next five months as their handler

"I'm not sure who I pissed off in a past life to get this assignment," Phil tells Clint seriously during an incident with a Klingon and a Romulan commander. "But I sincerely regret it."

"You'd miss us if we were gone," Barton tells him. Natasha smiles and stabs someone in the face.

"I would," Phil agrees.

 

 

"I'm thinking of asking Starfleet for a ship," Fury tells him one morning when Phil is recovering in medical on the Lien.

"What kind of a ship?" Phil asks, and grimaces. Phaser burns are a bitch.

"A small ship," Fury assures him. "Nothing galaxy-class. We aren't that fancy."

Phil tries to ignore the tingle of the skin regenerator. "If you say so, sir.”

 

 

Three weeks into a solo mission on Rigel 5 Phil is captured by the Obsidian Order. After meeting their head agent Phil gives himself twenty-seven days before he'll be forced to find an inventive way of killing himself, considering his captors have cut away his clothing with the suicide pill sewn into the lapel.

Barton comes for him in twenty-three.

"Where's Natasha?" he asks, dizzy with blood loss and strange Cardassian chemicals.

"Outside," Clint tells him, peeling away the electrodes. "She's guarding our exit."

"Glad to hear it," Phil says seriously, before passing out.

 

 

"How did you find me?" he wakes up once, to ask.

"Fury's got a new toy," Clint tells him instead of answering. "He says she likes him best, but Nat and I are working on it."

 

 

"I'll introduce you once you're on your feet," Fury says to him, smiling in a way he doesn’t any more. "She's a beauty."

"What's her name?" Phil asks, still high on whatever they gave him.

"The USS Shield," Fury tells him, pride in his voice. "And when Barton asks you - no, he's not allowed to drive."

Chapter Text

They find Steve Rogers on their second mission out.

"He was my hero," Phil tells Clint excitedly as medical works on thawing him out. "He was a super solider created during the twenty-first century, before the war broke out. He helped people and stopped bad guys and was frozen in an experimental time capsule when he was fatally injured during a mission. They made comic books and trading cards about him. I have the complete collection," he finishes with a blush. "Mint edition."

"Uh huh," Barton says dryly. He doesn’t sound impressed.

Roger's isn’t very impressed when they thaw him either.

"Where am I?" he demands, after he has broken out of the holodeck and made it to the bridge. Fury turns in his command chair and Phil makes a mental note to have Security revise their containment procedures.

"You're on the USS Shield, Captain Rogers." Fury tells him. "Welcome to the 24th century."

 

 

"No seriously," Tony Stark says, hip deep in the warp core, "that is a terrible idea."

"You have five minutes to come up with a better one," Phil tells him. Tony squints.

"Okay," he says.

 

 

"What the fuck is THAT?" Fury shouts to the stunned bridge crew.

"I think that's our chief engineer," Phil tells him from the executive officer's station. He re-focuses sensors on the anomaly and ignores the Romulan destroyer for the moment.

"I want Barton in a shuttle and Romulos on an away-team," Fury demands. "And someone get me some god damn specs on that suit."

 

 

"It's it awesome?" Tony demands, grin threatening to split his face, as Rogers stares incredulously. The Romulans are dead in the water and Fury wants their sensor logs wiped.

"You could have gotten yourself killed!" Steve shouts. Tony shrugs.

"Yeah, but ..."

"No 'but's," Roger's declares. "You aren't taking that thing out again unless Captain Fury decides it's a good idea."

"Sir?" Stark asks, as the Captain enters the shuttle bay.

"I have a few ideas," he admits.

 

 

They find Banner on an abandoned research station in the Quintari system.

"I was trying to work on a super soldier system similar to that used by - oh fuck," Banner trails off as Steve comes into view aboard the Shield.

"I take it by the level of destruction that you were not successful?" Fury asks.

"Umm," Banner replies.

 

 

It turns out the Hulk - Barton's name for the green rage monster Professor Banner seems to have turned into - is impervious to phaser blasts but can be rendered unconscious by knock-out arrows.

"A thousand uses, sir," Barton tells Phil as the errant doctor is returned to medical.

"Indeed," Phil agrees.

 

 

Starfleet first deploys them as a team against insurgents in the Neutral Zone. They rescue the colonists and return with minimal casualties.

"There's something missing," Phil says out loud as the team is off loaded into medical.

"I know a guy," Fury admits.

 

 

Thor Odinson is technically a member of the Q Continuum, but he has lived on Earth for the past few millennium.

"How can we trust him?" Phil asks as Thor expresses his admiration for the replicator's attempt at a Norwegian ice brew.

"He lost his powers for a few years and had to live as a mortal," Fury tells him. "He learned a respect for our culture and its limitations."

"How come I get the feeling this won't be as easy as you say it will be?" Phil questions.

 

 

Three months and one episode of being stabbed by Thor's envious brother later, Phil glares up at Fury.

"You neglected to mention the baggage," Phil accuses.

"Sorry," Fury says.

"I spent seven hours in surgery and Barton was mind-raped by that bastard," Phil tells him. "I want a promotion and a week's holidays."

"You've got it," Fury agrees.

 

 

"I don't see why we have to vacation at Starfleet Academy," Barton grouses as Phil manhandles him into his old dorm room. The archer is still pale but the dark circles under his eyes have lessened.

"I've kind of been thinking of this for a while," Phil admits to him. Then he drags Barton down into a kiss.

"Oh," Clint said, wonderingly. Phil smiles shyly.

"Yeah."

Clint cradles his face in his hands and kisses him again. "Okay, so I haven't been the only one here."

"No," Phil assures him, when he can breathe again.

"I am so blowing you on the East Campus." Clint promises him.

"I really don't think that's a good idea," Phil groans.

"I have access to a personal cloaking shield," Clint hints.

"Okay," Phil breathes. "If you're sure Natasha won't mind."

"She gave it to me," Clint admits. "I think she's tired of my bitching about how much I like you."

"We should find her a cute subordinate to boss around," Phil agrees.

"Or get her a new knife set," Clint promises.

Chapter Text

Phil is still convinced the entire thing is going to end in flames. Fury's habit of yelling at Starfleet Admirals does nothing to reassure him.

"The Security Council is ordering us to Denari 7," Fury tells them – three hours after stalking out of a meeting in San Francisco.

Hill and Coulson each raise one eyebrow. Opposite eyebrows, because they are both secretly assholes and practiced last week.

"A milk run, sir?" Hill asks the Captain. She's trying to project disbelief, but no one is really surprised.

"A milk run," Fury agrees.

Phil thinks about Doctor Banner and his unique condition. He thinks of the god they have walking about the corridors, and the Super Soldier training in their holodeck. He thinks of Clint, who is probably listening through the jeffries tube to this very conversation. He doesn't think they have milk runs, anymore.

 

 

"In my defense," Stark begins, the instant they get back to the ship, "No Touchie is pretty easy to understand. Even the Universal Translator can handle that one."

“The Denarians had kidnapped Friend Tony and were planning to dissect him,” Thor explained, as if Phil hadn’t been listening to their open comm’s the entire time. “We could not leave our colleague in such a state.”

“Blowing up the science facility might have been a bit of an overkill,” Clint admits, leaning against the transporter room walls.

“They really didn’t want to give him back,” Banner points out.

"We were not going to abandon him," Rogers agrees, head high and shoulders stiff. Natasha nods.

Phil wants to pinch the bridge of his nose and argue that maybe they could have, just for a little while. Stark makes his fingers itch for his phaser on a good day. But he gives the team a small smile, instead.

"Of course not," he agrees. And then goes to his quarters to explain in a twelve-page report to the Captain why Stark was never to be left unsupervised on an alien world. Ever.

 

 

"I do not understand your human biology," Thor announces regretfully as he sits next to Phil in the Mess Hall one morning. Phil is startled to see he has brought what seems to be half his weight in food to the table.

"But I understand you require sustenance most assuredly this morning."

Phil is quite sure he doesn’t want to know. But when it comes to the Q, sometimes not knowing is worse.

"Why do you say that?" Phil asks, cautiously.

"I was speaking this morning with the Hawk-Eyed One. He informs me he 'rode it till the wheels came off''. Repair of such a biological feature requires much regenerative power." Thor offers him a pound of fried bacon. "You should eat more protein."

Phil lets his head fall with a thunk to the table.

 

 

"So, what you’re saying,” Phil says, trying to get a mental grip on the conversation, “is that you've separated the emotional aspects of Dr. Banner into different people.” He breezes over just how they have done that, because Stark is already making twitchy grabby hand motions towards the faintly glowing equipment. “To allow him to better access and understand his emotional state?"

"Yes," the High Priestess says, frowning. She is standing before the Valarian’s temple, the structure she claims brings understanding to her people. Starfleet wants to discuss trade negotiations with this planet, and in good faith the Valarian’s had offered to meet them at their most holy site. Phil’s tricorder is going mad, but he ignores it to focus on her explanation.

"He has a terrible anger. We wish to help him understand the - "

"I apologize, ma'am, but we have to ask you to reverse that process,” Phil interrupts. “Dr. Banner's anger is currently under excellent control."

"I am sorry,” she says, sounding offended, “but the process has already begun."

Phil opens his mouth to argue with her when a scream of rage echoes over the colony.

Rogers swings the shield onto his arm, Stark flips his face-plate down, and Clint unfolds his collapsible bow. Phil lifts his tricorder.

"Crap."

 

 

It takes two months and twenty-one days, but Phil finally finds Romulos sparing in the holodeck with Captain Rogers. Phil still has to keep his inner four-year-old quiet when it wants to cheer for the thawed supersoldier. Natasha lands a number of hits, but none of them stop Rogers for long.

Finally, she gets him flipped onto his back and then presses a button on one of her new wristbands before he can get up.

Rogers vibrates with the electrical shock. Phil almost dashes forward, but manages to stop himself in time.

"Nice," Rogers huffs when the shocks have finally stopped. He rolls his shoulders. “Where did you get those?"

"Stark," Natasha grins. She offers a hand to help him up.

"Show me that move again," Rogers says and takes her hand.

Phil smiles.

 

 

"Cardassians," Stark finally tells him, when they've gone through three of the four bottles Stark brought with him.

The Chief Engineer had shown up at Phil's door fifteen minutes after he'd left medical. Clint had passed the danger zone, the doctors kept assuring him. He was going to be okay.

"What?" Phil asks, because he has mostly lost of the thread of what they are talking about by now.

Tony - Phil supposes he can call him Tony now, since Tony has gotten him drunk - taps the glowing arc reactor in his chest.

"That's who it was, the Cardassians. In the desert of Aftani 4. They took the colony I was stationed at, just before the war."

Phil squints at him. He's read Tony's file. He knows there is more that Tony isn't saying about what happened to him there.

"How did you survive?" he asks, instead. He is officially drunk enough to ask this. "When they ripped your heart to pieces?"

Tony gives him an evil grin.

"I fixed it, then blew up their warship."

"Hmm," Phil says. He tips his head back and thinks of the Syndicate. Of the people who did this to Clint.

"So, you avenged it, then."

Tony shows his teeth. "I avenged the fuck out of it."

 

 

"And this is why we can't have nice things," Fury tells them two days later. They're standing in the middle of the Orion Syndicate-controlled auction house, kicking at the remains of the crystalloid sculptures.

"I don't know," Tony says, looking around at the singed carpets. Beyond the now-defunct perimeter fence, the rescued slaves are cheering. "I kind of like it better this way."

Natasha nods and crosses her arms, knives flashing at her sides. "I agree. More style."

"Better light," Rogers adds.

"That's because the Hulk blew out a wall," Fury reminds them. But he's smiling.

"You should consider a future in home decorating, buddy," Tony tells the Hulk, clapping him lightly on one green shoulder.

"Hulk no like walls," the Hulk agrees.

"Okay, all Avengers back to the ship," Fury hustles them to the beam-out coordinates. "I want to be at warp speed before Barton organizes a full-tilt rebellion of my medical bay."

He doesn't say anything when Phil's the first one out, but then no one else does, either.

 

 

It's hard to believe they've been out here a year, but when Clint wakes him up with kisses one morning and reminds him of the party in the mess hall at eighteen-hundred, Phil realizes it has been.

He stands in the mess that evening and watches the room for a while. Tony and Steve are laughing in the corner. Tony's hands are going a mile a minute and Steve's eyes are dancing as he watches him. Bruce is talking to Hill and both of them are smiling, which has to be a record. Nat is sitting at a table with Darcy, the new ensign from Ops. Phil tries to determine if Darcy is sitting closer than she needs to be, or if she's just leaning forward as she laughs.

Even Fury is here, rolling his eyes at the balloons Tony has made for the occasion. They say "Yay We Didn't Die! And Also Saved The Universe A Few Times" and are bright purple.

Clint sidles in beside him, a drink in his hand that he passes to Phil. "I like them," he says, nodding at the balloons. "Tony's got style."

Phil wants to roll his eyes, but he's feeling loose and happy right now, so he smiles instead. "You like them because they’re purple. Purple is style to you."

Clint grins. "I'm a stylish kind of guy."

"You're a goofy kind of guy."

"Yeah, but I'm your goof."

Phil snakes an arm around his waist and pulls him closer. "Yeah, you are."

Clint laughs into his shoulder. When he turns, he keeps his hip pressed against Phil. They look at the room together.

"We're all pretty goofy, actually." Clint says.

"That's what a family is," Phil tells him. It's possible he's had too much to drink.

But Clint turns and smiles at him, and Phil's breath catches in his throat, because Clint is fucking glowing.

"Yeah," Clint says, fierce and happy and proud. "It is."