IT'S TO DIE FOR
There were a finite number of people in the world capable of killing people with everyday office supplies.
The ones that were not in prison were usually free either because they hadn’t yet discovered their talent or were putting their talents to use working for their government.
Or both, Phil Coulson thought, shooting a wary glance towards Darcy Lewis. She’d technically been hired on as his assistant - because riding herd on the Avengers wasn’t making him crazy enough - which meant that she had a default invitation to all of their impromptu parties.
Including this one, an unexpected but far-from-unpleasant gathering in Tony Stark’s living room, alcohol and laughter flowing freely between the Avengers present (Thor was still ‘lost up a tree,’ as Tony had put it, and Natasha was on her way back from Poland) and Agents Hunt and Brandt of the IMF.
As rocky as the IMF agents’ introduction had been - Hunt getting thrown into a wall by the Hulk, Brandt nearly getting arrested on suspicion of being a shapeshifter impersonating Clint - the two had managed to mesh with the Avengers almost alarmingly well. It was in Hunt’s blood, really, and Brandt had the air of someone who had gotten used to taking a lot in stride.
Like finding out that he was completely identical, although completely unrelated, to a particular loud-mouthed archer.
Right now, the pair were making full use of their appearance, dressed identically in jeans and black tee-shirts, their black-socked feet burrowing into the carpet. Both pairs of jeans belonged to Barton - Phil knew those ragged hems all too well - but Brandt’s tee-shirt was likely his own. He didn’t have quite the same muscle mass in his shoulders as Barton did, and the skintight shirts that Barton favored sat looser on him.
Phil could tell the two apart easily enough - Clint was a little louder and a little more brash, comfortable now with the people around him, his body language relaxed and easy. Brandt was still unsure, his smile a split-second too slow, a nervous flicker of his eyes and a tension in his shoulders betraying him every now and again, but it was something that wouldn’t have been obvious to someone who didn’t know the tells.
Beside him in the two-seater couch, Phil felt the uncoiling of steel-solid muscles as Ethan shifted, laughing as Stark shifted a bewildered gaze between the all-but-identical duo. Tony, with his usual lack of sensitivity to human norms, was having the worst trouble of everyone telling the two apart, not helped by the fact the two had taken to making joint runs to the kitchen every ten minutes, and switching seats half the times they came back.
“Tony, if you’d stop making such a fuss about not being able to tell, they’d stop messing with you so much,” Steve pointed out from his spot on the long sofa, a bowl of chips in his lap and a Sprite in his hand. It wasn’t a surprise that Rogers could tell the duo apart almost as easily as Ethan or Phil - although he didn’t know Barton or Brandt as well, his enhanced senses meant he could detect minute differences in voice pitch, facial features, and body language. Even so, it took him a second or two of staring to figure out which one was which. Every time they came back from the kitchen, Phil could see Steve watch them for a beat before giving a tiny, satisfied nod.
Phil wasn’t sure what kind of a read Banner had on the duo. The scientist rarely came out of his lab until he was needed, and was currently exhausted from the hours spent as the Hulk that afternoon. He was half-dozing on the far end of the sofa, nearly hanging off over the arm, his glasses askew over mostly-closed eyes. He hadn’t had much to contribute to the conversation, but the few times he’d addressed either Brandt or Barton directly, he’d managed to aim it at the right person.
There wasn’t really any solid data on how much the creation of the Hulk had enhanced Banner’s own senses, but it was probably more than just luck helping him get it right.
Natasha would have had no trouble telling the two apart; she was Clint’s partner in the field, and she made it her business to know his every tell, every twitch, every foible and whim.
Well, every whim that he had with his clothes on, anyway. There were a few pieces of knowledge Phil reserved solely for himself.
Darcy Lewis, on the other hand, was completely unbothered by the fact she couldn’t tell the duo apart. Sprawled on the sofa between Steve and Bruce, she making more of a production of herself than he would have thought possible in plain black slacks and a sapphire-blue blouse. She was also all but cuddled into Banner’s side, which the man would probably have protested more if he hadn’t been half-asleep. As it was, there was a faint pink flush almost constant across the tops of his cheekbones, but he wasn’t arguing her presence or looking green, so it was as close to a nonissue as possible.
“I’m not making a fuss,” Tony squawked, ignoring the fact he was doing precisely that as he allowed Steve to haul him back onto the sofa. “I’m just saying that they could at least have a little decency, play fair, that sort of thing.”
“They’re assassins, dumbass. They’re not going to play fair,” Darcy pointed out from the other end of the sofa, waving a beer bottle at him. There was a standing order that she not be given hard liquor in the presence of the Avengers or any SI staff after the tequila debacle six weeks prior, which had resulted in the destruction of an F-22 and a a thirty-point stock drop for StarkIndustries.
The stock had recovered within three days and Tony had replaced the jet with one of his own improved designs within five, but the repercussions had left Fury ranting for a week and a half. Particularly when he had to replace a third of SHIELD's PR department.
“We can kill you with paperclips,” Clint added, pointing his own beer at Tony as well. “We don’t have to play fair.”
“I’ve never killed people with paperclips,” Brandt muttered into his glass, sounding vaguely annoyed with that.
Darcy boggled. “Nobody can really kill people with paper clips. That’s like, urban legend assassination stuff.”
“It’s really not,” Clint answered. “Quick jab into an artery, twist, and yank. Ain’t a broad-tip, but dead is dead. Mostly,” he added, cutting a quick, haunted look at Phil, who winced.
“You’re making that up,” Tony accused, and Ethan - who had settled next to Phil early in the evening to leave his partner free to play switch-off with Barton - gave an abrupt bark of laughter.
“He’s really not,” Ethan and Phil said in unison, and when Tony and Darcy gawked at them, Phil added, “I’ve done it. So has Clint.”
“So have I. More than once,” Ethan added, when Tony gave him wide eyes.
“Phil’s killed people with a Bic pen,” Clint grinned, and Phil sighed, pointing to his eye when several questioning stares turned to him. "Either through and into the brain with sufficient force, or through an artery," he explained. "Either one's effective. Eye is neater but more difficult. And Bic pens are not ideal in any case. Too bendable."
“Ethan’s done it with a broken CD,” Brandt offered, miming a finger across his throat. Steve and Bruce grimaced simultaneously, but Darcy and Tony looked alarmingly intrigued.
“That mission was supposed to be classified,” Ethan pointed out mildly, completely unbothered, and Will shrugged in response. “And it was effective, but messy. I wouldn’t do it again.”
It went unspoken that Ethan preferred a clean kill. Inured as he was to blood, he still didn’t like it. But it had been impossible to break the man’s neck with his own arm broken in two places, so he’d been forced to make do.
“Phil’s strangled a guy with the film out of a cassette tape,” Clint chuckled, elbowing Brandt, and Phil resisted the urge to facepalm. The last thing he needed was his insubordinate boyfriend getting into a creative-killing contest on his behalf with the pride of the fucking IMF.
“Oh?” To Phil’s credit, though, Hunt actually looked impressed. “How’d that work?”
“Not particularly well,” Phil replied, trying to repress a pleasurable little squirm at Ethan’s interest. “Piano wire’s easier.” Largely because it was that much stronger; doubling over the tape ten times was a time-consuming difficulty. He’d dropped the target in the end, but it had been a struggle. Particularly since he’d been bleeding from a bullet to the chest at that point, and pulling had hurt.
Clint snickered, gesturing broadly with his beer bottle. “You knocked a guy out by slamming his head in a photocopier once, since when do you believe in easy?”
Phil only held up three fingers in response, and Barton stared. “Three times, with a copier,” he clarified, as Tony leaned forward with interest, almost spilling his glass of Scotch on the floor. He’d only opened the bottle that night, and Phil’s first taste of his own glass of the stuff had told him the bottle cost more than he made in a year, hazard pay included. He took another sip of it now. “The other two times were before I met you,” he explained, and the look of surprise on the younger man’s face was unflattering.
“Clint, I did not spring into existence at the moment I shot you in the thigh. I was an active field agent for several years before I was ordered to go round up a mouthy archer, and a Ranger before that.”
“Wait,” Clint leaned forward, his eyes gleaming, “so this means you’ve killed people in ways I’ve never even heard about?”
And really, it said a lot about their relationship that it was things like this that got Clint hot.
Phil tipped his head and sipped his Scotch again, considering. There was the time in Moscow he’d suffocated a man with a roll of paper towels, the mission in Venezuela where he’d drowned a man with a bottle of sunscreen, the assassin in France that he’d killed with her own shoe, the incident in Hawaii where he’d taken out an assailant using a pair of sunglasses, and a particularly memorable fiasco in New York where he’d killed a mob boss using a lint roller.
Finally, with the weight of every gaze in the room on him, expectant, Phil just smiled and replied calmly, “Barton, you have no idea.”
~ END ~