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It’s Like a Song by John Mellencamp

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Sheriff Phil Coulson walked through the wooden double doors of Hawkeye’s, Shieldville’s only bar and grill. It even doubled as a dance club, but only on Friday and Saturday nights.

The scent of sizzling meat perfumed the air, making Phil’s stomach rumble like a pissed off bear. He took a second to scan the occupants, considering it was the middle of the day, most of the people were enjoying lunch instead of hitting up the bar. Thor, owner of the aptly named Thor’s Hammer --the town’s only hardware store-- was grinning widely at Jane Foster, the science teacher at the local high school. Jane was giggling back. From his angle Phil could see them playing footsie under the table. Bruce Banner and Betty Ross were staring longingly at each other from opposite sides of the room with hearts nearly visible in their eyes. As always, the sight of their carefully maintained distance made Phil mentally wince in memory of the drama playing out in their lives. He fully expected to hear about their elopement, any day now, just to get out from under the General’s thumb.

Heimdall, the town’s gossip was eyeing everyone with a stoic expression but his amusement was plain to anyone who knew him well in the slight crinkle in the corners of his whiskey-brown eyes. He also had a stein of what looked like pale ale, except everyone knew Heimdall hated beer. Unless…

“Well if it isn’t my favorite sheriff! Hey, Volstagg, serve up the Sheriff‘s Special!”

“I see Volstagg‘s newest batch of mead is ready for public consumption,” Phil said, as he sat on a stool. Clint nodded, grinning. Phil smiled at Clint --Hawkeye’s owner and bartender-- from where he stood behind the bar, wearing a tight black shirt with showed off his defined arms and broad shoulders to Phil‘s appreciative eyes. The view was spectacular, made even more so by Clint‘s hunting bow, mounted on the wall right behind him; the bow had a 100-pound draw. Knowing Clint used it as easily as a man used a gun always gave Phil a thrill, especially since he knew exactly how the man looked with it in full draw. “And exactly how many sheriffs do you know, Clint?” he added, in a low teasing tone.

“Well… there‘s Sif over in Asgard County,” Clint said thoughtfully, tapping the tip of his chin with his left forefinger. “She‘s a looker.” The gold band around his ring finger gleamed even under the bar’s low lighting.

Phil leaned over and caught the tapping hand with his own left hand, clicking their wedding rings together. It was a sweet sound which had yet to grow old even six years later. “My deputy won‘t be happy to hear you say that.”

“Naw, Natasha wouldn‘t harm a hair on my head,” Clint said seriously, as he tightened his grip on Phil’s hand. The right corner of his mouth went up. “Of course, the rest of my body would be black and blue, but my hair would be awesome.”

“Exactly what I‘m afraid of,” Phil said dryly. He tugged Clint forward so he could properly kiss his husband hello. It’d been nearly five hours since the last time he’d gotten his lips on the man, which was five hours too long, as far as he was concerned.

“You know, I used to find this cute, but then I realized that your brand of couple-togetherness is never going to end. Seriously, isn‘t the honeymoon period suppose to stop at some point?” Darcy, Clint’s waitress, complained as she came out of the kitchen with a tray, loaded with two steak lunches, balanced on one hand. Her loose green skirt swished pretty as she walked. Clint broke off the kiss to smirk at her, while Phil just raised his eyebrows, silently miffed at the interruption. Darcy’s nose was wrinkled in disgust, making her glasses slide down on her nose. “It just makes single people feel even more alone and losery.”

“Just think of it as the sheriff giving me a special advance tip,” Clint said happily. “Later, he‘s paying for the lunch with his body.” He leered at Phil.

“What if I‘d rather pay cash?” Phil asked, amused.

Clint pointed a finger --not the middle one, thank you, Clint-- as he said, “Oh, you‘ll certainly be paying for that later, Sheriff Coulson.”

“And threatening an officer of the law will get you thrown in cuffs,” Phil countered mildly, fighting back a smile.

Clint’s blue eyes lit up. “The sexy handcuffs? I think I still have those in my car.”

In response, Phil smirked and Clint punched the air in delight.

Darcy rolled her eyes and scooted over to the Odinson-Foster table to deliver their lunches.

“What‘s going on with Darcy?” Phil asked, curious about the girl’s scowls and grumbles. Darcy was a pretty laidback kid. Law-abiding, although, with a nasty tendency to sideswipe nearly anything that moved and most objects that didn’t with her van when she turned on her music. Phil had had to pull her over more than four times since she got her license to remind her that her car was for driving, not for dancing.

“This morning, Fandral dumped her,” Clint explained.

“Ah,” Phil said, in understanding.

“Via text,” Clint continued.

Phil winced. “Poor kid. Do me a favor and confiscate her taser before her shift ends.”

“You got it. By the way, how’d your morning meeting with Mayor Fury go?” Clint asked.

“It went fine. I get more hassle from the town council and Stark than I do from Fury.”

“Speaking of Tony Stark, he stopped by earlier. We‘ve been invited to his place this Saturday.”

“Oh no,” Phil groaned. “Please, please, tell me you didn‘t accept?”

Clint grinned before patting Phil’s hand in consolation. “I couldn‘t reuse since it’s a birthday party for Captain Rogers and you know how Stark gets. He‘s relentless until you give in.”

“Yes, he‘s also a weapon of mass destruction in his own right,” Phil complained. “At the party something will explode and catch on fire and then someone will break something either expensive as hell or their own bones. Then there’ll be more explosions.”

“That‘s because the man likes fireworks,” Clint agreed, amused at his husband’s long-suffering expression. “Come on, at least, show up for Steve.”

“Alright,” Phil sighed in reluctant agreement and his husband rewarded him with another kiss.

Darcy muttered something about ‘too many sickening lovebirds’ as she bypassed them for the kitchen before returning with Phil’s lunch. She plunked it down with narrow eyes before she stalked back to the kitchen.

“If she keeps this up, I‘m setting her up with a blind date just to keep her from scaring away the customers,” Clint said dryly.

Phil cut into his vegetarian lunch which was a weird plate for Hawkeye’s to serve (Clint hunted and brought in a lot of wild game for the grill) but Clint had long ago decided to exert control over Phil’s health, even before they’d began dating. This, in hindsight, should’ve been a clue that the attraction had been mutual. “And exactly who’re you planning on wrangling for this date? Most of Shieldville‘s married or in long-term relationships.”

“Isn‘t the Deputy Mayor single?”

“Maria Hill?” Phil asked in surprise. “She is, but… the mental picture I‘m getting is Hill as a mountain lion devouring a fluffy yellow Darcy-chick.”

They both paused to consider the idea before shuddering in mutual horror. A moment later, Clint smirked. “You just made a cougar joke.”

Phil nearly inhaled his spoonful of brown rice. He coughed and coughed, trying to breathe through rice. “It was completely unintentional, I swear. Don‘t tell Hill,” he said horrified.

Clint laughed but promised through his chuckles.

“We should bring her to Stark‘s party,” Phil said, thoughtfully. “If it‘s anything like the last one Stark threw, they‘ll be plenty of people there for her to meet. And she‘ll be able to keep you company in case a call comes in and I have to leave early.”

“That‘s a great idea,” Clint said, fondly. “And that‘s one of the many, many reasons you‘re my favorite sheriff.”

“And you‘re my favorite bartender,” Phil said softly.

“Good,” Clint said, his eyes heavy-lidded. “Because I don‘t let just any sheriff arrest me with the sexy cuffs.”

Darcy glowered at them as she stomped by, carrying a pitcher of ice water. She looked like she was honestly considering upending it over them.

“Okay, I think I need to take her taser away now before she starts getting ideas,” Clint said, eying her warily.

Phil’s radio, carried on his shoulder, cracked for his attention before he could say a word. “Sheriff Coulson, a call has just come in on Tesseract Road. Code 42,” Jasper Sitwell said calmly.

“Ten-four, dispatch, I‘m on my way,” Phil replied, standing to his feet. He kissed Clint goodbye before heading out the doors of Hawkeye’s.

Phil took a deep breath as he slid into his patrol car and slowly breathed out as his readiness for his duty slid into place, straightening his shoulders and sharpening his eyes.

Being the Sheriff of Shieldville was often a job which involved skipped meals, less time with his husband than he’d like, but considering how much every single person in the town felt like family --although sometimes a quarreling family-- he couldn’t image a job where he’d been any happier. He wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Although, he would prefer less Tony Stark.

End

'Well I was born in a small town
And I can breathe in a small town
Gonna die in this small town
And that's prob'ly where they'll bury me'

- John Mellencamp, 'Small Town'