The pet names started as an accident. The first one just slipped out one Sunday morning while Clint was doing the crossword. Phil brought him a cup of coffee and Clint said without even looking up, “Thanks, sweetheart.”
And then he froze. Very reluctantly he forced his gaze up from 7 across to Phil’s face.
Phil looked merely amused. “Sweetheart?” he repeated.
Clint offered what he hoped was a disarming smile. “Would baby suit you better?”
“Try it and find out,” Phil said with a straight face and stole the news section.
So it wasn’t a big thing. Sometimes Clint called Phil names that weren’t ‘Phil’ and as long as it didn’t happen at work, Phil never objected. Clint was actually pretty sure that Phil liked it.
(Judging by the way Phil reacted when Clint said things like, “Yeah, baby, like that,” ‘baby’ did suit him fine.)
But then The Incident happened. Or, as Clint usually chose to think of it, The Fuck-Up.
They’d been in a meeting with Fury but after Fury left, the rest of them just stayed in the conference room. Clint was personally of the opinion that it was a combination of being too tired to move and trying to avoid the administrative crap that followed missions. Except in Phil’s case, of course. Phil actually liked the paperwork. Clint knew it was mostly a sort of safety thing, like the way Clint felt about being on the range with his bow, but let’s be honest. It was also because Phil was a humongous nerd. (Spoken with fondness, really.)
Natasha flipped out a knife and began tossing it around while Phil pushed his chair back and got to his feet. “Agent Barton, I’d like you to stop by my office in an hour if you have the time.”
“Sure, babe, I don’t mind,” Clint said, his eyes on Natasha’s knife, wondering how much shit she would give him if he asked her how she’d done that last trick.
“God damn it!” Tony shouted.
Clint stared at him in confusion, needing a minute to realize that everyone else was staring at him. He played back the last few moments in his head and then - oh, shit. He looked sheepishly at Phil. “Obviously what I meant was, sure, Agent Coulson.”
Phil rolled his eyes.
Natasha held her hand out wordlessly and Tony slunk to his feet, digging a wallet out of his back pocket and pressing a few bills into her hand. She counted it and turned a sharp-edged smile onto Clint. “I owe you one, Barton. You just made me a hundred bucks.”
“Only a hundred, Natasha?” Phil asked. “I’m disappointed the stakes were so low.”
She shrugged. “No one would take a higher bet.”
“Waste of money,” Bruce muttered. “Didn’t I tell you it was a waste of money?”
“Hey, Steve agreed with me, didn’t you, Steve? He just couldn’t bear the thought of gambling away such a large sum of money,” Tony said, all but using air quotes.
“Do you know what I could have gotten with a hundred dollars seventy years ago?” Steve protested.
“Yeah, yeah, and I’m sure you walked to school a hundred miles uphill in a blizzard without any boots, too.”
“Actually I grew up in Brooklyn, so--”
“Will everyone just hold on a God damned minute?” Clint exclaimed. “You were betting on me? And… and… Agent Coulson?” he said, feeling his ears going red. God damned light skin. (And really, one hundred dollars on whether or not he was sleeping with Phil? No wonder no one but Tony would take it, it wasn’t like being an Avenger paid that well.)
Tony snickered. “Agent Coulson, my ass. Don’t you mean ‘babe’?”
“Please, Mr. Stark,” Phil said. “I know that Miss Potts keeps insisting that you and I are verging on the brink of friendship, but terms of endearment are taking it a little too far.”
“Are you sure, honey? Because I know how much you love to hear them rolling off my tongue,” Tony said with a smirk at Clint.
Clint flipped him the bird but the flush in his ears was now creeping down his neck.
“All right, everyone out,” Phil ordered, finally showing the tiniest smidgeon of concern for his own boyfriend, the bastard.
The team, minus Clint, all trooped out, but not before Clint could hear Tony say, “I can’t wait to tell Thor, he’s gonna love this.”
Clint let his head fall forward onto the table, not even bothering to prevent the smack of his forehead. “Please don’t lecture me, Phil, I think I’ve suffered enough.”
“Are you kidding?” Phil chuckled. “They let you off easy. Believe me, the torture’s only just begun.”
Clint groaned because, damn it, he knew it was true. “Why aren’t you more upset?”
Phil rubbed his hand between Clint’s shoulder blades. “I guess I really don’t care anymore if they know. I don’t want to hide, do you?”
“No.” He never had.
“Then problem solved. Admittedly this wasn’t the smoothest way you could have done it, but it was certainly straight-forward.”
Clint stood up and backed Phil towards the table, leaning him up against it. “Sorry for not going over a plan of attack with you first.”
“No need to apologize. Much as it pains me, I know better than to hold your mouth against you.”
“My mouth is your favorite part of me.”
Phil cocked his head to the side. “No, that’s being much too generous.”
Clearly the only viable response to that was to set about reminding Phil of just how much he enjoyed Clint’s mouth. Too bad they were at work because Clint could give a far better demonstration at home.
Phil’s lips had curved into a tiny smile by the time Clint pulled back. “You take everything as a challenge, don’t you?”
“What can I say?” Clint said, raising his arms above his head and stretching, sighing as his shoulders popped. He totally wasn’t doing it on purpose so Phil would stare. “I like to win.”
“Even when no one else realizes there’s a competition,” Phil said, a small trace of fondness overlaying the amusement on his face. “But please, Clint, try and keep the ‘babe’s away from work. I’d like to cling to the remaining shreds of my reputation as long as possible.”
“Okay, babe,” Clint said with a grin and kissed him again.
Tony did tell Thor, a week later when Thor came back from a stay in Asgard, and it was horrible.
“Clint!” Thor said in a voice that carried far too well, striding down the hallway towards him. “Tony has told me the good news!”
Clint looked around in the hopes of finding an escape route but it was too late. Thor clasped his arm around Clint’s shoulders and Clint tried not to wince. “Oh, yeah?” he said reluctantly.
“My hearty congratulations to you and your partner!”
Clint did wince at that. A group of junior agents doing a shitty job of pretending they weren’t eavesdropping (did it even count as eavesdropping when one half of the conversation was Thor?) giggled and smirked. Clint dreaded the sort of things that were now going to go through the rumor mill. “Thanks, Thor.”
Thor’s grasp tightened so it was almost painful. “This calls for a celebration. We must have mead! We will toast your good fortune.”
“You really don’t have to--”
“Nonsense! In Asgard we would drink all through the night.”
Of course they would. Clint thought in Asgard they probably threw celebrations for not dying of alcohol poisoning during the last celebration.
“Come, let us find your lucky man.” Thor smiled broadly. “Or are you the lucky man?”
Clint avoided making eye contact with another passing SHIELD agent and thought, Nope, definitely not feeling lucky at the moment, thanks for asking. “I guess we both are,” he said because it was the sort of sappy thing Thor seemed to appreciate. The big guy was really a softie underneath it all.
And unsurprisingly, Thor did eat that right up, his eyes softening. He was probably thinking about Jane. “It is good that you have each other. In dangerous times it is important to hold fast to the people who love you.”
“Yeah,” Clint said because really, what was he supposed to say to that?
They reached Phil’s office and Thor finally let go of Clint, raising his hand to pound once against the door.
Phil looked at them, one eyebrow lifting, and Clint rubbed the back of his neck. “Thor’s come to congratulate us, sweetheart,” he said and savored the way Phil’s eyes widened a fraction.
If Clint had to suffer through the teasing and everything else his teammates threw at him, he felt it was only fair that Phil suffer with him.