0: This is How it Starts (aka Phil Makes a Sandwhich and It's Totally Awesome)
Clint doesn’t know how it happened but over the course of several years he’s fallen in love with his handler.
Even more amazing, it seems his handler has also fallen in love with him.
They’ve been dating, seeing each-other, whatever, for a couple years now - four years, to be exact – and Clint often thought about taking the next step. He knew he wanted it, eventually, but it wasn’t until a week ago that he actually decided to do something about it.
It was a relatively benign comment that had cemented his desire to propose.
Phil was making lunch while Clint worked on his bow, waxing the string that would soon need to be replaced, and grimacing at all the nicks the last mission had imparted on his bow when Phil put a plate down in front of him.
"Ham and cheese, dijon mustard."
Clint opened his mouth to ask about mayonnaise - he hates mayonnaise.
"And no, no mayonnaise. Who do you think I am?" Phil asked distractadley as he typed something into the laptop sharing the table with pieces of bow.
Clint stared at him for a moment, watching as the man blinked against the bright screen, the way he chewed the inside of his lip, something he only did at home when he was working. Clint forgets the stupid sandwhich and his gutted bow and (later as he will come to regret) the computer on the table.
He pushes them all aside and pulls a very surprised Phil up to meet him.
Yes. Clinton Francis Barton is going to ask Philip Coulson to marry him.
I: In Which Nick Fury Is a Protective Mother Fucker
Nick Fury calls him into his office and Clint is, for the first time in history, at a loss for what it could be about. Usually a personal meeting with the director meant he had royally fucked up, but even then Phil would have gone with him.
This time the man had been adamant that he come alone and Clint is sure that the man is planning on killing him. It would be quick, Clint assures himself as he reaches the door.
Clint knocks and the doors slide open.
“Do I look like a stupid to you, Agent Barton?”
Fury is standing there in the middle of his office, arms crossed and looking more pissed than usual.
Clint stiffens, subconsciously throwing his arms behind his back, at attention because what the fuck did he do?
“Sir?” Clint tries because he literally has no idea what’s going on; his mind is running through every Avengers mission, every SHIELD assignment he’s been on in the past sixth months, trying to figure out just what Fury had silently been stewing over.
Fury takes a few steps forward and holy shit, this is it, the man had finally run out of patience for him and had decided to just kill him.
“I said, do I look like a stupid mother fucker to you, Agent Barton?”
“No, sir.” He can barely keep the statement from ending as a question because he’s pretty sure that would be the end all moment.
“Good. I’ll make this quick.” The man is still advancing on him and Clint gives Phil a quiet send off in his head and just hopes that Fury doesn’t just throw his body in the Hudson or something. That river is fucking disgusting.
“Now I have been very good about looking the over way regarding your rather unorthodox relationship with Agent Coulson –“
Clint shifts his wait because this is news to him. He had never heard a word about their relationship from Fury because hell, there was a long chunk of SHIELD’s employee manual that clearly discouraged handler-agent relations to the point of nearly forbidding it.
Clint had always figured that the moment Fury knew about it, it would be over.
To say this is a surprise is an understatement and he truly has no idea where Fury is going with this.
“ – because I knew that Agent Coulson would remain professional and wouldn’t let his relationship with you get in the way of his work –“
It feels a lot like an insult but Clint lets it go because he has a feeling that his fate lies in whatever Fury says next.
“ – but it would seem that Agent Coulson has failed to hand in a requisition form.”
Clint catches himself mid-wince but he’s sure Fury’s seen it.
Phil never forgets anything. The man is organization-incarnate. Regardless, Clint knows exactly what Fury is talking about. He remembered the exact form – a requisition form for a brand, spanking new Quinjet. A form he had pulled out of Phil’s grasp and tossed to the floor as his hands snaked around the man’s torso.
“What I’m trying to say here, Agent Barton, is that I am fully aware of your intentions for Agent Coulson -”
His intentions? He couldn’t possibly know … couldn’t possibly mean …
“- and if you do anything to compromise him we will be meeting again,” Clint swallows as the man closes the final gap between them, “and next time I won't be in such a good mood."
Is Fury giving him the talk? Is that what this is?
“Sir, Agent Coulson and I –“
“This isn’t a discussion, Agent Barton. Let me spell it out. I am a nasty, mean mother fucker. If you hurt Agent Coulson I will come after you with vengeance. You do not want that, Agent Barton.”
“No, sir.” No. He definitely does not want that.
“And for the record, Agent Barton, I think he can do better.” Clint stares the man down, returning the man’s steely glare and his no bullshit stance, but he can swear there’s something else there. For a moment he can see Fury’s expression soften.
“Prove me wrong.”
Clint grins. It’s as much permission as he’s ever going to get from the Director and really, he shouldn’t feel so fucking good about it because the man hadn’t exactly praised his character.
Clint stands there, riding high on endorphins that clearly don’t understand the meaning of an insult as Fury turns his back, returning to his desk, clearly done with him.
“Barton. Get the fuck out of my office.”
Clint is going to prove Fury wrong.
Fury already knows this.
II: In Which Loki is A Huge Cock-Blocker (Amongst Other Things)
He’s been watching the science experiment they call the ‘Tesseract’ for near 48-straight-hours and he’s beginning to get bored. And restless. And hungry.
In two hours he’s to receive a mandatory four-hour reprieve in which he is fully expected to eat and sleep but there’s no chance he’s wasting it on something so trivial.
No. Because tonight’s the night - it is night now, isn’t it? – he’s going to propose.
It’s been a near year since his talk with Fury and he’s had a lot of time to prove himself, both to Fury and to the sometimes self-loathing little voice inside that agreed Phil deserved better.
He might be imagining the subtle little nods of approval Fury has been giving him, sure, but he knows that he is ready, that the only thing he is absolutely sure about, is Phil.
He’s been planning it for a while now, looking for that small window in which they could see each other. Things had gotten hectic – an invasion from space will do that - and they only managed one-hour meetings, at most, when lucky.
Four months, it’s been. Four months of getting to bed just when the other was getting out of it. Four months since he’s cooked a proper meal for the man he loved so much. Four months of stolen affections, touches and kisses never long enough to be fully satisfying.
It was wearing on them both, mentally and physically, so when Clint had discovered there would be four wonderful hours they both had to themselves at the same damn time, Clint figured there was no more room for dicking around.
Tonight. It would happen tonight,
He rests his chin on his crossed arms, hunched over as he is, watching as Selvig pokes and prods at the blue cube and it reminds him, in the vaguest manner, of the black box in his locker.
He’d have to remember to pick it up before going to meet Phil; if his memory hadn’t been rotted by the sheer boredom of the assignment.
He took it seriously, of course, and missed nothing but a man could only take so much of blue flashes of light – he could see it even as he blinked, so burned into his corneas was it – and the repetitive exclamations that the cube was ‘misbehaving.’
His senses are kicked into overdrive when he spots Director Fury making his way to Selvig because the man rarely brings good news or happenings.
He watches their exchange from a distance, thoughts of Phil temporarily abandoned, and then there’s the other man’s voice in his ear.
“Agent Barton, report.”
Finally. Some action.
As he repels down from his perch he spares a final thought on remembering to grab that little black box.
III: In Which Phil Wakes Up and It’s Enough For Now
When Phil wakes up for the first time after nearly dying from a spear to the heart, Clint almost proposes.
The words are there, on the tip of his tongue, ready to explode outwards in a rush of relief and emotion, but he stops himself last minute, swallowing what is likely to be a slightly hysterical sounding, ‘marry me.’
He stops himself because damnit, this is not about him and his abandonment issues; this is not about the fact that he had spent the better part of five days drinking, not sleeping and training until his fingers bled all whilst thinking Phil was dead and gone.
This is not about how he’s feeling a little needy and wants some reassurance that Phil will be his for the rest of their stupid fucking lives and that this will never. happen. again.
And it’s not like he has the ring on him – it’s buried under one hundred feet of rock and metal, never to see the light of day …
Clint forces himself to take a breath, to remain somewhat together because there are doctors and nurses hovering close by, ready to intervene should an emergency arise, and he’s not about to have a small (read: massive) mental breakdown here.
The archer takes a seat in the uncomfortable plastic chair next to the bed and reaches for the injured man’s hand, well aware that his movements are being tracked by sluggish eyes.
He squeezes and immediately his throat clenches tight, making him feel like he’s choking, when Phil returns the gesture; it’s weak and lasts only a millisecond, but damnit, he squeezes back.
Clint should be happy, should be smiling over that stupid little gesture, but all he feels is fear and anxiety; it’s swirling around him, violent and cruel, trying to convince him that this is not real and that he’s lost it.
But it is real; it has to be, because his mind would never concoct something so terrible.
Not for Phil. Never for Phil.
Phil looks awful, worse than he’s ever seen him and that’s saying a lot; he’d seen the man through concussions and bullet wounds and pneumonia and, on one particularly terrible occasion, an incredibly stubborn bout of malaria, but none of that compares to this.
He’s pale, too pale, and the dark smudges under his eyes look so terrible that Clint fears it might be permanent; he’s sleep deprived and so damn strung out he can’t remember Phil before this, can’t remember what he looked like when he was whole.
There’s a breathing tube in, as well, and fuck, how Clint hates those. He’s ripped them out of his own throat on a few occasions and the idea of Phil having to suffer it is terrible enough to make him want to look away.
He can feel Phil watching him and he wonders if he will remember any of this. He doubts it; it’s just another reason on a very long list of reasons that this is a terrible time to propose.
Even injured Phil is comforting him. There is so much wrong with that, Clint decides, and he tries harder to put on his brave face.
“Phil.” Clint says and he can’t help but feel slightly proud over the fact that his voice didn’t crack; he stops there, because, for a moment, he’s not sure what to say.
His mind is tired, exhausted, and it filters through a series of greetings, most of which are probably inappropriate.
‘Guess what, you’re not dead?’ or maybe, ‘Oh good, you’re awake, now I can stop thinking of all the ways to quietly destroy myself without anyone noticing’ and, of course, that stupid proposal that’s still trying to work it’s way up -
He settles on something light-hearted, something that won’t reek pathetic and let the other man know just how absolutely fucked he would be without him.
“Don’t worry, the doctors say I’ll live –“ there’s Phil squeezing his hand again and he can see his lip quirk upwards and if it weren’t for that damn breathing tube he’s sure the other man would be chuckling.
God, how he wants to hear that.
Clint snorts, half-amused and half annoyed at his own ridiculous greeting; it should have been something meaningful, something heartfelt. But this was Phil. Phil knew how he operated, knew that he consistently hid behind humor, knew that there was a staggering amount of inner struggle going on here.
He wants to tell Phil just how much he fucking cares about him, how he made sure no one touched his damn things, how he hadn’t taken down the vintage Captain America poster that made living room sex super awkward and how he had punched Fury right in the mouth and, somehow, hadn’t been discharged from S.H.I.E.L.D.
He wants to propose.
But he doesn’t.
Just having Phil back - it’s enough for now.
IV: In Which Clint Does Something Stupid, Phil and Natasha are Pissed and Tony Makes a PowerPoint
The roof he is currently utilizing as a perch is crumbling, falling apart under a barrage of heavy fire and once again Clint is faced with two options: jump, or die.
Really, there’s three options: jump, die or call for help. He’s never been very good about the third one.
He quickly realizes there’s no one there to catch him and damnit, he’d been hoping for the easy way out.
He turns midair, cat-like, and manages to catch something jutting out of the side of the building, a pipe, and it holds his wait for a moment before crumbling away, dropping him twenty feet to the ground below
He lands hard and somehow manages to stay conscious even after his head cracks against the unforgiving pavement.
He is vaguely aware of Phil’s voice in his ear, and Steve’s and Natasha’s and Tony’s – but fuck, there’s blood running down the back of his neck and his vision is doubled, tripled and just sitting is making him feel nauseous
“Clint. Get up, move, MOVE!” Phil again and Clint murmurs a half hearted ‘I’m trying’ though he can’t hear anything through his muffled ears.
Bullets pepper the road a mere foot to his right, spraying him with bits of cement and dirt and he’s reeling, trying to get to his feet but failing.
“That’s it, Clint. Move your ass, behind you, to the alley –“
He half stumbles, half crab-walks to the building behind him and he just manages to pull himself into the alley as a grenade lands just where he’d been previously.
Shit. Shit shit shit.
It comes out before he has time to think about what a terrible idea it is.
“Phil, will y–“
It goes off and the air is instantly dry and hot and finally, he passes out.
Clint wakes up to the angriest looking version of Phil he’s ever seen.
“You jumped.” Phil says from next to his bedside, his face pale and his entire body a bundle of tense muscle.
“Glad t’ see you –“ Clint starts with a rasp, his head tight and his body sore; every bit of him feels as thought it’s filled with lead.
“You jumped. What were you thinking?” Phil’s mouth is set in a tight line and Clint really can’t remember the last time the man was this angry.
Normally, when Clint came to in a hospital – and this was far too often an occurrence – the man was all hushed tones and would sooth his aches with gentle, talented hands.
This. This was new.
“Phil, I –“ He’s about to say that he had no choice, but Phil isn’t having it.
“A fractured skull, three broken ribs, eighty-seven stitches and a twisted ankle.” Phil rattles off his list of injuries and damn, he hates when they do that to him, as if it would make a difference or take back what he’s done.
Phil pauses and Clint at least he can take comfort that he’ll be okay; Phil wouldn’t be ranking him on this is he were on his death bed.
Though another look at Phil’s angry visage almost makes him wish he were.
“If you jump off a building willingly, without back up one more time I am removing you from the field. Is that clear, Agent Barton?” Clint swallows and Phil’s gaze bores into him. He feels like it’s his first day at SHIELD all over again; he feel like he’s talking to his handler and not his partner of several years.
“Yes.” Clint mutters feeling guilty over the ways Phil’s eyes seem a little too glossy and the unmistakable shaky tone he’s adopted; the man was no doubt on the tail end of some very serious adrenaline.
Phil sits back in the chair, though sit is somewhat generous and it seems more appropriate to say ‘collapses’.
“I’m sorry.” Clint whispers, half because his throat isn’t allowing more than that and half because he’s a little terrified Phil’s about to lose it.
Clint watches carefully as the man he loves shakes his head and drags a hand across his features.
“Just – please stop jumping off buildings.” He says, his voice cracking in fatigue and it really hits Clint how much he had scared the man; it must’ve been bad.
“Phil, I –“
“I’m going to let Fury know you’re awake.” Phil stands and, after a moments thought, gives Clint’s hand a squeeze and the archer can’t help but feel a bit disappointed.
“I’ll be back later.”
He’s gone before Clint can say anything else.
“I think I broke Phil.” Clint says when Natasha slinks into the room half an hour later.
“Were you really going to ask him then?” Natasha asks in a gentle monotone. At least she didn’t look angry, not really; if anything she was fixing him with a look that was half sympathetic and half ‘you’re-a-complete-idiot.’
“Hey, I thought I was going to die.” Clint responds defensively, trying to ignore the itchy gauze wrapped around his head and the way the drugs made him feel slow and sluggish and not him.
“Does he – does he know?” God, Clint hopes not. He hopes he didn’t do that to Phil. It must have been terrifying enough for the man; Phil really didn’t need him to nearly die whilst proposing to him over the fucking comms. They would have been the most maudlin, cliché last words ever.
Besides that, he had wanted it to be something special and now they were going to have to talk about it and it would be so terribly domestic and unexciting and Phil deserved more than that
“No.” Natasha says handing him a cup of ice chips because she’s always been good at this bedside, sick bed stuff, though you wouldn’t know just by looking at her. “No, he was too busy thinking you died.”
“We all were.” She says quietly and he knows enough to see that he had truly scared her.
Clint sighs and brings a hand to his face trying to scrub away the drug-induced fatigue, ignoring the pull of the IV or the unhappy stare of the woman next to him.
“I fucked up.”
Natasha doesn’t say anything to confirm or deny it. Instead she sits there in stony silence yep, she’s extremely unhappy with him. It wasn’t his fault that the enemy to make a game out of pulling him from his perch. It wasn’t his fault that his specialty was long range defense/offense and he needed to be up high to do his job.
“You really scared him. All of us.” Clint nods because he knows this; he knows that Phil isn’t on the the ground with the rest of them and he has to go by what he sees from the surveillance cameras, from what he hears.
“Okay, okay. I know. I’ll try to stop jumping off buildings.” Natasha doesn’t look placated, not in the least and Clint rolls his eyes, or tries to. It’s hard when your head feels like it weighs a near ton.
“Fine. I will stop jumping off buildings. Unless I speak to Tony or Thor about it first.” He adds the second half as an addendum because he knows this won’t be the last time he has to find a faster way down than his grappling arrows or the damn stairs.
“Tony and Phil have created a PowerPoint presentation about jumping off buildings. I expect you to listen.”
“I have hidden three knives in this room.” Clint knows a threat when he hears one and he has no doubt that she’s done exactly as she’s claimed; they were both far too paranoid for sanity’s sake.
“Good.” A moment later Phil returns, Tony in tow, a small silver device in his hand and damnit, Natasha hadn’t been kidding about the presentation.
Clint eyes the two, particularly Phil who at least looks less likely to kill him, looks like he’s collected himself and is watching him with nothing but concern now. Clint gives him a small smile the one that usually gets him out of trouble and huzzah, it works.
Phil doesn’t smile back but he takes the empty seat to the right of his bed, his left hand sneaking under the clunky plastic bed railing and finding Clint’s own. He gives it a reassuring squeeze and traces a thumb soothing across his skin. Progress.
Tony smirks and Clint really wants to punch the smarm of his face.
With a wave of a hand the presentation is floating above his bed and he groans.
It’s titled, ‘Staying Alive for Dummies (Clint Barton).'
Later, apparently taken and inspired by the presentation, Natasha creates her own entitled, ‘Proposing for Idiots’.
It consists of three real bits of advice and the rest is mostly threats and insults.
Regardless, he takes it to heart.
V. In Which Clint Barton Proposes to Everyone Except Phil (aka Tony’s Roof is a Popular Hang Out)
Okay, Barton, this is it. For real, this time.
He exhales and does a quick stretch, well aware that, no, he’s not about to run a damn marathon and yes, he needs to calm the hell down.
Tighten your shit up. This is no different than the other … four times you were going to do this.
He paces back and forth, fiddles with his tie and marvels over the fact that he has actually found someone he cares enough about to get into a damn monkey suit.
Phil says it makes him look debonair. Mysterious. Sexy.
Clint says it’s uncomfortable and itchy and terrible for archery.
“Debonair. Mysterious. Sexy.” Clint says out loud to himself only cringing slightly when he realizes how stupid he sounds. He feels like he’s about to ask the man to the Avengers Prom … something they should totally have … focus, Barton. “You can do this.”
Clint takes another deep breath and pats his pocket.
He moves to the ledge of the building, taking in the city sprawled out before it; Stark may have overachieved a bit, was perhaps compensating for something, but the man had a hell of a view.
He had set up a table, complete with candles, a white tablecloth, two extremely comfortable chairs – the whole nine yards. Hell, he had even cooked and had spent the better part of his afternoon baking a raspberry-fudge cheesecake. Phil’s favorite.
And sure, it was all a bit cliché but no one could argue with the view or the solitude.
Or Starks name in giant, glowing letters, but, really, it was a small price to pay because this was perfect.
The archer checked his watch – 7: 58. Any minute now.
He had told JARVIS to inform Phil that he was needed on the roof once he returned from his meeting with Fury – when JARVIS had asked for what purpose (and geez, had Tony programmed nosiness into his A.I.?) he had sputtered, suddenly anxious.
“Umm, tell him, tell him I have something to show him? Something about the view? Yeah.” Clint had informed the A.I., all while hoping he wouldn’t pick up on how ridiculously nervous he was.
“Agent Barton, may I suggest something less … obvious.” Clint gave the entire room a look of genuine surprise, colored with a smattering of suspicion – did JARVIS know his intentions? And if so, what the actual fuck?
“Perhaps it would be best if I informed Phil that he is needed to approve the new communications tower Mr. Stark has installed and that will be put to use tomorrow morning.”
Clint thinks about it and yeah, it’s better than what he had and Phil wouldn’t question it; Tony often wanted Phil’s approval when it came to any toys he was building for the Agent. This new comm. tower wouldn’t lift an eyebrow, considering it was Phil who had suggested it.
“Yeah, that’s good, okay – wait. Phil? You call him Phil?”
“He insists on it, sir.” Clint considered that for a moment and then nodded; that wasn’t surprising, really, the man seemed to get along swimmingly with the AI, better than Tony, sometimes.
“And Agent Barton,” JARVIS added, breaking his train of thought. Clint tilted his head up – he never knew where to look when JARVIS spoke to him – and waiting, “congratulations.”
Clint swallows as he checks his watch for the hundredth time in as many seconds.
He had wanted to (but didn’t) tell JARVIS that congratulations weren’t yet in order – Phil could say no. And how would he handle that? What if this was all a big mistake?
If Phil wanted to marry him, wouldn’t they be married by now?
Quit it. Clint firmly tells himself because, damnit, he could face alien armies without even flinching, could jump off skyscrapers without blinking and was damn near stoic when it came to torture, but throw a measly little marriage proposal at him and he’s reduced to being a sweaty, nervous wreck.
He nearly jumps when his watch chimes, informing him that it is, in fact, 8 PM and that it is now or never.
He gives everything a final look and makes last minute touches.
He straightens the table cloth, checks the food - still hot, good – pushes the champagne, the very expensive champagne, deeper into it’s ice-nest, adjusts the chairs, runs a hand through his hair, fixes his tie – again – and finally, takes out the little box with the ring.
It’s different from the first one, but only slightly. This one has the same cut with bold edges, a tasteful inscription, a simple ‘Phil & Clint’ on the inside band, and is decidedly masculine and not at all assuming – Phil and bling don’t belong in the same sentence, as much as Clint wants them to – but unlike it’s predecessor, this one is made of Adamantium.
The former had been made of Titanium – strong stuff, to be sure, but there was no way it could beat the meanest metal on Earth and really, Phil deserved the best.
To top it off, as far as he knew, it was the only one of it’s kind. It had sure raised Stark’s brows when he had asked – far too nicely, at that– for the man to procure a small block of the stuff (using his paycheck, of course) and to then melt it down into a damn ring, complete with a very ‘we’re here, we’re queer’ kind of engraving.
If Stark hadn’t known before jsut what he was planning, well, he sure as hell did after that.
Clint had expected Tony to give his usual amount of snark, to ask inappropriate questions (plural; he only asked one: ‘is he as hung as he looks’; Clint ignored it) and barrage him with some kind of Starkian tirade on how he’d kill him if he hurt Phil.
But, instead, Tony, with far more sincerity than Clint ever expected to witness, had fixed the archer with a serious look, patted him on the shoulder and had informed him he’d have it done in a week.
And that he could consider it one of the many wedding gifts to come.
It had been the most wonderful, sincere thing he’d ever heard out of Stark’s mouth; he could’ve kissed the man. In fact, he had considered at least giving him a bro hug but then Tony had to be Tony and had ended the interaction with: ‘no, seriously though, how hung is he?’
Despite his incredible lewdness, Stark was known to deliver and man, did he deliver.
The ring is perfect.
Now if only the man who was to wear it would show up …
Loud, clanging footsteps in the stairwell alerts him to the man’s presence and he calculates he has no more than fifteen seconds to get into position.
It’s shamelessly romantic, almost painfully, humiliating so, but underneath all the suits and the easy, sometimes sexy, citation of regulations and general air of ‘I-can-kill-you-with-a-ballpoint-pen’, Phil is a bit of a romantic.
So, for Phil, he gets to his knee and waits.
It isn’t but a moment later that the door handle jiggles and there he is …
… Steve Rogers.
“Steve?” He fumbles with his words as he gets to his feet, as quickly as his damaged dignity allows.
“Oh, Clint, I – you’re – I’m so –“
“Steve what’re – what’re you doing here –“
“I didn’t mean, I was just –“
“ – damnit, JARVIS –“
They speak over each other for another moment before Steve turns bright red, trying to not look at the impressive scene before him and feigning interest in his boots.
“I’ll just – uhm –“ Steve jabs a thumb at the roof access while Clint interjects a small, humiliated “yeah”.
“I’m very sorry, Clint, I –“
“Cap, can we do this later, maybe?” Clint can’t believe this is happening and really, he just wants Steve to get out of here before Coulson finally arrives.
“Yeah, right, of course, I’ll –“ Then come the sounds of footsteps, again, and Clint feels royally screwed.
Though, he figures having Phil’s life-long crush standing next to him might not be a bad idea, might actually be – no, no, that will be creepy.
Steve lifts his hands in a universal ‘shit-what-do-I-do” fashion and the two spend a useless moment looking around, all as if a magical elevator or a magical flying fucking carpet will appear to cart the man far away from here.
“Just – I don’t know – hide, or something, and please, after that, just, sneak away –“ Steve gives him a firm nod and hell, this would almost be funny if it wasn’t royally fucking with his calm.
Steve ducks behind – something – Clint doesn’t know what for sure, he just knows he’s not in his immediate vicinity and that’s good, and he gets back down into position, on his knee.
He doesn’t have time to process how embarrassing it is to have Steve watching this, how he will remember this very differently than Coulson, because the door swings open again and Clint sighs a breath of relief but, fuck, no –
Banner, Bruce freaking Banner steps through the door, eyes on his StarkTablet, clearly distracted by what’s there.
But not enough to notice the very suddenly awkward atmosphere, because is that the smell of filet mignon and the flickering of candlelight?
Clint just barely makes it to his feet when Banner’s attention is on him.
The two men stare each other down for a moment and it’s Bruce who breaks the silence.
“This is … nice.” Clint rolls his eyes because though Bruce’s dry, unwavering stoic sense of humor is usually welcome, this is ridiculous.
He really should have told everyone to stay clear from the damn roof this night, but really, he hadn’t anticipated that everyone and their mother would feel like taking a little jaunt on the top of Stark tower.
“This isn’t for you.” Clint says very unnecessarily and Bruce manages to quirk an eyebrow.
“Yeah, I figured not, unless you and … the other guy have been seeing each other.” Bruce deadpanned
Clint follows Bruce’s gaze and it’s humiliating, watching him put the pieces together; first the candles, then the impressive dinner spread, his suit, his probably reddening visage …
“I’ve just ruined something haven’t I?” Bruce says with that unwavering tone as he takes in the scene around him.
“Not yet, Steve beat you to it.” Clint snaps because this cannot be happening.
“Steve? So, he is here.” Bruce looks around and upon spotting Steve gestures at his tab
“Ok, good, good, you two go back to the lab, or wherever – just, go!”
Tony Stark comes barreling out like a child bursting into his parent’s room on Christmas morning.
“Oh, what is this?” Tony said with exaggerated surprise, “I was just coming up here for some fresh – no, I’m sorry, I was watching from those nifty little cameras up there –“ Tony points upwards and Clint kicks himself for not noticing the little black dot the size of a marble, “and I just couldn’t stand sitting this little party out.”
“You were watching?”
“I have to say, Barton, I’m impressed. I mean, the candles are a little cliché and that suit …”
“One more word Stark and I will shoot you with an arrow. A barbed one. In the ass.” There it is, the headache he knew had to be developing the moment Steve set foot on the roof; he’d been in gunfights and hostage situations that had progressed better than this.
“Friends, the omniscient man in Stark’s walls has informed me of the glorious occasion! This is most good.” The door is nearly torn off it’s hinges as Thor makes his presence know, his voice reaching a level Clint deems highly unnecessary.
But that reminds him.
“JARVIS? Even your computer can’t keep secrets, Stark.”
Tony ignores him – shocker – and heads towards the small clothed table, lifting one of the plates lids and inhales.
He then goes on to pick up one of the filets with his hands, like a damn animal, and rips a piece off with his teeth.
“Stark! That’s – no, get out of here! Phil –“ As soon as he says the man’s name everyone seems to experience a giant ‘a-ha’ moment and they’re all talking.
“Oh my – you were proposing. I’m so sorry –“ Steve tries to curl in on himself.
“A Warrior’s Bond! Have you an Oath-Ring? I shall perform the Hávámal and then you shall bathe –“ Thor announces and Clint tries to ignore the thing about bathing.
“It’s a nice suit.” Banner says in opposition of whatever Tony had wanted to say about it.
“Phil’s not coming.” Tony manages to garble out through a mouthful of steak and it immediately quiets the barrage of compliments, apologies and strange Norse customs lesson.
“Wait. What? Why? How do you know?” Clint ask because no, everything’s perfect, the wine, the food, the view – he feels his hopes and dreams crashing down.
“Something about hammering out the Avengers Initiative’s Damages Expense Report. Apparently we’ve been doing our jobs too destructively –“
Clint removes himself from the conversation flopping down onto one of the chairs in a dramatic heap.
He knows it’s childish to mourn the loss of his “perfect proposal” but damnit he’d been so ready, so excited.
Oh well. It wasn’t as if this was the first time something had gotten in his way.
Eventually they all end up around the table, Tony in the other chair and Bruce and Steve sitting on a long pipe. Thor’s sitting cross legged on the floor and they look like a damn slumber party.
Tony pops open the painfully expensive champagne and they don’t even bother with glasses.
Tony lifts the bottle and clears his throat.
“To the future, uninterrupted marriage proposal Clint will make to Phil and the many years of happiness that will follow. If he says yes. And he probably will. Unless, you know, he –“
“Tony.” Steve warns.
“Fine. Brief and Boring. Cheers.” Tony lifts the champagne bottle and hands it to Clint. Clint takes a long sip before handing it off and hell, he feels a little better.
Natasha pauses, raising a brow as she takes in the five men sitting around the rather romantic looking table, the champagne and the ring at the center of it all.
“Congratulations. You five make a lovely couple.”
“Thank you.” Tony says and Clint wonders if he will ever be able to get this right.