The monster of the week is something that totally looks like Godzilla but officially isn't (there's been a briefing, and Clint vaguely remembers the words 'copyright infringement' - he wasn't really paying attention at the time). It's loose in downtown New York and Clint has gotten the fun task of evacuating a bunch of offices that might be in danger.
It helps that they're fairly cheap offices; thus far, the worst Clint's done is break one guy's nose. No threat of lawsuits yet, which should make Fury happy. Well, less inclined than usual to fire Clint's ass, anyway, after chewing on it and okay, Clint's going to stop with the mental images right there.
Clint isn't a masochist, after all. (Okay, that's a lie, he totally is. But in a fun, sexy way.)
"Are you uh going to be fighting that thing out there?" one of the office guys asks. He's a bit better dressed than most: his suit actually looks like it might be the right size (and not older than ten years).
His tie isn't butt-ugly either, so Clint decides to be polite. "Yes. Stairs are over there."
"I see." The guy doesn't seem to take the hint. Cute but dumb; a common problem. Clint's the exception to the rule, obviously. He's more badass than cute, though, most of the time. (It's a bit disappointing, really, like, sometimes, a guy just wants to feel cute, you know? Just because Clint's got an awesome bod, that doesn't mean he wants to be the one on top all the time.) "With that crossbow?"
"Problem?" The nice thing about crossbows is: Robin Hood never used one. (For the truly obnoxious, Clint's also wearing a purple uniform. It's as far away from green as he could think of.)
The guy doesn't seem very impressed. Maybe he thinks Clint isn't going to pin his hand (or, fine, sleeve) to the wall simply for asking questions. "I noticed there seems to be a soft spot in his armor, left front leg. Might be a good place to stick in a few arrows."
"Way ahead of you," Clint says and then, because in reality? Not so much. "But thanks for thinking along. Now, move, please. I'm a busy man."
"Of course." The guy reaches inside a pocket of his vest, and Clint almost shoots him there and then (and not in the sleeve either) because being paranoid pretty much equals being alive in his line of work, and sure, the guy looks nice, but he's also different. Clint is inclined to like him, for starters, and he's watched enough TV to know that when you're a superhero (which Clint totally is, not to brag or anything), people you like at first sight often aren't as innocent as you think they are. "My card."
Clint takes it. There's just a name and a phone number.
"I'll be waiting for your call. Whenever you're not busy some time," Phil Coulson says and then he's walking away, briefcase in hand, and Clint thinks about calling him for five whole seconds before he tosses the card into the nearest trashcan, because come on. He's not that desperate, and it was probably a fake number anyway.
"That woman - she tried to kill me," Clint says, and if he sounds a bit shrill, then so what? He's got a right to sound shrill; someone's just tried to kill him.
For some reason, the joker they've sent over to interview him seems to think this is all hilarious, and that's the fucking limit, really, that's it. Clint doesn't have to put up with this sort of shit.
"Excuse me, did I just say something funny?"
Coulson - that's the guy's name, Coulson, and Clint's going to be filing a complaint with his supervisor, see if he isn't - Coulson coughs. "In my professional assessment, if she'd really tried to kill you, you'd be dead. She's very good, one of the best in the business."
"Oh. Well, maybe I'm secretly really badass," Clint says, before honesty compels him to add: "Or uh maybe I got lucky."
Coulson makes a note. Clint wonders what it is. 'Victim suggests he 'got lucky' - because yeah, okay, Clint works out sometimes, but it's not like he's a match for a professional assassin. 'One of the best in business', even, which is - sheesh. Next time, Victor can fucking well transport his own damn microchips.
"Did she tell you anything?" Coulson asks. "Any clues where she might be going next?"
"I was sort of distracted?" Clint says. "I mean, when I picked her up, I wasn't really interested in talking or anything, you know? She looked like she knew what she was doing, that was good enough for me."
"The two of you then went back to your hotel room where she proceeded to tie you up." Coulson looks up from his notepad. "This was recreational? Consensual?"
"Hell yeah," Clint says, because, well, hell yeah. He wouldn't mind repeating that part of the evening ... although maybe not with a female redhead wearing black leather.
A guy, maybe. Someone with confidence. Not too tall, and not one of those oversized gorillas who think they're hot stuff just because they shoot up with steroids three times a day.
Coulson hm's. "And she took nothing from your hotel room?"
"My heart?" Clint jokes. Coulson - okay, maybe they got off on the wrong foot. He's probably with some sort of alphabet agency, and not one of the desk jockeys either. Clint figures it might be pretty fun to see what kind of body Coulson's hiding under that suit of his.
Plus, if Victor decides to lose his cookies because some Russian assassin has run off with his microchips, it might not hurt to have a boytoy who's James Bond when he's working.
Clint's just some guy who practices archery for a hobby, and Coulson's just some guy who doesn't have any hobbies, and they run into each other in the street some day - their gazes meet only for a fraction of a second, because Clint is late for practice and Coulson is mentally going over a contract one of his clients has asked him to review, and so they don't even really connect or anything.
They never meet again after that one time.
Clint doesn't like guns, but when you're about to take down an illegal armsdealer and his crew in a joint operation with the CIA, going in unarmed isn't really an option. Besides, it's not as if he can't use a gun; it's simply that he'd prefer not to.
Their CIA contact shows up to the final briefing wearing a suit, and Clint's already labeled him 'useless deskjockey getting his first piece of real action at our expense' before the guy even opens his mouth to introduce himself.
He says his name is Phil Coulson. Clint's pretty sure it's a fake - guy probably picked it because he thought it sounded cool or something. No doubt about it: dear old Phil's going to be a pain in the ass. Clint only hopes that when things start to heat up, he'll have the sense to get down and stay down. The last thing Clint wants is having to deal with the hassle and paperwork of having gotten some rookie CIA agent killed on his operation. (Rule Number One of joint operations: something goes wrong, it's never the CIA's part of the op. Or the CIA's fault.)
And then they're moving, going in, and Clint's way too fucking busy to worry about anyone or anything other than getting the job done, keeping his guys safe - he's the team leader; he's their go-no go man and Clint takes his job very, very seriously. It's part of the reason why people like Phil piss him off.
There's a lot of shooting and screaming - that last mostly from hostiles, thank God, although Hill goes down with a bullet in her leg, which sucks, but hopefully just means she's going to have to take things easy for a couple of months and hey, could be worse. (Clint will tease her about it mercilessly. Or actually mercifully, because he knows from first-hand experience that there's nothing worse than your colleagues treating you like an invalid who needs to be coddled, humored and considered incapable of doing just about anything by himself.)
Clint's the one to kick in the backdoor, which turns out to have been a bit of a mistake. (They've checked for booby traps. Clint knows they have. This shouldn't be happening.)
He's vaguely aware of someone slamming into him from behind - or maybe it's something, maybe that's actually the wall he's not feeling, and then he's down and someone's yelling: "Man down, man down," and Clint spends his last conscious moments thinking 'what fucking perfect timing'.
Clint's gotten lucky: nothing broken, just lots of bruises and a mild concussion. Plus, the op has turned out okay.
"Well, that's how it goes - stuff goes wrong, it's our fault. Stuff goes right, it's their doing." Chief Barnes shrugs. "Good job, Barton."
"Thanks." Clint doesn't really feel needing a CIA suit to save his ass can be described as his having done a 'good job'.
On the other hand, he supposes he can live with his new boyfriend having done the dirty deed.
(Even if, really, it's pretty vanilla compared to some of the other stuff he fully intends on talking Phil into trying out with him.)
It's not that Clint is moping, all right? It's just that - they saved New York and the whole fucking world and what was the fucking point of it all, really?
When Fury tells him to either get his shit together or get the hell out, Clint figures he might as well. Resigning wouldn't have felt right, somehow; like he's letting Phil down one last time, but when Fury puts it like that, well, who's Clint to look a gift horse in the mouth? It's not like he's doing it for the salary.
For two, three, could be four months, Clint sort of ... drifts. Not exactly getting his shit together, but he's going to get there one day, and then Fury will probably give him his old job back and he can have happy fun times with a bunch of people as fucked up as he is himself (except that they don't know it).
And then he gets to Hicksville in the middle of Nowhere, and he's not even looking, really (what would he be looking for?) but he ends up in front of this house that looks like it belongs to the most boring person on Earth - white picket fence, perfectly kept garden, rocking chair on the porch.
Clint wouldn't have stopped, really, except that there's someone standing by the mailbox, and it's not Phil, it can't be Phil, Phil is gone.
He'd probably have convinced himself, maybe even apologized to the poor guy for freaking him out, except that then Phil says: "Barton, You don't know me," and yeah, like some random person he's never met before would say that to him.
"The hell I don't, seriously, Phil, sir, Coulson, what the fuck." They've never actually had public sex, and Phil's probably not going to be up for it now, not with the way he almost doesn't seem to want to know Clint, but it's been five, six months, and Clints wants.
Not that he's going to say 'no' if Phil suggests a bed.
"My name is Lou Phillips," Phil says. "I have a very boring job shuffling paper for the government."
"You're not a Lou," Clint says. "You don't want to be Phil, fine, but Lou? Come on."
Phil sighs. "Barton, I'm only going to tell you this once. I'm retired. Phil Coulson - the Phil Coulson you knew, is dead. I am no longer part of the Avengers Initiative and if you continue to persist in addressing me by the name of a dead man, you will leave me no choice but to report you to Director Fury."
"Do you think maybe he'd fire me? Because yeah, I guess that would sort of suck."
Phil says nothing. It occurs to Clint Phil might not even know Clint is sort of retired, too, now - except that 'retired' makes it sound like he's gotten too old or something.
"Fine," Clint says. "I'll call you 'sir' all the time, how's that? Good enough to make you happy?"
Phil's mouth does that thing it always does when Phil is trying too hard not to smile. "Just like that?"
"Hey." Clint shrugs. "I'm easy." He swallows the 'sir', knowing Phil will be able to tell he didn't simply forget, that it was deliberate. The deal's not done yet, after all - and if Phil thinks he's going to get Clint back without giving him something really, really nice to make up for the whole 'faking his own death' thing, he'd better think again.
This time, Phil smiles. "Funny. That's not how I remember you at all."
"Sex first, talk some more later?"
"Now that sounds much more familiar."