"I get it," Clint said as soon as the door to Phil's office clicked closed behind him with an ominous sound of finality. He had debated waiting. Really, he had. However, after an hour in the SHIELD range hitting his targets slightly off center he'd decided waiting wasn't an option. His aim was suffering and no one would tolerate that, least of all him. There were many times in his career at SHIELD that Clint had been summoned to Phil's office whether, it was for reprimand over shoddy form filing, being filled in on his latest mission, or just for a quick lunch together on rare days when they were both actually in the building at the same time. What was unusual was that this time Phil had specifically said he wanted to talk to him. Not just given him that look and said, 'Barton, my office.' This was unmapped territory, but Clint was sure he knew what it was about. "I get it, and it's fine."
There was a brief flicker of Phil's tongue as he wet his lips, a slight crease in his forehead in confusion and, no, he wasn't going to do this. Clint was not going to start cataloging every little thing Phil did just because Phil was going to end it, because they were going to go back to Barton and Agent Coulson, because he hadn't been able to match up to what Phil needed. It was surprising it had lasted this long. Everyone else around Clint faded away.
"Well I'm glad you do. What exactly is it that you're getting that I'm not?"
Crossing the room, Clint slumped down into the chair opposite Phil. He shifted position a couple of times, trying to get comfortable, before giving up and looking at Phil who was calmly waiting for a response. One of Phil's hands still rested near the keyboard where he had paused in typing up one mission report or other, a look of expectation gracing his features that always frustrated Clint because Phil made everything seem so simple. Clint could out wait him if needed. Easily. It was in his job description: must be able to out wait even the most stubborn of bastards. Yet, there was no point in prolonging ripping off the Band-aid.
Clint looked away.
"That we're over." There. It was out.
"Now I'm really thinking that I'm missing something."
"Well, talking is never a good thing. You said we needed to talk about something later and normally needing to talk involves someone dying or a break-up. Since you and Natasha are walking around with no apparent major injuries, I can only think that it's the latter. I don't really give a damn if anyone else plans on kicking the bucket.
"So, I'll grab my stuff and move out. Don't worry about it. I won't make a scene, if that's why you were thinking about delaying it until later. Sorry about not waiting, I’m just not a big fan of not having all of the information. Don't really know how to proceed otherwise."
"Do you ever stop talking, Clint?"
Clint at least. Not Barton. Not yet.
"Ahh, you know me, sir," Clint said with what he hoped looked like an unconcerned shrug as he stood. "Am I free to go? I reckon I can get everything cleared out before you finish for the night this way."
"Yeah?" Clint turned back around, he'd made it halfway to the door, eyes fixed to just to the left of Coulson's head.
"Do you want to know the actual reason I wanted to talk to you? Later, at home, because it isn't something I wanted to do here and forewarned because I know you're not a big fan of having things sprung on you?"
Clint shrugged again, but the word home made his chest ache. The last thing he wanted was to give that up, what he had set up with Phil, but if Phil wasn't happy then he'd give it up in a heartbeat. His gaze wavered slightly, briefly taking in the fact that the normally carefree expression on the other man's face when they were alone together was replaced with a wounded one. He hated it. Especially that he was the cause. "That's not why?"
"Contrary to what you believe, you don't actually always hurl yourself towards the right conclusion. No, Clint, it's not why I wanted to talk to you. Although, we should probably talk about why that's the first place your mind goes."
He was pretty certain if he really wanted to, Phil could work out exactly why. In fact, he probably already knew, but just wanted Clint to put it into words for him.
Clint gave in. He watched closely as Coulson leaned down and unlocked one of the drawers in his desk. "Damn. It's the first one, isn't it? Fury wants me dead and is making you do it?" It was only half in jest.
A small chuckle from Phil greeted the observation and Clint felt some of the tension that had been building in his shoulders ease. To laugh in the face of a person he was ordered to kill was hardly Phil Coulson behavior.
"You think the closest thing to hand I could use to kill you with is locked away in my desk, Barton?"
"No, sir." Clint smiled, falling back on familiar patterns. "I reckon you've got a dozen things on your desk alone that could do that job."
"Here." He held out his hand to Clint, something small clenched tightly in his fist.
Clint's eyes darted to Phil's. It didn't appear to be a trick.
He took the couple of steps back to the desk, his hand held out underneath Phil's closed one. When Phil's fingers uncurled, a surprisingly heavy weight dropped onto Clint's palm and he pulled it back for a closer look.
"You wanted to talk to me at home about a new finger tab?" Clint looked up questioningly at Phil who seemed unaccountably nervous. He slipped the loop over the middle finger of his left hand before flexing his fingers to feel the weight of the metal plate and see how the leather moved. "Because you could have just dropped it off at the range or, you know, pretty much any time without making a big deal about it. It's nice though, I mean I didn't really need a new one, but I like it." This time, Phil smiled back when Clint did. "Not breaking up with me then?"
"No. Not at all. Actually, I mean I know it goes on your middle finger, but I was thinking it could double as- We’ve known each other a while, lived together over a year and I don't know about you, but," Phil paused, rubbed his hands over his face and mumbled something to himself that Clint couldn't quite catch before looking up and purposefully locking his gaze with that of Clint's. "It would make me very happy if you were to agree to spend the rest of your life with me and, government permitting, one day become my husband?"
Clint laughed. He was very certain that it was probably one of the last things anyone proposing wanted to hear, but he couldn't help himself. Luckily, Phil looked more amused than put off by it.
"So, I thought you were trying to break up with me, and in actual fact, you were tricking me into marrying you?"
"I'm not tricking you. I'm asking you."
Clint held up his hand which still had the finger tab looped around his finger.
"Correct me if I'm wrong, but normally the ring is given during the proposal and worn after someone says 'yes'?"
"You haven't said 'yes'."
Clint grinned and reached out for Phil's hand connecting awkwardly with the guard in the way, but pulling the other man to his feet anyway.
"I'm wearing it, aren't I?" he pressed a quick kiss to Phil's lips, pulling back just far enough to lean their heads together. "Although," he eased his hand away from Phil's to inspect the tab again, "I have to admit I'm disappointed in the size of the diamond. Can barely see it."
Phil laughed, soft and breathy, a small waft of air brushing against Clint's cheek as he did.
"I suppose I could hunt down a gold star sticker for it."
"Make it silver, and you've got yourself a deal."