The first time his new handler finds him on the roof of the incognito S.H.I.E.L.D. building, Coulson is carrying a cell phone. As he hands it out to Clint, Clint just shakes his head, happy for once that he hasn't screwed up. "I've got mine," he says, tapping at his chest pocket. Not that he has ever left his phone in his locker just so no one can reach him, but today Clint is trying to stay in the good graces of his employers -- it keeps them off balance and discourages them from trusting him completely.
Natasha thinks he's going about it the wrong way if he wants to mess with their heads. Clint is pretty sure she knows that it's really about not cooperating completely because he's never stopped being that rebellious teenager who does the opposite of what he's told just for spite. It only took him half a mission to realize when Fury had figured that out and had told his handler to phrase all orders accordingly. Clint hasn't seen that handler since the end of that mission and he hopes she doesn't still hate him. Or remember his name.
Phil Coulson has been his handler for a couple months and they've been out in the field as a team four times, now. Clint thinks he's okay, but isn't ready to actually tell him that, yet. Right now Coulson just smiles, sort of, holding out the phone.
"They think all phones with a 34 designation have been compromised, so everyone is getting replacements."
It only takes a second for Clint to pull his old one out and exchange it for the phone in Coulson's hand. Clint glances at it, but it looks exactly the same. It's a combination phone and walkie with a detachable earpiece for use in the field. Clint stashes it in his pocket, then waits. He sees Coulson glance towards his knees, where his legs are bent over the edge of the roof, feet swinging in the air thirty stories above the ground. But after giving him a nod, Coulson just turns and walks away.
Clint gives Coulson an extra gold star on his mental chart for that one, then adds a second because of the way Coulson's suit jacket flaps in a sudden gust of wind, revealing one of Clint's newest favorite views. He doesn't think Coulson arranged the gust of wind, so perhaps it isn't fair to credit him a gold star instead of silver or green, but Clint is feeling generous in light of seeing that amazing ass.
He watches until Coulson disappears through the roof access door, then turns back to contemplating the city around him.
The second time Coulson finds him on the roof, he's carrying a tablet in his hand and frowning at it. Clint has to seriously think back to what he's done recently that anyone would bother bitching about. He's come up with five possible items when Coulson stops about two feet away from the parapet and looks up at him.
"My meeting ended early, so I thought we could get this out of the way now. Unless you'd rather wait until three o'clock as scheduled?"
Clint tilts his head, confused. "You came all the way up here to ask me if I want to sign off on the debrief?"
Coulson looks back at him, his expression barely changing but Clint can see that he's feeling almost as confused by Clint's confusion, as Clint is feeling confused by Coulson. "I didn't think you were a stickler for keeping to a schedule, Agent Barton," he says after a slight hesitation.
"No, I just meant, you could have called? Isn't that why we have fancy pagers? I would have come down to your office." Clint points, because he's actually right above the window to Coulson's office -- about nine floors above it. He didn't think it was intentional on his part, but when he'd sat down and starting looking around, he'd realised he recognized the view.
There's a flicker of a grin on Coulson's face. "And risk you coming down the hard way?" He shakes his head. "I needed a break, and some fresh air will do me good." Then, to Clint's surprise, he sits down and props the tablet on his knee.
After a moment, Clint narrows his eyes suspiciously. "Is Agent Thomas lurking in your hallways again, trying to sign you up for the softball team?"
Coulson doesn't react, and says in the blandest tone Clint has ever heard, "I can neither confirm nor deny the activities of Agent Marcus Thomas." Then, a beat later, he glances up at Clint, face still tilted down towards his tablet, and smiles. The angle makes him look more devilish than Clint has ever seen, and Clint thinks that this might be the point at which he has to ask Natasha to start beating him up every day to prevent him from doing something supremely stupid.
More stupid than the stupid thing he's just done, which is to fall in love in the first place.
Natasha laughs at him for nine hours straight.
The third time Coulson finds him on the roof of S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, they've been working together for seven months. There have been numerous missions, both as a team of two and a team of three, all the way up to a team of twenty nine plus robotic helicopter. Coulson has, in fact, found him on many rooftops by now, because whenever Clint's in the field and they have a little downtime, he finds the nearest high point and heads up.
He calls it 'uptime' and Natasha rolls her eyes at him like he's twelve, but that's exactly why Clint does it. Anyhow, he's pretty sure she knows the reason he spends his time as high as he can get, even though he's never told her and she's never said a word out loud to confirm that she knows.
Clint was captured, once, and kept in a tiny cell in a warren of a prison for six months. There were plenty of electric lights to see by, but the room and hallway past his door were so narrow that he'd never once had to focus on anything farther than three feet away. He'd even had to sleep upright or curled into a ball, and when he'd finally been freed he'd gone outside and everything farther than his out-stretched hand had been blurry.
He'd freaked the fuck out, silently, and never told a single soul -- especially not S.H.I.E.L.D. because he's smart enough to know what his assets are and they aren't "has a smart mouth" and "makes his supervisors cry." After a few days of staring at the horizon as much as humanly possible, his eyesight returned to normal.
Ever since, he takes every chance he gets to find a spot where he can see as far away as he can. He stole a wireless keyboard and mouse from the IT supply closet for whenever he has to use a computer, just so he can sit across the room instead of staring at the screen from a foot away. He listens to audiobooks so he won't have to focus on the pages of a book, and he goes up on rooftops, and on top of water towers, and anything else he can find that has a view so he can sit and look around.
The part about sitting on the edge of tall buildings and walking along the parapet as close as he can get to nothing but air, is just because he can. It has nothing to do with his eyesight and everything to do with making his supervisors cry.
Today Coulson has come up to the roof with a small leather bag in his hand. Clint watches him walk over, and cannot believe it when Coulson sits down beside him, hanging his feet over the edge. He sets the bag down beside him and takes out a pair of binoculars.
"I'm not actually looking at naked people," Clint tells him. "Although there is a highrise just over there, you can't see into any of the apartments because the angle of the sun is never right. The building next to it blocks the sun when it would be right."
Coulson turns towards him slowly and raises one eyebrow.
"But I would never look, sir," Clint adds, not even trying to sound sincere. Coulson huffs a laugh and shakes his head, then raises the binoculars and starts to adjust them. Clint watches him for another moment, then he can't help himself. "What are you doing?"
"Confirmation, Agent Barton." He doesn't look over, still fiddling with the width of the eyepieces.
This doesn't actually tell Clint anything. He waits a bit, to see if Coulson will actually explain. Finally the binoculars seem to be satisfactory and Coulson lowers them. He half-turns to Clint, looking as composed as ever. "To verify what you see," he adds, sounding almost like he can't believe Clint needs this spelled out for him.
It takes Clint a moment to figure it out, then he feels his mouth drop. He knows he ought to say something -- whether in protest or code-check to see if Coulson is an alien masquerading as an agent, he has no idea. Because it's bad enough Natasha can read his mind, if Coulson starts reading it as well, he is in so much trouble.
Maybe Natasha told him? But she would never volunteer the information, unless Coulson asked, first. Which he wouldn't do unless he knew there was a reason to be asking. Most people just thought Clint was strange and annoying and left it at that. Or asked Fury for re-assignment detail, then left it at that.
It hardly matters, because clearly Coulson found out why Clint was up here and his reaction had been to find a pair of binoculars and come up to the roof.
Clint turns back to the small park he'd been watching and the old woman who liked to come and sit on a bench to people watch. She talks to herself -- or she has a bluetooth, it's always hard to tell -- and she waves her hands as she carries on her conversations. Clint likes her because she always wears brightly colored and wildly patterned clothes. He can usually pick out the details, although today there's a splotch of something yellow on her left sleeve that he can't quite figure out.
He points her out, asks Coulson if he can tell. Coulson has to cheat and use a higher-res than Clint's eyes ever tested, but confirms that it's a yellow splotch, possibly a flower. Clint thinks about borrowing the binoculars, but knows that somehow Natasha will find out and laugh. Again.
After an hour, Coulson shifts and says, "I have to get back." He stands up, stepping smoothly away from the roof -- never once so much as catching his balance or flinching away from the drop. Clint didn't think it was possible to adore that in a person, but as he looks at Coulson, he realizes that clearly it is.
When his eyes finally travel up to Coulson's face, he finds the other man smiling at him indulgently. "Are you coming in?" Coulson asks, and he sounds like he wants to laugh. When Clint shakes his head, Coulson just nods. He turns to walk back to the door.
When he gets halfway there, Clint calls out. "Coulson."
Coulson stops and glances over his shoulder. Clint has no idea what he'd intended to say, and he doesn't think 'take off your jacket when you walk away from me' will fly. Instead he just forces himself to say, "Thank you."
Coulson smiles at him and gives him a nod, then continues on his way.
Clint watches him go, disappointed when no sudden breezes attack Coulson's suit jacket. When he's gone and the door has snicked shut, Clint turns back to the city below.
The fifth time Coulson find him on a rooftop, it's in Toronto, and half an hour after joining him, Coulson lowers his binoculars and kisses him.
The sixth and seventh times are like that, too.
Natasha still laughs at him.