Phil Coulson is a busy man, but he does notice his surroundings. His office is tastefully furnished and his wall art is well-chosen without being too revealing. He keeps real potted plants to add some life to the dead, filtered air of the 117th story, and his desk is situated so he can see the sun and watch birds dip and wheel between these giant, graceless spires humans have insisted on putting in their airspace. Unfortunately, it also lets him see the window washer every Thursday. He's a miserable old man who shakes his fist whenever they make eye contact, and has carefully shaped the phrase fuck you for Phil's edification.
Phil has gigantic windows and the fabled corner office, and so has to endure the guy's glaring for twice as long as everyone else. Worse yet, he usually ends up coming by right when Phil eats lunch. Which he prefers to do at his desk when he can. It's comforting, and reminds him of doing the same thing as a school kid. This is all shot to hell on Thursdays, when his dour friend will be there. They can't actually hear each other through the glass, but he rolls his eyes and sneers sometimes, reading the titles of Phil's books and judging his lunch.
Still, old habits die hard, and this Thursday he's neatly stacking papers out of the way when he remembers, and grimaces, looking up. And then stares, because this is not his nemesis. At least thirty years younger, he is gorgeous. His arms and his ass are the most perfect Phil has ever seen, and he just watches him for a long moment before being pinned in place by his fierce and hawklike stare. For a moment he looks more pissed than his predecessor, and then suddenly smiles and is transfigured. By the time he's done with both windows, Phil is in love.
It's a funny little thing that becomes the highlight of his week. The next Thursday he finds out that the vision's name is Clint, and supplies his own by the same type of small sign, marker on scrap paper. Clint grins, and gets to work. After that there are more and more messages. 'SMILE, SAD CLOWN' on a bad day, with a ridiculous drawing that makes Phil laugh, and 'GOOD MORNING, STARSHINE' when he's half-dead with sleep deprivation and sucking down black coffee and looking like hell. On a particularly gorgeous day warm enough that Clint can be up here in the wind and the sun in just an undershirt, he pulls what is obviously a joint and not just a home-rolled cigarette out of one pocket and manages to get it lit, fire cupped in his palms. This done, he winks at Phil and holds up, 'I WON'T TELL IF YOU WON'T'.
Phil supposes it's a really bad sign that he finds this and the tattoos on Clint's shoulders and hands charming. He asks about the ink one week, and is sorry when Clint's face clouds. He scribbles for a moment, and holds up, 'PRISON' long enough for Phil to read it before flipping the paper over to add, 'STILL ALLOWED TO PLAY WITH ME?'
Phil smiles sadly, and writes, 'I don't care if you're an ex-con, if that's what you're asking.' He pauses. 'As long as it wasn't anything creepy.'
Clint laughs. 'NO CHILDREN OR ANIMALS WERE HARMED' And there's something so sad in his eyes that Phil walks up to the glass. They're less than three feet apart, with Phil standing on deep green carpet in recycled air, Clint hanging in the wind. Phil is a little shocked at how desperately he wants to touch him, to comfort him.
Are you all right? He mouths it carefully, and Clint nods.
Yeah. Don't sweat it. He gives him a thumbs up to emphasize the point, and both of them get back to work.
'WHATCHA READIN, PHIL?' It's colder today, and he looks like some kind of secret agent, hanging there in a black turtleneck.
Phil carries the book over so Clint can read the title: Watership Down. He cocks his head, clearly wondering what the hell this cryptic phrase has do to with the rabbits on the cover. Phil holds up a finger, asking for a moment, and writes.
'It's an epic about rabbits. Better than it sounds.' He does his best to summarize the plot without writing a novel of his own and without making it sound terrible. Clint grins.
'YOUR WEIRD. I LIKE THAT.'
'"You're", Clint. I have standards.'
'HIGH SCHOOL DROPOUT'
'Fair enough,' he says, 'but it does change the meaning. "Your weird" would be my weirdness as a noun, where as "you're" is a contraction of "you are".' He pauses, then drops the paper and holds up another. 'Sorry.'
Clint grins again, and scribbles on the back of his own sign. 'YOUR WEIRD, I LIKE IT.'
The Thursday after that Natasha wanders in, and the two of them are talking shop as Phil assembles his salad when Natasha trails off right in the middle of something very insightful about last year's third quarter figures and smiles over Phil's shoulder and out the window. She really is a beautiful woman, and his heart sinks as he follows her gaze, because of course Clint is out there and of course he just lights up when she looks at him. His first sign is for her.
'HEY, NAMELESS BEAUTY'
Natasha laughs. "I wouldn't tell him my name when he asked."
"I just gave in, like a pushover." Phil is glad his voice comes out normally and sternly reminds himself of his age and precisely how many years away from high school it is. It doesn't help.
'MY 2 FAVORITE PEOPLE IN THE BUILDING' Clint grins, and then looks worried. 'YOU OK PHIL?'
He nods, and tries to keep his shoulders from sagging. It's so humiliating how much this matters to him. 'Just tired.'
Clint nods, and starts cleaning. Phil has to watch Natasha watch him until she turns and excuses herself, making her way back to her own office. It's two floors below, and Clint will be there soon enough. Phil listlessly crunches a perfect salad that might as well be cardboard, and reads accounts rather than let his eyes wander.
Two floors down, Natasha sighs and steps into her office. Phil may be an idiot, but he's her idiot. After a rather sweet if silly initial pursuit of her, they've settled down into one of the few real friendships she has, and she likes to keep him from suffering when she can. Like now, for instance. She waits for Clint, passing the time with actual productive work and with calling Pepper simply to describe her own underwear and listen to her girlfriend try not to whimper. If it wasn't Thursday and if she didn't have a mission she would see if she could get Pepper to come over and allow herself to be ravished over the desk. As it is, she hangs up before things can get too interesting, and watches as Clint lowers himself into sight. He really is beautiful, in an idiosyncratic kind of way. Ugly-cute, almost, but with a certain gravity that carries him through. He'll look good with Phil.
Right now he looks worried, and Natasha gets up and goes over to the glass, waiting to be noticed. He cocks his head, because while she does communicate with him from time to time, it's generally after he's tapped on the glass or started swinging, annoying and adorable as any kid wanting attention.
"PHIL LIKES YOU AND THINKS YOU LIKE ME. BECAUSE HE IS AN IDIOT. PURSUE HIM WITH MY BLESSING.'
Clint grins from ear to ear and makes a heart with his hands, blowing her a kiss before scrubbing the window with happy energy.
By the next week, Phil is mostly recovered. Natasha and Pepper have taken him out to brunch and allowed him to get scandalously wasted on mimosas, as well as giving him their pep talk. It runs on the theme of Phil being a distinguished and successful older man rather than a balding pencil-pusher. Upon clear reflection he knows that both are true and that's all right, but it's still touching to know that they care. He does not flee his office, and even has something of an appetite, but his heart still jumps when he looks up and catches sight of Clint.
He waves, wondering why Clint looks so thoughtful.
'SO I DON'T KNOW IF SHE WAS FUCKING WITH ME'
What he holds up next is a phone number, and Phil stares for a second before snatching up a pen to copy it down. He writes his own and holds it up, and Clint grins.
It's strange to finally hear his voice, but it's a nice voice. It's a very awkward conversation as it must be, voices without faces when all their other interactions have been the other way around. But Phil can't really say it goes badly, since they agree to meet for dinner. He has what he's pretty sure is a panic attack after hanging up, but by the appointed time has calmed down again. Contrary to popular belief, he does own non-suit clothing, and is wearing it now. Right in line with popular belief, jeans feel a little strange, and he does his best to keep from fidgeting.
There's a decent little sushi bar within walking distance of this bus stop, and Clint is due on the six-thirty. It's late, as it always is, and Clint seems a little nervous as he steps off. He looks brooding in a black leather jacket, and Phil reminds himself not to swoon. He waves feebly instead, and Clint lights up, coming over.
"...Hey." Phil swallows, and tilts his head in the right direction. "Shall we?"
Clint chuckles, taking his arm. "We fuckin' shall."
Three hours later they're tucked into a corner booth, half bombed on Sapporo. Phil is leaning on Clint, one of those strong arms wrapped around his waist. He nuzzles Clint's chest a little, because he's just drunk enough to give in to the unbearable temptation. Clint purrs, and kisses the top of his head.
"God, you're adorable. How in the hell are you single?"
Phil blushes. "I work too much. That and the bald, which I'm told I pull off."
"And by some reports, I'm too uptight."
"I dunno. You're here with a younger blue collar hunk who comes complete with prison history."
He chuckles softly, and looks up at him. "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to."
"Nah, I'm not gonna cocktease on that information. I'm not proud of it, but I could've done worse." He takes the last swig of his current beer. "My brother and I got sick of foster care and went into business for ourselves. Armed robbery. Didn't kill anyone, but they tried me as an adult at sixteen." He shrugs, and seems surprised when Phil hugs him tightly. He returns it, though, and they just sit like that for a while.
Eventually they have to pry themselves loose and let the place close. The buses aren't running, and they're both swaying gently. Phil hails a cab and they slide into the back, then look at each other, unsure of what address they're giving. Phil turns out to be closer, and tries not to reveal how flustered he is to be taking Clint there, even if they do just have a drink and call another cab. Clint seems pretty calm, and just smiles a little and takes Phil's hand, squeezing it gently as they talk about nothing the whole way.
The house is paid for, a tiny thing but in a good spot, with old trees screening it from the neighbors. Clint insists on paying for the cab, and then looks around in delight as he joins Phil inside the fence.
"Awesome." In seconds he's near the top of the tallest one, silhouetted by starlight and streelamps and looking like some kind of wild tree spirit. Phil shivers as Clint laughs, and watches a little anxiously as he makes his way down again, jumping from a lower branch and landing lightly on the balls of his feet. Phil swallows hard, and smiles, leading the way into the house. "Just you, huh?" Clint asks, toeing his boots off on the mat.
"And the cat, yes."
"I've got a roommate, but he's never around." He shrugs off his jacket and hangs it up. He's wearing a black t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off, and Phil had done his best not to stare through most of dinner. "So it works out all right. Hey, kitty." His voice rises and softens a little, and he drops into a crouch as Raincloud comes padding around the corner. She's a tiny little thing, the deep, soft grey of her namesake. She is also wise, and at this point in his life Phil listens to her. She had run and hid from Adam, who had wound up hitting him, and had hissed at Janet, who had turned out to be a pathological liar. Now she mews in welcome, and goes straight up to Clint, purring and letting him pet her.
Phil chuckles. "That's Raincloud. She's the Morale Officer."
"And just cute as hell," Clint coos, gazing into Raincloud's big, orange-gold Halloween moon eyes.
"Yeah," Phil whispers, and strokes Clint's hair on his way to the kitchen. "I think I've had enough alcohol for the evening, but I don't suppose you drink tea..."
"Depends on what kind." He gets up and drifts after Phil, light-footed as the cat. The kitchen is small, but he just eases up behind Phil, arms partially around him. It's comfortable, and he leans back a little as Clint looks over his shoulder to examine the selection.
They end up on the couch, sharing a pot of blueberry tea that turns mauve with milk and watching old Twilight Zone episodes with the sound mostly off. Phil leans on Clint and snuggles in under his arm again, taking his right hand and studying the HAWK lettered across the knuckles.
Clint smiles. "My nickname inside." He shows the other hand, with EYE and a stylized eye on the last finger. "It's not a real four by four, but whatever."
Phil kisses the A before he knows what he's doing, and Clint shivers, watching him. He presses his lips to each of the letters in turn, then rotates Clint's hand to kiss his palm. Each projecting wrist bone. His quick pulse.
"Phil..." Clint sounds breathy and lost, and Phil looks up, suddenly unsure of everything. And then Clint is kissing him on the mouth, soft and slow and intent and breathing no longer matters. Everything sort of goes slack, and he whimpers and lets Clint press him down onto his back, wrapping his arms around his neck and letting Clint settle between his legs, all lithe and hard and unbelievable. He presses his tongue into Phil's mouth and shivers all over when Phil sucks gently, finally pulling away to breathe, pupils blown. "Fuck, Phil..." It sounds like a prayer. He nuzzles Phil's cheek, nibbling his ear as he moans and clutches at the back of Clint's shirt, tipping his head back and crying out softly as Clint bites a slow line down his neck. "Mmm, so buttoned up all the time," he purrs, undoing Phil's buttons.
"N-not so much now," Phil whispers, and Clint grins at him.
"Nope. Not so much now."
On Monday Natasha almost doesn't notice. Almost. And then Phil turns his head just a little too much and she grins from ear to ear. "And just what did you do over the weekend, Mr. Coulson?"
He laughs, clapping a self-conscious hand to his neck. "A gentleman doesn't kiss and tell, you know that."
Lucky for Natasha, Clint is no gentleman, and tells her all about it on Thursday.