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Spies, Tazers, and Other Sources of Insanity (or why Phil, Clint, and Darcy probably shouldn't be allowed to live together)

Chapter Text

Darcy groaned and dropped her head onto her desk beside her barely touched sandwich. She'd spent nearly all of her lunch break searching for a new apartment and still no luck. Why was it so hard to find somewhere to live in New York? With the number of people who lived and worked in the city, it should have been easier.

 

“Something wrong, Miss Lewis?” questioned Agent Phil Coulson suddenly, sending Darcy falling out of her chair with a loud crash.

 

Blinking up at her ninja of a boss, she nodded slowly from where she lay on the floor. Remaining there for a moment sounded like a good idea somehow, at least until her heart stopped pounding like a damn base drum. “Apartment hunting sucks.”

 

Coulson simply raised an eyebrow at her from above, not bothering to comment on her place on the floor. Instead, he leaned against her desk and stared down at her with his usual blank expression. “I was under the impression you had a place to live.”

 

“Yeah, I did, as much of a shit hole as it was,” confirmed Darcy as she propped herself up on her elbows, then shifted to sitting cross-legged on the ground. “But they condemned it this morning, meaning I need to find a new place to live.”

 

Both of Coulson's eyebrows furrowed into what passed for him as a frown. His eyebrows spoke for the rest of his face, she was convinced of this. “That doesn't sound like a safe place for you to be living.”

 

Darcy just shrugged. “I'm pretty sure Widow and Hawkeye have lived in worse places.”

 

“Yes, I'm sure,” confirmed Coulson, brow still furrowed in an unhappy line. “When they're on assignment in foreign countries, not as a semi-permanent place of residence.”

 

“Eh, moot point now.” Standing again, she dropped back into her chair and turned towards the screen. “I'd still take my crappy, condemned apartment over no place to live at all. Apartment hunting in this city is murder.”

 

Brow still furrowed, Coulson straightened and dropped a small pile of papers on her desk. “It is New York City. When you can, please file these reports.”

 

“Right away,” muttered Darcy as she noticed the clock and sighed, clicking out of her search. “Oh, bossman, don't forget your conference call at 1:15.”

 

A faint smirk drew over Coulson's face. “Thank you for the reminder, Miss Lewis.” Turning, he headed back into his office, tossing over his shoulder: “And good luck in your apartment search.”

 

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Two days later, Darcy still hadn't managed to find a replacement apartment. Seriously, everything was pretty much out of her price range and there weren't a lot of options to begin with. Plus, her forced move-out date was in three days.

 

Frustrated, she dropped her head onto her desk and groaned. Great, she was going to be living on the street in two days all because there weren't enough apartments in this place to supply the population. “This. Sucks.”

 

A soft 'clack' echoed from in front of where her head was resting on her desk, drawing her attention and causing her to shift so she could see whatever had hit her desk. Maybe she'd get lucky and whatever it was would explode and eliminate the need for her to find another apartment. Well, not really because, hello, death would suck. Just maybe not as much as apartment hunting.

 

The glint of light off metal narrowed her focus to the small object resting in front of her. A key. It was a key.

 

Lifting her eyes further, she found Coulson standing in front of her desk, looking at her with his usual bland expression. Brows furrowing, she lifted her head completely and refocused on the key. Why had he dropped a key on her desk? Glancing up again, she gave him a completely puzzled look. “That's a key.”

 

“It is,” confirmed Coulson mildly.

 

Blinking, she reached out and carefully picked up the small piece of metal. “Why did you drop a key on my desk?”

 

Coulson held his bland mask in place. “So you could move in. You must move-out in three days and there are no suitable apartments in this city for you.”

 

“So what's this a key for?” pressed Darcy, still completely confused.

 

“I have a spare room,” explained Coulson, face blank. “It would be irresponsible for me to allow you to live in unsafe conditions.”

 

Darcy blinked up at him, surprised. Well, she probably shouldn't have been. Coulson had always been aware of her living situation somehow and showed concern for her through little gestures such as sending an agent to shadow her on the date she'd gone on two weeks ago. That jackass was never going to try and drug someone again.

 

Looking at the key resting in her palm, Darcy let one finger brushed over it slowly. “You don't have to do that. Really, I can figure something out.”

 

Coulson shook his head, setting several folders on her desk. “It's only temporary, Miss Lewis, until something suitable becomes available. I don't allow my people to live in unsafe conditions when I can avoid it.”

 

Nodding slowly, she can feel her cheeks redden a little. She won't admit it (she can take care of herself, dammit!), but it's nice to know someone is watching out for her. “Thanks. I really appreciate this, Agent Coulson.” Using his formal name is the least she can do after this.

 

One of his eyebrow's rose in surprise, eyes a little uneasy. “I think I prefer one of your various nicknames. Disregard anything I've previously said about using formal titles.” Turning towards the doors to his office, he adds as he passes: “And outside of S.H.I.E.L.D, it's Phil.”

 

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Clint grumbled as he came stumbling into Coulson's office, eyes bleary and hair a mess. Not that he expects to look any better, not after a week of sleeping on the couch in the S.H.I.E.L.D break room. That thing needed to be replaced ASAP. Possibly burned so it could never harm anyone again.

 

“Trouble sleeping, Agent Barton?” questioned Phil from where he still appeared focused on his paperwork. He hadn't looked up since Clint came stumbling into his office. “I can arrange for you to see a psychologist again.”

 

“Never again,” groaned Clint as he dropped into a chair. “And the couch in the break room sucks.”

 

“Noted,” stated Coulson as he finally looked up from his work, brow furrowing. “What does the break room sofa have to do with you sleeping poorly?”

 

“Because that's where I've been sleeping for the past week,” muttered Clint, groaning slightly when he rolled his shoulder and it stuck wrong. “My apartment kinda blew up.”

 

Both of Coulson's eyebrows shot up in a clearly confused look. “Things do not 'kind of' explode when you are involved, Agent Barton.”

 

Clint had the mind to look a little abashed as he looked up at the ceiling. “Yeah, exploding arrows and radiators don't mix.”

 

“No, that they don't,” confirmed Phil with a sigh and shake of his head. “Should I assume, then, that you are effectively homeless for the time being?”

 

“Something like that,” admitted Clint. “They kinda kicked me out after the outside wall blew out. Something about illegal explosives and ordinance laws. And repair bills. Really expensive repair bills.”

 

Sighing, Phil turned towards the folder in front of him. “Just see that it's taken care of. Now, I have a few questions about your last report...”

 

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Clint wanted to groan just looking at the break room couch. Sleeping on it again for the sixth night in a row sounded horrendous. And he'd slept in sand dunes before. Still, there weren't any other options available to him until Natasha got back from whatever chaotic situation she was currently dealing with and he had the chance to attempt to sweet-talk her into letting him crash on her couch.

 

Dropping onto the uncomfortable piece of furniture, he tugged the ragged blanket he'd been using the last few nights over his body and closed his eyes. S.H.I.E.L.D was pretty much abandoned at this time of night, so he allowed himself to attempt to relax into some kind of sleep. Which was why the sound of someone walking into the room had him immediately on edge. Still, he kept up the guise of sleep until something small and metal was dropped onto his chest. He nearly bolted upright at that point, reaching for his bow which was tucked under the sofa and out of sight. It was only the calm demeanor of the man standing in front of him that halted him mid-motion.

 

Coulson stood next to the couch, face as impassive as always. Clint's bag was clutched in one of his boss' hands, the other tucked neatly into a pocket on his suit. “Let's go, Agent Barton. Dinner is probably long cold by now.”

 

Clint blinked at his boss, then looked down at the metal object which had tumbled off is chest when he moved. A key rested on the ground, glinting up at him. He blinked, then looked back up at his boss. “Uh, sir?”

 

“I have a spare room,” explained Coulson as he set Clint's bag next to the couch. “It won't do for one of my best agents to suffer from sleep deprivation because their former residence exploded unexpectedly.” He stepped back then, clearly waiting for Clint to get up and follow him.

 

For a moment, the archer looked up at his boss with thinly-veiled confusion. It didn't last though as the thought of sleeping in an actual bed rather than the lumpy couch outweighed any other concerns he had. Without another thought, he picked up the key from the floor and pocketed it. Slipping his bow from under the sofa and picking up his duffel in his free hand, Clint followed Coulson out of the break room without argument. Well, until he completely processed what his boss had said earlier.

 

“What do you mean, 'dinner is probably cold'?”

Chapter Text

“Sir, have you seen Agent Barton?”

 

Natasha's voice caught Phil's attention where he was filling his cup with coffee. Glancing over, he spotted the former Russian assassin standing in the entrance to the break room. He offered her a faint smile, an old habit born from when she first joined S.H.I.E.L.D as a nervous young spy, and turned to face her fully.

 

“Yes, I have. Coffee?” He held up an empty mug to indicate his offer.

 

“No, not now,” replied Natasha, glancing around to ensure the room was empty before crossing the room to lean against the counter beside Phil. Her voice dropped to a near whisper to ensure no one else would hear her. “Coulson, where's Barton? I went to visit him last night and they said his apartment blew up. I was a little...concerned you hadn't contacted me.”

 

“That's because there was no need to,” explained Phil mildly. “He blew out the back wall of his apartment himself. Apparently, one of his exploding arrows ended up on the radiator.”

 

“Of course it did,” groaned Natasha, one hand rising to rub at her eyes. “Where is he now?”

“In the gym,” replied Phil, taking a sip of his coffee. “He's staying in one of my spare rooms until he finds a new place to live.”

 

Her hand dropped from her face, one eyebrow rising in surprise as she stared at Phil. “That was...brave of you.”

 

Phil shrugged. “Miss Lewis was already staying with me. I doubted it would be any more trouble to have him stay with me as well.”

 

“You're starting a very dangerous sort of home for lost boys and girls,” commented Natasha with a touch of a smile. “Then again, S.H.I.E.L.D. is already like that.” Straightening up, she gave Phil an appraising look. “If Clint causes you any trouble, let me know. I'll gladly kick him for you.”

 

“Good to know,” thanked Phil with a nod as he watched the Russian woman exit the room.

 

Nick Fury stepped into the room as soon as Natasha left, shaking his head as the Russian woman passed him at the door. Moving to the coffee machine, he glanced at Phil out of the corner of his eye while pouring himself a cup. “Do I want to know what that was about?”

 

“Agent Romanov was wondering where Agent Barton was,” explained Phil with a shrug, taking a sip of his coffee.

 

Both of Nick's brows furrowed as he eyed Phil. “Isn't she usually able to find him herself?”

 

Phil shrugged a little. “He may have partially blown up his apartment. Again.”

 

The groan from Nick told Phil that the director had somehow missed the memo about that. “I was hoping that was a joke.”

 

“Apparently not,” corrected Phil. “I called his former landlord to confirm. The man was distinctly unhappy. I told Barton to take care of it.”

 

“I see,” sighed Nick. “And where is Agent Barton staying for the time?”

 

Phil casually turned to pour some creamer in his coffee, making sure to block the view from the door. It wasn't that he really needed his coffee sweet, but he did like a little flavor. And it just didn't seem right for anyone save Nick, who knew he liked his coffee to taste like more than burned wood, to see him do it. “With me.”

 

Nick just shook his head and held out a hand for the creamer after confirming no one was around to see. Still, the director turned so his back was to the door though, just in case someone walked by. “I should have guessed. You have a horrible tendency to take in strays.”

 

The corner of Phil's mouth kicked up a little as he stirred his coffee with a stick from the stack beside the coffee maker. “So I've been told.”

 

Holding out his hand for the stick, which Phil passed over, Nick just shook his head. “Just don't let your new roommates drive you crazy. And don't tell me it's just Barton, I know about Lewis' apartment being condemned and that you offered one of your spare rooms to her.”

 

Phil looked a little startled. “Alright, I agree your sources are better than mine. I've said it. But it's only temporary until they find new places to live. They aren't going to be my new roommates.”

 

The look of 'you're shitting me right?' that Nick sent him looked more like it belonged on a field agent than the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. “You owe me $20 bucks. And it's against the rules to lie to your commanding officer.”

 

“I'm not lying,” objected Phil, voice carefully neutral.

 

Nick sighed. “Phil, how long have I known you?”

 

Phil smirked a little, the corner of his mouth kicking up slightly at the question. “A very long time, Nick.”

 

“Exactly,” stated Nick with a touch of his own smirk. “I know you're lying, if not to me than to yourself. You aren't going to kick either of them out and this isn't going to be a 'temporary' solution. What are your criteria for them to move out? And don't say you don't have any because I know you do. It's the mother hen in you.”

 

Sighing, Phil looked down at his coffee. “Miss Lewis has to find a place I deem acceptable for her to live, i.e. safe and not likely to be condemned again. Barton just needs to find a place that will actually lease to him, one that is preferably considered safe for human habitation. Possibly with reinforced metal walls.”

 

“You know that isn't going to happen,” pointed out Nick, smirk still in place. “They're going to be living with you for the foreseeable future.” Taking a sip of his coffee, he hummed slightly in approval. “Much better. On another, could you please tell Miss Lewis to stop telling the other S.H.I.E.L.D agents that Barton blew up his apartment while attempting a random sexual position he found on the internet?”

 

Phil might have almost spit out his coffee, if this weren't somehow completely expected. Instead, he opted to groan. “I'll be certain to pass the message along, though Barton probably encouraged her to begin with.” Pausing, he considered something for a moment before looking over at his friend. “Has anyone actually believed her?”

 

“Every agent she's told,” sighed Nick with a shake of his head. “Alternatively, I am requiring all agents retake the course on lie detection.”

 

“That might be prudent,” agreed Phil, a bit stunned. Then again, it was Barton they were talking about. The man had probably done weirder things.

 

“I'm also going to have Miss Lewis take the course on cover story construction,” continued Nick. “If she does well enough, we can probably put her in charge of that plus damage control. Take some of the work off your shoulders. Apparently she's a competent liar.”

 

“It would be nice,” admitted Phil. “Would you like me to start training her now or later?”

 

“Might as well start now,” replied Fury as he checked his watch before heading for the door. “I have a meeting with the Council in ten. Talk with Miss Lewis about starting rumors about other agents and make sure Barton doesn't get killed by Romanov. The last thing we need is him out of commission because Romanov decided her boyfriend was an idiot.”

 

“Yes sir,” agreed Phil, pouring another cup of coffee for Darcy and leaving the room. If he was going to start introducing her to the art of cover stories, he was doing it while she was fully caffeinated. It was safer for everyone that way.

 

Chapter Text

Darcy grinned as she bounced into the apartment she shared with Phil and Clint, causing both men to look up as she entered. Clint shot her a curious look, one eyebrow arching at her clear excitement. Phil just gave her his usual bland expression before refocusing on his work, though both his roommates knew he was just as curious as the archer sitting beside him.

 

What began as a temporary solution to a tricky situation for both Clint and Darcy had become a permanent one. Phil didn't seem to care one way or another and had even given up any pretense of attempting to help either of his employees find new living arrangements. For Darcy, there was simply no place safe. For Clint, it's hard to find a place which will rent to someone who's formerly blown up their apartment. Twice. (Though Clint swears the first time wasn't his fault.) Either way, Phil wasn't inclined to let them move out without a safe place to stay. Plus, he'd found he liked the company, though he'd never admit it. Not that he had to; they both knew.

 

“What's go you so excited, Bunny?” asked Clint curiously, turning so his knees were on the couch and his arms could rest on the back frame. His head cocked slightly to the side, making him resemble a curious puppy.

 

Humming slightly, Darcy moved into the kitchen to pour herself a cup of coffee from the near-perpetually full pot. “Why should I tell you, Birdy?”

 

“'Cause you're flouncing around like your nick-name's sake,” replied Clint with a grin. “Which means something happened. So, spill. Who do Phil and I need to either help or threaten?”

 

Darcy broke into giggles at that point, shaking her head as she moved back into the living room to drop sideways into an arm chair. “I don't think Steve would be particularly impressed by anything you said.”

 

Clint perked up immediately, eyes going wide. “Steve as in Captain freakin' America Steve? My teammate, Steve?”

 

“Bingo,” confirmed Darcy, grin still in place as she took a sip of coffee.

 

The archer practically leaned forward like a giddy girl waiting for gossip. Both his roommates had discovered he had a tendency to over-act at times, or just plain act silly because he could. “Spill, now.”

 

“How the hell does Natasha put up with you?” asked Darcy with a laugh.

 

“She uses knives and creative threats which stopped working for the most part about five years ago,” explained Phil without looking up from the papers in his lap. “It was amusing the first time he didn't heed her warning.”

 

“Amusing for you,” muttered Clint, wincing at some memory of pain. His focus came back on Darcy a few seconds later though and he was back to rapt attention. “So, what happened?”

 

“I swear you're a girl,” stated Darcy firmly. Still, she explained none the less. “Steve asked me out. We're going to dinner then out dancing on Friday.”

 

Clint's grin was huge. “Score one for you, Darce. Almost half the women at S.H.I.E.L.D. want to land Steve.”

 

“Don't scare her, Clint,” chided Phil.

 

Darcy shuttered. “Yeah, seriously dude. I don't want to think about half the women in a major spy organization gunning for me just 'cause I got asked out.”

 

“You can take most of them,” assured Clint with a shrug. “Nat would back you up, too. So would Phil and I for that matter.”

 

“Leave me out of this,” commanded Phil. His voice never changed from the calm tone he usually used, but they could both hear the lack of force in the order.

 

Clint shrugged and lightly patted Phil's shoulder as he stood. “Sorry boss, you're involved.” Striding to the kitchen, the archer began digging through the cabinets. “Any requests for dinner?”

 

“Fried rice,” replied Darcy immediately, even as she snuggled further into the chair.

 

“Not unless you make the rice,” insisted Phil with a shake of his head. “I don't want to be cleaning it off the ceiling again.”

 

“Hey! It's not my fault the thing exploded!” defended Clint with a pout.

 

Darcy cocked an eyebrow at Clint in disbelief. “Dude, you covered the hole in the lid. With three wet towels. Of course the rice cooker exploded. You're just lucky the lid and rice came out the top.”

 

“They wouldn't have been wet if the sink head hadn't come off,” insisted Clint. “Besides, I know how to do it now.”

 

Phil shook his head firmly. “No.”

 

“You know Phil, third time IS the charm,” pointed out Darcy, though even she looked skeptical.

 

The look Phil sent her said that if things went bad, she was cleaning it up this time. “Fine.”

 

“Awesome!” exclaimed Clint happily before he started to dig through the cupboards where they kept the various appliances.

 

Suffice to say, dinner did not go smoothly.

 

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“Has anyone seen my heels?” asked Darcy as she strode into the room wrapped in a short black dress with a pair of chopsticks in one hand and a hair tie in the other.

 

Clint looked up from where he was cleaning his bow and immediately motioned her over onto the coffee table. “Which ones?”

 

“The black strappy ones,” replied Darcy as she sat on the coffee table with her back to Clint, handing over the chopsticks and hair tie.

 

Beside Clint, Phil shot her a disapproving look but said nothing. He was used to this by now. As long as the table didn't break, he'd decided it wasn't worth caring about. “I put them in your room. The entry way isn't where they go.”

 

“Dammit,” groaned Darcy. “Why didn't you just put them in the hall closet?”

 

“Because the hall closet isn't your own personal shoe closet,” replied Clint with a smirk as he quickly gathered her hair up into a perfect bun and slipped the chopsticks into it.

 

Darcy snorted. “Please, I don't have enough shoes for something like that. I think I MIGHT have three pairs. Might.” When Clint tapped her shoulder, she reached back to tentatively touch his work before turning to face him. “Clint, I think that undercover mission as a hair and makeup artist was the most useful mission you ever went on.”

 

Clint grinned in return. “Except now 'Tasha's mad because I can do hair better than her.”

 

“She is superior at hand-to-hand combat than you, though,” reminded Phil with a smirk.

 

“Way to rub it in, boss,” grumbled Clint petulantly.

 

Darcy just shook her head and stood back up. “So, shoes?”

 

“Are in your bedroom,” repeated Phil. “And don't ask where. I threw them blindly inside.”

 

“Great,” groaned Darcy before she started towards the hall. “If Steve shows up, just let him in. And don't let Phil go all Stephen King on the man.”

 

Clint snickered slightly. “I don't think we have enough rope for that.”

 

“Actually, we do,” corrected Phil with a slight smirk. “However, I'm saving that for a specific purpose.”

 

“Kinky,” leered Clint slightly.

 

Phil shrugged a little, standing and setting his papers aside. “It depends on what Agent Romanov feels like that night.”

 

Clint actually choked there, even as Darcy's laughter carried out of the hallway.

 

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Steve knocked nervously at the door to Darcy's apartment. Butterflies fluttered in his stomach and his palms were slightly sweaty with nerves. He hadn't felt like this since he asked Peggy out during the war. Not that anyone would really blame him; Darcy is the first person he's pursued romantically since he woke up. He's had offers, but none of them clicked quite the way Darcy does in his mind.

 

His nerves heightened as the door flew open, only to be replaced with embarrassment as he found himself face to face with Clint Barton. Apparently, he'd knocked on the wrong door. He hadn't known Clint lived in the same building as Darcy. Glancing at the door number, he noted it was the same one that Darcy had written down for him. I must have the wrong building.

 

“Hey Steve, come on it,” invited Clint as he stepped back, voice drawing Steve back to the present with a start. “Darcy'll be out soon, she just has to find her shoes. Acutally,” he paused consider something, “it might be a while. Her room's a mess.”

 

“Clint, stop trying to embarrass Darcy,” scolded a voice that sounded distinctly like that of Phil Coulson from the other room.

 

Clint smirked slightly and rolled his eyes, calling back inside to whoever had spoken before. “But Phil, it's so much fun!”

 

“Jackass!” shouted a female voice from somewhere else in the apartment. One that Steve recognized as belonging to Darcy.

 

“You know and love it!” returned Clint, even as he motioned Steve inside and gestured towards a large black couch.

 

Steve tentatively stepped inside, moving to sit where Clint had indicated. As soon as he was inside, the archer shut the door and followed behind Steve until they reached the couch. Steve sat down slowly, eyes tracing around the room and noting the eclectic decorating style. There were a few random nick-knacks scattered around that looked like Darcy's doing, along with a fern in a corner that he guessed belonged to Agent Coulson or had at least been a gift from the man. A few paintings hung on the walls and the furniture looked as if weapons could be concealed under the over-hangs. It wasn't really what he'd expected Darcy's apartment to look like, that's for sure.

 

Dropping his voice back to a normal level, Clint offered Steve a grin. “Like I said, she'll be out soon. Just needs to find her shoes.”

 

Phil wondered into the room at that moment with three steaming cups in hand. He passed one to Clint before holding another out to Steve while sipping from the third. Gratefully, Steve took the cup. A sip told him it was coffee. The good kind that Darcy liked to drink.

 

“Thank you,” thanked Steve as he glanced at the two men uncertainly, then down the hallway. “Um, so, do you all live together or...”

 

“We live together,” confirmed Clint with a grin. “Phil was gracious enough to let Darce and I crash here when we lost our apartments for various reasons-”

 

“Mine was condemned and Clint blew the back wall of his out with explosives,” cut in Darcy as she strode into the room on a pair of heels that looked like they could double as weapons. Steve wondered if she went shopping with Natasha or Pepper. Smirking directly at Clint, she added: “He was trying to remodel.”

 

“Hey I just wanted a bigger window,” returned Clint with a fake pout. It disappeared less than a second later as the archer continued with his earlier explanation. “Anyway, Phil was nice enough to let us crash here and it just sort of became permanent.”

 

“I told Darcy to remain here until she found a home I deemed safe,” corrected Phil, a touch of a smile pulling at the corner of his lips. “You settled in like a lost puppy and I haven't been able to get you to leave since.”

 

Clint nodded knowingly, face serious. “Well, S.H.I.E.L.D. is the home of lost puppies. I mean, you guys took Natasha and I in after all.”

 

Darcy just shook her head and took Steve's elbow, tugging him up. “And with that, we're gone. Namely because I know where this is heading and I'd rather NOT see Steve's brain blown out tonight.” Clint bit his lip at her comment, even as Darcy groaned. “Not THAT way, Birdy. Geez, your mind is dirtier than mine.”

 

“You know it,” confirmed Clint, dirty grin in place. “That's what happens when you spend time with people who detail their adventitious sex lives lives to you.”

 

“Noted,” grumbled Darcy, grabbing her jacket from the closet. She slid it on while looking at Clint and Phil. “I'll be home later. Don't wait up.”

 

Just as they were stepping out the door, however, Phil called out to them both. “Captain Rogers, please have Darcy home by 11. She has a meeting tomorrow morning at 9 and I don't relish the idea of dealing with a cranky assistant.”

 

“I'll be home early, Dad,” shot back Darcy with a sarcastic roll of her eyes before she pulled a gaping Steve out the door.

 

As soon as it was shut, Clint broke down laughing. “Oh god, did you see Steve's face when she called you 'Dad'?”

 

Phil nodded, humming a little and allowing a smirk to coil over his features. “I think we should have a little talk with Captain Rogers. After all, if he is going to date my daughter, then I have every right to make it very clear what will happen if he hurts her.”

 

“Please say I can be there!” pleaded Clint hopefully, eyes glinting with mischief. “It'll be classic!”

 

“If you promise to be good,” confirmed Phil.

 

Clint practically cheered. “I call older brother role!”

 

Chapter Text

Steve has a TALK with Phil and Clint

 

 

“Hey Steve,” greeted Clint, tray in hand as he stopped in front of the table were Steve was sitting. “Mind if we sit here?”

 

Steve looked up, gaze moving between Clint and Phil, who was standing beside him. It wasn't necessarily strange to see the two together, though usually Natasha was hanging around as well. None the less, he didn't see the harm in it. They were his friends after all. “Go ahead.”

 

“Thanks,” thanked Clint, sliding in across from Steve. Phil slid in beside him. “So how are things going?”

 

“Fine,” replied Steve wearily, eyes still bouncing between Clint and Phil. Clint making small-talk wasn't really strange, but him being polite was. Plus, there was something in his voice that was definitely making Steve nervous. It was a forced casual tone, one that suggested Steve was possibly in trouble. “How have you been?”

 

Clint nodded casually. “Good, things are good. Really good.” Okay, something was definitely going on. Steve knew it and knew if it involved both Clint and Phil, it probably wasn't good. “We actually wanted to talk with you about that, how good things have been.”

 

Steve's fork stopped halfway to his mouth, the bite of potatoes hanging in mid air. “How good things have been?”

 

“With Darcy,” replied Phil, stepping easily into the conversation. Casually, he stabbed a bite of his salad. “She seems very happy and we just wanted to know what your intentions were towards her. To keep her happy.”

 

Clint smirked, taking a bite of his own lunch, something that looked Russian and Steve was willing to bet had been made by Natasha. “Can't let our roommate just go running off with a guy without checking in with him. Who knows what he wants, and we'd hate to have to console a heart-broken Darcy. And it would really be a shame to turn my bow on a friend.”

 

Phil groaned, rubbing his forehead and glaring at Clint a little. “Somehow, I doubt Captain Rogers is merely interested in sex, Clint. Also, you aren't allowed to shoot Captain Rogers. No matter what he does to Darcy. At least,” Phil paused, leveling his gaze at Steve, “not intentionally.”

 

Steve felt himself blushing to his roots, even as his stomach dropped out a little. Just the thought of hurting her made him sick. “N-no, of course not. Never. I- I'm truly interested in her. I swear. She's- she's a swell girl. Really, really swell.”

 

His mind trailed off a little, going through all the different things he appreciated about Darcy. Beyond her patience with his discomfort with modern technology and lack of knowledge on the subject. She'd been helping to integrate him into the modern world for months on her own time. It had given him a chance to know her better; well enough that he finally got up the nerve to ask her out. He might about almost 90 based on years, but he still felt like a teenager whenever it came to asking out a pretty girl.

 

“She's beautiful and patient and full of life,” praised Steve quietly, his eyes focusing on his food because he was still embarrassed by how easily he blushed. “When I'm frustrated, she always manages to make a joke to break it. And when I get nostalgic, she watches old movies and listens to 40's music with me.” Lifting his eyes back to the two men sitting across form him, he shrugged. “I want to be with her, because she means the world to me.”

 

Phil nodded slowly, taking another bite of his food. “Well then, I suppose all I can do is tell you that you're welcome in our home whenever you'd like. And don't worry; with as often as Natasha is over, it's not an intrusion. Just please, do us a favor and make sure you're dressed if you decide to wonder around the apartment.”

 

“Thank you, Agent Coulson,” thanked Steve, his blush back in full (he was entirely certain that he didn't want to know what the last comment meant, or what had happened to generate that comment). He wasn't sure why, but somehow knowing that Coulson and Clint didn't oppose his relationship with Darcy made him happy. Well, that and knowing the two of them were willing to keep Darcy safe.

 

“No problem, Captain,” assured Phil as his phone beeped. Glancing at the screen, he sighed and resealed his lunch. “Apparently I'm needed down in the gym. It appears one of the recruits may have gotten into some trouble with Agent Romanov.”

 

“I'm not cleaning up the blood,” stated Clint firmly. “Let the dumbass who ticked 'Tasha off do it.”

 

Steve's brow furrowed unhappily. “Aren't you worried about Miss Romanov? I thought she was your girl.”

 

Clint glanced frantically around the room for a moment before dropping his voice. “Never let 'Tasha hear you say that. She'll kick my ass and then yours. And no, I'm not worried about her. She can damn well take care of herself. Plus, it's better to just stay out of her way when she's angry unless you feel like becoming a human pincushion.”

 

“Regardless, I need to go handle this,” cut in Phil easily. “Thank you for speaking with us, Captain.” Grabbing his lunch, Phil turned away, only to turn back again a second later. “Oh, and if you hurt Darcy? They will never find your body.” Smiling, the taser-wielding ninja super-spy turned back towards the cafeteria exit and disappeared from sight.

 

Steve just blinked after Phil in shock. He definitely hadn't expected that. “Um...”

 

“Relax,” assured Clint with a grin. “Phil won't hurt you unless you really screw up. And if you do, well, good ask the archives for the video surveillance tapes from the New Mexico gas station.”

 

“New Mexico gas station?” repeated Steve, still a bit shocked.

 

Clint nodded, digging into his food. Apparently, he didn't care that talking with his mouth full was rude. “Yeah. He took out a pair of armed robbers with a bag of flour. Earned him permanent bad-ass status. We show it to the newbies to freak them out.”

 

He must be hearing things. Seriously, he must be. “A bag of flour?”

 

“Yep,” confirmed Clint cheerfully. “Phil's scary like that. Anything in his reach is a weapon.”

 

“Right,” muttered Steve, finally refocusing on the archer sitting across from him. “Remind me never to anger Agent Coulson. His wrath is something I'll gladly avoid.”

Chapter Text

Phil wasn't completely sure what to make of the situation in front of him. Really, he wasn't sure he wanted to know, but that's a completely different matter entirely. Besides, living with Darcy and Clint meant he'd faced things he didn't want to know more times than he cared to consider.

 

“Darcy?” called Phil wearily, eyes still locked on the sight in front of him.

 

The sound of Darcy stumbling out of the back hallway caught his attention, though he didn't turn towards her. “Yeah, Phil? What's up?”

 

“Has Clint been home today?” questioned Phil, finally turning from the sight in front of him to Darcy, who looked like she'd probably been napping when he called for her.

 

Darcy nodded with a yawn, stretching her arms above her head. “Yeah, he was here earlier. Said something about going to the store and chocolate. I told him he'd damn well better bring me some if he didn't want to face a painful fate that would make anything Natasha could do look like the work of a child. Why? What's going on? Did he break something again?”

 

“Possibly,” sighed Phil as he gestured towards the kitchen. Specifically, to the kitchen ceiling. “Do you want to explain why there are cookies on the ceiling?”

 

“I wish I could,” replied Darcy as she stared at the sight. “Looks like it was fun.”

 

Phil rubbed the bridge of his nose, sighing heavily. “Do you at least know when Clint left?”

 

“Not a clue,” muttered Darcy as she headed for the island. Without much thought, she jumped on the counter and reached up to poke at one of the ceiling cookies. “You know, if you could bake them like this, it could be a new thing.”

 

“We aren't starting a cookie business out of my kitchen,” objected Phil. “And no, I don't care how much fun it could be.”

 

Darcy just shrugged a little and managed to jostle one of the cookies off the ceiling. “Huh, that's weird. Birdy's usually the one who can bake. I'm the one who's most likely to make the oven go 'boom'.”

 

Phil felt the muscle over his right eye tick slightly. “Please tell me the oven is still intact.”

 

“It is,” assured Darcy as she turned the cookie over in her hand. “What I can't figure out is how Clint got the cookies to stick up here. They're completely baked.”

 

“That's because I used a blow torch on them,” explained Clint as he walked into the room with an armful of groceries. “There was an incident with the mixer.”

 

“Of course there was,” sighed Darcy as she turned to look down at him from her place on top of the counter. “Where is the mixer anyway?”

 

Clint shrugged a little, hands quickly busying themselves with the bag of groceries. “It might have blown up a little.”

 

“Dude, we've said it before: with you there's no such thing as 'blown up a little',” objected Darcy. “That's like using the words 'it's only potentially deadly' in conjunction with anything Tony builds.”

 

“I'm pretty sure that's 'there's only a very minor chance it'll blow up when I start it',” corrected Clint. “And I'm no where near that bad.”

 

“Clint,” broke in Phil, deciding to cut off this arguing before he forgot his point. “What happened to the mixer?”

 

Clint shifted a little guiltily. “Well, it might have been a little too slow so I might have tried to boost it and maybe accidentally used a little too much fast-rising yeast...but it's completely fixable! Tony said he'd have it back in a day.”

 

“Yeah, with a random robotic appendage on it,” groaned Darcy. “Dude, you should have given it to me. I'm the one who helped fix most of Jane's equipment and worked in a repair shop over the summer.”

 

“I thought that was a mechanics shop,” argued Clint.

 

Darcy shrugged. “I did that, too. But there was a repair shop before the mechanic would take me on for the summers.”

 

“Good to know,” replied Clint easily. “In the mean time, on the high off-chance that Tony completely blows up the mixer, I replaced it.” He lifted a box from one of the bags, revealing a newer model mixer that looked far more advanced than their previous one. “See? New mixer.”

 

Phil felt the twitch above his eye get worse. “Clint, why did you buy a hot pink mixer?”

 

“It was the only one they had at the store,” replied Clint with a shrug. “It's just a color.”

 

Darcy rolled her eyes. “That's like saying your collection of purple boxers would be just as valid if they were blue instead.”

 

“Hey, you don't wear a mixer,” argued Clint. “It's not like clothing.”

 

“Oh my god, you are such a girl,” laughed Darcy, dropping to sit on the counter. “Are you sure you're a guy? 'Cause I could totally see 'Tasha swinging either way. Especially after the last time we hit a bar with Jane and Pepper.”

 

“Yeah, I'm sure,” assured Clint with an eyeroll. “I can prove it, if you'd like.”

 

“Thanks, but I'd rather not have Natasha stab me in my sleep,” snarked Darcy as she poked the new mixer. “Huh, this looks better than the last one.”

 

Clint smirked and popped open the box, lifting the device free. “That's because it is. This puppy's top of the line.”

 

“I repeat, girl,” insisted Darcy, reaching out to poke the mixing arm. “So this thing can do more than our old one?”

 

“A lot more and a lot faster,” confirmed Clint with a smirk, rubbing his hands together. “I can't wait to try this sucker out.”

 

Phil sighed, turning to leave the kitchen. “I'm not responsible for clean up or hospital runs.”

 

“Don't worry, I'll monitor it,” called Darcy, focus already on Clint, who was already moving around the kitchen. “So dude, have you ever tried baking cookies upside down?”

Chapter Text

Phil sighed as he walked into the kitchen, barely glancing at the room's other occupant. “Should I bother asking why you're naked in my kitchen?”

 

Natasha glanced up from the two cups of coffee she was working on briefly, before shrugging and returning her focus to her task. “Do you really need to ask?”

 

“I'm going to start limiting how long Barton is allowed out of the country without you if this keeps happening,” threatened Phil as he headed for the coffee pot. Once at the device, he poured himself a cup while ignoring the naked spy standing directly behind him.

 

“I wouldn't complain,” stated Natasha with a shrug just as Darcy came stumbling into the room.

 

Blinking blearily, she started in the direction of the coffee maker. “Hey 'Tasha.”

 

“Good morning Darcy,” greeted Natasha in return. “How was your night?”

 

“Fine once I put in ear plugs,” replied Darcy with a shrug. “FYI, you're naked.”

 

“I'm aware,” assured Natasha. Her eyes slid to Phil, who still wasn't facing her. “Phil is too. Apparently, it makes him uneasy.”

 

Darcy's brow furrowed slightly as she poured a cup of coffee. “Why? Clint walks around the apartment naked. Not like it's a big deal.”

 

“Maybe you should start doing it too,” broke in Clint from the doorway where he was leaning, watching the whole scene unfold. He'd pulled on a pair of sweat pants, knowing that Phil really wasn't comfortable with anyone being naked in the public areas of the apartment. Darcy bet that Natasha walked around like that just to make Phil uneasy. Clint wasn't inclined to disagree.

 

“Nah, poor Steve'd have an aneurysm if I did,” dismissed Darcy. “And I like Steve, which means I want to keep him alive for the time being.”

 

“Besides, if she really wanted to give the good captain a heart attack, all she'd have to do is wait in his bed naked one night,” pointed out Natasha with a smirk. “It would be more effective.”

 

“But less fun for us,” countered Clint with a leer.

 

“Please, as if you could handle me naked,” scoffed Darcy, the caffeine successfully bringing her usual teasing snark to life. “Plus, if Tasha and I ended up in the kitchen naked at the same time, it'd be a disaster.”

 

“Like two girls wearing the same shirt to school,” agreed Natasha with a sage nod, even though everyone in the room knew she'd never been to a school where that was a concern. “Complete social taboo.”

 

Clint's eyes practically lit up at that point. “But then you two could wrestle to decide who had to change!”

 

The look Natasha and Darcy exchanged said they thought Clint was crazy.

 

“I'm pretty sure your brain would explode if you saw that, Birdy,” replied Darcy with a roll of her eyes.

 

Natasha nodded in agreement, a smirk pulling at the corner of her lips. “He wouldn't survive. Too bad. We could have kept those photos if we didn't have to worry about killing him.”

 

Darcy hummed slightly, disappointment coloring her tone. “I know. Those were hot.”

 

“Photos?” asked Clint, eyes going wide like a sugar high child in a toy store. “What photos?”

“From girls night,” replied Natasha easily.

 

“The night we went to that club,” added Darcy. “The one where Natasha left you tied to the bed so you couldn't follow us.”

 

“I remember,” muttered Clint unhappily. “And what were these pictures of, exactly?”

 

Natasha's smirk shifted to a full on smile, expression shifting from neutral to suggestive. “Wouldn't you like to know?”

 

Clint's eyes somehow got bigger. “Please, please tell me they involved the two of you participating in some adult fun.”

 

“Guess you'll never know, will you?” teased Darcy as she pushed away from the counter and headed for her room with coffee in hand, clapping Clint on the shoulder as she left the room with a bit more of a sway to her step than normal.

 

The look on Clint's face was somewhere between lust and awe, his imagination clearly going though every scenario he could come up with involving the two women. “Tasha, please tell me you still have the pictures.”

 

“No,” replied Natasha with a shrug. “As Darcy said, we had to delete them.”

 

“But whyyyyy?” whined Clint with a pout.

 

“Because the third woman in those photos didn't want to risk them getting out,” explained Natasha as she, too, grabbed her coffee and headed towards the bedrooms.

 

“Third...woman....,” whispered Clint, wide eyes staring after his partner in awe. “Who...?”

 

“I believe that would be Pepper,” supplied Phil. With practiced ease, he snapped the paper on the counter open, silently grateful there were no more naked women in his kitchen. The only naked woman he wanted to see outside of work was his girlfriend.

 

“Pepper...” whispered Clint, swaying slightly. For a moment, Phil was a little concerned the archer might faint. Then Clint shook his head hard once, muttered something that sounded like 'oh god, please don't let those photos be gone' and took off towards his bedroom. “'Tasha! 'Tasha wait! Please say you have duplicates! Please!”

 

Shaking his head, Phil looked back to his paper just as his cellphone began ringing. Checking the ID, he smiled slightly and flipped open the phone. “Just the woman I was hoping to hear from.”

 

“Good morning to you too, Phil,” answered a soft female voice. “So what was it this time?”

 

Phil chuckled slightly. “Clint's girlfriend was just walking around naked again. And apparently the last time she was out with her friends, there were some photos taken.”

 

“Those girl's nights can get pretty racy,” teased the woman on the other end. “The photo's were deleted, I'll take it?”

 

“So Natasha says,” confirmed Phil.

 

“You don't believe her,” surmised the woman.

 

Phil shrugged. “You've never met her.”

 

“Well, maybe I'll get the chance,” suggested the woman. “Assuming you're willing to meet me while I'm in town, that is.”

 

“You're coming into town?” repeated Phil, surprise and joy in his voice.

 

“In three weeks,” confirmed the woman, a smile in her voice. “I'll be there for four months. A friend of mine who teaches at Julliard is going on medical leave for pregnancy. She wants me to step in for her.”

 

“So, you'll be living in town temporarily?” asked Phil, mind already trying to figure out what the chances of his apartment exploding were if she stayed with him.

 

The woman laughed softly, voice gentle. “Relax Phil, I'm staying with my friend. That way, I'm not crashing into the middle of your chaotic life. Or home.”

 

Phil chuckled slightly. “I think having a touch of stability could be a blessing.”

 

“You wouldn't say that after three nights of hearing the cello at 2 am,” assured the woman. “Besides, you have your pseudo-children to keep you busy.”

 

The sound of crashing followed by a shout from Darcy drew Phil's attention towards the hallway. Just as a very naked Clint went running by. “Sadly, that's perhaps the most accurate descriptor of my roommates.”

 

“Clint running naked through the hall again?” asked the woman with a chuckle. “I heard what I think is Darcy's voice shouting.”

 

“You're observation skills are uncanny,” muttered Phil with a sigh. “When are you getting in again?”

 

“My flight lands at 3:00 pm on January 1st,” informed the woman. “I'm flying into JFK. Flight 3045, Virgin Air.”

 

“I'll meet you at the airport,” offered Phil, watching as Darcy ran by with her taser in hand. Mentally, he tried to determine what the chances were he'd need to call an ambulance.

 

The woman chuckled softly. “Will you be able to get away for a night?”

 

“I'll leave Natasha and Steve to babysit,” replied Phil with a sigh. “And pray my apartment doesn't burn down.”

 

“If it does, I'll help you find a new one,” assured the woman.

 

A crash and yelp told Phil that someone (likely Clint) had crashed into one of the doors, likely the bathroom one. “You're a saint.”

 

“You're the only one that thinks that,” chuckled the woman. “Go break up the fight, if Natasha hasn't already. I'll see you in three weeks, and hopeful we'll talk tonight.”

 

“If I'm not hiding bodies,” agreed Phil. “At this point, you never know.”

 

“True,” agreed the woman. “Now go. I'll see you soon.”

 

“Have a good day, Alex,” sighed Phil. “I'll pick you up in three weeks. If I'm not in jail, that is.”

 

“I look forward to it, Phil,” laughed the woman. “Now go. Goodbye.”

 

A click and beep followed her words as the call disconnected, leaving Phil without his primary source of sanity. Looking back towards the hall, he debated about interfering for a moment before picking back up his paper. He wasn't going to get involved. The woman of his dreams was flying into town in three weeks and he wasn't going to be in jail when she got there. No matter how likely it was he could hide the bodies.

Chapter Text

Phil glanced at his watch as he stood at Gate 28, anxious. Alex's plane was almost 45 minutes late, having been delayed due to a storm. But it had landed almost 10 minutes ago and now all he had to do was wait for them to deplane. Que his anxiety.

 

Yes, Phil Coulson, bad-ass ninja agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. and roommate of two individuals who are probably closet pyro's, is nervous about meeting a woman. Almost more nervous then when Fury told him he would get to meet Captain America. Almost.

 

Then again, Alex isn't just any woman either. She's first chair at the Seattle symphony and a former ADA. She could probably scare anyone into submission with just a look based on what he'd seen. Which, as far as he's concerned, is part of her charm.

 

As passengers start flooding off the plane, Phil began to scan the faces for any sign of Alex. It wasn't hard to spot her when she emerged. Her blond hair and sharp, black-rimmed glasses helped make her stand out from everyone else. Or maybe he was just so enchanted that everyone else faded away. Either one was possible.

 

Her eyes lit up as they landed on him, a smile breaking across her face. Without a word, she cut through the crowd and headed straight for him. Catching sight of her clothing, Phil felt his cheeks turn a little red even as he stood up straighter. Her jeans were the fitted kind, well cut and sleek. Normal for her, as were the practical but dangerous looking heels. However, her shirt was a very different story. For one thing, it was his. Namely, it was one of his old Captain America tee shirts that stopped fitting exactly right n high school, when he started to bulk up a bit in anticipation of entering the military. The blue and red shield was faded, but still clearly visible; and on Alex it made him want to do things that would definitely get them both arrested in public, something he was trying to avoid. Public indecency charges were Clint's thing, not his.

 

“Phil,” greeted Alex, smiling brightly at the man before her, setting her laptop bag on the ground.

 

Phil didn't pause as he pulled Alex into a hug, wrapping his arms around her waist and back. “Alex, it's been too long.”

 

She chuckled a little against his shoulder, pressing her face into the crook of his neck. “You're telling me.”

 

He took a moment to hold her, just enjoying her presence. It really had been too long since they'd last seen each other in person (nearly six months). Finally stepping back a bit, he kept one arm wrapped around her waist to maintain contact and scooped up her laptop bag before she could do the same. “How was the flight?”

 

“Bumpy and long,” sighed Alex, reaching for her bag. “I can carry that myself, Phil.”

 

Shrugging, he began to lead her towards the baggage carrousel. “I know.”

 

“And you aren't going to let me,” concluded Alex. “Any particular reason?”

 

“Not really,” replied Phil, smile tugging at the corner of his lips.

 

She just shook her head. “You're impossible sometimes.”

 

“Or I just want to take care of you,” reasoned Phil.

 

Alex scoffed slightly. “In your line of work, I'm pretty sure that's code for taking someone out via a hit.”

 

“I swear I don't work for the mob,” stated Phil with a sigh. “I've told you, it's a covert government organization.”

 

“Sure it is,” teased Alex. “One I managed to miss back when I was an ADA?”

 

“You know, you never told me what division you worked for,” pointed out Phil, tightening his arm around her a little. “Or why you left for that matter.”

 

She just shrugged. “A woman has to keep some secrets.”

 

“So you keep saying,” sighed Phil, smiling at her.

 

The baggage claim was crowded when they entered, with passengers milling around as they waited for their luggage. Almost immediately, Alex laced her finger's with those wrapped around her waist and untangled herself from Phil's grasp. Without another glance at her lover, she pulled him towards the back of the baggage claim to where the oversized bags were unloaded. Her cello rested against the back wall, the hard plastic shell easily spotted among golf clubs and other strangely shaped objects. Of course, it helped that it was wrapped with lavender duct tape.

 

“Lovely design,” teased Phil as she picked up the case. “The duct tape really brings out the black.”

 

“It helps me find my case when I travel,” stated Alex with a shrug. “Plus it comes off relatively clean, so I don't have to show up at a symphony with lavender duct tape wrapped around my cello case.”

 

“Really Alex, how many cello cases do you think were on this flight?” argued Phil with a smile. He loved teasing her, especially when she teased him right back.

 

“You never know, Phil,” countered Alex. “I was flying with my cello once and when I landed, it wasn't there. I thought the airline had lost it until a man showed back up at the airport with it hours later. Turned out he'd mistaken my cello case for his golf clubs, taken it all the way home, and then realized the mix up.”

 

“Then the man must have been blind,” insisted Phil. “Did you make sure nothing had been tampered with?”

 

Alex cocked an eyebrow at him, casual as could be. “What do you think?”

 

“I think that's something people don't pay attention to unless they've been the target of an attack,” replied Phil with a shrug. “Most people wouldn't consider it.”

 

“And I'm not 'most people',” reminded Alex, linking her arm with Phil's and heading for the luggage carrousel. “I can put up with you, remember?”

 

Phil chuckled a little. “And what, exactly, is there to put up with, hm?”

 

“Oh, I don't know,” teased Alex, “the secrets, the insane roommate drama, the Captain America obsession...need I go on?”

 

Both of Phil's eyebrows rose in his variation of an insulted look. “I thought you liked my Captain America obsession.” Smirking, he plucked a little at her shirt. “You certainly seem to be a fan yourself.”

 

Alex smirked, reaching up to pat Phi's cheek. “I wore it so you couldn't miss me in the crowd.”

 

Leaning in, Phil let his smirk infuse his voice as he whispered in her ear. “As if anyone could ignore you, regardless of what you're wearing.”

 

The smirk on Alex's face turned into a grin as she added in an equally low tone: “I might also like the effect it seems to have on you.”

 

“That sounds like the Alex I know,” murmured Phil, kissing her cheek quickly. “Too bad your friend is expecting you.”

 

“Hm, we could always get a hotel room,” suggested Alex quietly, offering Phil a smile that had him reaching for his cellphone. “But I know you need to get back to babysitting duty and Barbara will be so sad if I don't show up on time...”

 

Phil groaned. “Tease. You're going to be the death of me.”

 

“I know,” assured Alex with a smirk, releasing Phil's arm to pull one of her suitcases off the carrousel. Setting the suitcase on the ground, she leaned forward and kissed him quickly. “We need some time alone, soon.”

 

“Soon,” agreed Phil, wrapping his arms around her waist. “We can get a hotel and spend some time together soon. I'm thinking tomorrow night. That way, you'll have a chance to catch up with your friend and I won't feel bad about stealing you for the night.”

 

“Hm, deal,” murmured Alex. “Except for one thing: my friend has a house and I'm staying over her garage. We can go back there instead of getting a hotel.”

 

Phil hummed a little, reaching behind her to easily pluck her second suitcase from the carrousel. “I think I like the hotel better. That way, we don't have to leave it if we don't want to.”

 

Alex chuckled quietly, offering Phil a slightly dirty smile. “I can accept that reasoning.” Pulling up the handle of one of her suitcases and offering it to Phil, she fished the shoulder strap for her cello case out of the other suitcase and attached it. Smiling once more at Phil, she nodded towards the exit. “Shall we?”

 

“We probably should,” agreed Phil with a sigh, taking the other suitcase in his free hand. “I shouldn't really leave Darcy and Clint alone for too long.”

 

One of Alex's eyebrows rose in surprise. “I thought you were getting them babysitters.”

 

“Couldn't get either Steve or Natasha to take the bait,” replied Phil with a shrug. “I'm sure it'll be fine.”

 

“I hope so,” stated Alex with a shake of her head. “I'm no longer connected enough to help you hide the bodies.”

 

----------------------------------

 

The sound of something crashing inside his apartment caught Phil's attention just as he reached the door. Startled, he quickly unholstered the gun he kept on his hip and pressed his back against the wall beside the door. Another crash followed by a shout had him throwing open the door with his gun raised, moving quickly into the room. The sight inside made him groan.

 

All of the furniture in the room had been rearranged. The sofa had been rotated 180 degrees and was stacked with pillows, blankets extending back over two chairs. The two chairs that normally flaked the sofa had been moved closer together with the coffee table sitting a little in front and directly between them. More pillows and blankets were strung between the two chairs. Forts. Clint and Darcy had built forts in the middle of the living room. Several liquor bottles were sitting on the table behind all of the chaos, empty from what Phil could tell.

 

“Take that, Birdy!” shouted Darcy, popping up inside the sofa fort with a nerf gun in hand and firing at the coffee table fort. She wavered a little where she was kneeling, throwing her aim slightly off and causing most of the darts to land on the blanket above the table or stick to the wall.

 

Several nerf darts flew out of the break in the blankets suspended above the table in retaliation, the hint of a bow visible. “You'll never hit me, Bunny!”

 

Phil had to admit, he was impressed with Clint's skill with a bow. He watched as one of the nerf darts caught on Darcy's glasses, surprising her enough to send her falling backwards. Apparently, even drunk enough that he probably would get arrested for walking down the street, Clint was still an amazing shot.

 

For a moment, he considered if he should intervene. Watching Darcy manage to sit herself back up though, shouting something slurred and probably obscene at Clint, he made his decision and headed for his bedroom. He reappeared a moment later with his personal video camera and set it on the entry table, making sure it was trained on the chaos that was his living room. Hitting record, he headed back to his bedroom. If he had to watch this chaos, it would send his blood pressure rocketing. But that didn't mean he couldn't use it as blackmail later.

Chapter Text

“I'm telling you, they're all sleeping together!” exclaimed Tony, drawing Steve and Natasha's attention where they were sitting in the entertainment room of the tower.

 

Tony had invited the whole team plus friends to get together for a night of movies, booze, and possibly lawlessness. With Tony, the risk of getting arrested went up significantly. Thankfully, the man had enough money for all of them to make bail even though Natasha would probably just pick the lock if something happened. Unfortunately, Phil and Clint were tied up with a mission in some classified location that only Natasha knew about and Darcy, being Phil's assistant and the only one of the three trained in politics, was still stuck at the office relaying information. Which left the group down to Bruce, Tony, Thor, Steve, and Natasha. Jane had been invited as well, as had Pepper, and both women were currently sitting on the couch opposite Steve and Natasha, talking quietly about something or another. Thor was curled up behind Jane, idly playing with the ends of her hair.

 

Thor looked up at Tony's exclamation, curiosity etched on his features. “Who has fallen asleep in the company of others? And why is this a matter of concern?”

 

“It shouldn't be,” muttered Bruce with a shake of his head, dropping into one of several chairs in the room.

 

“I believe Tony is using the term 'sleeping together' as a substitute for the word 'fucking',” added Natasha casually, one eyebrow arching. “Who is it you are discussing, Tony? Or is this another of your absurd theories?”

 

“Hey! My theories aren't absurd!” objected Tony with a touch of a pout. “And I was talking about the three missing musketeers.”

 

Steve's brow furrowed heavily. “Phil, Clint, and Darcy?”

 

“Yep,” confirmed Tony with a nod. “They're all suspiciously absent tonight.”

 

“They're involved in an operation,” reminded Steve, a touch annoyed.

 

Tony just shrugged. “Then why is Miss. 'I can kill you with a dust mite' here, hm? Normally she's the one running these things with bird-brain and Agent.”

 

Natasha rolled her eyes slightly, leaning back against the couch. “I also run a higher risk of being recognized where they are. It wasn't conducive to the mission.”

 

“And I don't doubt for a moment that you could make yourself unrecognizable,” argued Tony. Idly, he popped some blueberries into his mouth and took a sip of whatever lighter fluid he was favoring that night. “I'm thinking of starting a pool on the subject. Anyone interested?”

“A pool?” repeated Thor, clearly confused.

 

Pepper just let out an irritated huff. “He means a wager. Tony, you aren't allowed to bet on the sex lives of our friends.”

 

“Says who?” countered Tony with a raised eyebrow before looking around the room. “Also, Agent is your friend, not mine. Now, who's in? Anyone?”

 

Steve felt his anger flaring at Tony's words. “Why do you care anyway, Tony?”

Tony shrugged. “Because it's Agent, mostly. The man's got a tighter hold on his life than any living person should, then he goes and randomly starts living with his secretary and Robin Hood. Both of whom are of questionable sanity and have a high chance of getting arrested. It doesn't make sense unless there's something in it for him. I'm betting sex.”

 

Jane's brow furrowed. “I thought Clint blew up his apartment trying some strange sex position.”

 

“No,” corrected Natasha. “Apparently, he left one of his explosive arrows on the radiator and accidentally blew out the back wall of his apartment.”

 

“Wait, then were did the sex position story come from?” asked Bruce, brow furrowing slightly. “That's the only story about that I've heard.”

 

Natasha shrugged. “Apparently, Darcy started that rumor. Likely with encouragement from Clint. Fury used it as an argument to have Phil train her to write cover stories.”

 

It was Pepper's turn to raise a curious eyebrow. “But that story is so unbelievable, I wouldn't think that would be grounds to teach someone to write cover stories.”

 

“It wasn't the story that led Fury to make that decision, it was the fact that she had almost everyone in S.H.I.E.L.D believing it,” explained Natasha. “She is a rather gifted liar.”

 

Thor nodded heavily. “It is the basis for her and my brother's kinship. They both enjoy harmless pranks, as does S.H.I.E.L.D. brother Clint.”

 

“More proof they're sleeping together,” argued Tony, apparently having not given up on the idea. “Anyone want in on the bet?”

 

Natasha shrugged a little, offering him a smile. “I'm in. Fifty against.” She glanced at Steve, shooting him a pointed look.

 

“Er, me too,” stated Steve uneasily. “Also, fifty against.”

 

Both of Tony's eyebrows rose in surprise, just before his eyes narrowed suspiciously as he looked between them. “You two have inside information.”

 

Natasha just shrugged. “You never said that was illegal.”

 

Tony sighed unhappily, dropping onto the couch next to Pepper. “No, but it takes all the fun out of betting.” Pouting slightly, he looked at Natasha. “So, what's the verdict? And how do you know? Gotta cite your sources.”

 

One of Natasha's eyebrows rose in a 'really?' gesture before she rolled her eyes and answered. “They aren't sleeping together and I know because I've been sleeping with Clint for the better part of the last three years and Phil has a girlfriend none of us have ever met in Seattle. Also, Steve is currently dating Darcy.”

 

“Seriously?” asked Tony, both eyebrows shooting up as he looked at Steve. “You're banging the lab intern?”

 

Steve felt his anger give way to embarrassment. “I'm not sleeping with her, Tony. We've barely been dating two months.”

 

Tony whistled and everyone else just looked surprised except for Natasha. “Wow, talk about taking it slow. Just make sure she doesn't get bored and leave. Might wanna move up your time-table there, Steve-o.”

 

“Even I agree with Tony on that one,” agreed Bruce. “Women today don't necessarily want you to go that slow.”

 

Steve's embarrassment was quickly over-taken by worry. “She seems fine with it.”

 

“She is fine with it,” interjected Natasha, shooting Steve a reassuring look. “I've spoken with her at lengthen many times. She refers to it as...refreshing.”

 

“Good to know,” sighed Steve, offering the Russian woman a smile in return. “Thank you.”

 

Natasha just shrugged. “Thank her for being understanding. I would have become frustrated with you well before now.”

 

Jane stared at Natasha in surprise. “Darcy told you she was dating Steve? She didn't even tell me!”

 

“She didn't tell me so much as I was over when he picked her up one night,” explained Natasha with a shrug. “Plus, Clint has a big mouth. At least, where I'm concerned he does.”

 

Steve groaned. “Please, no details.”

 

“Well, this takes all the fun out of gossip,” grumbled Tony. “So, why are bird-brain and taser girl living with Agent anyway?”

 

Natasha shrugged. “I don't know about Darcy, but Clint blew up his apartment again and no one will lease to him at the moment.”

 

“Darcy's apartment was condemned,” supplied Jane, reaching for the glass of wine Pepper had poured her earlier. “I told her she could crash with me if she needed to, but she told me days before she was going to get kicked out that she'd found an alternative.”

 

“Phil's protective of her,” added Steve. “He seems to really care.”

 

Natasha chuckled slightly. “Yes, I heard he and Clint gave you the talk.”

 

Steve rubbed his neck sheepishly. “I'll admit, he can be intimidating.”

 

“You got a shovel talk from Agent?” cackle Tony. “Now that I something I would love to see. JARVIS? Can you pull security footage from,” he paused and turned fully to Steve, “where did this happen?”

 

“In the cafeteria,” supplied Natasha with a smile, very clearly enjoying the chaos. “But Phil likely

erased the footage already, if there was any to begin with.”

 

“Eh, nothing can ever be truly erased,” dismissed Tony. “Well, it can be but that involves massive amounts of electromagnetism or a lot of C4, neither of which Agent has access to. Well, okay he probably has access to it, but I don't see him destroying S.H.I.E.L.D. property. JARVIS, pull the security footage from the S.H.I.E.L.D recharging station on- when did this happen? A week ago? Two weeks?”

 

“Two months,” offered Natasha. “Clint told me about it two months ago, the day it happened.”

 

“Right, so download all security footage from the S.H.I.E.L.D recharging station from two months ago,” ordered Tony. “And throw it up on the screen. I gotta see this.”

 

“I'm sorry sir, but the information from that period of time appears to be missing,” apologized JARVIS. “In fact, the time codes are showing that the cameras in the S.H.I.E.L.D cafeteria were disable for a brief period of time on that day.”

Natasha started laughing as Tony muttered what sounded like a curse and 'Agent wins this round'. Everyone else just stared at Tony like he was insane. Which Steve is pretty sure is the case.

 

“I told you there was no footage,” pointed out Natasha with a smile. “Phil is too smart to leave incriminating evidence around.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” grumbled Tony. “Well, this sucks.”

 

Pepper offered Tony a soft smile, reaching out to take his hand. “You can't blame the man for figuring out your methods. Now, why don't we put the movie that we were going to watch on and forget about all this, hm?”

 

“That sounds good,” agreed Bruce, picking up the TV remote and flipping on the system. “Though, I am curious, why doesn't Clint come live here? There's room for him.”

 

“Simple,” replied Natasha. “Fury barred him from it. The last thing he needs is for Clint to do something stupid and blow the tower sky high. Besides, he enjoys living with Phil and Darcy. Together, they're like some sort of strange family.”

 

“Does it offer him a stability he lacked when he was younger or something?” wondered Jane, raising an eyebrow. “Darcy told me something once about a circus.”

 

Natasha just raised an eyebrow. “Somehow, I suspect the circus was more stable than their household. No, I think Clint purely enjoys living with two people who can put up with his personal brand of insanity. Besides, if he lived here, we'd all have murdered him by now. Never let it be said that Phil does not have the patience of a saint.”

 

“Tony lives here and we haven't killed him yet,” pointed out Bruce, glancing at Tony. “Though I can't say the thought hasn't occurred.”

 

“Yes,” agreed Natasha. “But when is the last time Tony baked cookies on the ceiling or ran through the tower naked.”

 

“I did the second one just the other night,” objected Tony. “And how do you bake cookies on the ceiling?”

 

“With a blow torch, apparently,” replied Natasha. “And I meant when everyone could see you.”

 

“Just the other night,” repeated Tony with a shrug. “He doesn't sound that bad.”

 

Natasha just sighed and shook her head. “Trust me, he's safer with Phil and Darcy. And so is everyone else. Now, what movie are we watching?”

 

Chapter Text

Phil froze as he opened the door to the apartment, staring at the sight in front of him. And wondered, not for the first time, if he was hallucinating from a lack of sleep. Part of him hoped so but the other part seriously doubted it.

 

A week ago, Fury had assigned him to run an intel mission with Clint and Natasha. It had meant leaving that night and spending a week in some worn down shack outside a village in Bangladesh while Clint and Natasha infiltrated the area. Now, all he wanted to do was fall asleep in a bed with an actual mattress and remain their until his alarm forced him to get up. Natasha had dragged Clint off to her apartment for the night, making some passing comment about not wanting to keep Darcy away. Phil wasn't even going to consider what that meant. The look of awed joy on Clint's face had been too much information as it was.

 

Now, he wondered if Clint wasn't the lucky one because he seriously didn't know what to make of this.

 

A nest of blankets and pillows were currently situated in front of the sofa. The coffee table which was normally situated there had been moved to the side and was covered in popcorn, candy, stacks of magazines, and notebooks. And situated in the center of the 'nest', was Loki. Green nail polish adorned his fingers, tipped with gold french tips. He was wrapped in emerald green silken pajamas and looked to be giggling over something on Darcy's computer. Phil suspected the person he heard rummaging around in the kitchen was Darcy. A suspicion which was confirmed when his brunette roommate came bounding out with two glasses of wine and wearing a tee shirt that was way too big for her.

 

“So, wait, Thor seriously went to a Frost Giant's home in drag?” exclaimed Darcy, passing one of the glasses to Loki. “Please tell me there are pictures. You have cameras in Asgard, right?”

 

“Darcy?” Phil heard his voice choke a little in disbelief.

 

Both Darcy and Loki looked up from where they were sitting on the floor. Which is about when Phil realized that Loki's hair was currently done up in pig tails and he also had what looked like make-up on his face. Alright, he definitely didn't want to know.

 

“Hey Phil, what's shaking?” asked Darcy, blinking up at him as if there was nothing strange about this situation at all. “How was the place you were at that I'm not supposed to know about?”

 

“Humid, insect-riddled, and uncomfortable,” replied Phil mindlessly, still trying to understand what he was seeing. “Darcy, why is Loki currently sitting in the middle of my living room with painted finger nails and pig tails?”

 

“Because we're having a girls night,” replied Darcy with a shrug. “He's doing my hair next.”

 

“A girls night,” repeated Phil uncertainly, looking at Loki with a raised eyebrow which the mischievous god returned. “And you are having a girls night because...?”

 

“Because it's been forever since Loki got to have a sleep over with something and I thought it would be fun,” explained Darcy with a shrug. “Plus we're using the time to try to figure out how to get Clint back for the photo fiasco last week.”

 

Phil nodded slowly. “The one where he stole your phone, iPod, camera, and laptop in an attempt to recover the supposedly deleted photographs from your girls night with Natasha and Pepper?”

 

“Yep,” confirmed Darcy. “Don't worry, we'll do whatever we're going to at S.H.I.E.L.D. or somewhere outside of the apartment.”

 

“Unless you want to go the hair dye in the shampoo route,” pointed out Loki. “Then we'll need to do it here.”

 

Phil pinched the bridge of his nose, tired mind attempting to actually understand what was going on. “So, let me get this straight: Loki hasn't been to a sleep over in a while, so you decided to have one with him, while we were gone, and use the time to come up with a prank to get back at Clint for stealing your electronic devices.”

 

“Exactly,” confirmed Darcy with a grin. “Can't do it while Clint's around 'cause that would kind of defeat the purpose and Fury wouldn't let me contact you to ask permission.”

 

“No, he wouldn't,” agreed Phil, looking between the fallen god and his roommate again. “Does the good Captain know about this?”

 

“Steve? Yeah, I told him,” assured Darcy. “He just muttered something about 'call if he does anything disrespectful' and walked away.”

 

“Smart man,” muttered Phil, picking his bag back up from where he'd set it when he came in and turning back towards the door. “I'll be back in the morning. Make sure nothing happens to her, Loki, otherwise you'll have a lot of trouble on your hands.”

 

“Please, harm one of the few people who shows an interest in befriending me?” countered Loki. “I may have gone mad, but I'm not stupid. Besides, she's far more interesting than most of you mortals. Of everyone, she's got the least to worry about.”

 

“Awe, that's sweet of you Loki,” cooed Darcy. “Thank you.”

 

Phil shut the door after that, not really wanting to hear any more. Withdrawing his phone, he scrolled through his contacts until he found the one he was looking for and hit call. The line was answered a moment later. “Hello, Alex?”

 

“Phil?” asked Alex, sounding surprisingly awake given it was nearly midnight. Then again, she was part of a symphony, so late nights were probably common for her. “What's going on? I didn't expect to hear from you tonight.”

 

“Yes, well, my roommate appears to have a friend over tonight,” explained Phil. “Is there any way I could come stay with you for the night? And possibly the weekend, if this insanity continues?”

 

“Of course Phil, you're always welcome,” assured Alex with a grin. “Though I can't guarantee my home is any more sane than yours.”

 

“Oh trust me,” stated Phil, glancing back once more at the door to his apartment, “you're home is far saner than mine.”

Chapter Text

“Excuse me, are you Alex? Phil's girlfriend?”

 

Alex paused here she was repacking her cello, glancing up at the door to her temporary classroom. “My name is Alex and my boyfriend's name is Phil. Can I help you?”

 

“Maybe,” replied the red-headed woman standing in the doorway. “My name is Pepper Potts.” The woman paused, then added: “I'm a friend of Phil Coulson.”

 

“I know, he's mentioned you a few times,” stated Alex, standing so she could fully face her visitor. “What can I do for you, Miss Potts?”

 

“Please, call me Pepper,” requested Pepper,” requested Pepper, walking into the room and offering Alex her hand.

 

She shook Pepper's hand once, firmly, before releasing it. “Very well, Pepper. What can I do for you?”

 

“You sound like a lawyer,” remarked Pepper with a smile. “You shake hands like one, too.”

 

“I used to be one,” replied Alex. “Old habits die hard.”

 

“Mmm,” hummed Pepper. “I imagine they do. Anyway, I came here because myself and a few others friends of Phil's are planning a party for him and wanted to invite you along.”

 

“To the party or the planning?” asked Alex. “Phil and I already have reservations for his actual birthday.”

 

“I assumed you would,” replied Pepper. “And that you had plans following that as well. This would take place before or after his actual birthday.”

 

Alex considered it for a moment before nodding. “Alright, I'll help.”

 

“Wonderful,” replied Pepper. “We're meeting right now, if you're free.”

 

“Sure,” replied Alex with a shrug. “My last class just ended.”

 

Pepper nodded, gesturing for Alex to follow her. “Then let's go. Do you want to follow me or ride in the limo?”

 

“Uh, I'll drive,” replied Alex wearily, wondering what she'd just gotten herself into.

 

--------------------------------------------

 

“Alright!” exclaimed Darcy in a low voice, glancing at the other people sitting around the table with her. “Everyone here?”

 

Clint's sitting across from her, arms crossed and mischief painted on his face. Beside him, Natasha has a look on her face that clearly says 'this is ridiculous'. Steve's next to Darcy, looking uneasy, but that could be because Tony keeps alternating between poking him and Bruce. Loki is perched to Darcy's other side, sitting between the intern and Thor, who's currently cuddling Jane in his lap.

 

“Pep's not,” pointed out Tony, leaning back in his chair. “She texted me and said she had some errand to run on the way here.”

 

“Can we just get this insanity over with?” requested Steve, jumping a little as Tony poked him yet again. “Please?”

 

Darcy rolled her eyes. “Tony, stop poking Steve before I tase you myself.”

 

“Why?” asked Tony rebelliously.

 

“Because she asked nicely and keeps a taser on hand,” replied Pepper suddenly, her voice cutting through the room. “And I won't have any sympathy for you if you get tased for being an ass. You know that.”

 

Behind Pepper, a tall, blonde-haired woman with black-rimmed glasses stepped into the room as well. She was wearing heels that looked dangerous and was dressed mostly in black. The woman paused just inside the room, blinking at the scene in front of her.

 

“Who's that, Pepper?” asked Darcy, pointing to the blonde woman.

 

Pepper nodded towards the woman with a smile. “This is Alex, Phil's girlfriend.”

 

“Do I want to know what Phil does that has him associating with Tony Stark and several other men who look like they should be on the cover of GQ?” asked Alex suddenly, still looking a little shell-shocked.

 

“He's the handler for the Avengers,” supplied Clint with a grin. “So you're Alex, huh? Gotta say, you aren't what I expected.”

 

One of Natasha's eyebrows rose in surprise. “What were you expecting?”

 

Clint shrugged. “Someone bookish who looked like they belonged in a library. Maybe with a Captain America obsession to match his own, not to make you uncomfortable or anything Steve.”

 

“Too late for that,” muttered Steve with a shake of his head. Standing, he approached Alex and offered her a smile and his hand. “It's nice to meet you, ma'am. I'm Steve Rogers.”

 

“Alex Cabot,” replied Alex, voice filled with shock even as she shook Steve's hand. “I'm sorry, did he just say that Phil is the handler for the Avengers?”

 

“Yep,” confirmed Darcy with a grin. “His name's Clint, by the way. Birdy to me, Bird-brain to Tony. The girl next to him is Natasha, 'Tasha for short. The blond guy is Thor, the woman in his lap is Jane, I'm Darcy, this guy,” she gestured to Loki, “ is Loki, and the guy next to Tony is Bruce. Everyone but myself, Pepper, Jane, and Loki are all part of the Avengers.”

 

“Oh god, I'm a bitch,” muttered Alex, one hand rising to rub her temple. “A complete and utter bitch.”

 

“Um, did I miss something?” asked Darcy, blinking at Alex blankly.

 

“I think we all did,” muttered Bruce.

 

Thor nodded. “Agreed. Why is it that you have referred to yourself as such a derogatory thing?”

 

“Because I never believed Phil when he said he worked for a covert government agency,” groaned Alex. “I always figured he was an accountant or something equally mundane and just trying to make his life sound more exciting.”

 

“Phil does look like he should be doing something more mundane,” remarked Pepper thoughtfully. “I would have pegged him as a manager.”

 

“Accountant doesn't seem like a far stretch,” agreed Darcy. “At least, it wouldn't be if I hadn't seen that security footage from the convenience store.”

 

“Security footage from what convenience store?” asked Alex immediately. “What did he do at a convenience store?”

 

“Took out two robbers with a bag of flour and his bare hands,” replied Clint with a grin. “It's pretty impressive.”

 

“I have a copy, if you want to see,” offered Tony with glee. “Even I've gotta admit it's impressive.”

 

“Phil's an impressive man, even without seeing that video,” muttered Alex with a shake of her head. “I'm sorry, this is just a little shocking.” Clearing her throat, she turned her focus on Darcy. “Pepper said something about planning a party?”

 

“Yeah, a surprise party,” answered Darcy, cocking her head slightly to the side. “You need a minute? We'd all kinda understand.”

 

“No,” replied Alex firmly. “I've been blindsided by worse. So, what's your current plan?”

 

“Clint, Loki, and I decided to go with a Captain America theme,” started Darcy. “Sorry Steve, but you are Phil's favorite super hero.”

 

Steve blushed but nodded none the less. “That's fine just...I'm not dressing up.”

 

“No one expects you to, Captain,” assured Loki with a grin. “The colors and like will simply be in your honor.”

 

“Phil will like that,” agreed Alex, the look of shock back in full force. “Did you just say he's Captain America?”

 

Darcy nodded with a grin. “That's him.”

 

“Right,” muttered Alex, rubbing her temple again. “Are there any other surprises that I should be aware of, just to make this whole thing go a little faster?”

“Tons,” replied Tony, grinning like cat and jerking his thumb at Bruce. “This guy turns into a giant green rage monster when he's angry,” shifted his hand, two of his fingers pointed at Thor and Loki, “they're an alien gods from another planet, Loki can use magic,” shifting his hand yet again, he gestured to Clint and Natasha, “and they're super-spies like Agent.”

 

Alex groaned and pinched the bridge of her nose. “This whole thing is going to give me a headache, isn't it?”

 

Pepper winced a little. “In retrospect, I probably should have allowed Phil to make the introductions.”

 

“No, because then you wouldn't have a guaranteed way of getting Phil here,” argued Alex with a sigh. “It's alright, just a little surprising.”

 

“Most of us understand,” assured Darcy with a grin. “Just pretend that we're normal people like you'd find at work. Just, you know, crazier.”

 

“Sadly, this isn't the weirdest thing I've dealt with,” sighed Alex. “Anyway, go on Darcy. I'm sorry for interrupting.”

 

Darcy shrugged. “Not a problem. So, I'm gonna make the cake personally to replicate Steve's shield and we were thinking maybe streamers or something like that. Balloons?”

 

“Balloons aren't environmentally friendly,” argued Tony. “I'll work up a digital projection that can cover this room.”

 

Darcy nodded in approval. “That'll work. Loki can help you with that too; he knows some spells specifically for this kinda thing.”

 

“I used to assist mother when she would decorate for parties,” confirmed Loki. “There are several spells in my repertoire that we can use in addition to the technology.”

 

“Cool,” stated Darcy, writing something on a list in front of her. “So, Loki and Tony will help with decorating and I'm doing the cake. What else?”

 

“Booze?” suggested Tony. “Can't have a party without it.”

 

“And guests,” added Pepper. “We should decide who should come.” Turning to Alex, she smiled. “I was actually hoping you could help with that.”

 

Alex shrugged. “I'd suggest the people closest to him only. You guys, obviously, given you're planning this whole thing. There's a man named Jasper that he's close with and someone named Blake who I've never met. I don't know how close he is with Blake, though.”

 

“Blake and Sitwell,” supplied Clint. “We know them.”

 

“Alright, so maybe them and the man and woman he was at the symphony with too,” added Alex. “Nick and Maria, I think.” Everyone in the room froze, staring at her. She blinked back in concern. “What?”

 

“Did you just say Nick and Maria?” asked Clint, still staring at her like she'd grown a second head.

 

“Yes,” confirmed Alex, “I believe those were their names.”

 

“Was 'Nick' about six feet tall an wearing an eye patch?” asked Tony.

 

“Yes,” replied Alex. “I thought the patch was strange.”

 

Bruce clicked his tongue a little. “Did Maria have dark, short cut hair, brown eyes, and a severe expression?”

 

For a moment, Alex paused to consider that. “Yes, all of that except for the severe expression. She was less relaxed than either Phil or Nick, but she wasn't what I'd call severe. More like....clearly military.”

 

Tony started cracking up. “So let met get this straight, you've met both Fury and Hill outside of work?”

 

“Assuming Fury and Hill are Nick and Maria, then yes,” confirmed Alex, again. “They were both very nice and are apparently fond of the symphony. They'd insisted Phil come with them this time; normally, he apparently had other plans.”

 

Clint was laughing now, too, and Natasha had cracked a smile. Darcy looked like she was trying to keep from laughing as well and even Bruce looked amused. Steve, Thor, and Loki just looked confused.

 

“Am I missing something?” asked Alex, looking to Pepper for some kind of guidance.

 

Pepper smiled and patted her shoulder. “You've never met either Director Fury or Agent Hill during work hours, so it won't make sense. Don't worry about it.”

 

“Whatever,” dismissed Alex. “Anyway, those are my suggestions. Take them or leave them. How do you plan to execute this? I'm assuming it's a surprise, given you're meeting in secret.”

 

Darcy shrugged, managing to get herself under control. “We're going back to that symphony discussion, just for the record. As for a plan of execution, we don't have one. Not even a date.”

 

“It needs to be either before or after his actual birthday,” warned Alex. “We already have plans for the night of.”

 

Tony whistled. “Wow, so Agent actually gets some on occasion?”

 

One of Alex's eyebrows rose in response. “That's not any of your business, Mr. Stark.”

 

“So, the day after maybe?” suggested Steve, cutting in before Tony could get them off track again.

 

“Day after works for me,” agreed Darcy. “That's a Saturday, so it shouldn't be a problem. We just need to lure him here.”

 

“I'll handle that,” assured Alex. “Just give me a time, and I'll get him here.”

 

Darcy grinned. “I was hoping you'd say that. Now we just need a plan of execution. Personally, I'm leaning towards jumping out and shouting 'surprise'.”

 

“I think that's a good way to get shot,” countered Clint with a slight scowl. “I know I would start shooting if that happened to me.”

 

“Agreed,” added Natasha. “Shouting 'surprise' at a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is an almost guaranteed way to get shot. Fury actually banned surprise parties at the office because people kept ending up in the infirmary as a direct result.”

 

“But it's not a party if someone doesn't have to go to the emergency room!” argued Darcy. Everyone gave her a look that clearly said they thought she was crazy, though Steve softened it by kissing her forehead. She just huffed slightly. “Well, then what would you guys suggest? Phil won't go for it if we tell him about the party. Well, unless Alex tells him.”

 

“What if we didn't shout surprise?” suggested Alex. “What if we just have everyone standing in the room where he can see them when he comes in?”

 

Clint bobbed his head a little back and forth. “That could work.”

 

“Can we at least keep the lights off?” requested Darcy.

 

Pepper shrugged. “It's still a surprise even if we don't, Darcy. And we really should do this in whatever way is safest.”

 

Loki's hand rose suddenly. “What if I were to slip Agent Coulson's weapon from him before he arrived?”

 

“Hey, yeah,” agreed Darcy, eyes lighting up. “Then we could still jump out and shout 'surprise' without worrying about getting shot.”

 

“And if he pulls out a bag of flour?” asked Alex, smiling a little.

 

Tony grinned. “We duck. JARVIS, run video AC23CS.”

 

The TV in the middle of the room suddenly came to life, displaying an image of a gas station convenience store interior. Phil walked into view a moment later, passing to the back of the room and crouching down to look at something.

 

“I'm still wondering what he's looking at,” muttered Darcy. “You can't see from here.”

 

“Donettes,” replied Alex. “I keep telling him those things will kill him, but he just laughs. They're his favorite snack food.”

 

Everyone blinked at her in surprise except Clint and Natasha, who'd been on road trips with Coulson before. They knew all too well his love for fried dough covered in powdered sugar and chocolate. The click of a shot gun being pumped drew everyone's attention back to the screen.

 

They watched silently as both men pointed their guns at the cashier, then Phil popped up a moment later. Alex tensed when their guns leveled a Phil, then actually gasped when he pulled out his gun and held is up for them to see, but not in a way that he could use. When he shifted and knelt almost completely out of sight again, she tensed further until something came flying form his direction and struck the furthest away robber in the face. The next few seconds were a blur of action, which ultimately resulted in both men on the ground and Phil setting two packages on the counter. The video cut out once Phil was out of the store.

 

“That was both terrifying and awe-inspiring,” muttered Alex, her eyes still glued to the TV. “Was that really Phil?”

 

“Yep,” confirmed Clint with a smirk. “He's kinda scary.”

 

Alex nodded slowly. “Just a little.”

 

“They call him the 'boss ninja of S.H.I.E.L.D.' for a reason,” stated Darcy with a shrug.

 

Natasha eyed Alex wearily. “You don't look as afraid as you should.”

 

“I've seen and faced worse,” muttered Alex. “I used to be an ADA for the city of New York. Trust me when I say, I've seen scarier things in the courtroom. That is, however, extremely impressive.”

 

“Thank you.” Phil's voice cut through the room, startling everyone. Or almost everyone. Sometime during the video, Loki had disappeared.

 

“Phil!” exclaimed Pepper, one hand resting on her chest. “Where did you come from?”

 

“The elevator,” replied Phil with a shrug, shifting the stack of papers he was holding from one arm to the other. “And no Tony, the elevator is not my mother. My mother is a human, thank you.”

 

“And a rather nice one at that,” added Alex, offering Phil a smile. “Why aren't you at work?”

 

“Wait, you've met his mother?” broke in Darcy, eyes wide.

 

Tony looked just as startled. “Agent actually has a mother? He didn't have to murder her to join S.H.I.E.L.D.?”

 

“S.H.I.E.L.D. isn't Hydra, Mr. Stark,” reminded Phil coolly. “My mother is very much alive. Alex and I just had dinner with her recently. Speaking of, should I be concerned that my girlfriend and the insane individuals I work with are all in the same room?”

 

“No Phil, you shouldn't,” assured Alex, stepping forward and quickly kissing his cheek before taking a deep breath. Her next words came out in a rush. “Also, sex crimes.”

 

Pepper started choking behind Alex, eyes wide and more than a little horrified. Steve turned really red and Tony looked like he was contemplating crawling under the table. Clint looked nervous, as did Natasha, and Bruce appeared more than a little startled. Thor and just looked very confused.

 

“I think we missed something,” remarked Darcy, brow furrowed.

 

Phil, however, looked like something suddenly made sense. “You know, that explains a lot.”

 

“I'm sure it does,” agreed Alex. “I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. I've just worked very hard to put that behind me. It isn't what I do any more.”

 

“Wait, you used to commit sex crimes?” exclaimed Clint, eyes going wide. “Why the hell aren't you in jail?”

 

Alex groaned, shaking her head. “That completely came out wrong.”

 

Patting Alex's shoulder, Phil explained. “Alex was an ADA for New York City. She apparently used to prosecute sex crimes.”

 

“Should we really let her be in the same room as Tony then?” asked Bruce. “He's a walking sexual harassment suit as things stand.”

 

“As long as he's not raping women in his office or molesting toddlers, I won't say anything,” assured Alex.

 

“God, do people actually do that?” asked Darcy. “That's beyond depraved.”

 

“Unfortunately yes,” sighed Alex, pinching the bridge of her nose at the memory. “I prosecuted a few of them in my time.”

 

The hand on her shoulder slipped down on her back, a comforting gesture from Phil. “I'm pretty sure I can guess why you left.”

 

“Yeah,” muttered Alex. “It was just too much, especially after a drug runner sent a hit man after me. That did it.”

 

“Oh my god, you're that Alex Cabot?!” exclaimed Pepper in surprise. “You used to be in the newspaper, frequently.”

 

“And we still study your work in school!” added Darcy, her own eyes just as wide. “You're serious?”

 

One of Phil's eyebrows rose in surprise. “I didn't realize you were that big of a deal.”

 

“I'm not,” assured Alex, laying a hand on Phil's shoulder. “I handled a few high profile cases, that's all.”

 

“More than that.,” argued Pepper. “You were supposed to be rather terrifying in the courtroom.”

 

“Regardless,” cut in Phil smoothly, though he was giving Alex a 'we are discussing this later' look, “Alex no longer has that job.” Holding up the papers in his free hand, Phil offered them to Pepper. “I need Mr. Stark, Dr. Banner, Thor, and Captain Rogers to each fill out one of those forms, please. It's a security clearance issue; apparently, their paperwork granting them the proper security clearances was never filed.”

 

Pepper nodded, separating the papers and passing a stack to each of the indicated individuals. “I'll make sure they get it done.”

 

“Thank you, Miss. Potts,” replied Phil with a smile. Turning to Alex, he gave her a weary look. “Now, seriously, should I be concerned?”

 

“About what we were doing?” asked Alex with her own smile. “Not in the least. Though, I am sorry for never believing you when you said you worked for a covert government agency.”

 

“I never expected you to believe me,” assured Phil. Offering her his arm, he gestured for the elevators. “Coffee, Miss Cabot?”

 

Linking her arm in his, she nodded. “Coffee sounds wonderful. After this little adventure, I could use some.”

 

-----------------------------------

 

Darcy stared, slack jawed, at Phil and Alex as they disappeared into the elevator. “I can't believe Phil is dating Alex Cabot.”

 

“I can believe it,” murmured Pepper. “But it's certainly surprising.”

 

“Is she really that good of an attorney?” asked Clint curiously. “She looked young.”

 

“She's good,” assured Darcy. “I've seen footage of her in classes. She's scary when she's determined.”

 

“Probably why Agent likes her,” muttered Tony. “JARVIS, digitize this form.”

 

“Of course, sir,” replied JARVIS just before a scanner dropped out of the ceiling and began scanning the form. “Would you like me to also collect any information on Miss Cabot that is available?”

 

“You know it, JARIVS,” confirmed Tony with a grin. “Especially video. I want to see this woman in action.”

Chapter Text

Alex sighed as she stepped out of the shower. Her day really hadn't been any worse than usual, but sometimes a hot shower was the perfect way to relax. Humming the piece she had the students currently practicing, she headed into her bedroom just as her cellphone started to ring.

 

Snatching up the device, she almost didn't answer when the number wasn't immediately recognizable. Then, she saw the Malibu area code. “Pepper, I'm going to presume?”

 

“Yes, that's correct,” confirmed Pepper in surprise. “How did you know?”

“I don't know anyone else in Malibu,” explained Alex. “What's going on, Pepper?”

 

Pepper sighed, dropping her voice. “Alex, I need you to come to S.H.I.E.L.D. and pick up Phil.”

 

Alex felt her back tense, several bad scenarios running through her head. “Is he hurt?”

 

“Yes and no,” replied Pepper. “Just come to S.H.I.E.L.D. I'll escort you up myself.”

 

“Pepper, what's going on?” repeated Alex, her voice insistent even as she started to pull on her clothes. “What's happened to Phil?”

 

For a moment, she thought Pepper might have hung up the other woman was quiet for so long. She was about to check her phone to make sure the call hadn't been dropped when Pepper spoke. “He's been drugged.”

 

-------------------------------

 

Pepper was waiting in the lobby of the building she'd indicated when Alex arrived. The strawberry blonde assistant waved from where she stood by the reception desk and motioned Alex over before she'd even completely cleared the door. “Alex!”

 

Nodding, Alex crossed the strangely empty room to meet the former CEO. “Pepper, how are they?”

 

“Alright,” assured Pepper, offering Alex a badge. “We just need to get them home.”

 

“I don't understand,” muttered Alex. “How did this happen?”

 

“Clint,” replied Pepper with a sigh as the elevator opened in front of them and they both stepped inside. “And Darcy.”

 

Once the doors were closed, Alex turned to fully face Pepper. “So, explain to me exactly what happened.”

 

“From what we can tell, somehow, Phil, Fury, and Hill all consumed brownies containing pot,” explained Pepper. “Clint and Darcy have admitted to baking the brownies but they keep insisting they didn't intent to drug anyone besides themselves. They also claim there are two batches, one with pot and one without.”

 

“So, what, somehow they mixed up the batches?” asked Alex skeptically. “I don't buy it.”

 

Pepper shrugged. “It's not that hard to do.”

 

Alex shot Pepper a raised eyebrow. “Please don't tell me any more. I really shouldn't hear this to begin with. It makes the lawyer in me cringe.”

 

A small smile tugged at Pepper's lips, even as the door to the top floor of the building opened. “They're in Phil's office. Steve is going to help me with Fury and Hill, we just need you to help with Phil.”

 

“I can do that,” assured Alex as they turned down the hallway that led to Phil's office. “How bad are they?”

 

“See for yourself,” replied Pepper before she pushed open the door to the office.

 

The space inside was dark, with three figures slumpped in various places around the office. Bags of potato chips, cans of soda, and various other snack foods littered the ground of what she guessed was once an immaculate office. There was a body stretched across the couch along one wall. Another was curled on the floor leaning against the base of a chair between the legs of the final figure, who's head had lolled over the back of the chair.

 

The figure on the sofa lifted it's head as Alex stepped inside, followed by Pepper. Phil's blue eyes blinked up at her, bleary and confused. “Alex?”

 

“Hey Phil,” greeted Alex, kneeling beside the couch. She just avoided a bag of chips laying on the floor beside the couch along with several empty bottles of soda. “How are you feeling?”

 

Phil grinned openly, his face completely relaxed. “I feel great. Everything's great.”

 

Shooting Pepper a concerned look, Alex glanced at Nick, who was currently sitting the on the ground with his head leaning back between Maria's legs. “I can see that. Should we move them? Or at least take photos to use as blackmail?”

“Already done,” assured Pepper with a smile, wiggling her cellphone slightly. “I made sure the photos were on an SD card that Tony can't access, too. We tried to move them earlier, but Fury just grabbed onto Hill's legs and wouldn't move.”

 

The image almost made Alex laugh and she'd probably crack up about the whole matter later, but right now really wasn't the time. Looking at Phil again, she ran a hand gently through his hair to recapture his attention. “Alright Phil, we're going to go home now. Alright?”

 

“But I like my bed,” whined Phil, wrapping an arm around the couch pillow under him before wrapping the other around Alex's waist and attempting to pull her down with him. “Come to bed.”

 

“Phil, this isn't your bed,” corrected Alex gently. “This is the couch in your office.”

 

“'s more comfortable than my bed,” argued Phil, snuggling further into the couch. “Plus we're having fun. Nick's been telling jokes.”

“Fury knows jokes?” muttered Pepper, one eyebrow rising in surprise. “That's new to me.”

 

Nick lifted his head at that moment, offering Pepper a relaxed grin. “Peanuts.”

 

Phil cracked up from his place on the couch, causing Alex to stare at him in concern. Maria's laugh cut through the room as well, along with Nick's. The normally composed agents' laughter bouced around the room for a few moments before it died to snickers. Pepper and Alex exchanged concerned looks.

 

Jasper Sitwell poked his head into the office at that point, staring around the room worriedly. “Is everyone alright in here?”

 

“They're high from pot brownies,” replied Pepper with a shake of her head, gesturing to the snickering agents. “We're trying to get them out of the building so they can recov-”

 

“Hi Jasper!” broke in Phil, grinning loopily at the other agent.

 

Jasper just smirked and nodded at Phil. “Hello, Agent Coulson.”

 

“It's Phil!” corrected Nick with a serious face. He managed to hold it for five seconds before he broke down into laughter again.

 

Maria lifted her head and grinned at them with the same loopy grin Phil had earlier. “We're all friends here, Jasper. Have a brownie. They're gooooood.”

 

“Um, no, thank you,” declined Jasper, though Alex could tell he really wanted one.

 

Phil distracted her though by throwing his head backwards suddenly to look up at her. “You should have one too, Alex! They're chocolate!”

 

“Most brownies are,” pointed out Alex. “But I'm fine Phil, thank you.”

 

Phil opened his mouth to say more, but Jasper cut in quickly. “So, if you need to get them out of here, why not just get Iron Man and Thor to fly them all to the tower?”

 

“Because then Tony would know Fury was high as a kite,” explained Pepper. “And we don't need him amassing blackmail on Fury.”

 

A femine giggle echoed through the room, catching Pepper, Alex, and Jasper's attention. “Tony's cute.”

 

Jasper blinked at Maria for a moment before shaking his head and stepping into the room. “Let me help you. We can prop them up and sneak them out the back elevator bank.”

 

“Steve should be here in a moment to help,” added Pepper, sticking her head out the door to glance down the hall. “I thought someone like Steve might be able to help us control the situation.”

 

 

Alex's brow furrowed as soon as she saw Phil perk up immedately. “Steve as in Captain America Steve? He's my hero.”

 

“We know, Phil,” assured Alex, kissing his forehead. “And Steve thinks you need to go home. We can go to my place, if you want.”

 

“No, want my own bed,” replied Phil, grinning up at Alex. “Buckybear is there.”

 

Dropping her head against the arm of the couch, Alex tried not to wince for Phil. She'd only found out about Buckybear because Phil had forgotten to put it away when she went to his apartment once, before he had roommates. She highly doubted he had told anyone about it. Glancing at Pepper and Jasper, they both gave her raised eyebrows. She just shook her head and mouthed 'don't ask'.

 

“But you brought Buckybear to my house, remember?” tried Alex as she attempted to remember if Buckybear really was at her house or not. Phil sometimes brought him, usually when he was feeling particularly on edge.

 

Phil blinked at her for a moment, then nodded as if he remembered. “Oh yeah...”

 

Smiling, Alex attempted to help Phil up. “Come on, Phil. Let's go home.”

 

“But I wanna see Steve!” objected Phil, voice petulant and whiny. It made Alex almost cringe.

 

Steve stuck his head in the room at that moment, glancing around. “Uh, did someone call my name?”

 

“Steve!” exclaimed Phil, turning on the couch and sitting up on his knees. “Hi!”

 

Alex was torn between laughing and burying her face in her hands for Phil. She half hoped someone was filming all of this, but knew all the same that Phil would be mortified if anyone ever saw this. She wasn't going to be the one to tell him about what happened if he couldn't remember, that's for sure.

 

Poor Steve balked a little at he stared at Phil for a moment before nodding at the man. He looked a little disturbed but otherwise wasn't showing too many external signs of embarassment. Hopefully, he wouldn't tell Darcy about any of this. “Hello Phil.”

 

Grinning, Phil leaned over the arm of the couch to latch onto Steve's arm and hug it. “You're my hero, Steve!”

 

Across the room, Maria started giggling again. “Phil has a boyfriend. Phil has a boyfriend.”

 

Nick started cracking up as well, falling over onto Maria's foot. “Kiss him, kiss him!”

 

“But I can't!” argued Phil, on of his arms releasing Steve to grab Alex and pull her against him. “I love Alex! And she'll be mad if I do.”

 

By this point, poor Steve was the color of a tomato and looked so confused it was impossible not to laugh at least a little. Alex managed to smother most of it against Phil's shoulder, disguising the action as a hug. Jasper and Pepper weren't as subtle.

 

Truthfully, if Phil did kiss Steve right now, Alex wouldn't actually be mad. The man was higher than a kite. She wasn't going to tell Phil that though. Instead, she lifted her own head and gently pressed Phil's head into the crook between her shoulder and neck. She hoped it would distract him from Steve so the poor man could get free.

 

“That's right, Phil. I will be very mad if you kiss Steve.” She could see Steve relaxing out of the corner of her eye, though he still looked ready to bolt. “You need to let him go now, Phil. We need to go home so you can sleep.”

 

“But I'm not tired,” argued Phil, his voice muffled against her shoulder. “I wanna go to Nick's house.”

 

“Well, you can't go to Nick's house,” reasoned Alex gently. “You promised to come to my house, remember?”

 

Phil whimpered a little but nodded none the less. “You said you had a surprise for me.”

 

Alex felt her cheeks flush and prayed no one else had heard his comment. A glance at Steve said that probably wasn't the case. Nick confirmed that.

 

“Phil's gonna get luuuuucky,” sang out Nick, cracking up into the rug as he did.

 

Maria leaned over in her chair and grinned down at Nick. “You could get lucky too.”

 

“No one is getting lucky,” cut in Pepper firmly, using a disapproving parent voice to catch everyone's attention. The one she used on Tony when he was being particularly ridiculous if Alex had to guess. She was very good at it. “Well, except Phil. That's up to Alex. But no one else is. Understand?”

 

“Awwww,” whined Nick and Maria, both of them pouting at Pepper. “But we wanna get lucky too!”

 

Alex raised an eyebrow, looking at both adults. “Do you know what that phrase means?”

 

“Yes!” insisted Nick with a pout. “It means...uh....it means something good happens!”

 

“Sexually,” added Maria with a dirty grin. Her grin faded a second later though, replaced with a contempative look. “Well, I think that's right.”

 

Pepper just shook her head and looked at Jasper and Steve. “Let's get everyone home, before this situation turns into something none of us wants to see.”

 

“I'm pretty sure we're already there,” pointed out Alex threading her finger's through Phil's hair. “Phil, I need you to let Steve go so he can help Nick and Maria. You guys need to get home so you can sleep.”

 

“But I'm not tired,” argued Phil, his arm wrapping tighter around Steve's.

 

Leaning down, Alex carefully whispered the next part in Phil's ear. “Phil, you're not tired but Nick and Maria are, they just don't want to admit it. So we need to let them go home, which means you need to let go of Steve so he can take them home. Understand?”

 

“Alright,” muttered Phil with a pout. He lifted his head from Alex's neck to kiss her quickly before looking up at Steve with a grin. “I love you, Captain.”

 

Steve chuckled a little, his blush vibrant now. “Thanks, Phil.”

 

Phil grinned and nodded before finally letting Steve go. He would have gone head first over the arm of the couch if Alex hadn't been standing there holding him up. Helping Phil off the couch, Alex carefully made sure he had is feet under him before turning to Pepper. “You said there was an elevator?”

 

Jasper nodded, moving aside so Alex could reach the door with Phil. “I'll show you where it is. Miss Potts, I'll be back in a moment.”

 

“Thank you, Agent Sitwell,” thanked Pepper before she focused on helping Steve separate Nick and Maria.

 

Gesturing towards the opposite direction from the main elevator bank, Jasper headed down the hallway. “So, what happened exactly?”

 

“Pot brownies,” replied Alex as she half supported Phil, who was looking more exhausted now that they were in the main hallway. “Apparently, there was a mix up.”

 

“Probably Darcy's pot brownies,” remarked Jasper. “Those are amazing. She brought me a few once. It was incredible.”

 

“I'm surprise that Phil even lets her bake with pot,” remarked Alex.

 

“As long as no one is high during work hours, he doesn't care,” explained Jasper with a shrug. “She's not on call like the rest of us are, and really it's no worse than getting drunk. Agent Barton is harder because he is on call, but he can still make impossible shots while high so no one can really argue either.”

 

“You could argue,” pointed out Alex. “No matter how ridiculous it is, marijuana is illegal.”

 

Jasper made a noise in his throat and nodded. “Right, you used to be a lawyer. Phil mentioned that.”

 

Alex nodded. “Unfortunately, sex crimes and drug crimes aren't always separate.”

 

Nodding, Jasper made another turn that dead-ended in an elevator. “This will take you down to the garage. Did you bring your car here?”

 

“No, Pepper said to take a cab,” replied Alex. “She figured I could drive Phil's car back to my place.”

 

“Probably safter,” agreed Jasper. “Darcy and Clint will probably feel too guilty about this to blackmail him, but you never know.”

 

“No, you don't,” agreed Alex before she stepped into the elevator with Phil. “Thank you, Jasper.”

 

“Not a problem, Alex,” assured Jasper. “Feel better, Phil.”

 

Phil smiled sleepily and waved at Jasper as the doors closed.

 

--------------------------------

 

Alex heard Phil the next morning before he ever came into view. The stumbling was rare and highlighted how off the agent must be feeling after his pot adventure the previous day. Shaking her head, she picked up the cup of coffee and headed for her bedroom.

 

Sticking her head inside, she found the curtains still drawn and a huddled form still hiding in the bed. “Phil?”

 

Phil's disshevelled head appeared a moment later, blinking at Alex blearily. “Alex? Please tell me yesterday was a nightmare.”

 

“Sorry,” replied Alex, entering the room and taking a seat on the edge of the bed. She held out the coffee cup for Phil, offering him a smile. “How are you feeling?”

 

“Alright,” admitted Phil. “A little tired, a little disoriented, but otherwise fine. Darcy and Clint won't be when I get my hands on them, though.”

 

“It was an accident Phil,” pointed out Alex gently. “Don't get too upset with them.”

 

“It's hard not to,” growled Phil. “They gave us pot brownies.”

“Did they give the brownies to you or did you take some?” asked Alex, one of her hands running through his ruffled hair.

 

Phil curled up a little tighter in a ball and sipped at his coffee. “I asked, but I may have taken the brownies from the wrong pan...”

 

Smiling, Alex kissed Phil's forehead before standing again. “Just rest, Phil. Nick and Maria are both going to be out of commission as well for the day.”

 

“Alex,” called Phil quietly, “could you please check in with Darcy and Clint? I'm worried about them.”

 

Nodding, Alex paused in the doorway to look back at her lover. “Why?”

 

“Because I don't remember if I told Nick who I got the brownies from,” replied Phil.

 

“Alright, I'll check in with them and warn Steve and Natasha,” assured Alex. “Now get some rest. Oh, and I'll be sure to apologize to Steve for you. Though, the proposal by phone was pretty cute...”

 

“Proposal?” asked Phil, eyes going wide. “Please tell me that's a joke.”

 

Alex shrugged. “You're the one who called him.”

 

Groaning, Phil buried his face in his knees. “Please tell me there wasn't an actual ring involved.”

 

Heading back to the bed, Alex sat beside Phil and rubbed his back gently. “Don't worry, Steve let you down gently.”

 

“What did the ring look like?” asked Phil, his voice a touch despirate.

 

Raising her eyebrow, Alex tried to recall what the ring Phil had pulled out of his jacket to propose to Steve had looked like. She hadn't even given any thought to the matter when it happened, just dismissed it as more pot-based antics. “Uh, silver with a simple diamond and two bordering sapphires I think. Why?”

 

Lifting his head, he gave Alex the most pathetic and miserable stare she'd ever seen on his face. “Because that ring was supposed to be for you.”

 

“Uh, what?” asked Alex, her brow furrowing. “I don't understand...”

 

Sighing and jamming one of his hands through his hair, Phil took Alex's left hand in his free one and met her eyes. “I wanted to propose last night. And not to Captain Rogers.” Taking a deep breath, he kissed the back of her hand. “The ring was for you, though I don't think it'd be wise to give it to you now after you witnissed me using it to propose to Captain Rogers. I'm still hoping you will say yes, though.”

 

“To marrying you?” asked Alex, her head spinning. This wasn't what she was expecting. It made sense when she thought about it, but she'd been so worried about Phil last night she hadn't connected the dots. “Wait, are you proposing?”

 

“I was trying to,” confirmed Phil with a sigh. “Though, after yesterday, I will understand if you say no.”

 

Relaxing a little as the news settled in, Alex leaned forward to press her forehead to Phil's. “And why would I do that?”

 

Hope filled Phil's eyes as he stared p at Alex. “Is that a yes?”

 

“Yes,” confirmed Alex quietly, one hand sliding into his hair as she kissed him. “And don't worry about the ring. It doesn't bother me that you proposed to a man with it.”

 

Groaning, Phil dropped his head against Alex's shoulder. “It isn't you it'll bother.”

 

Laughing, Alex pressed Phil back into the bed and kissed his forehead. “Rest, I'll go check on Darcy and Clint for you.”

 

“Thank you,” thanked Phil with a smile, curling back into Alex's bed. “And Alex? I love you.”

 

“I love you too, Phil,” assured Alex as she headed for the door. “Even when you're high as a kite.”

Chapter Text

Phil walked into the break room with a sigh, eyes on the coffee pot. It would be his only salvation today. Not that today was particularly bad per say, just long. Very, very long.

 

Pouring the godly nectar into his cup, Phil took a grateful sip before looking around the room. Which is when he realized Natasha was also standing in the room, staring out the window with a cross between amusement and disbelief painting her face. It was never good to see that look on Natasha's face.

 

Moving to stand beside her, Phil scanned the area outside. It took him two seconds to figure out what she was staring at. “Agent Romanov, why is Agent Barton wearing a squirrel tail and jumping around in a tree?”

 

“He lost a bet,” replied Natasha, her eyes following her boyfriend as he imitated a furry woodland creature.

 

Nodding, Phil continued to watch his agent jumping through the tree. “What was the bet this time?”

“Something about a fish and the armory I think,” replied Natasha with a shrug. “I stop listening when the word 'bet' comes up.”

 

Phil hummed. “You would think he'd known better than to make a bet with Darcy at this point.”

 

“At least she amasses blackmail,” pointed out Natasha. A smirk slid across her face as Clint suddenly dove for the roof of the closest building. Behind him, three squirrels gave chase, forcing him to scramble around the roof madly.

 

Groaning, Phil pinched the bridge of his nose. “How does it not bother you that your boyfriend is being chased by angry squirrels?”

 

Natasha shrugged. “I'm not dating him for his brains.”

 

A faint smirk pulled at Phil's lips as he dropped his hand with a sigh. “Let me guess: it's the tail.”

 

Natasha hummed slightly. “It does make his ass look amazing.”

 

They watched for a moment longer as Clint disappeared from sight into the vents, followed closely by his three furry pursuers. That wasn't going to end well. It just wasn't possible and the thought of the associated paperwork made Phil internally groan. He was going to establish a rule about bets: the punishment could not result in damage to any S.H.I.E.L.D buildings. Otherwise those responsible had to fill out the mountain of paperwork.

 

Stepping away from the window, Phil opted to take cover elsewhere. “Can you please make sure that Agent Barton doesn't get rabies, Agent Romanov?”

 

“Are we certain he doesn't have it already?” muttered Natasha with a shake of her head, moving to refill her own coffee cup. “I'll make sure he gets to medical for the required shots.”

 

“Thank you,” replied Phil with a shake of his head as he headed towards the break room door. He had work to do, probably more now that Clint might have caused a minor squirrel infestation in the vent system. “And please, don't leave that tail in the bathroom. It was bad enough when Miss Lewis explained what role playing is to Captain Rogers. I don't want to deal with the fallout of the costume talk.”

 

“I make no promises,” replied Natasha with a smirk. “Besides, you know you want Alex to wear that old Strategic Scientific Reserve uniform.”

 

Groaning, Phil rubbed the bridge of his nose as he exited the break room. Mental note to self: get better locks on my bedroom door.

Chapter Text

Phil yawned as he walked towards his apartment, barely able to keep his eyes open. Seventy hours. Seventy damn hours awake. He was going to go into his apartment, call Alex to assure her he was was alright and possibly beg her to come over after class, then sleep like the dead for the next two days. Yes, that sounded like an amazing plan.

 

A plan that was somewhat short circuited when a voice called out to him from behind. “Phil!”

 

Turning wearily, Phil managed to muster up a smile for Steve even though the floor at this point was looking comfortable. “Hello Steve. Visiting Darcy?”

 

“She said something about a play,” confirmed Steve as he fell into step with Phil. “You look exhausted.”

 

“Seventy hours without sleep will do that,” remarked Phil with a shake of his head, fishing out his apartment key when they reached the door. Unlocking the front door quietly, mostly so he didn't get tackled, Phil led Steve into the apartment wordlessly. And paused as soon as he hit the living room.

 

Phil isn't a man who uses words like 'cute'. He isn't sentimental typically except where Alex is concerned because it's Alex so of course he's going to be sentimental. She's his girlfriend. But the scene in front of him couldn't be considered anything other than cute. Except, perhaps, as blackmail.

 

Clint and Darcy are both in the kitchen, clearly having been baking again. Darcy is sitting on the counter with her eyes closed while Clint is leaning on the counter beside her in nothing but his boxers. His head is pressed into her shoulder, eyes shut as well, and one arm is wrapped around her waist in a half hug. Her head is resting on his, both clearly comfortable and enjoying this moment of quasi intimacy. Well, as intimate as they got.

 

Phil had noticed one thing about Darcy and Clint's relationship in the six months they have all been living together: the two lean on each other more than they lean on their own romantic partners. There are no secrets between the duo, no judgments, and absolutely no romantic inclinations. They are siblings, twins who need each other to get through the day sometimes. Phil had over-heard more than one conversation between the two about how scared one of them was or some nightmare they couldn't repeat to anyone else. He'd been pulled into a few of those conversations as well, but the discussion never had the same feeling of deep rooted trust that existed when the pair didn't know he was there.

 

Behind Phil, Steve started to sputter a little which prompted him to push the super-soldier back outside. If Darcy and Clint were curled around each other, something had happened. Likely, it was something simple like a nightmare on Clint's part, but it was hard to say and they needed a moment to reassure each other that someone else cared who wasn't their partner.

 

“W-what was that?!” exclaimed Steve, looking between the again-closed door and Phil. “Why were they wrapped around each other like that?”

 

Phil shrugged a little, rubbing his eyes to force himself to stay awake. The two inside had likely heard Steve sputtering, but Phil still wanted to give them a few minutes to straighten out. “It's hard to say, though usually it follows some incident.”

 

“Incident?” repeated Steve, eyes still wide.

 

“A nightmare or bad day,” confirmed Phil without thought. “I've walked in a few times to find them curled around each other.”

 

For a moment, Steve fell dead silent. When he spoke again, his voice was clipped and hard. Angry, with a touch of betrayl. “Are they together?”

 

“What?” asked Phil, certain he must have misheard. Steve couldn't have just asked that; the man knew Darcy only had eyes for him and that Clint and Natasha frequently had sex loud enough to make everyone uncomfortable.

 

“Are they together,” repeated Steve, his fists tightening at his sides. “Is Darcy involved with him romantically.”

 

It was enough to almost make Phil laugh, except he realized that to any outsider, what they just saw looked bad. It didn't strike Phil as weird because he'd seen it a million times and Natasha was around so often that she'd probably witnessed it just as much. But for someone like Steve, who only usually came around when he was picking Darcy up and usually wasn't comfortable with them having more intimate moments in the apartment, it looked bad. Very bad.

 

“Steve,” sighed Phil, rubbing his head. Why was he the one who always had to fix these things? “Darcy and Clint are friends, more siblings than anything. Nothing more.”

 

“Then why are they cuddling in the kitchen? And why do they always flirt with each other?” challenged Steve, his mind clearly heading towards some dark conclusions.

 

“They're cuddling in the kitchen because something shook one of them hard and they need a moment of judgment free interaction,” explained Phil calmly. “They each trust the other not to judge and know they can talk about anything that isn't classified above one or both of their pay-grades. As for the flirting, they're joking around and don't mean anything by it.” Patting Steve's arm gently, Phil offered him a smile. “I live with them Steve. They aren't cheating with each other and they don't want to date each other. All they want from one another is the knowledge that someone out there cares regardless of what they do. It's the trust two siblings place in each other, not some expression of latent feelings.”

 

“Are you sure?” asked Steve, his voice becoming less harsh and more hopeful. The man is clearly head over heels for Darcy, and the same can be said of her. But Clint will always be her faux brother, and the sooner Steve accepts that the better. Phil's seen the fake adoption papers that state as much.

 

“Positive,” assured Phil. “It was a bit of harmless contact on their part. Ask Darcy, she'll tell you as much.” Yawning, Phil decided they had given the loony toons long enough and that he'd done his part in ensuring there wouldn't be a lovers quarrel in the middle of his living room.

 

Opening the door, he nodded at Darcy and Clint, who were now just standing side by side with coffee in hand, and headed for his bedroom. Call Alex, then sleep. It sounded like a perfect plan.

Chapter Text

Alex laughed as Phil spun her, the music floating around them. They'd gone to a club, one that played a mix of music spanning from the 40's to the 80's and catered to an older age group. It wasn't like most of the clubs which played music too loud to hear over. This one was at just the right level for both adults to talk, if they wanted to.

 

Dipping her a little, Phil grinned at Alex and pulled her close as the song ended. “Having fun?”

 

“I'm with you, of course I'm having fun,” replied Alex, meeting his smile with her own.

 

“Good,” sighed Phil, one of his hands running up her back and leaning his forehead against hers.

 

Rolling her eyes, Alex quickly kissed him. “Stop worrying. I wouldn't have come out tonight if I didn't want to spend time with you.” Stepping back, she looped her arm in his and led him off the dance floor. “Besides, it's nice to escape for the night. I swear I'm starting to feel the effects of Jenny's pregnancy hormones.”

 

Phil smiled and disentangled their arms to wrap one of his around her waist as they headed for the bar. “I think it's safest for me to invoke my right to remain silent.”

 

That drew a laugh from Alex, who leaned closer to him. “Last I checked, you're not under arrest.”

 

“I still have the right to against self-incrimination,” reminded Phil, leaning over a bit to press a kiss to her hair. “Though depending on what you want to do tonight, I'm sure you could make me confess.”

 

“I was a lawyer, not a cop,” reminded Alex, leaning her head on his shoulder. “Though I've certainly broken my share of witnesses.”

 

“Well then, I can teach you some interrogation techniques to supplement your knowledge base,” murmured Phil, pausing to kiss her.

 

“Hmm,” hummed Alex. “Will any of them be legal techniques?”

 

“Of course,” assured Phil, “they just may not be methods you want to apply in an actual interrogation.”

“So what's the point of learning them?” asked Alex, tilting her head slightly in a faux innocent manner.

 

“You'll know how to get me to talk afterwords,” muttered Phil, “an-”

 

The sound of Phil's cellphone ringing cut through their conversation and drawing a groan from Phil. Extracting the device from his pocket, he pressed it to his ear and accepted the call. “Hello?”

 

“Hiiiiiiiiii Philly,” greeted Clint. His words were slurred and he sounded either high or drunk. Neither of which was a good state for him to be in.

 

“I hope there's a point to this call, Clint, otherwise I'm going to bury you under paperwork for the next month,” warned Phil, his voice tight. I will not let my frustration show. I will not let my frustration show. No matter how likely it is Barton just completely ruined my night, I will not show frustration.

 

Clint giggled, making Phil's concern rise over his irritation. “Darcy wants me to tell you something. She says,” he giggled again, “she says you need to find the chicken and then take it to Tony 'cause he's going to make a turkey from it.”

 

“I'm sorry, what?” asked Phil, one eyebrow rising sharply. “Are you drunk?”

 

“Tequila is gooooooood,” sang Clint. “'So's VODKA.” A third giggle cut through the line, grating on Phil's nerves. “We were celebratin'!”

 

“Who's we?” asked Phil worriedly, wondering how many people he was going to be picking up from the drunk tank/driving home. Beside him, Alex shot him a raised eyebrow. He just rolled his eyes and mouthed 'Clint's drunk'.

 

“Darce an' me an' Tony!” exclaimed Clint happily. “Tony's gonna marry Pepper!”

 

“That's wonderful news,” remarked Phil, filing that information away for later. He'd be certain to check that Tony had actually asked her before he said anything of course; it wouldn't do to spoil the surprise for her. She'd kill him, and he had to doubt she could hide his body. “Where are you?”

 

“Jail,” replied Clint dismissively. “That's why you have to go to the park and get the chicken. We can't get it. Darcy fell down the hill and got all wet and I jumped in after to get her out. But we were both all wet, so we took off our wet clothes so we wouldn't get sick but the man in the park said we couldn't do that and brought us here. Which is why you have to get the chicken for us!”

 

Phil pinched the bridge of his nose, relaxing a little when he felt Alex run a hand through his hair. He glanced at her, noticing the crinkle of her nose, and offered her a tight smile in return. “Alright, I'll be there soon. What precinct are you at?”

 

“Er, I don't know,” admitted Clint. “Er- 'scuse me? Dude with the hat. Where are we?” There was some noise on the other end of the phone, then Clint came back. “The man's gonna tell you.”

 

More jostling echoed over the phone before a woman came on the line. “Hello?”

 

“Hello ma'am,” greeted Phil with a sigh. “I'm sorry about this whole mess. What precinct are they in?”

 

“They're being held at the 35th Precinct,” informed the woman.

 

“Thank you,” sighed Phil.

 

“Of course,” assured the woman. “Just come down and pick them up whenever you can. We'll understand if you want to let them sit for a bit. The only issue we've had is that the blond man wouldn't allow us to put the girl in a separate cell.”

 

“They're roommates,” explained Phil. “Clint is very protective of Darcy.”

 

“I'll assume that's the blond's name and the brunette is Darcy,” stated the officer. “Good to know. They haven't done anything inappropriate, so we haven't seen a reason to separate them.”

 

“I'll be there shortly to pick up all three of them,” assured Phil.

 

“You've got it,” confirmed the woman. “Can I get your name?”

 

“Philip Coulson,” replied Phil. “I'll be there as soon as I can.”

 

“We'll have you on the register,” confirmed the woman. “Goodbye.”

 

“Goodbye,” returned Phil before hanging up his phone. Sighing, he dropped his head on Alex's shoulder. “Why am I surrounded by insane individuals?”

 

“Because your life is insane?” suggested Alex with a smile. “I know the feeling. Are they being charged with anything?”

 

“They didn't say,” replied Phil, rubbing the bridge of his nose. “I hope not though.”

 

“We'll find out when we get there,” assured Alex as she looped her arm in his and started towards the door. “I still have some pull.”

 

“If they're being charged, I'm going to leave them in there,” muttered Phil. “I'm sorry about this, Alex.”

 

“Hey, it could be worse,” pointed out Alex. “Besides, I'm sure we'll have some time once we get them home. Or at least in the care of their significant others.”

 

“Really?” asked Phil in surprise.

 

“Yes, really,” assured Alex. “Now let's get your roommates out of jail so we can get back to our date.”

 

----------------------------------

 

“Alright,” sighed Alex as she stepped out of one of the many office's off the main corridor of the police station. “They're not being charged at this time, mostly because no one was around except the officer. They gave Clint and Darcy jump suits and recovered their clothes from where they were dumped near the lake. They managed to convince Tony to keep his clothing on, despite his insistence that if there was a naked girl in the area, he was going to be naked as well. There was no sign of the chicken they were babbling about, leaving the police to assume it was a hallucination. Unfortunately, there was a flamingo that got set free from the zoo.”

 

Phil pinched the bridge of his nose. “And they were responsible?”

 

“The police aren't sure,” answered Alex. “But they think there's a chance that's the aforementioned 'chicken'. Fortunately, the bird was found in the pond, captured, and returned without incident so they're going to write it off as 'the cage wasn't properly closed' and leave it at that.”

 

“Thank you,” stated Phil, giving Alex a quick kiss. “I'm guessing you pulled some strings for that one.”

 

“Just one,” admitted Alex. Linking her arm with Phil's, she started towards a door off the hall. “Come on, let's get them out and home.”

 

“Are you sure we can't leave them here?” asked Phil. He still wasn't completely sure about bailing his roommates out, but if he didn't then Pepper would. And having Tony propose drunkenly to her, if he hadn't already proposed, wouldn't make her happy.

 

“No, we can't,” confirmed Alex gently, the hand looped through the crook of his elbow sliding down to take his. “Not unless you want Pepper to kill you.”

 

“I'll pass,” muttered Phil, allowing Alex to lead him through the hallways. Her sure footsteps told him how often she'd passed through these same halls many times herself. “Let's just get them home.”

 

Alex smiled and stopped in front of a reinforced door with a small, metal lattice-infused window. She pulled open the door without a word and led him inside, stopping in front of an officer seated behind a desk. “We're here to pick up three individuals from the drunk tank.”

 

“Names?” asked the officer, a bored looking older man with a balding head.

 

“It's alright Norman,” cut in a woman's voice. “They're here for the chicken chasers.” A dark-haired woman stepped out of the second door in the room, offering a smile at Alex. “This way.”

 

Phil nodded, following the officer with Alex right behind him. They walked about half way down the hallway until they reached a barred area where three individuals were huddled together. Clint and Tony were sitting on either side of Darcy, both cuddling close to the brunette in a protective way. Her head was resting on Clint's shoulder, tucked under his chin, and Tony's face was snuggled against her shoulder. It would have been cute if they weren't in a jail cell. Phil didn't even have his cellphone out before Alex was snapping a photo of the scene with her cellphone. One of Phil's eyebrows rose in surprise.

 

Catching his raised eyebrow, Alex shrugged. “I used to be a lawyer. I know potentially valuable blackmail when I see it.”

 

“You're evil,” remarked Phil with a shake of his head.

 

“Never said I would use it,” pointed out Alex as she tucked her phone away. “You just never know when you'll need it. Should we wake them?”

 

“Already awake,” muttered Clint, lifting his head to blink sleepily at them. “Never went to sleep.”

 

“Liar,” muttered Darcy, lifting her head from his shoulder. “You were sleeping with your eyes open again. FYI, you snore.”

 

“Yeah, 'Tasha's told me,” muttered Clint, shifting slightly and jostling Darcy which woke Tony from his dead state.

 

The genius blinked around the cell for a moment before focusing on Phil and Alex. “Did you bring the chicken?”

 

“No, we didn't,” replied Phil, dismissing any ideas the group in front of him might have managed to sober up between the phone call and their arrival.

 

Darcy grinned and tried to stand up only to fall over as soon as she did. Blinking, she began giggling uncontrollably. “I fell.”

 

Clint returned her grin, but managed to actually stand up. “Is the floor trying to kill you again?”

 

“Always!” confirmed Darcy with a shout and giggle. “It's a mean floor.”

 

“I could shoot it,” offered Tony. “I shoot mean things. I am Iron Man!”

 

“We know,” reminded Clint as he tried to stand as well.

 

For a moment he tettered a little and looked like he might fall over. However, his archery knowledge took over and he shifted his feet to improve his balance. Turning shakily on his feet, he offered Darcy a hand up. However, as soon as he started to lift her up, she misbalanced and pulled him down with her. He landed half on top of her, more or less pinning her to the ground. For a moment, the just stared at each other before they burst into laughter.

 

Phil shook his head, muttering about drunken agents and secretaries before he motioned for the woman who'd lead them in to unlock the door. Stepping into the cell, he lightly pressed his foot into Clint's side to make the man roll over. The archer moved without any further prompting, pouting up at Phil as if it had actually hurt. All pouting ceased a half second later though when Phil easily picked Darcy up off the ground and carried her out of the cell.

 

He paused on the outside of the bars, cocking an eyebrow at the others. “Are you coming?”

 

Tony and Clint both stumbled out of the cell, leaning on each other for support as they hobbled out and followed Phil down the hallway. Darcy didn't struggle against Phil at all, apparently deciding that she needed to be carried like any rational person would. Alex easily caught up to Phil, though she didn't say anything. Instead, she silently followed him to the car, helped him load everyone in, then drove them back to their home in foreboding silence.

 

-----------------------------------------------

 

Once they were inside the apartment, Phil immediately dropped Darcy on the sofa and turned to face Clint and Tony. His face was completely neutral, which sort of scared Alex a little. Well, not really. She knew that neutral face meant trouble though.

 

“Both of you, sit,” ordered Phil, gesturing to the empty seats on the couch. Tony and Clint each took a seat on either side of Darcy, except this time they gave her plenty of room. Apparently, Phil wasn't enough of a threat to concern them but the police were. Which made no sense to Alex; from what she could tell, Phil was more talented than any police officer she'd ever met.

 

Once Clint, Tony, and Darcy were all seated, Phil tucked his hands into his pockets and gave them his best 'disappointed father' look. “I want an explanation for this insanity. Now.”

 

“Tony's getting engaged!” exclaimed Clint with a grin. “We were celebratin'!”

 

“Yeah, Tony's getting engaged!” confirmed Tony, almost falling off the couch. For a second, he blinked rapidly as if he was confused. “Wait a minute, I'm Tony. I'm the one getting engaged. Woot! Go me!”

 

Clint grinned. “Yeah, and Pepper'll probably say yes.”

 

“If she hasn't realized your insane,” added Darcy, her head lolling against the back of the couch. “Why is the ceiling spinning?”

 

“'Cause we didn't get the chicken turned into a turkey quickly enough,” replied Clint sagely. “You gotta turn the chicken into a turkey within an hour of sayin' the spell otherwise it don't work.”

 

Cocking an eyebrow, Alex leaned a little closer to Phil. “Did they manage to get drunker?

 

“I'm not sure,” muttered back Phil. “They're pretty insane when there isn't alcohol involved.”

 

For a moment, the only two sober people in the room watched as Darcy, Clint, and Tony debated how long you could wait before you turned the chicken into a turkey. It might have been funny, if any of the conversation were comprehensible. Still, the three drunken musketeers were apparently capable of understanding each other just fine.

 

The ringing of the doorbell drew Alex's attention. Furrowing her brow, she glanced at Phil before heading to the door and opening it. Natasha and Steve were standing on the other side, looking irritated and nervous. It isn't hard to guess which was which.

 

“Steve, Natasha,” greeted Alex. “I'm going to assume you're here to pick up your drunken significant others?”

 

“Something like that, ma'am,” confirmed Steve, still looking uncertain. “Are they alright?”

 

“Drunk off their asses, but otherwise fine,” assured Alex before she stepped aside to allow both individuals inside.

 

Natasha made an immediate bee-line for the sofa, not even slowing down when Clint leaned his head backwards and offered her a grin. “'Tasha! Hiiiiiiiiiiiii.”

 

Shaking her head, the Russian woman stopped when she reached the back of the couch and looked down at her boyfriend with an expectant look. Apparently, Clint could read the silent expression, because he immediately began babbling away about their insane night and the chicken they had failed to turn into a turkey. Alex had to admit, Natasha handled the matter beautifully: she simply stood there and glared at Clint as he explained what had happened.

 

Steve, by contrast, quickly hurried around the couch so he was kneeling in front of Darcy. His brow furrowed tightly and he ran one hand through her tangled brown hair as he searched for any signs she was injured. It was sweet, especially when Darcy grinned at the super soldier and suddenly threw her arms around his neck in a hug while shouting his name and beginning her own explanation of events.

 

Leaning her head on Phil's shoulder, Alex watched them all while murmuring to her fience. “Crisis averted?”

 

“Sort of,” murmured back Phil. “I'm afraid to allow Tony to leave. Pepper will kill me if he proposes while completely trashed.”

 

“Hm, so what will you do?” asked Alex curiously, watching as the genius nodded off beside Darcy only to startle awake again when Natasha slapped the back of Clint's head loudly. The archer rubbed the back of his head and pouted, but the grin broke back across his face after a few seconds, indicating he wasn't actually hurt. Shaking her head, she added: “And is it safe to leave Clint alone with his girlfriend?”

 

Phil shrugged a little. “Natasha won't hurt him, permanently. She really does care for him.”

 

“I never would have guessed,” muttered Alex. “That looked like abuse to him.”

 

“Their relationship is....strange,” admitted Phil. “But I don't worry about it.” Nodding towards Darcy and Steve, he added: “I'm not concerned about leaving Steve with Darcy.”

 

Alex watched as Darcy crawled into Steve's lap and began to kiss him rapidly, though Steve looked a bit unsure what to do. His hands were resting on her arms and he was clearly trying not to touch her in any way that was inappropriate. Especially with the way he was blushing.

 

“You're afraid she'll rape him?” asked Alex curiously. The look Phil sent her said that was not what he was worried about in the lease. She had the dignity to look embarrassed. “I worked SVU. It's sort of an automatic conclusion for me.”

 

Chuckling, Phil slipped both his hands into his pockets. “Acceptable. But no, that isn't my concern. I'm more concerned she will traumatize him inadvertently.”

 

She couldn't help but laugh a little at Phil's concerns. Of course, he'd filled her in on Steve's history: how he'd been around in World War II, that he'd been frozen in a block of ice for nearly seventy years, etc, but that didn't change the fact that he looked like he wasn't much older than twenty seven and should have been alleviated of his blushing tendencies long before now. She shouldn't think that way, but it was hard not to find the whole situation at least a little funny. Especially knowing that Darcy meant no harm and that Steve didn't really mind.

 

“I'm sure he'll be fine,” murmured Alex, one of her hands coming to rest on his shoulder. “Besides, we have a date to get back to.”

 

“Can we go back to your house?” requested Phil hopefully, glancing at the group of people currently sitting in his living room. “Please?”

 

Smiling, Alex hummed a little. “I wouldn't have it any other way.”

 

“Good,” murmured Phil before clearing his throat to catch the attention of the group before them. “Mr. Stark, stay here for the night. Natasha, Steve, I am leaving your significant others in your hands. Also, please do not hesitate to handcuff Mr. Stark to a bed if he attempts to escape.” Pausing, he added: “Not my bed.”

 

“Will do Phil!” shouted Clint, causing Darcy to snicker and fall out of Steve's lap.

 

“I've got duct tape!” added Darcy with a grin as she arched backward to look at Alex and Phil upside down. “We're good! Go make ninja boss babies!”

 

Only Alex's many, many years of experience as an ADA kept her from blushing like crazy at Darcy's comment. Phil kept a completely straight face as he focused on Natasha and Steve, offering them both goodnight's before he led Alex out of the room. Quickly.

 

Once they were in the hall, Phil groaned and offered Alex an apologetic look. “I'm sorry for that, Alex. I never should have taken that call.”

 

Smiling a little at Phil, she laced their fingers together and started to pull him towards the elevators. “We're getting married Phil, it isn't an inaccurate suggestion.” Her smile grew into a grin as they reached the elevator, pressing the down button. “In fact, I think we should seriously consider her suggestion.”

 

Both of Phil's eyebrows rose in surprise and he actually blushed a little, especially when Alex backed him into the corner of the elevator. “Really?”

 

“Mhm,” hummed Alex. “We should discuss it. Form a committee, if that'll make you more comfortable.”

 

“A committee of two,” agreed Phil, wrapping his arms around Alex. “Let's have the first meeting at your place. In bed.”

 

“I like that plan,” murmured Alex just before she kissed him. “I like it very much.”

Chapter Text

Opening his office door to find Fury standing in the middle of the room, eyebrow twitching angrily, was never the way Phil liked to start his day. In fact, it was the worst way to start his day. Usually that meant someone was going to die, more than likely someone under his control. Or Nick wanted help hiding a body. Hiding bodies was always more fun with two people. Plus, a lookout was always necessary. As long as Alex didn’t find out- she still couldn’t quite handle the idea of blatantly breaking the law.

 

“Nick,” greeted Phil, nodding at his one-eyed friend. “To what do I owe this honor?”

 

“Barton rearranged my office furniture,” stated Fury with a growl, pulling out his cellphone and half shoving it at Phil.

 

Taking the device, Phil glanced at the photo on the screen and nearly laughed. All of Fury’s furniture had been rearranged. Namely, it was now bolted to his ceiling. The whole office had been flipped around, but otherwise it looked like a perfectly normal (albeit upside down) office. It was definitely an impressive feat.

 

“What makes you think Barton is responsible?” asked Phil as he began flipping through the images.

 

“He has the best motive,” growled Fury, crossing his arms. “I told him last week he wasn’t allowed to play with nerf weapons in the halls. Agent Swan shot Agent Alder in the ass because of his sneak attack tactics.”

 

“Did you confiscate his nerf bow?” continued Phil, handing the device back to Fury.

 

“What do you think?” countered Fury, eye twitching.

 

Nodding, Phil headed to his desk, pulling open the top drawer and extracting a flat tool kit. “Was the bow missing?”

 

“I can’t get to my furniture to check,” reminded Fury, his scowl deepening. “What are you doing with that thing Phil?”

 

“We’re going to go to your office and get your furniture off the ceiling,” stated Phil calmly, moving back towards the door of his office and only pausing to hold the door open for Fury. The one-eyed man scowled and grumbled as he stormed out of the room, anger practically radiating off of him.

 

Pausing in his doorway, Phil made sure Fury was out of earshot before he turned back to his empty office and stated: “You’d better find a good place to hide, Barton.”

 

Then, he shut the door and went after his fuming friend, shaking his head slightly.

 


 

Barton was sprawled across the couch when Phil arrived home that night, Darcy sprawled across the other end directly opposite of where he sat. Glancing up, he grinned at Phil, waving slightly at the man.

 

“Hey Phil, what’s up?” greeted the archer. “Anything fun happen at HQ today?”

 

Phil narrowed his eyes at the archer, stepping over to the couch with a scowl. “That depends on if you would define removing Fury’s furniture from the ceiling fun or not.”

 

“What’d he do, let Stark run experiments in his office again?” asked Clint with smirk. “I keep saying we should put a shock collar on him.”

 

“He’d find a way to break it,” dismissed Darcy with a wave of her hand, eyes glued to her phone. “Pepper tried it.”

 

“Wha- when?” demanded Clint, turning to blink at Darcy. “And why wasn’t I around?”

 

“A few months ago, while you were in Botswana sweating your ass off,” remarked Darcy, finally looking up from her phone. “I tried to video tape it, but JARVIS scrambled all the electronics in the area on Tony’s command. Took down everything electronic in Stark Tower for like…ten minutes.”

 

“Seriously? What was he locked out of?” asked Clint in complete shock.

 

Darcy smirked a little. “His workshop. Took him twenty minutes of running at the doors to finally find a solution. It was kinda funny, in a sad way.”

“Could we get back to the fact that Clint attached all of Fury’s furniture to the ceiling?” broke in Phil, scowling at the pair.

 

Both blinked up at him blankly for a moment before Darcy let out a whistle and turned to Clint. “Damn Birdy, how’d you pull that one off?”

 

“I wish I could take credit for that one,” stated Clint, shaking his head a little. “Asshole took my nerf bow.”

 

“Clint,” warned Phil, his eyes narrowing further. “Fury wasn’t amused.”

 

“But I didn’t do it!” insisted Clint, holding up his hands. “Seriously, how could I have gotten Fury’s furniture on the ceiling?”

 

“I’m still trying to figure that part out,” admitted Phil with a frown. “You were the most likely culprit though.”

 

“No way!” exclaimed Clint in indignation. “I didn’t bolt Fury’s furniture to the ceiling and I’m going to prove it!”

 

Rubbing his forehead, Phil just shook his head and headed towards his room. His muscles ached and his head was pounding from listening to Fury’s near-incessant complaining. Right then, all he wanted was a shower and sleep. “Whatever you say, Clint. Just avoid Fury for a while; he might actually shoot you this time.”

 

With that, Phil headed down the hallway, despite Clint’s ranting from the living room. If Clint hadn’t actually bolted the furniture to the ceiling, he’d help clear the man’s name himself. For now though, he was going to bed.

 


 

The next day, Phil found himself staring at his office in complete and utter confusion. All of the furniture in his office appeared to have been turned pink. Hot pink. Bright pink like a 6-year-old’s princess themed bedroom. He poked his couch once, just to make sure it was actually there and not made of something ridiculous like a balloon. It was entirely solid though and definitely felt like his original furniture beneath the pink. Huh. Apparently someone had taken it upon themselves to attack the furniture of high-ranking SHIELD agents. And Phil would get to the bottom of it; no one messed with his office and escaped.

Chapter Text

Clint was going to find a way to figure out who was messing with the higher level SHIELD agent’s offices. In the past week. Coulson, Fury, Hill, Hand, Garrett, and Sitwell had all been hit with someone recoloring, rearranging, or, in the case of Garrett, relocating the furniture in their offices (Garrett’s ended up attached to the outside of the Triskelion). It was amusing and impressive, but Clint was becoming increasingly irritated with the fact that he was being constantly blamed for these events. He was having to dodge six high level agents right now- and he lived with one of them! Well, okay, to be fair, Coulson was the only one who believed him when he said he didn’t do any of this. Or, at least he didn’t believe Clint was responsible for replacing Maria’s furniture with blow-up versions. Or attaching Garrett’s to the Triskelion.

 

The question was- who was responsible? Who had the higher ups pissed off to the point of causing this level of chaos? And how had they done it?

 

Crawling through the vents, Clint headed towards where he thought the culprit would strike next. Or, well, where he thought it was more likely they’d strike. There were too many high-level agents to say 100% for sure who this culprit would strike against.

 

“Yo, Birdy.” Darcy’s voice echoed through the comm in his ear. “I’m chilling in the vent in Agent Hobbit’s office. You sure about that?”

 

“I have no clue,” admitted Clint as he wiggled towards Blake’s office. “Why do you call him Agent Hobbit anyway?”

 

“Have you seen his feet?” countered Darcy, her voice disbelieving. “They’re hairy like a hobbits! Plus, he’s short.”

 

“I’m shorter than him,” pointed out Clint as he turned a corner in the vent shaft.

 

“Yeah, but you aren’t hairy,” stated Darcy. “And don’t argue that one- you’ve wondered around the apartment naked a few too many times at this point for me not to know that.”

 

“I really hope that was an exaggeration,” remarked Phil’s voice, his calm tone coming both from the vent shaft and the comm in Clint’s ear.

 

The sound of Clint’s head slamming into the top of the vent shaft was echoed by a yelp of pain from Darcy. Blinking, he found Phil’s head sticking into the vent shaft ahead, a raised eyebrow cocked at Clint.

 

“Phil, I swear, this isn’t what I looks like!” exclaimed Clint, torn between backing up and attempting to explain himself. Then again, it did look kinda bad; he might be better off just to run. “I’m trying to catch whoever’s been messing with the offices!”

 

“So am I,” stated Phil, pulling himself into the vents with the ease of someone who routinely did so and not a man who spent a lot of time behind a desk. “Darcy is staking out Agent Gillmore’s office, I believe?”

“His name is Agent Hobbit,” corrected Darcy, grumbling slightly. “His feet are too hair for him to be human!”

 

“I’m pretty sure Thor debunked the whole ‘hobbit’ thing,” reminded Clint as he shifted around a little so Phil could have some room to climb into the vents.

 

“Actually, he said they looked like some alien creature thing, so no, they might exist and I maintain Agent Hobbit is one of them!” stated Darcy firmly.

 

“Could we table this discussion until later?” requested Phil as he climbed into the vent beside Clint. “Preferably a time when we are not attempting to track down an individual who is vandalizing SHIELD offices?”

 

“Fine,” grumbled Darcy. “But I will ask Loki about it. He’ll know.”

 

“Or he’ll turn Agent Gillmore into a hobbit,” pointed out Clint with a smirk.

 

“Neither of you are allowed to encourage or allow Loki to turn Agent Gillmore into a hobbit,” stated Phil with a sigh, turning around in the vent somehow and beginning in the direction Clint had been initially. “Shall I assume you were headed for Blake’s office?”

 

“Uh, yeah,” confirmed Clint, blinking a bit even as he began following Phil. “How did you know?”

 

“This is the most direct route to Blake and Sitwell’s offices,” stated Phil, “and Sitwell has already been hit.”

 

“Do we want to know how you know that one, Phil?” asked Darcy curiously. “Or is that just one of those ‘robots know all’ thing?”

 

“It’s a ‘I memorized the ventilation blueprints because Agent Barton kept disappearing and someone had to climb into the vents to get him’ thing,” returned Phil, stopping just over the vent opening that lead to Blake’s office.

 

“So it’s Birdies’ fault,” stated Darcy as if that was an obvious conclusion. “Should have thought of that one.”

 

“Thanks Bunny,” grumbled Clint as he tried to figure out how to get past Phil. “I really appreciate-”

 

“Shhh,” hissed Phil suddenly, bending closer to the vent. “I think I see someone.”

 

“Uh, then I think it’s the janitor,” remarked Darcy, “’cause- AHHH! Shit dude!” A cracking sound followed as the comm suddenly just fell silent.

 

“Darcy!” shouted Clint in the vague hope the comm would come back online even as Coulson nearly kicked out the vent face and dropped through the opening. Clint followed without a word, taking off after his boss and startling the janitor as they ran by. The man nearly flattened himself against the wall, eyes wider than they probably should have been given the man worked in a SHIELD facility. Huh. That might be worth mentioning to Fury.

 

Shaking the thought from his brain, Clint focused on following Phil as they raced towards Agent Gillmore’s office, silently hoping whatever had gotten Darcy wouldn’t hurt her. If it did, he was pretty sure Gillmore would need to redecorate his office. The blood probably wouldn’t come off the walls. Or the carpet.

 

Phil didn’t even slow down as they approached the office, slamming it open with his shoulder while pulling out his Taser. Clint was inside less than a second later, fearing the worse.

 

What they found was something neither would ever forget.

 

Loki was sitting in the middle of the room, Darcy’s arm around his shoulder in a comforting way. His lower lip was extended in a way that could only be defined as pouting and his shoulders were slumped in defeat. Darcy was talking quietly to him in a reassuring voice, her eyes going up to Phil and Clint when they barged in.

 

“Hey guys,” greeted Darcy, smiling at them a bit apologetically. “Sorry about the whole ‘disappearing from comms thing. Loki kinda scared me and the comm fell out of my ear and rolled somewhere.”

 

Phil’s eye twitched somewhat violently, his finger twitching against the trigger of his Taser. A few seconds later though, he was holstering the device with a deep and clearly restrained breath. “Darcy, why is Loki in Agent Gillmore’s office?”

 

“’Cause he’s been vandalizing the offices,” stated Darcy, patting Loki’s shoulder a little as if that weren’t a problem at all. “He’s kinda upset.”

 

“So he’s been vandalizing people’s offices,” repeated Clint slowly, cocking an eyebrow at both her and the god she’d somehow befriended. “Wow, that’s a worse reason than Fury taking my nerf bow.”

 

“I have not been striking against agents without reason,” growled Loki, though the pout kinda took any bite out of his growling.

 

Clint shot Phil a confused look, wondering if the other agent had a better idea of what might be going on. Sadly, Phil looked just as confused and slightly irritated as Clint was.

 

“And what is this supposed reason, exactly?” questioned Phil as he holstered his Taser. “I can’t speak for the others but I know I haven’t done anything that even remotely involved you recently.”

 

“Yes, you have,” corrected Loki, bolting angrily to his feet. “You drew the attention of the lovely raven-haired warrior woman who works in your administration division and made it impossible for me to approach her!”

 

“I’m sorry, what?” asked Phil, pinching the bridge of his nose a little in clear frustration. “What woman are you talking about?”

 

“She is a raven-haired woman who works in administration but who is as capable of fighting as she is of filing,” stated Loki, his arms crossing over his chest. “She rarely ventures beyond the boundaries of SHIELD’s compound, but the last few times she has, other agents have approached her and insisted she return before I could approach her!”

“I’m still not sure what you’re talking about,” repeated Phil with growing irritation.

 

“It sounds like you cock-blocked him accidentally,” remarked Clint, furrowing his brow a little as he tried to figure out what Loki might be talking about. There were a lot of dark-haired women in administration, but whoever Loki meant was probably someone Phil would talk to outside of work. That fact alone narrowed the list basically down to…. “Wait, Loki.” The angry god momentarily turned his glare on Clint, as if that would help somehow alleviate his frustrations. “Are you talking about Melinda May?”

 

Slowly, Loki nodded. “That is what I have come to understand her name to be.”

 

Clint had to bite his tongue to keep from laughing. Phil began choking beside him, clearly either disturbed or amused by the idea. He straightened up quickly when Darcy glared at them. It was too late though; with a frustrated sound, Loki disappeared, leaving Darcy, Clint, and Phil standing in Agent Gillmore’s office. Well, it was his office for about five seconds. Then all of the furniture shrunk to the size of a mouse’s and the walls and floor of the room suddenly turned into icy sheets, sending all three people to the ground.

 

“Smooth one,” growled Darcy as she sat up rubbing her butt slightly.

 

“Dude, he’s got a crush on the Cavalry,” stated Clint, unable to restrain his laughter by then. It wasn’t like Loki was there anymore, anyway. There was no reason to avoid laughing by that point.

 

“It’s rather disturbing,” added Phil, wincing as he dug some piece of miniaturized furniture from beneath his bum.

 

“What should we do anyway?” asked Clint admit his snickering. “We can’t just let Mel get blindsided by this.”

 

“Oh hell no!” exclaimed Darcy, somehow pushing herself up to her feet. “You two are going to stay out of this. “I am not going to let you ruin this for Loki!”

 

“But Darce-” started Clint, only for the angry former intern to cut him off with a wave of her hand.

 

“No,” repeated Darcy, her fists planted firmly on her hips. “I am gonna help Loki woo this woman ‘cause he deserves it and you two are gonna stay the hell out of it otherwise I will tase you both and leave you hanging by your feet in Tony’s workshop. Got it?”

 

“Got it,” muttered Clint, holding up his hands. Phil just shot her a look that said she had no power over him.

 

Scowling, she half stormed, half skated out of the office, clearly angry. Silently, Clint listened to her storming steps disappear before he glanced back at Phil again.

 

“We aren’t really going to not warn May, are we?” asked Clint curiously, cocking an eyebrow.

 

Phil pressed his lips together in an unhappy line but shook his head all the same. “I don’t particularly want to get involved, but admittedly, I might be good for May.”

 

“Are you seriously?” asked Clint, eyes going wide. “She’ll kill us if she finds out we knew and didn’t warn her.”

 

“I didn’t say I wasn’t going to warn her,” corrected Phil as he climbed carefully to his feet as well. “I just said I don’t want to get involved.”

 

“And that you thought this might be good for May,” reminded Clint, trying to scramble to his feet as Phil carefully slid to the open office door. “I mean, that sounds like you aren’t going to interfere, right?” Phil didn’t respond, just headed down the hallway. “Phil?” Clint struggled to the door, leaning on the door frame as he nearly fell through it. “Wait, Phil! What’s your plan?” Still the agent remained silent, heading for the elevators. That drew a curse from Clint, who managed to get off the slippery floor just as Phil turned the corner of the hallway and disappeared out of sight. Cursing, Clint took off after the man, determined to find out what his superior’s plan was. “Phil!”

Chapter Text

There was flour in the hallway.

 

That was the first thought that crossed Phil’s mind. The second concerned a small spattering of chocolate in the living room. Those two things alone should have warned him of impending disaster. It implied a destroyed kitchen at minimum.

 

But what really worried him was the sound of various British voices echoing through the apartment. He knew those voices and they never heralded anything good. All of these factors combined could only mean one thing: Darcy and Clint had been binge watching The Great British Baking Show. It was their favorite

 

Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, Phil stepped into his kitchen and prepared for the worst.

 

His worst wasn’t even close to what he found.

 

Pots, pans, baking tins, and cookie sheets were piled in and around the skin with various substances sticking to the surfaces. They also appeared to have multiplied; Phil knew he didn’t own as many cooking and baking instruments as currently littered his kitchen. Which meant either someone was shopping on ebay again or they’d raided Stark Tower. Or Stark had funded this. Stark had better not have funded this without offering up his own kitchen.

 

Taking a breath, Phil dared a glance at the ceiling. He nearly sighed with relief as he noted there was no indication of dough or frosting icicles on the ceiling this time. The last time Darcy and Clint had gotten into a bake-off after watching The Great British Baking Show, his ceiling had resembled a winter wonderland. It had taken almost a week for Alex to get the frosting out of her hair. Phil was still not sure how they’d managed to make a liquid caramel frosting. He blamed Stark. Or Darcy. He suspected the girl was something of a chemist, even if she wouldn’t admit it.

 

Fortifying himself, Phil dared to look around the rest of the kitchen and felt his jaw drop.

 

His counters looked like bakery display cases. Cookies, cupcakes, cakes, pastries, and a slew of other sweet things Phil couldn’t even identify covered his counters. All of them were packaged up nicely and looked almost like they were just waiting to be delivered. And in the middle of everything were Darcy and Clint, covered in a mix of flour, chocolate, and various other substances Phil couldn’t even begin to name. His counter looked caked in flour in places and there was something that looked like a mix of milk and maybe sugar on the floor that he suspected would be very sticky if he stepped in it.

 

Patiently, Phil remained in the doorway, waiting for Darcy and Clint to put their piping bags down. He’d learned his lesson the last time he’d startled one of them while they were piping. He’d never believed frosting could be a weapon, but Darcy had somehow done it.

It reinforced his theory about her chemistry knowledge.

 

“Done,” sighed Clint, setting his bag aside and pausing the British voices from the computer resting on a baking sheet and bowl- turned makeshift table. Probably to keep it safe from various substances that tended to fly around when Darcy and Clint were baking.

 

Darcy let out a breath and set her bag aside as well. “Finally. We’re never agreeing to this again.”

 

“C’mon Darce, it wasn’t that bad,” dismissed Clint with a grin, though he looked exhausted. “I mean, we got it done and we get to make a lot of kids happy. Plus, it was an excuse to watch our favorite baking show and use their recipes.”

 

“True,” admitted Darcy as Clint threw an arm around her and kissed her head. “Fucking Stark.”

 

“Next time we’re not going to help him,” confirmed Clint with a grin. “But you have to admit this was fun.”

 

“It’s fun,” she agreed with a sigh, her head dropping onto his shoulder as her arms crossed over her chest. “Just wish we could have done it at Stark Tower rather than our apartment where we have to clean.”

 

“We’ll tell Stark he has to come over and clean,” dismissed Clint with a grin. “These are for his hospital ward after all.”

 

A faint smile tugged at Darcy’s face. “At least the kids should be happy.”

 

“A hospital bake sale for the kids ward,” muttered Clint with a shake of his head. “How the hell did Stark come up with that?”

 

“It’s a pretty standard school thing,” assured Darcy, her eyes sliding shut. “It’s nice of him to want to give the kids a sense of normalcy.”

 

“Yeah,” agreed Clint, his brows furrowing a bit. “Do you feel like this isn’t actually Stark’s idea?”

 

“Nah, it’s Peppers,” assured Darcy knowingly. “I asked her. She just smiled and said ‘I suggested it and Tony went with it, but it doesn’t matter as long as the kids are happy’.”

 

“Sounds like Pepper,” chuckled Clint as he tugged Darcy back to rest against the sink. “So that’s why you agreed to do this. I pretty much assumed you were going to tell Stark to go fuck himself.”

 

“If I did, there wouldn’t be a kitchen in Stark Tower,” snorted Darcy. “And those kids would have food poisoning. Pepper told me that Tony blew up the stove once when he turned it on.”

 

Clint shot his partner in crime a look of complete disbelief. “How-”

 

“No one knows,” dismissed Darcy with a limp wave of her hand and a sigh. “We should start cleaning up before Phil gets home. He’s gonna flip when he sees the mess.”

 

“He already did flip,” remarked Phil, finally deciding to make himself known. Darcy and Clint both jumped. Darcy lost her balance and fell to the floor. Or rather, Clint pushed her to the floor out of instinct and then somehow ended up in the sink. There was a lot of clattering as dirty cookie sheets and pans hit the ground. At least one apparently hit Darcy too, because she let out an angry yelp and the offending pan flew back up and smacked Clint in the shoulder as he tried to scramble out of the sink.

 

“Hey Phil,” greeted Clint with an innocent grin. “What are you doing home? It’s only-” The archer stopped to stare at his watch and cursed when he realized it was after 5:30. “-the same time you always get home. Fuck.”

 

Phil just shook his head, rounding the counter to help Darcy up from the floor and then tug Clint out of the sink. “You two are filthy.”

 

“Yeah, we’ve uh, been baking….” muttered Dracy, still rubbing her head as she glared at Clint. He shot her an apologetic look in return.

 

“For the Stark Children’s Ward,” supplied Phil with a nod. “I heard. Now go clean up and get us some dinner. I’ll finish wrapping everything and clean up.” He paused, glancing around, then added: “Make it dinner for four.”

 

Darcy and Clint blinked at him but didn’t argue. They bolted out of the kitchen, arguing about who got the bathroom first. Phil would bet they ended up just showering together. For as close as they were, they weren’t attracted to each other like that. It was kind of amazing what they’d actually do together. Usually when they were exhausted like they were now.

 

Pulling out his phone, Phil hit speed dial three and tucked the phone to his ear as he started investigating the mysterious glue-like substance on his floor. They could just toss everything else if necessary and he’d make Stark buy them new equipment.

 

She picked up on the third ring. “Hey Phil.”

 

“Hey Alex,” returned Phil as he poked at the substance. “What are you doing tonight?”

 

“I was planning to take a bath with a glass of wine,” replied Alex. He could practically hear her eyebrow rise. “Did you have something else in mind?”

 

“My roommates have baked enough goods to fill a bakery for an event at the Children’s hospital tomorrow and I offered to clean up,” stated Phil as he finally stood up and went to get the strongest cleaning spray he could find.

 

“That was kind of you,” remarked Alex, her voice amused. “I’m guessing you want some help?”

 

“I’m making them go get dinner,” confirmed Phil as he sprayed the spot from a distance, in case it exploded or foamed up. It popped a little when the chemicals hit it and he jumped back. “I’m also wondering if I should have made them clean up.”

 

“Did something start burning when you went to clean it?” asked Alex and he could hear her laughing as she spoke.

 

“Popping,” corrected Phil as he compressed his lips and watched the mystery substance continue to pop and hiss.

 

“I’ll be over in fifteen minutes,” assured Alex with barely suppressed laughter. “Try not to burn your eyebrows off.”

 

“Thanks,” muttered Phil with a sigh, turning away from the mystery stain to locate the fire extinguisher just in case. “Bring rubber gloves. And maybe some goggles. Please.”

 

“I’ll see what I can find,” assured Alex. He heard her laughing as she hung up and he couldn’t help but smile.

 

Clint and Darcy appeared just after he hung up, their hair still wet and their clothes just being pulled on. His theory about the shared shower was probably accurate then, unless one of them stole his. Somehow, he didn’t think so though.

 

“So, pizza?” asked Clint hopefully, giving Phil a pleading look.

 

Phil nodded as he checked the popping stain. “Sure. Are you sure your stuff is safe to eat?”

 

“Yep,” confirmed Darcy as she raised an eyebrow at the hissing pool. “We’ve made all of these things before.” Her eyebrows rose as she watched the stain hiss. “Did you throw an acidic substance on that?”

 

“I put cleaner on it,” confirmed Phil, raising an eyebrow. “Why?”

 

“Because that was a base substance,” explained Darcy, her lips compressing. “That might go on for a while…”

 

Clint raised his eyebrow curiously. “What was that?”

 

“Some of the edible ‘glue’ I made for the owls,” replied Darcy. “It’s a base substance, completely safe to eat but it’s tacky and solidifies nicely when it dries. You knocked a bowl of it on the ground, remember?”

 

“That stuff was liquidus,” reminded Clint, clearly confused. “How did it spread like that?”

 

“It stiffens over time,” explained Darcy, arching an eyebrow at him. “You dumped a freshly made bowl on the ground before it could get tacky.”

“Sorry,” apologized Clint sheepishly.

 

Darcy shrugged, pointing at the hissing stain. “Well, the good news is that’ll probably dissolve it.”

 

“Good to know my floor isn’t destroyed,” muttered Phil as he started poking at a cement-like substance on a pot. “Are you two going to get us pizza?”

 

“Just need to know what you want, boss,” stated Clint with a grin. “And what Alex wants.”

 

“Veggie for Alex and I,” stated Phil as he gave up poking at the substance and began digging around for something he could use as a chisel.

 

“Got it,” agreed Darcy, waving a little as she grabbed Clint and tugged him through the front door of the apartment. “We’ll be back soon.”

 

Phil let out a sigh as soon as they were gone, allowing a grin to pull across his face. Clint and Darcy had done something amazing with their baking and it was going to make a lot of people happy. Looking around his kitchen though, he decided that, next time, they would be doing this at Stark Tower. Stark could clean up the mess himself. After all, this was his idea.