Who attacks New York on Halloween? Idiots. Idiots attack New York on Halloween. Phil is stoically jogging in and out of the crowds of young adults out to party this evening. He tucks his gun in close to his body where it blends in a bit against his dark suit, and keeps the safety on.
There is a terrified sound from around the corner and then the shouts of young men. Phil presses his back against the wall before swinging his gun up and around, fully expecting the reported Doombots to have got a hold of some drunk college boys.
Phil almost shoots one by accident. It's not his fault – one of the drunk college boys is actually dressed as Doctor Doom. The others are a sexy Ninja Turtle, a sexy doctor, and Batman. They're trying to stuff a cat into a pair of green, scaly Robin pants and a cape, but look up when Phil slides into view. They look at his field suit, the badge clipped to his pocket and his gun. They laugh. "Good costume, man!" One of them says.
There are actual Doombots in the city right now, disguised as costumed New Yorkers dressed as robots and that just makes his head hurt. Phil does not have time for this shit. That is his only real excuse for firing a warning shot down the alley instead of doing the mature, adult thing like talking them into letting go of the cat.
"Oh, fuck!" The college boys all swear. Phil would have thought that was the end of it, except then Batman throws the cat at him and they all leg it down the street. Phil catches the cat, of course, because he is a great catch and would have done college baseball if he hadn’t been set on the Army and wanted to leave that spot open for someone who wanted to go pro. He ends up with an armful of traumatised cat tangled in Robin's underwear, and Doombots to catch.
A slight buzz in his ear warns him before Maria bursts onto the comm. "Easter and Principal, where are you? We've found the main deploy position and have them surrounded, but there are still twenty-four out and among the civilians." ‘Principal’ means him. Phil tries to put the Robin cat on the ground but it digs its claws into his sleeves and hisses at him for trying. Phil sighs, thankful for the protective field gear and breaks into a jog.
"On the periphery. If any of the eyes up above spot any, direction would be nice."
It is difficult to persuade actual Halloween partygoers that he is really a government agent. Phil already knew that would be a problem though. It is even more difficult to persuade them that he is really a government agent when he tasers a Robot-costume-disguise-Doombot in the neck. His SHIELD-modified tech fries its circuits. Phil still has twenty-three of these fuckers to go though, so he just pulls back in his taser lines, relays his coordinates to Hill and lets her dispatch a couple of junior agents to deal with the mess as he moves on.
Robin cat pokes its head out from where it's now cradled in the crook of Phil's arm to hiss menacingly at the dead Doombot. Phil wishes he could do the same.
The Doombots are surprisingly easy to deal with. The crowds get a bit hysterical every time he zaps another one, true, but that's not his division – at least not right now. It's testament to how simple this op is that Robin cat stays where he is, suspiciously snarling at anyone and everyone, including Phil, and yet refusing to be dislodged from his arm. It’s small, still a kitten, and has bobbled brown fur that makes it look perpetually wet.
"Shit, is that a civilian?" Those are Jasper's first words to him as Phil gets back to the surveillance van. Phil supposes that in their line of work, it's not that odd of a question. Even Maria looks around.
"No, no. It's a cat. A real cat. It won't let go of me and I didn't have time to deal with it," sighs Phil, slumping into a seat as Jasper turns the ignition on and heads back to HQ. He finally looks down at it. It's a scrap of fur, brown and wide-eyed. There's a collar around its neck that says 'Clint'. Its ears flick back and it hisses at Phil when he reaches down. "Stop that. I've been carrying you for almost two hours," he says, tugging the Robin cape off and then delicately lifting its legs so that he can unwind the pants too. "There, that's better, isn't it?"
'Clint' hops off down to the floor, makes a quick rotation around the van, hissing both at Maria and Jasper and then circles back around Phil. "He's walking a bit oddly." Maria frowns. She's right. Clint is kind of waddling awkwardly.
"Hope I didn't do that," Phil says, watching as Clint observes him for a moment, ears still flicking, and then determinedly squirms his way into the non-existent space between Phil's butt and the back of the seat. He yowls when Phil tries to fish him back out so Phil gets out his paperwork instead, and ignores the warm, trembling lump between the small of his back and the seat.
When they get to SHIELD HQ, Clint claws his way up Phil's back and Phil bemusedly bends his arm as Clint nudges his head around Phil's waist and tucks himself up there. Phil takes it the only place he thinks will help: Medical. "I need to know if he's chipped," says Phil. He tries to put Clint down on one of the medical beds and Clint cries at him. Phil internally wibbles. He sits down on the bed himself instead, adjusting the pillows against his back and letting himself feel amused as the doctors stare at him. “Well?”
A junior doctor steps up, a little scanner in her hand. “I can do it.”
“Doctor Chiu. Aren’t you meant to be in ward four at the moment?” One of the other doctors shoots her an annoyed look. She waves him off.
“Ward four finished up already,” she says, and efficiently waves the scanner over Clint. Phil likes her already. “No chip, I’m afraid. Any address on the tag?”
Phil shakes his head. “Is there anyone here who can give it a once over? It’s walking funny.”
“He,” corrects Chiu. “Come here and let me see you, baby.” She makes a move for Clint; Clint reacts the same way he has to everyone so far, swatting at her with a snarl. Amazingly, she dodges all the gleaming claws, tucks her fingers around his paws so that he can’t move them and scoops him up fearlessly. Clint howls, and tries to flail with all four limbs and his tail. “It’s okay, baby,” she coos. The senior doctor - Graves, Coulson vaguely remembers - snorts at her. Chiu ignores him and runs a hand over Clint’s fur, a frown forming as she does so.
“What is it?” Phil asks.
“It feels like he has some broken bones, but he’s not acting like he’s in pain.” Chiu goes for the portable x-ray machine, letting Clint escape back onto Phil.
Graves protests at this point. “Agent Coulson! You’re not injured and this is Medical, not a vet’s. Doctor Chiu, you can’t just use the equipment for anything you like.” They both ignore him. Phil’s far enough up the ladder that Graves doesn’t quite dare to directly interfere, but disapproval radiates off him. Clint sniffs him, sneezes and then rumbles in disgust.
As soon as his legs are free, Clint clambers all over Phil’s lap in distress until Phil pets him. Clint simultaneously hisses at him and arches into the touch. He lets Phil tuck him onto the small rolling table so that Chiu can x-ray him. Her frown deepens as the x-ray develops in front of them.
“What is it?” Phil finds himself scritching at the back of Clint’s ears.
Chiu hands the x-ray over, her mouth pursed into a line. “He doesn’t have any injuries right now, but he has had quite a few previously. Broken bones that don’t look like they’ve been set. I can break the bones and reset them, but you should probably ask the owners first.”
Phil nods absently. “I’ll head back to the area and ask around.” Clint delicately picks his way across Phil’s thigh and attempts to burrow in behind his back again. He looks inordinately disgruntled when Phil gets off the bed, exposing him. “Come on.”
The ride back to into central New York is fine, Clint being the model of cat decorum, tail swishing as he looks at everything with deep interest but doesn’t touch. It lasts all the way until Phil opens the door for Clint. The cat gets one look at the surrounding area, screeches and flees back into the car. Phil bends down to pry him out from under the front seat, and Clint is just huddled under it. His ears are flattened all the way down, but not in the menacing stance of before, and his eyes are huge with betrayal. Phil reaches out slowly and Clint mewls pathetically, his entire body shaking.
“O...kay,” says Phil. “You don’t like it here, huh.”
They drive back to SHIELD as Phil thinks over options. It takes almost ten minutes before Clint inches his head out from under the seat, his ears flicking suspiciously as if Phil might throw open the door at any moment and they’re suddenly back at the nasty place again.
When Phil opens the door, Clint shuffles backwards under the seat again. “We’re back at SHIELD,” Phil informs him, well aware that he looks like he’s talking to an empty seat. Clint clearly doesn’t trust him, because he pokes his nose out to get a good smell before wriggling out. Phil scoops him up before he can try to sharpen his claws on Phil’s back again, and takes him up to his office. Several junior agents do a double take as they walk past him; Phil makes mental notes of their names, because they could at least make it less obvious when they’re startled.
When they get to his office, which is a horrible dark thing with a window the size of a postage stamp, Phil sets Clint down and heads for the desk. The files are starting to loom in his inbox tray and he sorts about two thirds of them into categories urgent, can wait and shaft off onto junior agent, although that one’s officially supposed to be delegate. The other third goes straight into the shredder. He has his own shredder. It’s industrial-sized and sits by the wall within arm’s reach, decorated with three lacy doilies his mother crocheted, and a bonsai. It confuses everyone who walks in, and he quite likes that.
Clint is meandering around the office, sniffing at everything. He’s still walking awkwardly, but seems to have no trouble jumping up on Phil’s desk, keysmashing across the keyboard, hopping back down into Phil’s lap and cramming himself behind Phil’s butt again. He’s going to have to do something about that. Phil brings information and contact details up for three local pet rescues and shelters and deletes Clint’s ‘adsrffffkyhjn,l;’.
By nine pm, Phil has written a description of Clint and taken a picture of his backside and tail for the rescue shelters to put up as a notice, finished the thankfully sparse paperwork for this op and contemplated going home at least twice. Jasper stops by on his dinner break to pick up his paperwork with a sandwich for him - because in their line of work, nine pm is a perfectly reasonable time for a dinner break - and Clint meows mournfully from behind Phil.
“Fuck!” Jasper glares. “Is that cat in here?!” He looks around, trying to pinpoint the direction of the sound.
“What cat?” Phil looks blandly at him.
Jasper scowls, and waves his sandwich at him. “Don’t fuck with me, I’m saving you a whole ten minutes of legwork,” he says, picking up a stack of Phil’s paperwork to file it for him because he is the best.
When Jasper’s gone, Phil shuffles forward and cranes around to peer at the squashed lump of fur that is Clint right now. “Food, huh. Probably a good idea. You look underfed.” Clint just looks grumpy that his source of heat has disappeared, and Phil is left wondering why he’s talking to a cat. He sighs. “Come on.”
Phil has no idea what cats eat. Thank god for smartphones, seriously. He orders take-out in advance from his favourite Chinese place, gets there just in time to pick it up and only tells Clint off for climbing all over the containers once. Clint is practically clawing at his thighs to get at the food when Phil walks them into his apartment, taking no notice of the fact that he falls to the ground in each failed attempt, only climbing back up Phil’s legs again. Phil’s just glad he kept the protective field gear on.
Crab rangoons go over particularly well with Clint because he snarfles them all, quick as a thief, Phil letting him out of amusement more than any inability to wrestle food from a kitten. Clint actually climbs into the little take-out box after he’s done and circles around, smearing oil and crumbs all over himself, and then drops off to sleep.
Phil eats the rest of his Chinese, wishing he’d ordered more rangoons, and then belatedly realises that his apartment is totally not equipped with dealing with a kitten. He’s not even sure where he can get pet supplies at this hour. He sighs, and goes to dig up one of his potted plants. The plant gets temporarily repotted into a smaller pot, the remaining dirt goes into a casserole dish along with some torn newspaper and the dish goes in the kitchen, which he hopes will be easier to clean than his carpet.
By now, it’s late enough that Phil just wants to unwind before he has to think about preparing for the next day - he’s going to have to follow up on this Doombot situation and see what the point of the incognito route was - so he goes to relocate Clint, who twitches awake when Phil’s hand gets near. He seems to be litter-trained, and perfectly well behaved when people aren’t involved, so Phil heads for a quick shower. The hot water is just what he needs to strip the confining feeling of his field gear out of his skin and it proves how out of it a bit of hot water and scented shower gel can make Phil that he doesn’t notice the cat over the sound of the shower until Clint walks over his foot.
“ARGH,” Phil yells, grabbing the nearest weapon available. And because not even he is ridiculous enough to take a gun into his shower, it means that he’s squirted half a bottle of shower gel over his foot. (On second thought, it was probably a good idea that it wasn’t a gun in this case.) Clint has dodged the sticky mess and is looking at him, swishing his tail back and forth through the bubbles. Phil can just tell that it’s his version of laughter.
He is incredibly thankful that he regularly sweeps for SHIELD bugs in his apartment, because that moment would probably have made Jasper’s week. Picking the sodden Clint up, Phil tells him firmly, “You’re not allowed to sneak up on people. I’m the SHIELD agent, it’s my job.” Clint ignores him, and happily bats at the falling shower water. Phil takes the chance to rub the essence of crab rangoon off him.
It should have been obvious to Phil at that point. He prides himself on being exceptionally foresighted; it’s part of his jobto be foresighted after all. But he didn’t predict that no one would answer the notices he’d put out and he certainly didn’t predict keeping Clint. He asks the shelters if they have room to take Clint, because his kind of life is hardly suitable for pets, and they’re all full up. One of them offers to put Clint down though. Phil looks at where Clint is grooming himself on top of the office shredder and politely tells them that it was all right. Then he makes sure to tell Clint that he’s not being put down, because it seems like the right thing to do even if the cat can’t understand him. Clint just wants ear scritches.
Phil goes to Chiu, because she had actually sent him an email asking about Clint, and he finds out that Clint hasn’t had any of his shots or indeed any medical attention at all. His face darkens and Clint cowers, so Phil goes to stomp around the corridor in a thunderous mood a few times so as to not scare him. Except then he hears Clint crying through the door for him and goes back in. He is so screwed.
Chiu sets Clint up with shots and a chip and recasts his hind legs, leaving him clunking around desolately in casts. Phil reckons that he’s only sad because now people can hear him coming though. It means that Clint’s taken to sitting next to Phil’s door to get a better chance of managing to claw up anyone’s ankles when they come by.
When Phil goes on ops, he leaves Clint at home. It’s less frequent these days given his expertise, but it still happens. This is when he discovers that Clint is very, very good at stealing food. No leftovers are ever safe. He can actually open the fridge. Not only this, but he is very good at not getting caught doing it. In fact, he will slink off and avoid Phil for hours after he comes home until he is sure that Phil has discovered his crime and isn’t angry at him. Phil only discovers this because he has finally resorted to bugging his own apartment to find out how on earth his leftovers were disappearing. There’s a small feed that stays up on the corner of Phil’s computer. Maria cackles, and hacks into his computer to label ‘Catcam’ underneath it in Comic Sans.
“Your cat,” says Jasper very, very calmly, which means that he’s either very, very pissed or very, very amused. Phil raises an eyebrow as acknowledgement. “Your cat just terrorised an entire office of junior agents today.”
Phil finally looks up, and lets out an ungainly snort. Clint is perched on the top of Jasper’s bald head, happily flicking his tail back and forth. Jasper is somehow ignoring him, which gives him many points in Phil’s book. “An entire office?” He prompts.
“There they are, chipping away at their paperwork, or at least pretending to, when there is a hollow thunk that resonates around the room,” says Jasper, deadpan. He’s very good at storytelling. “Followed by a loud hiss, then there’s this horrible crunch and lastly a very smug ‘miaow’ that roils across the room. Guns were drawn.”
Phil considers the story for a moment and hazards a guess. “The ventilation shafts?”
“The ventilation shafts,” confirms Jasper as Clint leaps off his head, limps around the computer monitor in his casts and proudly deposits a mostly intact mouse on Phil’s mousepad.
The overriding thought running through Phil’s mind right now is that Jasper’s just had a dead mouse on his head for at least five minutes. He’s taking it very well. “Good boy,” he tells Clint quite seriously, and tries to remember which form he needs to requisition a bottle of disinfectant.
After two weeks, Clint gains a codename: Hawkeye. He can see anything from a mile away, two if it’s something he doesn’t like. He also has unnaturally good aim, and is especially great at judging how far he needs to jump to sink his claws into that nice tender bit of inner thigh. Jasper and Phil like to talk about Clint using his codename where other people can hear them and see how long it takes them to realise that they are talking about a cat and not a super-sniper-assassin. It usually takes surprisingly long. Maria freaks out because she thought that she had a higher level clearance than Phil and if there was a new asset then there was no way that Phil knew and she didn’t and then she takes her revenge by streaming Phil’s Catcam to Fury’s office.
Fury spends a whole day smiling and almost everyone is unnerved. Phil spends the day after that sending Fury videos of Maru.