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Voices in the Dark

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"Room 718, sirs," the desk clerk says politely as she hands over the keys. "Elevator is down the hall and to your right."

Coulson nods and thanks the woman, and Clint gives her a flirty smile as her eyes slide over the pair of them with just a hint of curiosity. They are both in suits, though Clint has removed his tie -- he hates anything around his neck -- and he knows they look like any other pair of tired businessmen checking in for the night.

He shifts carefully, grabbing Coulson's garment bag and laptop bag, resettling his own garment bag and bow case as he grabs the handle of his rolling carry-on. This leaves only Coulson's briefcase and rolling carry-on for the other man to take care of. He feels a little like a pack mule, but that's all right.

Coulson, however, doesn't agree.

"I can carry my own bags, Barton," he says as they leave the desk, quietly so that he won't attract any attention from the clerk.

Coulson's voice is mild, as usual, but Clint has worked with him for a long time now. He can hear the strain in it, the tension and the hint of annoyance.

It was a long drive, and an even longer flight before that, and Clint's feeling the tension and the fatigue just as much as Coulson, but he smiles easily as he hands over Coulson's stuff.

"Course you can, sir. Just making myself useful."

The look Coulson shoots him is not in the least convinced, but he does not feel sorry for trying when he sees the way the other man's expression tightens -- just a little -- as he takes the bags from Clint. Coulson may be cleared for duty, but that doesn't mean he's completely pain free.

Fury and Hill know it too, which explains the ridiculous milk run Coulson's been sent on.

The intel gathering and recon mission they're on could be taken care of by a single junior agent -- there is no need for a level seven agent to be involved, let alone two.

Though, to be fair, Clint volunteered to come along, and he's not sure if Fury let him because he wants Clint to keep an eye on Coulson, or if he's here so Coulson can keep an eye on him.

Just like Coulson, Clint's been cleared for duty, but also like Coulson, duty's been thin on the ground for him. It rings all of Clint's alarms, this stretch of idleness when SHIELD is so busy rebuilding, but given that Clint was compromised as badly as any agent's ever been compromised, and Coulson was actually dead, Clint supposes it's not surprising that SHIELD is showing some caution when it comes to the both of them.

Coulson glances at the closed door to the fire stairs as they pass. They might've gone up that way in the past, even if their room is on the seventh floor, but Coulson's lung capacity isn't quite up to that much of a climb right now -- not unless someone's chasing them, anyway -- and Clint's glad when Coulson passes it by with just the one glance. Trying to talk him out of attempting it would've been tricky.

The elevator door opens nearly as soon as Coulson pushes the button to call it, and the mild frown that flits over Coulson's face just before he steps in takes Clint by surprise. It's smoothed away in an instant though, so Clint mentally shrugs and walks in after him.

The doors slide closed and car starts climbing -- slowly. The hotel is clean and well-cared for, but not exactly state-of-the-art. SHIELD-expensed hotels rarely are.

Clint watches in fascination as Coulson rolls his head a little, fingers tapping against his leg before he shoots his cuffs, poorly hiding a wince as the motion pulls the strap of his laptop bag across his still-healing chest. Coulson is... he's fidgeting, and it's something Clint has never seen before.

"Everything okay, sir?" he asks quietly, and before Coulson can answer, the elevator gives a small shudder and grinds to a halt as the lights flicker twice and then go dark. Even the panel of buttons is dark, and that does not bode well. "Great," Clint groans.

He pulls out his cell phone to use as a flashlight, but it's dead, and he remembers that he'd been planning to plug it in as soon as he got to the room. Annoyed at himself, he shoves it back into his pocket.

"Hey, Coulson, where's your phone?" he asks, but there's no response, and he realizes how weird it is that the other man doesn't already have his phone out, trying to find a way out of this. "Coulson?"

In the silence that follows, he can hear Coulson's labored breathing -- and for Clint to hear it with his shitty hearing, it has to be really loud.

"Sir? Coulson, are you all right?" He knows where Coulson was standing, but he has the feeling suddenly touching him would be a spectacularly bad idea right now.

There is a rustle of clothing that Clint realizes is Coulson reaching into his pocket for his phone, and he blinks as the dark elevator suddenly fills with light.

The light is wavering, wobbling as the hand that holds it trembles, and Clint's feeling of alarm ratchets up even more. He takes the phone from Coulson, ignoring the elevator panel for now as he turns the light on Coulson.

He looks pale even in the harsh light, sweat glistening at his hairline, and his eyes are wide and glassy, his breathing frantic. As Clint watches, he sways alarmingly.

"Shit, sir," Clint says, jumping forward and bracing Coulson's elbow to keep him standing. "Are you -- is it -- are you in pain? I need to know, Coulson, you gotta talk to me, sir."

He watches Coulson drag in air and force himself to take shuddering breaths as he shakes his head. "No," he grits out.

Clint breathes out in relief as a little bit of his fear dissipates. An anxiety attack is not much better for Coulson's still-recovering heart, though, and the man's distress is... distressing.

He carefully guides Coulson until he is leaning against the wall of the elevator and then encourages him to slide down it until he is sitting.

"C'mon, sir," he says softly. "Here, sit. Just breathe, okay, boss? We're fine. It's just a power outage. We're okay. Deep breaths, Coulson, come on, that's it."

He keeps one hand firm on Coulson's shoulder as he talks, rummaging through his bag in the light of Coulson's phone with the other. Suppressing a relieved sigh as his fingers close around what he's looking for, he pulls the bottle of water out and shows it to Coulson, shows him that it's unopened and untampered-with, figuring that the other man needs as much security as he can get right now.

"Here's some water, okay? It's unopened, but I'm gonna open it for you, all right? Just keep breathing, sir."

Coulson nods, still gasping in air, and Clint twists off the cap and hands over the bottle, trying to ignore how the water sloshes as Coulson's hands tremble.

He keeps talking, reassuring the other man and working to keep his own panic at bay -- he has never seen Coulson be anything other than cool and collected. The man was calm when he faced down a murderous, power-mad, insane alien god, for Christ's sake, and now he's completely falling apart on Clint.

Clint doesn't know whether to touch anything but the shoulder he's gripping, whether even to keep doing that -- Coulson seems okay with it, and Clint doesn't want to do anything to make things worse for him. He lets go and slowly shifts until he is sitting next to Coulson, leaning against the wall of the elevator, still reassuring him that they're okay, keeping his tone soothing and the fear out of his voice. His shoulder and knee brush lightly against Coulson's shoulder and knee, and he breathes a little easier himself when Coulson relaxes into the touch -- it's not obvious, but Clint can see the minute lessening of tension in the way the man is holding himself.

Coulson's breathing gradually slows and calms as he sips the water and listens to Clint's soothing bullshit, and eventually he takes a shaky breath and holds it for a moment before releasing it as a trembling sigh.

For a few moments, there is no sound in the elevator but their quiet breathing. Clint does not want to leave Coulson's side, but he needs to try the emergency button on the panel -- he's pretty sure it'll be useless, but he needs to try it anyway. And if -- when -- that doesn't work, he needs to investigate other possible exits, because getting Coulson out of here is going to do much more for the man than sitting here brushing shoulders with him.

"I'm gonna check things out, sir," he says quietly. "Get us out of here. Okay?"

Coulson nods, avoiding his eyes even in the dim light, and Clint frowns as he gets to his feet. The other man is clearly ashamed of what just happened, but they can deal with that when they get out of here. A quick glance at Coulson's phone shows no bars -- even Stark tech still has trouble in an elevator shaft -- so Clint leaves it on Coulson's knee, since the light it's giving off is more than enough for him to take a look around.

He hits the emergency call button and is rewarded with the hiss of an open line.

"Hello?" he calls. "Anyone there? We're in the elevator. Hello!"

No answer, and he's not surprised. He takes a look at the ceiling, and it's clear they're not getting out that way. He can see the outline of an access grate, but some damn moron has welded on the decorative screen that covers the ceiling, completely blocking them from it.

He's got tools in his bag that can rip it apart, but it's going to make a hell of a mess, it'll blow their cover, and Fury probably won't be happy at the amount of property damage it would cause, so he shelves that plan for now. If Coulson starts panicking again, though, Clint is getting him out of here any way he can, and damn everything else.

He folds himself down next to Coulson again -- and if he's pressed against the other man's side a little more firmly than before, neither of them says anything about it.

"Well?" Coulson asks, his voice a little raspy, but Clint can tell by the tone of it that Coulson has come to the same conclusions he has.

"Looks like we'll be enjoying each other's company for a while, sir," he says easily, careful not to use any words that might start Coulson feeling trapped again.

Coulson snorts tiredly and leans his head back against the wall. He looks exhausted, and Clint wants nothing more than to wrap his arms around him and hold him, give him a safe space in which to rest. He shoves the impulse down, as he always does, but it's harder than usual.

It's been a while since it's been just him and Coulson together on an op -- they are both too high in the agency now for that -- and he has gotten used to only interacting with the other man when Natasha or other agents or the Avengers are around. The presence of others always makes it much easier to deal with the many undefined, uncomfortable, and unrequited feelings he's carried around for Coulson for years.

It's not all that fun to be renewing this closeness when Coulson is looking decidedly vulnerable.

"You're not in any pain, are you, sir?" Clint asks after a moment, and it's the one thing he feels comfortable asking. SHIELD drills into its agents from their very first day of training that the proper reporting and management of pain is not optional.

"No pain," Coulson says quietly. "Just my pride."

"No need for that, boss," Clint tells him, hoping his grin doesn't look as forced as it feels. "You know we've both seen worse."

And they have. Bleeding, puking, crying -- head injuries in particular have some nasty side effects, and they've both had more than their fair share of those.

Coulson hums noncommittally and falls silent.

Clint really wishes he understood what just happened -- he's definitely seen Coulson in far worse circumstances and never seen him act like this. They spent four hours blindfolded and tied together in the trunk of a car once, on their way to what had seemed like certain death, and he's pretty sure Coulson didn't even break a sweat as they worked to free themselves.

He wants -- needs -- to understand, but he knows that it's truly none of his business, no matter how much he says he's a concerned friend, and that talking about it might actually bring on another anxiety attack. So he holds his tongue and settles for letting Coulson lean on him, as much as the other man will allow himself.

"We should probably turn off the light," Coulson says after a moment or two, his voice clawing desperately for steadiness and just missing. "Conserve the battery."

"Boss, we don't have to -- "

"No, we don't -- we don't know how long we'll be here, and we should have at least one functional phone, since certain agents are incapable of remembering to keep theirs charged."

"Certain agents were hogging the charger," Clint shoots back instantly, gratified to see the ghost of a grin on Coulson's tired face. "We can turn on the laptop, or one of the tablets, sir. We don't have -- "

"No. No, there's no need to waste their batteries either, Barton. It's fine."

He watches as Coulson takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly.

"You can always turn it back on if it gets to be too much, sir," he says softly, and Coulson nods without looking at him and turns off the light.

The darkness is instant and absolute, leaving nothing but the afterimage of the phone's light, and even Clint feels a thread of panic, but that might be because he can feel the sudden tension in the man beside him.

Clint wishes more than anything that he knew what to do, that he had the right and the privilege to offer some comfort, and he's afraid that anything he might try will only make things worse.

He settles for letting his hand drift down so that his palm is cupping the outward edge of Coulson's knee. It's awkward and Coulson freezes immediately, so Clint slowly lifts it away.

Coulson stifles a strangled sound -- nearly a sob -- at the loss of contact, and Clint quickly puts his hand back, pressing more firmly, brushing his shoulder reassuringly against Coulson's.

"Sorry. I'm sorry," Coulson whispers roughly, and Clint closes his eyes as he shakes his head.

"Don't," he says, and though the word is quiet, his voice shakes with the force of it. "It's okay, Coulson. Turn the light back on, sir. I'm right here. Whatever you need, boss, I'm here." He bites his lip before he can say anymore, spill any more of himself into the darkness.

"No," Coulson breathes. "No, I don't -- I don't need the light. I'm fine. I'm fine."

"Okay," Clint agrees. "But it's there. If you need it."

"Jesus, this elevator is so small, and I feel like the walls are... they're -- " Coulson breaks off, his breathing ragged, and Clint feels him shudder. "And I don't -- I can't sleep anymore. In the dark, I mean."

Clint thinks that maybe it's easier for him to confess in the darkness, where he doesn't have to worry about what his face shows, doesn't have to be afraid of what he might see on Clint's.

What he'd see is a kind of sick rage. The idea of Phil Coulson, the bravest man Clint has ever met, needing to sleep with a light on makes him want to somehow claw his way into Asgard so he can rip Loki's throat out with his bare hands. He breathes deeply to settle himself.

He battles down the inevitable surge of self-loathing that rises up in him. His team of therapists has worked tirelessly to help him understand that he is not to blame for his actions under Loki's control, and he is at the point where he does understand it -- most of the time. That belief is very hard to hold onto when his -- his friend is trembling beside him.

"I have dreams," Coulson says after a pause. "Can't seem to shake them, ever since..."

He trails off, but Clint doesn't need the rest. All of SHIELD knows what ever since means -- all of Earth does, and he imagines that all of Earth has had dreams they can't seem to shake, ever since.

Clint wonders what in Coulson's dreams haunts him so much that he is terrified in the dark, but he guesses maybe it's not that hard to figure out.

Phil Coulson was clinically dead four different times during the convoluted process undertaken to save his life -- to bring him back from death, really -- and it took a combination of Stark technology and Asgardian magic and/or technology that the doctors, scientists, and engineers still say shouldn't have worked. He lingered in a comatose state they couldn't understand for four days, his brain chemistry off the charts and completely baffling, before he started to improve with no notice. When he woke two days after that, he was in pain but completely lucid, with no signs of neurological trauma.

He hasn't spoken -- at least not to Clint, and why would he -- of anything he might remember of those days, but it's not too much of a stretch to think that he might dream of waking in the dark. In a morgue drawer, maybe, or deep in the earth. Clint shudders at the thought.

"It's not that I don't want to listen, because that is definitely not the case, but you don't have to explain anything to me," Clint tells him.

"I shouldn't have come," Coulson says bitterly. "I'm clearly not ready for the field, and I've put you in danger."

"Coulson -- "

"I don't know if I'll ever be ready," he says on a sigh, and Clint wants to reassure him, refute him, say something, but the words stick in his throat, because he can't imagine doing this without Coulson somewhere, watching his six.

They might not work together often anymore, but Clint knows that no matter where he is or what he's doing, if he gets into shit he can't get out of, Coulson will find a way to pull him out of it, and how is he ever supposed to feel safe in the field again if Coulson isn't there?

But this isn't about him, and he forces down his rising panic.

"Just give it time, boss," he says after a moment, and Coulson huffs out a wry little laugh. Clint rolls his eyes. "Yeah, I know, that's rich coming from me, but... seriously, you might change your mind, and if you don't, well, I'm sure Fury'd love to keep you out of the field and all to himself where he can easily reach that brain to pick it."

Coulson's laugh is bitter this time, and Clint takes a chance and squeezes the knee underneath his hand.

"You'll figure it out. There's no rush."

"You may not have realized this, Barton, but we're on an op."

Clint snorts derisively. "Please, sir. We both know a team of probies could handle this op."

"That just proves the director knew I wasn't ready."

"If the director didn't believe you were ready, Coulson, you'd still be chained to a desk. Director Fury may be a stone cold badass who doesn't give a shit about anyone, but Nick Fury's just worried about his friend's recovery." He looks toward Coulson even though it's pointless in the dark. "We all are. We almost lost you, sir. We did, for a while. So cut us a little slack if we don't want to send you right back out there to take on thugs with only baking supplies at hand, okay?"

The sound Coulson makes might be a laugh, or it might just be a huff of exasperation, Clint can't quite tell.

"I'm so glad," Coulson says, but then he trails off.


His knee twitches against Clint's hand, and he takes a deep breath. "I'm glad that if... that if anybody had to see me like that, it was you. I know..." Another deep, shaky breath. "I know you won't use my moment of weakness against me."

Clint is torn. One one hand, he hears I trust you, and the knowledge fills him up in a way he can't explain, but on the other hand, he wishes that Coulson understood just how much Clint wants to be there for him, to help him through the dark times he's in.

"It isn't..." The frustration boils over. "Jesus, Coulson, you aren't weak. You are the only goddamn man I know who could face down a fucking god and call himself weak."

"Barton -- "

"Maybe the baby agents need to see you as a perfect, emotionless robot, but I don't. I never have! I wish -- "

He clamps his mouth shut, bites his lip until it bleeds to keep the words that are bubbling up from spilling out. This isn't about his wishes. It never was.

"Barton?" Coulson sounds surprised, and that's not really a shock. Clint's normal method of emotional release is sarcastic humor, not this flow of biting words.

He swallows them back. "It's nothing, sir."


The silence is tense now, and Clint bites back a laugh as he realizes he's finally gotten Coulson's mind off being trapped in the dark. He barely fights off a startled jump as Coulson's hand covers his where it rests on Coulson's knee. Clint wants to turn his hand beneath it, clutch it, never let him go.

"Clint," Coulson says softly, "Talk to me."

Clint closes his eyes and drops his head, because how the hell is he supposed to ignore that?

Maybe Coulson has the right idea. Maybe the dark is the best place for confessions. Not all of them, God, no -- Coulson never asked for them and doesn't deserve to have them dumped on him. But he deserves to know some of what Clint has kept bottled up forever and thought for a while he would take to his own grave.

"You aren't weak," he says, his voice harsh in its intensity. He breathes deeply, tries to soften it. "Fear doesn't make you weak. Being in pain doesn't make you weak. You are so damn strong, Coulson, and I wish... I wish I could make you see that being human doesn't make you less of a man, not to me. Nothing can."

He stops there, but that is already so much. Too much, maybe, since Coulson has stiffened beside him.

"'Strong,' he says." Coulson laughs bitterly. "Barton... Clint. You have no idea how weak I am. How selfish."

Clint frowns. "Coulson, you're the least selfish -- "

"I requested you," Coulson cuts him off, voice teeming with self-loathing, and Clint's frown grows.

"For this op? No, you didn't. I volunteered."

"Not -- " Coulson laughs that harsh little laugh again, and he sounds so tired. "Not this op. Pegasus, Barton. I specifically requested you for Pegasus."

Clint freezes, and he doesn't know what to think, how to react. Everything that went so disastrously wrong started there, and he's lost track of how many hours he's spent uselessly wondering what would've happened if he'd just been... anywhere else.

"We've both moved up so much," Coulson says. "We never work together anymore, and... I missed it. I missed working with you, hearing your voice. You were far too qualified for babysitting duty like that, and I didn't care, I requested you anyway. And he -- he took you, and I wasn't even there to watch your back. Everything that happened, everything that happened to you happened because I was selfish and I just wanted to see you. You were there because I wanted you to be, and I wasn't even there when you needed me."

Shocked, Clint stares, open-mouthed, into the darkness, overwhelmed by the anger and the pain and the self-hatred in Coulson's shaking voice.

"What?" he finally manages, brilliantly, his voice dull, and he feels Coulson flinch. There is a rustle as Coulson shifts away from him, but he follows, grabbing at Coulson's arm, gripping the fabric of his suit jacket so he can't move further away. He surges up onto his knees, pushing into Coulson's space, wishing fruitlessly for light to see him, to make Coulson see him.

"Jesus, Coulson, have you been sick over that this whole time?"

"Barton -- "

"No," Clint growls. "My God, you -- none of this is your fault, Coulson -- Phil. None of it."

"Clint -- "

"No! Loki's actions are his own, and nothing you did is responsible for him. Believing that it is absolves him of guilt that is no one's but his. You aren't responsible for it, any more -- " He breaks off, breathes deep, wills himself to say it, to believe it. "Any more than I am."

"And you say I'm strong," Coulson says wryly, but there is pride in his voice that Clint clings to, stores away for those moments in the future when he feels anything but strong.

"I don't blame you," he replies. "Not for any of it, and I never have -- "

"You didn't know -- "

"And now I do, and I'm telling you that I don't blame you. I was happy to be there -- I... I missed you too."

Then, because it's dark and he can't help himself and hearing that Coulson missed him and wanted to be near him has made him brave and stupid and hopeful, and if he doesn't say it now, he never will, he says, "There isn't anywhere else I'd rather be than where you are. Ever."

There is nothing but silence in reply and part of him is curling up and dying of humiliation and heartbreak and regret. He should've just kept his damn mouth shut. He thinks frantically, wonders how he can spin his words into friendship and camaraderie, because he’s overstepped, he's said too much, he always does, and --


Coulson's voice is quiet and uncertain, but it sounds... hopeful, and Clint's heart is racing. His hands are still fisted in the lapels of Coulson's suit jacket, and he forces them to relax, to smooth down the fabric until his hands are resting on Coulson's broad shoulders, but he stops there, frozen, lost as to what to do next. He is so close he can feel Coulson's warm breath on his face, but he can't see, not a damn thing, and he is so used to relying on his eyes that he is lost without them.

He nearly jumps when Coulson's shoulders shift under his fingertips, his hands coming up to cover Clint's. They are warm and calloused, and he knows them. In the past, they have smoothed his sweaty hair back from his face, held him still while he shuddered with pain, wiped blood from his skin and put stitches in his flesh, but they have never touched him like this, soft and gentle and tentative.

"Clint," Coulson says again, and this time his voice is warm and dark and smooth, and Clint leans down as Coulson tilts his head up, and his gasp is muffled against Coulson's lips.

In the dark, without his eyes, everything else is magnified. The warmth of Coulson's lips on his, soft and a little bit chapped, the rasp of his five o'clock shadow against Clint's skin, the feel of expensive fabric under his fingertips, the fine softness of Coulson's hair when Clint slides a hand around the back of his neck to hold him close.

Coulson is clinging to him, hands gripping Clint's jacket so tight he thinks it might rip, and the little sound Coulson makes deep in his throat when Clint nips at his lips is thrilling, pleased and hungry and a little needy. It's the realization of the last that has him pulling away.

"Coulson," he tries, but it's muffled as Coulson chases the kiss, and Clint is helpless against that, drawn in again, giving a little gasp of his own as the other man shifts to his knees, surging against him, chest to chest, taking advantage of Clint's surprise to give a nip or two of his own.

Clint wants nothing more than to continue, to press closer, but he... the circumstances are not exactly wonderful here, and he has to be sure that all of this isn't a product of them. He pulls back again.

"Coulson," he says again, anticipating the man this time and pulling further back when he shifts forward. "Coulson -- "

"It's Phil," Coulson says, clearly frustrated. "Fairly certain we're on a first-name basis now, Clint."

He tries to shift forward to kiss Clint again, but Clint's hands on his shoulders are firmer now, holding him back, and Clint swallows harshly at the sound of the annoyed little grunt he gives.

Clint might not have the best hearing, but he knows Coulson -- Phil -- and he can hear the fear under the irritation, but he doesn't know what Coulson is afraid of -- the dark? The elevator? The whole situation and how it's escalated and where it's going? -- and that is what has him pulling back.

"Phil," he says, with effort. "We can't... we can't do this."

It's killing him to say it, but Coulson -- Phil -- is... he's emotionally compromised, he's not thinking straight, and Clint has to be the strong one. He'll never forgive himself if he takes advantage of Phil's fragile state of mind right now.

Coulson is silent -- shocked, Clint thinks -- but only for a moment, and then he says, "No, I'm not imagining... you -- I wasn't alone in that. You wanted that, you want this too, I -- "

"Of course I do," Clint says harshly, "But not like this, Phil. You... you just fell apart on me, you're over-stressed right now and overwrought and -- "

He breaks off when Coulson barks out a strangled laugh.

"Did you just call me overwrought?"

Clint glares uselessly at him in the dark. He doesn't want to embarrass Phil, and the last thing he wants is to bring his anxiety back by bringing it up again, but yes, Coulson was overwrought, and the reminder of it stirs a hint of Clint's own remembered panic. Seeing Phil like that terrified him.

His silence makes his point for him, and Phil sighs. There is a rustle, and Clint swears as the light on Phil's phone comes back on, blinding after so long in the dark.

"Jesus, Phil, what the hell?"

They stare at each other, eyes watering as they blink in the painful brightness.

Coulson -- Phil -- is gorgeous, his suit rumpled, his hair mussed from Clint's hands in it, and Clint desperately wants to be kissing him again. But he is staring at Clint, face stern, grim determination clear in his eyes even in the harsh and unforgiving light his phone gives off.

"I needed you to see me when I say this," he tells Clint, his voice firm -- it's his listen to me, Barton, this is serious now, no more fucking around on the comms voice, and damn if that doesn't always hit Clint right in the gut... and maybe a little bit lower. "Because you trust your eyes in a way you don't trust anything else."

Clint swallows, suddenly nervous, 'cause what the hell is this?

"Okay," he says hesitantly.

"Yes, I freaked out on you," Phil says, and his eyelids flicker like he wants to look away, ashamed, maybe, but he doesn't. He holds Clint's gaze unwaveringly. "But I'm thinking perfectly soundly, my judgment isn't affected, and this isn't damsel-in-distress syndrome, me imagining that you're my white knight because you were strong when I was weak. I want this, Clint. I have for years, and if I'd only known that you -- "

He breaks off as Clint grabs the phone out of his hands and shuts the light off before setting it down, grabbing Phil's lapels in the darkness again to pull him close once more.

This kiss is urgent, wild, hot and needy, and Clint groans when Phil angles his head and deepens it, strong arms sliding around Clint, one hand at the nape of his neck and one splayed across his lower back.

They kiss until Phil pulls back with a gasp, sucking in air, and Clint happily nips along his skin, lips stinging against the stubble on Phil's jaw, grinning when Phil gasps again at the feeling of Clint's teeth and tongue along the line of his skin at his collar.

Phil slowly shifts back until he's sitting against the wall again, and Clint happily climbs into his lap, straddling him, and they both groan as they come into fuller contact with each other.

"Too old to be on my knees that long," Phil pants, jumping as Clint bites gently at his jaw.

"That's a damn shame," Clint says with a laugh that's quickly choked off when Phil nips at his ear before pulling him into another kiss.

Phil's hands settle on Clint's hips, pulling him down as he thrusts up, and Clint moans into his mouth, grinding down onto his lap.

He slides his hands into Phil's jacket, tugging at his shirt, needing to feel skin under his fingertips, and Phil pulls out of the kiss, swearing as his head thumps against the wall. Clint laughs and brings a hand up to cradle it.


"We are not having sex in an elevator," Phil growls, and his hands are pushing against Clint's hips now, instead of pulling him closer. "Not now, and not ever. Up."

"C'mon, Phil," Clint says cajolingly, grinding down again, snickering when Phil's head smacks the wall again, protected by Clint's hand this time.

"Off," Phil orders, and Clint grudgingly obeys, sliding off to sit beside Phil and catch his breath. Phil's hand finds his and Clint clutches at it tightly, and if it's sappy and sentimental, well, it's dark, and nobody knows it but them.

"Fine," Clint says with a pout he knows Phil can hear, because the other man chuckles quietly. "Not in the elevator. But all bets are off whenever we finally get to the damn room."

"Oh, believe me, we aren't going to need the second bed," Phil says, his voice full of dark promise.

"Fuck, Phil, you can't just say things like that and -- "


They both freeze at the unknown voice.

"Hello, anyone in there? The line is open." The voice is tinny over the emergency line.

"Yes," Phil answers instantly. "We're here. We'd appreciate not being here, as soon as possible."

"Oh my God, I'm so sorry, sir!" The voice is young and male -- probably the night manager. "We had a little accident, lightning hit a transformer, took out all the power and no one checked the fuel in the generators, and we evacuated the hotel, but no one checked the elevator, and thank God the emergency brakes worked and -- "

"Sir," Phil says firmly, cutting off the babble, and probably only Clint -- and maybe Natasha -- could hear the tremor in his voice at the man's last words. "Is there an estimate of how soon you'll have the elevator working again?"

"Oh, yeah, sorry! It shouldn't be more than a few minutes," he says, and Phil's sigh is nearly inaudible, but Clint feels the rebuilding tension ease out of him. "How many of you are in there? Is everyone okay? God, mister, I'm so sorry!"

"It's just the two of us," Phil says. "And I think we're going to be okay. Clint?"

Clint hears the real question in his voice as Phil's hand tightens around his, and he grins into the darkness, squeezing back. "Yep. We're great. We're gonna be just fine."