"One more time and I'm going to throw myself out a window," Phil mutters to the door of his quarters as he fumbles for his passcard, which is of course not where he put it or where it should be, because everything of Phil Coulson's comes apart in his hands when he spends too much time around Captain America.
"Inside jacket pocket," a voice says behind him.
Phil reaches into his jacket; it is, of course, right there. "Thanks," he mutters, swiping it over the pad beside his door. He doesn't bother pretending that he can keep Clint from following him in if he wants to come, just lets him and doesn't put up a fuss.
"You always put stuff in there and forget it," Clint says, pulling one of Phil's chairs out from the wall and turning it around to sit backwards on it. "You only forget stuff when you're edgy. What's up?"
If Phil can be said to have a best friend, it's Nick; if he has two, they're Nick and Jasper, but Clint comes in at a respectable third place. That is the main reason that Phil doesn't say, "Fuck off, Barton," but instead goes to the closet and hangs up his suit jacket. "I'm fine," he says instead, pulling off his tie, rolling it up before he sets it on the shelf.
"Nope," Clint says, putting his hands on the top rung of the chair and resting his chin on them. "You're fucked up about something."
"I wish I still drank," Phil sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose, "or that I could Barton-proof my quarters."
"If you wanted me gone, I'd be gone by now," Clint points out.
"Do you remember the moment," Phil says, annoyed enough that he can't seem to stop himself, "when you were a child, when you noticed for the very first time that you were attracted to somebody?"
"I dunno, man," Clint says. "I've wanted to do Eartha Kitt since I was six, if that counts."
"Did you ever meet Eartha Kitt?" Phil asks, unbuttoning his shirt with a little more force than his buttons actually deserve.
Clint frowns. "Why do I get this feeling I know what you're getting at?"
"If it means I don't have to get at it, feel free to fill in whatever you want," Phil says, pulling a t-shirt out of his drawer and putting it over his head. "Take that moment, the one where you knew for sure, and combine it with having the realization ten seconds later that that attraction was abnormal and wrong."
"You are the most eloquent angry person I have ever met," Clint tells him.
Phil stops, still halfway into his t-shirt, and takes a breath. He pulls it the rest of the way down and runs his fingers through his hair. "I'm not angry."
"Oh, you're angry," Clint says.
"I'm not," Phil says, despite the fact that he has every goddamn right to be. "I'm perfectly fine with the fact that Captain America made me gay and now I work with him."
Clint lasts about five seconds before he cracks up.
"I'm sorry, that's not funny," he says, still laughing.
Phil narrows his eyes. "No, it's really not."
"Sorry, I just, the way that you said it-" Clint shakes his head. "It's cool. Steve's alright."
"I'm not worried about Steve," Phil says.
"Of course you're worried about Steve," Clint says.
"I'm worried about me," Phil says, changing into his sweatpants. "Steve is a professional who would be unaffected even if he knew about this problem. I, however, am a fucking idiot who can't keep his shit together or his foot out of his mouth for more than five minutes. I'm so fucked up that I'm sitting here rambling to you about this like I'm on sodium fucking pentothal."
"Take a deep breath, Coulson," Clint says carefully. "I need you to calm down."
Phil shuts his eyes, shaking his head. "Sorry. It's just starting to piss me off."
"Yeah, I can see that," Clint says. "Just relax about it a little. Like you said. He's a professional. I know you're a professional. Everything's gonna be fine."
Phil sighs, bending down to change his socks. "Get the hell out of my room, I'm going to the gym."
Clint snorts, amused, getting out of his chair and putting it back. "Love you too, sir."
Phil isn't looking as he leaves, busy tying his shoes, but he snaps his head up when Clint says, "Hey, Cap," loud enough that Phil knows it's for his benefit. He takes a deep breath, straightening and picking up his water bottle, remembering in time to grab his badge and his passcard before he grimly walks towards the door.
Steve is standing out in the hallway waiting for him, and Phil knows the very instant he sees him that he's heard more than enough. He's standing up straight, even for him, and his expression is tight around the edges. "Agent Coulson," he says.
"Captain Rogers," Phil replies, even though his inner monologue is something like christ shit fucking fuck shit jesus christ fuck oh shit fuck. "Is there something I can help you with?"
"I had some questions about these specs," Steve says, holding up a tablet, and thank god, he wants to talk about HYDRA.
"Excellent," Phil says, like a jackass. "I'm headed to the gym, we can talk on the way."
"Sure," Steve says, giving him a smile that seems forced, and Phil is intensely disappointed that there are no windows for him to throw himself out of.
If Phil had made any progress at all towards Steve seeing him as a normal person and not an indistinguishable suit or a fucking trainwreck, that progress is long gone by now. Steve is stiff and careful around him, like he's not sure what Phil is going to do; it's just a lucky thing that a lot of people think that Steve is uptight and distant all the time, because nobody seems to notice if he's a little worse when Phil is around.
Phil tries not to be around.
So Phil is definitely not expecting it when there's a knock on his door one evening; he opens it to find Steve standing there, looking uneasy. "Can I come in?" he asks.
Phil stands back. "Please," he says. "Make yourself at home."
Steve walks in and, to Phil's surprise, sits down on the bed. Phil is momentarily lost; he carefully sits at the edge of his desk, well across the room from the bed, so that he won't jump Steve or trip on the rug and take a header into his lap or something equally mortifying.
"What's on your mind?" Phil asks.
"I wanted to tell you something," Steve says. Phil didn't notice it before, but now he can see that Steve's breath is coming a little rapidly, like he's winded, maybe even afraid; it doesn't make any sense to Phil, but he doesn't say anything.
"Of course," Phil says. "Whatever you want."
Steve doesn't say anything for a very long time. "It was Errol Flynn," he says when he finally speaks, his voice quiet. "He had a bad reputation, but when he was up there on the screen I couldn't think of anybody else. He just made me feel funny inside, and I didn't have a word for it that I'd say in mixed company. I got so angry at myself that I didn't even know what to do. It didn't make me like girls any less, so I tried to block it out as much as I possibly could. It's not like I didn't know people were like that. I just didn't want to be one of them." He lets out a long, slow sigh. "If I'd met Errol Flynn, I probably would have passed out. I might have hit him in the face." He looks up at Phil. "I'm sorry."
"I'm not angry with you," Phil says, walking over and sitting down on the bed next to him. "I know what I said, but you didn't make me anything. You just made me realize it. It had to happen sometime, and-" Phil shakes his head. "I'm glad it was you. You set a pretty high standard, you know."
"So I hear," Steve says. "Anyway, I just-" he pats Phil's knee companionably, except that he stops, lets his hand sit there. "I just wanted things to be even."
"You don't have to worry about that," Phil says. "I mean, I'm not sure they ever can be, but-" and then he closes his damn mouth, fifteen seconds too late.
"I think they might be more even than you realize," Steve tells him. Phil has no idea what that means, so he wisely keeps his trap shut. It serves him well, because then Steve is leaning over, and then they're kissing. Phil shuts his eyes and wonders when he's going to wake up, because this is a dream he's had before, only without all the stuff about Errol Flynn.
Suddenly there's a loud knock on the door, and Steve starts, making their teeth click together disconcertingly. "Shit," he says, looking deeply disappointed.
"It's fine, everything is fine," Phil says, in what he hopes is a calming voice and probably isn't. He stands up, brushing himself off and walking to the door. He tries to block as much of it as he can with his body, opening it carefully.
Clint is standing there, looking slightly confused. "Hey, have you seen-"
"Fuck off, Barton," Phil growls.
Clint raises an eyebrow. "Sir, yes, sir."
"I'll explain later," Phil adds apologetically.
"Fucking off now, sir," Clint says, turning and walking away, waving a hand at him.
Phil shuts the door again; he doesn't turn around for a moment, trying to get it back together, afraid he'll look back and this really will have been a strange fantasy, afraid that Steve will be ready to run.
When he turns, Steve is still sitting there, looking nervous but not moving.
There are a lot of things Phil could say, a lot of things he should say, a lot of ways to fuck it up. Instead he just walks back over and sits down, and Steve pulls him into his arms again.
Maybe he can stop being such a mess now, because things feel a lot less like they're going to fall apart. They feel much more like they're coming together.