Over the years, SHIELD has created a frankly terrifying number of safety nets, contingency plans, disclosure and nondisclosure agreements, disclaimers, contracts, protocols and permits for nearly every scenario known to man.
The problem is, ever since Thor, they keep encountering scenarios not known to man.
"What the hell did this?" Clint asks, running alongside the gurney holding Coulson.
"We don't know," Steve says from the other side, trying to stay by Clint's side while at the same time not getting in the way of the SHIELD medics. He sounds frustrated and frazzled. It does very little to calm Clint, since Steve's not easily frazzled. "All we know," Steve says, "is that he called incoming hostiles at his location, then made--a noise, and next thing we know Sitwell was calling Agent down."
Clint curses and then grits his teeth. He should have seen the monsters, aliens, hostile extraterrestrial sentient bipods, whatever they're currently being classified as--they're fucking aliens, okay?--he should have seen them coming. He's the eyes, he always has been, ever since their very first outing during the battle of New York, and by the way, wasn't that enough aliens to last him a lifetime, yet here they are again. So Clint's their eyes, that's his job, he's normally great at his job. But when Coulson went down, Clint was lying on the ground beneath his nest, struggling his way back to consciousness and trying to get his ears to stop ringing, because he was being a dumbass and let an alien get just a little too close. When the aliens came for Coulson, Clint saw nothing.
On the gurney, Coulson thrashes and moans, straining against his restraints. His eyes are squeezed shut and his hands are fisted at his sides as if in great pain. Excessive pain, Clint thinks, because he's seen Coulson in great pain, and it does not look like this. Great pain was Cambodia in 2003, or in Pakistan in 2008. Mere great pain causes at worst Coulson's eye to twitch a little, and then he gets a tick in his jaw that won't quite stop. Mere great pain doesn't do this.
It's tough to watch, tough to stomach, and Clint swallows bile in his throat.
"Body temperature rising," one of the SHIELD medics announces in an alarmed tone, and they move faster through the corridors, going from a jog to a full-on run. Clint looks at two of the men pushing the gurney, and instantly wishes he hadn't. They both keep glancing at the screen that's clipped to the gurney, flashing numbers and stats at them, and their expressions match, frown deepening with every second.
"I think we need Dr. Harris for this," one of them says, and one of their little entourage immediately peels off and takes off sprinting down a side corridor.
Then suddenly they arrive at a set of double doors, and one of the men stops both Clint and Steve with a hand on each of their chests. Clint looks down where the medic is touching his chest, and considers ripping the limb from his body.
"Sorry, you can't go further," the man says, and if Clint wanted to argue--which, fuck yes, he wanted--he doesn't have the chance anymore, because the medic is already gone.
"Clint," Steve says warningly.
Clint grips his bow where it's slung over his shoulder, and starts running through the code sequences for all his trick arrows to keep himself distracted. "Yeah, yeah," he says, and he knows he sounds angry and bitter. "I know."
They don't get to see Coulson for hours. Clint and Steve sit on rickety, uncomfortable plastic chairs in the hallway, and stare at the wall and their feet. Clint's not even sure he knows where in the bowels of HQ they're located at the moment, and that thought would normally be deeply disturbing, yet he can't seem to care.
Steve, thankfully, doesn't offer platitudes, but sits with Clint in solidary silence. At one point, he puts a gloved hand on Clint's shoulder, and while it's not a lot of help, it also doesn't make Clint want to crawl out of his skin.
They've been waiting for what feels like the entire day, and Clint's vaguely starting to feel sleepy, when there's a commotion from further down the hallway and the rest of the Avengers approach. They look as weary as Clint feels, and they look like they came straight from the battlefield themselves. Even Bruce is only in his pants, bare feet and bare chest, and looking completely unconcerned with it.
"Hey guys," Steve greets, and he sounds tired too--he doesn't even get out of his seat to greet them, just remains sitting down, hunched over and leaning his elbows on his knees. Clint wonders what time it is.
"Any news?" Tony asks.
Steve shakes his head. "Nothing yet."
Tony's already putting his helmet back on so he can communicate with JARVIS, no doubt trying to hack his way into SHIELD's mainframe to find information. Natasha slides around Tony to sit down on the chair on Clint's right, not touching him, but still staying close enough he could bump her shoulder if he moved even just a little bit.
"How are you doing?" Natasha asks quietly while Steve starts telling Thor and Bruce about everything that happened since the medics took Coulson out of the field.
Clint snorts. "I'm fine. I'm not the one in trouble, here." And his breath catches a little in his throat at that, because it's suddenly acknowledgement that Coulson's in trouble.
Natasha seems to get that, because she looks at him with not-pity and lets him see the worry in her own eyes. "He'll be fine, Clint," she whispers. Clint wishes he could believe her.
"Did they look at you yet?" Bruce asks, and it takes Clint a moment to realize that Steve's stopped talking and they're now all looking at him.
Bruce nods. "Yeah. No concussion?"
Clint shakes his head. Steve had fished him out of the rubble underneath his nest, which is one of the reasons he rode in with Coulson in the first place, but Clint had quickly shaken off the prodding medics in the helicopter. He doesn't have any broken bones, just a lot of bruised pride, and he's been concussed enough times to know with certainty he doesn't have one. The medics hadn't looked convinced at first, but then Coulson had started thrashing and their attention had been... diverted.
"No concussion," he tells his team. "How did everything go out there?"
Thor can answer that. "Our enemies have been defeated. The," and then he makes a cough-like sound that none of them have any hope in hell of replicating, that makes even Natasha frown, "fought valiantly, but they were no match for the might of our combined forces, even after you and our Captain had retreated from combat."
Despite the good news, Clint doesn't know how to feel anything but numb at the moment, because Coulson's still in pain somewhere in the building--maybe fighting for his life, maybe even--
Nope. He's not going down that train of thought. At least Thor seems confident that the Cough-Sound aliens won't be returning anytime soon, having "tested their mettle against earth's mightiest heroes" and found themselves coming up short.
Just then, Tony's faceplate pops up and he looks supremely happy with himself. "There we go."
"News?" Steve asks, because Clint can't speak past the hopeful lump in his throat.
"Sort of," says Tony. "The latest notation in his file says he's critical, but stable, but it doesn't list many details. However, I made sure they caught my hand in their cookie jar, so we should be able to speak to someone in three, two, one--"
Clint dimly wonders if it took Tony a lot of years to perfect his flair for the dramatic as the doors burst open, right on cue, and Director Fury and a doctor enter the hallway they're in.
"Mr. Stark, if you think even for one second that I won't throw you in a hole so deep you'll never dig your way back up again if you continue fucking with our systems, you are sadly mistaken!" Fury thunders, and even Thor looks a little intimidated.
Tony, of course, grins and blows a kiss. "Hi, honey. Say, while you're here, how about an update on how our favorite Agent is doing?"
Fury sighs in a way that indicates he's drawing on his very last reserves of patience--Clint understands, Tony has a way of bringing it out in people--and exchanges a look with the doctor at his side, before nodding once, curtly.
"I'm Dr. Harris," he introduces himself, "I've been treating Agent Coulson. It would appear that one of the hostiles managed to douse him with a noxious gas. As of right now we've managed to reduce his pain quite significantly and he's lucid and in stable condition. However, there have been some--complications."
Clint wants to bang his head against the wall. Doused with an alien gas, of course there are complications, no shit!
Dr. Harris takes a deep breath and exchanges another glance with Fury, before nodding his head in the direction of the doors they came through. "If you would be so kind as to follow me, I believe the rest of this conversation is better held in private."
The implication hangs heavily in the air for a moment as nobody moves. Clint swallows against the bile rising in his throat, and glancing over at the rest of the team it appears they are having the same thought as him. Steve is the first one to shake it off, straightening up to stand military straight and hefting his shield onto his arm. "Lead the way, doc."
As they all follow Dr. Harris and Fury through the doors, Clint hears Thor behind him.
"How is it that you always have such masterful timing, Tony?"
"I'll let you in on a little secret," Tony says in a half-whisper. "It's just dumb luck. My timing's off like half the time." Then there's a brief pause, and Clint can hear the grin in his voice. "But it looks damn good when it works, right?"
The room they end up in has no windows, but one wall contains a large hatch that can probably slide up to reveal a room beyond. None of the others seem to notice, but Clint does. "Please have a seat," Dr. Harris says, gesturing at the large glass table in the middle of the room.
Fury rolls his eye and then pointedly goes to lean on the wall, watching each of them in turn as Dr. Harris begins to speak again.
"We're not sure where the gas that hit Agent Coulson came from. We have seen no other reports of similar incidents, and we have not been able to locate a device. For now, we're working on the assumption that the gas was emitted from the hostile itself, which classifies this as a Level Five extraterrestrial biochemical incident. As a result, Agent Coulson has been quarantined for now."
Thor frowns. "I have encountered the," Cough-Sound, "in my journeys before, but I was not aware that they were capable of such things. I've never heard tales of it. How has the gas affected him?"
Dr. Harris takes a deep breath and then looks--vaguely embarrassed? "As far as we can tell, the gas, uh--it sent Agent Coulson into an ongoing, heightened psychological and physiological state of erogenous stimulation."
Clint isn't sure he heard that right. "Wait," Bruce says. "Wait, are you saying Agent Coulson's perpetually aroused?"
Thankfully, nobody laughs. Maybe it's the serious expression on Dr. Harris' face, maybe it's the way Bruce asks, with full understanding of the gravity of the situation instead of amusement. But even Tony keeps a straight face.
"That--doesn't sound comfortable," Steve hedges. "But is it dangerous?"
The serious expression on Dr. Harris' face has really already answered that question, but some part of Clint still needs to hear it. Everyone seems to be feeling the same way, and Clint takes a quick second to appreciate how much they all care about each other.
"Agent Coulson's temperature has been slowly rising since the initial incident. Our attempts at keeping it under control have only been partially successful."
Tony wobbles a little, suit clunking heavily on the floor, before he ejects himself and sits down by the table. "Huh," he says. "You know, in my fantasies, fuck-or-die situations are a lot sexier than this."
Tony's still not laughing, and the joke is hollow.
"Can it be resolved by--can he take care of it himself?" Bruce asks.
"No," Fury says from over by the wall, pushing off it to cross his arms and look at everyone in the room in turn again. "And--actually, that's why we decided to bring you guys in on the situation."
For a moment, the entire room goes silent as everyone tries to process the information. Nobody speaks, yet there's a certain air of disbelief, as if nobody wants to understand what Fury's saying.
"Are you saying--?" Tony starts.
"You must speak in jest," says Thor in disbelief, because phrases like that sounds perfectly natural when they come from him.
Clint sighs. "Did he pick one?"
Fury doesn't even blink. "No. He didn't actually say much at all."
Clint thinks he understands. Judging by her look, so does Natasha. "So," she says, "when you said he was lucid earlier, what you actually meant was horny enough to beg?"
Dr. Harris stammers for a moment. "Well, um--yes."
Natasha's face darkens.
"Would you like to see him?" Dr. Harris asks.
Clint briefly glances at the supposedly hidden hatch, and feels nauseous all of a sudden. "It doesn't matter," he says quickly, before any of the others can respond. "He wouldn't want us to see him like that. Not all of us."
"Probably a correct assumption," Fury agrees. "Not unless one of you were there to..." He trails off.
"Oh," says Steve, and his voice sounds small and shocked.
Yeah, Clint thinks. Oh.
They're left alone to discuss the situation.
Natasha volunteers first--of course she does. It makes Clint furious and overcome with love for her all at once, with how much she cares, even when she pretends she doesn't.
"It makes sense," she shrugs. Steve looks like he wants to hug her, which is both hilarious and sad, because she's the fucking Black Widow.
"I just hate that this falls to you just because you're a woman," Steve says apologetically.
Natasha raises one eyebrow and says, "If you want, I can call in a junior agent?" Her tone is light and faintly sarcastic, but there's an underlying bite to the words. Steve pales and shakes his head fast.
"Oh, no," he hurries out, "that's not at all what I meant."
"Okay then," Natasha says and moves like she's about to stand up.
"No," Clint says, firmly, and everyone in the room turns to stare at him.
Natasha's frown deepens on her face. "Clint--"
"No!" he repeats, firmer and louder, and wills everything he's got into the look he's leveling her with. "There's only five options in this room, Tasha." He grits his teeth. "You're--not one of them."
She studies his eyes for a long moment, and Clint holds his breath and doesn't look at any of the others. He can't.
"Director Fury brought us all in here for a reason. If you were an option, he wouldn't have included the rest of us. But Coulson--he doesn't--he doesn't want you."
The words are somehow sticky in his mouth, slow to come out, like molasses. He grounds himself in Natasha's steady gaze, in the way her gloved fingers are folded in on themselves, in the way her hair falls across her shoulders. There's a lot of ways the whole thing could go down, but he's refusing to let this be one of them. He knows Natasha better than anyone, he knows Coulson better than anyone there, and he desperately wants her to remember that right now.
Whatever she sees in his eyes, it seems to be enough for her. She gives him a hint of a nod, then sits down at the table and folds her hand on the smooth surface. "All right," she says, quiet and calm, and if the rest of the team had anything they wanted to say about Clint's objection, Natasha's quietly spoken words make them reconsider. Clint just hopes Coulson will forgive him later.
"So," Steve says, looking around. He doesn't follow it up with a complete sentence. They all get it.
Bruce is the first one to speak up. "I'm--highly uncomfortable with it," he says, shifting ever so slightly in his seat in obvious discomfort as if to underline his words. "I mean, I--I will if there's no other option, but... I just--I can't--I don't want to risk..." he trails off, and everyone knows what he's thinking.
"Well," Steve says when the uncomfortable silence is starting to feel suffocating, hesitant but not unkind, "I suppose I could--"
"No," everyone else says at once.
Steve, to his credit, doesn't even pretend to be anything but relieved.
"Well, that leaves you, me and Thunderstruck over there," Tony says to Clint while gesturing towards where Thor is looking somber and sad. "So it's just a question of who's going to be least traumatizing to our favorite Agent once the fog clears, right? So I mean, I suppose I could," Tony says. "Pepper would understand. I'd need to call her, but she'd understand. Everyone knows I have a certain reputation for this sort of thing, and anyway, this isn't even the same sort of thing, this--this is, it's saving his life, right?"
"Yeah," Clint agrees distractedly, and pretends not to see how Tony's fingers tremble where they're gripping the edge of the table.
Shaking his head, Clint pushes off the table they're leaned against and runs both hands through his hair, because this--he's known this from the start. He has. Yet acknowledging it makes the words sting in his throat, and he has to force them out. "It has to be me. I'll do it."
The only people who don't look surprised are Natasha and Thor. Natasha's expression doesn't change from the little frown she's had all along, while Thor just looks, if anything, sadder.
"You?" Tony says, eyebrows going up. Steve mirrors his expression.
"Why you?" Steve asks. "I'm not trying to--it's not--Tony did have some valid points, I mean?"
"It's not a big deal," Cint says casually, not giving them an inch and knowing none of them buy it anyway. Taking a deep breath, he mentally braces himself. "It's not like we haven't done it before."
Natasha flicks a lock of hair behind her ear as Steve's eyebrows climb higher. "You and--Coulson?" Then his eyes narrow. "Wait--has to be you?"
Thor speaks then, arms crossing in front of his chest. "Agent Coulson is not of sound mind. It would seem Clint doesn't trust us in the matter of properly protecting him." It doesn't sound accusing, just sad, but Clint still feels defensive.
"It's not about that," he says, trying to make them understand. "He's not--you guys heard the doc. You know what he's like right now. Life saving or not, tell me you guys don't feel fucking skeevy about this whole thing, huh? And Coulson and me, we..." He trails off and has to force down a hysterical laugh that's threatening to bubble its way up to the surface. It's difficult to talk about. "It's not a thing. It's not. Us. Me and him. It was only like--once. But at least this way..." He trails off and can't finish the sentence. "Look, like Tony said, it's about the least traumatizing option, right?"
Steve's the only person he can look at right now, too scared of the others and too close to Natasha. Steve just looks at him evenly and nods, and Clint is so fucking grateful for the guy, he doesn't think he can ever express it properly. It would be so easy for Steve to judge, to react in about a million different ways, none of which would end well for Clint.
Instead, Steve simply says, "All right," and then stands up and puts a hand on Clint's shoulder. Just like earlier in the hallway, Clint feels oddly okay with that. "Good luck, Hawkeye," says Steve, and Clint wants to laugh hysterically again, because Hawkeye is his codename and this is a fucking battle situation and he just outed Coulson and himself to their entire team, and this is officially the most fucked up day ever.
Clint gestures vaguely towards the door. "Right. Yeah. I'll just..."
Natasha gets up then and approaches him, carefully unbuckling his quiver from his back and taking his bow from his hands. When she has to tug a little, he realizes that he's gripping it so tightly his knuckles are white.
"Breathe," she says with a little, reassuring smile. Clint glances at the others in the room, who all suddenly seem to have found other things more interesting. Bruce is cleaning his glasses, Thor is inspecting Mjolnir, Tony is fidgeting with his helmet and Steve is honest to God looking up at the ceiling.
"You guys are super stealthy," Clint bitches and scowls. None of them react.
Natasha's smile grows a little. "You're fine, Clint. Coulson will be fine. I promise." She looks like she means it, her smile kind and confident--but then again it's Natasha. She shows him exactly what she wants him to see.
Clint swallows. "What if--" and he abruptly stops talking because there's too many ways to finish that sentence. What if he won't forgive this?
"If this works, you're saving his life," Natasha reminds him, and Jesus--they don't even know if this will work! Clint fights rising panic in his chest.
Natasha pulls him in for a quick not-hug, because they don't hug, but they stand together in a way of being close that they don't share with anyone else. "We could always make Stark do it instead."
"Too late, no takesie-backsies," Tony says quickly.
Clint sighs and nods at Natasha, and makes sure to flip Tony the finger on his way out of the room. As he shuts the door behind him, he can hear Tony ask, "You gotta wonder though, why didn't Director Fury just handle shit himself?"
Clint knows why.
Director Fury is leaning against a door just down the hallway, and he doesn't at all look surprised to see him.
"Next time just fucking come right out and ask me," Clint spits, and he's sorely tempted to poke Fury in the chest. Or the face. With his fist.
"Of course," Fury says dryly, "And you think your teammates would have forgiven that one?"
Do you think Coulson would have? Fury adds silently, and even without words Clint can hear him loud and clear. He scoffs a little but doesn't argue, mostly because he knows he can't.
"You're a fucking coward, sir," he snaps.
Fury looks vaguely impressed. "I've been called a lot of things in my day, but I don't think anyone has ever called me a coward to my face and actually meant it."
"First time for everything," Clint mutters. "Like fucking--aliens and mind control and," his voice takes on a slightly hysterical pitch, despite his attempts to stomp it down, "fucking--sex gas, I--"
"We have no protocols for this," Fury interrupts him, voice rumbling deeply. It would almost sound apologetic if Clint thought for a second that Fury ever apologized for anything. "And while you can be damn sure there will be protocols and contingency plans made after this, I had to improvise for now."
Clint takes a deep breath to steady himself. "Yeah. So. Your improvisation skills could use some finesse, because right here, right now--you're a fucking coward, sir." Clint shakes his head and pushes past Fury to enter the room he's guarding.
"I'm letting that one slip on account of this being uncharted territory for us," Fury warns as he's got his hand on the door handle, "but speak to me in that manner again, Agent Barton, and we'll have words."
"Yes, sir," Clint grits out, then enters the room fully and closes the door behind him.
The room is white and clinical and sterile, and Clint feels uncomfortable in same way he always does in hospitals. Just past the entrance someone has set up a quarantine chamber with double doors, neon red and yellow biohazard warnings adorning the glass, before a heavy plastic curtain that blurs anything beyond. Clint doesn't think about how entering will also effectively quarantine him, and enters his access codes to get through. When he pushes aside the plastic, he immediately spots Coulson.
Coulson is lying on a bed on the far side of the room, arms at his sides and wrists strapped to the bed. He's bare-chested and breathing heavily, and the flimsy material of the blanket they've thrown over him does little to disguise the impressive erection he's sporting. His bare feet are peeking out at the bottom, and Clint feels if possible even worse, humiliated on Coulson's behalf at being seen by anyone in this state.
"Jeez," Clint sighs, and Coulson's head snaps up to look at him, eyes feverish and blank. "They couldn't at least have untied you?"
"Barton," Coulson rasps. Clint can't decipher whether Coulson sounds relieved or reluctant.
"In the flesh," he jokes weakly, walking over and hovering uncertainly by the edge of Coulson's bed. "Are you in pain?" he asks carefully.
"Not--not as much anymore," Coulson replies.
Clint's got one of the best Coulson-bullshit meters in all of SHIELD, second only to Fury, and would normally be able to tell if he was lying, but right now he's having trouble meeting Coulson's eyes. Instead, Clint just nods and starts unbuckling Coulson's wrists.
"W-wait," Coulson says, and the weak stutter is enough to give Clint pause. "Don't, don't, I--it's, it's hard sometimes to, it's difficult to--"
Clint considers only for a split second as Coulson seems to have problems finishing his sentence. Turns out even when he's delirious and so horny he can literally die from it, Coulson can't easily admit to lacking control. Clint continues unbuckling his wrists.
"I trust you, sir," he says easily, because that much at least is true.
Coulson remains mostly still save the restless twitching of his legs through the release of his first wrist, but once the second is free, he surges upwards, hands reaching for Clint's shoulders, grasping them roughly and pulling, and it takes all of Clint's instincts not to react poorly to the sudden movement. Just as Clint's about to lose his balance, Coulson abruptly stops himself, face so close to Clint's he can feel every ragged breath against his cheeks.
"Sorry," Coulson pants, fingers clenching and unclenching around the edge of Clint's field uniform and brushing against his upper arms. "Sorry, I--I just--"
Slowly, deliberately, Clint reaches up and tugs a little at a corner of the blanket covering Coulson's lap. "It's all right, sir," Clint says, and pretends his heart isn't about to beat its way out of his chest.
Raising his eyes to look at Coulson, Clint feels jarred at what he sees. Coulson's entire body is covered in a fine sheen of sweat, and his brow is knitted together in a vague frown. His hands are warm, skin overheated, where they touch Clint's bare arms, but through the fear, Clint sees something in the heat of Coulson's eyes. It's almost hard to believe what he's seeing, but it's unmistakably there: relief, and a fondness that is one hundred percent Coulson and absolutely zero percent Cough-Sound alien.
"It's all right," Clint repeats reassuringly, slowly gaining confidence as he quirks up a corner of his mouth. It's still Coulson in there. That thought helps a lot. "I know you. You know me. It's all right."
Coulson whimpers and pulls Clint just a little closer, eyes drifting shut as he swallows heavily. The blanket moves in his lap, and Clint stares at the outline of the hard cock there. Phil's hands tremble with the obvious effort it takes to restrain himself, and Clint lets himself touch. Sliding his hands up the bare skin of Phil's arms, he stops once his thumbs are resting on Coulson's collarbone, index fingers putting slight pressure against the warm skin of Coulson's neck.
"We know this, remember? Just like riding a bike, sir," Clint murmurs. "It's okay. You're allowed."
Coulson makes a choked noise in his throat then, and before Clint even really has time to register what's happening, Coulson's flung the blanket aside and jumped out of bed. One hand grasps Clint's wrist, the other grabs his shoulder, and the air rushes out of his lungs as Coulson bends him over the edge of the hospital bed and slams his chest down on the mattress, naked body still wracked with fever leaning heavily against his back.
Clint pushes his face into the sheets and closes his eyes. Coulson's erection is digging into his ass, and Coulson's mouth descends on his neck, breath hot and heavy against his skin as his teeth graze the edge of his hairline.
"Clint," Coulson moans, broken and shattered, and his hands move from Clint's wrist and shoulder to the waist of his uniform. Clint doesn't move, just lets Coulson get rid of all the buckles and snaps, lets him pull at the thick material. Coulson doesn't even pull his pants all the way down, just barely to his knees, and as soon as Clint's ass is exposed he presses himself against Clint's back again. Coulson's hips are already moving in frantic thrusts, blunt cockhead pushing randomly at Clint's ass, his upper thighs, as it bobs around. The sounds Coulson is making doesn't even sound like anything Clint's heard before, doesn't sound like anything he thought he'd ever hear from Coulson, little sniffles and whines and whimpers, desperate and needy.
"Coulson," Clint says, trying to remember how to breathe. "Coulson, we're fine. Listen to me. Listen to me."
Coulson breathes deeply, and Clint can hear how shaky it is. "It's okay. You can do this. We can do this, we're fine, but you have to stay with me, okay?"
Coulson whimpers again, almost like a sob. Long moments pass, Coulson's hips still doing little, aborted thrusts against Clint, before Clint feels Coulson nod against his back. "I'm here," Coulson says. "I'm--it's--I'm struggling, but I'm here."
Someone has helpfully supplied them with lube and condoms on a little tray a few steps from the bed. Clint catches a glimpse of it when he turns his head, Coulson having let go of him just long enough to go grab what they need. He's only gone for a couple of seconds before he's back, condom wrapper crinkling faintly behind Clint, lube-slick fingers already skittering across his ass.
The bottle of lube hits the mattress next to Clint's head and Clint briefly wonders how Coulson is juggling everything back there, but he can't bring himself to turn around and look. Then he doesn't have the chance anymore, because Coulson's fingers find his entrance and two of them immediately press insistently against him.
Clint's eyes slide shut then, and he focuses on his breathing, on the sound of Coulson's breathing, and the feeling of the trembling fingers breaching his body, stretching him, urgently and hesitantly all at once. Coulson feels so hot, burning hot, and Clint wonders how high his fever is now.
"Careful," he mutters as Coulson's movements get a little overzealous, and Coulson drops his forehead between Clint's shoulderblades and groans, fingers slowing. His other hand isn't touching Clint at all, and Clint can wager a guess as to why. Breathing deeply and evenly, he relaxes as much as possible. When he just focuses on that, on Coulson's fingers in his body and Coulson's forehead against his back, his own dick--not completely limp, but not half hard either up until now--slowly starts to take a real interest in the proceedings.
"I--I have to--," Coulson says, and it sounds pleading. His fingers jerk in Clint and his cock nudges up between Clint's cheeks alongside his fingers.
"Wait," Clint tells him, trying to catch his breath. For a moment, it seems like Coulson isn't going to listen, so Clint reaches back and grabs his arm, not gripping it, not really--just holding on and grounding him. "Just... just wait, one second, just--one second."
Coulson pants against him and his breathing is labored and wheezing, as if coming through clenched teeth.
"One more," Clint says, reaching down with his other hand to grasp his own cock, hard now. "Just one more, okay? I need one more." Coulson doesn't respond, just remains tense and motionless and panting, and Clint gently squeezes the warm skin under his fingers. "We're fine. One more, Coulson. We're fine."
Coulson nods against his back again and shakes as he gently, so gently, adds a third finger, and the self-restraint he's showing makes Clint ache for him.
It's easier after that, and Clint's mind blinks out on him here and there, short split-second glimpses where he forgets where they are, why they're here--forgets the Cough-Sound aliens and how fucked up this whole thing is. It's easier that way, easier to think of the one time before, years before, and for a moment Clint wonders hysterically why they haven't been doing this all along, because that sure as fuck would make this whole situation less skeevy.
But then Coulson raises his head to breathe hotly against Clint's ear, and says, evenly and quietly as if all the skittishness and tension and fucking Cough-Sound alien sex gas has left his body for just a moment, "I'm glad it's you, Clint. I'm glad it's you. Wouldn't want anyone else."
Something loosens in Clint's chest then, and he groans--couldn't hold it back to save his life--and Coulson's pulling his fingers from his body and replacing them with his cock, and Clint says, "Yes," and "Yes, God, fuck."
He doesn't remember the exact specifics of the last time, too many years and too much mileage having passed since then. He remembers the how of course, but he doesn't recall the exact feeling of Coulson entering his body. Clint thinks he'd like to remember the feeling forever, this time, Coulson's cock heavy and firm as it pushes into him. He tries to lock the sensory memory in and wants desperately for it to overwrite every thought he has about how they ended up here in the first place. Forget the Cough-Sound aliens, forget Fury, forget the uncomfortable way the edge of the hospital bed is digging into the soft of his abdomen, because this? Just this, Coulson sliding in and moaning against his skin? This, he fucking loves.
Coulson noses against the neck of Clint's uniform, then hooks his chin over the edge to bite lightly at the point where the side of Clint's throat meets his shoulder.
"Fuck," Clint gasps, his own cock twitching in his hand, and that's all the encouragement Coulson needs.
Coulson's thrusts are immediately hard and fast, and his breathing changes as it quickens. His panting becomes deeper and more ragged, like he's trying to control it but can't. Clint grips the edge of the bed with one hand, clenches his other fist tighter around his cock, and hangs on for the ride.
One of Coulson's hands moves to Clint's neck and then Coulson's pushing himself up and pushing Clint down, gaining greater leverage to thrust harder, and Clint fucking keens underneath him. Squirming, Clint tries to get a better foothold to take the punishing pace Coulson has set, but his uniform pants are still around his thighs and it limits his movement just enough that he can't do much more than to just brace his body against the bed. Shifting his head, he manages to take some of the weight onto the front of his shoulder, and that gives him just the leverage he needs to be able to really jerk himself off.
Behind him, Coulson's breath hitches as he notices what Clint's doing, and he starts making noise on each thrust inwards, harsh grunts that are deafening in the sterile room, but the hand gripping Clint's hip is still twitching, squeezing on and off.
"Coulson," Clint pants, words jarred by each thrust. "Coulson, it's okay. You're allowed. You're allowed. We're fine."
Coulson grinds into him then, and Clint squeezes his eyes shut--shuts the world out and loses himself a little. All his senses zero in on Coulson, Coulson behind him, Coulson's voice in his ears, Coulson's cock in his ass, Coulson, Coulson--
"Shitfuck," Clint grunts and comes onto the floor.
His entire body tenses and tingles with the force of his sudden orgasm, and Coulson makes a louder noise, almost like a wail--like he's finally finding the release that he needed. When he comes, his fingers clench around Clint's hip and neck hard enough to bruise.
The silence that follows is louder than any of the noises they just made. Clint opens his eyes slowly, gradually coming back to himself as his breath slows and he becomes very aware that Coulson's pulled out of him. When he finally straightens up, all his limbs protesting after being bent over the bed, he turns to find that Coulson is standing several steps away, naked and awkward and no longer touching Clint at all.
"Thank you," Coulson says on a rushed breath, hands awkwardly almost-but-not-quite covering his crotch as he stares hard at the floor. Frowning, he pulls the condom off and disposes of it in a nearby trash can.
Clint carefully pulls his uniform pants up and doesn't make a sound, doesn't so much as twitch, as his sore muscles and abused skin protest his movements. Once he's tucked himself away, Clint finds the blanket on the other side of the bed and holds it out to Coulson, whose eyes flicker quickly up to Clint's face. He looks grateful, but just as fast as he'd looked up, he looks away again.
"I take it you're feeling better, sir?" Clint asks, because one of them has got to say something.
Coulson wraps himself in the blanket, draping it across his shoulders and holding it closed in front, and then finally raises his head fully to look at Clint as he walks over to climb back onto the bed. "Yes, much. Thank you, Agent Barton."
Clint fidgets with one of his buckles for a moment, then draws a breath to say something else, but before he can find his voice the door opens and Dr. Harris and two others enter the room wearing freakin' hazmat suits. Wonderful.
Trying not to think about how their rapid entry means that someone was surely watching the entire time, Clint tries to melt into the wall as Dr. Harris and his assistants descend on Coulson like a small, three-man medical tornado. They all talk over each other, asking questions and checking Coulson's temperature and pulling out needles to poke him with, and Clint just sits down in a corner and does his best to tune them out.
When he glances over however, Coulson's looking at him over Dr. Harris' shoulder, and he looks...
Well. It's not a bad look, at least.
Clint's not sure what to make of Coulson's unreadable expression, so he just gives him a tentative smile in return and then sets about fastening his uniform properly again.
The doctors seem to linger forever, murmuring and talking over each other where they're huddled around Coulson.
Eventually they descend on Clint, asking him all sorts of questions he really doesn't want to answer (Did any of Agent Coulson's bodily fluids mix with his, including saliva? Did he reach orgasm, and did it feel significantly different from the sexual pleasure he reaches via masturbation? Is he experiencing any physical aftereffects?) and Clint is sorely tempted to lash out both verbally and physically.
He doesn't, though. Clint just grits his teeth and lets them do their thing. They take a sample of his hair, a sample of his saliva, they draw several vials of blood, and one of the doctor underlings actually bend down to take a sample from the blotches of semen he's left on the floor. When another collects the used condom in the trash can, Clint glances over at Coulson, who's beet red in the face and looking at the ceiling.
Eventually the medical tornado simmers down, and the doctor underlings leave the room again, while Dr. Harris hangs behind a little.
"We're going to analyze the samples we just took, so you guys will need to stay quarantined until we get the all clear, but based on the information we have so far, the prognosis is good."
He gives them both a reassuring smile in return, then says, "I'll send someone down with some food and water for you guys," before turning to leave.
"Make it a stiff drink," Clint calls after him, but Dr. Harris is already past the first set of doors, a vague blob behind the plastic curtain.
Sighing, Clint puts his hands on his hips and finally looks over at Coulson again. Coulson is looking a lot less awkward now, seated properly on the bed, wearing a white t-shirt with the blanket draped across his legs.
"How's the fever?" he asks.
Coulson seems clear-headed and fully present now, but his cheeks are still a bit red. Then again, that could be from--well, there's a lot of reasons they could be red.
"I don't think it's instant," Coulson says. "If my fever was related to--to, uh, what happened to me--"
"The fuck do you mean if," Clint interrupts with a scoff, and Coulson manages a slightly sheepish smile where he sits.
"All right," he admits, "there was probably a correlation there."
"Probably," Clint agrees with a slight nod, feeling a smile threaten to appear on his own face.
Coulson fiddles with the blanket a little. "In any case, I feel... better. Clearer. They said my temperature is down to 102 now and still dropping, but it didn't magically vanish."
"Which," Clint says, gesturing a little, "is bullshit in my opinion. It magically appeared, why can't it magically vanish as well?"
Clint takes a few hesitant steps towards Coulson before coming to a stop next to the bed. There's no real chairs around, but there's a stool on wheels sitting by the tray that still holds condoms and lube, and Clint pulls it over and sits down, resolutely not looking at the tray. They sit in silence for a while, Clint trying to decipher anything at all from Coulson's steady gaze.
"So," he eventually says.
"Barton," Coulson says almost immediately, obviously wanting to intercept whatever Clint was going to say next--which was nothing, literally, but Coulson doesn't know that. Coulson smiles a little then, and corrects himself. "Clint."
Somehow, the use of his first name makes embarrassment flare in Clint, and he looks down at where he's rested his hands on the edge of the bed. One of Coulson's hands appears in his line of sight and carefully, slowly, creeps over until it covers Clint's.
"You have nothing to feel guilty over," Coulson says warmly.
Clint begs to differ, he can think of about fifty things immediately off the top of his head, some of them going back way further than the Cough-Sound sex gas.
"I outed you to everyone," he mumbles, because that's easier to address than anything else.
Coulson makes an odd snorting sound that that makes Clint look up, and to his surprise he finds Coulson smiling at him. "I'm sure they were all disgusted and appalled," he says, sarcasm front and center.
Clint's neck heats up. "No, I just--I..."
"Clint," Coulson says gently, "give your team a little more credit than that, please." He pauses and waits until Clint looks him directly in the eye. "Give yourself a little more credit than that. You did the right thing."
Emotions burn in Clint's chest and he tries to nod. He's not sure he's entirely successful.
"Do you remember the last time?" Coulson asks. He's still smiling, crow's feet at the corners of his eyes.
Clint swallows. "Hard to forget, sir." The title slips out without any conscious thought, but it makes Coulson's smile falter just a little. "Coulson," Clint corrects immediately, and then awkwardly, "Phil."
Coulson's smile stays put then. He laces his fingers with Clint's, and Clint's heart rate picks up. "You remember what I said afterwards?"
Clint's throat is threatening to close up on him. "You said it was an awful idea, and that it couldn't happen again."
Coulson nods. "And what did you say?"
Coulson nods again and then looks down at their joined hands, pursing his lips thoughtfully. Clint holds his breath and waits. He knows Coulson, and he's not done talking yet.
"We're both deeply stupid," Coulon says. Clint stares and blinks and isn't sure he remembers how to breathe anymore. "I know today wasn't--fun," Coulson continues, and then he raises his eyes to meet Clint's. "But I meant what I said. I'm glad it was you."
He sucks in a quick breath, the same way he does before he's about to fire his gun--the same way he did before kissing Clint in Stockholm eight years ago, and Clint's chest is full of pressure and emotion.
"There was never anyone but you, Clint," Coulson breathes out. The corners of his mouth are twitching nervously around his smile, and Clint's fingers tighten around Coulson's.
Clint doesn't decide to smile, he just notices the smile once it's on his face; wide and uncontrollable, feeling like it's stretching his skin thin. Coulson's own smile grows in return, and they sit there so long that Clint loses track of it, grinning at each other like idiots.
"Let's have dinner," Coulson says.
"When we get out of here?" Clint asks.
Just then the door opens, and two doctor underlings in hazmat suits enter, each wheeling a big tray loaded with massive amounts of food. "Sure, that too," Coulson says easily, "But I meant right now, first."
Clint grins and feels his mouth water when he realizes the trays have fresh pizza on them, hiding between a KFC bucket and a sub of some sort. He has to let go of Coulson so he can grab a slice and fold it up, but it's totally worth it. He's already dripping grease and cheese onto his field uniform when one of the underlings puts two folders and pens on the edge of the bed and says, "Oh, and Director Fury asked me to give you these."
"Hm?" asks Clint, mouth full of pizza, as Coulson pulls up a folder and opens it.
The doctor underling says, "Director Fury said to get those to Deputy Director Hill within three days of your release..." She trails off, and her partner nudges her back.
"You have to say the whole thing," he says, and she squirms a little.
"Bring the completed forms to Deputy Director Hill within three days of your release, or Director Fury," and she sighs and blushes deeply behind her visor, "will not be responsible for who--uh, 'crawls up Agent Coulson's ass next time he sprouts an alien boner.'"
Coulson has frozen mid-flipping a page in the folder, and the doctor underling takes a quick step backwards. "Enjoy your meal, sir," she says quickly, and then beats a hasty retreat with her snickering partner.
Clint chuckles after them, then leans over to look at the papers in Coulson's lap. "So what are those?" Coulson snorts and turns the folder towards Clint. "Contingency plan in case of future sex gas attacks or similar incidents?"
Coulson nods and snags a roll from his own tray. He's dropping crumbs into the folder, but doesn't seem to care at all, smiling as he grabs a pen and starts scribbling in his details. "Well, contingency plans are important," he says.
Clint finishes his slice, wipes his hands on the sheets, then grabs his own folder and flips it open. He finds what he's looking for on the last page, and reaches over to snag the pen out of Coulson's hand, grinning the whole time.
"Hey," Coulson says, "I was using that. There's a second pen, you know." He shifts a little, looking for the other pen in the folds of the blanket, but Clint waves him off.
"Just doing this one thing real fast," Clint says, pushing the folder against his knee for stability, and writing each letter with great care, before signing at the bottom. "There!" he says happily when he's done, hands Coulson his pen back and then holds up the form so he can see.
Coulson spots it immediately halfway down the page.
I, the undersigned, sound in mind and body, give consent to the following emergency contact to assist in any situation, Level Two or above, requiring intermutual physical stimulation (as defined in SHIELD Emergency Protocol Section 9.13.b). Emergency contact: Phillip J. Coulson.
Just below it, the next paragraph reads:
I, the undersigned, sound in mind and body, give consent to be the emergency contact for Clinton F. Barton, and, in the above situation, agree to provide the requisite assistance.
Coulson stares at it for a few moments, and then his smile returns full force. Clint doesn't even pretend he's not delirious with giddiness when Coulson reaches over and signs his name on the dotted line. Afterwards, he turns to his own folder, carefully fills out Clint's name and signs, before handing it over for Clint to sign as well. Clint's hand sneaks out to grab Coulson's again, and if it's clumsy and awkward to eat one-handed, filling out the rest of their forms between bites, neither of them care.
It's much later, after they've eaten and Clint has migrated from the stool to squeezing himself in next to Phil on the hospital bed--after they've traded kisses still tinged with pizza cheese and KFC's secret spice combination--that Clint has a thought.
"Hm?" Coulson asks, turning his head to look at Clint even as his fingers still trace lazy circles across the back of Clint's hand.
"Everyone got one of these forms, right?"
Coulson nods a little. "Yeah, probably, why?"
Clint's grin turns devilish.
"Who do you think Steve picked?"
Coulson groans and throws his free arm across his face, and Clint's laughter echoes through the room.