It's weird. Clint's not even a huge fan of The Pretenders. He might recognize a few songs, but it's not like he has the whole back catalog. He can't even remember the last time he heard "Don't Get Me Wrong." There's no reason for it to be stuck in his head.
But it is. On a loop. A never-ending loop of upbeat '80s guitars and Chrissie Hynde talking about fireworks going off at a smile. It's been stuck in his head for an hour.
At first, Clint resisted. But they've got another four hours in the quinjet before they get back to Manhattan. So, fine, he's giving in. He's mouthing along with the words and air-drumming to the beat. (What? It's a thing. Air-drumming is totally a thing.)
Natasha leans closer to him, voice pitched low enough that it won't be overheard. "Shouldn't you have earbuds in if you're going to pretend to listen to music?"
Clint shrugs. "No rule says I have to."
Natasha gives him a twist of the lips. "It’s not the sort of thing that needs a rule," she says, and lets it drop. He gets a few puzzled and/or disapproving looks, but nobody else seems to notice he’s not actually listening to music. Melinda May, who is flying the quinjet, manages to make her displeasure known through the extra bumpy ride.
Only Phil, flipping through paperwork arranged carefully on his lap, doesn’t react. Or care. Maybe he's just used to Clint's strange behavior. They've worked together for a long time, after all. Way longer than these upstart S.H.I.E.L.D. puppies who now follow in Phil's wake everywhere he goes.
Not that Clint’s jealous or anything.
Clint finds himself half-singing "You give my life direction, you make everything so clear." He quickly stops. Oh brain, no.
You're a candle in the window on a cold dark winter's night.
Dammit! Stop it!
He must have said that aloud, because a passing young agent mumbles an apology and scurries away. Clint wonders what the agent was doing to warrant such a response. Probably nothing. The younglings have learned the hard way not to piss off Clint, lest they find Lucky Charms in their Wheaties or springy snakes leaping out of their lockers.
There's a springy snake in his brain and it's warbling: And if I have to crawl upon the floor, come crushing through your door, baby, I can't fight this feeling anymore.
Stupid snakes and their '80s pop rock. REO Speedwagon is a stupid name for a group, too. What does it even mean? It probably means something. Phil might know. But Phil is currently sitting behind his desk -- again with the paperwork, how does he ever get any world saving done? -- as Clint enters the office, and Clint is loathe to disturb him.
"What does REO Speedwagon even mean?" So much for that.
Phil doesn't look up from his paperwork. "The Speed Wagon was a kind of flatbed truck. Its founder was Ransom E. Olds."
"Who knows that?"
If it was Tony, Clint would suspect some secret Wikipedia checking, but Phil avoids Wikipedia like the plague. Or like someone who has repeatedly edited the Captain America entry, only to discover the same fallacies keep getting re-entered.
To the rest of the world, Wikipedia is a source of interesting information on mostly useless subjects. To Phil, it's a living, breathing example of bad fact-checking.
"People who like trivia."
"Or classic cars," Clint replies because everyone knows about Lola. Phil pauses in his paperwork and actually looks up. His expression is patient but wary, like he's waiting for more information before he approves jumping out a window on the twenty-third floor. "What?" Clint asks defensively.
Phil keeps watching. "You know I'm still waiting on your After Action Report, right?"
"Sure," Clint says, even if he'd completely forgotten. Paperwork. Eurgh. It's bad enough when he has to type it in, but writing it out sucks. Exponential suckage.
"Take this," Phil says, pulling a tablet out of the pile of pages on his desk, and pushing it into Clint's hands. "Sit down. Finish it."
"Fine," Clint says sullenly. It's still paperwork, even if it's the least annoying form of it. He logs into the network, and tries to ignore the song running around his brain. “Paycheck."
He can hear Phil's pen stop. There's a breath, and then Phil says, "Did I miss something?"
"It's what I started fighting for," Clint replies. "That's not something you really forget."
Phil gives him a look. One of those "you're an idiot" looks that are common enough they should no longer make Clint's stomach flip-flop. Clint's stomach flip-flops anyway.
"AAR, Clint. Now."
"That's very touching, but can we keep on task please?" Phil's voice over the comm startles Clint, who has been in a light doze. A totally alert, very awake light doze, because being cramped in a sniper's nest waiting for some mega super mutant bad guy to show up deserves all of Clint's attention. He might fall out of the nest, after all.
"Um... yes?" Clint says. Maybe asks. Who said what to the what now?
Phil pauses, one of those pregnant pauses where Clint knows Phil's rolling his eyes. Not that he's ever actually seen Phil do it, but Phil has Ninja Eye Rolling abilities. He could Eye Roll for the Planet. Or at least Clint assumes so.
"I said, I'm touched that everything you do, you do it for me. But on task, please."
Phil is quoting Bryan Adams. Oh man, maybe Phil had a seizure. What should Clint do? Abandon his post, call for reinforcements, strong-arm Phil to medical? Because there's no way Phil is going to medical unless blood is gushing from someplace vital.
Waaaaaaait. Phil isn't quoting Bryan Adams. Phil is quoting Clint quoting Bryan Adams. Clint can feel them now, the sickly sweetness of the words still lingering on his tongue. Words that he apparently crooned into his comm, for Phil and anyone else from S.H.I.E.L.D. who might be listening to hear.
If Clint karaoking Bryan Adams ends up as someone's ringtone, there's going to be hell to pay.
"As long as you know, boss," Clint replies, aiming for the right level of jackass sarcasm. He nails it.
"Eyes on target," Phil says, sounding less annoyed than any other Agent in Charge would be. Sometimes, Clint’s lucky that Phil finds him funny. Funny-ha-ha, as opposed to funny-peculiar. Sure, Clint likes working with other agents, but they don’t always get his jokes.
But Phil does. He won’t let himself laugh over comms, but Clint can tell. He’s even surprised Phil into an amused snort once or twice.
Every Sunday, there’s Team Lunch. It was Steve’s idea and the way he says it, it has capitals. Clint's at the Tower and it’s gray and raining, all those huge windows showing clouds and raindrops. If not for Tony and Steve squabbling in the background over table manners, it would be peaceful. Everyone well fed. Sitting around and watching the rain fall.
Clint has never been more bored.
He refuses to be the first one to leave. Steve looks so low-spirited when people leave early. There’s this understanding nod and a frown that he tries to hide. It’s like kicking a lame puppy.
None of the other Avengers enjoy kicking lame puppies either, so everyone stays. Secretly, Clint’s hoping they get called out. Even mutated kittens would be better than boredom.
It’s fine for Natasha: she has a book. She’s on the sofa with Bruce, her bare feet curled up under her, and both of them with books on their laps. Bruce might be reading an encyclopedia.
Even Phil’s checking something on his phone, so Clint’s not the only one bored here. But he didn’t think to bring something to read. And his phone is currently recovering from a two-story fall into a fountain. (Don’t ask.)
Change this lonely life...
Oh, brain, no.
But, no, it's like trying not to think of a pink elephant. Once he thinks one line, the chorus comes loud and clear.
Clint clenches his jaw. He does not sing about wanting to know what love is. Or wanting anyone to show him.
His foot taps to the beat.
From the far chair, dressed down in jeans and a Rangers jersey that is strangely appealing, Phil raises an eyebrow at him. It doesn’t stop the lonely serenade inside his head.
If it was just once, twice or three times, fine, Clint could roll with it. But, no. It keeps happening. There's the pre-mission meeting where "I Want You To Want Me" gets stuck on a loop in his head. It's annoying, but a really catchy chorus. It's also how he memorizes the essentials of Phil's plan: "I want you to be there" and "I need you to shoot him."
He's not sure what the begging line should be. Well, not until they’re in the middle of Doombots and collapsing buildings, and then it becomes "I'm begging you to catch me." Which the Hulk does.
Or the pizza night where he keeps hearing "I'm All Out of Love." It's not the right soundtrack for watching Thor and Steve competitively grab at pizza boxes, while Phil sneakily hoards the pepperoni-pineapple-mushroom. If Tony's going to ship in pizza from Chicago, he should have known to order two stuffed crusts -- one for Phil, one for the rest of them. Stuffed crust pizzas are like Cap memorabilia and outdated spy gadgets: they bring out the inner hoarder in Phil. That should be common knowledge.
Or the six-hour stakeout where he keeps hearing Meatloaf complain about what he won't do for love. Lying on top of a building with warm Tuscan breeze isn't a bad way to spend a night, even if the soundtrack could be improved. It's better than when Tony blasts Metallica through his Iron Man suit, loud enough that anyone standing near him can hear.
(After a particularly annoyed frown from Phil, Clint had asked once if Tony had considered soundproofing. Tony shrugged and said, "External soundproofing? What's the point? It's not like this suit's designed for sneaking." He had a point.)
"Hawkeye." Phil's voice pulls Clint out of wondering precisely how you pray to the god of sex and drums and rock 'n' roll. He feels like it should involve fireworks or instruments.
"More watching, less humming."
Luckily, Phil is several hundred yards away, so he can't see the embarrassed grimace twisting Clint's face. "Yes, sir."
There's a click in Clint's ear as Phil switches to a private comm line. Less secure but always good to have a back-up. "Some days I pray for silence," Phil quotes, deadpan and fantastically dry.
"But praying to the god of sex and drums and rock 'n' roll? Do you think they burn guitars in offering?"
"Guitars, tour buses, the occasional drummer's arm." Phil pauses for a moment. "All doused in tequila and Jack Daniels, I'm guessing."
I just can't handle it.
I must get round to it.
Clint thinks about stuff. Anything. Anything that is not Freddie Freakin’ Mercury.
It shakes all over like a jellyfish.
"I Am. Not. Ready. Freddie," he mutters.
Phil, who has been innocently going over sitrep reports while Clint dozes on Phil's office couch, sighs. "Hawkeye. You're talking in your sleep. Again."
Again? When has Clint ever talked in his sleep? And why does the image of Phil listening to him talk in his sleep suddenly bring to mind an entirely different image? A far less mundane, more sensuous image of Phil in bed, probably wearing a t-shirt (Clint has definitely not speculated on what Phil wears to bed, no sirree), little reading glasses perched on his nose as he reaches over and tousles Clint's hair. "Hawkeye, you're talking in your sleep again. Let me give you something to talk about."
Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.
Something to talk about. How about love, love, loooooooooove?
Bonnie Raitt, out of my head! Clint demands mentally. Out loud, he mumbles an apology. "Um, sorry sir."
"Sorry, sir." Clint can totally see saying that to Phil as he nips a path along Phil's collarbone. Too high, because leaving a hickey on the Agent in Charge is probably not a good idea.
Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Brain, noooooooo.
Phil puts down his reports. "Clint, are you okay? You've been... off lately."
Clint imagines diving over Phil's desk, screwing his fingers into Phil's tie (so blue it's black, Clint calls it Gerald to differentiate it from the one that's so black it's blue), and pulling Phil into a kiss.
"Gotta go!" he calls behind him as he scrambles out of the office.
Natasha. He needs Nat. Nat can fix this.
Natasha's phone is ringing. Ringing. Oh god, if he gets voicemail what is he--
"This better be good." Natasha doesn't sound winded but she does sound incredibly pissed, which means that Clint has interrupted her in the middle of the good stuff. With Natasha, that can mean either fighting or sex. Or both. Either way (both ways?), she's not going to be in the mood to put up with Clint's mind boggling attack of "wanna jump Coulson's bones" -itis.
"Nat, there are songs. In my head. All the time."
Natasha sighs. "Clint, there's all sorts of crap in your head all the time. How is this different?"
"They happen whenever I'm around Coulson. Songs, Nat. Love songs. Crazy little things--" No, not going there again. God rest your soul Freddie Mercury, but shut up.
"So talk to Coulson."
Great. That's just... great.
Maybe he'll sleep on it.
Clint has to fix this. All night, being bombarded by love jingles. And the weird, inescapable knowledge that he wants Phil. He. Wants. Phil.
It’s weird. And mind-boggling. And in hindsight it’s so blindingly obvious that he feels embarrassed for past-him. All the times he spent hanging around Phil’s office, allowing himself to be bullied into paperwork, or indulging Phil’s need to share his latest piece of cheesy propaganda merchandising… The missions that were easier with Phil’s voice in his ear, even the Team Lunches where he got to see Phil sans suit… In 20/20 hindsight, he maybe should have noticed how nice it was to spend time around Phil. How good it felt.
But, no. He needed annoying musical cues to figure it out. Stupid brain.
From the corridor leading to Phil's office, he can hear a gentle piano and the hint of reggae.
Really? Now that he has a plan, now is when The Police want to talk about losing his nerve every time?
This is not helping.
But, fine. Clint can ignore the silent fears and faulty umbrellas, and open a door. He's got this. He's Hawkeye. (Or at least Hawkguy.) He can work out what he wants and go for it like a mature adult. Or like Katie-Kate’s impersonation of a mature adult. He’s got this.
Phil looks up a little guiltily. His mouth is full. There's white powder smeared across his bottom lip.
"Little Debbie? At ten in the morning?"
Phil swallows. "What did you have for breakfast?"
"Leftover Kung Pao Chicken and dry Fruit Loops."
"Together?" Phil asks warily. This from the man who genuinely enjoys street vendor food in any and every country. It’s the gastronomic version of Russian Roulette, and Phil plays to win. He will eat anything and everything, and have seconds if it’s a dare. It’s equal parts terrifying and impressive.
"Side by side. I was out of milk." Clint waves that thought away. It's not why he came here. "Look, I need help with something."
"Help as in a ride to the vet, or help dealing with an international crime syndicate you accidentally annoyed?"
That's... fair. There were the Bro gangsters in Brooklyn, and Triad in Shenzhen, and that smuggling gang in Durban. Clint has a talent for irritating people who really enjoy violence.
"Help, like..." Clint sighs, and walks around Phil's desk. There's no way he can put this into words, and hearing Sting confess Every time that I come near her I just lose my nerve is not helping. Again, stupid brain. "Trust me, okay?"
Phil watches him as he leans back against the desk. And then has to lean forward and bend down weirdly to get his head to the right level.
"Are you going to kiss me?" Phil asks, like he's double checking directions on a map. He doesn’t seem upset about it but Clin can’t detect any enthusiasm either.
"Yes. Because of the music. And you." Clint stops himself from babbling by leaning into Phil's personal space (he's seen people maimed for encroaching too far). He pauses an inch away from Phil's mouth to make sure it's okay. (Maiming, remember?)
Phil doesn't pull away, so Clint takes that as a good sign. He's about to make contact but Phil surges forward and beats him to it. Phil's lips are warm and dry, sugary sweet.
For a moment, Clint only hears his own heartbeat and the sounds of two people breathing through their noses.
Phil pulls back from the kiss and asks, "Have you been serenading me with cheesy love songs?"
"No." He hasn't. Well, not on purpose. "Maybe my subconscious did. But we -- my subconscious and I, I mean -- are not on talking terms until the love songs stop. I'm so sick of hearing cheesy ballads every time we -- I mean you and I -- are in the same room."
Phil looks amused, which is better than most other reactions. "Did it work?"
Clint can still hear Sting singing that every little thing she does is magic. So... no. "Not yet."
"Maybe we should try again."
Phil takes control again. Clint could totally get used to this. Hands on either side of Clint's head, lips pressed against Clint's. A little tongue, sticky sweet.
"Um," Clint hums against Phil's lips.
Phil regards him gravely. But for the glint of amusement in his eyes. "And now?"
Blessed, blessed silence.
"Totally still playing music in my head," he lies. And moves in for another kiss.
Lying to Phil is never a wise thing. Phil tuts lightly, pulling back. "Clint?"
Clint sighs. "Fine. No more music."
"Good." Phil pulls Clint closer, tousles Clint's hair. "You're an idiot. But you're my idiot."
Oh. Oh! Clint's stomach does that flip-floppy thing.
Lips on lips again. And tousled hair. Maybe, if Clint is a very, very good boy, he'll get to do that thing with the collarbone. And leave a hickey. Totally leave a hickey.
Every long song ever dims in comparison to this. And Clint is totally fine with that.