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A Bureaucratic Nightmare

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Phil sat down slowly, gingerly negotiating his place in Fury's office. He was one hour off the quinjet from Vienna, and even after a 24 hour "lay over" he was still achy and tired. He had slept most of the time in the hotel, much to his chagrin, but Clint had simply woken him up and hustled into a shower (and a hand-job) about 20 minutes before their extraction team arrived.

Of course, he was Deputy Director Phillip Coulson, CFO of SHIELD, so his extraction team was seven police cars, the chief of police, representatives from the Viennese State Governor's office and also the American Embassy as well as ten fully armed SHIELD field agents in five SHIELD-issue armored SUVs. To his credit, Clint took it all in stride, although Phil got the feeling there was some posturing with the other SHIELD agents behind his back because they all kept a solid five-foot distance from him at all times.

Back in New York and severely lacking in coffee, Phil had managed to get to his office and change into his spare suit (an older model that came from his "pin-stripe" era) before following the direct order to show up at Fury's office for a very personal and up-close debriefing. Phil hadn't even written his formal after-action report yet, although he was made to understand that was what the members of Strike Team Delta were doing (except for Figueroa, who was still kind of "floaty" according to Clint, who swore up and down that it was a medical term because it got used on him a lot after bad missions).

"That was some shit, Phil." Fury leaned back in his chair and folded his hands together.

"Thank you, sir."

"Don't give me that, you fucker. I scrambled most of the Eurasian continent to find you, and you're making nooky in a hotel in Vienna."

"Rumors." Phil made sure his most placid face was in place. It drove Nick crazy.

Nick's eye twitched, so Phil mentally put one mark down in his column. "Do we have a lead on Blake?"

Nick sighed heavily and looked up at the ceiling. "A few, but I'm not keeping you in that loop because it's getting tricky. I will say that he was playing a long game."

"For HYDRA?"

"Maybe. For himself, mostly. Not sure what his end goal is, or if it's changed. He wanted Delta taken out, and was willing to put you down with them, and that…that suggests unpleasant possibilities."

They were a quiet a moment as the gravity of that vague recap sunk into Phil. He took a deep breath, knowing where his true value was in the given situation. "My analyses of the data have been turned over to Red Team."

Nick nodded, still staring at the ceiling. "Your specialist teams still named after Star Wars Rebel Alliance squadrons, I see."

"Rumors," Phil repeated, although he stifled a smile.

Nick sat up, his feet hitting the ground hard. "Start from the beginning. I want to know what happened."

"It will be in the AAR, boss."

"Did I ask you that? No. I told you start from the beginning," Nick said, scowling.

Phil understood a direct order when slapped in the face with one, so he started at the change-over in London with Culbreath and marched the story forward from there.

Nick did not actually start laughing until Phil related the situation with the baby geeks at the target building. He was howling and clutching his sides by the time Phil got to the point where Clint had stolen a car in Vienna while Phil bought stale donuts.

"You're a jerk, sir." Phil snarled, interrupting his technical explanation of his data analysis.

"Holy shit! You're like, like, Maxwell!"

"Who? What?"

"Get Smart!" Nick roared and folded over his desk, his face stuck in the crook of his elbow as he laughed.

Phil crossed his arms and glared.

"No! No, you were great! No wonder Delta loves you! You're bat-fucking-shit insane!"

"I prefer to think it's for my creativity under stress."

Fury gasped for breath as he sat up again. "Whatever gets you through the night," he said, smirking. "The real question is: what will your mother say?"

"Fuck you, just read the official report." Phil snapped and walked out, slamming the office door shut on Nick's howls of laughter. When he got back to his office, he found Hawkeye and the Black Widow sitting there, peacefully filling out forms. Phil was pretty certain he had locked the door when he left earlier. Not sure of what to say, he sat down at his desk to find the AAR paperwork waiting for him.

It was pretty easy ("Time and Date of Departure", "Travel Transfers/Route alterations", "Employee ID #") until it got to the "Mission Details" section. Phil scribbled in an outline of their time in Budapest, but paused with his pen held up over the paper. "Points of egress?"

"Means escape route." Clint was chewing on the end of his pen. He was sitting on Phil's little office couch, hunched up with a clip board on his lap.

"I know what it means," Phil grumped and shifted in his desk chair, because of course he knew what it meant. "What I don't know is if we had any?"

"Just put 'none.' That's what I always do." Clint scribbled furiously for a second, as if he was in a war of wills with the paperwork in his hand, then went back to gnawing.

Phil looked over at the Black Widow, who was gently penning what had to be a Russian novel over the documentation. She was on page ten, at least. Phil was not going to admit he found that a little intimidating. He was having trouble filling up the little boxes as it was, even without Clint's professional assistance.

She raised an eyebrow at him. Taking the meaning for what it was, Phil sighed and returned to trying to make his AAR sound even vaguely professional. He was using the phrase "and then" too much, along with "probably." He was pretty confident that real field agents never included the words, "misappropriated $27,000 in medical equipment and a $150,000 ambulance, property of the city of Vienna, which was returned in excellent condition along with a full tank of gas ($253), all units converted from Euros to Dollars." Mostly because field agents, in his experience, never knew how much stuff cost and never returned anything in excellent condition. It was just luck that the Widow had decided to end up shoe shopping in Venice as opposed to running police barricades in Germany.

After another thirty minutes of Phil laboring over his answers and the random cursing of Clint and the Black Widow making it another four pages into her epic, Phil's office door opened.

Sitwell stepped in slowly, his eyes narrowing as he took in Clint and the Black Widow. They both looked up at him, nodded, and got back to their paperwork. Sitwell scuttled over to Phil's desk, every movement suspicious and wary, then placed a bag of mini powdered donuts on the corner. He was a like a spooked cat, speeding out the door before Phil could thank him or ask "what the fuck?" He stared at the bag.

"Means he likes you," Clint said.

"Well. Donuts." Phil shrugged.

"For sharing." Clint looked hopeful and the Black Widow snorted without looking up.

"Messy. When you're done," Phil said, pointing his pen at Clint's paperwork which was, amazingly, even more Spartan than Phil's.

Phil's email pinged so he stopped for a moment to check it.

I don't know how you got them to sit down and do their paperwork, but there are more donuts in it for you if you can make it happen again. - JS

Phil wasn't sure how to say "but I didn't do anything" without insulting the handler, so he typed back a quick "it's a deal!" reply (because, donuts) and returned to his report, hoping it wasn't something he would live to regret.

"I'm done!" Clint announced moments later, folding up the abused paperwork like was going to mail it and setting it in Phil's "out" basket. He turned to the donut bag, but Phil pulled it out of his reach.

"Let me see."

Pouting, Clint handed the paperwork over for inspection. His handwriting was terrible, but he hit the salient points and left out all the kissing, so Phil thought it was acceptable. He held the bag open so Clint could grab a handful of the sweet powdery disasters. He plopped back down on the couch, eating donuts and staring creepily at the Black Widow, who ignored him for another three pages. When Clint had managed to cover everything in a two foot radius with powdered sugar, the Widow finally finished the last three pages and got up, handing them to Phil. He was pretty sure it was a formality because what on earth did she need him for? But he read over the full 17-page report that included details Phil was pretty sure he never would have thought of in a million years (such as whether the inside of the shipping container was painted, which it was not) and, unsurprisingly, nothing about the cost of anything. He clipped it together and put it on top of Clint's wrinkled, folded forms in the in-box. He would deliver them to Sitwell, because he honestly had no idea where to file after action reports. That was an entirely different department.

He looked up at the beautiful, dangerous woman staring at him, wondering what she was thinking. She tossed her head a little, motioning towards Clint, who froze up solid with a wide-eyed look of concern, or possibly terror.

"He's been my responsibility for a long time," she said.

"I understand that Delta is a tight-knit team," Phil offered, hoping it was the right answer.

"Hey, guys—" Clint sat forward, wiping more white powdered sugar into his pants with his hands.

"He trusts you. I don't."

"Tasha, c'mon—"

"I know." Phil allowed a little of his nervousness to show through, shifting in his chair under her lethal gaze.

"But I trust him. And…and you're good for him, I think."

"We'll see. I'll certainly try, I promise you that."

"I'm right here! Hello!"

"But your hand-to-hand scores are shitty. Thursday, 6:45am, training room 4A." She turned and walked out.

Phil stared after her. "How does she know my hand-to-hand scores?"

"I'm sure she just guessed or something," Clint said, clearly hedging.

"Or she hacked into my private records within the SHIELD database." Phil glared at Clint, who shrugged, his smile turning mischievous.


Phil tipped his head and laughed out loud. Clint's face lit up with glee, not getting the joke but clearly enjoying the effect on Phil.

Phil stood up, but didn't grab the reports. Sitwell would get them when he got them, Phil decided, because he was exhausted and brain-dead and hopefully had a better offer on the table.

"I'm tired, and I get three days leave to recover, so I'm heading out."

Clint face immediately returned to "Hawkeye normal", slightly grumpy and blank, before he nodded and shuffled to the side, leaving a clear route to the door as if he though Phil was going to sprint for it.

Phil sighed. "I would like you to leave with me. I believe we have a coffee date?"

Clint's grin slowly returned. "We do?"

"We do. A certain handsome pilot propositioned me romantically between Budapest and Vienna, and I intend to cash that debt."

Clint blushed spectacularly and ducked his head, despite his wide smirk. "Wouldn't want to let you down, Sir."

"C'mon." Phil penned a quick note for the cleaning crew to scour up the powdered sugar, then grabbed the donut bag and walked out, Clint bumping shoulders with him as they went down the hallway. Phil tried not to preen as his staff all stared at the two of them, and ignored the tittering noise of the SHIELD gossip vine coming alive in their wake.

The only thing on Phil's mind was how much he was looking forward to that coffee. He had a good reason to stay awake for just a little bit longer.