It’s nothing fancy. Just Clint and Phil and a Justice of the Peace, with Natasha as their witness. They don’t invite any of the other Avengers because they’re all way too noticeable. (Except for Bruce, maybe, but Bruce understands. Tony takes vocal umbrage, snarky in a way that points to him being truly insulted that he’s not invited along, until Steve points out reasonably that both Clint and Phil still work for SHIELD, that the public does not yet know their identities, that it needs to stay that way, and that Tony himself attracts far too much attention when he goes anywhere, even a simple courthouse wedding. Clint wants to kiss Steve, but he refrains, imagining the look on Phil’s face if he were to give in to his impulses.) They don’t tell anyone else until it’s done, and then Phil calls his sister, smiling into the phone even as he prepares the correct forms for their joint change in status.
They get a night, just one night, and then Phil’s back in the air with his team and Clint’s left alone in their bed, his thumb rubbing absently over the metal band on his finger. Thank fuck a call to assemble comes that afternoon. Clint isn’t a brooder by nature, and the wallow he’d allowed himself to fall into was just pathetic. He rushes to the landing pad, still trying to get the fucking impossible chain to fasten around his neck. He can’t wear the ring on his finger while he shoots, but he’ll be damned if he’s going to take it completely off.
Natasha takes it from him as he scurries by her, gentle even while rushed. He seats himself at the controls of the jet, Steve by his side, the good captain already flipping switches and plotting the course like a pro, just months after asking Clint to teach him how. Clint feels a presence at his back, but he can tell it’s Nat so he doesn’t flinch, even when she shifts and something slips over his head, falls around his neck. She steps back as he pulls on the controls, lifting the quinjet into the air. He flashes her a smile in thanks, sure that she sees it, even though he doesn’t turn.
Once they’re steady and on their way, he lifts a hand to tuck the ring under his uniform. The press of the armor gives it weight against his chest, and he smiles. It’s new enough that he’ll feel it, solid and reassuring, while he fights, but light enough that it won’t be distracting. He can feel Steve glancing at him, and he looks over, curious. But Steve just gives him a smile, so Clint smiles back, happy in a way he’d never thought possible.
It’s a short flight, and an even shorter fight, but the White House is still standing when they’re done. The Capitol Building may have taken a bit of a hit, but Clint will never tell anyone that most of the damage was done by Tony, his shots going suspiciously wide far more often than normal. The Secret Service don’t seem appreciative of their help, and Clint and Tony both take exception to that. But Steve smooths the way (because there is literally no government agent that isn’t completely smitten with Captain America, even if he did step in and do their jobs for them) and soon enough they’re on their way back home.
Clint slips his ring back onto his finger as soon as they’re in the air. He pockets the chain and curls his hand around the controls, pressing the gold against his skin.
It’s just lunch. Bruce and Nat and Clint. They’re at the little deli down the street from the tower, where no one treats them like the celebrities they’ve become over the past two years. The fact that the public knows Clint’s and Natasha’s faces but not their names is a miracle, and a testament to just how thoroughly SHIELD has wiped their true identities off the map. Their code names are a matter of public record, and there have been rumors that Clint’s first name is, amazingly enough, Clint. About fifty percent of Natasha’s fans think her name is Natalie, and the rest are smart enough to understand that they have no idea what her real name is. Clint doesn’t even pretend that he’s any different. It’s entirely possible that Natasha herself doesn’t know anymore.
Anyway, they’re just eating lunch, laughing and chatting, and Clint gets a secure text from Phil, something about how the secret’s out, and Clint has a moment of panic as he tries to deduce which secret. But then Phil sends a link, so Clint clicks on it, and it’s a picture of the three of them, leaving the tower just an hour ago. Clint’s holding the door for Bruce and Nat, and the website has included a close-up of Clint’s hand, ring and all.
He laughs, because fuck, Phil, way to scare the shit out of him. Of all the shit they could dig up on him, this is the least worrying. Anyway, it’s not like he’s trying to hide it. He’s married and he’s happy, and who the fuck even cares?
But he skims the article, and it’s apparent that people do care. The question on the blogger’s mind is clearly who the lucky woman is. What an amazing person she must be, to have tied down one of the most mysterious Avengers. And maybe, just maybe, if her name can be ferreted out, it might lead to the reveal of Hawkeye’s true identity.
He snorts a little at that, because if they base their snooping on the fact that he’s married to a woman, well, they aren’t going to get very far. Even if someone clues in, Phil’s information is even more elusive than Clint’s. No one will find anything on them, unless SHIELD decides its in the agency’s best interest that they should.
Natasha asks what’s got his attention, and he shares with the class even as he texts Phil back.
Was never a secret and I don’t care. How are the babies?
He hears Natasha laughing even as Bruce expresses some concern over the public interest this might attain, but he shrugs them off. “It’s just a wedding band,” he argues. “When they don’t get anywhere with it, they’ll lose interest quickly enough.”
They’re all fine. Though I think May would balk at being included in that, don’t you? Unless you weren’t asking after her well being.
“Are you sure they won’t find anything out?” Bruce asks, and Clint just shrugs, already replying to Phil. He leaves it to Natasha to rundown SHIELD’s extensive ghosting of their identities and pasts.
May can handle herself. If you even hint to her that I suggested otherwise, I swear I won’t put out the next time you’re home.
The response he receives is quick and succinct.
He smiles because, well, yeah.
The thing is, speculation doesn’t die down right away. It’s all over the gossip sites, the tabloids. Even the late night talk shows are commenting on it, though Clint hastily turns them off before he can hear himself being the brunt of a joke. Worse, he doesn’t want Phil to be the brunt of a joke, even if most people still assume Hawkeye’s married to a woman.
There have been a few people who have questioned it. Most just as a throwaway comment (“Why are we so sure it’s a woman he’s married to? Let’s not forget that the Avengers are based in a state that allows gay marriage.”) but there are a few that mention the possibility in a more serious manner. Hell, there are some sites that are convinced he’s married to a fellow Avenger, and it’s close enough to the truth to make him uncomfortable. Phil goes with them on calls whenever he’s home, and there have been shots of him in the news in the past. But no one can find a ring on Bruce’s hand (or Tony’s or Steve’s—Thor is well known for being in a very committed relationship, and for some reason it’s always Bruce that people seem to want to pair him with) and the idea of Clint being in a homosexual marriage doesn’t get much traction at all.
Natasha gets close scrutiny for a while, but she makes a very pointed comment in the vicinity of some news vans after a call, about how marriage is great for some but not for her, and also how anyone who tries to delve into her or her friends’ private lives should be prepared to deal with the consequences. It’s a calm statement, said with a cold smile, and it has the desired effect of getting at least the legitimate news organizations to back off.
The internet, however, is a very different story. After seeing some rather graphic illustrations of himself and his best friend in a variety of compromising positions, he vows to avoid Google and just have Jarvis do all his information searching from now on.
Skye offers her congratulations.
Clint hastily closes down his browser and picks up his phone.
She the only one?
She’s the only one who pays attention to internet chatter. Or rumors about superheroes. May knows, I’m sure, but it’s not like she’s going to say anything. Ward has no interpersonal skills to speak of, and FitzSimmons both awkwardly congratulated me when they saw the ring, but I know they don’t know it’s you.
Clint has to swallow the sudden and surprising feeling of disappointment. It’s not like he expected Phil to shout it from the rooftops, so why is he feeling a little put out that the team doesn’t even know his name? He doesn’t text back for a long moment, trying to figure himself out, when the phone buzzes in his hand again.
I wasn’t sure you wanted me to tell them.
Because of course Phil knows exactly what Clint is thinking. He smiles a little and starts typing.
It’s up to you, sir. Your team, your call.
Our call, Barton. You get a say.
It’s ridiculous how big his smile grows. But it’s just him in their apartment, and he doubts Jarvis will rat him out.
Well, maybe don’t call a team meeting about it, sir. But if it comes up, I have no problem with them knowing. They’re all shield, after all.
And then, after half a minute of silence, he gets, I love you.
Love you too, sir. Maybe you should sleep some. You’re on Austrian time, aren’t you?
I’m not even going to ask how you know that. Goodnight, Agent Barton.
Goodnight, Phil. Sleep well. And tell Skye thanks.
The increased attention makes it a lot harder for Clint to leave the tower by the front door. Not that that’s really a problem. He’s always been creative, and entering and exiting a building by alternative routes is kind of his job. So he’s mostly able to avoid the paparazzi, though sometimes he simply refuses to wear a baseball cap when out and about. He gets attention then, well aware when long-range photos get taken, no matter how stealthy they think they’re being. Fans come up to him too, which isn’t new, exactly, but now instead of embarrassing him by thanking him, they prod him for information. Some are subtle about it and some are downright rude. He tells them nothing, just smiles that smile he knows can be unnerving, and tells them to fuck off. The way he phrases it, the level of politeness he uses, is in direct correlation to their own.
Of course he’s out with Stark when it happens. Microphones are shoved in their direction, and he steps back as Tony gets asked question after question about Stark Industries’ latest press disaster. Tony rolls his eyes and answers some questions, deflects others, and complains about why they aren’t bothering his incredibly competent, incredibly beautiful CEO instead of him.
It’s something to do with healthcare, the whole Obama thing putting everyone—journalists, high-profile companies, and many average citizens alike—into a tizzy. Stark Industries is always a target when big business comes under attack, and though Clint hasn’t been keeping track of it, he’s absolutely certain that Tony and Pepper have done their best to do right by their employees. He has exactly nothing to say on the subject, and does his best to melt into the wall behind him.
“What about you, Hawkeye?” an incredibly brave (or stupid) reporter asks, tilting his voice recorder in Clint’s direction. “Are you and the missus covered under Stark’s comprehensive plan?”
Clint glowers as Tony laughs. “Neither he nor his missus,” Tony says, clearly putting sarcastic emphasis on the word, “are employed by Stark Industries. They have their own health care arrangements which, I assure you, are quite comprehensive. They would have to be, considering their line of work.”
The press totally jump all over that, of course. Suddenly there are dozens of questions being hurled his way. Is she employed by SHIELD? Is she a secret agent? Or a government employee of some type? Is she, or he, actually an Avenger? My god, could it actually be that Hawkeye and the Black Widow are married?
Clint scowls at Tony, who looks unrepentant in front of the cameras, but who also has a little line between his eyebrows when he looks back at Clint. Clint forgives him with a nod and takes a deep breath, waiting for them to notice that he’s about to speak. “She is not a she,” he says slowly and clearly when they’ve quieted. “He is a he, and we both have excellent healthcare plans.”
He says nothing more, even as the number and volume of questions increase, and shoots a look at Tony for help. Tony, awesome friend that he is, steps up, literally stepping between Clint and the reporters. “So, there’s the big secret. Hawkeye’s married to a man, awesome, wonderful, go pride, but since you’re all supposed to be talking about healthcare and he’s told you the only thing he knows that’s relevant to that line of inquiry, you all need to back off. Give the newlyweds some privacy, okay?”
“But, Hawkeye, no one’s seen you hanging out with anyone other than your teammates,” one of the reporters says. “Are you honestly telling us it isn’t one of them? Maybe even Stark here?”
He sees by the line of Tony’s back that he’s taken a breath and is preparing to fire back at the woman. He takes a step forward instead, placing a hand on Tony’s shoulder, stopping him. “The man I married,” he says, his voice low but resonant, “is one of the bravest people I know. He is a hero, without the recognition or appreciation the Avengers get. He saves the day because he can, because he is able to, and he sacrifices a lot to do it. He’s also the guy who takes care of the people around him, who has their backs in every way. Not just in a fight, but in everyday life. He is the reason any of us can do what we do, and he will fight like hell to keep it that way.”
“Even as he bitches at us about paperwork,” Tony adds, and Clint can’t help but laugh.
“He does like everything to be in order,” Clint agrees, and they share a smile, mutual affection for Clint’s husband clear in their expressions. Even the reporters notice, and flashes go off in their faces. Clint blinks, unhappy that his eyesight has been compromised for even a second. He returns his attention to the crowd in front of them, and rearranges his expression into a scowl. “As Stark said, you’re here to talk about healthcare, and other than the fact that I have a plan, and my husband has a plan, I really couldn’t tell you anything about it. We both have dental, if that helps.” He’s sure he has vision too, but it’s not like he’s ever used it. “So while I know you have other questions, I also know that none of the answers are any of your business. That means it’s time for you to fuck off.”
“And that, ladies and gentleman,” Tony says with a smirk, “is as polite as Hawkeye gets. Time for us to go.”
They force their way through the throng and into the waiting car. Happy is driving them away before Clint even has the door shut completely, and Tony smirks at him over his StarkPad once they’re settled in. “And how is Mr. Hawkeye going to react to this little coming out moment?”
Clint shrugs, but also drops his head back against the seat. It’s not like he thinks Phil will care. Not really. It’s just that now there will be even more attention on Clint, on Hawkeye’s public persona, and that will make everything harder, especially maintaining their privacy when Phil is actually home. He gets his phone out and sends a text, glad that the combination of Stark’s tech and SHIELD’s paranoia means that he can communicate with his husband with total security.
So I just came out to the press. Didn’t give your name or anything, but they probably get that you’re at least loosely affiliated with the Avengers. Might want to give Fury or someone a heads up.
It takes a couple minutes to get a reply, and he has to huff a laugh at the content of the text.
Kind of in the middle of a situation. Men with guns, alien tech. You understand. Will call when resolved. Please don’t worry about the press. I don’t care if the whole world knows. As long as they never know about the shitstorm happening out here.
Here being New Zealand?
I should probably be more concerned about how you know these things.
Go fight the bad guys, sir.
On it. Love you.
“What’s he saying?” Tony asks even as he pretends not to care by paying too much attention to his tablet.
“That he doesn’t care,” Clint answers, doing his own pretending, or at least trying to. He has a feeling Stark can see his smile anyway. “And that he loves me,” he adds, mostly just to make Stark squirm.
It works, and Clint’s smile grows.
“So FitzSimmons says hi,” Phil says when Clint answers his phone. He can hear his husband’s smile and he can’t help but smile himself as he backs away from the edge of the tower.
“I love how they’re one person,” Clint admits, amused. He’s never met them of course, but their reputation around SHIELD is a good one. Their files are even tagged together, the agency recognizing their effectiveness as a team.
“You’ll understand when you meet them,” Phil says.
“Will I?” He’s not asking if he’ll understand.
“Of course,” Phil says easily. “There’s bound to be an assignment in New York at some point. Or maybe just a chance for us to stay in one place long enough for you to join us for a couple of days.”
Clint hums into the phone, relishing the idea. A couple days of Phil sounds like heaven. “How was New Zealand?”
“Explosive,” his husband says, deadpan, and Clint laughs. “But don’t worry. We left the land of the Hobbits in one piece.”
“Thor would be exceedingly sad if the Shire was destroyed.”
“Have Jarvis pull up the email I sent him. We might have made a touristy side trip while we were there.”
Clint laughs, the mental image of Phil wandering around the Hobbit homestead flashing through his mind. “Didn’t know you were such a fan, sir.”
“FitzSimmons is,” he says, showing just how far he will go to make his team happy. “And I think Ward is too, though he wouldn’t admit it.”
“Watched over us from the Bus. All that open air and no cover worried her.”
It had probably worried Phil too, though he wouldn’t explicitly say so. “So, you told them,” Clint says, skipping to a new subject and knowing Phil will follow.
“Ward made a mention of my new wife during a briefing, and Skye felt the need to correct his assumption. Simmons immediately fell on the topic, talking about gender norms and constructs, and Fitz just looked like he wanted to crawl under a desk.” His voice is fond though, not annoyed, and Clint understands that it was the discussion of Phil Coulson’s private life at all that had the scientist looking for a bolt-hole, and not the subject of homosexuality. “So then May got irritated and asked what the hell my marriage to Agent Barton had to do with anything, and Simmons got overly excited again, talking about your little ‘my husband is brave’ speech and oh, wow, that meant you were talking about me and wasn’t that just brilliant, to have someone so keen in my life. Which, yes, it is, but I certainly wasn’t going to tell her that.”
Clint laughs again, knowing full well that Phil only rambles like that with him. Anyone else would have gotten a much simpler and less detailed answer, and Clint wants to wrap his husband up and keep him close, and maybe prod him into talking all the time. He is happy to be Phil’s outlet, the one person he feels safe letting his guard down around. It’s a privilege to be so trusted, and he will always keep Phil’s secrets, will never tell the world that underneath the Man in Black persona, Phil Coulson is a giant dork who cares deeply about his friends.
“So, let me guess. You hummed in reply, neither confirming nor denying anything, said something nice to Fitz about his tech, and got the meeting back on track.”
“Something to that effect, yes.”
“And how are they taking it?”
“They’re fine. Ward and May are pretending they don’t know anything, Fitz doesn’t care as long as no one talks about it, but Skye and Simmons keep giggling together, so I’m pretty sure he’s not having much luck there. And, you know, there’s the fact that Simmons is giggling over you, so he’s pretty miserable at the moment.”
Clint huffs at his husband. “You know they’re giggling about you too.”
Phil makes a noise in his throat. “Please, no. This team already treats me with far too much familiarity. I need to maintain some sense of authority here.”
“Don’t you lie to me,” he says, fondness in his tone. “If you really felt that way, you never would have let me bitch at you over the comms. Natasha would probably still be a mercenary if you weren’t exactly the way you are, and you wouldn’t have cared that Tony and Steve were at each others’ throats, as long as they functioned well in a fight. Instead you got Nat to come in, and Cap’s got some epic bromance thing going on with Stark, and your new team probably follows you around like ducklings.”
There’s a familiar hum, the sound Phil makes when he doesn’t want to admit to anything. “Well, you’re a special case, Barton.”
“I’d better be,” he replies immediately. “But that doesn’t negate my point, sir.”
Phil says nothing for a long moment, then his voice comes, vehement. “Fuck, I miss you.”
“I miss you too.”
There doesn’t seem to be much to say after that, but neither of them hangs up. Clint switches over to speaker-phone and goes back to the tower’s edge, picking up his makeshift slingshot and ammunition. Nothing that will hurt the protesters gathered across the street, nothing that will get him in too much trouble, but anything shot off the roof will reach the ground with a devastating velocity. So he aims for their signs, shooting holes through the words he finds particularly offensive. “Sinner.” “Hell.” “Fags.”
There’s one that says Not the Captain of MY America, and Clint takes a breath, drawing careful aim.
“Clint,” comes the voice from the phone. “What are you doing?”
“Hassling the hasslers, sir.” He lets the missile fly, and grins when it punches a hole right by its carrier’s ear.
He can hear Phil’s frown when he says, “Protesters, huh?”
“Westboro and all their friends,” he confirms. “Tony pretty much wants to blast them into oblivion, but they’re staying off the property, so there’s not much he can do.”
“Just don’t hit anyone,” Phil warns. “The last thing we need is an accusation of assault.”
“I don’t miss, sir.”
“Of course you don’t.” It goes unsaid that Clint, if annoyed enough, might actually mean to hit someone.
“Pressure valve, sir.” If he takes out the signs, the temptation to aim for the people is a lot less.
Phil laughs, and Clint can hear some familiar rustling, like there are papers being collected and shifted on a desk. “As long as everyone makes it out alive, Agent.”
There’s a knock on Phil’s side of the line then, and Clint listens as his husband commands whoever it is to enter. He’s a little surprised he’s not taken off the line first, or at least not taken off speaker-phone. But he stays quiet, respectful of Phil’s inclination to keep his personal life private.
“Hey, AC, FitzSimmons have the results.”
“Thank you, Skye, I’ll be right there.”
“AC?” Clint asks, because what the fuck.
“Is that Mr. AC?” Skye asks delightedly. “Hey, Hawkeye, how’s it going? Miss your husband yet?”
“Not as much as I miss Lola,” he lies.
Skye lets a laugh loose. “She is one special ride, for sure.”
Clint’s eyebrows go up. Phil doesn’t show Lola’s abilities to just anyone. Skye, and by extension the whole team, must be more special than he even knew, despite Phil’s protests. “You should have seen Cap’s face the first time he got a ride. I think he thought flying cars would be standard by now, and had given up on the dream. Then along comes Phil and Lola, and it was like the hope came alive again.”
“Cap? Oh, wow, Captain America! That’s awesome. Have you ever—”
She’s cut off by Phil, who asks mildly, “Skye, why don’t you make sure everyone’s on their way to the lab?”
Skye apparently knows a dismissal when she hears one, because she says, “On it, AC,” and then, voice raised towards the phone, “Nice to meet you, Agent Barton. Coulson? Barton-Coulson?”
Clint just laughs and launches another projectile towards the protesters as Phil shoos Skye out of his office. He can imagine all too well the fond annoyance on his husband’s face, and it makes something warm curl up behind his sternum.
“Clint? I should go.” He sounds mournful, though Clint knows only he can hear it. “I’ll call you again tomorrow.”
“Your schedule clear for that?” It’s Clint’s way of asking if he should worry if he doesn’t hear from him.
“We’ll be flying all day tomorrow. I’ll call you around eleven New York time.”
“I’ll be here. Barring an assembly.”
“Sounds good.” There are more voices on the line, in the distance, and Clint knows this means he won’t get a departing declaration of love. Instead Phil says, “Stay safe, and try not to take a protester’s eye out.”
“Never, sir,” he replies. “Wouldn’t want Fury to think he’s not a special little snowflake.”
There’s a beat that Clint knows would be filled by a laugh if the team wasn’t within earshot, and then the line disconnects. There’s a new sign joining the others down below. Fags Aren’t Heroes.
He aims, takes a breath, and releases. Bullseye.
Phil is home. Clint wants to gloat, wants to climb the walls and do cartwheels and maybe kiss everyone he sees, he’s so happy. More than that though, he wants to stay curled up with Phil in their bed forever, tired and sated and very, very pleased. He hums in contentment, kissing the bare chest underneath him and getting a happy little rumble in response.
But then there’s another kind of rumble, coming from Phil’s stomach, and Clint smiles. “I’m assuming you forgot to eat in your hurry to debrief with Fury and get home?”
“Forgot? No. More like chose to skip it.”
“You?” Clint asks, feigning shock. “Skipping a meal and defying SHIELD’s nutritional guidelines?”
“Yes, well, I’m officially off duty for the next week.”
“Yes,” Clint agrees happily. “Yes, you are.” Phil’s stomach makes another noise and Clint sits up and away, swinging his legs off the edge of the bed. “What sounds good?”
“Honestly? I’ve been dreaming of those cannoli from the deli for weeks.”
Clint hesitates. He’d been thinking of just making something in their kitchen, or maybe even the communal kitchen upstairs. Going outside would be tricky, especially if they want to go somewhere within walking distance, rather than driving. But if that’s what Phil wants, Clint will move heaven and earth to get it for him. “We could have it delivered,” he offers. “Or I could go get it, bring it back.”
Phil, of course, notices. “Clint? What is it?”
Clint shrugs. Phil’s hand lands on his spine, stroking gently. “It’s just, you know. The protesters. And the paparazzi. They’ll jump on it. You. Your presence.” He reaches back, takes Phil’s left hand and lifts it to his lips, kissing the ring on his finger.
“Is that all?” Phil sits up, pressing his chest to Clint’s back, wrapping his arms around him. “Babe, you know I don’t care about that.”
“But you . . . You’re supposed to be secret agent man. Getting into the tabloids is hardly conducive to spy work.”
“I’m already in the papers, with you guys, and on YouTube from my new team’s first case. They still won’t know my name, or my position at SHIELD. They won’t be able to find anything on me, other than the fact that I married you. And that isn’t something I plan to hide.”
Clint exhales, shaky but pleased with the statement. “Are you sure? Won’t Fury be upset?”
He feels Phil’s smile against the back of his neck. “We’ve discussed it. He doesn’t like it, but he recognizes that he can’t exactly stop me from having a life. And since you’re a big part of my life, I kind of want to walk down the street with you, maybe hold your hand, and eat at our favorite local restaurant. I see nothing wrong with that.”
Twisting, Clint kisses him, pressing his smile to Phil’s. “Shower first,” is all he says.
“Shower first,” Phil agrees.
Phil exits the tower first, when they go. No one makes any noise, because no one knows who he is. But then Clint follows, and the protesters gain volume. Photographers lift their cameras, and Clint starts to raise a finger to them. His hand gets caught though. It’s caught by Phil, who has a simple grin at the corners of his mouth and around his eyes, as if he’s the happiest he could possibly be. Happy just to be walking down the street, happy to be home. Happy to be holding Clint’s hand.
Clint looks down at their hands, then back to Phil’s smile. He laces their fingers together in a rare display, and doesn’t let go.