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Nothing Better Than a Friend

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Clint hated getting hurt. He always had. In the circus, it meant not being able to perform, which also meant he wouldn't get to eat anything until he was better. Trickshot wasn't known for being a good Samaritan, and if you couldn't earn your keep, you didn't deserve sustenance. So Clint had learned early to be careful, to evaluate the risks and make decisions accordingly. He was fairly nimble and knew his way around a tightrope, so his injury ratio was pretty low.

Still, accidents couldn't be avoided. It always rankled him especially hard when it wasn't even his own fault, but the fault of someone's incompetence.

Clint had been with SHIELD for six months before he got injured for the first time. Stupid junior agent had to move the moment Clint wanted to let loose the arrow and shoot their target. He almost broke his arm trying to redirect the shot. The end result was a dislocated shoulder, strained ligaments, and strict bed rest for two days. Nothing too bad, but painful as fuck and definitely a reason to take him off the duty roaster for the time being.

Clint wasn't stupid. When the doctors told him to stay in bed, he did it. But just because he knew his body and the value of his health didn't mean that the forced inactivity wasn't getting on his last nerve. He would never say it out loud, but Clint felt useless when he couldn't go out and shoot stuff. It was the only real skill he possessed, and he wanted to be useful to SHIELD before they realized he didn't have much else to offer and gave him the boot. For the first time in his life, he felt like he could make a home out of where he worked. That might not be the most healthy thing to do, but Clint had given up on the dream of having a significant other one of these days. It just wasn't in his cards, he supposed.

Another reason why being injured and benched for the time being sucked monkey balls: he was forced to be alone.

Even after SHIELD had snatched him up, he hadn't made any friends. Probably never would, he was too much of a sarcastic asshole for that. The only person who came even close to being an acquaintance was Coulson. But the guy was Clint's handler, so it probably came with the job description. So Clint settled back in his hospital bed knowing that the next two days would suck like nobody's business due to forced solitude.

Being proven wrong was probably the reason why Clint was so shocked when Agent Coulson appeared in the doorway to his room carrying something in his hands. He looked as composed and calm as ever, even though Clint knew for a fact that he'd shouted at the junior agent who had been responsible for the injury the moment after Clint had dropped their target regardless. That act of idiocy was probably the reason for the strained ligaments. You didn't use a bow when your shoulder was in danger of getting dislocated. Well, he was paying the price for his idiocy now.

Still, Agent Coulson. Composed and serene, standing in his doorway. To say that the man was a mystery, wrapped in an enigma, would be an understatement. Clint just didn't get the guy. His gut told him he could trust him, but he had no idea why his gut was so insistent on the subject.

His low level attraction for the man had nothing to do with it. No, sir. Not at all.

“How's your shoulder, Agent Barton?”

Coulson's voice was calm and as soothing as ever. His words, however, surprised Clint. He just raised an eyebrow. “Don't pretend you haven't read the report the moment the doctor typed it up.”

Clint had no idea how he knew, but the conceding nod was all he needed to know that he'd been correct. A strange feeling started churning in Clint's gut at the realization that Coulson had cared enough to do it in the first place. Nobody had ever given a damn about how Clint was doing.

Coulson stepped into the room and pulled up a chair before sitting down. Clint watched him, confused by the action, and when he caught sight of what Coulson had been carrying, his confusion only grew. Why would Coulson bring files and chocolate to Clint's hospital room?

His question was answered a moment later when Coulson put the bar of chocolate on the bedside table and opened the first file folder. “How about we go through the mission again?”

Clint's eyebrows shot up, suspicion growing. He narrowed his eyes at Coulson. “Are you taking advantage of the fact that I can't leave to debrief with me, sir?”

Coulson's lips raised a fraction on one side, which was answer enough for Clint. He frowned, his gaze landing on the bedside table. He gestured vaguely with his healthy arm. “What's with the chocolate, then?”

Coulson took a pen out of the breast pocket of his suit and opened it. Without looking at Clint, he replied, “I'm of the firm belief that chocolate cures everything, from a broken heart to a dislocated shoulder.”

That nonplussed Clint for a moment. He stared at the chocolate, finally realizing that it was for him, before tentatively reaching for it. He looked at the flavor, surprised to see it was dark chocolate with chili. He'd never heard of that weird-ass combination before. He looked up and at Coulson, who was already writing in the file without Clint ever having said anything concerning the mission. For some reason, that touched Clint more than the chocolate.

Still, he opened the bar carefully, broke off a piece and slipped it into his mouth. He couldn't help the moan startled out of him when the flavor hit. He never would've thought that the combination of sweet and hot could work, but damn did it ever. Coulson looked up, and his smile was a little more pronounced than before.

“Good, I take it?” was the dry question.

Clint just nodded, then held out the bar, offering it to Coulson. He didn't even hesitate before he broke off a piece and popped it into his mouth. While chewing carefully, he looked back down at the file and started writing again.

Clint watched him for a moment while popping a second piece into his own mouth and mulling over Coulson's explanation of his presence and the chocolate. Clint wasn't stupid, despite his lack of a high school diploma. Coulson wasn't here to debrief him and do the after action report. Well, not only because of it, Clint supposed. The chocolate alone spoke a different language entirely. And the fact that Coulson hadn't asked him for his input even once yet.

Coulson was here to keep him company. Clint had no idea what to do with that revelation.

“So unless you have a dislocated shoulder you didn't tell anyone about, who was the stupid idiot that broke your heart?” Clint asked, apropos of nothing. Coulson stopped writing and looked up, a question in his blue eyes. Clint grinned at him and waved the chocolate bar at him. That only resulted in an eye roll.

“Let's get this report done, Agent Barton.”

Clint bit down on his lip to prevent a chuckle, but relented and started their debrief by giving his perspective of the proceedings. Coulson wrote everything down, asking questions and giving his own insights into things that had happened behind the scenes. Clint smiled slightly and looked up at the ceiling.

If Coulson wanted to pretend he was only here for the report, Clint would let him. He was on to him now. Agent Coulson cared, and no matter how much he was trying to mask it, Clint knew. That was all he needed to make life a little more bearable from now on.