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A Bureaucratic Nightmare

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Twenty minutes later they pulled around to the back of an old office building across the street from the warehouses. If Phil hadn't known for a fact that he was in Hungary, he would have just assumed he was hiding out in an industrial park in Pennsylvania. He had spent the time giving Hawkeye directions based on what he remembered of the map , and wondering just what in the hell he had gotten himself into. He rubbed at the inhaler stuck in a zippered pocket, a talisman of lung capacity. He hoped that Nick wouldn't bust him back down to Level 3 shit-work for the remainder of his life.

Provided he lived that long.

Hawkeye was strapping his quiver back on and looking very lethal in the dim light, his normally taciturn expression tinted with cold anger. They were under an overhang that was probably meant to suggest a garage, the street lights barely making their way back to where they were.

"You got your gun?"

Phil nodded, patting at it. "Should I leave the back pack--"

"No. I doubt we're leaving the same way we came in." Hawkeye's grim mood, and the careful way he was stowing his weapons, made Phil realize for the first that time they really were headed into a de facto war zone. There was going to be shooting. And blood. He shoved his hands into his jacket pockets to keep them from shaking. Or, at least, to keep Hawkeye from noticing.

"You got the number of the warehouse, right?"

"Twenty-three. They are in crate W-4077. More than that, I can't tell you, there was no layout. Shipping instructions were just to make sure the crate stayed upright."

"Wouldn't even need to worry about food or water, if it's a direct flight, quick handover," Hawkeye mumbled, looking off towards the rows of warehouses. "Have to assume the team is bagged or caged."

"Could they still be knocked out?"

"Probably, but let's burn that bridge when we get there."

"You mean cross that bridge?" Phil bounced on his toes to ward off his nerves.

Hawkeye looked at him, his eyes black in the night. "No." He patted himself down. "You have your inhaler?"

Phil nodded, reminded yet again of just how much of a liability he really was.

"Don't lose it. Let's go." Hawkeye turned and slipped away, and Phil was lunging forward to keep up with him. Phil knew, logically, that Hawkeye was taking the long way by crawling along the ditch and cutting the chain link fence to get them on property, but at first he couldn't figure out why until he realized that it was because of him. Hawkeye was going low and through instead of fast and over because he had to drag Phil with him. By the time they were clear of the fence, Phil was having serious second thoughts.

"Should I, maybe, cause a distraction?" He asked as they crept in the shadows next to warehouse eleven.

Hawkeye paused and looked around at the completely still and quiet complex, then back at Phil. "Why?"

"I'm sure I'm slowing you down, and if I can do something helpful without being in your way--"

Hawkeye crowded up into his personal space, pressing him against the wall. "Like hell. This was your idea from the start."

"I know!" Phil hissed quietly. "But this…people's lives are at stake. I don't want to trip you up."

Hawkeye cocked his head, staring at Phil, who was getting a little too warmed up by the proximity. "Don't you get it? I need you."

"Uh. What?"

"I'm tactical, not strategic. I see better from a distance, not this close up to everything as it falls apart. You do. That's what you're good at."

Phil swallowed. "I'm not a handler."

Hawkeye took Phil's chin in one hand, holding his face steady as they breathed each other's air, lips nearly touching. "Tonight, you damn sure are."

Phil manfully did not groan in despair, pulling himself together enough to nod at Hawkeye, trying not to think of how their breaths were mingling and their bodies all but touching. It reminded Phil of Clint -- not Hawkeye, but the man underneath -- pushing him up against the wall of the hotel room as the door shut, kissing him senseless. He ran a thumb over the pocket holding his inhaler to ground himself again. Hawkeye may have read what was in his thoughts or not, but whichever the case, he pushed Phil away, his expression blank and focused again, every movement precise like a big cat stalking prey.

There was a guard on property, but the lone guy seemed more like private rent-a-cop than a sophisticated counter-agent. Phil reminded himself that looks could be deceiving as he remembered how ordinary the team had looked at dinner only a few hours ago, how vaguely young and dweeby Clint had appeared in his boxy suit.

Despite the guard wandering up towards the first five warehouses, and the lack of proper security lighting anywhere, Hawkeye kept them as close to the shadows as possible. All of the warehouses had bay doors facing broadly spaced out roads, which Phil realized were more than driveways: the warehouse park and the private airfield were the same, and the warehouses were airplane hangars for private planes. Mostly Phil was impressed that there were obviously so many of them, since there were thirty warehouses total, which he thought could hold two or three small planes each. Not that he knew a lot about planes, other than what he had gathered flying business class over the years.

He zigged when he should have zagged, Hawkeye ducking into an open bay door instead of around the corner like Phil had expected. Hawkeye's hand shot out and grabbed Phil's jacket while Phil was still changing tack, and he felt himself being pulled into the dark. "What?"

"Guard doubled back, shhh, shhh," Clint put his hand over Phil's mouth, pulling him father into the shadows of the open warehouse. It held only one plane, a large flying shoebox that had a ramp open on the back. Phil pressed back up against Hawkeye as the footsteps of the guard came closer, and Hawkeye's hand tightened on Phil's mouth. It was intimate and sexy if poorly timed, so Phil concentrated on breathing through his nose, which was always something of a trauma.

The guard walked into the warehouse, shining a flashlight over the plane and cursing quietly. Phil heart rate speed up and he tried to pull in a long, deep breath through his nose which burned all the way down. He had no idea how the guy did not see them pressed up against the wall next to a storage locker, but after a long moment of tortured breathing for Phil, the guy turned and stomped back out. Phil went to move free but Hawkeye only held tighter. "Wait," he whispered, and Phil shuddered. Hawkeye's palm moved off his mouth but he kept his hand on Phil's face, his thumb rubbing over his cheek softly, lovingly, as his other hand spread wide across Phil's torso, pushing in gently as Hawkeye exhaled. After a moment of panic, Phil realized what Hawkeye was doing.

"I'm fine, we don't have to stand around doing breathing exercises!" He said, trying to whisper although it came out hoarse and loud and wheezy. Phil was mortified.

"Shhhh," Hawkeye smiled, his eyes kind and possibly apologetic. He kept rubbing Phil's chest for a moment before letting go, as if Phil were some kind of damn good luck charm.

Phil wondered, for just a brief moment, how much trouble he'd get into with Fury if he accidentally fired Hawkeye. Then he pulled himself together and followed the specialist as he led them out and around the building towards warehouse twenty-three.