Phil is waiting for them when they get back. He stands there, in the middle of the driveway, arms folded, expression as blank as he can make it, and skewers them with a Look as soon as Bucky Barnes turns the corner and he can see them full-on. Barnes jumps on the brakes, and Lola squeaks to a torturous stop. Phil is going to murder them slowly and painfully and feed their remains to his cat.
“Oh, fuck,” Barnes says. He swallows. Phil sees the fear in his eyes and delights in it.
Steve Rogers, because he is Steve Rogers and therefore one of the bravest, most upstanding people Phil has ever met, squares his shoulders and steps out of the car.
“Sir, I would like to very sincerely apologise for the inconvenience and distress we may have caused you. It was wrong of us, and we are sorry.”
“Speak for yourself,” Barnes mutters, but winces when Captain Rogers glares at him and gets out of the car, too. “Yeah. What Steve said. Sorry for the, uh, for making you worry. I promise she’s as good as new. We even had her cleaned. Inside and out.”
Captain Rogers goes scarlet. It’s really quite amazing; his whole face flames, and he’s looking anywhere but at either of them. Phil gets a very bad feeling about this.
“Did you.” He has to stop and take a deep breath, because he’s so furious right now, both of his trigger fingers are itching. Captain Rogers flinches, and Barnes is starting to give Phil the kind of terrified look that nourishes his soul.
“…Maybe?” Barnes admits, looking like he wants to hide behind Captain Rogers’ back. “I’m sorry, but come on, Coulson. You’ve seen her, what’s a guy supposed to do? I had plans for Lola mark I, okay, and she was right there--“
“Bucky, shut up,” Captain Rogers pushes from between gritted teeth. Barnes shrinks back some more, but he throws Captain Rogers a look and suddenly his spine straightens, and he gets that small smile in the corners of his mouth, and when he looks back at Phil, it’s calm and collected and completely unapologetic.
“Look,” he says. “I get that you’re pissed. Frankly? I probably would be, too, if I were you. But – it was important.” He glances at Captain Rogers again, and Captain Rogers is looking back at him with that soft look in his eyes, and Phil isn’t blind, never was. He’s seen those news reels of them more times than he can count, and he’s read the stories, and he is very good at looking between the lines. He knew what they’d meant to each other by the time he’d been thirteen; this is really no news to him. It’s only shocking that it’s apparently taken until now for them to get their shit together.
He’s still pissed as hell, though. They took Lola! They deserve any retribution he'd set upon them.
But, just maybe, it would actually be so much more worth it to make them think they’ve gotten away with it, and make them pay the moment when they least expect it.
Barnes looks at him, a strange yet appealing combination of sheepish and challenging and too happy to contain. “I’d do it again, if I had to. So, do your worst,” he dares him.
Captain Rogers actually closes his eyes, apparently resigned to his imminent death. The thing is, though—
The thing is this: one of the most closely guarded secrets of the universe as it stands is that Phil Coulson is a romantic at heart. And there is no way to read this, what Barnes did, knowing he will likely get drawn and quartered by yours truly on his return, as anything other than a grand romantic gesture.
Even if they did it in his car. His car, that even he hasn’t had sex in. He’d been saving it—well, for a special occasion. For when he got well. For when he could come back and weather Clint's fury and disappointment and hurt. (He only wishes that he could have portrayed the equilibrium his words suggest when faced with Clint's blank look and skittish hesitance around him. It has been getting better, slowly, tentatively, but Phil still hadn't wanted to broach the subject of sex in case it was too soon – and definitely not the subject of sex in Lola, the car Phil had coveted for close to a decade before Nick had given it to him as apology for the last time he'd fucked Phil over. Sadly, this is far from the first time he has come back from the dead.
The difference is, this time there was someone Phil had left behind, and he hopes to God he never again has to see the look on Clint's face as when he'd seen Phil 'resurrected'.)
So yes. Phil has been waiting, and maybe daydreaming a little, and having other kinds of dreams about it, too. He hadn't meant to wait; God knows that the thought of having Clint in Lola makes every single cell in his body tighten with want. It's just—it had been one mess after the other, one screwed-up mission after the next, a series of hospital beds for both of them, no chance to make solid plans apart from the ones in his head.
And now these two assholes have beaten him to it, and 'furious' does not even begin to cover it. Sure, he's glad for them; so glad – their tragic story of pain and grief deserves a happy ending more than most – but they're going to pay for this.
"Vanish. Now," he says, uncrossing his arms and keeping up his glare while they scamper like the twenty-somethings they still are, despite everything. He does not let himself smile when Captain Rogers catches Barnes' hand and laces their fingers together, tugging him in the direction of the closest elevator.
When he's sure they're gone, he shakes his head despairingly, and walks over to poor, long-suffering Lola (she's one hell of a spirited lady, to have survived Howard Stark and Peggy Carter and Dum Dum Dougan and Nick Fury), and slides inside the driver's seat. He looks around first, giving her a thorough check-over before he starts her up again and slides her into her parking slot. He turns off the engine again, pleased with what he sees – wherever they took her to get her cleaned up, she's spotless, the leather shining subtly, every surface polished and primped. Okay, so maybe he won't feed them to Bucky.
(Do not go there. He's had that cat for over nine years, long before the Avengers were even a blip on the radar, other than as a highly theoretical concept. Sergeant James Barnes had been... something of a weakness, and Phil would never say it out loud on pain of being stabbed with the scepter again, but the reality does not disappoint.)
Satisfied that Lola is taken care of, he makes himself get out before he cracks through yet another layer of the shell of his professional integrity and starts thinking about what the two of them did in here. He can't help it – it's been close to thirty years since he first saw a picture of them standing together with their arms around each other's shoulders, and got hit over the head with a sledgehammer of hormones.
He might think about it later, though. When he's got a door between him and the world. Might even tell Clint; they've been heading that way for over a week now, just waiting for that final push. How appropriately vengeful it would be if it were Rogers and Barnes providing it.
"Find them?" Clint inquires from his sprawl on the sofa in Phil's office, exactly where Phil had left him half an hour ago to go on the warpath. He's still wearing that gleeful expression he gets when he's enjoying the idea of Phil visiting violence on the deserving, and God, but Phil loves him so much.
"Yes," Phil says shortly, packing a story in a single syllable. Clint cackles. Phil wonders if it's weird that he doesn't find Clint's bloodlust even remotely disturbing, but he is well away from safe waters by now, has been ever since Krakow and the vinyl pleather incident (no, seriously, don't ask. Some things can scar even five years down the line; though every now and again, Phil does indulge in wistful hoping to see Clint work a dance pole again).
"How's Lola?" Clint asks, and Phil loves him even more for caring beyond merely humouring him. He sighs, rubbing a hand over his face.
"I'm pretty sure they had sex in her," he says, still so damn angry he knows it's coming through in his voice.
Clint freezes. The smile slips from his face, and he blanches fast enough for Phil to take a concerned step closer.
"Oh, God, I'm so sorry," Clint says. "I know how you feel about that car. I can't believe—honestly, I'm shocked Rogers would do something like that."
Phil shrugs, still unsettled by Clint's reaction. "It's okay. It was Barnes' idea. Captain Rogers just went along with it. Actually, it's pretty romantic, when you think about it," he admits.
Instead of clearing Clint's expression, the words only seem to make him more upset. His eyes flash, his jaw ticks, and Phil gets the impression that he has somehow said exactly the wrong thing.
"I see," Clint grits out. He is no longer sprawling; now he sits up straight, vibrating with tension, on the verge of jumping up and stalking away. "So it's not the car that's sacred. It's just me that's the issue."
All Phil can do is blink at him, completely thrown by his reaction. "What?" he blurts, staring as Clint gets off the sofa with quick, jerky movements that speak of the anger lurking under the surface.
"Don't bother," Clint sneers. Phil realises that if he didn't know him, hadn't spent countless minutes and hours and days studying him as close as he could get away with, he'd have taken his act at face value. But he does know Clint better than he ever imagined he could, and the badly-disguised hurt is obvious in the tightness around his eyes, the clench of his jaw. "I should have known that your precious Captain America would be worthy of Lola privileges."
"Clint—" Phil tries, before Clint pins him in place with a glare.
"Every time," he says quietly, pointing his finger at Phil's chest for emphasis. "Every time I tried to even kiss you in that car, you pushed me away. Eventually, I figured you didn't want to despoil your precious baby with something as base as making out, but apparently that wasn't what it was. You just didn't think I was good enough to break your rules for."
He looks—he looks devastated, and Phil feels like he's being stabbed all over again, through the gut this time, and left to bleed out.
"You couldn't be more wrong," he replies, just as quietly, stepping closer and consciously dropping every mask he normally fights like hell to keep up. "The only reason I haven't driven us to a deserted location and spread you open over the bonnet was that—I wanted to wait, until I could take my time with you, until there wasn't the next crisis looming over the horizon, threatening to cut our time short. There hasn't been a single time when I've sat in the driver's seat and not wanted to have you next to me, haven't wanted to reach over to you and kiss you-- But I knew that if I started, I wouldn't be able to stop at just kisses. I'd want more, everything, and I just wasn't sure if you did, too. It's not everyone's thing, and you've always been so private. I just thought—wrongly, I guess—that you wouldn't want to be so obvious about – this."
Clint stares at him as he speaks, nearly flinching at Phil's uncertain pause at the end.
"So what you're saying is, you didn't know if I was serious about you. Phil. Phil. How much more serious could I get? How many years have we been doing this thing? Even before you finally gave in and let me make a move. Would I have stuck around, fought tooth and claw to stay your asset, to have you as my handler, if I hadn't been serious?"
Phil looks at him, so passionate, so real, and he can't help the way his heart lurches in his chest, or how his breathing speeds up, or how his lips tingle with the desire to feel Clint's against them. It's not like Phil is an insecure man, or that he needs constant reminders of where he stands, but he thinks he could be cut some slack if he'd needed to hear that – that he wasn't alone in feeling so deeply entangled in Clint, in feeling like Clint couldn't possibly want him as much as Phil wanted Clint; in feeling so desperate, achingly needy for this thing between them to be real.
"I'm so sorry," he says, remorse flushing him like a wave splashing over his head, that he'd apparently put Clint through so much shit. "I'm sorry I made you feel like I wasn't sure in you. I love you. So much."
Clint looks startled for a moment; and then he beams at him, ten thousand megawatts of pure happy, and if Phil had ever been in doubt about whether or not Clint loved him, this would have put paid to all his doubts. In all the years of knowing him, Phil had never seen him look so easily, effervescently delighted; and while Phil and Natasha are the two operatives with the highest marks in espionage the Academy had ever produced, Clint had always failed that particular test. What Phil saw with him is what he got. It was one of the things he had always loved most about Clint, and the first thing he tended to forget when he was feeling insecure. He had to do better. He would do better, from now on.
"I love you too, asshole," Clint says. His actions belie the belligerent tone; he slinks closer, winds his arms around Phil's shoulders, slides one hand in his hair and kisses him, warm and wet and thorough, enough to make Phil's cock come to all due attention. He has always loved the way Clint feels in his arms, tightly muscled body hot and sinuous as it shifts flush against him; the way it feels like at these moments, he is the absolute center of Clint's world. It's enough to turn any man's head.
"Lola is still parked downstairs," he manages when Clint pulls back, separating their mouths with a slick pop that sends lust streaking down Phil's spine and straight into his groin.
Clint smiles at him, all pleased delight. "Why, Agent Coulson, are you trying to seduce me with smooth talk of fast, sexy cars?" he purrs.
"What if I am?" Phil wants to know.
Clint leans in, nips gently at his lower lip. Phil's hands spasm on his back.
"I'd say it's working," Clint allows.
Phil steps out of his arms with a supreme effort of will. "Right," he says, straightening his tie and running his palms down his suit to make sure it hasn't been completely messed up by Clint's wondering hands. He doesn't miss the way Clint's eyes follow the movement, nor the simmering heat in them when he raises them to Phil's face again. "I think it's time we took Lola on a little trip, don't you?"
"Anything you want, Sir," Clint says, licking along his bottom lip and biting it in that way he knows makes all of Phil's blood head south.
"Well then. Double-time it downstairs, Specialist."
Clint reaches forward and laces their fingers together, bringing their palms flush, the way they were always meant to be.
"Sir, yes, sir."