Clint’s hands never shake. He can take down an enemy sniper at one hundred feet in driving rain while bleeding out from a bullet wound in the stomach (that’s not theoretical; he’s tried it) but his hands never shake.
What that means is that right now he can be twenty-five feet up in the rafters of a disused warehouse, watching a man with steel plates for hands repeatedly punch Phil Coulson in the stomach, kidneys and groin and his hands stay perfectly steady on his M24.
“Now, Hawkeye,” Rogers says in his ear and Clint doesn’t react with so much as a flinch even though he's been waiting for the call for far too long.
He exhales slowly, gently squeezing the trigger. The asshole falls, the splatter pattern of his brains coating the wall beside him but leaving Phil untouched; Clint is damn good at his job.
“Good shot,” Rogers tells him but Clint isn’t listening. There’s only one person who can tell him if he was quick enough and that person is straightening up off the floor, hand pressed to his head and blinking dizzily around the room.
Clint drops straight down in front of him. He’s getting old and it’s a little jarring on the joints but he lands in time to catch Phil before his knees buckle so it’s worth the ache.
“Agent Barton,” Phil says, voice striving for and almost reaching its usual crispness. “Nice shooting.”
Clint lowers him back down to the ground and lets himself start to shake.
The base doctors insist on keeping Phil in over night and then again the next. By then, Clint has smoked so many cigarettes and paced so many lines in the carpet that even Stark is annoyed with him.
On any other day, he’d be proud of himself for that.
“I do not understand,” Thor intones from where he’s straddling the back of the couch like a horse and stretching to reach his hands up to the ceiling. Normally Clint would ask, but not today. “If Agent Coulson is hurt, should you not be at his side?”
“Yes,” Clint snaps. He should be. He could be. Except Phil is Phil and he worries constantly, even when he’s pissing blood and nursing a nasty concussion, and he thinks Clint camping out in his room would be too obvious.
“We could storm the fortress in which they hold him?” Thor suggests brightly.
“Yes!” Stark says.
“No,” Rogers and Banner say together.
Natasha is curled up in the armchair by the fire, doing a crossword and completely ignoring them. Or so Clint thought. She looks up. "You could also sit the fuck down, shut up and help me with nine across.”
Stark snorts like the idea of Clint doing a puzzle is hilarious but Stark doesn’t know how many pre-Phil nights Clint and Natasha spent doing just that. Everyone thinks that throwing things and shooting people in the head calms Clint down; it doesn’t, it keys him up and right now he’s about as keyed up as he can get without exploding.
And unlike Banner, he can’t actually do that.
Clint sighs and folds down at Natasha’s feet. She angles her newspaper toward him and offers him the pen.
“Thanks,” he says, grudging, because he’s not good at needing other people but he does have some damn manners.
Natasha punches him in the shoulder. “Nine across,” she reminds him, like a warning, so he shuts up and gets to work.
In the end, Phil’s release is an anticlimax because the Avengers are all off avenging at the time.
They trail through the front door, tired and dirty (but victorious, obviously) to find Jarvis positively chirpy. It’s alarming.
“Good evening, Agent Barton,” he says once he’s assured Stark that the robots haven’t taken over the lab. (Stark asks that every time they come home. He’s kind of paranoid. Or hopeful. Clint can’t tell which.)
“Um, hey,” Clint says. He doesn’t care that Jarvis is a computer; he just never knows where to look when they’re having a conversation.
“I thought you would like to know that Agent Coulson is here,” Jarvis says blandly. He’s kind enough to ignore the fact that Clint – for the first time in his whole damn life – almost drops his bow, but the others, not so much.
“Where?” he asks, ignoring the snickers.
“I recommended that he retire to your bed for a nap but he insisted he was not tired. He’s currently asleep in the main living room.” It’s not possible for Jarvis to sound amused, but he does anyway.
“Thanks,” Clint says and takes the stairs three at a time. Half way up, he reaches up, grabs onto the banister and swings himself up onto the main level of the house; it’s easier than taking the stairs, plus it gives him a time advantage if any of the others decide to follow him up.
Phil is sacked out on his back on the couch. He’s wearing slacks and a loose white sweatshirt because never let it be said that Agent Coulson doesn’t always look the best he can, even a couple of hours out of hospital, with a purpling black eye and the still harsh imprint of a boot on the side of his face.
“Hey,” Clint says, kneeling down beside the couch and touching Phil’s arm.
Phil’s eyelashes flicker but he doesn’t wake up. He must be exhausted; Phil’s the lightest sleeper Clint’s ever met and he used to sleep with Natasha.
Clint leans close and presses his mouth to Phil’s ear. He means to whisper Avengers assemble and watch Phil flail his way to consciousness but he can’t bring himself to do that. He kisses Phil’s temple instead.
“Mm?” Phil mumbles, turning his face toward Clint’s. His eyes open slowly and then widen when he sees Clint perched so close. “Oh. Hey.”
“Yeah,” Clint drawls, drawing back. “Nice of you to pass out on our sofa. Really livens up the atmosphere.”
Phil smiles, a ghost of a thing but doesn’t offer any comeback. That sets off all of Clint’s alarm bells. Phil never doesn’t have a snappy comeback; that’s how they communicate.
“Come on,” Clint says gruffly. “You want to sleep, you’re gonna do it somewhere where Stark won’t try to draw a cock on your face.”
“You really think a locked door will stop him?” Phil asks. His voice is raspy and Clint tamps down on the desire to offer him a cup of tea or some ice chips.
“Nope,” Clint says easily, helping to pull Phil upright. “I’ll stop him.”
Phil smiles again. He needs to stop doing that; it makes Clint feel things.
He doesn’t let Clint help him through the Mansion but he also doesn’t roll his eyes at Clint’s hovering, which is about all the evidence Clint needs that he’s feeling wobbly enough to think he might need the support.
Clint wishes he could go back and shoot that asshole again. But slower. In less vital places first. Clint’s a marksman; anything but a quick, clean kill makes him nauseous, but he thinks he could learn to stomach it, just this once.
“Stop thinking about doing whatever you’re thinking about,” Phil tells him, dropping down onto Clint’s bed and fumbling with his shoes.
Clint roles his eyes. “You can put your feet on the bed,” he says, “I don’t care.”
Phil just looks at him, unimpressed, so Clint drops down to his knees and starts to unlace his shoes for him. Phil squirms then, just enough to be noticeable, but Clint doesn’t get up.
“Your very own Avenger valet,” he jokes, pulling the shoes off carefully, one after the other, looking for any sign of pain.
Phil’s jaw is tight when he rolls over onto his back on the bed but he doesn’t flinch. “You know that feeling when you’ve been hit by a truck,” he says, letting it hang. It’s a sign of their lives that they do both know that feeling. Intimately.
It’s twenty-hundred hours, Clint hasn’t had dinner and he’s starving. But he also never gets to be the one to take care of Phil so he’s not going to lose any time now. He kicks off his own shoes and strips out of the Avenger suit before climbing onto the bed, propping himself up on one elbow. It’s cold in just his underwear but it doesn’t matter.
The bruises on Phil’s face look angrier this close up and tiny lines appear at the corners of his eyes when Clint traces them with a finger.
“Agent Coulson,” he says in a muted version of his best Director Fury, “You ever again put yourself in danger without being damn sure that backup’s on the way, I will kick your ass so hard you’ll feel it in your teeth.”
Phil laughs, which makes Clint wonder how drugged up he is. Usually, he threatens to court-martial Clint for insubordination. “I had backup,” he says, looking Clint straight in the eye, “you were just delayed.”
Clint’s fingers spasm around an invisible rifle. Ten minutes later, one more jam on that endless damn road, and Phil might have been nothing but SHIELD paste on the floor.
“Come here,” Phil says, two fingers hooked around Clint’s collarbone like it’s the collar of the shirt he’s not wearing.
Clint kisses him carefully, remembering a split lip that mostly seems to have healed. They don’t say anything, just shift closer, more breathing each other’s warm exhales than really kissing.
Clint’s blood is thrumming and he wants to pin Phil down and fuck him until neither of them can speak, but he can’t do that, doesn’t even trust himself to put his hands on Phil’s chest in case he hurts him worse. Phil’s making impatient noises, but they’re thready, tired, so Clint ignores them, kissing him deeper until they’re both half lost in the giant, fluffy pillow that comes with every bed in this place.
Phil’s eyes are closed when Clint pulls back but his tongue snakes out like he’s looking for a last taste of Clint. Clint kisses his mouth again quickly, as an apology for moving away.
“How’d you break out of jail?” he asks, fiddling with the neck of Phil’s sweatshirt. Clint’s never seen it before and it smells wrong; it’s not Phil’s.
“Because I’m fine,” Phil says flatly. “It was unnecessary to make me stay in at all.”
“Sure,” Clint agrees. “Concussion, cracked ribs, bruised kidneys and potential bleeding on the stomach. Child’s play.”
Phil’s eyes open. “When did you read my chart?” he asks, not like he’s surprised Clint did but just that he’s curious about how.
“Natasha bribed an access key out of an orderly, Stark hacked the system, Rogers used his Captainly influence and I’m pretty sure Thor and Hulk were planning something too but the other three got there first.”
None of them brought him the charts or anything obvious like that; he just found one copy laid neatly on his bed (Rogers), one tossed casually on the coffee table (Stark), and another pinned to the wall of the training room with one of his own arrows (definitely Natasha).
“That’s – ” Phil stops, shakes his head. “I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that and then tomorrow I can get back to pretending they don’t know about us.”
“Awesome plan,” Clint agrees, “Foolproof.” He stretches out next to Phil, one hand laid as lightly as he can on Phil’s side – and he’s an archer so that’s pretty lightly.
“Are you going to sleep?” Phil asks, sounding like he does when Clint comes to bother him in his office and ends up snoring on his chaise lounge. Even though it’s been years, Phil always seems confused that Clint just likes to be near him – to be honest, Clint started off kind of confused about that too; sex-aside, he rarely tends to like people.
“Aren’t you?” Clint arches an eyebrow.
“No,” Phil says, a little bit grouchy and a little bit mutinous which means he’s well on his way to asleep anyway. “What about all the we-didn’t-die sex we could be having?”
“It’s yay-we-didn’t-die sex,” Clint corrects, as if Phil will ever willingly say yay. “And seriously, could you even right now?”
Phil doesn’t blush, he just looks away. “Probably not,” he says roughly, clearly embarrassed.
Clint moves his hand from Phil’s side and splays it carefully over his crotch, cupping his soft dick through his pants. He’s definitely not trying to start anything and Phil seems to get that because he puts his hand on Clint’s wrist, moving his hand so it’s low on his belly instead.
“When he cockpunched you I wanted to rip his balls off and feed them to him,” Clint says conversationally, stroking the skin just above the waistband of Phil’s pants.
Phil purses his lips. “Glad you didn’t, I might have let you.”
Clint swallows. He can’t get the image out of his head, Phil on the floor and that bastard still hitting him. He’s never seen Phil go down and not come straight back up again. “If we’d gotten there earlier, you – ”
“Clint,” Phil says then, with a trace of his usual authority, “Hawkeye. I never had any doubt that you guys would come for me. I just thought I’d be able to hold my own until you did. Which I was wrong about.”
“You are pretty fucking ninja,” Clint allows. “And seriously? Because I had some fucking huge doubts.”
Phil shakes his head. His eyelids are fluttering. “Knew you’d come,” he repeats firmly.
Clint has to clear his throat. It feels weird and thick all of a sudden. “Well, yeah,” he says, trying to break the mood, “I’m mean, Stark is pretty damn fond of you, so.”
“Mm,” Phil hums. “Stark. Right. Who else would he torture?”
“Right?” Clint agrees, kind of desperately. He wants to confess something, can feel it building up in his throat so he sets his teeth against it. I was scared, he wants to say, which he’s never wanted to admit to anyone before.
Phil shifts, rolling onto his other side with a pained groan. He makes a sound, muffled against the comforter, but Clint can interpret both it and the imperious twitch of fingers at his hip.
“Yes, sir,” he says, scooting across the bed and spooning up behind Phil.
He tries to drape his arm loosely over Phil’s side but Phil grabs his wrist, gives a good tug so Clint is pressed firmly up against his back, arm like a seatbelt across his chest.
“Sleep now,” Phil tells him firmly.
Clint smiles into the closely cropped hair at the nape of Phil’s neck and doesn’t disagree. He waits until Phil’s breathing turns regular, deeper and louder than before then sits up, leaning over Phil to grab his crossbow from where it lives next to what’s usually his side of the bed and tucking it behind the headboard.
Security’s pretty good at the Mansion but Phil’s not up to defending himself tonight so Clint has to make sure he can do it for him.
Phil twitches when Clint settles back down behind him but doesn’t wake up. Clint kisses his cheekbone, tastes stubble and hospital disinfectant.
“We will, I will always come get you,” he says softly, another thing he couldn’t bring himself to say while Phil was awake.
“Mm, I know,” Phil mumbles, yawning and damn, seriously, how does Clint fall for that every time? “S’why I wasn’t worried.”
They’re not one of those demonstrative couples who are totally obvious about being together. They don’t do PDAs and probably no one else would even know about them if it wasn’t for that time Hulk brought the wrong wall down at totally the wrong time. None of that means that Clint isn’t in this for the long haul or that he’s not allowed to feel a bit of a tug in his chest when he hears that.
“Shut up,” he says roughly, “you have a brain injury.”
“Mm,” Phil hums again. He’s never usually this agreeable. “Set the alarm? I’ve got an eight am appointment with – ”
“Yeah, how about no?” Clint snaps. “You even think about going into work tomorrow and I’ll – ” He can’t think of anything bad enough to punish that level of stupidity.
“An eight o’clock appointment with a bottle of vicodin,” Phil finishes calmly. “But it’s good to know you care.”
Clint doesn’t have words for that either, can only splutter. “Will you please just shut up? What’s wrong with a bit of quiet?”
Phil pats Clint’s arm and leans back against him. “I’ll remind you you said that next time you break radio silence on the comms,” he says, sighing comfortably as he settles against Clint's chest.
Clint kisses the skin behind Phil's ear. “You know you love it when I talk to you. You’d get bored otherwise.”
“Sure,” Phil says, like he wants Clint to think he’s humouring him. Clint knows he’s not humouring him.
He turns his wrist in Phil’s grip and slides their fingers together, closing his eyes. Their hands are steady together.