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i'd rather do that than let go of your hand

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In the future, they won’t remember the date, only that it is July in Moscow and they are handcuffed together. It’s bad luck that Phil’s dominant hand (his right) is cuffed to Clint’s dominant hand (his left) and they’re sort of holding hands to avoid getting in each other’s ways. They’ve already had one argument about who drives and getting the fuck out of Moscow in a Lada is one of those things that’s going to be heavily edited in the future. It’s not nearly James Bond enough for Clint who didn’t sign up for this bullshit when Fury recruited him. It’s not nearly fast enough for Phil, for whom efficiency and speed limits are some sort of oxymoron. Phil’s driving, because Clint’s bleeding from a head wound and, also, Clint can’t wrap his mind around anything that’s not an automatic.

With a bit of effort, they manage to wind Phil’s tie around Clint’s head so now Clint looks like a Lord of the Flies escapee and Phil’s really working the smart-casual look as they cruise down a tree-lined road in the approximate direction of Vladimir.

Getting back to the States is a challenge and Phil is pretty sure there’s no reason for him to remain cuffed to Barton for the duration of the flight home but Hill blandly says that it’s the only way that Barton will stay still long enough to submit to medical attention.

She might have a point.

Later, Clint’s head has been sewn up and he squints resentfully at Phil who’s gamely attempting to type a report left-handed but he’s having to resort to using just his index finger and it’s pretty hilarious, like watching an old person grapple with technology or whatever the kids are calling it these days. Phil might be one of the most proficient SHIELD agents in existence but he's not ambidextrous.

Clint nods towards a polystyrene cup next to Phil. “Why aren’t you drinking that?”

Phil’s lip curls. “It was presented to me as tea.” There is a pause. “It is not tea.”

Clint leans back, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed. “I always had you pegged as a coffee man, Coulson.”

“There’s a time and a place,” says Phil. “Just as there’s a time and a place for a properly brewed pot of Earl Grey but we can’t have it all.”

Clint lifts his left hand to scratch his nose and drags Phil’s hand up with him. “Shit, sorry.” He scowls and shakes his hand, rattling the handcuffs and Phil’s eyebrows draw closer together. “When d’you reckon they’ll actually let us – you know?”

With a snort, Phil shrugs, his shoulder touching Clint’s. “I wouldn’t put it past Fury to wait till after the debriefing session.”

Sometimes, Phil hates being right. It’s complicated by the fact that Fury is in a late meeting in DC and has scheduled the debriefing for the morning.

Clint growls when they hear that particular update. “C’mon! It’s not as though these are magic handcuffs that need a fucking chant and a virgin sacrifice by the light of the moon. Can’t someone just snap ‘em off? Where’s Banner?” He raises his voice. “Bruce! Bruce! I’ve got something to tell you!” He lowers his voice and whispers conspiratorially to Phil. “Your mom jokes really piss him off, you know.”

Phil’s fingers, rather unexpectedly, twine with Clint’s. “You are not goading Dr Banner into ripping these cuffs off.” His voice is soothing, as though Clint’s the one about to turn into a green monster. His hand is warm in Clint’s grip. Strange that he didn’t notice that during the drive from Moscow. “It’s just Director Fury having a joke at our expense.” He shrugs. “Worse things happen.” Again, he frowns. “Worse things do happen, don’t they?” he asks.

Clint laughs. “Yes, Agent Coulson,” he says, rather heavily, as though by rote. “There are worse things than being handcuffed to you.”

His thumb glides down the outside of Phil’s thumb and he’s almost sure that Phil suppresses a shiver. He leans in close and whispers in Phil’s ear. “Your place or mine?”