Phil Coulson sits up on the cold metal table of the morgue, absently rubbing the unmarked skin over his heart.
“Ow,” he says eloquently. He reaches out a hand to catch the sweater flung at his face, immediately followed by a pair of dark jeans, and looks up at the scowling face of his best friend.
“Don’t go getting yourself stabbed and it won’t hurt,” Nick growls at him, as he slides off the table and starts pulling on the clothes.
“Yeah, I’ll get right on that,” Phil drawls, as he pulls the sweater over his head, reaching up to smooth down his ruffled hair -- what’s left of it.
“I suppose I should at least thank you for not going all scaly and wrecking my carrier. Even more than it already is.”
“You’re welcome,” Phil replies blandly. “I assume since you’re here, the crisis is over?” Nick sighs.
“Bastard opened a portal on top of Stark Tower and brought an army through. We got him, and Thor’s taking him and the cube back to Asgard tomorrow, but Manhattan is trashed.” Phil grunts.
“Everyone ok?” he asks.
“We got your boy back,” Nick answers the real question behind Phil’s words. “Told them all you were dead.” Phil snorts at that, but Nick can see his shoulders fall in relief.
“I hope you aren’t expecting me to perpetuate that fiction,” Phil says, a hint of warning in his tone. He knows Nick too well. Nick looks like he’s about to protest, but Phil raises a hand to stop him. “Clint won’t believe it, and he won’t be quiet about it. He’ll convince Tasha and you know how Stark gets when he thinks we’re keeping secrets from him. You can’t hope to keep this quiet even if I did cooperate, which I won’t.” Nick’s eyebrow lifts in surprise.
“You told Barton?” he asks incredulously.
“Of course I did,” Phil replies indignantly. “He’s my Mate, Marcus.”
“Well, fuck.” Nick says, resignation in his tone. Phil smirks. “Are you sure?” Nick asks pleadingly. Phil’s grin just widens.
“Yep,” he says smugly. Nick sighs.
“The real thing? ‘Eternally fated’ and all that crap?” When Phil nods, Nick’s shoulder slump. “Damn. Have you . . ?”
“Not yet,” Phil replies, “Something I’m going to rectify immediately.”
“You know the WSC’s going to want--”
“Remind them that I know where they live. And ask if they like barbecue,” Phil interrupts flatly.
“Actually, I think I’ll just use good old-fashioned blackmail. They tried to nuke Manhattan.” Phil’s eyebrows practically meet his hairline.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to pay them a visit?,” he asks, looking almost eager.
“I’ll handle it, Cheese,” Nick says firmly. Phil shrugs, looking around.
“Where are my shoes?” Nick growls and tosses a pair of loafers at Phil’s head. He catches them easily.
“Better luck next time, Nick.” Phil slips the shoes on and heads for the door.
“Wait!” Nick stops him. “How are we going to play this?” Phil gives Nick a look like he’s trying to explain something to a very dull four-year-old.
“Well, I’m going to put my hand on this handle, here, and open this door. Then I’m going to walk through it. Then I’m going to up to the deck and wait until my Mate gets here. And then I’m going to kidnap him so we can finally finish this whole stupid mating dance thing, and then I’m going to spoil him for at least a week. Then we’ll come back. Maybe.” Nick stares at him, flabbergasted.
“But--” he protests, but Phil cuts him off.
“Come on, Marcus. Iron Man, a very alive Captain America, a giant green rage monster, and the goddamn God of Thunder, as well as an archer who never misses and, well, Natasha, just saved New York from the God of Chaos and his alien army. What’s a dragon in the scheme of things?”
Nick Fury, of all people, throws his head back and laughs uncontrollably.
“Well, when you put it like that . . . You get to explain to Stark.” Phil grimaces as he opens the door.
“Two weeks,” he counters. “If I have to talk to Stark, I want a proper honeymoon,” Phil says, ignoring the shocked looks on the faces of the agents they walk past.
A quinjet is just landing as Phil strides onto the deck, Nick a step behind. Stark is the first one off the plane and he stares at Phil in consternation.
“What the hell!?”
“Son of Coul! You live! How did survive my brother’s dastardly attack?”
“Ha! I told you,” Clint says, as he and Natasha hop down from the cockpit.
Phil ignores the other Avengers’ sputtered recriminations aimed at Fury, and the whisperings of the SHIELD agents around him. His world is centered on the form of his Mate walking toward him, bright smile on his face not hiding the sunken darkness of his eyes or the way his whole body seems to droop with exhaustion.
For once not caring who is watching, Phil meets Clint halfway, pulling his Mate to him, wrapping his arms around him, hands clutching the muscular back.
“They told me you were dead,” Clint whispers, voice breaking. “I didn’t believe them.”
“Good,” Phil replies, and Clint buries his head in Phil’s shoulder. “Nothing will ever take me away from you,” Phil reassures his Mate with the confidence of near-immortality. “And soon no one will be able to take you away from me again.”
“What about . .” Clint inclines his head to indicate the damage to the Helicarrier. “The Council is going to want a scapegoat.”
“Not going to happen,” Phil says firmly. “I threatened to set the whole Council on fire, but I think Nick’s going with blackmail. Either way, they’re not coming near you.” Clint sighs with relief.
“JARVIS is going to ruin their credit scores,” Tony interrupts. “And Cap is going to frown at them disappointedly. You play the cello, Barton?” Clint starts to pull away, but Phil wraps an arm around his waist and drags him in close. The smile Clint gives him actually reaches his eyes.
“I have a bow,” Clint replies cheekily, turning back to face Tony.
The exchange seems to break the silence that had surrounded Phil and Clint while they had their moment, and the other Avengers drift closer. Natasha forces her way through and touches Phil’s shoulder - as good as a hug from anyone else.
“I’m glad you’re not dead, sir,” she says, eyes shiny.
“It’s good to see you looking so well, sir,” Rogers says, and Phil’s inner fanboy squeals. With centuries of practice, Phil lets none of it show on his face.
“Thank you, Captain,” he says simply, and catches Clint’s knowing gaze out of the corner of his eye. He kicks the side of Clint’s shoe in remonstration. They both turn to watch as another figure makes their way through the cluster of agents still openly gawking.
“Phil,” Maria greets flatly.
“I assume there’s an explanation for this?”
“Of course.” Maria taps her foot on the ground once, as if to say well? get on with it! Phil turns to Nick.
“Clint and I are going to take that honeymoon now, Director.” Nick sighs.
“Give me half an hour and I’ll find a pilot who hasn’t been awake for three days to take you down.” Phil looks at Clint inquiringly. Clint’s eyes get wide for a moment, and then he grins and shrugs. Up to you. Phil smiles and turns back to Nick.
“That won’t be necessary, Director. I’ve got transportation covered.” Phil steps a few paces away from the others and closer to the edge of the helicarrier. A bright flash makes everyone turn their head and when they look back, a crimson dragon the size of a midsize family home is standing in Phil’s place.
Dropped jaws and shouts of surprise fill the deck. Nick rolls his eyes, and Clint grins, scrambling up Phil’s foreleg and vaulting from his knee onto back of his neck, where he settles himself between the golden spikes down Phil’s back. Phil shuffles his wings against his back in preparation for flight.
“Two weeks, Nick,” he reminds the Director in the deep rumbling voice that comes with this form. Without waiting for a reply, he steps off the edge of the carrier, going into freefall for a few seconds until he is far enough away to stretch his golden wings and catch the updraft without hitting anything. Clint whoops with joy from his seat on Phil’s neck as they glide north.
Dragon hearing is particularly acute and as they fly away Phil can hear Tony call out from behind them.
“Iron Man colours! Knew you were a fan, Agent!” Phil sighs. Stark is never going to let him live that down.