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The op goes sideways so fast all Coulson can do is yell for scramble and start shooting. An arrow flies by his ear, no more than an inch away. It goes through the left eye of the man Coulson had been about to shoot. There’s a note attached.

Bleeding pretty bad. Medic, please.

“Barton, you have a comm,” Coulson barks into his headset as he jams his heel into a man’s thigh and kicks him in the jaw as he falls.

“So sorry, Sir. I’m fucking bleeding up here.”

Before Coulson can respond, another arrow zings over his shoulder. It lands just left of the artery in
a man’s shoulder. He really must be bleeding bad if he missed, Coulson thinks. “You also have a gun,” Coulson tells him, mostly so he can listen to see how Barton’s breathing. He yanks the arrow from the mans’ shoulder and jams it into the stomach of the man trying to sneak up behind him.

“You’re out of ammo,” Clint replies. “Thought I’d help out.”

Coulson uses the same arrow to slice another man in the chest. The only men left standing are S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. They are all of them covered in some level of gore. Coulson sighs at the sight of his suit. He really liked this one. “Barton, report.”

“No unfriendlies from my angle. Still bleeding, thanks for asking.”

“Two on the roof for Barton. Get him patched.” Two agents immediately jog off, headed up the half a block to where Coulson knows Barton is camped out.

“Where we going for medical?” Clint asks.

“S.H.I.E.L.D. carrier at the pier. You want to put in a special request?”

“Keep Doc Thomas away from me. Hate that guy.”

“You hate all doctors.”

“He’s a special case of asshole.”

Coulson raises his eyebrows at that. It’s rare Clint actually separates medical staff into various levels of asshole. “Noted,” he says.

“Thanks,” Clint replies.


An hour later, Coulson gets to the carrier, a behemoth of a bad guy getting dragged alongside him by the nerve cluster in his neck. They’d found him hiding in a back room, and the ass had had the nerve to take a swing at Coulson when they ordered him out.

“I have rights!” the man screams. “The Geneva Convention!”

“This is not cruel and unusual. Cruel and unusual would be dragging you by your balls,” Coulson informs him. He uses his flattest tone, and the man goes absolutely quiet. He is smart enough, Coulson notes, not to stop in his tracks with Coulson’s fingers still digging into his nerve cluster.

“Agent Coulson!”

Coulson keeps moving, but half-turns to see Agent Miller running to catch up with him. She heaves in a deep breath that tells him she’s been running around trying to find him for awhile. “What is it?”

“Medical needs you, Sir. Barton’s being more difficult than usual.”

“Is Doc Thomas seeing to him?”

“Trying to.”

“He hates Doc Thomas.”

“I thought he hated everyone in medical equally.”

“He hates Thomas more.”

Agent Miller furrows her brow. “Well, Doc Thomas is the one on-call, and Barton’s got a gut wound.”

Coulson stops short. “Take this idiot down to lock-up. I’ll get this handled.”

“Thank you, Sir,” Agent Miller replies. She steps up to the gigantic man Coulson’s been hauling. The man gives her a lecherous grin, and then he’s bent almost double. Miller’s grip is nearly as tight as Coulson’s, and she has nails to top it off.

Coulson turns the opposite direction and heads for the elevator. When he gets to medical, the charge nurse looks so relieved Coulson wonders if it’s another case of Barton turning general supplies into weaponry. “He hates Doc Thomas.”

“I understand that,” the charge nurse replies, her tones even more clipped than his. “But he’s got—”

“A gut wound, and Thomas is first man up,” Coulson says as he moves past her into medical proper. He doesn’t bother to look behind curtains. He can track Barton by the staff who are scurrying out of the way. He throws open curtain five and awards himself five points. Barton is on the bed, strapped down and seething through the drugs at a level Coulson recognizes as very, very dangerous.

“Agent Coulson,” Doc Thomas is standing on the opposite side of the bed and greets him with a nod. “Perhaps you can help.”

“Why the hell is my agent strapped down?”

Doc Thomas looks taken aback by Coulson’s tone. “Agent Barton has a bad habit of escaping medical once his wounds are treated. It’s for his own protection so he doesn’t pull his stitches.”

Coulson stares at Doc Thomas, waiting for him to continue and give Coulson a plausible reason to not call him an idiot. “You’re an idiot,” he finally says when Doc Thomas just meets his gaze. He walks to the edge of the bed and reaches for the straps. “This is—”

“An uncomfortable but necessary precaution,” Doc Thomas interrupts. “It’s—”

“You’re going to shut up before I launch over this bed and kick you in the face,” Coulson tells him. He undoes the strap on Barton’s left wrist and pulls his hand free, holding onto Barton’s forearm while he flexes, checking for chafing or scratches. There’s a bright red welt just where the strap was pressing near his hand. “They’re too tight.”

“He gets out of them if they’re looser. While they chafe, normal blood flow is still possible,” Doc Thomas says. He taps his clipboard against Coulson’s knuckles as Coulson reaches over to undo the other restraint. “I would appreciate—“

Coulson straightens up and stares down Doc Thomas. “Out,” he says. “Now.”

“I am the doctor on-call—”

“And I’m Barton’s medical proxy. Get another doctor here. Now. I found out you came near him again, I will make certain they only find the very embarrassing parts of your body.”

Doc Thomas makes tracks. “Very nice,” Clint says, voice tight even though his head is lolling.

“You’ve never mentioned he pulls this shit,” Coulson replies as he crosses around the bed and bats away Clint’s hand to undo the strap that’s still holding down his right wrist. He runs his fingers over the red welts on Clint’s wrist and considers a messy homicide. His suit’s already ruined, anyway.

“Last time I worked from this base, we weren’t…you know.”

It’s a very open secret, the two of them, but Coulson appreciates the discretion anyway. “Anyone else I should know about?”

“I dunno,” Clint says, grinning in the loose way that tells Coulson the meds have definitely kicked in. “If I tell you right now, I won’t get to see the Alpha Male response.”

Coulson puts down Clint’s hand and leans over the bed rail. “That’s a little twisted.”

“I am high as a damned kite on the good drugs,” Clint says.

“Ah,” Coulson replies. He straightens up as a doctor comes in. Coulson doesn’t know his name, but he catches the man’s glance at the restraints.

“You’re proxy?” the doctor asks Coulson.


“Then I’m guessing you’re the reason I called up to the main office and was informed Agent Barton has somewhat redeemed his bad reputation in regards to medical.”

“Sure,” Coulson agrees, although he wouldn’t actually put any money on that bet.

“Heh,” Clint huffs, relaxing back against the pillows and closing his eyes. He doesn’t quite hold Coulson’s hand, but their fingers brush as he settles. “Because you’re my proxy.”

“Quiet,” Coulson says. “And do what the man says.”

“Yes, Sir,” Clint slurs, and Coulson lets fondness warm through him as the doctor starts to work.