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As Far As I Ever Had To Go

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Phil knows he came back to work too early. He was fine for the first few days but this morning, he woke up feeling at least one hundred years old.

Well, not exactly this morning. The last time he woke up, he felt one hundred years old but that was yesterday morning. He’s been on this op for close to thirty hours now and his still-recovering body hates him for it.

“No offense, sir,” Clint rasps from where he’s stretched out on his stomach, down by Phil’s right hip, “but you look like shit.”

Phil shifts, lifting his binoculars. The target area’s still clear. Just as it has been for the past ten hours.

“No offense, Barton,” he says, “but you’re not looking at me.”

Clint grins and flicks his eyes up from his fixed power scope for a fraction of a second. “There you are,” he says. “And yep, looking like shit.”

Phil doesn’t smile. His head is throbbing dully, just above his right eyebrow and it’s making him low-level nauseous, not enough to be a problem, just enough to be annoying.

“Hill,” he says, touching his comm. even though the new Stark tech means that he just has to think about changing channel. “Anything your end?”

“Nothing,” Hill reports back. “Thinking about calling it. What do you say?”

That’s a courtesy, she’s senior to him and that’s been more apparent than ever since his return from the dead. They gave him the Avengers, which he damn well earned, but he’s definitely moved one step to the left in terms of central command structure.

Surprisingly, he really doesn’t mind.

“Barton?” he asks.

Clint shrugs. “Be a shame to have gotten this much sand in my pants for no reason.”

Phil can’t say he disagrees. After everything, Loki and the end of the world, there are still little guys who need putting in their places as much as the Chitauri ever did. His aching joints and throbbing head would much rather he left that to someone else, but he doesn’t care. “Barton and I volunteer to stay behind.”

“But not as tribute,” Clint mutters. Phil ignores him and pretends he doesn’t know what that means.

Hill pauses and Phil can picture her trying to decide whether she wants to object to that. He and Clint have always made a good team though, with or without the other Avengers, so he’s not surprised when she says, “Agreed. I’ll send a relief team up at 05:00 if our target hasn’t shown.”

“Roger that,” Phil says and clicks off his comm. link.

Clint shifts closer to him, his side warm against Phil’s thigh and doesn’t say anything while they settle down to wait.

***

At 01:14, their target, an arms dealer with ties to the far right, drives into the kill zone. Clint waits for him to turn off the engine but doesn’t wait for him to get out of the car.

The bullet makes a perfect circle in the windshield and then a perfect circle in the centre of his forehead.

“What?” Clint asks even though Phil hasn’t said anything yet. “Asshole kept us waiting.”

Phil bites his lip. “Nice shooting,” is all he says, mild as he can.

Clint sets the rifle down and rolls over, stretching out his arms and making fists with his hands.

“Hi, sir,” he says, blinking up at Phil through the late night darkness.

After long jobs, Clint sometimes seems as though he’s just waking up. Phil doesn’t pretend to understand the headspace that Clint goes into, but when Clint’s in sniper mode he’s certainly not fully here.

Phil lets himself touch Clint’s chest, just a quick, careful brush of his palm. “Hello.”

Clint smiles. His teeth and eyes shine in the moonlight that falls on him now but didn’t touch him while he was properly positioned for the shot. “How long until extraction?”

Phil glances down at his watch, presses the little button for the light. “Three hours twenty.”

Clint groans. “Think we can call up Thor? I want to go to bed.”

Phil can’t say he isn’t tempted. “Do you really want to ride his cloaktail for two thousand miles?”

“Thinking about it,” Clint tells him but settles back, his head pillowed on a flat-ish rock.

“Get some sleep,” Phil says, surprising himself and probably Clint. “I’ll keep a lookout.”

There’s a pause and then, “Yeah, no. By which I mean hell no. You’re the one who’s injured, the should-still-be-off-work kind of injured in fact.”

Phil rolls his eyes. “Go to sleep, or I will sing you a lullaby.”

Clint fake shudders, the vibrations rolling through Phil in a way that would be more pleasant if they didn’t set up camp in his chest and make his stitches throb.

“Anything but that,” Clint says and puts his hand on Phil’s thigh. “You sure?”

“Yes,” Phil says then, worrying that might have been a bit snappish, he admits, “I’m too uncomfortable to sleep anyway.”

Clint’s hand squeezes, once, as though he didn’t mean it to. “You okay?”

Phil has really grown to hate that question. He did ask for it this time he guesses though, so he tries to give Clint an honest (if not full) answer. “Leaning against these rocks isn’t doing much for the hole in my back,” he says, “but it’s fine. I’m just cranky.”

“You? Surely not.” Clint’s slurring slightly on the end of the words. He’s been awake longer than Phil has and hyper-aware for most of it. Crashing straight after taking a shot is not unusual for him.

Phil waits until Clint’s breathing has evened out and his head has fallen slightly down towards Phil’s arm, and then picks up his hand, lacing their fingers together for no reason.

He pulls his sidearm out of its holster and sets it on the ground near his far leg. The desert is eerily silent and the clear sky is full of stars. It’s so far from what he usually sees when he can’t sleep, sitting in the window of Clint’s bedroom at Stark Tower, looking out over New York, that he almost feels like he’s on a different planet.

Clint twitches in his sleep, squeezing his thumb and forefinger around Phil’s hand, the same way he squeezes a trigger, and Phil laughs. The sound seems loud and the way it interrupts the stillness makes him very aware that he’s alive.

Good, he thinks, and settles down to wait for morning.

/End