Clint liked to nap. There was nothing weird about this.
Back when the Avengers Initiative was still just a Fury wet dream, Clint got around a lot. He means this literally – they had him dispatched all over the goddamn world, and sometimes he found himself on a jet taking off for some new threat to neutralize less than an hour after wrapping a mission. It wasn’t so bad really, he liked to keep busy and it sure as hell beat sitting around building paper airplanes.
(This was a hobby of his. He liked to leave the successful experiments in the R&D department, and although no one would ever give him any credit he was pretty sure they were ripping off some of his designs. A small part of him hoped Stark never found out so he could continue to be silently superior, but the much bigger part of him was looking forward to extorting him into painting BARTON on the side of his newest jet with threats of an intellectual property lawsuit. It was going to be sweet.)
But the long and short of it was that Clint didn’t really get to sleep a lot. He didn’t naturally need a lot of sleep to get by, really, but he also wasn’t a caffeine and insomnia-fueled mad scientist (see: Stark) so when he had a few hours with nothing urgent to do he’d sometimes set up camp on the nearest flat service and nap the hell out of it. One of the reasons he appreciated Natasha so much was that she never found it surprising or unreasonable when she found him catching a few z’s on a couple of banana crates in the back of a truck en route to take down a HYDRA cell in Lisbon.
Coulson, on the other hand, did not appreciate Clint’s napping quite so much. This was probably because one afternoon, after an op in Miami, Clint had been running on three hours of sleep over the span of four days and had passed out on the nearest available surface following debriefing. This had happened to be Coulson’s desk. The ensuing horror was honest to god a thing of beauty – it took a lot to discomfit his handler, he knew, he tried. A lot. Which was naturally of course why he then began to regularly pick the lock and nap there as often as possible. Unlike Fury, Coulson was only approximately 53% likely to actually shoot him, and those were odds he was entirely willing to take.
After the third time Coulson started leaving tacks upturned on the desk. After the eighth he got a couch.
Not one to be easily dissuaded, Clint decided to ignore the couch entirely. Sure it was probably more comfortable, but it wasn’t nearly so much fun. Natasha had gone to all the trouble of getting him the updated access codes for his birthday so there was no sense in squandering them on a couch. He spent the off hours of the next couple of weeks lazing with his feet kicked up on Coulson’s monitor, the couch conspicuously vacant.
Unfortunately, Agent Coulson was very good at his job, and his job at the time had specifically been managing Clint. The trap hadn’t even been subtle, but Clint had still walked right into it.
There was something about getting blown-up that made you sleepy. It might have been the ringing in his ears or the potential head trauma (although they’d cleared him through Medical pretty quickly, probably to keep the soot off the furniture) but he’d wandered dazedly in the direction of Coulson’s office with only one goal in mind. Technically he even made it – he got as far as the door before an arm slipped around his shoulder, and he suddenly found himself diverted rather surprisingly.
“Come on, Agent Barton, you must be very tired.”
Coulson. Steering him towards the couch. He only had the chance to blink before they were seated next to each other on the couch (which apparently didn’t merit worry about soot) and Agent Coulson was patting him on the back.
“Why don’t you take a rest?” he asked in that horrible deadpan way he had, and Clint tried desperately to escape. This involved flailing a hand in the vague direction of the desk while crooning ‘Nooooooo’.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be right here to ensure you have a very comfortable rest.”
Clint almost sobbed he was so tired. All he remembered later was something about telling Coulson a story about how the desk was his one true love which – not even close to the most embarrassing conversation they have had, not even in the top ten. Unfortunately somewhere between his tale of epic love and the grand finale, he’d fallen asleep on Coulson’s shoulder.
When he woke up four hours later, Clint had found himself napping on the couch on top of a very asleep Agent Coulson who still had one arm looped around Clint’s back. As he’d sleepily blinked and tried to figure out why there was a smudge of black across Coulson’s cheek, a slow, dawning, horrified realization snuck over him. It went something like this: he’d just napped on the couch, on Agent Coulson.
And it had been the best nap of his life.
“You bastard,” he said.
After this they napped together a lot. It didn’t really matter which one of them made it to the couch first; a good fifteen minutes later the other one would find an excuse to go take care of some paper work and they’d disappear for an hour or two before they both spontaneously reappeared on completely opposite ends of the building. Clint was pretty sure no one knew (except Natasha, who had pictures, but she had pictures of everything so that hardly counted) and to be honest he didn’t really care either way. No one messed with a nap like that.
Things changed a bit after the Avengers became a real thing and Stark built them their own tower. For one thing Clint suddenly found himself spending far more time in a place where he actually lived, which was weird, because Coulson’s office had pretty much been more of a home than his ‘technically-you-own-this’ apartment for a good handful of years.
It was… kinda nice. The one major downside that presented itself was that Agent Coulson seemed completely convinced that if they were caught napping together it would somehow undermine team morale.
“It’s about professionalism,” he informed Clint one day, while petting Clint’s hair with the two of them sprawled on Stark’s best leather couch. (Thankfully the rest of the team was out showing Thor Medieval Times. No one had wanted to miss it.)
“Mmm hmm,” Clint replied professionally, and snuggled a little closer.
Personally he didn’t see what the problem was. Compared to most of the stuff that went on around the house – tower, whatever – this was downright dignified. About a week after Stark had convinced Rogers that real men only wore pink and that he needed to lead by example, Clint tried to explain to Coulson that if you solved for a given value of manliness, their napping was probably charting about 1000.
Still, everything was fine more or less until Fury did the unimaginable, the worst thing he’d ever done to any of them.
He sent Agent Coulson away.
The insanity quotient of the house rose by an impressive factor overnight. Which still would have been fine (they were all pretty insane to start with) except that Clint suddenly couldn’t sleep. At all.
For the first couple of days he didn’t mind much – gave him a chance to get some work done, do some target practice at 3am, build a small (read: large) fleet of paper airplanes with the cell numbers of his various team members written inside alongside lipstick kiss imprints (he’d prefer if you didn’t ask) and then launch them off the top of the building. Fine.
By the third day he was starting to get antsy and tried sleeping on different surfaces the way he used to. He even drove himself over to SHIELD, broke into Coulson’s office and tried sleeping on the desk. Nothing.
By the fourth day, when he found himself in Stark’s lab starting to actually understand what the man was saying, he realized that things were now desperate. There was clearly only one solution that made sense: he needed to find a new nap buddy. It was quite literally a matter of national security.
He spent about an hour weighing his options. Banner still kinda creeped him out, Natasha was more likely to slip a bomb under his pillow, and Thor couldn’t keep quiet for ten minutes to save his life. The thought of asking Rogers was, for some reason, deeply embarrassing (“Hey, Captain America, wanna cuddle?”) and Stark… well. Yeah, right. Stark didn’t sleep, and if he did he probably twitched in it.
(Not to mention that it was his turn in their game of one-upmanship. The new jet currently said BARTON on it, but it also said it in purple, sparkly letters. He would rather die of sleep deprivation than admit weakness.)
“Geeze, buddy, are you okay?”
The voice startled him. Clint looked up from the sofa in the common living room, and blinked slowly.
“Yeah, fine. Just… having some trouble sleeping.”
Banner gave him a slow smile and then sat down beside him on the sofa.
“I know that feeling. I could probably recommend a couple of remedies for you if you like.”
Clint considered this, and informed him extremely gravely, “I don’t think we should sleep here. I don’t think a ballet theatre is a good place to sleep.”
Banner studied him for a moment before slowly reaching over and putting a hand on his back.
“I think… maybe you should lie down, okay buddy? Ballet theatres aren’t so bad. The music is, um, very soothing.”
“Mmm,” Clint replied, his head already in the crook of Banner’s neck and shoulder. Feeling like he should elaborate, he added “Hmm.”
“I… okay. Sure. I could make soothing whale sounds, I guess.”
Except he didn’t need to, because by the time he’d finished the sentence Clint was already snoring contentedly, looking for all the world as if he was perfectly content to sleep leaned over like that until possibly the end of time. Bruce, who had not really intended to spend his afternoon trying not to fidget, sighed and shifted on the couch so that it could better accommodate both of them. Angling it so that he could slowly lay back (while still propped up a bit against the arm), he eased the apparently comatose Clint down with him.
Sighing again, Bruce contemplated the ceiling and then decided he might just close his eyes. May as well get comfortable.
Three hours later, Clint opened his eyes blearily to the sight of a large group of people who appeared to be watching him with varying expressions of amusement.
“Go ‘way ballerinas,” he muttered, making a dismissive gesture.
“Really, Barton, I thought if there was going to be man on man action in the house then you’d at least consider me. I mean look at this dashingly handsome face.”
Clint groaned and buried his face in Banner’s arm.
“I hate you, Stark. I hate you so much.”
“What…?” Banner mumbled, starting to sit up. Clint snuck another look and regretted it. Even Rogers was trying to hide a guilty grin.
“Alright, I think everyone’s seen enough here,” announced a voice that did not belong to any of the people currently sniggering and taking camera phone photos.
“I don’t know if I can agree, Agent,” Stark said seriously. “Anyway, what are you doing back? I thought Fury sent the babysitter away to remind us of why we need an authority figure.”
“Oh, so what’s this?”
“It’s called deus-ex machina, you should probably look it up. Now scoot everybody, this is now the official napping room.”
Clint ignored the noise of people complaining (mostly Stark) and kept his eyes closed until he felt a pair of very familiar eyes boring into the back of his head. He forced his eyes open to find Coulson’s stare.
“Oh uh, hey.”
“Very unprofessional, Barton. And Banner I’m disappointed in you for aiding and abetting.”
“What? But I…” Banner started, but Clint just waved a hand in the air and then patted the couch beside him.
“Much more professional,” Coulson agreed, sitting down on the edge of the couch. It took a moment to rearrange themselves to accommodate three bodies, but after two tries they more or less worked it out. Sometimes you had to say god bless to Stark and his ‘bigger is better’ complex.
“I uh, sir?” Banner started.
“Banner, go back to sleep. That’s an order.”
“I don’t think you can order someone to- oh, that feels nice.”
“Mmm,” Clint agreed. He knew then that he loved those two ballerinas more than anything in the world.
(None of them woke up for a good seven hours. It was and would forever be known as the best nap ever.)