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Save The Kitten, Save The World

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It’s half past two in the morning and the day before was complete shit, but Phil doesn’t even frown when he opens his apartment door. His feet are bare, the pale slope of their tops strangely absurd and vulnerable at the same time, and he’s exchanged his suit for a pair of soft sleep pants and a t-shirt with a faded Captain America emblem on it. His expression, though, could belong just as easily at the office as it does here. It’s unflappable—Phil is completely incapable of being flapped, it seems like—and the only sign of his hesitance is the slight stutter of his hand when he lifts it to offer a finger for the kitten to sniff.

“What have you done now, Barton?” Phil asks while the tiny, bedraggled kitten delicately touches its nose to Phil’s fingertip.

“It followed me home.” It seems like the thing to say. It comes out rough, like gravel, but the softness around Phil in his sweats and his worn cotton tee is distracting. It’s only after Clint says it that he realizes that someone could take what he just said to mean that he thinks of Phil’s cozy little brownstone as home. Which isn’t what he meant at all, even if it is so incredibly cozy that he can feel the warmth from out on the doorstep and he can see the bookshelves at the edge of the foyer and there’s a wet raincoat on a coat rack and at least two visible places where Phil could hide a gun by the door and a few more possible locations for hidden weapons among all those books, and that says home, Phil’s home, more than anything else.

Cozy doesn’t do it justice. Clint shivers, abruptly recalling the rain. He doesn't have an umbrella. Not even a coat. He was soaked even before he pulled the kitten from the clogged and overflowing rain gutter. The downpour was so heavy he still isn’t sure how he’d heard its cries at all, but he’d seen it fighting the current and had picked it up without a thought.

There hadn’t been any thought in his destination either, once he’d had the cat in his arms. He’d just known that he’d had no place to shelter it on his own, and no one in this town to ask who would open their doors to a bedraggled, half-starved wet cat, except Phil Coulson. Why he knew where Phil lived or that he was home alone or how Phil tended to stay up late after rough days? That was something between instinct and being a very thorough agent. It’s not something to say out loud so he doesn’t, and the silence goes on for a minute too long.

Phil does frown then and carefully lifts the kitten out of Clint's hands. It immediately surges forward, burrowing into the warmth at the crook of Phil's neck, one of his hands propping up its rump.

Opportunistic little bastard, Clint thinks, a bit uncharitably.

“Well?” Phil asks, and from his tone it isn’t the first time. He’s stepped back from the door, his free hand holding it open, and it takes a moment for Clint to realize he’s just been invited inside. He takes a deep, steadying breath, and crosses the threshold.

Phil doesn’t ask why he was walking around late or why Clint doesn’t own an umbrella. He probably knew the answers. He could ask though, fill the silence while Clint adjusts to being inside of his house and sweeps a look over his every possession, noting book and movie titles, pictures in frames, the fireplace, but Phil knows silence is a weapon too.

He leaves Clint in his living room and goes into the kitchen and Clint is alone there for a second before he has to go into the kitchen too. A dishtowel flies through the air at him the moment he walks through the door and he starts to pat himself dry the moment he catches it, looking up as he peels his shirt away from his stomach to dab futility at his dripping skin.

Phil looks away in that moment, setting the kitten down and putting a pot of water on the stove. He could have been sneaking a peek at bare skin, but Clint honestly can’t tell. He sees better from a distance and up close there’s no sign of anything on Phil’s face except a trace of concern, which could be for the cat.

“Water?” He wonders out loud and gets a raised eyebrow as Phil pulls out two cups. The teabags are a small surprise. Clint is not a tea kind of guy. “Oh, come on, tea? Really?” His voice is rough with disuse, as though he hasn’t spoken in days when that isn’t the case at all. Just half an hour ago he’d been murmuring to the frightened kitten held close to his chest—though he’d take care of any witnesses who might come forward to swear to anything to that effect.

Phil lets the water boil before answering. “Well I'm certainly not giving you coffee at this hour.” Mild tone or not, the statement leaves no room for negotiation. If Clint wants to stay, he will be drinking tea. Giving in is a struggle, but a small one. The kitchen is as cozy and warm as the rest of the house and Phil doesn’t seem to mind the dripping wet assassin leaning against his counter.

Moments of quiet are to be appreciated. Moments of victory are to be savored.

“Fine, I'll take the damn tea.” Clint stares down at the soggy kitten and thinks about Phil’s earlier words. What have you done now, Barton? He doesn’t know. But if there wasn’t exactly a plan here, things still seem to be falling into a not entirely unpleasant place. He’s not even annoyed about the tea. “Does the cat get tea too?”

“Milk.” Phil’s answer is so simple that Clint stops wiping the raindrops from his shoulders to stare at him. But he edges closer to Phil so he can look inside the refrigerator when Phil opens it. Not a lot of food in it, which isn’t a surprise. It’s a demanding job, the kind of job where food goes bad more often than not, even when you buy it in single portions. Clint frowns anyway and steps back out of the way so he can watch Phil move efficiently around his kitchen.

The digital timer-slash-clock on the counter says how late it is. Phil should be kicking them both out, not getting a saucer for milk and tossing another towel at Clint with a pointed glance at his dripping hair. It’s just possible that Phil doesn’t know precisely what time it is, but Clint kind of doubts it. Just the same he drapes his old towel over the clock and obediently runs the new towel through his hair.

The kitten is the one that’s soaked, but Phil seems fine with the mess the kitten is leaving on his clean floor as long as Clint is taken care of. He makes a cup of tea and hands it over, then makes one for himself that he doesn’t drink.

“You don’t seem surprised.” Clint waves the towel at the cat before putting the towel down with the other one.

“Only that you haven’t done it before.” Phil’s response is so quiet that it takes Clint a second to process it, and when he does he wants to frown. The kitten meows loudly before he can think of an answer.

“It's dripping,” Clint points out as the kitten gives a little shivery shake that sends droplets of dirty water splattering across the floor.

“Wet things tend to do that,” Phil says placidly. He stirs a saucer's worth of milk in a saucepan, slowly bringing it up to a warmer temperature. Clint sips at his own mug of weak tea and steadies the kitten with the toe of his shoe when it starts to tip over. He’s making a mess in Phil’s house and that wasn’t his intention at all.

“I can wipe it up for you,” he suggests, already inching down the hallway toward the linen closet. If Phil questions how Clint knows where the linen closet is, he doesn't say anything.

One doesn't survive in a position like Phil's without learning how to accept the smashing of personal boundaries. He’d have to, working side by side with assassins and super, or practically super, beings. SHIELD was outside the ordinary, so its employees were too, but even among them Phil Coulson was something different, Clint had always known that. Phil is a suit and tie agent. His house is disturbingly normal. It could belong to any workaholic who stashed weapons and panic buttons in with his movie collection. Clint doesn't even know what he's doing there, really, settling down to tea, playing with a cat. He is not that type, he doesn't deserve to be that type. In a way, he's the reason Phil ever died, in as much as Phil ever actually died. He shouldn't be there, much less making excuses to stay longer.

But Phil just won't kick him out. He scoops up the kitten as Clint returns to the room in a way that says Clint is going to be doing this whether he likes it or not and watches approvingly as Clint wipes at the kitten’s wet tail.

It would be unnecessary to remind Phil of just how many people he’d killed in his life, or how his actions, coerced or not, had led to Phil being almost mortally injured. They both know. It wasn’t the kind of thing that went away just because the invading alien army did. It stayed in nightmares that kept you up late and wouldn’t let you sleep and made you determined to save as many as you could in the stupid hope it might balance things out in some imaginary account book.

So he was going to be saving kittens now. Phil should be stopping him, not encouraging him. He was smarter than that. Clint wants to try to push him to do it, but at the same time he doesn’t want to leave. He feels like he’s in a nature documentary, because he doesn’t know how to move or interact in a way that makes sense, but it’s too fascinating to turn away from. They are drying a kitten—no, they are saving a kitten, together.

Phil’s shirt is gaping at the collar, exposing the smallest sliver of his clavicle, and Clint focuses on that to keep from gaping at the crumbs on the counter next to the toaster, the cold medicine on top of the fridge. Sometimes it’s easier if Clint forgets that Phil is human instead of a very competent machine.

Because if he was human, than that might mean that he isn’t kicking Clint out because he wants him there, and that’s the kind of thing to make Clint worried.

Worried, not afraid. He’s not afraid, though he respects the fact that Coulson could use both a teacup and saucer and a kitten as instruments of death and retribution if necessary. He doesn’t want it to be necessary, he wants for Phil to never classify him as a threat and yet he should, because he is one.

It slips out when the kitten turns to gnaw a protest on his thumb.

“Do you want it? The cat. The... kitten.” He has to clear his throat to even say “kitten” out loud. The word is like soft, fluffy yarn. He can’t kill with soft, fluffy yarn. He's tried. All it’s good for is making things. Creation is not in his skill set.

“Her,” Phil corrects, and Clint can’t quite connect the dots because there’s a light flush in Phil’s cheeks, not quite dark enough to be a blush but definitely heading in that direction.


“It's a her.” And now Phil definitely is blushing. It’s... charming, which is a thought Clint needs to not have about his handler. “I checked.”

Phil gestures at the kitten—more specifically at her rear—and Clint blinks and nods.

“Okay, her.” Her is easier to say than kitten. A her can be dangerous, can be a deadly tear through fabric and skin, so swift that you never see it coming, and that is something Clint can work his brain around. “Do you want her?”

Blush or not, Phil looks up and meets his gaze. It’s unexpected and intimidating and Clint respects that about it even as he tries not to react.

“It’s a lot to ask, isn’t it?” Phil asks, deadpan, and then nods at the towel. “Put that away.”

So that wasn’t an answer. So Clint knows where the laundry hamper is and Phil knows he knows. He takes the towel to throw in with the dirty clothes next to the hangers full of suits waiting to be taken to the dry cleaners, and then goes back into the kitchen only to find it empty.

He hears Phil’s voice before he finds him, but stops in the doorway anyway to see Phil on the couch with the tea on the coffee table in front of him and the kitten on his lap.

It only occurs to him that he’s chasing after Phil once he comes into the room. There’s no TV on, no distractions, just Phil and tea and the damn kitten that he should have let drown except that taking a life is like saving one, they both create a debt that can’t be wiped away.

Clint’s good at chasing. He once chased a Serbian assassin all the way from Russia to Italy; always just far enough behind to give the man a feeling of security while Clint quietly and efficiently gathered up his contacts along the way like dropped business cards. Chasing is easy, but this is new territory. Phil isn’t an assassin. He isn’t some criminal mastermind for Clint to draw a bead on. Phil is right there, right within his reach, and Clint has no idea what to do with him.

He sits gingerly, aware of the way the dampness of his jeans seeps into the well worn fabric of Phil’s couch. His fingers drum on his knees, pause, then clasp together.

Phil keeps his eyes trained on the kitten perched on his knee, the saucer of warmed milk held enticingly below her nose.

She is practically eating out of Phil’s hand. Clint can’t say that it’s not a good idea. There’d be worse ways to go than getting lulled into a trap by someone as unnaturally calm as Phil Coulson, he knows that from personal experience. But bringing death into the conversation isn’t what he wants, so he stays at attention and watches Phil charm a cat. A kitten. Her.

He thinks Phil is aware of both his stare and his own competence. How could he not be? One meant he’d have to know about the other. But he isn’t reacting, Clint realizes finally, because he is waiting.

It’s a bit of a dick move, Clint thinks resentfully for half a second, the kind of thing Fury would do. Then he can’t help but admire it. It’s slick. Genius really. It’s what he deserves for coming here at all with a kitten, for assuming—well for knowing—that Phil would be here alone and why. For being glad he was and then offering to fill that void with a kitten instead of just taking Phil, of leaping over the couch and taking that competence for his own.

He bets Phil kisses like thermite.

It’s the first time he’s really, really thought that Phil might hurt him instead of the other way around and it makes his heart pound.

“This wasn’t a good idea.” He’s up before the thought is conscious and then stops, because Phil doesn’t react, doesn’t even look up.

“This is a very bad idea.” Clint argues. Still nothing.

It’s such a dick play he can’t help but love it. “Look, Coulson....”

But Phil raises his head, the mildest look of reproof in his eyes before he’s back to looking like Agent Coulson, SHIELD’s finest.

It’s worse than getting shot. That look says Phil wasn't counting on anything from him, that he expected better but he’s not surprised.

“Sit,” Phil says. It could be mistaken as a request or a suggestion, but it really isn’t. Clint stays standing, and Phil’s eyes drop back to the kitten.

“I should go,” Clint mumbles; his feet stay planted where they are. “There are reports. They're already overdue.”

Phil doesn’t say anything to that, but there’s a slight change in his posture that speaks volumes about what Phil thinks about Clint having anything to do with paperwork.

“I need to leave,” Clint tries again, almost inaudibly, but he’s drifting closer to Phil instead.

It is probably for the best that Phil doesn’t say anything when Clint sits back down. His surrender seems obvious enough as it is. He feels compromised. Moreso when Phil unexpectedly hands him the kitten and puts the now-empty saucer on the coffee table.

Dry and no longer in need of rescue, the kitten feels different, spiky and alive and much, much heavier. Her pulse is under his fingertips. Clint looks at Phil with an expression he knows is alarmed. He is responsible for this, they both are, but he’d started it and he has no idea what is supposed to come next.

“What do I do?” He could never say that to anyone else. Phil just watches him, approving now.

“It’s not uncommon for people to pet them.” There’s a smile lurking somewhere in the wrinkles at the corner of Phil’s eyes. Clint ignores it and gently runs a finger down the kitten’s spine, her tiny back arching up into his touch.

It shouldn’t be possible, but it's as if the room's temperature instantly goes up at least ten degrees. Phil’s relaxed back against the sofa, his legs splaying until their knees are almost but not quite touching, and Clint thinks the back of his neck would be hot to the touch Phil were to lay his fingers there.

“I’m never home. It wouldn’t be right for me to keep her.” Clint realizes that’s his voice saying that, which makes it sound like he wants to keep a kitten. Or that he’s pleading with Phil to take her. Both are damning.

He’s starting to think Phil put something in his tea but he’s been trained to handle truth agents and he knows that the drugs would only make him do what he wanted to do anyway. The conversation has gotten way too meaningful as it is and soon Phil will be warning him to get rid of the kitten then before it can get too attached, only she already seems attached, like she knows Clint saved her and has to express her gratitude by kneading his leg.

It actually stings. Love is kind of a bitch. A little bitch with a soft coat and big eyes and claws sharp enough to draw blood. If it wasn’t purring so hard he’d be tempted to drop it on the couch and run away. Instead he lets out a breath and lets the cat rub her face all over his hand and looks up in time to catch Phil watching them bond.

“And I’m home so often?” Phil arches an almost teasing eyebrow, and Clint glances around the room, once again taking in the stack of unopened bills nearly toppling off the edge of a side table and the thick layer of dust on the mantle, the shelves laden down with books that don't appear to have had their spines broken.

“It’s still more of an office job,” Clint mutters, head bowed over the kitten’s. He can picture Phil striding through the headquarters with the kitten sitting on his shoulders, needle-sharp claws pinning her in place, or Phil behind his desk with the kitten glaring down at new recruits from the top of his filing cabinets. Against all odds, Fury seems to actually like Phil; he could probably get away with it.

“Yes,” Phil says wryly. “Between the two of us, we almost have regular office hours.”

Clint’s head would snap up at that if he had less self control. He does stiffen, though, because that sounds almost like a suggestion.

“So what, you want to timeshare her?”

Phil’s lips twitch. “And make her the product of a broken home? Perish the thought.”

“Pretty sure something can’t be broken if it's never actually been together,” Clint points out, but he’s inching nearer and nearer until they're pressed close from hip to knee.

Phil definitely looks like he wants to laugh. Clint can’t even blame him. He can’t believe he involved a cat in this. But he’s not taking it back now. His fingers curl over her back to hold her steady as then he leans over and then he lets out a small sound when Phil slides a hand to his neck and kisses him.

Phil’s hand is cool, just the way he thought it’d be, but his lips are testing, almost hesitant. Clint swallows a groan and knots his fingers in Phil’s shirt to keep from surging into the kiss. Phil shouldn’t be hesitant, should never even consider it, not when Clint has been waiting so long for this.

He has a conflicting impulse to keep it slow, feel the breath, the care Phil is taking, to make it all last, or to pull Phil to him and then slide over him and get a hand to Phil's cock. Either way he has to keep touching and kissing him. It’s imperative now. He can’t believe he went so long without it before.

“Your mouth is my new favorite thing.” He can’t help himself. Thank God it makes Phil laugh and yank him closer to deepen the kiss. And he must have the same idea, because he licks his way into Clint’s mouth and drags his hand away from the kitten to put it on his stomach, edging it under the Captain America tee, like he’s got something on his mind. Clint is ready and willing to follow his plan, whatever it might be. Someone should have a plan here.

“Just keep kissing me.” In the second of caught breathing and his hand flat and heavy on Phil’s skin, he’s ready to confess everything. If only SHIELD’s enemies knew this was his weak spot.

Phil makes a sound halfway between a moan and a growl. He arches into Clint’s touch, bites his lower lip, then soothes the sting with long, slow lick when Clint jumps. It’s not a bad jump though, and Clint nips back. Phil seems to get the idea, because he breaks the kiss to bite at the hinge of Clint’s jaw, pushing him back toward the armrest. And that’s good, that’s so incredibly good with all of Phil’s hot, lean weight pressing down on him. Except they’ve forgotten about the cat, and Clint thought that it would be impossible for Phil to ever forget about anything, but the loud, angry yowl makes Phil jerk back just as much as it does Clint.

Clint puts his head back and tries to breathe.

“We’re naming her Cockblocker,” he announces in the calmest voice he can manage, but Phil putting his face to his shoulder to muffle his laughter makes him feel a little less like killing someone.

The urge comes right back when Phil says, “So we’re naming her after you?” and raises his head to give him a look that’s way too smug and calm for a man who has to be feeling the same burn.

Clint chooses to respond by taking a moment to free the kitten and stick her on Phil’s back. He’s trapped there now, on top of Clint forever. He doesn’t seem to mind, though his smile disappears.

“I made a move didn’t I?” Clint asks him finally, his throat dry and rough, and Phil’s gaze gets considerably more intense.

“It took you fucking long enough,” Phil says, and Clint’s breath stutters out of him. He lets his legs fall open so that Phil settles down between them. It's as natural as drawing a bow to hook his leg up over Phil’s hip and pull him in until he can feel the line of his cock pressing against the crease of his thigh.

“Keep talking like that and this isn’t going to last long at all.” Clint licks his lips. Phil’s eyes flicker down to track the movement, and Clint doesn’t stop the filthy grin that escapes at that.

“You’re a very dangerous man, Mr. Barton,” Phil says, ducking his head to lick a stripe from Clint’s clavicle to just under his ear. “In so many different ways.”

“And yet you’re the one everyone’s afraid of.” Clint tips his head back in silent invitation for more, drags his fingers through the short hairs at the top of Phil's neck. A small paw bats at his hand and Clint ends up snickering into their next kiss.

“Really?” Phil actually dares to sound surprised as he bites softly at Clint’s lower lip and then at his jaw. He slips a hand between them and finds Clint’s belt. He strips it free of the buckle in seconds and then goes to work on the zipper.

His ruthless efficiency really shouldn’t be such a turn on, but Clint can’t help himself. He rolls his hips up and makes a pleased little grunt when Phil shifts to bring them closer together.

“Fuck, yes. I mean fuck yes, sir.” At least Phil isn’t laughing. There might be a cat chewing on his hair but his back is hot under his t-shirt and he's rocking against Clint just enough to drive him crazy without alarming little Cockblocker.

“If I’d known that this is what it takes to get you to act a little more professional, I would have pressed the issue sooner,” Phil whispers against Clint’s mouth. One of his hands slides along Clint’s thigh, running up from the back of his knee to just below his ass, and the little tug he gives makes Clint buck up hard against him and choke on his breath. “What would it take to keep you from jumping out at the new agents and scaring them?”

“I can think of a few things,” Clint says, and thumbs at Phil’s lower lip. His mouth opens, takes Clint’s thumb in to the first joint, and when he sucks hard on it, Clint’s pretty certain he sees stars.

Phil laughs, sounding far too steady for what they’re doing, and Clint rucks his shirt up almost all the way to his armpits so that he can trace his fingers over the ridges of his ribs, the faint, jagged lines of puckered scars. “I think I could do that.” He takes Clint’s mouth in a hard, demanding kiss that leaves them both panting, fingers digging into skin. “For the good of the country and all,” he says, and Clint has to pull him down for another kiss at how rough he sounds.

Phil’s thrusts are shallow but it’s more than Clint needs with all that skin within reach. The kitten is going nuts with how his hands are moving under Phil's shirt but neither of them is making a move to stop her, and Clint’s thinking is honestly a little fuzzy on why they should even bother. He’s got Phil Coulson pinned between his thighs and intent on making him come and he’s not taking the time away from him to deal with a fluffy little kitten, no matter how adorable.

“Yes, sir.” It’s all he can say, but Phil seems to like it, judging from the bite at his ear and the growl that he gets for a reply. The growl is like Phil swearing, hot as hell and Clint growls back at him and arches his throat to let Phil know he’s welcome to keep doing what he’s doing.

“Gorgeous,” Phil says against the damp skin of Clint’s neck in the dazed sort of voice of someone who doesn’t realize they’re saying anything at all. “Fucking gorgeous.”

Clint keens—how can he be expected not to—and arches up. Up into Phil’s mouth and his hips and his hand, his heat and his hard cock. He thinks he might rise straight up off the couch and keep going until he hits the ceiling without Phil holding him down, and that thought has him bucking up a little harder, baring himself a little more. Everything is hypersensitive. His nerve endings are singing and each breath he draws is like sandpaper going down his throat. Phil’s touch is scalding, hot water over skin that’s been too long out in the cold, and Clint wants to burn up for him.

Phil is the gorgeous one, all hidden muscles and chest marked by pain and that fucking t-shirt. “Off, I need it off.” Not the Captain, not here. It takes a moment, a fast, long, slow moment of wriggling it off and bumping the kitten up to the back of the couch and then Clint’s grabbing bare skin and pushing down.

The kitten moves, Clint notices, has to notice, as it climbs around to play with his hair but fuck, does he not care.

“Phil,” he lets it slip, thinks Agent, Coulson, Sir before he does but then he has to say it again. “Phil.” It’s high, desperate; he needs the okay. He needs it like breathing.

“Yeah.” Phil gets it, of course he does, and tells him to come with one word and a fierce bite just under his ear.

Phil,” Clint gasps as he spills hot and sticky between them. Phil’s grip on him tightens at some combination of his name and the way Clint is helpless to stop himself from shaking. Grey creeps in at the edge of his vision, and Clint wants to fall into it, let himself slip into a daze, but Phil hasn’t finished. Phil is still rocking against his hip with a slow, steady rhythm, but when Clint manages to open his eyes, Phil’s expression is anything but patient. His eyes are dark, his lips kiss and bite swollen, and his nostrils flare with every ragged inhale.

Clint hitches himself a little higher on the couch, pushes at the waistband of Phil’s sweatpants. He’s bare underneath them—not something Clint expected, but hot enough that Clint’s spent dick gives a valiant twitch—and then Phil’s sliding through the slick come on Clint’s stomach and he’s mouthing at whatever bit of Clint's skin he can get to, like he needs to taste him and doesn’t particularly care where.

When he comes, it’s with an especially rough thrust and a low, animal grunt, and Clint jerks at the hot flood of come between them, shocking and satisfying at the same time. He rolls with it, taking it and wanting more because despite being spent himself, his body apparently thinks it’s twenty when he’s around Phil.

It probably looks more like a shameless stretch but Clint is fine with that too.

Phil’s hands skate up over his sides, lazy and borderline clumsy, and Clint tucks his head down into the spot Cockblocker had cuddled into earlier. Clint kisses him there, licks the slight tang of salt from his lips. “You could fuck me next time, maybe.”

That makes Phil's hands pause, fingers pressing in right at one Clint's few ticklish spots, and Clint tries not to squirm too much when he adds, “You know, if that’s something you’d be interested in.”

There is a silence just long enough to make Clint aware all over again of the mess all over his stomach and that he is now the owner of a noisy, curious kitten, the only owner of a noisy, curious kitten that he saved and brought here in such an obvious needy, fix-it gesture that it’s a wonder Phil let him in at all. He moves at the thought, pulling away and sitting up to straighten his clothes.

Phil sits up too, but otherwise doesn’t move and even flushed and shirtless and spattered with come, he manages to look unruffled. If Clint hadn’t fucked up by going too fast after too slow he might have seen that as a challenge to get Phil as ruffled as possible, but now he just clears his throat and shifts to get to his feet.

“Sit.” Phil orders calmly, then looks a little less serious when he arches his eyebrows and quirks a small smile. “Unless you are planning to take our cat with you as you head to the bedroom, I am afraid I’ll have to ask you to stay where you are.”

Clint eases back into the couch. His fingers twitch against the cushion, like a parody of plucking a bow, and he’s trapped trying to look at about ten places at once, because he doesn’t want to get his hopes up, but Phil just said “our cat”.

“I don’t know,” Clint finally gets out, “Her fur’s still a mess. Wouldn’t want to get your sheets all dirty.”

The look Phil cuts him says he knows full well how much of a lie that is. Anyway they are already dirty. They are in this, for better or worse, the saving business. Phil might have been all along, but it’s still new to Clint. It feels about the same, except he thinks he might spend less time wandering in the rain and more time cozy and warm and looking at Phil Coulson, up close and in detail.

“So this is our future, saving the world one kitten at a time?” That’s his voice alright, dry and tired and oddly smug, because he knows the answer.

“If I didn’t know you, I’d say you were being difficult on purpose.” Phil seems to consider his own statement for a moment, probably because he knows that difficult should be Clint’s middle name. But if he minds there’s no sign as he gets to his feet, other than a small, satisfied sigh.

He just told Clint to sit back down, but, just to be contrary and difficult, Clint doesn’t protest as Phil stretches and his tired body creaks and cracks in a few places. It’s a reminder of the late hour and the long day they both just had, and will probably have again tomorrow. It’s too late for a full night's sleep, but Clint thinks they might just get a good night’s sleep when Phil jerks his head toward the bedroom and then extends a hand his way.

He doesn’t need help getting up, but he takes it anyway and follows Phil toward his bedroom. He scoops up the kitten with his other hand and holds her to his chest when she meows. Her weight fills his hand and her claws prickle against his skin, but she gratefully burrows into his heat, snuggling against his heart like she belongs there. She’s a burden, but the lightest one he’s ever carried.

Worth it then, Clint’s heart decides in return, and he follows Phil into the bedroom.