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Struck Off Like Matches

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01 – Motion

Coulson shoots him in the leg while they’re both running: Clint’s more impressed than he should be, given that he’s pretty sure that he’s bleeding out.

02 – Cool

In the middle of a city with a name Clint can’t pronounce without several drinks in him, they lie low in an apartment with broken air conditioning that only blows out cold air.

03 – Young

There was a kid, a long time ago, and all he ever wanted was somewhere he could really feel like he belonged, and Clint tries not to think about that little boy and finding things when you finally stop looking.

04 – Last

The first time he meets Agent Coulson face to face, he’s lying on a warehouse floor, wondering if he’s bleeding out, when someone drops to their knees beside him, begins calling for an ambulance and lowers their voice to make him an offer: the unsaid words are as clear as anything that comes out of his mouth, this is your last chance and you should take it.

05 – Wrong

“For all intents are purposes, I’m your boss,” Phil says, but he doesn’t push Clint away.

06 – Gentle

Phil uses one of those miniature bottles of vodka and cheap clothes to clean the gash on Clint’s face, kinder and more careful than the people in Medical have ever been.

07 – One

The first time they kiss, it’s in a safe house, both of them are probably bleeding to death, and the only things either of them will remember later is that they almost died, and the feeling that they’re forgetting something.

08 – Thousand

It takes Clint almost one thousand hours of being in close quarters with Coulson before he learns his forename: he makes a point of calling him Phil whenever he can, for two weeks, simply because he’s never had to work so hard to find out someone’s name.

09 – King

The first time they meet, Coulson, who isn’t Phil yet and won’t be for a long time, plays cards with him in Medical: Clint loses, but he steals the king of hearts.

10 – Learn

They work together better than most of the other agents and their handlers: no matter how many of the junior agents ask how they manage it, they never manage to learn their secret.

11 – Blur

The other handlers start to blur together after a while, countless warnings and people who don’t care or just can’t be bothered, until Sitwell leads Clint to Coulson’s office, drops the file on his desk and says, I believe this is yours.

12 – Wait

It’s the long moments between setting up the shot and the order to take it, when Clint’s breathing slows and he waits for Coulson’s voice in his ear, the confirmation that he can take the shot.

13 – Change

The Avengers Initiative is a closely guarded secret, so when the file lands in front of him, Clint gets a strange jolt in his stomach.

14 – Command

“Take the shot,” Phil says, and it’s the first time that Clint’s ever done this when working for SHIELD, but his aim is perfect and there’s a man with an arrow right through his eye socket.

15 – Hold

The first time (and it’s the first time, not any of the muddled messes where they’re half convinced that they’re going to die) Clint does his best to keep quiet, pressing his lips to Phil’s shoulder and muffling all the words that he won’t let himself say, and Phil slides his hands across his back and doesn’t complain when Clint doesn’t move away afterwards.

16 – Need

It’s yes and please and stay all in one, and it all makes Clint’s chest hurt the same way it did the first time he realised that he and his brother were fast becoming polar opposites.

17 – Vision

The sniper on the roof below has his shot lined up, the red dot on Phil’s forehead, and Clint doesn’t even hesitate, doesn’t wait for the order before he takes the shot and the man falls: Phil nods.

18 – Attention

“You’re the only one he ever listens to,” Hill says one day, barely contained irritation colouring her voice, and Clint considers dropping down and telling her that he has a name, but that would probably end with him getting another note in his file about inappropriate behaviour.

19 – Soul

He wonders if there's such a thing as an afterlife once, under the gaze of too many pain meds and the constant drumming of Phil's fingers on the arm of the chair, and wonders if it's true that everything you are is carried inside your soul: souls must be pretty huge, Clint thinks, and tells Phil this.

20 – Picture

There’s probably only one photo of them together where they look like more then colleagues, and it’s from when Natasha was working surveillance on an op: she doesn’t tell them about the photo and it’s never put on file.

21 – Fool

Clint challenges the junior agents to the stupidest things he can think of: steal Fury’s eyepatch, steal anything that belongs to Natasha or Maria, attempt to steal the coffee machine from Phil’s office, and Phil just gives him an amused look before telling him that Hill is after his blood.

22 – Mad

It’s the second close call in less than two months, and Phil snaps, you’re going to get yourself killed!

23 – Child

There’s a child one time, staring right at him and he’s supposed to kill her father right there and then, but he ducks into an alley and tries to remember how to breathe; later, Phil brushes his fingers over Clint’s knuckles and says that he did the right thing.

24 – Now

Clint rolls over, presses his lips to the back of Phil’s neck and mumbles five more minutes when the alarm goes off, draping one arm across him and hoping that it’s going to be enough to keep him in bed for a little longer.

25 – Shadow

Stay close, never has to be said.

26 – Goodbye

They go to the funeral, the Avengers and Maria Hill (who apparently had Phil’s parents’ phone number) and Clint has the sudden, horrifying realisation that he really didn’t know Phil at all when he’s shaking Phil’s mother’s (call me Joyce) hand.

27 – Hide

It takes less than a week for Stark to stop making jokes about Clint disappearing into the ceiling.

28 – Fortune

They get Chinese food one night and Phil’s fortune is the change you started will have far-reaching effects, be ready; Clint’s says a soft voice may be awfully persuasive: they both throw them out.

29 – Safe

There’s one safe-house that, as far as Clint knows, no one else ever uses; the sad thing is, he’s pretty sure this is the closest they’re going to get to getting an apartment of their own.

30 – Ghost

It feels like someone’s watching him whenever he’s on the Helicarrier, as if he’s going to see Phil standing behind him if he turns around fast enough; Clint keeps his eyes on the corridor ahead of him and he doesn’t look back.

31 – Book

There’s a dog-eared paperback in Clint’s locker that has someone else’s name printed in neat letter inside the front cover.

32 – Eye

He doesn’t just want to put an arrow through Loki’s eye: he wants to take him apart piece by piece, put him through every hell imaginable, but it still won’t be anything close to how he’s feeling right now.

33 – Never

They can’t tell anyone, not because of rules because rules are meant to be broken, but because caring about someone when you work for SHIELD is the same as putting a flashing neon sign over their head and a target on their back.

34 – Sing

Phil makes breakfast and Clint sits on the kitchen counter, buttering toasts and singing ‘Secret Agent Man’ at the top of his lungs.

35 – Sudden

The mandatory psych evaluation is easy to get through, he’s been working for SHIELD long enough to know all the tricks, but the phrase sudden loss still ends up on it.

36 – Stop

They stop at diners whenever they have to travel, and Clint steals food from Phil’s plate and laughs when Phil does the same.

37 – Time

His first thought when he finds out what happened (Natasha, meeting his eyes while everyone around them makes themselves scarce, finding jobs where there are none) is it’s not enough, we didn’t have enough time, it’s not fair, we were supposed to get longer.

38 – Wash

He’s forgotten what belongs to each of them, and he doesn’t realise until he gets in the shower at what he still thinks of as their safe house and notices that the shower gel is gone: he remembers that Phil used to buy it, and that he never asked where.

39 – Torn

It’s a short sentence, but ’you have heart’ tears him apart in ways that he’s never experienced before, the horrific feeling of something else crawling inside his body, inside his mind and he can feel it messing with his head.

40 – History

The only thing Natasha tells people whenever they ask about Clint spending a lot of time in Phil’s office is that they have history, and when she says ‘history,’ people stop asking questions.

41 – Power

They spend three hours doing nothing in Phil’s office when the power to the entire building goes out; Clint sits on the desk and badgers Phil until he agrees to read the novel he pulled from his desk drawer aloud.

42 – Bother

The first day after Loki’s been sent back to Asgard with Thor, Clint gets drunk with Natasha because anything else requires too much effort, and tries not to think about funerals.

43 – God

Thor leaves a mess behind and Clint isn’t too impressed with how often Fury keeps pulling Phil off missions to talk about New Mexico, or whatever they talk about in Fury’s office when the door’s shut and there are barriers stopping him from getting directly above it.

44 – Wall

It’s not the first time, but it’s one of the first times, and the bricks are cold and wet against his back when Phil pins him against the wall.

45 – Naked

Two days before Loki arrives, Clint stretches out on the bed while Phil gets dressed, and protests that Fury promised him the day off, but Phil throws the sheet over him and says that he’s not going to manage to distract him.

46 – Drive

New Mexico, like anything that comes right from Fury, is a threat and a promise; Clint’s supposed to ride with the other SHIELD agents but, after a traffic jam and a gas station that’s a lot more interesting than it should be, he puts his bow and bag in the back seat of Phil’s car and tells him to drive; Phil lets him change the radio station.

47 – Harm

The first thing Clint does when everything’s over, before he leaves with Natasha, is go back to the Helicarrier and stare at the blood on the wall – it hasn’t been cleaned, of course it hasn’t been cleaned – and wonder if it’s going to be left as a constant reminder of what happened.

48 – Precious

They snatch moments and seconds and hours together, safe houses and apartments with fake names on the leases, and these are the things that they hold closer than any of SHIELD’s secrets.

49 – Hunger

Halfway to New Mexico, halfway to what’s going to be one hell of a clusterfuck, Clint leans against the side of Phil’s car and says, “Breakfast?”

50 - Believe

Phil’s coming back.