The couch dips and Clint feels himself surface from sleep slowly, carefully. He doesn’t turn over; instead, he buries his face a little deeper into the bend of his arm and says to the back of the couch, “What time is it?”
“Just after one,” Phil says, and a hand comes to rest at Clint’s hip. But the touch is too light, too tentative; it makes Clint’s chest ache.
“Didn’t think I’d find you here,” he hears Phil add after a long pause.
“Just sort of happened,” Clint mumbles, even though they both know it’s a lie.
There’s another long pause.
Very quietly, Phil says, “I’m sorry.”
Clint swallows hard and doesn’t reply. He knows something like this would happened between them eventually; you can’t exactly be sleeping with your handler and not expect things to get...personal. Before, Clint could make his own calls, put his life on the line without a second thought and let Coulson lecture him in the aftermath. But now—Phil’s lectures hurt like they didn’t before they fell into—whatever this is. Phil says things like you’re reckless and so fucking selfish and I’m always cleaning up your goddamn messes. Clint has somehow lost his immunity to Coulson’s disapproval.
Then again, maybe Phil’s lost his ability to stay indifferent whenever Clint gets in his face and growls back fuck you, sir. Clint can’t remember a time when Phil’s face twitched like that, cheeks growing a little flushed. He’d told Clint in a rough, clipped voice to go cool off, Agent, you’re dismissed, and Clint had snorted and stormed out of Phil’s office, thinking that if things were gonna end, it made sense that it would all fall apart so spectacularly over a mission gone wrong.
But Clint hadn’t hidden off in an air duct with a bottle of something cheap and brutal. Instead, he’d ended up picking a lock to a door he knew well and curling up on a couch he’d probably never see after tonight. He hadn’t even known what he’d say when Phil came home.
He’d sure as fuck hadn't expected this.
“I just.” Phil stops, and Clint can hear him sigh heavily. The hand on his hip grows a little heavier, thumb sweeping out in a small half circle. “Do you even know how hard it—” He pauses again, the words abruptly dying off like they’re lodged in his throat.
Clint can only take so much. He finally rolls onto his back, and Phil’s hand doesn’t move, just slides up Clint’s hipbone and splays out gently against his stomach, fingertips pushing at the material of his shirt.
“It’s not personal,” Clint whispers up at the ceiling. “You know that, right?”
In his peripheral vision, he sees Phil bow his head. “Yes,” he says.
“If I don’t agree with a call, I don’t agree with a call, end of story. That’s how it’s always been, and I’m not gonna—I can’t let—”
“I know. That’s what makes you the best.” Phil trails his fingers higher, until they’re fanned over Clint’s heart. “But you have to see it from my perspective, too.”
“Me questioning your orders isn’t anything new, okay, I’m—”
“If it were me who nearly got shot today, what would you do? Just let it slide?”
Clint bites the inside of his lip. “That’s different.”
“The hell it is.” Then he leans over Clint, cups his cheek like Clint’s made of glass and kisses him slow and lingering. Clint makes a soft whimpering sound of surprise, and he’s too exhausted to be embarrassed.
With his forehead pressed to Clint’s, Phil says, “You can’t expect me to fall in love with you and be objective every day of my life, can you?”
Clint physically startles. They’ve never—it’s never been brought up before, the whole love thing. Clint’s never pushed for it; he can’t remember a time he wasn’t just a little bit gone for Coulson, so putting it out in the open has never felt necessary. He’s mostly convinced himself that it doesn’t matter whether Coulson felt it or not.
“I’m sorry I’m a selfish, reckless bastard,” Clint says, because if Phil loves him in spite of all that—and it’ll always hurt to hear it out loud, but Clint will get over it, he always does—then the least Clint can do is apologize for not being worthy of it.
Phil huffs and nudges Clint onto his side again, facing the back of the couch. He slides in behind him, wraps both arms Clint’s chest, the one hand still over his heart, and buries his nose into Clint’s hair.
“Don’t apologize,” Phil murmurs. “Just...bear with me while I get used to this whole ‘my boyfriend risks his life for a living’ thing. I’ll get better, I promise.”
Boyfriend. Clint burrows back against him, letting his warm, solid weight sink into his skin. “I promise to get shot a little less,” he replies.
He feels a soft kiss at the nape of his neck. “That’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me, Agent.” Phil’s arms tighten around him, and Clint smiles.