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Fury values loyalty highly, but he never relies on it alone. As Coulson has moved up through the ranks at SHIELD and the layers of lies and manipulation have been peeled back to reveal the true depth to which Fury has sunk his influence into the governments of the world, Coulson has seen the same techniques applied to every member of SHIELD who has any true value.

Coulson is sharply aware that his own value has been outgrowing the security of Fury's grip on him. He brought Coulson into SHIELD with the shared conviction that most people couldn't be trusted to take care of themselves and needed a firm hand on the reins, and he'd presented thorough and irrefutable evidence that Coulson had murdered three of his commanding officers (incompetent, all of them) as his guarantee of Coulson's allegiance. But it's been too long and Coulson knows too much for blackmail to suffice much longer. Fury will either go looking for a new guarantee, or he'll eliminate Coulson.

Coulson keeps an eye out for the elimination, but he doesn't worry about the guarantee. Fury doesn't trust loyalty, but he has Coulson's regardless. SHIELD is extraordinarily effective at making humanity dance to Fury's tune, far more effective than Coulson had hoped. Whatever hook Fury wants to plant in him to keep him close, Coulson will take it.

When it comes, Coulson doesn't actually recognize it for what it is until it's already set.


"The election results from Mexico are in." Coulson flips to the next page in the weekly report he's prepared for Fury. He'll hand it over when he's done, of course, but Fury likes verbal summaries. Some of the other agents think it's a quirk; Coulson knows that Fury is getting a read on him as much as on the situations he's reporting on. "It was close, but the extra ballots put our candidate over the top. We're in."

Fury is leaning back in his chair, feet propped up on the conference table. "I don't like that we had to go there. The misinformation campaign should have been enough. Who was managing that?"

Coulson doesn't have to check his notes. "Agent Green."

"If he has conflicts of interest, resolve them," Fury directs. "What's next?"

Well, Green has always been expendable. "Research and Development has hit a roadblock with the performance enhancer they've been working on."

Fury frowns. "Last I heard, they were seeing improved strength, speed, and reaction times. What's the issue?"

"Improved, yes, but not at target," Coulson says. "The results have plateaued, but they can't tell if it's inherent in the drug or a natural ability cap in the primates we've been using for testing."

"Hmmm. Does Doctor Kenner have a suggestion?"

"New subjects. Human." Coulson frowns. "He wants a hundred, but in my opinion that number raises the risk of exposure unacceptably high."

Fury crooks his fingers and Coulson slides the file across the table to let him peruse the details. "He can have fifty," Fury says eventually. "Twenty local, the other thirty in three sets of ten in three different countries. If mortality exceeds seventy percent, his project is terminated." Coulson nods and makes a mental note, since Fury has the file. The Director flips through the next couple of pages instead of giving it back. Coulson knows when he gets to weapons development because he grins. "God, I love Stark," Fury says. "Infiltrating his protection detail was the best decision I've made in the last ten years; we'd be stuck with fucking Hammer if the kidnapping had succeeded."

Coulson smiles slightly. "Speaking of Hammer, he still hasn't rooted out the mole we planted in his computer systems. I think Stark is just toying with him at this point; he's had enough to take that company down for weeks."

"Let him have his fun," Fury says, flipping the file shut. "It just gives us more to work with if we ever need to apply some leverage there."

Personally, Coulson doesn't think they'll need leverage on Stark. The man is short sighted when it comes to everything but his own work. As long as they keep him busy innovating, he's easy to handle, and SHIELD has no shortage of interesting weapons problems to solve. But he doesn't argue; Fury always keeps back up plans.

Fury puts the file to one side and reaches out for another folder, sitting on the edge of the table. "Potential acquisition," he says, handing Coulson the file. Coulson flips it open; the first document is an FBI personnel file. "I want his skills," Fury goes on, "but I don't know yet how he can be secured."

Coulson nods, but continues reviewing the file. Barton, Clint Francis. Sharpshooter. Good field reports, except for multiple citations for insubordination. Interesting. Fury doesn't usually like the insubordinate ones. "What makes him interesting?" Coulson asks, because he's halfway through the file and nothing is standing out.

"Skip to his weapons evaluation," Fury suggests.

Coulson shoots him a glance, but obeys. The weapons evaluations are at the back of reports because they're rarely worth any attention. By the time a potential field agent comes to SHIELD's attention, they're always top five percent. Variation within that is virtually meaningless under operational conditions.

Coulson gets to the evaluations and goes still. Barton's scores are perfect. They aren't an average, and they aren't a best of list, either. SHIELD is thorough, which means that this report contains every target Barton has fired at for evaluation purposes, on every weapon, on every course. From the day he joined the FBI to the present, he's never scored lower than 100%. "This isn't possible," Coulson says, looking up at Fury. "The nature of weapons engineering means that there's a degree of error built into firearms. On top of that, there are variations between individual weapons."

"Apparently, Barton systematically signs out every weapon in his office's inventory and trains on them," Fury says. "He compensates for their quirks individually."

Coulson looks down at the page of perfect scores and runs his thumb gently over the column of uninterrupted 100s. "And in the field?" If he couldn't improvise, he wasn't worth their time.

"He's never missed a mark," Fury says. "Actually, he's a little more enthusiastic than his superiors would prefer."

Coulson raises his eyebrows. "Meaning?"

"Meaning that Barton takes every opportunity for a kill shot that he gets."

"Hmmmm." Coulson flips the page and the weapons evaluation manages to surprise him again. "A bow and arrow?"

Fury is smirking at him when he looks up. "The source of most of Barton's insubordination. It's by far his preferred weapon, but the FBI won't let him use it."


Coulson starts with surveillance. SHIELD's been monitoring Barton for weeks, of course, and addenda to the basic file contained selected footage of him doing everything from sleeping to running ops to jerking off, but Coulson wants to pick his own angles, see Barton his own way.

People are, generally speaking, boring. To anyone who has done their homework, they are predictable in the extreme, and Coulson always does his homework. Surveillance of Barton is necessary, but it should be routine.

It isn't.

There is something about the way that Barton moves that captures Coulson's attention. There is precision in every step, every object handled, every motion. There is awareness, not just of objects and people, but also of angles and motion and wind and light. Nothing surprises Barton.

And then there is the range. Not for firearms. With a gun, Barton is almost ordinary. He gets right down to business and ticks all the boxes and Coulson would be disappointed if not for the endless march of perfect scores. No, the firearms were next to meaningless. But the bow...

The bow demands the use of Barton's whole body. His lips almost brush the string. Fingers, arms, shoulders, back, and chest hold the draw. Belly, hips, thighs, and feet anchor him. Drawing is a ratcheting of tension that ripples through him. Release is a full body sigh. When he uses a gun, Barton controls the weapon with breathtaking competence. When he uses the bow, Barton is the weapon.

Coulson has been the subject of a number of seductions. It's not an uncommon tool for new agents to bring to bear when attempting to move up through the ranks or to secure some sort of protection. One or two were even genuinely attracted. He's allowed a handful to succeed, depending on what he needed from them and what Fury needed from him, but although he knows arousal and relieves it regularly, he hasn't experienced desire. He's never bothered with choosing a specific form for the fantasies he uses to get off.

He goes to bed after watching Barton with the bow for the first time and when he curls his hand around his cock--orgasms promote deeper sleep--the curve of the weapon and the flex of Barton's muscles spring into his mind's eye unbidden.

He sleeps very well.


Coulson has been watching for a week. He hasn't found anything that will make a good hook--the freedom to use his preferred weapon is not enough--and he finds himself reluctant to fall back on set ups and blackmail. Fury is strangely patient.

Barton gets called in for an op.

It's a kidnapping that has devolved into a hostage situation. They put Barton on a roof. Coulson finds an adjacent perch and trains his binoculars on the sniper. For a long time they're both still, waiting while the negotiators talk. Barton cradles his rifle, picks his shots, makes minute shifts as his targets pace and grow more agitated.

Coulson is monitoring everyone's communications, so he hears it when the FBI approves a tactical solution. He also hears Barton's supervisor say, "Don't take a kill shot unless you have to."

'Unless you have to' is practically permission. The go order comes, the ground team bursts through the doors, and three precise shots make three neat holes in three hostage takers' foreheads. Coulson has never seen a takedown so fast and so clean. A shiver runs through him and he switches his binoculars back to Barton.

He's set the rifle down, but he's still crouched on the rooftop. There's something about the curve of his body, the tilt of his hips... Coulson plays a hunch and switches to the infrared filter. The heat pattern leaves no doubt: Barton is aroused.

Coulson flips back to regular light and increases the magnification a hair, enough to fill the frame with Barton's body. He can see the swell of Barton's cock, now that he's looking closer. By his hip, Barton's hand is clenching and unclenching, but he doesn't touch himself. Coulson scans up to the sniper's face, eager to read the hunger there, to see his lips part as he sucks in air to fuel his thundering heart, to--

Barton's face is the picture of shame and self-loathing.

Anger slams into Coulson, sudden and fierce, and leaves him shaking. He's forced to lower the binoculars. Barton shouldn't be ashamed. He's dedicated and fierce and uncompromising and he's spectacularly good at what he does. Barton is better at his chosen discipline than anyone Coulson has ever encountered. Coulson knows the rush of power from ending a life; he won't condemn Barton for feeling it hotter, deeper.

Coulson manages to steady himself enough to raise the binoculars again. Barton is moving now, slowly packing the rifle away, using the routine to distract himself from his dick. As Coulson watches, his movements slowly grow easier, his arousal fading. Coulson clenches his teeth, imagines stepping across the gulf between the buildings and touching Barton, opening his pants and stroking him back to aching hardness and driving him over the edge, replacing the shame with ecstasy and the self-loathing with pride.

Only when Barton disappears back into the roof access does Coulson realize that he's hard, too. He lays on his back, looks up at the sky, and tries to remember the last time he became aroused without consciously initiating it. He can't recall, but he was probably a teenager at the time.

This could be a weakness. This could be dangerous. But Coulson's greatest strength is self-awareness, and his greatest skill is finding the proper place and use for every element of an agent's character. He can do the same for himself. The first potential barrier is a non-issue: SHIELD already wants Barton on board. And now Coulson has the vital piece of intel, the hook they need to bring him in and hold him. Not blackmail. As useful as it is, it's also complicated, and its hold tends to break down over time. No, as easy as it would be to blackmail Barton with this data, it's not the best use of it.

Instead...wash away the shame and self-loathing. Give him pride and approval and satisfaction, let him revel in his work, lead him straight to the sharp, hot pleasure of it instead of forcing him to steal it in pieces. Considering that what got Barton off was kill shots, it would be obvious to him that no one but SHIELD could give him that.

And the aching hunger Coulson felt now would serve a purpose, because it would convince Barton to let go, to indulge himself, to give up on having an ordinary life, and to commit to the one SHIELD could offer him.

Coulson opens his fly and slips his hand into his clothes, catching his breath as he tightens his grip around his cock. Soon, he promises himself, hips jerking up into his fist. Soon he'll be on the roof with Barton, and they'll enjoy the kill shot together.


The FBI want to suspend Barton. Their definitions of 'if you have to' didn't agree. Phil snorts; the fact that they haven't learned to take that into account by now marks them as the fools they are. Coulson contacts Fury, and Fury arranges for Barton to be kept on active duty; Coulson needs him on another op to do this right.

He also needs Barton to allow him into his perch, which necessitates a preparatory visit. There are a dozen ways he could play this, but if he's going to sell SHIELD as the one place safe for Barton to be who and what he is, straightforward is the way to go. So Coulson follows one of Barton's neighbors into his building and knocks briskly on the front door of his apartment.

Barton opens the door a couple of inches and leans against the wall casually, but Coulson can't see his left hand. Barton is certainly armed. The quick flick of his eyes takes in Coulson's weapons, concealed as they are by the suit. The sharp gaze and the calculated posture are just as attractive up close as they were at a distance. Coulson lets it show a little; let Barton think he has the advantage.

"You the guy that's been eyeing me for the past nine days?" Barton asks.

Coulson raises his eyebrows. "Personally? Yes."

Barton chuckles. "Your advance team needs some work. I might not have spotted you right away if three weeks of really goddamn distracting surveillance hadn't evaporated so suddenly."

"I'll pass that along," Coulson says dryly. "You going to invite me in or shoot me?"

The assessing look Barton lays on him could pass for interested in other circumstances. Coulson's body tightens involuntarily and fuck, seducing Barton is part of the plan, but he's going to have to get a grip on himself sooner rather than later. He can't afford to have involuntary reactions.

Barton steps back and lets Coulson into the apartment, but he stays close enough that Coulson brushes against him on his way by. Barton doesn't try to lift anything from his pockets in the process, which means it's the contact he was looking for. Good. Coulson takes a careful, even breath. Very good. Barton may have been going for intimidation rather than anything else, but the more physical he gets with Coulson, the better.

"So what's up with the surveillance?" Barton asks, dropping onto the couch and looking up at Coulson. He puts his heels up on the edge of the coffee table. "I'm not on anything sensitive."

Coulson studies Barton for a long moment. Sitting is an atypical response on trips like these; potential recruits tend to be conscious of the intimidation factor. But Barton smirks up at him, arms stretched out over the back of the couch, supremely confident.

Predictability is not going to help Coulson here, and he's already headed that way. So he takes a couple of steps forward, lifts one leg over Barton's, and sits on the coffee table with Barton's feet between his thighs. Coulson rests his elbows on his knees and leans forward, letting the tips of his fingers brush Barton's shins. "You're not on anything sensitive because the FBI doesn't entirely trust you," he said, meeting Barton's gaze. "With good reason. They might not know what you are, but they suspect."

Barton's eyes narrow. "I'm a sniper, is what I am."

"Yes," Coulson agrees. "The best I've ever seen." Unexpectedly, a light comes into Barton's eyes. Hasn't anyone ever acknowledged the man's skill before? "But that's not all you are, and if the FBI knew--" for a split second Coulson considers Barton's history and his psych profile (incomplete as it may be) and finds just the right phrase "--they'd wash their hands of you." Barton's jaw tightens, his nostrils flare; Coulson's barb has found its mark. He goes on. "I'd like to make you a better offer."

Barton raises a skeptical eyebrow. "No one does three weeks of surveillance for a recruitment."

"SHIELD is very selective about its operatives," Coulson says. "And I don't do anything halfway."

"SHIELD..." Barton draws the word out. "I've heard of you." Coulson covers his surprise with a mild expression and raised eyebrows. There are people who can reasonably be expected to hear whispers about SHIELD, but the FBI is far too mainstream for that. If Barton has heard of them, he's been cultivating other contacts. It's a good sign; he wouldn't be asking around if he felt secure where he was. "Word is, agents who go SHIELD never come back. Never."

"We have an excellent employee retention program," Coulson says dryly. He looks Barton in the eye, lets a little of his interest show. "When was the last time someone wanted you so badly they'd do anything to keep you?"

Barton's eyes darken and his tongue flickers out to wet his lips, but there's still a wary tension to him. "That's great, if I want to be kept. What makes walking into SHIELD without an exit strategy worth it?"

Coulson smiles. "Let me join you on your next op and I'll show you."

"I barely escaped a suspension," Barton says. "They're not going to be taking me back into the field any time soon."

"Won't they?" Coulson swings one leg over Barton's and stands. "It was good to meet you, Agent Barton. I'll be seeing you soon." He nods and allows himself one lingering look before he leaves.


There's an op three days later, of course. It's no good stepping in to prevent an official suspension if the FBI is allowed to bench Barton unofficially. And because Fury hates to waste resources, the op happens to target a person of interest to SHIELD.

Barton is assigned to provide back up for the undercover agents engaging in the meet. This time, the agent in charge gives Barton clear orders not to take a kill shot unless explicitly instructed to do so. Barton doesn't meet the agent's eyes as he acknowledges his orders.

Coulson watches through his binoculars until Barton settles into his perch, this time in an empty office in a building adjacent to the high rise where the FBI meet will take place. The building Barton is using is supposed to be secure, but Coulson has no problem hacking the electronic locks and making his way to Barton's chosen office. He leaves them twice as secure behind him.

He doesn't bother to knock, just opens the door and holds still until Barton lowers the pistol he's automatically drawn. Coulson smiles slightly. "Hello, Agent Barton. It's good to see you in the field again."

"You arranged this," Barton says.

"I did say I wanted to show you what SHIELD has to offer." Coulson walks up to stand next to Barton at the floor to ceiling glass windows. He pulls the binoculars out of the bag slung over his shoulder before dropping the rest of the field kit to the floor. The windows are tinted to be virtually opaque from the outside, but it's easy to see out and into the conference room on the equivalent floor across the way. The undercover agents are already there; they've invited their target to meet them.

"What, routine gigs where I spend hours staring through a scope, knowing that I'm worthless unless the op goes to shit?" Barton snaps.

Coulson cuts him a hard glance. "Don't be stupid. We both know better; that's what the FBI wants you for."

"And SHIELD--" Barton is cut off by his supervisor's voice, asking him to confirm that he's in position. He's a professional; he climbs onto the desk he's using to get himself level with his target and settles in before confirming his readiness over the comms.

Coulson knows that snipers need to be as relaxed as possible, but he needs to be close when the time comes, so he moves over by Barton now, his hip almost brushing Barton's shoulder. It makes the sniper tense, but it also gives him time to accept Coulson's position, to let his muscles go loose again.

The op kicks into gear, the other agents murmuring a steady stream of updates and instructions into their comms. The door to the conference room across the way opens and three men step inside to meet the undercover agents. They match the files from Coulson's briefing. Good.

"Target acquired," Barton murmurs.

"Hold, Barton," the agent in charge says sharply. "I don't care what happens, you damn well will not shoot a fly unless I say when and how."

"Yes sir," the sniper grates out.

"Agent Barton," Coulson says mildly.

Barton lets out a long breath. "What?"

"SHIELD would very much like to see Mr. Moore dead."

Silence lies heavy between them for a moment.

"If I take that shot," Barton says, "the FBI will kick my ass to the curb so fast it'll make my head spin."

Coulson smiles. "If you take that shot, the FBI won't have the chance. You'll come back to SHIELD with me. We have a lot of work for you."

"Jesus." Barton's voice is just slightly ragged, but he doesn't look up from his scope. "Who the hell are you guys?"

"We're the people who understand how the world works. We're the ones who let everyone else keep their illusions." Coulson stares through the window at Moore. Moore is speaking to the undercover agents now. "I don't think you have many illusions left, Agent Barton. If you're willing to let go of one more, SHIELD has a place for a man who...enjoys this work."

Barton's breath catches. Coulson wants very badly to touch him, but he still needs to take the shot.

"When?" Barton asks.

Excitement thrums through Coulson's veins. "Whenever you please."

Barton lets out a soft breath, almost a sigh. Coulson raises his binoculars and focuses on Moore. He only has to wait a moment before a neat hole appears in Moore's temple; blood and brain matter spray over the man sitting on the far side of him. Beside Coulson, Barton lets out a soft moan.

The conference room and Barton's comm alike erupt into chaos, but Coulson lowers the binoculars; the hacked locks will keep the two of them out of reach. He looks down at Barton; he's lowered the rifle and is resting his forehead against the desk. Coulson puts his hand on the back of Barton's neck and rubs his fingers through the sniper's short hair. "Beautiful shot." Barton shivers, but doesn't look up. "Roll over," Coulson orders.

It takes a moment, but Barton complies. His pants are tented, his dick pushing hard at the fly. Uncertainty and shame linger in his expression, but Coulson is within reach this time. He puts his palm right on Barton's groin and grinds the heel of his hand over the hot ridge of Barton's cock. Barton's eyes fall shut and he moans, hips jerking up into Coulson's touch.

Coulson keeps rubbing as he braces his other hand on the desk and leans down to take Barton's mouth with his. Barton moans and lets him in, sucks in Coulson's tongue and makes the most delicious, desperate sounds in the back of his throat. Coulson has to force himself to break the kiss so he can pull Barton up into a sitting position, his legs swinging around to hang over the edge of the desk. Stepping in between his knees, Coulson opens Barton's fly and slides his hand inside. Barton's cock is hot and thick in his palm and it swells further as he draws it out.

"Fuck," Barton pants, hanging onto Coulson's shoulders. "Fuck. Shouldn't we be getting out of here?"

"I secured the building. We have a few minutes." Coulson kisses him again, but Barton pulls away after a second, even though his hips are jerking up into Coulson's hand, pumping his cock steadily.

"You planned for this?" he asks, lips close enough that they brush Coulson's mouth. "Why?"

Coulson growls and pulls back to look at Barton. His lips are swollen, his eyes blown, but he's still holding back. Fortunately, Coulson knows just how to break him. "Because," he says, taking hold of one of Barton's wrists and moving his hand from Coulson's shoulder to his groin, where his dick strains at his suit pants, "no one has ever done this to me before."

Barton's eyes go wide and his breath catches. His hand curls around Coulson's rigid length and he makes a low, helpless noise in the back of his throat. Then he surges up off the desk, catching Coulson off guard and sending him stumbling backward. They tumble to the floor and Barton bends over Coulson's hips, tearing his pants open. He swallows Coulson's cock without even stopping for a lick and Coulson moans, his hands going to Barton's head. He slides his fingers into the short blond hair and pulls Barton down on his cock and Barton just takes it. No, he encourages it, his hands urging Coulson's hips up even as he swallows, throat convulsing around Coulson's dick.

There's no holding out against the reckless urgency with which Barton sucks him. Coulson moans and gasps and barely has the presence of mind to let Barton pull off enough to swallow his come as he climaxes. It doesn't end there, though, because Barton crawls up to kiss Coulson, his mouth tasting of come, and he's still hard and panting for it. "Next time," he says against Coulson's mouth, "I want you to fuck me."

Coulson gets his hand around Barton's cock. There's enough pre-come to help his grip slide a bit and he sets about jerking Barton off. "Next time," he returns, "I want you to use the bow."

Barton moans, thrusting hard into Coulson's hand. "They'll let me?" he pants.

"Yes," Coulson promises, rubbing his thumb over the head of Barton's cock.

"Oh, God," Barton gasps. "You, fuck, you've gotta come with me when I do. Watch me sink an arrow into some bastard's eye socket, all the way up to the fletching, and sink your cock into me after."

"Yes," Coulson says, low and hot, and Barton groans and goes still, cock pulsing wetly into Coulson's hand. He collapses onto the floor next to Coulson after and turns onto his back. They look up at the ceiling together for a moment as they catch their breath, but even the secured locks won't give them too much more time, so Coulson is on his feet soon enough. He cleans himself up with a couple of wet wipes from the field kit he brought, then offers a hand up and another set of wipes to Barton.

Barton smirks at him as he takes them. "These standard issue at SHIELD?"

"Standard issue is for agencies who can afford to average everyone out," Coulson says, checking over the room. He packs away his binoculars and sanitizes a couple of stray spots of come. "SHIELD tailors to its agents." Barton holds out his handful of wet wipes and Coulson packs them into the bag. "You want the rifle?"

Barton shakes his head. "Nah, fuck it. I'll use SHIELD's gear." He pauses. "We need to get my bow?"

The bow is high quality, but standard. The FBI weren't interested in encouraging that quirk. Coulson steps up close to Barton and puts a hand on Barton's jaw. "I'll have R&D make one to spec," he murmurs.

Barton moans and kisses him, hard and hungry.


"How's Barton settling in?" Fury asks, leaning back in his chair.

Coulson's lips curve, just slightly. "Very well. He's about a third of the way through our armory already, but he's just keeping himself busy until R&D finishes with the adjustments to the prototype bow."

Fury nods. "And the other agents? How's he handling them?"

"Better to ask how they're handing him," Coulson says dryly. "They're either terrified of him or convinced he's the best entertainment since reality TV. How someone that bloodthirsty can be that funny, I don't know. Comms are going to be an interesting place on his ops."

"As long as he gets the job done," Fury says. He steeples his hands. "And how are you enjoying Agent Barton?"

Coulson pauses, tilts his head. "Enjoying, sir?"

"Enjoying," Fury confirms.

It's an interesting word. Fury knows that he's fucking Barton, of course. Coulson didn't even bother arranging housing for the new Agent, just brought him back to his own apartment and cleared out a couple of drawers. Barton gives him shit for that occasionally, but only when he's looking for Coulson to hold him down and remind him just how much Coulson wants him.

But for Fury to ask like that...he's not asking how they're getting along, and he's not really interested in Barton's side of it. He's asking about Coulson.

"How much of this was planned?" Coulson asks. "And how much just anticipated?"

Fury chuckles. "Planned, Coulson. Every part of it. I had psych crawling through potential recruit files for a year and a half before finding Barton. You're a hard man to please."

It's a neat arrangement. Barton is twice tied to SHIELD--that kill shot burned his bridges with the FBI for good, and his proclivities won't be tolerated, much less encouraged, anywhere else. Meanwhile, Coulson has gotten in so deep with Barton he knows he couldn't stand not having him. It's a solid guarantee.

So Coulson smiles and says, "Thoroughly." Fury raises an eyebrow. "You asked how I was enjoying Agent Barton, sir. The answer is 'thoroughly'."

Fury snorts. "Feel free to keep the details to yourself." He reaches into his jacket pocket and withdraws something. He tosses it on the table and it skids over to stop in front of Coulson. "That's for you."

It's an access card stamped 'Level 7'. Coulson picks it up slowly. "I thought there were six levels."

Fury grins. "Welcome to the upper echelons, Agent Coulson."