Clint's first thought is: "Well, this isn't my apartment." His second thought is: "Oh shit," because that's when he sees the munchkin dragon come barreling around the corner.
Clint leaps onto the bed, sparing a moment to be apologetic about the fact that his filthy shoes are definitely ruining the sheets. But his more pressing concern is definitely the munchkin dragon that is glaring at him with golden eyes. It was about the size of a corgi, maybe a little smaller, and its wings weren't fully developed. Probably the only reason he wasn't a pile of smouldering ashes yet.
Despite its size, munchkin dragons were notoriously vicious when angered. And one of the few ways to anger them was to either insult them or invade their territory. Clint's teleportation spell going wonky and him winding up here? Definitely counted as invading its territory. Not to mention the fact that he could already see the eighteen caterwauling charms in place. Charms that notify the owner when magics are being worked in the house. Because dragons use magic of their own nature, they don't register on the same frequency as human or human-like magic does so Clint knows the owner is on his way.
And he knows the owner is a man because he can see the dirty hamper with briefs and he can see the closet full of nicely pressed suits. The munchkin dragon starts to growl, nostrils flaring and smoke trickling from its mouth.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry!" Clint says hastily. "I was heading home and something went wrong with my spell."
The dragon does not look convinced. It shakes its head, blowing out more smoke. He can see that the munchkin has a miniature tie with the proper nametag and registration documents attached to it. It's at least registered then, he doesn't have to worry about having stumbled into an illegal dragon breeding nest. Because those exist, he knows they do, he's stumbled into one before and left with a number of scars and scalds. By far, the most dangerous situation he'd ended up in and he hadn't entered the den illegally. He has definitely entered this apartment illegally. Teleporting while under the influence kids, don't do it. He should have known better but it was minus eighteen outside and his apartment building was twenty minutes away.
The munchkin reared up on her hind legs, blowing a smoke ring at his face. Her scales were rippling between magenta and a lovely blush red that was screaming warning signs at Clint. She was definitely going to light his ass on fire. He couldn't even say she was out of her rights to do it, as she was defending her property. The front door slammed open just as Clint leapt onto the nightstand table, narrowly avoiding the pouncing dragonet's claws as she leaped for him, a flicker of flame around her muzzle.
"Lola, down!" shouted a warm male voice.
The dragonet dropped obediently to the floor, her scales rippling into crimson red. Clint wobbled precariously on the nightstand; he could feel that it was ready to collapse with a single wrong move. And the angry dragonet was still glaring at him, her tail twitching like a furious cat. She squealed, a high pitched offensive sound to communicate her displeasure.
The owner of the apartment walked into his bedroom and caught sight of Clint. He blinked once. "What are you doing in my house, Barton?"
Of course it had to be Coulson. Clint worked in the Department of Relocation and Support (for Wild and Unregistered Animagia) but most people just called it the DRS. Animagia were considered to be any creature with magical ability, whether born, cursed or charmed that way. Clint's job was primarily to return the animagia into the wilderness or find a sanctuary willing to protect the creature. Coulson worked in the Department of Registering Animagia (also known as the DRA.) Last year, their departments had been in an inter-departmental competition to see who could register or relocate more animagia over the holidays. As both Clint and Coulson were single and without families, they were unanimously voted up as representatives. Coulson had won by three registrations –a dragonet, chimera and one lovely hippogriff that every sanctuary Clint had appealed to had refused to take. When rehoming and sanctuaries were unavailable, the DRS had no choice but to pass the animagia onto the DRA. Offer the animagia for adoption and register the owners, prepare home visits and some supervision.
"I took a wrong turn?" Clint offered weakly.
"Get off my nightstand before you break it," Coulson sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"Yes sir," Clint said cheerily, hopping off the nightstand effortlessly. It swayed a few times before settling.
"Did you… stand on my bed?" Coulson demanded, sounding affronted.
Clint didn't really blame him for it either; his shoes had seen better days. "Your munchkin dragon was charging me and it was the nearest escape route."
"I don't let Lola on my bed for exactly this reason," Coulson griped, pulling the muddy duvet off. "And then you go and jump on my bed like a four year old."
"I didn't mean to end up here! I was headed home, okay?" If Clint didn't know Coulson any better, he might have said something unsavory about his skills at training Lola but he knew that once a year, Coulson would help out the handlers.
"Have you been drinking?" Coulson gaped; staring at him like it was unheard of.
"I had two beers!" Clint fired back. "I'm not even drunk."
"And what would have happened if you'd teleported into a dragon nest? Or someone who was educating a Minotaur? They would've torn you apart! This is why you can't drink and do magic –it makes your magic unstable and teleportation is especially dangerous! You could have left half your body at the pub and the other half here and then what would I do?!"
"I know!" Clint grumbled. "Look, I'm sorry, okay?"
"Teleportation spells are the most complicated for a reason, Barton. Promise me you won't do it again."
"Yeah, I promise," Clint muttered. He chanced a baleful glance at Lola who was now a shimmery magenta, her head turning to follow each of them as they spoke. "I'll get out of your hair now."
The next two days at work, he didn't see Coulson. So he did the next logical thing. He went out and bought a plum duvet and casually snuck into Coulson's office afterhours where he stashed the bedsheet. He didn't even leave a note; he figured the clue would be obvious. He really hadn't meant to break into Coulson's or ruin his sheets or scare his munchkin dragon. For added measure, just in case Coulson was still upset about the whole thing (and Clint wouldn't blame him if he was) he bought some high quality pegasi-flavored treats and snuck those in behind the duvet. And for added measure, he bought a small bottle of kelpie spit –useful for any daring fire dragonet who liked to play in water. Much like the pegasi-flavored treats would help Lola's wings develop; the kelpie spit would protect her from any water damage.
The next weekend, he was walking home from dinner when he felt the effects of a spell take hold of him. It wasn't a feeling he was accustomed to, as it was considered assault if another witch or wizard performed magic unsolicited on another person. The fuzzy magic wrapped around him, humming and buzzing and he realized it was a teleportation spell that snatched him up and deposited him smack dab on Coulson's comforter. The only reason he recognized it as such was because Coulson was lying in bed.
"Barton?" Coulson croaked, blinking at him blearily. "What are you doing here?"
Clint waggled his eyebrows. "I thought you summoned me."
"No," Coulson said slowly, staring at him. "It's…" he paused to look at the clock on his nightstand. "It's ten o'clock at night. What are you doing in my house?"
"What are you doing in bed at this time of night?" Clint retorted, stepping off the bed. He mentally winced; the duvet would have to be washed again, his shoes worse-off than three days ago when he'd been here.
(It wasn't his fault his job required him to go traversing New York sewers with no notice and no forewarning that it was the sewers he would be travelling through just to see if the basilisk little Timmy had accidentally flushed down the toilet had survived. Finding one pissed off basilisk was easy; capturing it was infinitely harder.)
"I'm sick?" Coulson said thickly, and then sneezed wetly as though to emphasize it. He made a gross, unhappy noise and reached for the box of Kleenex.
Clint winced sympathetically. "Did you want any chicken noodle soup?" he offered. "I have leftovers from Samson's."
Coulson blew his nose loudly and slowly sat up in bed. He eyed Clint suspiciously for a long moment. "Okay," he agreed, reluctantly.
Clint handed him the bowl and the plastic spoon that they'd given him. Samson's hated having leftover food, so whoever was around at closing time got offers to take the leftovers. The homeless were served first and when they had a fair share, if there was extra; it went to the remaining customers. There hadn't been much chicken noodle soup left, but Clint had been more than willing to take it off their hands. Here now, he thought it was rather well-timed.
He startled when Lola butted her head against his leg. Her scales were flickering a lilac purple of concern and Clint lifted her easily. She tensed up immediately, her leathery wings brushing against his hands as she clawed at the air. But as soon as she laid eyes on Coulson, she made a contented mew and wiggled until Clint had set her down again. Dragons were a protective and inquisitive bunch; they hated being left out of the loop and not knowing what was going on. It was no surprise she was so concerned about Coulson.
"You can go home," Coulson said. "I'll be fine. And –thanks for the soup."
It was the weirdest thing to happen to Clint all day. Later, he tried to find evidence of who had cast a teleportation spell on him but there were no records of any spells being cast in his vicinity in the Department of Magical Happenings. It was as if the whole experience was simply… magical. Which made no sense whatsoever, so Clint decided it was a freak accident of nature.
He didn't see Coulson for the rest of that week. But next week, he heard that people were joking and asking Coulson about the mysterious treats for his baby Lola and his new bedding. It was a small office scandal, apparently, because it meant that Coulson actually existed outside of work. It also apparently meant that Coulson had a relationship with someone outside of work. Clint had to resist the urge to snort when their enthusiastic intern Pietro babbled about the story.
The third time it happened, Clint was jogging in Central Park. He was nowhere near his house or using a teleportation spell when he was snatched out of thin air and deposited into the middle of Coulson's living room. Lola was screaming; her claws ripping through the carpet as the balaclava douchebag tried to carry her out. Clint had the satisfaction of punching him in the face when the door swung open to reveal Coulson and two Magical Enforcement Officers. For trespassing, they brought Clint into the station. They booked the other douchebag and Clint was pretty sure Coulson must have said a few words in Clint's defense because after a lengthy lecture on respecting privacy and limiting his teleportation, they let him go.
When Clint came into work at lunch the next day, he found a box of pizza on his desk with his name on it. It was the best pizza he'd ever eaten. And, shamefully, it took him another two days before he discovered the thank you note written in Coulson's precise handwriting tucked in a drawer where Clint kept his toy nerf guns and darts locked up. He was more impressed at how Coulson had known the secret drawer even existed, than he was in the fact that Coulson had gotten the note in past the lock.
There wasn't a fourth time so much as there was an accident. A horde of dragonets had hatched and were loose in the city and there weren't enough registered foster placements or room at the local sanctuaries which resulted in the DRS and the DRA fighting for resources. It got ugly really quick, with Clint's supervisor going so far as to send Clint to steal supplies from the DRA. And, it just so happened, that Coulson had been sent on the same task to prevent the other from filing paperwork in order to give them more time to vet the new applications that had come pouring in.
Clint had his arms full of a box of pens when the supply door swung open and then shut and he was face-to-face with Coulson. There was just enough space for one person in the supply closet, but with two, they were practically chest to chest except for the box in Clint's arms that wedged them apart. He heard the lock snick and cast an alarmed glance at Coulson.
"Shit," he said eloquently.
Coulson raised an eyebrow. "Are you raiding our supply room in order to find more time to home dragonets, Barton?"
Clint refused to acknowledge just how right he was. He trusted Wilson's judgement. "No. Of course not –we just ran out of pens." He glanced down at the box that was full of hundreds of pens, more than his office could ever use. He glared at them like it was personally the pens' fault for being so numerous.
"Right. And I suppose you needed some extras."
Coulson just sighed. "And you forgot to unlock the door beforehand?"
"It was a secret mission."
"So now we're stuck in here together."
"Yes, unless you know how to pick locks."
"Not a spell in my repertoire," Coulson replied dryly.
"We can bang against the door and call for help," Clint suggested. He could have unlocked the door with a spell but then no body trusted a guy who knew how to spell open an unlocked door. And if Coulson didn't know how then how on earth had he managed to get that thank you note in his secret drawer?
"I hadn't thought of that," Coulson drawled. He sighed and then started knocking on the door.
Eventually, just so they would both have enough room, and to give his arms a rest, Clint set the box of pens down and was in the process of changing places with Coulson, awkwardly pressed up against him when the door swung open.
"Coulson and Barton?" Tony whistled. "I didn't think Coulson had it in him to be this kinky –and you know what? I am never using this supply closet again." He made a face, stepping away.
"It's not like that!" Coulson said quickly, blushing as he squeezed out of the room after Clint.
Clint supposed one advantage to being in the DRS was that his supervisor was Sam Wilson –not Tony Stark. Tony would never let Coulson live this one down. Sam, even if he heard about it, would likely never acknowledge it.
Clint wasn't sure who had started the rumor, but he found himself sitting across from Director Fury and bouncing his leg anxiously while they both waited for Coulson to show up. It was a dumb rumor really, just wild speculation and completely false accusation. And if he ever found who had started it, he was going to get into a brawl in the parking lot with the asshole. Even if it was Tony Stark.
"Agent Coulson, so glad you could join us," Director Fury snapped.
"Sorry sir," Coulson said, quickly sitting down beside Clint.
A quick glance at him and Clint couldn't even tell if he knew what he'd been called into the boss's office for. Clint wished he didn't know and hoped he wouldn't have to find out how Coulson was going to react to the news.
"It's come to my attention that you two were caught canoodling in the office supply room."
"No sir, Director Fury," Coulson said adamantly.
Clint couldn't help the disbelieving snort that got caught in his throat. He coughed, tried to pretend it hadn't been him but both Coulson and Fury were watching him keenly. "We were in the supply closet at the same time," Clint said jovially. "Nothing happened other than two guys getting locked in."
"Because somebody didn't remember to unlock the door," Coulson pointed out sharply. He turned his attention back to the Director. "I'm sorry for the inconvenience these false rumors have caused you, but I swear nothing happened, sir. And nothing will ever happen! Certainly not in my place of work."
That sounded just like Coulson.
"For a couple of guys who were trapped in a supply closet for almost an hour," Fury mused, "it sounds like you're doing a lot of protesting."
Clint and Coulson shared a concerned look for half a second before they both broke their gazes and looked away.
Fury exhaled loudly. "Get out of my office."
It was Christmas Eve, finally two weeks after being called into Fury's office and no further incidents with Coulson he decided he was ready to risk Christmas hassle in order to get a nice meal. Considering his day at work, he didn't think it was too much to ask. Dealing with a fully grown Kulshedra who was spitting acid and trying to eat everything in sight wasn't an easy day –the damn dragon ate nine goats, two sheep and was working on a bull by the time Clint had arrived. And then, it flared its eyes open and tried to eat him. Because Kulshedra's –an Albanian cross of a dragon and hydra –favorite food was humans. It took twelve hours to calm it down, get it used to human contact and call in a sanctuary that was willing to house and feed it. Not humans –pigs made for an easier and just as filling taste.
Clint was halfway to Samson's when it happened again. Green wrapped around him and he found himself back in Coulson's living room. This time it was to be greeted by a very cheerful Lola who chirruped proudly at him and flounced into the kitchen. Clint trailed after her helplessly. Coulson was bent over his counter, methodically dicing some vegetables. Lola whistled at him proudly, her tail erect.
"What is it Lola?" he asked, turning around.
Clint was pretty sure he'd never seen Coulson so casual in his life. He was wearing a soft blue Henley with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and a pair of his trousers. His hair was casually messy and he was wearing a pair of glasses. Clint's mouth went dry.
"How did you get in here again?" Coulson asked, but he was amused and not angry.
"Magic," Clint replied, the way other people would say aliens.
Coulson laughed. Lola made a pleased little chirrup again.
"Would you like to stay for dinner today, Clint?"
Clint blinked. "If you want me to."
"I'm asking you, because I want you to want it too," Coul –Phil said. This was Phil –he was without his trademark suit and he seemed at ease here in a way Clint had never see him before.
"I'd like that," Clint said lightly, approaching him. "But I just want to know if this has anything to do with all those rumors flying around work."
Phil smirked. "I was thinking since you seem to show up here so often and all, that maybe we should get people talking more."
Clint eyed him appreciatively. "I can agree to that, Phil."
Phil smiled at him warmly. Lola butted her head against Clint's leg until he was standing in Phil's space. Lola gave a demanding chirp, her scales shimmering to a baby pink.
"What are you, some kind of love dragon?" Clint demanded, looking down at her. "Cupid's dragon? What more do you want?"
Lola snapped her mouth open and closed harmlessly, watching them expectantly.
Phil crossed his arms and leaned around Clint to stare his dragonet down. "I'm not kissing him if you're going to be like that."
Lola made a plaintive noise, blinking her gold eyes at them before she turned and stared away. Phil's kiss was quick and teasing, lingering just long enough for Clint to want more before the other man had pulled away.