Clint Barton jerked awake and the sharp movement sent pain shooting through his abused muscles. He’d curled up in a plastic chair that was definitely not designed for sleeping, but there was no way in hell he was leaving SHIELD medical for anything. Not until Phil was ready to go home, anyway. With a muffled curse, he reached up to massage the protesting muscles in his neck, his eyes still fixed on the man in the hospital bed beside him. Phil wasn’t so pale anymore, but there was enough humming equipment and IVs sticking out of him to prove how seriously he’d been hurt. It had been bad this time. Maybe not as bad as getting stabbed through the chest by an alien with a frightening need to destroy everything Clint cared about, but close enough. Phil had taken a bullet to the chest and another to the stomach while he’d tried to protect his new team and the idea that Clint hadn’t been there to do anything about it still terrified the crap out of him.
When Phil groaned softly again, Clint grinned in relief. “Hey there, sleepy head,” he said, getting to his feet so Phil could see him without moving too much.
Phil slowly blinked open blue eyes that were still dazed from the cocktail of antibiotics and painkillers they were pumping into him and Clint couldn’t help the rush of intense relief and happiness at that familiar gaze. Phil had had one too many brushes with death lately and they were definitely going to have a conversation about that as soon as Phil was weaned off the morphine.
“Hellooo,” Phil rasped, his voice sounding rough and scratchy.
Fighting another grin, Clint reached for the cup of water by the bed and carefully helped Phil drink a few mouthfuls to wet his throat. “How are you feeling?” Clint asked him when he’d put the cup back on the table beside the bed.
Phil screwed up his entire face. “Sore,” he complained. “It hurts.”
“I know it does, baby,” Clint said, his hand reaching out of its own accord. He slid his fingers lightly into Phil’s hair and stroked his thumb over Phil’s temple.
“Mmm,” Phil slurred, curling slightly into the touch. “Tha’s nice.”
Phil blinked up at him, his eyes finding Clint’s and seeming to get lost there for a moment, his gaze soft and endearingly adorable in a way he never was unless he was drugged up to his eyeballs on the good stuff. Clint didn’t mind, but it did make moments like this a little more humorous than they otherwise would be. “Did the doctor send you?” Phil asked after a moment, wrinkling his nose faintly in confusion. “Are you my nurse?”
Clint felt both his eyebrows rise. The doctor had warned him that Phil would be a little out of it when he woke up, but Clint hadn’t expected Phil to completely forget him. Ignoring the pang of fear, Clint reminded himself that there had been nothing weird about Phil’s most recent mission and that his confusion was probably just all the drugs he was being fed.
Phil’s eyes fell to Clint’s biceps and lingered there, before he lifted his eyes to Clint’s face. From the way his lips curled into a small, but devious smirk, Phil probably thought he was being subtle about it too. “You’re pretty,” Phil said, still a little dazed. “Hot. Like an angel. Or a movie star.” He trailed off as his eyes slid shut again, before he forced them open again a second later. “Wait, no. I don’t want to sleep.”
“It’s okay, Phil,” Clint said quietly, still stroking Phil’s temple. “I’m sure everything will be clearer when you wake up again.”
Phil frowned. Clint expected an argument, because he knew how stubborn Phil was on a good day, but Phil just stared up at him again. “What’s your name?” he said.
Arching an eyebrow, Clint reminded himself this was the drugs talking. “My name is Clint,” he replied.
“Are you my friend?” Phil asked, tilting his head a little, studying Clint.
Clint wasn’t entirely sure how to answer that. Reaching down, he caught Phil’s hand and tangled their fingers together. Absently, Clint stroked his thumb along the warm metal of Phil’s wedding ring to remind himself it was still there. “You really don’t remember, do you?” he said.
Phil crinkled his entire face again. “Remember what?”
Clint laughed softly. He couldn’t help it. “Phil,” he said leaning down a little. “We’re married. I’m your husband.”
Phil’s eyes went wide. “You’re my husband?” he said, before a slow and incredibly happy smile widened across his face. “My husband. My husband?”
Ignoring the way his breath caught in his throat at the way Phil’s eyes lit up, Clint nodded. “I am,” he agreed.
“Really?” Phil breathed and Clint knew it was probably mostly his imagination, but he could have sworn in that moment he watched Phil fall in love with him all over again. “I have no idea what it was that I did to get you to marry me, but it must have been good.” Phil’s eyebrows furrowed. “You’re going to have to remind me what that was,” he said very seriously, “because I need to do it again. And again.”
Helplessly, Clint laughed softly again, before he stretched his leg out behind him and pulled his chair forward so he could sit as close to the bed as possible. Pressing a kiss to Phil’s knuckles as Phil squeezed back, Clint used his free hand to tap the ring on Phil’s finger and draw his attention to it. “You don’t need to do anything, Phil,” he said quietly. “You’re stuck with me for life. We’re just going to have to work on making sure you don’t make that any shorter than it has to be, okay?”
Just the thought of Phil almost dying -- again -- squeezed Clint’s heart like a vice. Refusing to admit the tears prickling his eyes, he dropped his forehead to rest on his and Phil’s joined hands and blinked at the hospital sheets for a moment. It had taken Clint a long time to accept that Phil could love him as much as he did and Clint was going to fight with everything he had to keep that for as long as he could.
At the sound of a knock on the door, Clint looked up, but he refused to let go of Phil’s hand. Whoever it was was just going to have to get used to Clint sitting there. “Ah…” Agent Ward said awkwardly from the doorway. “I can come back later.”
“It’s okay,” Clint told him, waving him into the room with his free hand and ignoring the way Phil was attempting to regain his attention by poking Clint in the arm, but failing because his hand-eye coordination still wasn’t up to its usual level. “Although he’s pretty out of it right now.”
For a moment, Ward eyed Clint warily, obviously taking in his haggard appearance and wrinkled clothes, before he sidled into the room, looking distinctly uncomfortable. Clint caught Phil’s finger before it poked him in the eye by accident. “Phil?” he asked his husband, his eyebrows raised in question.
“Are you sure you married me?” Phil said.
Rolling his eyes, Clint held up his left hand so Phil could see the ring on his finger. Phil’s eyes went soft and warm and had to bite back another laugh as Phil forgot he was still holding Clint’s hand when he tried to stare at the rings side by side. Clint met Ward’s eyes over the bed. “Some of the heavy-duty painkillers hit Phil pretty hard,” Clint explained, taking pity on the way Ward was eyeing the door as if he wanted to flee for his life.
“Hellooo,” Phil said, turning his head towards Ward as if on cue. “Who are you?”
“Uh…,” Ward said. “I’m Agent Ward, sir.”
Phil nodded, before he pointed at Clint with another silly grin. “That’s my husband,” he said. “He married me.”
“Yes, sir,” Ward said, nodding along as if he was in a briefing.
Clint rolled his eyes again. “So what brings you here, Agent Ward?” he asked.
“He saved my life,” Ward said simply, but the way his eyes slid towards Phil spoke volumes.
Having read the mission report and based on his own background, Clint nodded, because he had an idea of what Ward was grappling with. “He’s good at that,” Clint replied.
Phil squinted at him. “What am I good at?” he asked.
“Lots of things, baby,” Clint said, smiling at Phil. “Including saving people.”
For a moment, Phil thought about that. “Is that why you married me?” he said.
Clint almost expected Ward to flee at that point. Not that he cared much, but Clint knew what it was like to get that first glimpse of Phil underneath Agent Coulson. Clint had also never been able to resist his husband when he looked at Clint like that. Rising to his feet again, Clint leaned over the bed. “Yeah, Phil, you saved me,” he said quietly, “but I married you because I love you.”
Phil’s eyes widened and Clint watched the smile that overtook his whole face. It was soft and surprised, and even if Phil couldn’t remember their anniversary right now, there was no mistaking the love shining in those kind blue eyes. Leaning closer, Clint pressed a gentle kiss to Phil’s lips.
Clint almost laughed when he heard Ward awkwardly clearing his throat a second later. “You know, I’m definitely going to come back later,” he said. “When you’re… not busy.”
Outside the door, Clint heard a set of familiar footsteps that meant they were about to be interrupted, but Phil made a soft, disappointed sound and grabbed him by the front of his t-shirt as Clint moved to pull away. Smiling, Clint obliged his husband with another kiss, because Maria and Ward could just deal with it.
“Agent Ward,” Maria Hill greeted when she walked in, a faint undercurrent of displeasure in her voice.
“Agent Hill,” Ward replied, his voice bland. “I was just leaving.”
“It won’t help,” Maria said dryly. “They’ll still be disgustingly mushy when you come back.”
Turning to greet her with a winning smile, Clint winked. “Agent Hill, to what do we owe this pleasure?”
“Hello,” Phil said. “Who are you?”
Maria’s eyes darted between Clint and the bed. She arched an eyebrow. “He’s as high as a kite, isn’t he?” she said, but her eyes were dancing.
Clint shrugged and grinned. “I did warn Doctor Hernandez about the painkillers,” he said.
Pressing her lips together as if she was holding back a laugh, Maria shook her head. “Just what I need,” she muttered. “A loopy senior agent who doesn’t know who anyone is.”
“I do!” Phil protested from the bed, before pointing at Clint. “That’s my husband. I saved him and now he loves me.”
Ward, trapped by Maria still standing in the doorway, started eyeing the walls and window for alternate escape routes. Maria buried her face in her hand and laughed. Clint turned to smile fondly at his husband. "You're going to love this when you sober up," he said.
Phil frowned. "I don't like Sober Me if he's not proud of you," he said.
The burst of warmth started somewhere deep in Clint’s chest. From the first time they’d met, Clint had known that Phil Coulson was a good man and moments like this just proved that all over again. “You are proud, Phil,” he said softly. “You just don’t usually go around pointing at me and telling everyone I’m your husband.”
“I don’t?” Phil said, furrowing his eyebrows. “I should.”
“Okay, that’s it,” Maria said. “I’m going to get a coffee. Any more of this sickeningly cute crap and I’m going to throw up. Barton, call me when he’s back to being an asshole again.”
“Ah…” Ward said, almost leaping forward in his haste to leave. “I’ll come with you.” At Maria’s glare, he blinked. “Ma’am,” he added.
Clint watched Maria and Ward leave with a smile, almost tempted to say something sappy just to see if Ward would make that constipated expression again. He was beginning to see why Phil liked messing with the younger agent so much. Not that Ward would suspect anything. Phil’s poker face was legendary -- at least when he wasn’t stuck in medical on painkillers. When Clint shifted his attention back to his husband again, he saw Phil’s eyes were slowly sliding shut. “Sleep, Phil,” he said softly. “I’ll help you steal the surveillance footage from Maria later.”
“Mm, ‘kay,” Phil murmured. “Love you.”
“I love you too,” Clint said.
Pressing a kiss to Phil’s forehead, Clint curled his fingers a little tighter around his husband’s and took his seat beside the bed again to watch over Phil while he slept.