Since I wasn’t allowed to call this its working title (The Ridiculous Wedding Fic of Shame), the title paraphrased from Vienna Teng’s City Hall.
Title: Now We’ve Learned To Kiss The Sky (AO3 Link)
Fandom: The Avengers (movie ‘verse)
Pairing: Clint Barton/Phil Coulson
Word count: 13,800
Warnings: None. Just a little bit of action movie violence.
Notes: I have no one to blame but myself for this – although certain people on twitter did not talk me out of it when given the chance! With massive thanks to harborshore for an awesome (as always) beta.
Clint’s just finishing getting dressed when there’s a commotion on the first floor followed by Tony’s voice floating up the stairs.
“Clinton, your young man’s here,” he calls in a warbling falsetto.
Clint grins, tucking his shirt into his pants and checking his hair in the mirror. “Coming, Mom,” he yells back and he’s probably imagining the sigh he hears from Phil but it makes him laugh anyway.
The mansion is crazy big and Phil never comes to the front door – mostly so he can try to avoid Tony, Clint is pretty sure – so Clint heads through to the lounge above the garage, looking for him there.
Phil is standing on one side of the room. He’s alone, which is unexpected since the others are always clamouring for his attention whenever he stops by – well, okay, not just the others, Clint too – and he looks damn fine, dressed up in grey slacks and a black button down.
“Hey,” Clint says, taking advantage of the fact that they’re alone to step up and kiss Phil’s mouth.
Phil pulls back, one hand on Clint’s hip and just kind of looks at him. Clint makes a face, confused.
“What?” he asks, looking down at himself as well. There’s no toothpaste down his shirt or anything else that Phil might object to, at least as far as he can tell.
Phil shakes his head. “You look good,” he says and there’s still something off about his voice but Clint isn’t going to press him. If Phil’s having some kind of emotion, he’s not going to tell Clint and Clint wouldn’t know what to do with it if he did.
“What did you do with Stark?” Clint asks. “Are we gonna start noticing a weird smell under the carpet in a couple of days?”
“Please,” Phil says, “I know how to hide a body better than that.”
Clint takes hold of the hand Phil has left on his hip and pulls him across the room. “Which is why you’re the coolest,” he agrees. “Ready?”
“Yes,” Phil says, sounding weird again, much firmer than Clint would expect considering they’re just going out to grab some dinner.
“Sure everything’s okay?” Clint asks when they’re in the elevator down to the parking lot. He could say sure you’re okay? but they only ever go that far when one of them’s bleeding out.
“Yes,” Phil says shortly then stops, takes a breath and squeezes Clint’s hand. “Sorry, long day. Not helped by Stark’s…”
“Existence?” Clint offers since Phil is obviously trying to be polite.
Phil laughs. “Exactly.” He pulls Clint closer and kisses the corner of his mouth. “You do look great.”
Clint has no idea what to say to that. It’s an old shirt but the jeans are new and he feels kind of dumb about having gone shopping just because Phil told him to dress up a bit tonight.
“If I wasn’t sure JARVIS was recording it, I’d shove you up against the nearest wall,” Clint says at last. It’s not really got anything to do with anything, except that it’s true. Phil was in Lima for three weeks, only got back this afternoon; if Clint had his way, they’d be skipping dinner and heading straight to the bedroom.
Phil’s eyes flick up to the two visible cameras positioned in opposite corners of the elevator. “JARVIS, a little privacy?”
“Of course, sir,” JARVIS says, “Although I’m afraid I can only guarantee forty-three point five seconds before Mr Stark becomes curious.”
“That’ll do fine,” Phil tells him, apparently not in the least embarrassed to be bargaining for make-out time with an AI.
The elevator glides to a smooth halt, going dark except for the green emergency light. Clint laughs, surprised by the force that Phil uses to pin him to the mirrored wall. Phil kisses him as though it’s been three years rather than three weeks, leaving Clint with nothing to do but curl his hands around Phil’s shoulders and rub shamelessly up against his hip.
“Fuck,” Clint says feelingly once their forty-three point five seconds are over and the doors are opening, leaving them blinking at each other in the harsh light from the parking lot.
Phil clears his throat. “We can skip dinner, if you want,” he offers.
It’s tempting. It’s really fucking tempting. But Phil wanted to take Clint out to dinner and they pretty much never get to go on real dates, so, “Nah,” Clint says, “I’m hungry now. You promised me food.”
Normally, Clint can read Phil really well, but right now, he can’t tell if he’s relieved or disappointed. To be honest, he just looks constipated. Clint wonders what happened on the Peru mission and if that’s the reason for Phil’s not-quite-Phil-like behaviour.
“Come on then,” Phil says, walking around to the driver’s side door of his weekend car, a damn fine convertible that he never normally brings within a hundred miles of anything Avengers-related. “I got us a table at this new Thai place in the city. It got a, um, a good write-up in the inflight magazine.”
Clint blinks. Since when does Phil have time to read inflight magazines? Besides, they normally go to the local diner or, if they’re feeling particularly adventurous, Sbarros. He checks the date in his head – it’s not his birthday, it’s not Phil’s birthday and they both pretend not to know when their anniversary is. (It’s not today.)
“Okay,” he says slowly because he’s not going to ask. He drops into the car and swings his feet up onto the dash, smirking sideways at Phil when he grumbles under his breath but doesn’t ask Clint to move them.
“You can pick the music,” Phil says, which is another surprise since Phil is kind of anal about that.
“Seriously, it’s not my birthday, is it?” Clint asks. Sometimes they lose a month or so Avenging, so possibly he should check.
“No,” Phil says and puts the car in drive.
Okay, then. Clint fiddles with the radio until he finds a classic rock station then kicks back and air guitars along to some Zeppelin.
The restaurant is small and dimly lit – for the atmosphere, Clint guesses; that or they can’t be bothered to spruce up their paint job. The waitress leads them to a table in a quiet corner; it’s so small that their knees bump when they sit down, but Clint kind of likes that.
“Sorry,” Phil says, trying to move his knees to the side.
Clint drops his hand down and rests it on Phil’s thigh. “It’s okay,” he says.
Phil smiles at him, quick and distracted, then orders a beer. Clint does the same and the waitress leaves them alone.
“Sorry,” Phil says again. “I thought this place would be… bigger.”
Clint would seriously like to know why Phil wants tonight to be so goddamn special. They’ve grabbed dinner together a million times by now and they’ve been apart way longer than three weeks before.
“I like it,” Clint tells him honestly.
Phil doesn’t answer, just focuses on unfolding his napkin, apparently concentrating hard on spreading it out across his lap.
The waitress reappears, setting down their beers and taking their food orders. She keeps shooting little looks at Phil, which make Clint feel smug; damn right, his boyfriend is the hottest.
“She likes you,” he sing-songs once she’s out of earshot.
Phil rolls his eyes. “Right. She’s probably just seen me on the news trailing after you guys and she’s telling me with her eyes to pick a new career.”
“Nope.” Clint leans back in his chair, arms folded across his chest. “She thinks you’re damn fine and she wants to have your little ninja-waitress babies.”
Phil’s blushing, just a little splash of colour across each cheek but it’s enough to make him glare at Clint, which is basically one of Clint’s favourite things ever.
“Shouldn’t you be jealous, then?” he asks, like he’s humouring Clint.
Clint shakes his head. They’ve foolishly left a little bowl of toothpicks in the centre of the table and it’s taking a lot of effort not to start pinging them around the room. “Just means I have awesome taste.”
Phil rolls his eyes so Clint grins harder at him. He reaches for a couple of toothpicks but Phil’s quicker, tugging the bowl across the table and out of Clint’s immediate reach. “Behave,” he says sternly.
Clint pokes his tongue out. Phil sticks his face in his beer, probably to hide a smile.
They chat easily over dinner. Everything’s easy with Phil; which makes him different from pretty much everyone else. Clint’s great at talking but pretty shitty at maintaining a conversation.
Phil’s still jittery though, a tension in his spine and shoulders, even when he starts in on his second beer.
“Hey,” Clint says, dropping his fork onto his now-empty plate and leaning forward. “You’re not being shipped off to Asgard for the next millennium, are you?”
Phil just blinks at him, so that’s probably not the answer then. (Good.)
“You’re just being kind of – ” Clint waves a hand, not really sure how to phrase normally, I make you more relaxed, without sounding weird or needy.
“Oh.” Phil clears his throat and looks away.
Clint definitely does not start to imagine life in a post-Phil world. Clint is secure in his relationship, thank you very much. (A post-Phil world would involve a fuck load of alcohol and, Clint suspects, some alarmingly phrased pep talks from Thor.)
Phil puts down his cutlery and squares his shoulders. “I’m going to ask you something,” he says and then pauses and doesn’t ask Clint anything at all.
“Yeah?” Clint asks, leaning forward and resting his elbows on the table. “Is it kinky?” It isn’t, obviously; Phil never has a problem suggesting anything when it comes to sex.
Phil shakes his head. He looks up, catching and holding Clint’s eyes. Clint doesn’t make any more smartass comments. “Marry me?” Phil asks.
Clint’s brain goes momentarily offline. Phil’s still looking at him, pale and still constipated-looking. Clint moves his mouth but it takes a while for sounds to come out.
The word he finally settles on is: “How?”
Phil’s shoulders relax the tiniest fraction, like this is a question he’s prepared for in advance. (Of course it is.) “City Hall. Non-disclosure agreements. Potentially fake names.”
“Oh.” Clint nods. For some reason, he’s finding it really hard not to laugh. Maybe he’s in shock. “That does sound real romantic.”
Phil winces, which is problem since Clint had just been running his mouth; he hadn’t meant it as a real complaint. “I know it would be awkward,” he says slowly, “and I know I’m not destiny’s dream man or anything, but I would like to. If you would.”
Clint finds that he’s nodding and then finds that he’s okay with that. “Yeah,” he says then clears his throat, figuring this deserves a whole word. “Yes.”
Phil smiles. It’s bright and blinding and only lasts a second before he reins it in to something more dignified but it’s still everything Clint needs to convince himself that this is the right decision.
“But,” he says, feeling brave. “No fake names. If I’m marrying you – ” Shit, saying that makes his heart fucking pound. “It’s as me, not… William Brandt or Aaron Cross or anyone else I’ve ever been.”
“Right, okay.” Phil nods seriously, like he’d be writing that down as an action point if he had a notebook with him. “I can work with that.”
It’s Clint’s turn to smile. He reaches under the table and squeezes Phil’s knee hard. “Seriously?” he asks quietly. “You want to?”
Phil lays his hand briefly over Clint’s. “I seriously want to,” he assures him.
“What are you doing?” Natasha asks, propping her chin up on a fist and watching Clint across the kitchen counter.
Clint tosses a pancake and looks at her pointedly. “Guess.”
Natasha shows him her middle finger without lifting her head. “You’re humming. You’re making breakfast and humming.”
Clint thinks back. It’s possible he was humming. Queen, even. That’s not the most embarrassing thing he’s ever done in front of Natasha though, not even this week, so he’s not worried about it.
“Shut up or I won’t let you have any pancakes,” he tells her. He likes mornings like this, before the others are up. The only thing that would make it better would be if Phil were here too, but Fury called him in early this morning, so of course he’d had to go.
Natasha rolls her eyes. “You do know that you could never stop me stealing one anyway.”
Clint opens his mouth to argue then closes it again. That’s probably a fair point. “Ah, but no one can add the maple syrup like I can.”
Natasha just smiles at him blandly, neither agreeing nor disagreeing out loud which, in Natasha speak, means she agrees. Clint was the one to introduce Natasha to proper American breakfast foods, so he likes to think that makes it a little bit special.
Clint drops a towering plate of pancakes in front of her then serves up another for himself. Once she’s busy eating, he kicks her ankle under the table. “If I tell you something, will you keep it a secret?”
“From who?” she asks, probably wisely.
Clint shrugs. “Fury, mainly. And the rest of SHIELD. Oh and the other Avengers.”
“So everyone, basically.” Natasha shakes her head at him. “But not Phil.”
“Well, no,” Clint agrees. “Be a bit hard to do that.”
Natasha’s eyes narrow and she chews contemplatively on her pancakes. “All right,” she says. “Tell me.” She makes it sound like she’s doing him a favour, but he knows how much she likes to know everything.
He leans over the table, lowering his voice so JARVIS won’t hear and murmurs, “Phil wants to get married.”
Natasha makes a soft noise of surprise. Her eyes go wide and interested, mouth curling up into a smile. “Huh,” she says slowly. “Fancy that. He never said a word.”
Clint sinks back into his chair. “Maybe he didn’t want to hurt your delicate feelings,” he teases.
In their time, he and Phil and Natasha have been all kinds of incestuous. It was him and Natasha first, then him and Natasha and Phil for a couple of dark, cold nights in Belgrade. Then there was some serious stupidity, but they got that sorted out and it’s been him and Phil ever since.
Natasha hits him on the arm. It hurts, which is how he knows she’s really pleased for him. “Congratulations.”
Clint bites the inside of his mouth so he won’t smile too widely. “Yeah, well,” he says, like this isn’t a big fucking deal to him.
“All right, listen up.” Phil claps his hands together and everyone stops talking with varying degrees of speed.
Thor and Tony, naturally, are the last to finish their conversation and only after Steve smacks Tony on the arm.
“Ow, ow,” Tony says. “Hit him, he’s the one telling me about the great and glorious blood sacrifice of the – ”
“Some other time, Stark,” Phil sighs and then looks around. “Where’s Barton?”
Clint grins and doesn’t move.
Phil’s shoulders twitch minutely. He looks across at Natasha, like he can read the answer in her expression, but he can’t, of course, not if she doesn’t want him to.
“Hawkeye,” Phil says. It’s supposed to sound warning, but Clint knows how far he can push him and they’re nowhere near there yet.
Phil straightens and turns around, walking slowly toward the desk at the front of the meeting room. Clint watches him pick up a pen, weighing it in his hands, and tenses, biting his lip so he doesn’t laugh.
“Perhaps he has dematerialised?” Thor offers. “My brother used to do that when he did not want to spend time listening to our grandmother’s war stories.”
“No, I don’t think so,” Phil says thoughtfully while everyone tries to pretend that it isn’t awkward when Thor reminisces about Loki. “No, I think he’s a lot closer than that.” The pen bounces in his hand once, twice and then flies up, cutting through the shadowed rafters and thwacking Clint on the underside of his chin.
It’s probably a lucky shot but it hurts and Clint doesn’t bother to hold back his grunt.
He swings backwards, holding himself up by his knees and smirks down at Phil. “Ow,” he says mildly, “If you missed me that much, you could have just called.”
Phil rolls his eyes. “Get down,” he says, long-suffering and on the edge of a laugh that he won’t let through.
“I don’t know,” Clint says, “I’m pretty comfortable.”
“I’ll throw another pen at you,” Phil warns.
“Or I could throw a knife at him?” Natasha offers because she’s a traitor.
“Maybe later,” Phil agrees and twitches his head at Clint. It means, fun’s over, come down now so Clint does.
He rights himself then drops down and lands in the empty seat between Thor and Tony, who leans over and coughs out, “Whipped.”
Clint flips him off. He wouldn’t have come down if he hadn’t wanted to, but he’d only been playing, didn’t have any interest in making Phil pissed.
“Thank you,” Phil says, bright gaze bouncing off Clint. “Now, unless anyone wants to dangle out the window or swing from the light fittings – no, Thor, that wasn’t an invitation – let’s get down to business.”
He spends a half hour briefing them on the newest exciting alien threat (science-y, boring, Clint might get to shoot something but this won’t need his expert knowledge) then dismisses them until they’re needed.
“Barton,” Phil says as everyone else is filing out.
Clint stops and sits down on the table, ignoring the look Steve gives him like he can’t decide if Clint’s about to get in trouble, in which case he should stay like a good team leader, or get laid, in which case he should run far away like a good friend.
Clint doesn’t know either, but if anyone cares, he votes for option two.
“Yeah, yeah, I know,” he says, once they’re alone in the room. “Just because we’re screwing, I don’t get to disrupt briefings.” They’ve had this conversation a lot. Sometimes, he wonders why Phil persevered with this, with them in the first place; Clint was a shit back in the beginning.
“No,” Phil agrees. “Don’t do that again.” He taps his fingers on the table beside Clint’s knee. “But that’s not what I wanted to talk about.”
Clint frowns. “Sir?”
“No,” Phil says, expression flittering rapidly past uncomfortable back into bland. “The other thing.”
Clint smiles. “Phil?”
Phil laughs, shaking his head. They have rules for how they do this, the thing where they’re together and the thing where Phil’s his boss.
“I was thinking,” he says, “about what we talked about yesterday.”
Clint’s chest feels suddenly tight but he pushes that away. Phil isn’t taking it back. For one, he wouldn’t and for another, he wouldn’t do it here.
“Yeah?” he asks casually.
“Yeah.” Phil’s mouth quirks. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a piece of paper. “I’ve found someone at City Hall who’ll make the arrangements, absolute discretion guaranteed, we just have to tell them when.”
Huh. Clint isn’t relieved because he wasn’t worried. “When?” he asks. “Well, I don’t know, I’m marrying Hill next month and Fury in May but I can probably fit you in in June.”
Phil punches him, but only lightly and on his non-dominant arm. It’s not very professional, not for Agent Coulson when the security cameras are on him, which tells Clint how keyed up Phil is over all this.
“Hey,” Clint says, dropping his smartass tone for a minute or so. “I don’t care when we do it. I’d marry you tomorrow, if you wanted.”
Phil frowns slightly, like he’s thinking about it. Clint waits. He did mean that literally, so if Phil can work out how, Clint’s totally on board.
“Not tomorrow,” Phil says, “but Thursday?”
Clint laughs, a little hysterical bubble of oh my god building up in his lungs. “Sure,” he says. “Thursday’s good for me.”
It turns out that Thursday isn’t a good day for anyone.
It’s not like Clint woke up thinking Golly gosh, today’s my wedding day! like some of the brides on Phil’s damn reality TV shows, but he still thinks it sucks that, at the exact moment when he’s supposed to be legally binding Phil to him for all time, he’s instead being dangled upside down into the fucking Hudson by a robot spider-thing with way too many legs made up of way too many joints.
“Hawk…” Dunk. “… Eye.” Dunk. “Do…” Dunk. “Copy…?”
Clint twists in the grip of the Robot Spider-Thing, but he can’t get an arm free to shoot it in one of its hundreds of creepy eyes.
“Copy,” he manages, before being dunked again. River water tastes foul; he could have guessed that without ever needing to have it proven.
He twists and finally manages to get an elbow into one of the many creepy joints on one of the many creepy legs.
“Seriously,” he grumps, “look at this guy, doesn’t he know we have places to be?”
The Robot Spider tries to dunk him again but he twists, using his elbow as a pivot to swing around. It tears at something in his shoulder that he probably didn’t want torn which hurts like fuck, but he manages to get an arm free.
“Got a hot date, Hawkeye?” Tony asks. He’s hovering around just behind the Robot Spider’s left shoulder, not quite close enough for Clint to reach yet.
“Oh yeah,” Clint says, “If you’re good, I’ll tell you all about it.”
He’s starting to think he’s done something really alarming to his left arm; it’s numb down to the elbow and he can’t move his fingers. He’s not letting go but he can’t get himself anywhere else either, not with only one good arm and his legs still trapped.
“Yeah, thanks for the offer but no thanks,” Tony tells him and darts down underneath Clint. He fires off a round of lasers and the Robot Spider clanks worryingly.
“Um,” Clint says, “Someone’s going to catch me when this thing goes, right?”
“Hulk catch,” Hulk booms from below. Hulk has a radio but he really doesn’t need one; Clint can hear him in stereo.
“Thanks, dude,” Clint calls.
“Hawkeye.” New voice, Steve this time. “On three, I need you to let go, okay? You really won’t want to be attached to that thing in a minute.”
“Gladly,” Clint agrees, “but I’m kind of trapped, right now?”
“On three,” Steve repeats.
Clint sighs. “Why’s it always three? Seven’s my lucky number.”
“Why?” Natasha asks, interested, just as Steve says, “One, two.”
Iron Man’s repulsors fire and Thor yells out something in Norse from way down on the ground. Lightning hits from above, the repulsors hit from below and Clint lets go.
The Robot Spider jerks and flails, releasing Clint’s legs a second before the twin lines of white fire smash into each other, pretty much exactly where Clint was holding on a second before.
Clint falls, the wind rushing up into his face, buffering him around, but he’s not actually worried. Any second now and – Ow.
Yep. Hulk always catches him and it always fucking hurts.
“Thanks,” Clint says anyway because there’s basically nothing as sad as a hurt and pouting Hulk. He taps his ear. “That was a terrible plan, guys.”
“Hey.” Tony buzzes down as Hulk sets Clint back on his feet. “Got you out of there, didn’t we? Now, can you please turn your radio to channel seven and ask your bo- ask HQ to stop screaming in my damn ear.”
Bemused, Clint retunes his radio. “HQ?”
“For the record,” Phil says, sounding perfectly calm. “There was no screaming.”
Clint grins. “Course not,” he agrees. He rubs ruefully at his throbbing arm. “Hey, so, meet you in the medbay in twenty?”
Phil doesn’t make a sound but Clint can see him shaking his head. “I had no other plans,” he lies dryly.
“Sorry,” Clint says, once they’re back in Phil’s apartment and Clint is gingerly trying to find a comfortable place to lie that won’t jar his dislocated shoulder or annoy any of the bruises that came from falling really far and really fast into grasping green hands.
Phil finishes shrugging on a t-shirt and climbs into bed beside him. “It’s okay. Shall we call that the trial run?”
“Yeah.” Clint decides there is no good way to position himself and flops onto his back. This is not ideal. He can’t sleep on his back – unless he’s on a mission, in which case he can sleep standing up, if he has to – and he was definitely supposed to be having honeymoon sex right about now.
“I can hear you pouting,” Phil says and scoots closer. He puts his hands on Clint, rearranging him like he’s a ragdoll, which Clint allows for once, because he feels like a ragdoll. Clint ends up on his less bruised side, his recently un-dislocated arm spread across Phil’s chest.
Phil can’t sleep well on his back, either, but he shushes Clint when Clint tries to point that out.
“Will your friend at City Hall be mad?” Clint asks eventually.
“You mean can we reschedule?” Phil asks.
Clint did mean exactly that, but for some reason he feels like if he’s too invested in this, it’ll all just fall apart. Kind of like it did today. “Sure.”
“How’s the fifteenth?” Phil asks.
Clint shrugs, then regrets it because it hurts. “Shoulder should be healed by then,” he says.
“That’s what I was thinking,” Phil says then reaches over Clint to turn off the light.
The fifteenth is a Friday, which is usually a pretty quiet day in the superhero world. They actually manage to get as far as the car and half way onto the freeway before the call comes in.
Phil punches the steering wheel once, pretty hard, before saying, “Yes, sir, we’ll be right there.”
Clint laughs as soon as Phil’s disconnected the call. He can’t help it; this is just too ridiculous. Then he finds he kind of can’t stop laughing, one hand over his face to try to muffle it while Phil glares at him.
“Sorry,” Clint gasps, “Sorry, I’m sorry, but - ”
Phil makes a bitten off noise, which could have been a growl but is definitely a laugh. “Stop it,” he says crossly, but he’s flushed and smiling too wide like he’s caught up in the same schadenfreude-like hysteria as Clint.
They’re still kind of punchy when they pull up to the giant crater in the middle of Broadway that SHIELD called them in for. Hill gives them a weird look then clearly decides she’s not going to ask, which is sensible of her, but then Hill is probably the only actually sensible person Clint knows.
Phil walks off with her, accepting three clipboards that she hands him in rapid succession. Clint spies the others jogging over to him so waits where he is.
“Hi,” Steve says, then frowns slightly. “How come you’re all dressed up?”
Clint definitely does not blush. Definitely not. He’s not even really dressed up; he’s just wearing a buttondown and nicer pants than normal. “Eh,” he says, shrugging, “nothing exciting, just an, um. Just a wedding.”
Natasha’s eyes shoot up questioningly, a definite did you? Clint shakes his head slightly and she subsides, looking disappointed.
“Wedding?” Tony asks, sounding affronted. “Who do you know that I don’t?”
“Lots of people,” Clint tells him cheerfully, taking the crossbow that one of the baby junior agents runs up to him with. “But who says it was someone you don’t know? Maybe it was someone who just doesn’t like you.”
“Nonsense,” Tony says, “everyone likes me.”
“What is a wedding?” Thor asks, looking intrigued. They’re all circling the crater now but nothing’s come out of it yet so apparently even Steve thinks they’re okay to talk.
“Handfasting,” Bruce says before Clint can try to stumble his way through an explanation that makes any sense.
“Ah.” Thor nods. “I was unaware that couples still participated in such practices. When I suggested it to my Jane, she was less than pleased.”
Everyone blinks as one. “You proposed to Jane?” Steve asks, looking pleased. Of course he looks pleased, Steve is a total closet romantic, which just makes it sadder that he doesn’t have anyone of his own to propose to.
“I asked her if she wished to be my woman, but she became angry and threw me out of her apartment. I was naked at the time.” Thor sounds puzzled rather than upset and Clint has to bite his lip really hard not to laugh.
“Probably it was the way you asked,” he suggests. “Maybe take her to dinner next time. Maybe don’t do it right after you’ve gotten laid. People tend not to believe shit guys say straight after sex.”
Clint told Phil he loved him for the first time right after sex. Clint knows what he’s taking about.
Thor nods. “Is there still much feasting and rejoicing?”
“Totally,” Tony tells him. “Less swapping swords with your lady or whatever now, though.” He coughs and glances at Clint and does that thing that Tony does sometimes where he tries overly hard not to be a dick. “Or not just ladies. Men can marry men in New York now, women can marry women. All that jazz.”
Thor frowns. “That was always so in Asgard,” he tells him, which makes Natasha laugh at the expression on Tony’s face.
Clint ignores everyone and peers into the crater. “Huh,” he says. “Did you guys know there’s shit moving about down there?”
“What kind of shi- stuff?” Steve asks, leaning over beside Clint.
“There.” It’s faint and oddly red, little moving whirls and - “Get back!”
He pushes on Steve’s chest, knocking him backwards half a step just as the whole twisting, curving mess of what-the-fuck-ever explodes out of the crater. Off to the other side, he hears Tony and Natasha yell and, a moment later, Hulk roars.
There’s heat coming off the... it looks like lava, except it’s red, burning snakes rather than magma.
“Holy fuck,” Clint manages, staring.
“Yeah,” Steve says and things must be bad because he doesn’t even blush at the curse.
There’s a crackle in Clint’s ear and then, “Avengers?” Phil shouts. “Don’t just stand there looking at it, pull back right now.”
“But it’s so pretty,” Clint grumbles, backing up one step then another.
It’s only when he’s falling in beside the other, clustered around one of the SHIELD cars, that he realises just how much heat the snake magma was giving off and he shivers reflexively in the clearer air.
It doesn’t go unnoticed by Phil who shoots him a questioning look.
Clint shakes his head. He’s fine.
“What is it?” Natasha asks, staring up mesmerised like the rest of them. Clint wasn’t just being facetious; it really is pretty.
“Um?” Clint isn’t going to offer glowy fire snakes because that only sounds likely inside his own head. He shivers again, still feeling weirdly cold and rubs his hands together.
“Barton?” Phil asks quietly while Tony is sounding ideas off Hill who’s just looking at him like she’s waiting for him to start speaking English. They’re all waiting for that though, and Clint suspects it won’t ever happen.
“I’m fine, sir,” Clint says, except he might not be. He can’t stop shivering, fingers turning white and fingernails washing blue as he watches them.
Phil reaches out as though he’s going to test Clint’s temperature, which Clint would jerk away from since they just never do that in the field, but he can’t move quick enough and Phil presses his hand to Clint’s forehead, brisk and efficient.
Clint is so warm for the second or two that their skin is touching but, suddenly, he’s far too warm, something like fire flashing across his skin.
Phil lets go with a sharp, startled sound, staring down at his palm, which is purpling up like a bad ice burn.
“Fuck,” Clint says, belatedly shoving his hands in his pockets. “Fuck, are you okay?”
Everyone’s looking at them now and Phil’s still staring at his hand like he can’t quite work out if it hurts enough to admit to or not. “Fine,” he lies and then, louder, “We need a containment unit down here, full Hazmat for anyone who hasn’t breached the area.”
“You need a doctor,” Clint says, or tries to say. A shiver shudders through him and doesn’t stop so his words come out indistinct because of how hard his teeth are chattering. “Phil, I - ”
“And a doctor,” Phil adds sharply, which makes Clint feel smug for the second it takes him to focus on Phil’s narrowed, worried expression and realise that the doctor is probably not for Phil.
The medlab is never, ever fun, especially when Clint is freezing to death and no one can even come inside his specially sealed up room to keep him company.
It turns out that he and Steve were the only ones standing close enough to get whammied by the evil snake magma and Steve, being Steve, is fine so it’s just Clint’s who’s affected.
“Tony has a couple of ideas,” Phil tells him through the microphone that they’ve set up into the room. “You won’t be stuck in there long.”
“Mm,” Clint agrees, trying to curl up even tighter around his own legs. It isn’t actually helping, but it makes him feel better. There are five regular blankets around him and one of those annoying metal ones but they’re not helping either.
“How do you feel?” Phil asks. He keeps asking that, like Clint’s answer is going to change.
“Cold,” Clint forces out from between his teeth. And then, because Phil’s starting to look increasingly frayed around the edges. “But still not sick.”
It’s true. He’s cold, so cold he can hardly think, but there doesn’t seem to be anything else wrong with him. Which is good, he supposes, except that if he loses much more body heat, he’s going to die anyway and then it won’t matter either way.
“Hey, so,” Phil says, like he’s casting around for something else to talk about. “March fifteenth would have been a bad day for an anniversary, anyway.”
Clint looks quickly around the room behind Phil but he’s totally alone. Presumably no one’s monitoring this feed or Phil would definitely not have said that.
“Why?” Clint asks. He curls his hands in against his chest, pulling one of the blankets up to his chin but careful not to cover his eyes so he can still see Phil.
“Ides of March,” Phil says and then, at Clint’s blank look, he shakes his head. “Don’t worry about it. It’s Shakespeare. Julius Caesar.”
“Yeah?” Clint asks. He gets up off the bed and shuffles painfully over to the big glass window between them, sinking down onto the floor beside it. “What happened to him?”
Phil looks down at the patch of floor on his side of the divide then folds down onto it, awkward with his bandaged hand and smart work pants. “You really want to know?”
“Mmm.” Clint leans against the window and manages to find the energy to smile when Phil does the same.
“All right,” Phil says, “although I wasn’t an English major so I’m probably going to mess up some of the plot.”
“That’s okay,” Clint assures him. “Just add some roaring fires to the bits you’ve forgotten. Anything warm.”
“Are you any warmer?” Phil asks quietly.
“Is that how the story starts?” Clint prompts since the answer’s no and Phil already knows that.
“It starts ‘Hence! home, you idle creatures get you home,’ Phil tells him, “but I’m going to paraphrase.”
“Good,” Clint says, and closes his eyes. If Clint concentrates very hard, he can almost believe that he can feel some of Phil’s warmth soaking through the glass and that, plus Phil’s voice washing over him, is the best he’s going to get right now.
It takes the SHIELD nearly twelve hours to work it out and, by then, Clint knows every random story Phil has got tucked up in the back of his brain but he’s so cold he can’t even properly appreciate how much time Phil’s wasting on him.
“Clint,” Natasha says, standing over him but carefully not touching. “You need to sit up and come with me.”
Clint manages to nod but words feel like they’d hurt way too much to even try. Her hands hover over his arms but she can’t touch him so he has to get himself upright.
He wants to ask where they’re going but, again, words.
“The working theory is that all those little squiggly red bits in the ash plume are actually separate heat signatures stolen from living things,” Natasha tells him while Clint tries to work out how to put his feet flat on the ground and what to do after that.
Clint pauses, arching his eyebrows at her in a wordless seriously.
“Trust me, I know,” Natasha assures him. “We’re pretty sure it saw all the heat signatures in New York and thought it was Hanukah and Christmas rolled into one.”
“So how.” Clint coughs. His vocal chords feel like they’ve been stuck in a freezer. “How’m I getting mine back?”
Natasha grins. “I could tell you,” she says, “but you’re not going to like it so I think we’ll keep it as a surprise.”
Phil meets them at the door. He’s wearing a glove over his bandaged hand and a fiercely determined expression. “Can you make it to the elevators?” he asks, brisk and professional, like he wasn’t crouched on the floor, quoting Shakespeare to distract Clint all night long.
Clint nods. He doesn’t know if he can but he’s going to and that’s what matters.
It’s hard to walk when he can’t feel his feet and his knees are screaming at him like he’s pushing ninety rather than forty, but he makes it, leaning against the side of the elevator in relief and then straightening up abruptly when the glass chips and cracks where his hand was resting.
“Sorry,” he croaks trying to stand exactly in the middle and not touch anything or anyone.
Phil is staring at the cracked glass in some kind of morbid fascination. “I’m not even going to make you write that up,” he says faintly.
“Thanks,” Clint says and then, because it’s only them and Natasha in the elevator, “Reminds me of when we were in Siberia.”
Natasha snorts. “Didn’t you get frostbite on your penis in Siberia?”
Phil smiles, a shadow of his real thing and shakes his head. “That was mostly a vicious rumour spread by his handler.”
“Because you stole me,” Clint feels the need to point out.
And that, actually, is what made him think of Siberia right now. Clint was working with a different handler while he was there and Phil came to get him because he finally had enough of him and Clint not having their shit together. That’s what he meant. It’s a romantic story. Sort of.
The tips of Phil’s gloved fingers brush the edge of Clint’s blanket. Phil knows what he means.
on to part two