Day 4

Title: Day 4
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Marvel
Rating: PG
Pairing: Clint/Coulson eventually
Disclaimer: Not my characters. I wish they were mine. I definitely don’t get paid for this.
Summary: Clint longs to see his handler out of control. He gets his wish when Agents Barton and Coulson land in trouble.
Notes: Written during my 12 Ficlets in 12 Days in 2014 project for smokeycat_430

In the two weeks so far during which Agent Phil Coulson had been his handler, Clint Barton had learned a lot about the man. According to Coulson, Everything had to be done by the book. Proper precautions had to be observed. Proper authorities had to be notified. Proper communication had to be kept open. Proper paperwork had to be filed. And proper attire had to be worn. Coulson always wore a crisply ironed shirt, a dark suit, and a tie. He always quoted procedures as if he’d memorized some S.H.I.E.L.D. manual. He always had to know what move Hawkeye intended to make before he actually made it. In short: Agent Phil Coulson was no fun.

And this wasn’t just Clint’s opinion—Natasha had only worked with him on one case, but she thought it too. Except Natasha wasn’t about to waste her time doing something about it. Clint, on the other hand, had plenty of time to waste. Which was why it was Clint who stumbled forward one morning and spilled coffee all down the man’s front.

“Sir!” Clint exclaimed, watching the hot, brown liquid drip down that crisp, white shirt. “Oh, Sir, I’m so sorry.”

Coulson sighed heavily, shaking his head. Then he carefully removed his jacket, untied his tie, and stripped off his shirt. Clint felt something catch in his throat at the sight of Coulson in an undershirt. The man wasn’t just built to be a desk agent; he was fit enough for field work. “It’s not a problem, Agent Barton. I always have an extra shirt and tie in my locker in case of emergencies or situations just like this. Please excuse me.” With his ruined clothing draped over one arm, he headed down the hallway.


There was a cold bug travelling around the helicarrier. Clint had done his best to avoid catching it, but it had finally found him. He’d been pulled off active duty because of it. He’d been forced to stay on board and off mission, forced to stay in his room, just short of being quarantined. But Coulson had come to check up on him several times. Once he brought Clint some soup, another time he’d brought Clint some case files that needed Clint’s piece of the write-up added; Clint was more grateful for the soup.

He was also grateful for the company, even if it was from a stick-in-the-mud like Coulson. Because, well, Coulson was actually kind of good-looking. And he was definitely caring. And there was absolutely no doubt that he was a good agent. But beyond that, Clint hadn’t found all the much out about him in the three weeks they’d worked together. He’d caught the man listening to classical music once, and the guy wore more blue ties than any other color, but otherwise, Clint didn’t have much of a clue about who the guy really was. And if this guy was going to continue to be his handler, he wanted to know Coulson as well as Coulson knew him.

hihhhhh… ihh-ih-IHSCHuhhhhh!

“Bless you,” Coulson immediately reached into an inner pocket of his jacket and pulled out a pack of tissues.

Clint took one almost skeptically and drew it under his nose, sniffling. “Let me guess: you were a Boy Scout?”

Coulson smiled. “Always prepared. You know the Boy Scouts stole that from S.H.I.E.L.D.?”

“Of course they did.” Clint had never been a Boy Scout; moving from town to town with a carnival wasn’t conducive to joining groups. Maybe the desire for stability was one thing that had drawn him to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the first place?

Coulson knew everything. And he had everything. That suit jacket of his could have doubled as a utility belt. Whenever someone spilled something, he had a handkerchief ready to mop it up. Whenever someone needed to sign something, he had a black ballpoint pen. Whenever there was a problem that was bigger than what he could handle, he had Nick Fury on speed dial.

He always had answers. He was always prepared. He was always polite.

It was incredibly infuriating. In Clint’s opinion, no one was supposed to be that perfect all the time. Just once, Clint wanted to see perfect Agent Phil Coulson lose control.


“Can you get to your arrows?” Coulson asked, straining against his bindings. The restraints around their upper arms were so tight they hurt. But Clint withstood the pain as he stretched a leg out. The toe of his boot reached for his quiver but couldn’t get close enough to knock it over or even budge it in a direction.

“No. Sorry.” He glanced over at the door. “I think I can hear them. They’re coming back.”

Coulson nodded. “All right. I was hoping we’d be able to get out some other way. But…” Coulson clenched his teeth and sucked in a sharp breath. Then he wrenched his body to the side with a strong, violent motion. Clint heard a popping sound and saw Coulson wriggle out from his suit jacket. With his left hand, he scooped up Clint’s quiver, grabbed an arrow, and used the sharp point to cut through the bindings around Clint’s arm. Just as he cut through the second, footsteps just outside the room made Coulson freeze in place. But Clint swooped down for his bow, grabbed the first arrow he found, and fired.

Then the two of them ran. They had to squeeze through the doorway past the mercenaries, but they made it through thanks to the arrow. It had sent a fine cloud of particles into the air that, at once, caused the three bad guys there to start sneezing uncontrollably. A sneeze arrow. Good thing Clint had pulled out that trick arrow—though the putty one or net one or even the exploding one would have worked just as well.

Clint and Coulson ran. Up the stairs, out of the cabin, down the driveway. The cabin was in the middle of nowhere, with forests and forests surrounding it. They knew enough to stay off the road, especially when they heard a gunshot from behind. They kept running until they were sure they’d lost the mercenaries.

Then Coulson doubled over, hand on his knee, gasping for breath. “heh… hah-Ahshuhhh!

“Oh… did you get hit with the sneeze dust too? I should have told you to hold your breath.” Clint put his hand on Coulson’s shoulder in sympathy.

Coulson yelled in pain and pulled away.

“What’s wrong?”

“Shoulder,” Coulson moaned. He straightened up then rammed his side into the nearest tree. There was another pop, with a bit of a crunch to it this time. He yelled again then nuzzled his face into the tree trunk. “Ohhhhh…” Coulson swayed a little then stumbled away from the tree. “hahh-Ah-shooo! Sniff! Bless me.”

“Sir? Are you all right?”

Coulson nodded wearily. “There’s a safe house not too far from here.” Instinctively, he reached for his phone in the inside jacket pocket where he kept it. Only it wasn’t there, because his jacket was back at the cabin. He groaned again. “I’m all right,” he finally answered Clint, though Clint wasn’t buying it. “I might not have my jacket, but I do have this.” He tapped a finger at his temple.

“A headache?”

Coulson nodded again. “That… and my memory.” He coughed a little.

Clint narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “Sir?”

“It’s just a little… further…” Coulson led the way at a brisk pace, and Clint followed along behind. When Clint wasn’t checking over his shoulder periodically to be sure no one was following them, he studied Coulson. The man had his arms wrapped around his chest, but he was shivering. And coughing. And sniffling. And listing to the left a bit more than was healthy. Clint was worried.

Actually, he’d passed worried back when Coulson had rammed himself into the tree to pop his arm back into place. Headaches and coughs didn’t come from running through a cloud of sneezing powder. Coulson had to be sick. And being out here in the cold wasn’t going to help. Coulson shook with shivers.

Just when Clint was about to suggest they stop and make a fire so Coulson could warm up, despite the fact that their pursuers might see the smoke, Coulson stopped in his tracks. Clint ran right into his back, surprised at how warm Coulson felt, especially as he looked so chilly. Maybe he was running a fever?

Coulson cleared his throat and shifted some leaves away from the roots of a tree. He stepped on a pressure pad, which rose a few inches, allowing him to reach up and grab the branch above him. A panel popped out of the tree with an optical reader. He stopped shivering long enough for it to get a clear look at his iris. Then a hole appeared in the ground, revealing a circular staircase. “Hurry,” Coulson said. “It’ll close in a minute.”

One flight of stairs later, they were safely in a simple underground bunker. There wasn’t much there—a bit of food, a couple blankets, and some communications equipment. “I’ll call for… for… hel… heh…hehh-Ehshuhhh!” He shivered violently. “Bless me.”

“You’ll sit down before you collapse. I’ll call for a pick-up.” He gave Coulson a sympathetic smile. “I’m sorry.”

Coulson shook his head. “Not your fault I’m sick… or that I got us kidnapped.”

Wasn’t it? One month. One month now working under Coulson. One month being irritated by his utter perfection. One month wishing something would happen to knock him down a peg. And this was it. This was it all at once. “You’re sick?”

Coulson nodded. He picked up one of the blankets and wrapped it around his shoulders with a bit of a wince. Then he hugged it tight around himself. “I had some of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s best cold medicine in my jacket pocket. It was due to wear off…” He checked his watch. “Half an hour ago. There isn’t anything in the emergency medical kit, is there?”

Clint looked around  and found the kit behind the store of food. “No cold medicine.” Coulson gave a small groan. “But there is some Tylenol. That should help your headache and your arm.” He shook a few pills out into his hand and handed them over along with a bottle of water. Coulson swallowed them down immediately.

“Thah… thanks… hahhh-Ehschhhh!” This time, he didn’t bless himself.

Concerned, Clint stepped closer. He still felt guilty, like this was all his fault. “What can I do to make you feel better, Sir?”

Coulson stepped closer as well, so close that his blanket brushed against Clint’s vest. He swayed in place, and Clint wanted to reach out and take him in his arms to warm him up. He was sure Coulson wanted the same thing, and he expected those words to come tumbling out of the senior agent’s mouth. Instead, he heard, “Just make the call.”

Nodding, Clint backed off and went for the communication equipment. He called in for help, listening to Coulson sniffling in the background the whole time. When he was done, he turned to find Coulson sitting in a corner, huddled under the blanket, shivering, nose running. Shift. “They’ll be here in a few hours,” Clint told him.

Coulson nodded in understanding. But his mouth dropped open. “ehh… EhhhHahshooo!

“Bless you.” Clint squatted down next to him and squeezed his left shoulder reassuringly. “I found these in the medical kit.” He held out a small travel pack of tissues. Coulson seized upon it, ripping it open and pulling out a tissue. As he cupped it to his nose and blew heartily, the blanket slipped off him, onto the cold concrete floor of the underground bunker.

Clint reached down and pulled the blanket back up, only to have Coulson lean into him. Or, rather, snuggle into him. Clint froze at the unexpected touch. This was not the Agent Phil Coulson he knew.

Or was it? Coulson was bold.  Coulson was calculating. Coulson was resourceful. And this was Coulson trying to get warm and feel better the best way he could. “Hold on, Sir.” He readjusted the blanket so that it covered them both. Coulson tilted his head, resting it on Clint’s shoulder. Clint wrapped his arm around Coulson carefully, hugging him close.

This wasn’t fun. Hunkering down underground… this wasn’t fun.  Trying to take care of a man who was sick and injured when they had limited resources wasn’t fun. Nearly getting killed by mercenaries wasn’t fun either. Agent Phil Coulson wasn’t any fun.

But, maybe, fun was overrated. Maybe this was what he got for having Coulson as his handler. He got a man in a suit. He got a man who accepted a mission for them out in the middle of the wilderness even though he was sick. He got a man who wasn’t afraid to snuggle close when he wasn’t feeling well.