Day 3

Title: Day 3
Author: tarotgal
Fandom: Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Rating: PG-13
Pairing: Clint/Coulson
Disclaimer: Not my characters. I wish they were mine. I definitely don’t get paid for this.
Summary: Coulson has not been having a particularly good day, but it gets better when Clint appears.
Notes: Written during my 13 Ficlets in 13 Days in 2016 project for smokeycat_430

Phil Coulson stormed back onto the plane, his mission failure eclipsing all other considerations. He didn't notice that he was cold, even though his body was shaking with small shivers. He wasn't worried that he was soaked to the skin, shoes squelching with every step, dripping water like a trail behind him. He wasn't concerned with the pain or the blood or the fact that his team was trying to talk sense into him, and he wouldn't hear it. He didn't even pay attention to the raging cold in his head that was trying to tell him to slow down, to take care of himself, and to find a handkerchief at once. “huttchihhhhh! Huh huhhttchhhhh!” Coulson sniffed wetly, not even raising his hand to wipe at his nose.

Because right now he didn't have a hand to raise. His bad arm hung uselessly in a sling still; despite his faith in Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D. technology, none of the replacements he'd tried so far worked exactly the way he wanted them to. So it had been easier to go out into the field missing one hand this time. He hadn't counted on getting shot in his other arm right near the start of the fight.

“Sir? Coulson?” Daisy walked briskly behind him, followed by Mack. Her voice was full of concern. Of everyone on his team, Daisy usually expressed the most worry for his well being. “At least let us look at—”

But Coulson didn't let her words stop him. He stormed ahead determinedly, thinking only of getting to his office. He had to contact... well, he wasn't sure who he could contact, actually, but someone needed to know what had happened out there.

A door opened up ahead, and from behind it stepped the very last person Coulson expected to see here. It was enough to stop him cold, his single-minded pursuit on hold. “What are you...” And that was as far as he got before his knees buckled and he went down.

He was only out for a second, maybe two at the most, so when he came to, he found himself being hauled up, back onto his feet, by Clint Barton. Coulson's head spun with dizziness, and he shut his eyes quickly to prevent himself from getting sick to his stomach. “We've got to get his wound fixed up,” Clint was saying to the rest of his team. “Where should I take him?”

“I'll show you,” Daisy replied.

“Need a hand with him?” Mack asked.

And that was when Coulson felt his feet leave the floor. He was lifted up into Clint's arms, cradled against Clint's chest. Bits of the Avenger's reinforced vest dug into his side and Clint's grip was tight, squeezing his legs under the knee to an uncomfortable degree, but Coulson didn't say anything. He just hung on. “I've got him all right now. Let's just hurry.”

Coulson was jostled and bounced as they moved through the place quickly. He was finally deposited on something hard and cold. He realized the moment he wasn't against Clint's chest that he was freezing. He heard a sea of voices, everyone fussing over him. Daisy called for a blanket, Mack called for Jemma, and Clint called for someone to fix the gunshot wound. Coulson thought all three suggestions sounded good. Also maybe a handkerchief. “huhhh huhhttchihhhh!” Yes, definitely a handkerchief.

Sudden pain flared up in his arm, and then something sharp pierced him. His head swam even worse and he felt himself slipping away from everything and everyone.


When Coulson woke, he found himself in the lab, hooked up to monitors and an IV drip. A rush of terror passed through him as he remembered his arm injury. If he'd lost the other one... but, no, he hadn't. It hurt when he tried to lift it, but it looked to be intact. He could wiggle his fingers. He gave a sigh of relief.

“Oh, you're awake.” Jemma came over from the opposite side of the lab. She touched his forehead. “How are you feeling, Sir?”

“All right. Where is...” But then he spotted Clint in a chair right next to the bed, dosing, his body at an awkward angle, head tilted far to the side.

“We offered him a bed, even offered to show him to your quarters, but he wouldn't leave your side. Said he'd lost you once and didn't want to let you out of his sight for a second.”

“He's silly but loyal,” Coulson said. “What happened?” He nodded toward his arm, bandaged up. He could guess, but he wanted to know for sure.

“Bullet went right through. I sewed you up and gave you some type-specific blood. It'll hurt for a while, and you might need some physical therapy afterward to get it working like normal, but you won't lose the arm. You'll be fine, Sir.”

Feeling a sneeze coming on, Coulson's body tensed up. His instinct was to cover his nose, but he couldn't move to do it. “huhh huhh TUSHhhhhhh!

Jemma produced a box of tissues for him and dabbed it awkwardly but caringly at his nose for him. “Bless you.”

But the loud sneeze had woken Clint up. He sat bolt upright in his seat, blinking, rubbing his hand against the back of his neck. Seeing the Coulson was awake, he shot straight to his feet and was at Coulson's side at once, his cautious fingers brushing Coulson's in a gentle invitation. Coulson accepted it, gabbing hold of Clint's hand and squeezing it. He didn't seem to have his usual strength, and it almost hurt a little when Clint squeezed back, but he wouldn't trade that for anything. Clint wanted to stay close, and, more than almost anything, Coulson wanted him to be close.

“Hey there.” Clint's other hand covered their clasped hands, rubbing comfortingly. “Do you want to go to your room to rest?” Coulson glanced over at Jemma to see if it was all right with her. “Don't worry, Jemma gave me permission to take you there, if you want to go.”

Coulson thought for a moment, considering. Staying here where Jemma could monitor him was probably a good thing. “hahh hah TUHShhhhh!” He sniffed, shaking his head as Jemma went for the box of tissues again. If he were in his own room with Clint, he wouldn't have to have her rub his nose for him. “Yeah,” he said. “I'd like to be in my own bed.” 

Clint helped him sit up and eased him off the table to his feet. “You feel okay to walk, or do you want me to carry you there?” Nice as it would be to be held in Clint's arms again, Coulson was sure he could walk this time. He'd be wrapped up in Clint in bed soon enough anyway. So Jemma got him a sling for his other arm, in matching navy blue and white, and told him she'd be in every four hours with pain medication and to check his vitals. She also told him to try not to lose any more arms.

Coulson thanked her and then let Clint escort him down the hall. Clint seemed to want to stay close to him, touching him in reassurance and supporting him whether Coulson really needed him to or not.

When they finally reached Coulson's quarters, Coulson sat down on the edge of his bed and started to lean sideways, going for the soft pillow.

“Whoa, not yet,” Clint stopped him. “Let me help you off with your suit first.”

Coulson looked down, slightly startled to realize he was still in his suit, albeit with a sleeve rolled up. He nodded and let Clint gently unhook the slings. But that was as far as they got before Coulson's nose stopped them. “ahhh... huhh... Clint? I... hahh! I have to-huhhh!

“Aww, sneeze. Of course.” Clint's hand dove under the pillow, retrieving the clean handkerchief he'd known was there. He cupped it to Coulson's nose for him. “There you are. Don't worry. I've got you. I've got you.” He repeated the sentiment, rubbing Coulson's upper arm the second time. “Just sneeze.”

With one more gasp, Coulson shot forward with a sneeze. “hahhhTUHShhhhh!

“That's good,” Clint assured him, rubbing at his nose a little through the hanky. “One more?”

Eyes closed, mouth hanging open, Coulson nodded. “hah hahhhhhhTISHHHHhhh!” Clint rubbed his nose for him and set the hanky aside.

Then Clint settled on the bed next to him and began rolling down his suit jacket sleeve. “You know, they were going to cut this off you, but I told them you'd be murderous when you woke and saw,” he laughed. Then he tugged at the jacket around the back of the neck and at the sleeves, inching it off him over the bandages on his arm. Clint folded it neatly and continued on. Coulson's tie and white, short-sleeved, button-down shirt were both spotted with blood that probably would never come out, but he still took care in removing each item, adding them to the pile. As Clint began to remove his undershirt, Coulson shivered again. “Are you all right?”

Coulson shrugged. “As all right as I can be, I guess.”

“Okay. You just tell me if you need to sneeze again. And tell me if I'm doing anything that hurts you. I'll try to make this quick and get you under those covers as soon as possible, but I don't want to hurt your arm.”

Coulson nodded and sniffed again. “I will,” he said softly. Then he raised his arms as best he could so Clint could pull the undershirt off. As Clint pulled his pants down, he decided he wanted fresh underwear as well.

“Of course you do. I've gotcha covered, Phil.” Clint stripped him down to nothing, then helped him on, with a bit more careful shuffling, to pull on a new pair of undies, a clean white cotton tank, and soft white socks. “Now I want you to try not to roll over onto your right side tonight,” he said, helping Coulson slide into bed, under the sheet and blankets.

“Good idea,” Coulson agreed, lying flat on his back. Clint slid in and slipped an arm under the man's shoulders and neck. Coulson turned his head, rubbing his cheek against Clint's arm, feeling the arm hair and the warmth and the strength of his muscles. He gave a sleepy, contented smile. Then his head snapped down and he sneezed unexpectedly. “haTIHSHH!

By some miracle, he managed to miss spraying Clint's face entirely, but he caught Clint's chest instead. The man had changed out of his Hawkeye uniform some time when Coulson had been under, and now he had on gray sweat pants and a soft lavender t-shirt,which was now wet. “So sniff! So sorry!”

“Don't even. I've had worse.” He stroked the back of Coulson's head and then rubbed at Coulson's nose for him. He kept the hanky close, resting on his arm so Coulson could nuzzle into it if Clint didn't get to it in time. Coulson muttered a soft and sleepy “thank you for arranging for me to stay in my room, and thank you for staying with me.”

Clint squeezed his shoulder tenderly. “I know you love your team, but I figured you wouldn't want them seeing me snuggling their boss and wiping their boss's nose for him.”

“Good assumption.”

 “Get some rest, Phil. You've had a tough day.”

And Clint didn't even know the half of it. Coulson closed his eyes, trying to forget about all that had happened and just concentrate on being here with Hawkeye.


After Jemma had let herself in, quietly checked his blood pressure and temperature, and let him swallow a pill, Coulson sat on the edge of the bed, shivering and sniffling and not being able to do anything about either one. Wave after wave of helplessness and self-pity washed over him, to the point where he would have put his head in his hands and let out a sob if he had even been capable of putting his head in his hands. He let out an involuntary whimper, which was enough to rouse Clint from his deep sleep.

Mmph. What? Sir?” At once, he sat up and rotated in place, swinging his legs over the edge of the bed and scooting right up against Coulson. He pulled the comforter up and over, draping it around both their shoulders. “What's wrong?”

Coulson shook his head. “I can't...” He looked down at his two useless arms. Feeling defeated, he sighed deeply and leaned into Clint. “I can't even go to the bathroom on my own right now.”

Clint could have laughed, but he didn't. “Good thing I'm here then.” He just nudged at Coulson to get him onto his feet and put an arm around the man, helping him down the hallway and back again when they were done. Clint straightened out the blankets then tried to get Coulson back under the covers, but Coulson wasn't ready to go back to sleep just yet. They'd taken off his watch and his phone might be anywhere right now. He had no idea what time it was, but he could sense it wasn't morning yet. He should get more rest, but his mind was reeling and head was throbbing. The last thing he wanted to do was get horizontal and have his head spin and sinus pressure stab at him again.

“Don't feel like going back to sleep?”

Coulson shook his head at Clint's question.

“Do I need to get the hanky ready?”

Coulson started to shake his head again, but the trip down the hall had loosened the congestion a little, and the cool air in the bus made his nose run. He nodded. “Actually... please.” Once again, he leaned into Clint, more for warmth than for support. Plus, if he curled against Clint, Clint couldn't see how awful he looked when sneezing. “hahh... huh!” Clint wrapped his nose in the handkerchief and hugged Coulson to his chest. Yeah, this was definitely not a sight Coulson wanted his team to see. “hah-Tishuhhh! H'TIHSHHHH! Huhhh huhGIHTChhhhhh!” Coulson moved his arm, instinctively, wanting to rub his nose, and winced at the pain in his arm he couldn't use.

Clint wiped for him without having to be told, just sensing Coulson's frustration. “You know, if you want, you can come spend time at the farm house while you recover from this.”

“Oh, I'm sure your wife would love that.”

“Actually, Laura is the one who insisted I come here when we heard you were sick. I called her when you were asleep after surgery. She said you're welcome to come for as long as you need to. I know it's no Tahiti—”

“Yeah, well, sniff Tahiti turned out to be no Tahiti.”

“I'd love to have you come home with me. But the more time I spend here, the more I think it would be better for you to stay here. You've got work to do. You're trying to save the world, and taking you out of that right now might make things worse. If you want to be useful here, I'll stay here and help you be useful until you've got one if not two working arms.”

Sniff! Really?”

“You're down an agent or two right now, right? It would be nice to be working under you again.”

Coulson had to admit that sounded like a great offer. Between dealing with the unpredictability of inhumans and Hive and HYDRA in the game, he could definitely use an Avenger on his team for a while. It wouldn't hurt having Clint Barton in his bed every night either. But Clint had gone into retirement for a reason, and pulling him out now just because Coulson had caught a little head cold and been shot in the arm seemed, at the worst—petty and needy and, at the least, a bad use of resources.

“Let's talk in the morning,” Coulson decided. Don't make life decisions when you're hurting and on pain medication, that was one of his rules. “For now... just hold me?” 

“Yeah.” Clint rubbed his hand up and down Coulson's back. “Mission accepted.” He rested his hand, with the handkerchief, on Coulson's lap and held the man close with this other.