“Jasper, take Anderson and Cho with you, and check the first floor. Ramirez, you and Brown make sure the main corridors are safe.”
“Yes, sir,” Ramirez replied right away.
“I’ll let you know if we find anything,” Jasper added.
Phil exhaled quietly, looking down at the building plans he had received earlier, before he closed his eyes.
Three days had passed since he received Natasha’s last message, almost four since Clint had left a message for Agent Jessen, but Phil knew those two could handle themselves just fine. Since then Jensen’s team hadn’t received any updates concerning the location of their mark, however, Phil was more worried about Agent Sanders and Agent Morgan, who had been sent to the same hotel where Natasha and Clint had been staying. The agents had been sent there a day after Clint and Natasha located their mark, but they seemed to disappear as well.
Phil took off his jacket and looked at the screen that still displayed the video from the main hall of the hotel, where Sanders and Morgan were last seen. He had watched the video from the security camera three times, hoping to find anything that could help them locate the missing agents or at least give them some kind of idea what could have happened, but he found nothing. Stopping it, Phil pinched the bridge of his nose.
It was supposed to be a quick op, but things were rarely easy when they involved sending a larger number of agents to the same place.
“Yes, Jasper?”Phil turned to look at the plans once again. “Have you found anything?”
“I think Romanov left us a message,” Jasper said, sounding relieved. “The owner of the hotel might not be as innocent as he seemed. I’m sending you pictures. These look like coordinates.”
“I have them,” Phil saved the files and printed them out right away. “Let Anderson and Ramirez know, too. Search the rest of the building, just in case. We have to check if anyone else at the hotel is involved in whatever Pearson is planning. I’ll take the pictures to the analysts.”
“Keep me updated.”
Soon Phil was walking down the corridor leading to the analysts’ offices, planning to contact Director Fury as soon as he delivered the pictures Jasper sent to their best team.
“Have you found something, Jasper?”
“Ramirez did, I think” Jasper answered. “The coordinates led us to a small house in the middle of the forest. According to what we found, it belongs to Pearson’s sister. There’s a series of letters and numbers carved on the leg of the bed, and looks like someone was in a hurry. The lines are not very deep.”
“What does the engraving say?” Phil asked, walking up to his desk to grab a pen and a sheet of paper.
“1699.N.LNCLN,” Jasper said slowly, giving Phil time to write everything down. “Do you know what that might mean?”
Phil looked at the series of numbers and letters, frowning. They seemed strangely familiar, but he couldn’t place where he could see anything resembling this code. “I’ll try to find out.”
He was done with majority of his paperwork for the day, so he decided to look for answers himself. After contacting one of the leading cryptographers employed by S.H.I.E.L.D., he started going through codes he was familiar with, while the cryptographer was looking through the S.H.I.E.L.D. database. However, after five long hours of sitting in front of the screen, Phil leaned back in his chair, trying not to sigh. Taking a sip of coffee, he wondered where he recognized the code from, when he glanced at the silly pink pen Clint had bought him during an op in Nebraska…
Phil blinked a few times, then looked at the sheet of paper again, smiling. “Nebraska. Of course. You’re brilliant, Clint.”
He picked up his phone again and dialed Jasper’s number.
“Lincoln, Nebraska. This is what the code says,” Phil said as soon as he heard Jasper’s voice on the other end of the line. “Clint must have been in this house.”
“How do you know?”
“Sorry, but I still don’t follow.”
“January 6, 1999. During an op we were driving through Lincoln, and Clint bought a pen for me and a bracelet for Natasha,” Phil said, and he didn’t realize the corners of his lips rose in a gentle smile at the memory until he heard Jasper sigh.
“…I can’t with you two.” Phil could imagine Jasper rolling his eyes right then. “Looks like we’re going to Lincoln, then.”
The bullets were flying everywhere.
Phil, along with Hernandez and Bell, entered the building where, according to the information they had received from Jasper’s team, Clint and Natasha were held, and hopefully Morgan and Sanders as well.
Bell, along with two agents appointed by Jasper, were sent to investigate the west wing of the building, while Hernandez went with Phil to see how well protected the east side of the building was. Jasper’s team wasn’t able to find much about the building’s security, so Phil would have to adjust the plan according to any new information they acquired on their way, which made things a bit tricky, but Phil was used to handling difficult situations.
Soon, however, when Phil told Hernandez to check the nearest emergency exits and places that could be used as emergency exits, Bell reported that they had been spotted. After that everything happened so quickly that Phil barely managed to report to Jasper what was going on, before five armed men started shooting at them.
The men had the advantage of knowing the building much better than S.H.I.E.L.D. did, but it wasn’t Phil’s first rescue mission.
He contacted Bell and told him to stay close to the other agents, but he didn’t have time to say anything else, because the attackers started shooting at him. Three bullets hit the wall somewhere to his right, not far away from his shoulder and head, and he ended up running towards the nearest turn to hide behind the wall to give himself some time. He couldn’t see Hernandez anywhere, but he also didn’t see any traces of blood on the floors, so hopefully she was okay.
Trying to calm his breathing, Phil waited a few seconds until the security guards stopped shooting, before he ran towards the other end of the corridor, making sure he was staying as close to the wall as possible.
As he kept moving, he touched his earpiece gently to try to contact the others, but it seemed like something was jamming the signal more and more with his every step towards the corridor in which, according to the S.H.I.E.L.D.’s tacticians, the kidnapped agents could be.
Suddenly he heard an explosion and the walls started shaking slightly.
It came from the western part of the building, and Phil couldn’t contact Bell to check if everyone was fine. Fuck. It was not good. Not good at all.
Hopefully it was only him who couldn’t contact the others and someone managed to let Jasper know what had happened even before the explosion occurred.
Phil kept moving forward, until he heard footsteps coming from the next corridor. He raised his gun, his finger on the trigger, when suddenly a lifeless body of one of Person’s goons fell to the floor, and a familiar figure stepped out from around the corner. Phil exhaled quietly, relieved.
“Hey, boss. How’s it going?”
“It’s fine, Clint. Natasha is okay, and we got Morgan and Sanders out. Lie down, I’ll handle everything else.”
“Fuck, my ribs hurt.”
“That might be because you fell off a balcony. You pushed Natasha out of the way when Pearson’s bodyguard started to shoot at her.”
“Yeah, that’s probably it. Phil?”
“I think I’m gonna sleep after all. Stay?”
“I’ll be right here.”
When Phil entered Clint’s room in medical, he found that the archer was throwing crumpled up sheets of paper into the bin standing near the window, using the hand that was currently not wrapped up in bandages. Judging by how the bin was almost full and the speed with which Clint was creating new balls, he must have been busy for the last hour, assuming he wasn’t taking any breaks.
Doctor Allen informed him that Natasha’s injuries were not life threatening, but she suggested that Natasha should stay a few days in medical, while Clint, whose ribs were heavily bruised and the fingers of his left hand were nearly crushed, was supposed to stay in his usual room in medical for at least two weeks. At least they were both doing better than Agent Sanders and Agent Morgan, who would stay on sick leave for at least a month each.
Still, Clint was not happy about not having anything to do. It took Phil almost three hours to convince his lover that if Doctor Allen thought that he should stay in bed, there was a reason for that, even if Clint felt fine. Well, he might have had to bribe Clint with a promise of letting him plan their next weekend off, but at least it worked.
“How’s Tasha?” Clint asked as he turned to look at Phil before he threw the last ball into the bin.
“Doctor Allen thinks she’ll be able to leave in three days.”
Clint just sighed, still clearly annoyed that he’d have to stay in medical longer, and leaned back against his pillow.
“Lucky her,” he said, closing his eyes briefly. “Have you caught Pearson yet?”
“Jasper is still working on it,” Phil sat down on the chair next to the bed. “He and his team left yesterday. The evidence you and Natasha collected will be enough to put him in jail and close his all the branches of his company in the US and Brazil.”
“Yeah, we’d have brought the tapes earlier if not for the guy who caught Morgan and Sanders,” he said. He tried to raise his left hand and winced slightly, realizing it wasn’t the best idea after all. “Damn, at least it’s not my right hand.”
“Apparently he was there by accident, at least according to him and the woman he met before he found Morgan and Sanders. He left his assigned position to meet her. That’s why none of the reports mention that he could have been there.”
“Yeah, I bet that made Morgan feel better.”
Phil snorted at that. “He agreed to cooperate and tell us everything he knows as long as we don’t mention his impromptu meeting with Miss Rayland to anyone.”
“Priorities, right?” Clint waggled his eyebrows and Phil couldn’t help rolling his eyes.
“Indeed. Jasper will let me know when he finds something. Until then we’re waiting. Nick just signed your and Natasha’s reports, so you’re officially off the case.”
“And I’ll be able to leave on Friday, right?”
“Yes, Agent Barton. If you let us do our jobs until then, I believe that is possible.”
They both turned to look at Doctor Allen, who had entered the room, holding a folder full of documents, which must have been Clint’s.
“Good afternoon, Agent Coulson.”
“Good afternoon, Doctor,” he replied, as Doctor Allen walked up to Clint and checked his medical chart. “Is his hand going to be okay?”
“We believe so, yes. His ribs, too. He was lucky,” she smiled, never taking her eyes off the document. “It’ll take some time until bruising goes down, as you’re probably aware by now, Agent Barton,” she wrote something on the document before she put it down and took a sheet of paper out of the folder she was holding before handing it to Phil. “If you could sign this, Agent Coulson…”
“Yes, of course.”
“Nurse Matthews will bring you an ointment for the bruises and your medication later, Agent Barton,” she took the document from Phil and hid it back in the folder. “That would be all for today, I think. You know the drill, Agent.”
“Sure. Thanks, Doc,” Clint grinned and Doctor Allen just smiled.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, then.”
After she left, Phil reached for Clint’s right hand and squeezed his fingers. “I’ll have to get back to work soon, too, but I can ask someone to bring you a tablet or some books, if you want.”
“You could bring me the comic books I left in your office, I guess?” Clint said, squeezing Phil’s fingers back. “If I’m staying here longer, I can at least catch up with reading.”
“I’ll bring them later, after I deal with the rest of the reports Jasper’s team brought.”
Phil got up from the chair and leaned down to kiss Clint gently, and Clint’s hand moved from Phil’s cheek to his neck, deepening the kiss. A slightly tired, but still bright smile appeared on Clint’s face when they parted, and when Phil saw it , he was very tempted to just call Nick and tell him he wanted to take the rest of the day off to stay with Clint, but he knew he still had work to do.
Before he left the room, he noticed Clint putting his hearing aids on the bedside table, next to a bottle of water and some old science fiction novels one of the nurses must have brought.
“Try to get some more sleep.”
In the afternoon, Phil found Clint sleeping soundly in bed, one arm wrapped around Phil’s pillow, cuddling it to his chest, the other one, which was still wrapped in a bandage, was lying on his chest. He looked comfortable, and Phil was glad his lover was finally getting more sleep.
While Clint didn’t have problems with sleeping overall, he always slept more when he was spending the night at Phil’s apartment.
Phil decided not to wake him just yet. If he ended up napping in the middle of the day it meant he must have really needed it, so Phil closed the door quietly and went to the kitchen to prepare something easy to eat. Only after he started opening one cabinet after the other did he realize that he hadn’t gone shopping in the last few days .
“Tomato soup it is, then,” he muttered to himself quietly. He knew how to make that one, and, fortunately, Clint liked his tomato soup.
It wasn’t long before the food was ready, and Phil was putting a bowl on the tray to take it to the bedroom. As he placed everything on the bedside table carefully, he glanced at Clint once again.
He ran his fingers through Clint’s hair, then squeezed his shoulder gently, and Clint reacted right away, leaning against his hand, sighing quietly.
Phil watched as Clint stretched his legs and opened his eyes slowly, and only when he was sure the younger man was looking at him, he asked: “Sleep well?”
“Yeah,” Clint answered, clearly still sleepy. He reached to grab his hearing aids from the bedside table. Once they were in, Clint yawned and rubbed his eyes slowly. “Would have been better if you were here, though. How was the meeting? Anything interesting happened?”
Phil smiled at the archer.
“I honestly don’t know what you expect to happen at those meetings,” Phil ran a hand through Clint’s hair again. “But we decided that we’ll keep an eye on all the people that worked with Pearson, just to make sure no one else was involved in his plans. Maria is going to appoint a team that’d be in charge of that.”
“Also, Doctor Allen told me to inform you that she highly suggests that you take the next week off as well,” Phil added, amused as Clint groaned quietly. “She thinks it’d be better to give your ribs and wrist more time to heal before you try jumping off buildings, doesn’t matter how many times you tell her that you’re feeling fine.”
Clint just grumbled at that, but, probably knowing that he won’t win, he didn’t argue. He did, however, look at the bedside table.
“Tomato soup?” He sat up slowly, grimacing slightly as he leaned back against the headboard.
“Yes, it is. I’ll go grocery shopping tomorrow after work. Either that, or it’s tomato soup or takeout for the whole week,” Phil said, handing Clint the tray.
“I don’t mind,” Clint grinned at him, eating the first spoonful. “I like your soup.”
Kissing the side of Clint’s head, Phil got up from the bed. “Eat. I’ll go change, send a couple of e-mails, and then I’m all yours. And don’t forget to take your meds.”
“Yes, sir,” Clint mock-saluted, and Phil couldn’t help shaking his head at him.
Phil leaned back in the chair as he watched the next report load on the screen of his computer. He still had about twenty to go through, but if he did them all right away, he wouldn’t have to think about them the next day.
He was printing out the forms he had to sign, when he heard knocking on the door and then quiet footsteps behind him.
“I made you coffee,” Clint stepped closer to him, and put a large mug of coffee on the desk, right next to the stack of forms Phil had already signed. “How’s it going?”
“Thank you. I should be done in about an hour or so,” Phil said, not taking his eyes off the form he was reading, but he did reach for the mug and took a big sip of coffee. It was strong, but it’d definitely keep him awake.
“The paperwork won’t disappear, babe. It’ll still be here tomorrow.”
“I know, but the sooner I’m done, the sooner Nick can sign those, and then we’re done with Pearson’s case,” Phil answered, still sipping coffee. “I’ll send them in the morning, and then we have the whole weekend for ourselves.”
“Yup,” Clint kissed the top of Phil’s head, and Phil could tell his lover was grinning. “I already booked us a table at the fancy Indian place you like. And I called Fury to let him know we won’t be available for the whole day, doesn’t matter what is happening .”
“Do I want to know what he said to that?” Phil turned his head to see Clint waggling his eyebrows at him, and couldn’t help snorting in amusement. “Right. I can guess.”
“It’ll be fun!”
Phil turned his chair, caught Clint’s left hand gently, since two days earlier Doctor Allen decided that Clint didn’t have to wear bandages anymore, and pulled the other man to him, catching his lips in a kiss. Clint kept smiling as he wrapped his arms around Phil’s neck, before stepping back, licking his lips briefly.
“I’ll be waiting in bed. Love you.”
“I love you, too.”