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a verb, a doing word

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They have a routine. Well, yeah, okay, so they have several routines, sub-routines, plans B through Z(ix), and an escape hatch that he’s never told anyone about (so probably only Tash knows… and Kate… and yeah probably Bobbi; he kinda needs to figure out another escape hatch) and money and I.Ds stashed in about five different places just in N.Y.C. They’re good with redundancy; got beaten into their bones in all the years serving whimsical masters: between them they have four decades in military, paramilitary, and alphabet organizations.

Aw, digressions.

Right, so they have a routine for after-care if only one of them has been on a mission and left the other to fret at home or be an annoyance to teammates elsewhere. Get back stateside, debrief, let S.H.I.E.L.D Medical derive sadistic pleasure from drawing blood and poking bruises, stand under a shower turned as hot as you can bear, drag on civvies musty from being stored in the lockers, pelt your way to the nearest vehicle before Hill corners you for paperwork, order food on the way in, reach home and clutch onto boyfriend while making fervent declarations about never ever leaving them again, pay for and devour food, lock yourselves in bedroom and re-emerge twelve-to-twenty hours later fed hydrated and happy. It’s a simple routine, every step laid out, and it’s always worked.

It had always worked. Before everything, when Strike Team Delta was handler, spy, sharp-shooter, and everyone in it was loaned out for other operations, and every other handler who had him or Natasha would return them with barely-concealed relief and say condescending shit, and every other team that ever got Coulson stalked him around the Triskelion and made bitchy comments about him and Natasha. Clint’s thick-skinned and his team is the best, so he’d smiled a big shit-eating grin and wrapped his arm around Natasha and his hand around Coulson’s wrist and gone swaggering out to the parking lot and watched Natasha tuck into her gleaming monstrosity of a car while Coulson brought his around.

He used to have a good life, Clint. Service apartment, job satisfaction, pay package plumped out with hazard pay, cochlear implants, a sister acquired at arrow-tip and and and… Look, okay, Natasha’s beaten it into him that love is for children but Clint had honestly rarely loved even as a child and he can dissociate love and sex just fine thanks, he’s an assassin and can dissociate pretty well everything from everything else. But Coulson Phil had been stern with him in the field and indulgent in the office and protective against poachers and critics alike and tender during over-exhausted meals and the best lay Clint has had (and Clint misspent his teenage years in a circus) and Clint could only make all of that add up to love. He had nodded dutifully when Natasha told him about children and love, the first time and every time afterwards, and never told her how little he needed to be taught it, and thought the name Phil Coulson with the mental echo of who I love, until it became part of his name, an appellation as tied to him as Agent: Agent Phil Coulson, who I love. He never said anything, but at night with Phil asleep slumped into his side in the greatest trust anyone had ever shown him, Clint would draw it out on the fragile skin of his belly, the insides of his thighs, all the vulnerable spots where a grip or bite would linger and bruise, ghost fingers over him and sign I love you.

But all of that is from before. Before aliens came, before Clint got stabbed through the heart, before Clint cut a swath through his coworkers (his friends), before Coulson shot Loki and died himself on the same blade that had pierced Clint, before Coulson came back to miraculous life and left them and lied to them, to Clint, for two long years and learned to love a new team, before Clint was put on medical leave after his implants burst and moved to New York and bought a run-down apartment building and got adopted by a girl and a dog and relearnt a new team with Nat as his only point of familiarity and learnt how to cope even with Nat gone and no regular team and being sent out with a new handler every time.

The point is, they have a routine, and it used to work, and with minor adjustments (NY and not DC, Clint’s walk-up or Coulson’s quarters in Stark Tower and not service apartments) it still ought to. They pretend it does. It doesn’t.

Like right now. Coulson came back from parking the Bus and disseminating the kids all over the Triskelion to be other people’s problems for a while, they ate in the café on the 3rd floor and took the elevator up, locked themselves in and stripped off Coulson’s jacket, tie, and shirt, Clint’s t-shirt, and flung themselves in bed. They haven’t had sex for two months, Clint thinks he’ll die from having Coulson spread out under him, they’re bucking up against each other, Clint’s holding on for dear life, Coulson’s shoulder is flexing under his hand and Coulson’s hands are bruisingly hard on Clint’s waist, and Coulson’s face dominates his field of vision and Coulson is saying something he doesn’t have to lip-read to know are fervent declarations of love, and they’re going to have incredible sex and there’s a distinct possibility that Stark will be unable to meet Clint’s eye for days.

And it isn’t working. Clint is lying on the ridiculously comfy sheets while Coulson is crawling his way down the bed and smiling up at him. Clint is about to get his brains sucked out through his dick and then Clint is going to get fucked and then they’ll drowse together till dawn. Clint is looking down fondly and thinking, this is Agent Phil Coulson. God, I used to love him so much.