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[personal profile] jendavis
Title: Come Undone
Fandom/Pairing: The Avengers, Clint Barton/Phil Coulson
Spoilers/Warnings: Is there anyone who hasn't seen the movie yet? Well, if not, this is a fix it. Eventually.
Rating: R
Summary: It was supposed to get easier, afterwards.

Previous Chapters: DW // LJ // AO3




The R&D meeting's exactly what Tony's thought it would be, and as far as anyone else can tell from this angle, he might actually be going over the updates from engineering, but the truth of the matter is that he'd sussed out the weakness of the water filtration system's anchors three days ago. It just doesn't cost him anything to let MacPhearson's team have the idea, be the first to mention it, take the credit.

It's still new, a habit that he's only recently started falling into. Maybe gods and aliens attacking the city put a few things into perspective, or maybe it was fighting alongside people who'd actually had his back, but he thinks, maybe, he's getting better about trusting people.

By his estimate, MacPhearson's still about five minutes out from actually announcing the solution they've found. Tony's got enough time to go through yesterday's hospital visit.

In the pictures, Coulson's very obviously humoring everyone, but he mostly looks tired, like he'd been forcing himself to rally for their sake. In almost half the photos, his eyes are off to the side, looking to the right and avoiding them all. Tony knows a little bit about keeping up appearances, and he knows a little bit about chest trauma, and he knows a lot about being besieged by jackasses with their cameras when their attention grates like sand on raw skin. He continues going through the pictures anyway.

He's gone through five or six more when he recognizes the expression on Natasha's face. It's concern, and if Tony were to recreate the scene, model it out, it's obvious that she's looking at the same chunk of wall as Coulson.

He flips back a few to confirm, and yeah. There it is. Both of them are definitely looking at something that Tony hadn't managed to catch. He reaches the end of the photos and glances up- MacPhearson's nearly finished outlining the weakness in the system's mounting jig- before starting to work his way backwards.

There's a great one of Cap blushing, mortified, as Coulson looks down awkwardly at the collector's cards he's just been given, and Tony thinks he might have it framed. A few images later, there's one that he's poised to delete, because Natasha had chosen that exact moment to walk through the shot. Tony can just make out the bunch of flowers that Barton's handing over, though his face and Coulson's are blocked. On third viewing, there's no way in hell Natasha's smirk isn't deliberate.

Moving forward from there, he double checks every worried glance, and even finds one of Banner, standing against the wall with a grin on his face and blocking his view of Barton, leaning next to him. All Tony can see of him is a knee and crossed arms.

He's pretty sure that he's got this, but he throws all the images into the 3D modeling program and lets it run. He listens attentively as MacPhearson finally gets to the big reveal. By the time they're finished talking about the new bolts and the meeting's adjourned, the program's spit out a model with baseline positions of everything that had been in the hospital room. Shifting the viewing angle, he can make out everyone's individual sight lines, and he's positive, now. They're definitely looking at Barton.

Going back to the original images, he pulls up some of the clearest images of Natasha's face. Pepper's worn that same expression more than once, when she'd thought Tony couldn't see her. But it's the shots of Coulson that actually put it into perspective, because they're the one's he's caught himself wearing, when he'd thought Pepper wasn't looking.

If he'd managed to catch Barton's face more often, Tony could do the math, figure out whose gaze he'd been avoiding more, but it's probably just as well. This is already feeling invasive as hell, it's not anything he can actually use or even needs to know, and he's got a meeting with the foundation, upstairs, in three minutes.

---

Of the two of them, Phil's definitely the worst patient, if only because Clint's more accustomed to being the one stuck in the hospital bed. He doesn't have Phil's clearance, either. There's nobody who reports to him with intel he can pass along, and an out-of-the-loop Phil is an unhappy Phil. Despite hating the sight of it these days, Clint finds himself breaking the moratorium on television by the first afternoon. The box on the wall doesn't provide the best intel, but it's better than nothing.

It's not surprising that the attack on New York City is still ruling the news cycle. From the President to the police to the business owners with their broken storefront windows, everyone has something to say about it. There are scientific experts from fields Clint's never heard of asking questions and making postulations, though they're still months away from releasing their findings. There are interviews with congressmen demanding that preparations be made for further chaos, and the Generals demanding investigations into SHIELD's handling of the attack seem to be on the same page.

None of it gives them anything but best guesses. After the initial hour, Phil's finally overloaded enough to mute it. When CNN airs the press conference from the steps of Stark Tower, though, they pay attention. Stark's there himself, standing with practiced ease on the podium next to the Mayor, the Governor, and half a dozen city council members. They're all listening to Ms. Potts speak.

Phil's theory is that either Stark's gotten a lot better about image management, or, more likely, there had been a massive argument between he and Pepper that had only ended when the cameras started rolling. Clint doesn't know Stark as well as Phil does, but whatever the case, Stark seems to be smiling easily enough as Ms. Potts delineates Stark Industry's funding of the cleanup and revitalization efforts. When it's the Governor's turn to speak, he announces that unemployment in New York City is going to be at an historic low by this time next month.

"That's all well and good," someone eventually asks, during the Q&A, "but what about six months from now?"

Stark's obviously suppressing a grin as the Governor steps aside from the podium to let him answer.

"Here we go," Phil mutters. "Watch for it. Pepper should be looking murderous within the next thirty seconds."

"Thankfully, the events of last week trashed a fair amount of our city's infrastructure," Stark begins, and Phil's groan is loud enough that the nurses are probably already on their way. On screen, Stark's smirking at the similar upsurge of noise from the crowd. "Nearly two weeks ago, some of you were probably getting tipped off by your editors about a press conference at this address, which had to be postponed for reasons that I'm hoping last week's press conference covered in enough detail."

"Did you see that one?" Phil frowns over at him, annoyed by the existence of information that he hasn't been the first to know.

"No, but nobody's kicked down my door to drag me out for trial or anything," Clint shrugs. "And nobody's coming at him with a pitchfork right now, so I think it probably went okay."

Stark's still talking. "Over the past week, I've been in meetings with the people standing with me here. We've got the chance, here, not only to repair that infrastructure, but redesign it. We're looking at upgrades on a scale, city wide, that would have been a lot longer in coming if we hadn't been presented with the opportunity to rebuild so much right now. I'm talking about free, clean energy. I'm talking safe, sustainable energy. I'm talking about needing hundreds of people to work on that technology and thousands more to build that technology, and it's not going to stop here."

The noise from the crowd shouldn't be able to double, but it does, and then it's an overview of arc reactor technology and the announcement that more information is going live online at noon, and that functional models are being unveiled in each of the five boroughs in preparation for a referendum next week.

"The timing looks bad," Clint looks at Phil once it's over. "He has to know that everyone thinks he's using alien technology, right?"

"That's probably why he's releasing all the data and letting them put it to a vote," Phil says. "Might offset the crazy conspiracy theories just enough to get by."

Clint laughs, then his eyes narrow, trying to scowl. "Am I supposed to be insulted by that?"

"Not at all. You actually have been involved with two of at least seven alien conspiracies that I'm aware of. And I don't think you're crazy."

"Any more, at least, right?" Even he's saying it, Clint realizes he's cranking the wheel, veering them straight off the road and into territory he doesn't want to talk about, doesn't even want to think about. If he'd just managed to change the tone as he'd said it, he wouldn't be crashing right now.

"Hey," Phil reaches a hand out abortively, then lets it drop. "You're not crazy."

Clint nods, annoyed. He could point out that he hadn't been then, either, but then he'd have to explain it.

---

Fury sounds tense when he answers his phone, but it's unlikely that Clint's ever had to call him with good news. "Barton, what's the situation?"

"No, it's me," Phil says. "Clint caved, let me use his phone. Everything's fine. You got a minute?"

Fury's obviously in a meeting; Phil can hear him announcing that something's come up that requires his attention, and that the others should feel free to continue beating a dead horse in his absence.

"Right," Fury says a moment later. "Thanks for the exit. You doin' all right?"

"Achy, miserable and mostly bored out of my mind. The television's just not doing it for me. I need intel, whatever you can give me."

"Well," Fury chuckles. "Word is, Banner's missing. Truth is, he and Stark are working on the data we managed to record on the wormhole. Thought it might be useful to be able to contact Thor should the need arise. Romanoff and Rogers are pretty much the only people who are doing what they're supposed to be doing. I haven't heard from either of them in days."

"Have there been any serious attempts to track anyone down?"

"Stark's latest press conference seems to have shifted a lot of attention off the Initiative and onto the tech he's rolling out for New York, and that, combined with a surprising lack of rioting in the streets since everything went down has gone far towards talking the powers that be around to dropping it, but we're not there yet. We've still got a lot of people who are nervous about Barton, though." Fury lowers his tone at the admission. "Is he there?"

"Went out to grab some lunch. Said he'd be back in a bit."

"How's he doing?"

"He's all right. Think he'll be happier once we're back home."

"Not a fan of hospitals, huh?" They're both pretending, Phil knows, that they're merely chatting instead of trading intel. It doesn't make it feel any less slimy.

"You ever meet anyone who was?" Phil glares at the clock. He's got PT in fifteen minutes, and honestly, even holding the phone up for this long is wearing him out. "Look, for what it's worth, he really is doing all right. It's not like when we brought Natasha in, but..."

"She would've been the first to tell us if it was," Nick answers. "For what it's worth, Selvig's working with some of our specialists to figure it out, and from the reports, it seems that while Loki's means of control were much more powerful than what Romanoff went up against, they were a lot simpler. In her case, they'd had a lot of time to bend her will to meet their own ends, which is why it took six months and six figures to get her to the point where she was no longer trying to actively kill us. If Loki had the capability for that, he didn't have the time, because he'd merely buried their will underneath his own. A blow to the head and a few hours of rest was enough to shake it off."

"It seems he could've done a lot more than that."

Fury snorts in distaste. "He wouldn't have thought it worth the trouble."

"Thank, well, any god but him," Phil jokes, but his heart's not in it. There's this huge chasm of things he doesn't know, and he's going to have to find out what, exactly, Clint remembers.

They're going to have to talk about it.

Crap.

---

Phil's distracted when Clint comes back from the cafeteria, and he knows he's just gotten off the phone with Fury. The apologetic grimace on Phil's face is enough to tell them who they'd been talking about.

"Everything okay?"

"Yeah, but. Not right now, or anything, but I'm going to need you to take me through it. What went down with Loki." He's not making it an order. He's not even bothering to hide the fact that he's dreading it, but it doesn't make the prospect any more appealing.

Clint forces a nod. They don't have the time, right now, and it's not the sort of conversation that would hold up to the light in a room this bright. "When we're out of here, okay?"

"Deal," Phil agrees, and when the nurse comes in with a wheelchair to take him down for PT, Clint follows like he always does, and helps where he can. There's not much to do- mostly it's Phil's arms and shoulder that need the exercise, but it's something solid, manageable, and it's the closest thing thing they've got to a routine in this place.

When it's finished, Phil's a little worn out, a little more relaxed, a little bit easier on both of them than before.

Afterwards, it's dinner, television- Phil's got to be the only person on the planet who probably appreciates the hospital's channel selection, leaning against Clint's side as they crack jokes about the insanely fixable problems facing the latest crop of reality TV stars. If Clint tunes out the noise from the corridor and squints just right, so that the hospital walls fade away behind the glare of the screen, he can pretend that they're back home, on their couch, where neither of them have been for weeks, now.

He's feeling every single day of it. Now that Phil's on the mend, it no longer feels like he's wanting something he might never have again. He's allowed to be homesick. And as tired as he is of the hospital, he hates his hotel room even more. He'd thought he'd be sleeping better these days, but his room is small and confining. It's on the first floor, too, so he can't see much that's coming, but he can hear everything passing by, from the vacationing family two rooms over to the trucks on the street.

It wouldn't bother him so much if the noise was more of a distraction, but he's just good enough at tuning things out that it's no trouble at all to lie in bed and think too damned much about gods getting in where they shouldn't, and all the things they can make a man want to do.

Just a few more days, though, and he can take Phil home, and everything will be go back to normal.

---

Phil's losing his goddamned mind.

The problem with recovery is that for days on end, there's nothing much to do besides enjoy the full awareness of every little thing that's wrong. The bandages itch, his chest and back ache, his elbow feels like it's never going to sit right in its socket again and it hadn't even taken a direct hit. Everything else seems muffled, even after they've taken him off the heavy painkillers. He can't tell, any more, tell if it's the layers of stitches in his chest or the chemical hangover that's making him feel so ill and disconnected.

His physical therapy sessions give him a focus point, at least. The muscles he's lost lying in bed are bad enough; working on his arms and shoulders is terrible. The back stretches are pure screaming agony, and he's not trying to take it out on Clint, but he's there, patient through all of it, and doesn't even try to dodge the barbs Phil's too frustrated not to throw his way.

When they're finished for the day, he's always surprised to find that the wound on his back hasn't actually reopened, that it only feels like his vertebrae are falling out through his skin.

He's surviving. He's also sleeping a lot. He's tired of it.

There are exactly three parts of the day worth being awake for. In the mornings, it's Clint arriving, tired but grinning, gripping his coffee cup like it's a lifeline and, more importantly, letting him have half of it. In the afternoons, it's Clint coming back into the room once Phil's cleaned up and had a few minutes to get his head together enough to forgive him for witnessing every mortifying moment of physical therapy. In the evening, though, and this one's the hardest to stay awake for, it's when Clint eases up next to him on the bed, gives him something to lean against now that he's too worn to keep the aches at bay, and starts a running commentary on the latest episode of Supernanny.

More than once, he wakes in the middle of the night and wonders if Clint's nightmares look anything like his own, but he doesn't ask.They don't talk about Loki yet. When they inevitably do, it'll probably only happen after they've sat through so many debriefings that the edges have worn off through repetition. In the meantime, he pretends not to notice whenever Clint's face goes slack, eyes staring off into the middle distance for moments at a time.

There's not a whole lot else he can do, these days, not here.

He just wants to go home, already.

---

Tony Stark sends a jet down to pick them up, insisting that it will be more comfortable than whatever transport SHIELD would manage to arrange. Contrary to what Clint's heard, there are no stripper poles on board, though he presses every button on his seat's armrest, just in case, until Phil rolls his eyes at him.

He's more thorough with his survey of the apartment when they arrive, and doesn't stop when Phil rolls his eyes. There's nobody lying in wait, and it's obvious that nobody's even been here, but the fridge has been cleaned out and stocked and there's a neat stack of mail and newspapers on the kitchen counter.

He leaves Phil dozing upstairs- he'll be joining him soon- and shoots Natasha a quick text.

Thanks.

Her reply comes as he's heading back up the stairs.

I have no idea what you're talking about. Welcome home..

---

The first time Phil wakes up in his own bed, the sun's just setting through the half-opened blinds Clint's lying next to him, asleep.

This, Phil thinks, is why he came back from the dead.

"You're staring." He doesn't open his eyes. If he hadn't spoken, Phil wouldn't have guessed he'd been awake. He doesn't flinch at the hand Phil waves over his face.

"You're just playing the odds."

Clint smirks, eyes still closed as he turns to kiss him, his aim as good as ever. It's probably meant to be quicker than it is, but Clint stays when Phil grabs his arm, their mouths open in a way they hadn't been in two weeks.

"Missed this."

"Missed you," Clint replies, almost irritably.

"Technically, I didn't even go any-"

Clint catches his mouth again, kissing harder, and at any rate, he'd only been arguing semantics. "Dragged my ass all the way down to Philly," he says, in between. "You know you're gonna owe me for that."

He could say something about paying his debt right now, but it sounds cheesy enough in his own head that he'd only end up cracking up. He almost does anyway, and Clint's close enough to notice. He rises up on one elbow, his fingers still splayed low on Phil's stomach, scratching lightly. His eyes are crinkled, a little rueful, a little unrepentant.

"I should let you sleep."

He'd honestly thought he wouldn't be up for it, that the drugs would've killed his response entirely, but he's getting hard, if slowly.

"You really shouldn't." Phil drags his hand up underneath Clint's shirt; his back is still sleep-warm and his skin prickles when the air conditioning hits. Clint's hips meet his, but he's holding back, curving around him, so Phil doesn't have tell him to ease up, watch the injury. He doesn't have to ruin this.

"You sure?"

Phil manages a glare. Clint manages to look cowed for exactly three seconds before his smirk's attention returns to Phil's collar, his hand trails lower, rucks up his shirt. "Don't move."

This, Phil amends, catching his breath as Clint moves down, is why he came back. Clint's hair's still just a little crunchy from the gel he uses, mostly worn off, familiar under his fingers. His mouth and stubble against his side are only slightly less so, but the hands tugging at his waistband, those Phil knows.

Clint grins up at him, even though Phil's only half hard, and strokes him experimentally. Phil's about to apologize, remind him about the painkillers messing with his system, but there's warm, hot breath on him, there are lips and tongue, and the words escape him.

"I got you," Clint murmurs, taking a breath and settling down more comfortably, stroking down to his base before he takes him in again.

Clint works him to full hardness in less than a minute.

Within the next, he reaches the point where he'd normally be content to ride this out for days. He ignores the twinging in his back and focuses instead on the steady wet pace and the pressure on his hip where Clint's leaning. This would be easier if he were lying down completely, and stretching to card through Clint's hair is a little uncomfortable, but Clint's hair isn't messed up enough, yet, and Phil wants to see. Doesn't want to stop.

Clint watches him back, because he's always taking aim, and he seems to know what Phil wants before his brain's even articulated it. The crinkling around his eyes and the new tightening of his mouth- he'd be chuckling if he could- is nearly enough to set Phil off.

Clint grabs Phil's hand, presses it down more tightly against the back of his skull and takes him in deep, suddenly; it's a signal that Phil has no intention of ignoring, and he starts to thrust, just this side of carefully, as he chases the edge. He goes still the moment Clint backs up, coughing and laughing, and shaking his head that he's fine, before pressing Phil's hips down into the mattress and wrapping his mouth around him again.

Phil lets his head drop back to the bed and rides it out, easy, until the crash.

---

"Come here," Phil grumbles once he's had a few seconds to recover, tugging up on his arm until he's sprawled with his forehead pressed against Phil's shoulder. He doesn't mean to grind against him, not really, and it's probably hell on Phil's injury, lying on his back the way it is. He should check, clean him up. He'll take care of himself in a minute, but for now, Phil's hands are roaming all over him and it's just perfect.

"Here, let me-" Phil's trying to manhandle him, Clint realizes belatedly. "Turn over, would-"

"You don't have-" the words come out choppier than he intends, but he's just getting his breathing under control.

"Shut up," Phil hooks his fingers behind Clint's belt and tugs until the message gets through; he wants Clint's jeans off, but the angle's all wrong for him to unzip him. If Phil's decided he can handle it, he'd be stupid to argue. "Scoot up, yeah?"

He braces himself on his elbow, wanting to lie against him but not enough to risk it, and Phil's got him wrapped in a loose grip that only tightens when Clint stops teasing, kisses more deeply. There's lube in the nightstand, but sweat's enough for this.

Even with the awkward angle and the lack of finesse, the friction and the weeks-since-it's-been is quickly becoming overwhelming.

This is probably wearing him out, Clint eventually admits, but Phil's survived worse. His being here proves it; it's that thought, as much as anything, that's setting his nerves screaming.

He doesn't even need it faster than this, he just needs Phil to never stop. And because Phil's perfect, he doesn't.

"God, I love you."

"Love you too," Phil mutters against his temple, mouth sliding over the sweat, and Clint risks sliding a hand up his chest, up underneath the shirt they hadn't bothered removing. His heart's pounding, alive, and this isn't even the first time Clint's promised himself he'll never again take it for granted.

He's close, he's so damned close, and Phil's already there, tightening and driving him faster now, no room for any other thought, and he feels like he might be close to whiting out, he can already hear himself choking for air, and it hits, brilliant.

He falls into Phil, afterwards, with just enough awareness to avoid landing on his chest, and doesn't mind breathing the overheated air between them. He just needs to catch his breath, come back to himself.

He will, in a minute.

---

Clint's close to crashed out, but he'll be stirring soon, and they'll get up, shower, and hopefully start thinking about dinner.

Beyond that, Phil's too content to worry about the list of things he means to get to that he'd started compiling in the hospital. Emails. Phone calls. Meds. Maybe some television out in the living room. His sidearm had been returned in the same bag as his destroyed suit, and though it looked like everything had been cleaned, he needs to be sure. Proper coffee should probably wait until morning. A shave would go a long way towards making everything normal again, it doesn't hold a candle to this, here, feeling the sweat cooling on his skin as Clint shifts against him, trying to muster the wherewithal to move. He's not fooling himself, but it's starting to feel like he's finally come home.

He considers mentioning it aloud, too relaxed to care how sappy it sounds, but Clint's hitching up his jeans, kneeling, getting up, and Phil's never been so wrong in his life.

This isn't home. This is all wrong.

Clint's heading for the door, leaving him, and his eyes are a bright, screaming blue. 


Chapter 6
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