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A Few Good Pairs (Of Boots on the Ground)

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Lance Hunter had never been good at attachments. He’s sought them in strange places; when they fell apart it was alright, really, because what was he thinking? Marrying a gorgeous elite spy after falling in love with her alias—could he really be surprised when they didn’t fit together like June and Ward Cleaver? His best friend, of sorts, also had been a spy—more likely to charge in throwing knives than to go grab a casual pint. When she died in the line of duty, Hunter wasn’t surprised. Gutted, sure, but not surprised. 

What had surprised him was that he’d inflicted her last living moments with pain. He’d carry Isabel Hartley’s screams with him to his grave—cutting off her arm in the back of an SUV seconds before a car crash ended her life. Trying to save her, futile, as a hostile Enhanced had snuffed her out anyhow. 

So, as Hunter leaned against the door jam, looking at one of his new team mates, Hunter found himself very much in pattern.

Getting attached in strange places. 

Skye was a nice kid and seemed a good agent, all told. Young, but quick, brave, and utterly devoted to Coulson and May. He hadn’t thought she knew Hartley very well but here she was, packing up her things to send along to her next of kin. Hunter surprised himself when he paid Skye the highest compliment he could think of. “You remind me a lot of Izzy.”

Hunter tried to tell Skye not to get attached, and it sort of felt like he was talking to his younger self—especially when she replied that she’d given the loner life a try and it hadn’t worked out. “For you either,” she’d quipped. 

Too bloody right. 

Now, Hunter had a choice to make. 

Talbot had offered him a cool two mil—offered it a bit too easily, in Hunter’s opinion, which had him suspicious enough—in exchange for Intel that would lead to Coulson’s capture and the dismantling of the re-animated corpse of SHIELD. The cherry on top of that, of course, would be the capture of Carl Creel and the mysterious obelisk that had played part in killing Hartley and Idaho.

It had been a tempting offer, but Hunter was ex SAS and he knew too many men of Talbot’s kind to trust their promises. Government promises always came bound up in red tape and marionette strings—and Hunter didn’t want to find himself attached there. So, he decided to see what this Coulson had to offer instead, opting to swipe a nice car and drive into the red zone near the Playground base, wondering who would show up to bring him in.

It was Agent Triplett. He was a SHIELD lifer, but Hunter liked him ok. Liked him a bit less when Tripp sent him in to see Coulson without letting him shower or change out of his bloody clothes first.

Once inside Coulson’s office, alone with the man for the first time, Hunter tried to get the measure of SHIELD’s new director. The man before him was a different breed of SHIELD agent. In his brief and furious courtship of Bobbi he’d crossed paths with a few higher ups, all ranging from tedious and doughy to frigid and terrifying. This man, Phil Coulson, was an entirely different animal. He was wary, ballsy, with an honest face and a way of speaking that meant he’d been out there doing it. His hairline was receding just enough that it was charming; his eyes warm, and his body much more taught than the average middle management type he’d met before. Coulson was comfortable with authority—but he wore authority his way. He’d earned it. If even half the rumors about his service were true, Hunter was impressed. The more he talked to the man, the more he put stock in the legends. 

He was buttoned down, this Phil Coulson, in a well-tailored but understated suit that said he’d spent enough quid to ensure he looked good, but not so much that he was over-compensating. Hunter found himself curious, what did the man look like in jeans? He shook his head to clear it. Now was not the time.

He tried to focus on the conversation at hand, wondering if he should throw in all his chips with Coulson, or with Talbot.

As he often did, Hunter chose secret option C. And as it often was, secret option C was a bloody stupid idea and resulted in an absolute clusterfuck. 

Coulson was getting his ducks in a row for the mission—try to take out Creel and nab the obelisk before it (and Creel) could be picked up by Hydra. Agents Skye, May and Triplett were preparing for the op and Hunter had finally ditched his stale, blood stained clothes for some clean ones. 

He jogged after them. “Where do you want me?”

“That depends,” Coulson said, sizing him up. “Can you follow an order?”

“Absolutely, Sir,” said Hunter—a little too quick, a little too eager. He found he didn’t at all mind calling Coulson “sir.”

He noticed that Skye raised her brows, an impish smile on her face as she looked between them. Coulson had the look of a man in a bind, but still weighing his options. Hunter knew then that Coulson was reluctant to trust him.

“Part of me wants you here, running Back end.” Coulson crossed his arms, and gave Hunter a long, searching look. “The other part of me knows I need boots on the ground, and I only have a few good pairs.” 

“I’ll be good,” Hunter said holding up his hands. “Scout’s honor.”

Of course, Hunter had never been in the scouts. 

So like the headstrong fool he was, Hunter decided to betray Coulson and Talbot, going after Creel his way. Hunter told himself the double-double cross had everything to with revenge, not avoiding attachment, for all the good it did him. He’d fucked up spectacularly, even for him: extensively burning both bridges, and of course, failing to take out Creel as well.

He’d really and truly thought he was going to die, then—burnt to a crisp by the power of that hateful obelisk as it pulsed through Creel’s equally hateful body. Just as he backed quite literally into a corner, the high powered assault rifle in his hands plainly next to useless against Creel’s abilities, Coulson stepped up behind the brute like some kind of knight in shining Armani. He pinned a weird looking bit of tech between Creel’s shoulder blades that caused the man to short circuit before turning to stone before Hunter’s very eyes.

Mouth open, frozen in the decidedly unmanly pose of flinching against the wall—flinching, not cowering—he looked up to see Coulson smirking at him. “You were never a Boy Scout, were you?”

***

Hunter avoided Coulson until the day of Isabel Hartley’s funeral, waiting for the shoe to drop. He’d pissed on Talbot’s offer and royally fucked Coulson’s op. While SHIELD had Creel, the obelisk was gone. He often felt the cold prickle on his back that meant he was being watched, but when he looked up it was the cold eyes of Melinda May, which was about a hundred percent more terrifying. 

Hoping he could be in the wind after the service, Hunter, jimmied the window to Izzy’s sister’s car, hanging the necklace he’d promised to give back around her rear view mirror. He brushed his fingers over the chain, saying his own sort of goodbye to Isabel Hartley.

“Breaking into cars now?”

Hunter sighed. Of course. He turned to see Coulson regarding him casually in another excellent suit, this one just as flattering but perhaps a bit more subdued, more appropriate for the current atmosphere. 

From Coulson’s tone, Hunter gathered he wasn’t about to be hauled into SHIELD headquarters in handcuffs, and he supposed that was something. While Coulson talked, Hunter’s gaze flickered over his head toward Izzy’s sister, Jane, receiving a folded American flag. 

“So,” Hunter said, finally, leveling his gaze at the man in front of him. “Talbot’ll be after me and I have no money to run. Any tips?”

Coulson stepped closer. “Yeah,” he said. “Don’t run.”

Hunter swallowed, thoroughly distracted by the movement, while Coulson suggested he join the team. 

“You need warm bodies, is that it?” Bloody hell, he thought, the words slipped out and he couldn’t call them back. 

Coulson was far too well trained to show a reaction to his bizarre word choice, but Hunter could have sworn he saw Coulson’s eyes dart down, saw a twitch in his jaw as he swallowed. It was fast enough that Hunter wasn’t certain. He didn’t have long to think about either, because Coulson was already off, explaining his plan to out-scheme Talbot in exchange for some good will and breathing room for SHIELD. 

Against his better judgment, Hunter decided to let himself get attached again. To SHIELD, or so he told himself, to this team, as good a group as any to throw down with, the Lesser of so many other possible evils, and Hunter hadn’t found a place in a while that made him want to stay put. And, he’d be lying if he said that this Coulson hadn’t piqued his curiosity a bit.

Alright, a lot. So sue him. Hunter would not have lived this long if he hadn’t learned to read people. He thought himself as pretty good at it, and he thought maybe he could read Coulson, too, given enough time. He thought he’d quite like to take the time.

***

Though Hunter knew, rationally, that the Director of SHIELD had more important things to do than indulge his idle curiosity and vague desire for someone to flirt with, he was still miffed that weeks after deciding to stay put at SHIELD he’d barely been able to break two words with Coulson. 

Lucky for Hunter, he knew how to keep himself amused. He may be more soldier than spy, but he still liked to play weird games from time to time. So, he made no effort to keep his eyes to himself when the team gathered around for a briefing, and if anything made sure to look a little too long, a little too hard. Coulson caught him a few times, but that was the point.

Hunter liked getting caught. Getting caught meant a few things. It meant that Coulson saw him looking. It meant Coulson was looking at him, too. And it meant they both knew it.

The team flew into Miami, for a mission that Hunter truthfully couldn’t give two shits about, except that it gave him the opportunity to get laid, and mess with Coulson a bit besides. They were after some bloody painting, which seemed small potatoes after the high stakes ops on which he’d been brought thus far. 

No matter. The woman Hunter had been sent to seduce—Hunter’s words, surely not Coulson’s orders—was beautiful, sweet, and a halfway decent fuck. The following morning, Hunter gave the team a show when he knew they were listening on coms, his voice pitched low and his words suggestive, like he hadn’t a care in the world who might hear him—but of course, he did care. 

He knew he’d gotten the upper hand when Coulson had snapped at him over coms later for using a double entendre. 

“Everyone on the planet knows what you mean Hunter,” he’d said, voice clipped and agitated, and Hunter found himself unable to stop grinning.

Later though, when Coulson had returned to the base, Hunter’s triumphant grin faltered when he saw how Coulson had dressed for his evening undercover with agent May. 

Bloody fucking hell. 

Coulson had on a well cut blue blazer, complete with pocket square and cuff links that probably cost the same as Hunter’s last car, matching slacks that were tight enough that proved Coulson kept up with current fashion but not so tight that he looked like he was trying to seem younger. He looked like he didn’t have to try to seem anything; he looked like he was comfortable, sure of himself. Confident. 

That wasn’t what had Hunter’s mouth running dry, the laugh dying on his lips. Coulson had forgone his usual tie in favor of a more casual look, a loose white button down with more than a few of said buttons undone, just a tease of his firm, freckly, tan chest and a soft tuft of tawny chest hair. That was plenty enough to have Hunter’s pulse quicken, let alone the subtle glisten of sweat on his exposed skin that completed the picture. Whether that was from the Miami heat, or the stress of their cover being blown, Hunter wasn’t certain. Maybe both.

Hunter realized his mouth was open, so he closed it, swallowing. His eyes flicked back up toward Coulson’s. The man plainly had larger concerns, rattling off orders and planning to dash off again with Agent May to make contact with Talbot. However, he paused, his eyes on Hunter’s for a split second. With a near infinitesimal quirk of his mouth, a twitch to his eyelids like he was narrowing them to get Hunter in his crosshairs, Coulson proved he knew how to play, too.

Shite.

Those moments were thrilling, but rare. Hunter, god save him, found himself actually having to focus on missions, on work. In spite of himself, he found himself focusing on the team, too. After Miami, he found himself drawn to the squirrelly little scientist, Fitz. Hunter was determined to draw him out of his stumble-tongued shell, so he found himself spending a lot of his spare time fanning the flames of their football rivalry and playing Halo in the common room with him and Mack. They were a good group, a family. 

Agent May remained aloof, but that sort of seemed her way. Plus, he supposed he had shot her, after all. He’d shot Skye too, but she really didn’t seem the kind to hold a grudge. Coulson, for his part, did seem to be trusting Hunter a bit more, bringing him on more ops. Though, to be fair, with SHIELD a pale shadow of what it was, there weren’t that many alternatives. Hunter was good, and Coulson knew it; he couldn’t afford to waste his talents as a field asset. 

For now, at least, Hunter was quite content to settle in with the team, do his work, flirt when the opportunity arose, and watch football with Fitz. The mix of personal and professional with this group was just the right cocktail for Hunter to stick his pinky in, give a good stir. It was the little things, putting his feet on the desk during briefings, wearing a tee shirt he knew was just a hair to tight. Coulson would swallow, his shaking hands would flit to the knot of his tie. Such a buttoned up guy, Hunter thought. He’d know he was on the right track if Coulson made it a point to ignore him, and if he could catch Skye with her eyebrows up behind her bangs, mischief in her eyes as they darted between himself and Coulson, that was just gravy.

In the spy life, though, nothing was simple. Hunter found, to his prickling dismay, that Coulson seemed less and less likely to play his games as the weeks wore on. He was no man’s fool, despite the demeanor he played up to the others because he’d long since learned his role on a team. Coulson was withdrawing, seeming to spend all his time holed up in his office, closeted with Skye or May, sometimes both. 

It was concerning, to say the least. His tightly wound but twinkle-eyed, dry-dad-joke-cracking demeanor faded into something brittle and haunted, his mouth always pressed thin, his hands always struggling not to shake. Hunter knew better than to ask; he was still several ripples outside the SHIELD inner circle, but he watched from afar, more than a little worried. The fledgling equilibrium he’d found here was beginning to show cracks, and one day it downright shattered.

Coulson had one of his agents, Simmons, undercover at Hydra science division. Aside from the fact that Fitz seemed to talk about her quite a bit, Hunter didn’t really pay the whole notion much mind. That is, until one day when he returned from a mission to see a familiar towering, leggy atomic bombshell standing in the common room.

Bobbi?”

A sigh he knew so well. “Hunter.”

Hunter turned to see Coulson smirking at him, damn the man. “You wanna tell me what the bloody hell she’s doing here?”

“Bobbi’s one of our best agents,” he said, smugly crossing his arms over his chest. He cocked his head to the side, the twinkle in his eye back with a vengeance.

“Great,” Hunter said, “then d’you wanna tell me what the bloody hell I’m doing here?”

The others in the room watched the exchange like a tennis volley.

“That’s easy,” Bobbi said. “I vouched for you.”

“Why would you do that?”

Smiling that damn smile, the dark hair color she’d taken for her undercover stint made her eyes stand out even bluer than usual. She walked past Hunter with that cocksure walk she had, and Hunter watched her go because he couldn’t not. When Bobbi had rounded the corner down the end of the hall, Hunter turned back to Coulson, who raised his brows in a friendly sort of challenge.

Bloody hell. Hunter thought he’d been playing with the man, but it was like Hunter had been still learning the rules of checkers and Coulson had set the table for chess. Bobbi’s arrival took nearly all of Hunter’s focus, which had possibly been Coulson’s gambit all along. He seemed the type to handle his distractions before they got in his way; the best defense is a good offense and all that.

And now Hunter’s ex-wife was here, bloody brilliant. It was always zero to sixty with Bobbi, a whole different sort of game than the one he’d been trying to tempt Coulson into playing, which is how he and Bobbi went from yelling in each other’s faces to fucking angrily in the back of one of SHIELD’s standard issue black SUV’s.

The sex was nothing but standard issue, and Hunter hadn’t realized how bad he’d needed it, until he was coming hard with Bobbi’s teeth clamped on the pulse point in his neck, her powerful fingers digging into his hips as she arched against him. They were dressed and ignoring each other before the afterglow had even worn off, and Hunter felt a little bad for the next agent who’d have to drive the vehicle with the ghost of their sex haunting his back seat.

Hunter stood in the showers, the water turned all the way to hot, then all the way to cold, then back again. His hands braced against the tile, head bowed under the spray. He ran a hand over his hair, hoping his brain would soon catch up with his dick. That was his post-Bobbi ritual. For someone with so much to say about trust, and his lack thereof, she’d certainly seemed awfully protective of her keys as they’d tumbled from her jeans pocket to the floor of the SUV. There was something there, he was sure of it. Add that to the list of things he absolutely did not need right now. He tried desperately to put it from his mind as he scrubbed his body.

He was so up in his head he barely even noticed Coulson coming into the showers as he was leaving, a fluffy white towel real low on his waist as he walked past Hunter without acknowledging him. It wasn’t until much later that Hunter remembered that Coulson had a private en suite bathroom in his office.

The following day, Hunter ended up on a mission with Bobbi, who of course was back to blonde and back to treating Hunter with a friendly, but frigid sort of detachment. The traded veiled barbs, much to the annoyance of Agent May, who was so irritated she almost had a facial expression. Aside from the fact that his football team was winning the league and Fitz’s was dead last, Hunter couldn’t count a single thing that was going right in his life.

The more he saw Bobbi around the base, the more at home she seemed, and the more he caught the fringes of whispered conversations, the way her hands flew to her cell phone at every notification, the more Hunter was certain that his passing interest in SHIELD was doing just that. Passing.

He liked Fitz, and Skye, and the others well enough, of course, and Coulson was … Coulson. But with Bobbi here running the usual missions on top of missions, he felt like SHIELD might just be more trouble than it was worth. So Hunter did what he usually did. He packed a backpack, a small one, and tucked it beside the door to his bunk, nice and neat and ready to go. Somehow though, Hunter never quite got around to leaving.

That isn’t to say that things got better. In fact, things continued to get worse, worse enough that Hunter found he had to use his entire brain to try to stay abreast of what would going on, putting his libido away to sulk. He had absolutely no time or emotional bandwidth for errant fantasies. Well, hardly any time. Not much time. It wasn’t his fault if his mind wandered in the shower, curious as to why Coulson would have walked into the communal locker room half naked when he had a much nicer private bathroom all to himself. And, was it his fault, really, if then he had to wonder what Coulson’s private bathroom looked like? Did it have a tub? Did the tub have jets?

Suffice to say, Hunter found himself twisted in more ways than one. So he pulled the reigns in on his games with Coulson, focused on the task at hand, and devoted a fair amount of energy to figure out what the blazes was going on with Mack and Bobbi. If it were anybody else, he would assume that what was going on was something. Not Mack, though. So Hunter kept his distance, keeping tabs, watching. He didn’t like what he saw. Then, Mack had almost died in the bloody alien temple. Skye had almost died, too—and Trip, had died. It was all way too fucking much, to be frank. The little bag by the door of his bunk started to look more appealing by the day.

He’d almost convinced himself to grab it, one night. Trip’s death was the lit fuse that set everyone off, yelling at each other, questioning Coulson’s authority, questioning the validity of SHIELD, their bonds to each other. It was bloody chaos. Then, Coulson had spoken up, his voice deadly, his eyes electric, the locked-down facade cracking and raw nuclear power beneath it finally showing through. Coulson commanded the room with a controlled sort of ferocity, the rage coming off him in tangible waves had Hunter hot from his toes to his scalp, and when Coulson met his eyes to give Hunter his orders he almost liquefied. “Yes, sir,” Hunter said, a bead of nervous sweat collecting on his temple.

He’d unpacked his bug out bag that very night, swearing quite a bit under his breath, cursing himself.

“Going somewhere, Agent Hunter?”

Hunter nearly jumped out of his skin. He was a hard man to sneak up on, or so he liked to think. He straightened up, embarrassed. “More like, deciding not to.”

Coulson regarded him thoughtfully, stepping a bit closer into Hunter’s space. “And why’s that?”

Hunter weighed his words carefully, doing his best to remain aloof, the merc, unattached. He shrugged. “I suppose I just like to be on the winning team.”

“And you’ve decided SHIELD’s the winning team?”

“I think only a fool would bet against you,” Hunter said before he could stop himself, “sir.”

Hunter definitely wasn’t imagining it this time; Coulson shivered. A tiny twitch, but it was enough. “So, you’re not a fool, then?”

 “Jury’s still out on that, sir.”

Coulson smiled, honest to God smiled, the crinkles beside his eyes looking like they were just begging for someone to kiss them, and Hunter had to steady himself on the dresser. Coulson’s smile turned a shade slyer, and he left Hunter to it, sliding the door closed behind him as he went. “It,” naturally being whipping out his cock and masturbating furiously like a teenager who’d just discovered how to lock a bathroom door.

After painting his own chest with his release, Hunter had to admit that maybe there was something going on here besides a boredom-driven desire to flirt. The mild-mannered director of SHIELD did something to him, something that he couldn’t seem to ignore. Panting, confused, furious with himself, Hunter jumped to his feet, using a dirty tee shirt to clean himself up. He dressed and stormed out of his bunk. Hunter had a lot of pent up energy, some fear at what the team was hurtling towards, and he was ready to unload it all over someone.

He’d been called a five alarm fire before, and he kind of understood that. Now, of course, Hunter had a few options. He could go talk to Coulson. He could go talk to Bobbi. He could go back to his bunk and cool off. But, as always, Hunter was a fan of the secret, worst possible, option. He charged into the engineering bay to confront Mack, running from his problems in a different sort of way: by crashing right through them, consequences be damned.

“Tell me what’s going on, Mack.”

“Hey, man,” Mack moved from under the hood of a car, standing up with a bemused expression on his face. “What do you mean?”

Hunter faltered for a brief second, doubting himself. Mack was one of the very few people on this planet he trusted. Through all his ups and down with Bobbi, he’d always been able to rely on Mack. He was being stupid.  Hunter was so close to just turning, retreating back to his bunk, when he caught something less than genuine in Mack’s eyes. Mack was a spy, too, Hunter recalled suddenly. He was an agent, just like Bobbi.

“You and Bobbi have something up and running.”

Mack scoffed, wiping his hands on a shop rag, and huffing out a laugh.

“What?”

“Your paranoia, man.” Mack grinned. “If you and Bobbi are fighting, or the other thing for that matter, please just leave me out of it.”

Hunter waited for Mack to turn back to the engine he was tuning before saying, “I know about the flash drive.”

The sudden tension in Mack’s broad shoulders was all the confession Hunter needed.

“I’ve known you both a long time, Mack,” Hunter said. “I can read you and Bob better than I can myself.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Hunter.” Mack’s voice was a dangerous rumble, a warning.

“Coulson doesn’t know yet,” Hunter said, pressing his advantage like a fucking idiot. Something about Coulson being betrayed when he was already spread so thin had him feeling strangely protective. “But I’m sure he’d like to find out.”

He turned to leave the bay, and Mack was on him in an instant. The man might not be big on combat ops but Mack was an absolute tank, and he lifted Hunter like a rag doll, forearm pressed under his windpipe. Hunter’s last thought before losing consciousness was a self-flagellating one, laced with profanity.

***

When Hunter woke, it was with a massive headache, worse than any hangover—especially when he remembered how he got it. There was also the not so small matter that he was handcuffed to a filthy motel toilet. He could tell it was a motel because of the shitty art on the walls, and the smell like the room had been disinfected but not truly cleaned. And here he was on the scummy tile, sitting beside a toilet. If that wasn’t perfectly bloody poetic he didn’t know what was.

Of course he tried to slip the cuffs, tried to break them, kicking against the pipes to which he was shackled, but he knew Mack wouldn’t have left him here unsupervised without doing his due diligence. He kept at it though, till his wrists were bruised and bloody and his throat raw from yelling.

“Wear yourself out yet?” Mack opened the bathroom door with his hip.

“Piss off,” Hunter said.

“Got your favorite,” Mack said, gesturing with the box of pizza in his hands. “Hawaiian.”

Hunter rolled his eyes. “Oh, well, if you got my favorite we’re certainly friends again.”

“Don’t be like that, man.”

“And what am I supposed to be like, exactly? I got here in the trunk of your car, if you recall.”

“Hunter, you didn’t give me—“

“Don’t, Mack. Just don’t.” Hunter didn’t say another word. He ate the pizza though. Hunter had his pride, but it had its limits.

He played the good little prisoner, meek and obedient. Hunter didn’t necessarily think Mack was buying it, but if he let his guard down and Hunter saw a chance to slip free, he was bloody well going to take it. If Bobbi and Mack were compromised by Hydra, everyone back at the Playground was vulnerable to an attack. He had to warn them. For the sake of the team, he told himself, and it definitely wasn’t one particular lined face popping into his mind. It wasn’t.

When the black hood was finally pulled off his face—and Hunter truly had to admit the commitment to the classic spy vibe was a nice touch—he found himself standing in front of a guy who looked like an angry Hispanic Colonel Sanders, and several other cronies. The man walked with a limp, and his eyes were hard.

“The only reason you’re here, Hunter,” he said, “and not in the brig, is that Agents Mackenzie and Morse have vouched for you.”

“Well, that’s a laugh,” Hunter snapped, jangling the handcuffs on his wrists. “I feel so honored.”

“Trust is earned, Mr. Hunter.”

“’Fraid that goes two ways Mr.—?”

“Gonzales. Agent Robert Gonzales.”

“Alright, GonzalesYou Hydra?”

“No.”

“Would you tell me if you were?”

The man cracked a smile, with a laugh that was more of a grunt, like the impulse for mirth was a foreign one to him. “I suppose not.”

“Well, bully,” said Hunter. “Now we’ve established we’re not going to be best pals, I’m off.” He stood, but a pair of firm hands pressed his shoulders down into a chair. Hunter chewed his tongue, trying not to let them see him sweat. “Alright, easy mate. Suppose I’ll take a load off.” He leaned back in the office chair, letting the heels of his boots thud as he put his feet up on the table.

Hunter did his supreme best to let the whole sales pitch wash over him, trying to appear unconcerned and bored if he could swing it. Bobbi watched from across the table, at first avoiding his eye, looking anywhere else in the room but at him. He could have sworn though, when Gonzales started laying into Hunter about Coulson, Bobbi’s eyes flicked to his own to gauge his reaction. She knew him too bloody well.

Finally, he’d had enough. Hunter cut across Gonzalez, looking directly at Bobbi. “Can you and I talk about this in private?” he asked her. “Without all of Hufflepuff looking on?”

Bobbi squinted, searching him with her eyes. The truth was, Bobbi and Hunter did not need to speak in private. They could speak to each other with twitches and glances, the quirk of a brow, the subtle movement of a finger. But, Hunter was going to use every trick in the book to clear that room, to give him the best chance of escaping. No matter how much Gonzales rambled on about the “real” SHIELD, Hunter wasn’t buying it for a second.

The real SHIELD was wherever Coulson was. Period. And, yeah, perhaps Hunter came late to the game. His devotion to SHIELD was about as long as his beard. Maybe he didn’t put blind faith in a stupid bloody eagle logo. When he followed someone, it was a choice. Not some misguided sense of duty, of following orders.

He put his faith in the man.

So, when Bobbi gave Gonzales a curt nod and cleared the room, he gave her a half-assed appeal to her better nature, the better nature he was less and less certain actually existed, his mind already on giving her the slip.

“Hunter,” she said, cutting him off. “What is this really about?”

“You know what this is about,” said Hunter.

Bobbi pursed her lips. “Yeah,” she said, giving him that squinty little half smile he loved and hated. “I think I do.”

“Don’t try to stop me, Bob.”

“I won’t,” a little hitch in her voice like she almost meant it. A pause. “Everyone else will.”

***

Only a bit worse for the wear--a bloody lip and a bruise on his temple, and of course the lovely marks on his wrists, courtesy of Mack’s handcuffs--Hunter had hotwired a shit box car and headed to the border. He dabbed his lip, driving the speed limit, which he hated, planning his next move. He didn’t think there was any way in hell he’d win the race to the Playground against Steamboat Willy to warn Coulson and the others. He had to hope they could handle themselves and get out.

People always underestimated Hunter. Something about his “baby browns,” as Bobbi had called them, punching his cheek. The dimples. His carefree demeanor. His penchant for showing up to work hungover—who’s to say? It used to make him angry, real angry. Especially in the army. Now though? He was glad.

Hunter might follow the man, but he sure as hell didn’t do so blindly. Way back when he’d taken up with Izzy to do some freelance work for what she was calling the “new” SHIELD, Hunter had done his fair amount of homework. He knew people, and those people knew people. Sure, they were unsavory types, but they spoke Hunter’s language. Backgrounds, known aliases, associates, safe houses. He knew Fitz’s mother’s address. He knew May’s mother’s bao recipe. And, of course, he knew the places that each member of the team would mostly like go to disappear.

Hunter poured over a map, spread on the hood of the crappy car. Coulson’s personal safe houses had been harder to ferret out than most, what with him being the director and all. But he’d found a few. Now, he knew time was of the essence, and the map was pulling him in a few different directions. Hunter stared at it. Where would Coulson go?

Maine? The Andes? Saskatoon? Hoboken?

Probably not Hoboken. These safe houses were all over. He had to choose one; there was no way he could hit them all. So, Hunter looked at the map, and in the end he guessed. Or rather, he picked the one he most wanted to visit, figuring he could slide into the safe house himself and hunker down if Coulson wasn’t there.

So, Hunter went to the Bahamas. As he stepped off the plain, he reflected that being on the run wasn’t all bad. Hunter spent a few days making sure he wasn’t being tailed. Seeing the sights, drinking excellent rum, working on his tan. He wanted it to appear, on the outside, like your average week-long bender. When he was confident that he hadn’t been tailed, he moseyed his way to the safe house, by way of a resort bar. Sure enough, there sat a dour-looking Coulson, making a face at the technicolor frozen drink in front of him. No bloody wonder, Hunter thought. Damn thing didn’t even have any umbrellas in.

“Sorry I’m late,” Hunter said as he took the stool beside Coulson. He signaled to the bartender. “I’ll have what he’s having. But with a few of those little umbrellas.”

Coulson didn’t exactly roll his eyes, but the sidelong glance he gave said he would have liked to.

“So, what’s new?”

“Ah,” said Coulson. “Same old, Same old. Finish your vacation?”

Hunter looked him over. “God, yes.” He tossed a few peanuts from the dish on the bar into his mouth, crunching them between his teeth as he waited for his drink. “Oh, hang on a tic.”

Coulson sipped his drink, watching in bemused silence as Hunter reached for a cocktail napkin, scrawled his signature, and slid it across the bar toward Coulson.

“Your autograph?”

“You offered me permanent job at SHIELD,” said Hunter. “Consider that my contract.”

Coulson pursed his lips and nodded. He reached for the napkin, letting the tips of his fingers brush against Hunter’s, for the span of half a breath. Then, he cleared his throat, folding the napkin and tucking it into the breast pocket of his shirt. “I’ll hold you to that.”

“I hope you do,” said Hunter, reaching for his drink. He pulled out one of the several umbrellas and plopped it into Coulson’s glass. “So, what’s the plan, boss?”

***

The safe house, as it turned out, was more of a safe Bungalow. It was on stilts, over the water when the tide was high. Serene, beautiful. Of course, Hunter didn’t see any of that because his head was in the toilet half the night.

“It’s the sugar,” he mumbled, as Coulson rubbed his back. Coulson sat on the edge of the tub, wearing a look of slightly amused distaste. “It’s the sugary drinks that make you sick.”

“Sure,” said Coulson, reaching around Hunter to fill a glass of water. He nudged it to Hunter’s shoulder. “It definitely has nothing to do with the bottle of Cuervo you sweet talked our bartender into giving us.”

“Glad we’re in agreement,” Hunter said with a groan. He pressed his forehead to the toilet seat. “Why you doing this, anyway?” He rolled his head to the side, peeking up at Coulson while the room pitched around him.

Coulson shrugged. “Can’t afford to let my sole agent die of alcohol poisoning. Now, drink.”

Hunter grabbed the glass of water and chugged it. “Okay,” he said. “I think the worst has passed.”

“Yeah, Hunter, I should hope so. Can you stand?”

“’minute.”

“No, now.” Coulson shoved his hands under Hunter’s armpits and hauled him to his feet.

Hunter let himself be nudged out of the toilet and toward the center of the bungalow’s one room. He could see the moonlight bouncing off the waves through the gauzy curtains on the window. He spun to face Coulson, wearing a white undershirt that had Hunter some type of way.

“What happened to your shirt?”

“You puked on it, Hunter.”

“Ah, right.”

“Let’s get some sleep, huh?”

“Mmmm.”

Hunter toppled onto the mattress, pulling a pillow close and squooshing his face into it. It was nice. Smelled like something he liked. There was a weight on the mattress and he frowned into the pillow. He rolled over to see Coulson climbing into bed beside him. “Wot?”

Coulson sighed. “There’s only one bed in this damn bungalow, Hunter. Now, scooch.”

Hunter rolled over, facing the window with a groan.

“You know,” said Coulson mildly, his voice a little thick. He had been matching Hunter shot for shot for a while there, before he tapped out. “I’d hoped that I’d be able to scoop up an ally or two that would actually help me, not require babysitting.”

Hunter frowned into the pillow.

“You just upset because of Bobbi?”

“Yeah,” he mumbled, rolling on his back to stare at the ceiling. “Just ‘cause of Bobbi.”

Hunter squirmed around, trying to get comfortable, to find a position that would make the room stop spinning. He bumped into something warm, something solid. With a happy huff he snuggled into the solid warm thing.

“Hunter,” came a voice, low like a warning.

“Unnnf,” Hunter told the voice. He slung an arm around the warm thing and pulled it close. He exhaled, finally comfortable enough to sleep.

Hunter woke up with something like a railroad spike in his head. “Bloody fucking hell.”

“Morning,” said Coulson. He was buttoning on a shirt and wearing an indulgent sort of smile, but he wasn’t looking at Hunter.

“Sorry,” said Hunter, knowing he surely had something to apologize for, but not quite remembering what.

“It’s alright,” said Coulson, a barely-there flush creeping up his cheeks. He finally looked at Hunter. “I like being the little spoon.”

Hunter groaned. He must have looked wretched enough in his hangover, because Coulson took pity on him. He extended his hand, holding a bottle of Aspirin. “Come on, Hunter,” he said gently, “I need you to rally.”

Hunter took the pills and swallowed them dry. “I’ll rally just fine sir. All I need is some coffee and I’ll be right as rain.”

They didn’t talk during breakfast, and Hunter felt a bit better. But then Coulson looked at him, and suddenly it wasn’t that they didn’t talk, it was that they Didn’t Talk, so he felt a little bit worse. Coffee helped. Making plans helped. They had to get back to base. They had to find Skye, because apparently she was some kind of superhero earth quake machine now. That was new.

Hunter liked seeing Coulson like this. A little unhinged, a little rough around the edges. His lines were blurred, and Hunter enjoyed it. A lot. In fact, as the days followed, and Hunter very carefully avoided the sauce, it took a lot of his energy not to enjoy it too much.

Hand to God, when Coulson iced a used car salesman, cool as you please, Hunter was sporting a semi. And not just because he hated car salesmen. He needed to get a grip on himself, in more ways than one, but being on the lamb with only a tiny jeep to their name didn’t afford a lot of privacy. Coulson had it in his head to get to one of Fury’s old safe houses. He’d sent Skye there.

At first, Hunter thought this was a brilliant idea. Skye, with her new found earth-bender powers, could be the muscle. And lord knows, this team could do with some muscle.

“They will have gotten her already,” Coulson said absently. “Turn here.”

It was moments like this that Hunter knew Coulson was still playing their game, at least a little. Coulson knew where they were going; Coulson was in charge. But, for whatever reason, he put Hunter in the driver’s seat of the Jeep they’d stolen from Honest Eddie, bossing him around, huffing and making noises Hunter could only describe as “dad grunts” as he disagreed with Hunter’s driving choices and barked orders.

Hunter loved it.

At least, he loved it until Coulson commanded him to pull off into a bluff of trees and they abandoned the jeep, walking through the wilderness with bloody fuck all for supplies toward Fury’s old safe house.

“If Gonzales already nabbed Skye,” Hunter said, swatting a mosquito, “what are we hoping to find?”

“Answers,” Coulson said. “Maybe some breathing room.”

Clearly he was not in an expansive mood, but Hunter had experience with that. He’d been married to an elite spy, after all. “Breathing room?”

Coulson turned. “This whole compound has cameras, drones. We’ll find out if Gonzales has Skye, and what that looked like. Plus, if they already raided this compound, it’s unlikely they’ll raid it a second time.”

“True enough,” said Hunter. The man had a point, he supposed. So, he followed Coulson on the footpath in silence. Hunter found himself able to hold his tongue, until they reached a scene that looked like a bloody bomb had gone off.

“What the—“

“Look, here,” Coulson was crouching in the rubble, over the twisted remnants of a security camera. “Let’s get this to the cabin, see if we can get any footage.”

Coulson had set his jaw, and at a glance Hunter saw that he was going away inside, resembling most closely the man he’d been when the alien writing occupied his mind. So, Hunter decided to let him be a bit. He had enough to cope with—looking at the old pine trees turned to kindling all around them, from a center storm-eye. Hunter backed off, then. Skye and Coulson—that was something sacred, something mythic. The girl was like his daughter, his family in a way so much stronger than any blood bond that Hunter had the privilege to witness.

Finally, they reached the cabin, and Hunter wanted to crash more than anything. The ratty old couch looked so comfortable it was borderline pornographic. However, the muscles going in Coulson’s jaw told him it wasn’t time to pack it in yet. They watched the footage from the security camera, and Hunter had to admit that when he saw Skye slam the absolute butt-fuck out of Gonzales’s men, and Bobbi, he was impressed. He was also buggered that they couldn’t have got here a few days earlier. It’d be nice to have a canon like Skye as backup. Hunter turned, watching Coulson watch the footage of Skye, to see an expression of mixed pride and horror on his face.

Then, at the end of the tape before the feed went dark, and explosion of white blue light, like a dome of electricity, surrounded Skye and—what, zapped her into an alternate reality?

“What the—“

“He’s new,” Coulson said, through gritted teeth.

“Bloody hell,” said Hunter. “I was only gone a week.”

Coulson slammed the laptop shut, and Hunter startled. A stream of absolute filth, curses to make Hunter blush, came out of Coulson’s mouth. He paced, his motions jerky. The man was losing it. His organization was in tatters, again, his daughter had been Sprited Away, and he had no resources, no agents, no SHIELD.

All he had was Hunter. Coulson had drawn the cosmic short straw, certainly. “Boss?”

By way of answer, Coulson heaved a mug against the wall, breathing hard. He covered his face with a trembling hand. “I lost her.”

Hunter crossed the room; he couldn’t not. He pressed a palm to Coulson’s shoulder, trying his best to tamp down the heat below his navel as he did so. “Hey,” he said, “you didn’t lose her. She’s a fighter, like you. We’ll track her down.”

Coulson’s lips twitched, a lightning strike smile before it was gone again, lost in a sea of a mouth drawn tight into a severe line. He appeared to have aged ten years since they’d arrived at the cabin.

As always, in any team, even a team of two, Hunter knew his role. He grabbed for his bugout bag, and pulled out a bottle of Haig and two glasses. He set all three items on the coffee table and patted the couch beside him.

Coulson sat. “Haig?”

Hunter shrugged, though of course—he’d done his due diligence. He knew what Coulson liked.

“You always travel with whisky?”

Hunter filled the glasses, offering one to Coulson. “Never know when you’re going to need something to keep you warm on a cold night.”

Coulson knocked back the drink like a pro, then held the glass at arm’s length to scrutinize it. “Two glasses?”

“The second one is for the person keeping me warm,” said Hunter before he could stop himself. He looked at his drink, swirling the glass. He cleared his throat. “Though, I suppose in your case I’ll make an exception.”

Coulson refilled his glass, took a measured sip, put down the bottle. Slowly, deliberately, he let his hand fall to Hunter’s knee. “Don’t.”

Hunter stared at the hand on his knee, certain he had misheard. “Pardon?”

“Don’t,” Coulson repeated. He took another sip of his drink, then leaned back on the couch. His hand went from Hunter’s knee to sling over the backrest, just behind Hunter’s head.

Hunter swallowed nervously. “Don’t…what?”

“Don’t make an exception.” The man leveled his gaze at Hunter, staring directly at his face. Calm. Steady. His hand fell to the back of Hunter’s neck, fingers whispering over the exposed skin below his hairline.

Certain his heart was about to pound its way right out of his chest, Hunter stammered, “You’re not thinking straight, Sir.”

Coulson raised a brow. “A fairly obvious conclusion, yeah.”

Hunter flushed, eyes darting away. “You know what I mean.”

“I do,” Coulson allowed. His hand hadn’t moved from where it gripped the back of Hunter’s neck, his thumb now working slow little circles. “I was just kind of mulling over what you said yesterday about only having bad options.”

“Well, sir,” said Hunter, stung, rolling his eyes. “I’m flattered, really—“

Coulson retracted his hand, now looking a bit flustered. “Shit, sorry, Hunter. That’s not what I meant.” He reached for his glass and gave Hunter a sheepish grin. “Guess I’m a little rusty.”

“Not by a long shot, sir.”

“Thing is,” Coulson said, fingers going to tug nervously on the collar of his own shirt. “I’ve never hooked up—are the kids still saying hooked up?”

Hunter let out a nervous laugh. “Actually, sir, I think they’re saying ‘talking,’ now. Like ‘we’ve been talking.’”

“That seems awfully confusing.”

“Yes.”

They stared at each other awkwardly, and Hunter figured he’d at least kick his shoes off. He drew his legs up under him, kneeling with his hands in his lap, to face Coulson who was still staring at his whisky glass.

“Anyway,” said Coulson, clearly trying to regain the upper hand. “I’ve never hooked up with a guy before. But you …” He turned his head, and his eyes bored into Hunter’s. “You do something to me.”

Hunter blinked, but found he couldn’t speak.

“When you were talking about bad options—I didn’t like hearing you talk about yourself like that.” He looked over with soft eyes. “You’re not a bad option, Hunter.”

“Thank you for saying so, Sir,” said Hunter carefully.

Coulson narrowed his eyes, a challenge. “I’m not crazy, right? There’s something here.”

Hunter moved closer, his knees brushing against Coulson’s thigh. “Yeah,” he said. “There’s something here. And you’re definitely crazy.”

He swung his leg over Coulson’s lap, straddling him on the couch. His fingers brushed against Coulson jawline, so sharp and stern, before he leaned down to plant a soft kiss on his lips. It was brief, tentative, and Hunter drew away, giving Coulson some space to decide if he liked it. Open mouth, no tongue, the sort of kiss that was a question.

And bloody hell did Coulson have an answer. He grabbed the collar of Hunter’s shirt with both hands, yanking him forward, crashing their mouths together. Coulson was not shy, shoving his tongue into Hunter’s mouth, nipping his bottom lip. Aggressive and dominant, and Hunter was beyond thrilled. They broke apart, gasping for breath, and Hunter braced his palms on Coulson’s firm chest.

“Thoughts?”

“The scruff is different,” Coulson admitted. His eyes flicked between Hunter’s lips and his eyes. “I like it.”

They dove for each other again, and Hunter found himself quite happy to surrender to Coulson’s exploratory mouth, which moved to claim his jaw and neck with rough kisses, and sucking hot marks into Hunter’s skin and driving him completely bonkers. Coulson’s warm, firm palms found Hunter’s waist, not quite moving under the fabric of his shirt, but not minding if they found some skin either. Hunter was hovering a bit, tall on his knees to maintain a little distance between them, not wanting to rub his junk all over his boss’s lap if Coulson was five seconds away from balking at what they were doing. Coulson drew back, breathing ragged. He let his head fall to rest on the back of the sofa, shooting Hunter a calculating look.

“Can I ask you something?”

Hunter nodded, not really trusting his brain to form words.

He took a deep, shuddering breath before asking, “Are you as into this as I am?”

Hunter smiled, pushing his forehead to Coulson’s. “God yes,” he breathed against his lips.

“Good.” Coulson tightened his grip on Hunter’s waist, yanking him down to grind Hunter against his pelvis.

Hunter let out a moan, feeling Coulson hard against him, and he offered a little roll of his hips, rubbing them together, rough friction teasing them both. With his lips on Coulson’s neck, Hunter wormed his hands between them to start working the buttons of Coulson’s shirt and all of a sudden it was like undressing a statue. Hunter froze immediately. “Sir?”

Coulson grabbed Hunter’s wrists with nervous hands. “Just—it’s.”

Hunter’s brows knit together, and he cocked his head to the side. “What?”

With a sigh, Coulson released his hands. He was looking anywhere but at Hunter’s face. Hunter looked down toward where he’d undone the first few buttons, and saw a hint of angry, red, shiny flesh. Of course, Hunter thought with an answering ache in his own chest, the scar. Without hesitation Hunter leaned down, brushing his lips over the tight scar tissue, his fingers working the rest of the buttons as he pushed gentle kisses to the wound Loki’s scepter had left on Coulson’s skin. Coulson groaned, and Hunter hoped he done the right thing, hoped he’d helped put the man at ease, because there was no fucking way he wasn’t getting his eyes and hands on the rest of Coulson’s body. He pulled the shirt from his shoulders, returning to Coulson’s lips, offering a kiss for courage before leaning back to see what he’d uncovered. The scar was huge, a puckered red ruin of skin above Coulson’s heart, but as Hunter looked at it he felt his mouth actually watering, for fuck’s sake. It was hot.

Hunter returned his eyes to Coulson’s face, the man watching him warily. Hunter smiled. “Hasn’t anyone ever told you that chicks dig scars?”

Coulson laughed, seeming to visibly relax. “And what about hot guys?”

Hunter squirmed at the offhand compliment. “We like ‘em too.”

Leaning back, Hunter pulled his own shirt off over his head, and Coulson’s fingers went immediately to his chest hair, brushing it reverently before moving his hands to Hunter’s taught shoulder blades to pull him close. He nosed up toward Hunter’s ear, his hips bucking a bit off the sofa to rut against Hunter’s thigh. “Could we maybe uh, move to the bed?”

With a laugh, Hunter stood. He extended his hand to pull Coulson to his feet. “Alright, old man,” he said.

Coulson’s gaze hardened, smoldering in the low light of the cabin. “Might be too old to fuck on a sofa, but I’m young enough to pound you into that mattress.”

Hand to god, Hunter almost fainted. Coulson steered him toward the edge of the bed, and when Hunter’s legs hit the mattress Coulson placed a firm hand on his chest and pushed. Hunter had no interest in resisting, happily surrendering as Coulson moved to hover over him, pinning him to the bed and kissing him fierce, almost angry. Hunter had only been teasing of course, but he was positively thrilled with the reaction he’d gotten. Coulson fumbled with Hunter’s belt so he could yank down his jeans, hooking his thumbs into the waistband of his boxer briefs and pulling those off too.

“Huh,” said Coulson, his eyes fixated on Hunter’s dick.

’Huh’?” Hunter echoed, quite affronted, resisting the urge to cover himself with a blanket.

“Sorry,” said Coulson, with a grin. His eyes didn’t move from Hunter’s body, like they were devouring his skin. “It’s uh—it’s very nice.”

Nice?”

“I don’t know! I’ve never complimented someone’s dick before!”

Hunter pulled himself up to sit, laughing. “Well, if you don’t mind my saying, sir, your pillow talk might be a bit rusty.”

Coulson let out a starved sounding groan. “You can’t call me sir when you’re naked,” he said, moving to cover Hunter’s body with his own.

“Why? Don’t like it?”

“No,” said Coulson, sinking his teeth into Hunter’s skin, right where his neck met his shoulder. Hunter hissed in pain, and Coulson soothed the bite with a kiss. “I like it way too much."

Coulson got off the bed, and Hunter opened his eyes, bewildered.

“You should get on all fours,” Coulson suggested, voice casual, but with the effortless weight of authority, and Hunter didn’t even think of questioning the order.

Hunter said a little prayer of thanks to his past self, the one that had optimistically stuffed that bottle of Haig into his duffle bag. He moved to his hands and knees, glancing to where Coulson stood, undoing his belt like he was home in his own bedroom, undressing at the end of the day like he always would. The awkwardness from earlier was gone, and they were back to playing their little games. Hunter wanted nothing more than to grab hold of his cock where it waited eagerly between his legs, but if this was a test of wills he wasn’t about to lose.

Coulson watched him wait, almost lazily, but Hunter saw a slight tremor in his hands as he dropped his trousers. Hunter tried to keep his eyes forward, but he couldn’t resist stealing a peek at Coulson’s dick and he almost gasped. It wasn’t the longest cock he’d ever seen, but it was massively thick, plump with desire, a good looking nest of wiry golden hair around the base. So, Coulson kept up with his manscaping. That was a surprise. Coulson wrapped a hand around his shaft, giving it a few slow strokes, looking at Hunter like he hadn’t quite decided what to do with him yet. “Fuck,” said Hunter under his breath. He was in for a lively evening.

“Eyes forward,” said Coulson, and Hunter obeyed, feeling the weight of Coulson getting on the mattress behind him. He wondered, briefly, what kind of fuck this would be. He’d been with his fair share of men before who’d called themselves “bi curious,” especially in the army. More curious, really, than bi, the whole cowardly lot of them, wanting to fuck as fast and hard as possible, never face to face, so they could pretend that they were still straight afterwards. It made Hunter ache to think Coulson would be that kind, but if that were the case, so be it—he was still eager as hell to feel that thick dick pounding the living daylights out of him.

Hunter waited, and waited, eyes on the wall. He started to wonder if Coulson had lost his nerve when a pair of hands grabbed his ass and spread him wide. Hunter barely had time to gasp, to feel the hot breath on his tailbone before Coulson was pressing the flat of his tongue directly over Hunter’s hole.

Coulson, plainly, had not lost his nerve.

Hunter jerked forward. “Bloody hell,” he said, voice strangled.

“What?”

Hunter looked over his shoulder to peek at him, incredulous. “You’ve never hooked up with a man before and your very first move is to put your tongue up my arse?”

Coulson tightened his hands on Hunter’s hips. “Is that a complaint?”

“Certainly not but—“ his words trailed off into a slutty little moan as Coulson dove back in, lapping at Hunter’s entrance and teasing his rim.

Coulson’s hands slid back to Hunter’s cheeks, holding him open as his tongue flexed and curled, eating Hunter out until he was a trembling wreck. “So,” said Coulson, planting a kiss on Hunter’s ass cheek, releasing him and moving away. “You travel with whisky, and glasses. Safe to assume I’ll find lube in here somewhere?”

Hunter nodded, unsteady on his hands and knees. He collapsed on his belly, turning his head to the side to watch Coulson discreetly take a sip of whisky, swirl it in his mouth and spit it out in the fireplace before rummaging through Hunter’s bag. As he returned to the bed, Hunter moved back to all fours, breathing hard, but Coulson sat beside him on the mattress, nudging his hip till he laid on his back.

“Wanna see those pretty brown eyes of yours,” Coulson said, his voice so sweet, his eyes so warm that Hunter was severely tempted to run and hide. He laid on top of Hunter, blinking slowly with a little smile on his lips.

Hunter cupped his cheek to pull him down for a kiss, hesitating before moving his lips to kiss the crinkly little lines beside Coulson’s eyes, as he’d wanted to so badly so long ago. “That’s very romantic, sir,” said Hunter. “But I seem to recall you promising to pound me into this mattress.”

Coulson laughed before covering Hunter’s mouth with his own, moaning into his lips and rocking their bodies together. He coated his fingers with lube, working Hunter over until he was moaning, arching his back, begging, chanting “please,” over and over until Coulson finally gave in, slicking up his dick and pushing in. Hunter exhaled through clenched teeth as the blunt head of Coulson’s cock slid past his rim.

“Fucking hell,” said Hunter, sweat breaking on his forehead.

Coulson kissed the corner of Hunter’s mouth before swiping his tongue over his parted lips. “You alright?”

“Yeah—just,” Hunter huffed, “gimme a second here. It’s been a while.”

Coulson rained more kisses on Hunter’s face, sliding inch by inch until his hips were flush against Hunter’s ass. He propped his weight up onto one elbow, sending of his strong hands to cradle the back of Hunter’s head, brushing his thumb over Hunter’s cheek, waiting.

As Hunter acclimated himself to Coulson’s considerable girth, he looked up into his smile, thinking possibly that he’d never stopped being surprised by this man. “Alright old man,” said Hunter, breathless, “Let’s see what you’ve got.”

Coulson huffed out a laugh before smothering it with a kiss, drawing out and thrusting back in, growling low in his throat as he snapped his hips, hard, the slap of flesh on flesh intoxicating in the quiet of the cabin. Hunter canted his hips, lifting his legs to warp around Coulson’s waist, matching him beat for beat as Coulson rolled his hips in tight little circles, mixing up his rhythm. Holy hell did the man have moves—alternating between powerful, blunt thrusts to deep pushes, grinding his hips on Hunter’s ass, staying as deep as he could while still moving against him. In fact, Hunter had a hard time keeping up, as Coulson moved faster against him, holding him close, kissing his neck. He had an unsettling habit of staring Hunter in the face, gauging his expression, scrutinizing his face to see what Hunter liked. If he’d asked, Hunter could have answered. He liked bloody all of it, everything Coulson was dishing out was pushing him closer to the edge, and Hunter was doing his damndest to keep his climax at bay because he wanted this to last, possibly for another day and a half or so.

Coulson took Hunter’s hand, kissing each knuckle, before pinning it down by his ear. He repeated the action with Hunter’s other hand, their fingers tangled up, squeezing fitfully. Coulson kissed the tip of Hunter’s nose and said, “You ready, baby?”

Hunter whimpered and almost came right there, the endearment, the intimate kisses, the look on Coulson’s face like Hunter was the only one in the world--it was all too fucking much, and then Coulson drew out and absolutely fucking impaled him.

A yelp tore out of Hunter’s throat as Coulson held him down and railed him, digging his knees into the mattress between Hunter’s spread thighs to make good on his promise, hammering into Hunter’s ass like he was trying to spear him with his cock, and Hunter just held on for dear life, moving his hips eagerly as Coulson rawed him hard, grunting like a bull and it was so fucking hot. Coulson released Hunter’s hands, and he stretched them over his head to grip the headboard as Coulson scooped Hunter’s thighs up toward his chest, lifting his calves over his own shoulders, taking a beat to steady his breathing, pushing a delicate kiss to Hunter’s instep—a weird little gesture that had Hunter melting. Bare, vulnerable, gaping open, Hunter barely had time to brace himself before Coulson was in him again, “Come on,” he said, voice gravelly, “wanna see you come before I go off.”

“I’m so fucking close,” Hunter gasped, sounding like he was driving over a bumpy back country road as he said it, his skull banging repeatedly against the headboard.

A few more furious thrusts, and then Coulson was moving slow again, deep grinds against Hunter hitting the spot deep inside him over, and over and over, until he was coming with a curse on his lips, shooting off like a fucking geyser. He felt Coulson’s cock pulsing as the man slumped down, pressing kisses to Hunter’s sweaty chest as he bucked through the aftermath of his orgasm.

Hot, sticky, panting, they stayed entwined for a while, until Coulson rolled off with a groan, slipping out of Hunter and rolling onto his back. “So,” he said, chest heaving. “something like that, yeah?”

“Yeah,” said Hunter, his mouth dry. “something like that.”

“I think I blacked out there, for a second.”

“Mmmm,” said Hunter. He was quivering and weak, ready to fall into a happy post-sex coma. He rolled onto his side with a groan, knowing he was going to be sore as hell tomorrow.

Coulson moved to press against Hunter’s back, muscular forearm circling his chest to pull him flush against his own body. He kissed the nape of Hunter’s neck, and Hunter felt his cheeks heat in the dark, thankful Coulson couldn’t see. He snuggled back a bit into the warmth.

“Thought you liked to be the little spoon,” Hunter mumbled.

“I suppose I go both ways,” said Coulson mildly, and Hunter let out a sigh at the tired joke. “Hunter?”

“Mmm?”

“Thank you.”

“Anytime, sir.”