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Miles Adrift and Inches Apart

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“They’re sending me to Bolivia with Natasha. It’s a three-day job on the outside. Sitwell will be around if you need anything. I’ll call if the job gets extended.” Phil Coulson smiled a little into the phone, despite the fact that he knew Clint couldn’t see it. “I know you hate it, but make sure to take your pain medication.”

“But I don’t wanna,” Clint whined. “They make everything go wibbly-wobbly.”

“Have you been marathoning Netflix again?”

“Well, when you’ve got three fractured ribs, and your leg is broken in two places, what the hell else are you gonna do?”

“You could finish that backlog of mission reports that you’ve got,” Phil suggested.

“I can’t tell if you’re being serious or not.”

“Get some rest, Barton. Sitwell will be by in a while to check in on you, and Natasha and I will be back in a few days. You can survive for that long.”

“I suppose,” Clint huffed sulkily.

“I’ve gotta go. I’ll see you in a few days,” Phil said, and disconnected the call.

“Barton’s a big boy, he can handle himself,” Natasha said.

“I know,” Phil sighed.

~~~

“Barton,” Jasper Sitwell said, exasperated. “What part of ‘You have three cracked ribs and a broken leg, you need to not be moving’ did you not understand?”

“Uh,” Clint said, somewhat sheepishly, “all of it?”

Sitwell sighed. “How in the seven hells does Coulson do this,” he muttered darkly.

“But I’m boooored, Sitwell! I wanna do something!”

“You’re on the roof, Barton. Do I want to know how you got up there with your injuries?”

“Trade secret,” Clint sing-songed.

“Come down now or I’ll tell Coulson,” Sitwell warned. “God, honestly I’m a kindergarten teacher.”

Clint huffed a sigh. “Fine,” he said.

Five minutes later, Sitwell made sure Clint was settled on the couch again.

“Don’t think I won’t tie you to that couch if you try anything like that again,” Sitwell warned.

“Kinky,” Clint leered, “but you’re not my type.”

“Nor are you mine,” Sitwell retorted. “I’ll be back to check on you later. Try not to do anything stupid before then.” The door shut behind him with a click.

Clint cackled. “Now,” he said to himself, holding up the earpiece he’d snagged from Sitwell’s pocket. “Let’s see what Coulson and Nat are up to.”

He screwed the comm into his ear and settled back onto the couch to listen.

“Now remember Natasha, we need him alive,” Coulson was saying.

“I have done this before, Coulson,” Nat muttered petulantly. “I’ll be sure to leave him alive and able to talk. Anything more than that I can’t promise.”

“Natasha,” Coulson warned.

“Relax, everything will be fine.”

“Coulson, this is not her first rodeo. She’s got this,” Clint interjected.

Coulson sighed heavily. “Barton, what are you doing on the comms?”

“I’m booored,” Clint whined. “I hate being stuck on medical leave.”

“We should be done in a day or so, and then we’ll be home. You can survive another few days by yourself.”

“There’s nothing to do. I’ve rewatched Dog Cops twice, read everything here, except the phone book and your Captain America comics. I’ve watched everything on your DVR and your entire DVD library. Three times. I’m dying here, Coulson.”

“If it’ll make you feel better, I can have Sitwell go to the library for you. Deal?”

“Fine,” Clint huffed. “But I’m gonna bother you until he comes back.”

“I doubt I’d be able to stop you,” Coulson muttered.

“Nope,” Clint chirped.

Several hours later, sitwell had come and gone, dropping off a stack of well-worn Discworld novels, as well as several cartons of Chinese food. He’d also taken the opportunity to lecture Clint about pickpocketing a senior agent.

Clint had finished reading Hogfather to Coulson, and was halfway through Raising Steam when Coulson cut him off with a brusque “Hold that thought”. Clint had been on too many missions with Coulson to be bothered by his handler interrupting him. Assignments tended to involve a lot of ‘hurry up and wait’. Now, it seemed, came the hurry up.

Clint calmly marked his place and picked up Guards! Guards!. He’d gotten about a quarter of the way through (Raising Steam would always be his favorite, but Guards! Guards! was a close second) when Coulson came back on the comms.

“We got the bastard,” Coulson said when the line clicked. “No major injuries. Natasha held back.” His voice held a note of pride.

“Impressive,” Clint said. I usually have to pull her back. She’s improving.’

“Absolutely. Now, where were we?”

Clint started a little. “You...want me to keep reading?”

“It’s a long flight back,” Coulson said nonchalantly. “And I like listening to you.”

Clint’s face went beet red. He was really glad Coulson couldn’t see him. “You...you do?” He cleared his throat a little. “Ok then.” He picked up Raising Steam again
~~~

Phil unlocked the door and closed it softly behind him. Clint’s voice had finally given out somewhere over Vegas, and they’d sat in a companionable silence until San Francisco. Coulson started telling Clint stories about growing up in Minnesota, about his time in the Rangers, anything really.

Phil landed at SHIELD’s Oregon office and gave his preliminary report at the debrief, then headed home to type up his report and check on his injured asset.

Clint was, as he’d suspected, asleep on the couch. Phil smiled softly and puttered around the living room, making a vain attempt to straighten up.

Clint, apparently sensing the change in atmosphere, woke with a start. His breathing never changed, but he held himself slightly differently.

“Just me,” Phil said quietly.

“I figured,” Clint muttered. “When did you get in?”

“About five minutes ago. Still have to write up my report, but I don’t have to be in the office to do that.”

“Phil Coulson playing hooky. As I live and breathe,” Clint mocked, adding a bad Southern drawl to his voice.

“I did the debrief, and it’s not like they can’t find me if they need me.” He gently nudged Clint’s leg aside and sat down on the other end of the couch. “I talked to Medical. They said you could get the cast off in a couple of weeks.”

“You that desperate to get rid of me, Coulson?”

“No. I’m saying that when the cast comes off, we should do something. Like maybe dinner.”

A slow smile spread across Clint’s face. “Are you asking me out?”

“Well,” Phil hedged. “Yeah.”

“It’s about time. I thought I was gonna have to do all the work myself.”

Phil blinked. “So...is that a yes?”

Clint grabbed Phil’s tie and pulled him down and pressed their lips together. “That’s a yes,” Clint said breathlessly when they finally broke the kiss.

Phil grinned. “Good,” he said, and leaned in to kiss Clint again.