the_water_clock: abstract painting (Untitled 1953)
[personal profile] the_water_clock
Author: Clio
Title: A High Road Out From Here
Pairing: Phil Coulson/Clint Barton
Rating: PG
Summary: Phil really doesn't want to move offices. And when his new team steps in to make it feel a little more like home, he suspects they were encouraged by a certain archer.
Length: 2200 words.
Notes: Thank you to [ profile] weepingnaiad and [ profile] canis_takahari for their encouragement and looking this over. As always SO MANY THANKS to feelschat. Title taken from "A Sort of Homecoming." Time warped to allow for ridiculous self-indulgent references to reality television shows.

Phil knew it was coming; he didn't do denial. But knowing and being happy about it were two different things.

He'd had the same office for just about the entire time he'd been at SHIELD, and he liked his office. He liked being down in the middle of things, near the lab where Bruce and Jane spent most of their time, not far from the break room where Steve and Thor tended to hover when they were at headquarters (which meant he could also keep an ear to whatever foolishness Tony was perpetrating). Just around the corner was a little-used back staircase that took him up to Fury's office and down to the training floors where the shooting range and the hand-to-hand combat training rooms were located. It even had a tiny love seat where Natasha liked to curl up and read Russian novels when she felt a need to hide in plain sight, sometimes even reading them aloud to Phil if he was working on something late at night.

Best of all, it was in the middle of a nondescript hallway with clear sight-lines, which meant that Clint only ambushed other agents outside Phil's door when he was trying to make a point, whether to that agent or to Phil.

Now, with the formalization of the Avengers Initiative and his own designation as the Senior Liaison (a title Tony immediately re-named "head babysitter in charge") Phil was being moved to the executive floor, to an office only a few doors down from Fury with a much larger couch, a table for meetings, and a little office outside for Darcy.

Clint was with him when he went up to check it out, and while Phil could tell by the way Clint's eyes moved around the room that Clint saw all the disadvantages that Phil did, his only comment was, "So, did they give you the key to the executive washroom, Buddy-boy?"

"You watch too many movies," Phil replied. "And it doesn't have a key. Just a lock."

Clint raised an eyebrow. "Breaking in means you deserve to use it?"

"Something like that," Phil said, pacing the floor. "Do you think I could fit that love seat if I move this chair over?"

"I think you need to leave it for the person moving into your office."

Phil nodded. "Of course, of course," he said, and sighed.

Luckily Darcy came bounding in before the mood got too dark. "Oh my god, I'm so totally Miss Moneypenny right now," she said. "I should buy some shorter skirts."

"Could you not?" Phil asked, bending his head and rubbing his temples.

He could sense Clint and Darcy looking at each other, and then Darcy said, "C'mon, it'll be great! We'll get some prints, some flowers, do it up right."

Phil looked up because really, the kid was trying, and he didn't have the heart to stomp all over her. "I'm sure you'll do an exemplary job decorating," he said. "But I'd like to go back downstairs now."

As they shut the door behind him, Phil watched Clint look down the hall and around the corner. The door to his new office was recessed in a hidden nook at the end of the hall, and Phil could almost feel Clint's excitement: here was a real challenge. By the end of the week he'd probably be storing protein bars in the ceiling crawl space like a demented chipmunk.

Phil's shoulders sagged. "Good grief."

They moved in a week later, which apparently was just enough time for Darcy to get a couch covered in the same nondescript brown faux-leather as the battered love seat in his old office, as well as hang the prints she'd mentioned and place a vase of flowers in the center of the round meeting table.

"A reel-to-reel player?" Phil asked, seeing an ancient machine set up on one of the bookcases.

"I found a bunch of jazz reels on eBay," Darcy said, indicating the flat boxes lining the shelf below. "I think it gives the place a Mad Men vibe."

"Sure," Phil said.

"Oh, and," she said, clicking a hidden switch. The entire shelf with the tape deck swung open, revealing Coulson's weapons cache hidden in a recess behind the bookcase. "But the tape deck totally works."

Phil smiled for the first time since the move. "Well done, Darcy."

She beamed. "Thanks! I'll be right outside if you need me."

Phil did have to write up an executive summary of their second encounter with the DoomBots. (Clint had started referring to it as "Electric Boogaloo" which lead to the watching of not one, but two 80s breakdancing movies on the big screen back at the mansion.) But he figured no one would much care if he listened to some bebop while he worked, and threaded the machine with some Horace Silver-era Jazz Messengers before settling down at his desk.

He hadn't been at it for long before Natasha came in carrying a bag. She peered at the couch, considering, then turned on the lamp that stood at one end. Shaking her head, she quickly replaced the bulb with one in her pocket that shed a softer glow. Then she opened the bag, taking several thick paperback books and placing them neatly on an open lower shelf of the mostly-full bookcase.

"Solzhenitsyn next, I think," she said.

"I've never read Gulag Archipelago," he replied.

"Good," she replied, and left the room.

Jane appeared around lunchtime and gleefully took him down the back staircase, having discovered it for herself only the week before, and Phil was relieved to see that he wouldn't have to walk past his dearly-missed old office when going to the lab. Bruce had brought in some sort of vegan baked dish, so they had a working lunch on a small cleared-off table, going over charts of results and specs for new experiments and requests for additional equipment. He headed back to his own work feeling accomplished and full of good cheer—at the very least, his healthy lunch would balance out whatever smoked pork thing Clint had likely earmarked for dinner.

He attacked his reports with renewed energy, which was a good thing as only an hour later, Thor came crashing into his office with Steve just behind him. They'd just come back from sparring or lifting things or whatever those two did together down in the underground training floors, as they were wet-haired and dewy from the shower.

"Son of Coul!" Thor boomed. "We have come to investigate your new excavation."

"The word is 'digs', Thor," Steve said, walking over to the small refrigerator in the corner which, Phil now saw, was stocked with bottles of water and individual bags of trail mix. Steve tossed one of each to Thor. "Phil?"

"I'll take a water, thanks," Phil replied.

Steve and Thor settled at the table, Steve asking what Phil was working on, and before long the two of them were going over the executive summary for DoomBots II, Steve correcting details while Thor, who'd been at the other end of the fight, noted moments Phil had missed. It was, all in all, refreshingly productive for an impromptu meeting. Phil realized suddenly that while he'd gotten more done than usual, it was a little quiet without hoardes of junior agents wandering in and out of his office. But they weren't his responsibility any longer, and the Avengers more than made up for that.

Then Tony showed up, ending any lingering sense of peace Phil might have had. "So this is where the party moved to," he said, grabbing Steve's water bottle and slapping a stack of papers on Phil's desk before flopping down on the couch.

"Could I tempt you with some nuts and berries?" Thor asked, holding up a mostly-empty bag of trail mix.

"No thanks," he replied. "I just had some of Bruce's leftovers. What was that, tempeh? Seitan?" He grimaced.

"You know, if you showed the proper respect for Bruce's cooking, or had any inclination to get out of bed before eleven o'clock in the morning, I might let you eat lunch at the big kid's table," Phil said.

"Lunch in the lab, what an incentive," Tony said.

"Tony," Steve said. "Team."

They stared at each other, and it was difficult for Phil not to smile a little at how refined this ongoing argument between them had become.

"Yes, dear," Tony said, sighing, and rolled off the couch to mess around with the reel-to-reel player. He rifled through the stacks of tapes in their flat boxes. "Anything other than jazz here?"

"I don't believe the oeuvre of AC/DC is available on reel-to-reel," Phil replied mildly, "but Metallica is a possibility. Perhaps you should investigate."

Tony put on Ornette Coleman, though he kept the volume to a reasonable level, then sat down at the table with Steve and Thor. He pulled out a pen and began adding his own notations to the report Steve and Thor had been working on.

Phil flipped through Tony's latest lab reports, which as usual were nearly incomprehensible; he was pretty sure Tony did this on purpose. "Anything I should be aware of in all of this?" he asked.

Tony shrugged. "Gonna pick up on some of that stuff Bruce has been doing with that polymer," he replied. "Might get something out of it. I'll let you know if I need anything."

"I'm sure you will," Phil replied, setting aside the reports in the hope that Bruce could decipher them.

"If we add to this report," Tony said, "does that mean we don't have to file one of our own?"

Phil cocked his head. "If you're willing to sign off on the final document once I compile it tomorrow we can call it good," he said.

"That makes it worth it," Tony said, putting his pen away. "All right, I'm out. Gentlemen, can I give you a lift?"

"You're not flying around the city again, are you?" Phil asked. "We've talked about that."

"No, I drove the Boxter."

"And all three of you are going to fit?"

Tony grinned. "Thor likes to ride on the roof," he said. "Will you be home for dinner?"

"I expect so," Phil said.

"Good, because Clint has some kind of stew thing in the crock pot," Tony said, and led the other men out the door.

Phil handed off the annotated report to Darcy to compile, along with Natasha's own already-completed forms and the outline he'd received from Clint. Then he busied himself with the requisitions for the lab as well as taking another stab at trying to work out what Tony was actually up to. Darcy left the office around six and Phil himself didn't see a reason to stick around much longer. Besides, Clint got pouty when Phil missed dinner on his nights to cook.

He walked out into the hallway and thumped on the ceiling with his emergency umbrella.

One of the ceiling tiles slid sideways, and a blond head popped out. "Yes?"

"Come on," he said. "Let's go home."

Watching Clint drop down from a perch and land on his feet like a cat, crouched low before standing up again, was one of Phil's favorite pastimes. He hadn't yet told Clint that he'd had fantasies of Clint performing just such a move, sans clothing, since long before they were anything like an item. But he had an inkling that Clint might know, given the slow movement that let his muscles ripple to their best effect, and the smirk on his face.

Well, actually, the smirk was probably semi-permanent, in the "if you keep making that face it might stay that way" tradition.

"Good hunting?" Phil asked.

Clint shrugged. "Got a few. They shouldn't be coming up here anyway."

"Well, don't shoot at Fury or Hill."

"Of course not," Clint replied, and looked almost offended.

"Sorry, of course you wouldn't," Phil said. "So are you responsible for my steady stream of visitors?"

"Me?" Clint asked, trying and failing to look innocent. "Maybe your team just wants to take care of you, Phil."

Phil snorted, because while he could believe that of Natasha or Steve, he couldn't imagine that any of the others would do the same without prompting. But he decided to allow Clint his deniability. "So I hear you have a stew for us tonight?"

"A tagine, actually," Clint replied, walking with Phil down the empty hall. "We can eat that while we watch your girlfriend win that dancing show."

"Don't jinx her," Phil said, "and she's not my girlfriend."

"Phil, you rigged every SHIELD phone to vote for her last night," he said, grinning. "Don't worry. I'm not jealous or anything."

"I just liked that movie she was in, is all," Phil said. "And she's aged well."

Clint turned and looked at Phil's office door, hidden in its corner nook, then back at Phil. "You mean, nobody puts—"

"Don't even say it," Phil said, and kissed him to be sure of it.

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