Keeping Honest

Disclaimer: I don't own own anything from Agents of SHIELD, or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and I'm not making any money from this fic

Summary: Steve doesn't take too kindly to Coulson's actions. A bit of a stretch, but written for the boss or supervisor square in the Advent Bingo Challenge. And...bingo! It's the last story in the spankers line

Warning(s): Spanking; spoilers for the first season of Agents of SHIELD and up to and including Captain America: The Winter Soldier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; some references to violence

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When he finally retired to his bunk for the night, Coulson couldn't deny he was tired. Drained. He'd spent the whole day putting on a mask and pretending he wasn't as emotionally affected by HYDRA's emergence as everyone else. Even now, there were still questions. Were there other agents they couldn't trust? Other agents who were secretly HYDRA, biding their time until they were activated?

The main worry prickling at Coulson was for Fitz, of course. The young scientist was still in hospital, subject to a myriad of tests. Coulson had spoken privately to the doctors, who had indicated Fitz's lungs might never fully recover.

And Coulson still had to make a decision regarding Ward.

Wearily, Coulson reached for the door...and then paused. His hand went to the holster at his waist and he drew his firearm, clicking the safety off.

The door was ajar. By perhaps only an inch, but someone had been in his bunk; and possibly still was.

Holding his gun trained in front of him, Coulson used his non-dominant hand to push the door open, finger tightening on the trigger.

Steve Rogers was sitting on his bed.

Coulson quickly lowered his gun before he could reflexively fire. For a brief moment, he wondered if the hero was a figment of his imagination; a hallucination brought on by grief and exhaustion. But when he switched on the light, the man didn't vanish like a shadow in the night. "Captain..." He couldn't hide his confusion. "I thought you were still in hospital."

"I heal fast." Steve stood, drawing himself to his full height. He looked at Coulson and his voice grew more serious, nearly stern, as he said, "You know a lot more about my condition than I did yours."

Coulson used the act of holstering his gun once more to hide his sense of confusion. When he looked up to meet Steve's eyes, he'd schooled his face into neutrality. "I was actually dead." His mind shied away from the memory of the pain being brought back had caused him to suffer. Was it better or worse to remember it?

"Why didn't you tell me you were alive?"

Coulson hesitated, not sure why Steve had said 'me', indicating it was personal, and not 'us', meaning the rest of the Avengers. After all, none of them had known either. He hesitantly replied, "I was put in the best place..."

"That's not what I asked."

No. It wasn't. But Coulson didn't know how to answer that question. Because he didn't have an answer. He should have told them the truth. If not as soon as he'd come back, then once it was cleared for him to do so. He shook his head and told the truth. "I don't have an answer for you. I'm sorry."

Steve reached for the book on the small table next to the bed. He flipped it open and then held it out to Coulson.

Coulson scanned the page enough to read the title, Corporal Punishment For Use On Subordinates, but didn't take it. "I memorised the manual back at the academy." He might choose to disregard parts of it now...but that didn't mean he didn't know it back to front. "You're not my boss," he commented.

"I still outrank you."

That was true enough. And Steve Rogers as Captain America had been Coulson's childhood hero. The man might not be the same as the legend, but he was still a man to look up to.

"We can go to my office to take care of this," Coulson suggested. He was tired. Worried. Smarting from HYDRA's resurgence and hurting from Ward's more personal betrayal. He really didn't want to have to deal with more; but this was Captain America, who more than deserved his respect.

"We don't need to move from here." Steve put the book back on the table and moved over to the bed once more. He sat down, set his legs slightly apart and looked at Coulson. "Come here."

"That's not the way it's done."

"Bent over a desk and caned or strapped? I served in the military during the war. I know how these punishments are supposed to go," Steve said. "But this isn't about you disobeying an order. This is about you hiding your survival from me."

While Coulson couldn't deny that it was personal, he couldn't help but be confused over Steve making it personal. And before he committed to this, he needed to know why. "This can't just be about me telling you that you were my childhood hero. You're making this much more personal than our working relationship to this point has suggested."

"It's personal to me," Steve said. "And I know it was to the rest of the Avengers. You died because of mistakes we made. And the fact you didn't tell me you were alive is a sign of disrespect. And not the way you should be treating your 'childhood here'."

Coulson chose not to point out the fact Steve hadn't been so thrilled when Coulson had told him that. He couldn't argue with what the other man was saying. And telling Steve he did respect him wouldn't mean nearly as much as action.

Taking a deep breath, Coulson walked over to the bed. It had been a long time since he'd needed to be subjected to corporal punishment, but there was a sinking feeling in his stomach as he settled himself in place over the captain's knees.

Coulson's face grew hot as Steve adjusted his position until his backside was the highest point of his body. He didn't really know what to do with his hands and, in the end, settled on bracing one on the blanket and the other on the floor.

The first swat over his pants was stinging rather than truly hard, but even if it didn't really hurt, the humiliation of the position and of having his backside smacked was intense.

Steve didn't waste any time in delivering the firm, stinging swats down to Coulson's thighs. While he wasn't using that much force, Coulson couldn't help but begin to shift when Steve began a new circuit of smacks, going from the crest of his backside down to his thighs.

Coulson thought he could take the spanking, probably, right until he felt Steve begin to tug his pants down. He clamped his mouth shut on the whimper that wanted to escape as he felt cool air ghost across his bare backside.

It was impossible to tell if Steve was in fact smacking harder, of if it just felt that way, as the crisp swats seemed to sting more now that Coulson's pants and boxers were down. He fought to stay as still as possible, apart from twitching a little when Steve's hand landed on a particularly sensitive spot, and was reasonably sure he was succeeding.

And then Steve started to speak. "Back during the war, when I first became Captain America, people thought they could do bad things as long as they had noble reasons. But doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is still wrong. And you're one of the good parts of SHIELD. If you want me to trust you, you need to tell me things. Not just about you being alive, but everything."

Coulson winced, feeling tears begin to blur his eyes. Everything? He had to tell Steve everything? "You already know it all," he muttered.

"I know how hurt and betrayed you're feeling because you feel everything you've worked so hard for is in ruins."

Those words were what sent the tears out of Coulson's eyes. He drew in a deep, shaky breath and clenched his fists so hard, his nails dug into his palms. "SHIELD is destroyed...broken...people I trusted and cared about..." His voice hitched and wavered as sobs began to press at the back of his throat.

"I know."

The spanking had stopped and Coulson found himself laying bonelessly over Steve's knees. The position felt more comforting than he thought he had a right to feel, but the understanding tone in Steve's voice...the comforting way his back was being rubbed...caused the tears to stream faster down his cheeks.

He had no idea how long he lay there for, over the lap of his childhood hero, crying like his heart was broken. Eventually, though, the tears died down to soft sniffles and he became aware of exactly what position he was in.

Steve didn't try to stop Coulson as he pushed himself up. Wiping at his eyes, he pulled his clothing back into place and drew in a deep breath. "As Fury is officially no longer with us, can I take this to mean SHIELD is now under your command?"

"That's one way of putting it." Steve stood up and gently squeezed Coulson's shoulder. "I know how betrayed you feel personally by some of the double agents, but you owe it to yourself to consider if there might be a way to turn any of them."

After the way Ward had betrayed all of them...after his actions had put Fitz in the hospital...Coulson couldn't imagine there being anything salvageable in the younger man. But Captain America was telling him to reach out. And Coulson wanted him to be right. He wanted to believe there might be some good left.

Now that he'd had the chance to cry and release his grief...maybe there were still some chances of redemption.

The End