"Synonym for 'Idiot'"

It turned into a melee. It wasn't supposed to do that, Phil thought bitterly as he shoved the barrel of his gun into the face of the drug runner's goon, feeling the crunch of metal against bone and seeing the man drop to the ground. He felt a blow to his side and he hissed in pain before turning into the next guy and shoving him brutally to the ground and then shooting him in the knee to keep him down. They needed the drug runner, he thought as he turned and had an opening to scan the cluttered warehouse to see if he could find the one they needed. That's when he saw Barton being dragged, unconscious, through a side room door by the very man he was looking for.

No, no, no, thought Phil. Not Barton. Not as a bargaining chip. SHIELD didn't do bargaining chips, and that was one of the earliest pieces of their training. Pretty standard, actually, but only standard until a bad guy took the one person you might consider bargaining for as a chip. Phil sucked in a painful breath, left the other agents to handle the rest of the melee with a simple command, and followed Barton.

The room used to be an office, obviously, but it had been out of use for a while. There was a layer of dust on the desk and lamp, the grey metal filing cabinet had drawers open and the few files were in disarray. The corner of the room was filled with boxes, and the drug runner himself stood in front of the boxes, holding Barton under the arms and around his throat. Phil saw that he had been shot in the shoulder, his drawing shoulder, Phil thought angrily. He also had blood running down the side of his face from a cut in front of his ear, and as Phil stood there assessing the situation, Barton woke up, trying to struggle and then groaning in pain and going limp and gasping in the drug runner's arms.

Phil had his gun drawn, but the drug runner had his pressed against Barton's temple, and as Barton's eyes opened again Phil tried to get a hold of his own ricocheting heartbeat. SHIELD policy, he told himself fiercely, no bargaining.

Forget late nights as Barton sat cross-legged on the couch in Phil's office, hair still wet and rumpled from a shower after hours on the range, playing Tetris on his phone and occasionally trying to offer his own help while Phil finished paperwork. "No, Clint. I can't write down that Agent Johnston was a complete asshole. He needs a career after he wises up a little." Once Clint just shrugged, offered a kinder adjective, and then went back to his game, humming to himself. Two days later Phil found a piece of paper on his desk with a list of synonyms for 'asshole' and 'idiot' and Phil actually found himself using it from time to time with a 'thank you for the list' to Clint each time he did. Now he saw that Barton's eyes were wide with panic and pain as he felt the steel arm of his captor around his throat and the steel barrel of the gun against his temple.

"This one's good, isn't he, commanding Agent?" The tall, muscled man said, his voice thick with an eastern accent. "I saw you let him go off on his own while you ordered the others around out there. You trust this one more, is that right?" Phil didn't waver. He held his gun, aimed at the jerk in front of him, but his training was seriously wavering right now.

"Phil, it's okay," Clint had told him one night as he had to physically lead Phil to his couch and lay him down. "Sleep for a while. I'll keep watch." Phil protested weakly as he lay down, but Clint wasn't having it. "Forget it, boss. You've been up for three days. I'll get you up in just a few hours, but your paperwork's gonna look like gibberish if you try it now. Fury'll understand if it's not on his desk at six am sharp this time." Phil just nodded and closed his eyes, knowing Clint was right and glad to have someone he felt safe sleeping in the same room with. Now the drug runner in front of him had seen that trust and was trying to use it by holding a gun to Clint's head. Phil shivered involuntarily as he stood there in the dusty office, deciding whether to give up his training and bargain. That's when Barton straightened in the man's arms and got a little life back in his eyes around the pain.

"Coulson, do it." Barton said, his voice hoarse. The man tightened his grip on Barton's throat and said, "Yes, Coulson. Do it. Take a shot and hope I don't shoot him in reflex. He's already bleeding out, after all. He's just a sniper. You'll find another one without trouble."

Phil knew he was in trouble with Clint the first time he thought he'd lost him. It was a standard operation gone bad, an explosion from a bomb they'd overlooked took out the building Barton was shooting from and they couldn't find him in the wreckage. A couple of months of spending off hours in coffee shops and restaurants with him thinking he was just cultivating a much-needed friendship turned into something else when the panic in Phil's chest threatened to overwhelm him as they picked through the rubble looking for the archer. Turns out that Clint's agility bred from his circus days served him well and the cocky sniper came sauntering over from another direction, asking, "Who's missing?" with an easy grin. Phil realized when he had to steel himself against engulfing the man in a not-so-platonic hug that the archer had become something more than a much-needed friend. Now Barton was ordering Phil to shoot the man holding a gun to his head.

"You've gotten comfortable with this one, haven't you, troop leader?" The man said with a sneer. "Good. Then let me slip through that door behind the filing cabinet and the two of you can plant a story of how I was just too fast, too slick for you all this time and this one lives. Make your choice, now, before he dies." Phil had gotten comfortable with Clint. Just as he realized that the bullet wound to Clint's shoulder was probably closer to his chest than he thought at first, he saw Clint cough in the man's arms and saw a thin line of blood escape his lips.

He recalled the night they had a few drinks at the local pub and then slipped into Clint's apartment nearby and sank into his couch, leaning into each other, unsure. But Clint sat back and stared into Coulson's face and said, "I'd really like to kiss you, but I don't want to mess anything up," with a small grin. Phil answered by leaning in and grasping the back of Clint's head, pulling their lips together in a confident kiss, feeling Clint succumb and kiss him back, his tongue exploring Phil's mouth gently. More gently than Phil thought he would, really, and when they pulled back it was Clint who said, "Oh, shit. We're in trouble, aren't we?" with a broad smile. Phil just nodded and went back in for another kiss. Now, though, Phil knew it was good they were close, really, as Coulson looked into Barton's eyes and flicked his gun just a half-inch, knowing the sniper would get the gesture.

Barton's sharp eyes caught the movement and he closed his eyes and took a raggedy breath, ducking away from the gun at his temple as soon as he heard Coulson's gun fire. There was no second shot by the drug runner, though, as he fell backwards, dropping Barton and sliding into the boxes behind him, a bullet through his own temple. Phil watched as Clint tried to get his own footing but crumpled limply to the ground.

Phil knelt down next to his sniper and pulled his vest back to get a better look at the gunshot wound, on the comms at the same time, calling for a med team and an update on the situation in the warehouse. He listened as he smoothed Clint's hair off his sweaty cheek and pressed his hand against the wound that was too close to Clint's chest. "Hey, Barton," he said gently, after another agent filled him in that the situation in the warehouse was finally under control and a med team was on its way in. Clint looked up at him, pain in his blue eyes and blood in his mouth.

"Phil," he whispered. "You almost broke protocol. You're an idiot." He smiled weakly and then shuddered as the cold chill of shock settled in. Phil heard the med team come through the door and he shifted position so that he had Clint's good hand tightly in his own and was out of the way of the medic. "Yeah," he said, putting his warm hand against Clint's cold cheek. "I'll let you use your synonym list when you wake up, okay?" Clint nodded and then winced as the medic pushed a needle into his arm. It was a strong painkiller and Phil felt Clint's hand relax almost instantly and thought he heard Clint mumble, "moron's on the list," as he slipped into sleep with Phil's hand carding through his hair.

Phil waited to fill out the paperwork for hours, until he was sitting next to Clint in a SHIELD hospital room with the list of synonyms in hand, and Fury didn't complain at all about the tardiness of the report.