A/n: Thanks again to dysprositos for her beta skills. I added a few things in after, so mistakes are totally mine. This also turned out way different than I'd planned. Concrit is welcome and appreciated.
1. Boss Black, 895.00: Phil Coulson was reliable and he knew he could do this. Director Fury trusted him, the other Agents trusted him, and he trusted himself. He could do this. Today, he would be meeting with five new Agents as a handler for the first time, and he was ready. He had spent too much on his navy blue suit and crisp, white dress shirt, but this one was going to be for the first and other serious days; he had a few cheap imitations for the other days that cost much less.
Phil had saved his money over the years, always living on base and living the job – what was he going to do with money, anyway, besides buy himself Captain America toys? So the suits were one of his first decisions when it came to working on how to present himself as a handler.
He had been an agent for a couple of years, had been a Ranger before that, and suits weren't required very often. This job, though. This was different. He'd been watching his own handlers very carefully for the last year, once he made the decision to try and become one himself. He had made careful lists, two of them. One list was for things he saw that he wanted to emulate, and one list was for things he swore he'd never do. Disappointingly, the second list was longer.
One thing on the list of things to emulate was to appear reliable. He had a handler, Agent Clark, who was built like a tank and wore khakis and polo shirts that showed off his muscles. First impressions went a long way with Clark – people instinctively cowered before he even opened his mouth. But Phil wasn't a tall man, though he'd been dealing with that for long enough that it didn't bother him anymore. He didn't appear as a strong man, either, though he'd throw his hat into pretty much any sparring ring at SHIELD and be pretty confident in coming out on top, even against men like Clark.
No, wearing a suit would project an appearance of reliability and strength, along with his stoic carriage. He had been perfecting stoic for a long time, at first because it was how he felt most of the time anyway, and then when he realized that superior officers who didn't have your own reaction (or overreaction) to confront tended to respect you more, he perfected it. Stoic was also a good illusion for reliable. He wasn't going to be these people's friend anyway. He'd trade the appearance of strength and reliability for personable and friends any time. He would be personable off the clock.
It really did feel like a shield and a mask when he slipped into the suit that first morning. He'd double and triple checked the fit of the deep navy suit when he bought it, asking two salesmen to check each other's work. It fit beautifully. He slipped the coat on just before it was time to leave and he stood in front of the black-framed mirror in his bedroom and felt strong. He felt reliable. He felt protected. He slipped on his stoic mask and headed into SHIELD, armed with an inside and out knowledge of each of the five agents he'd be meeting today, five mission briefings he had memorized, and a deep navy Boss Black suit.
2. Apollo King, 90.00: "'m gonna ruin your suit," Clint mumbled, blood leaking from the side of his mouth, and then he coughed, a wet, crackly cough that caused him to stiffen in pain in Phil's lap. Phil used his handkerchief to wipe the blood off of Clint's cheek, resisting the panicked urge to call the evac team again. They were coming, but it was a hot area and getting to them might be hard. Phil didn't want hard, but everything related to Clint Barton was hard these days.
"'I'm sorry," Clint said, his voice raspy in his throat. Phil pressed one hand on the wound on Barton's right pectoral, where the bullet had clearly gone in and punctured his lung, and laid his other hand on Clint's cheek, feeling cold and clammy skin beneath his own sweaty palm. He wanted to call the team again. He wanted to call Natasha, really, but she was back at base, probably debriefing from her last mission.
"The suit doesn't matter, Barton," Phil said, trying to steady his own voice. "It's a field suit anyway. If you were bleeding on my Black, then I'd accept your apology."
"Not sorry 'bout the suit," Clint said, and he locked pain-filled eyes with Phil.
Phil nodded, swallowing a lump in his throat and pulling his hand from Clint's cheek. "It's okay," he whispered. "I may have moved a little too fast." He'd cornered Clint on the range a few days ago, leaning in too close, tried to kiss him before he realized in horror that he must have been completely misreading what he thought were signals from Clint he would welcome more than their already close friendship. Clint had stiffened and stepped away, saying he had a meeting he had to go to. They hadn't really talked since.
Clint coughed that wet cough again, and a little more blood seeped from his mouth. He shook his head weakly. "Not too fast, Phil. I'm just not –" he suddenly shuddered in Phil's grip, sending an icy fear coursing through Phil's arms, and then finished, "Not used to anyone like you being interested in me."
Phil pulled his hand off Clint's wound and ignored the oozing blood as he pulled his suit jacket off and wrapped it around Clint as best he could to warm him, then reapplied pressure to the wound, feeling like, when he pushed on Clint's chest, he was feeling it in his own. A crimson stain spread on the grey suit coat pressed against the wound, and Phil's handkerchief against Clint's pale cheek was soaked through.
"I'm very interested in you, Barton. Always will be," he said. When there was no response and Clint's eyes fluttered closed, he added, "Clint, stay awake, okay? You have to stay awake. They'll be here soon." Phil's voice sounded desperate in his own ears and it was, it really, really was. He was desperate for Clint to live regardless of whether he ever returned a kiss to Phil; they'd come to rely on each other over the last few years, even before the misinterpreted signals had begun to come. Phil knew Clint had his back on everything. He also knew Clint trusted Phil in a way he had never trusted before.
Phil could feel the blood seeping through the suit jacket over his own hand on Clint's chest, though, and he knew the archer's lungs were filling with it. Clint's eyes slowly opened again, though, and Phil grinned at him, trying to look not-scared. "Come on, Clint. Stay with me. Stay with me, and I'll take you to the best steak dinner we can find when we get home. No strings. Just dinner and a good beer."
Clint looked at him and took a shuddering breath. "I'm . . . okay with strings. Just don't know . . . why you . . . want 'em with me."
And Phil could hear the med team coming, could hear the defeat in Clint's voice, and so he rubbed his hand along Clint's cheek and said, "You're smart and brave and loyal and gorgeous, that's why. Get better and go out with me, and we'll try a just a few strings." He swore Clint tried to smile through the blood as the medics slipped in behind Phil and pulled Clint onto a stretcher.
They lost him twice on the way to the hospital and Phil pulled the bloodstained coat tightly around himself as he paced the waiting room for hours.
Phil couldn't get the suit jacket cleaned, but he kept it in the back of his closet from then on. When times got rough, he'd pull it out, remembering his desperation when he thought he was about to lose Clint so soon after he'd realized how much he wanted him.
3. Gieves & Hawkes, 950.00: They'd found him. A random scanning team paid for by Stark Industries out of habit found him buried in ice inside a ship they found. They found him, and they found the Tesseract, which Fury was having kittens about. Phil was having kittens over the fact that they'd found Captain America. Steve Rogers, he kept correcting himself; Fury had assigned Phil point on the revival team, and Phil was very much not going to go around calling him Captain every time he spoke to him.
He did, however, buy a new suit. He paid too much for it, but he loved it. He was dressing to meet his hero, after all.
Phil's father had introduced him to the joys of the Captain America comics and the publicity films and trading cards – it was something they did together and enjoyed together. His father knew that Phil was smaller than most of the boys his age, knew he tended to get bullied, sometimes beaten up. When he found out Phil had a bad day at school, he would disappear for an hour or so and return with a new comic book or a new action figure or something they could watch together. "Captain America didn't like bullies," his father would say to his young son, and Phil would reply, "Neither do I, Dad," and his father would ruffle Phil's hair and nod.
His father, with his blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes, taught him how to fight back, how to walk away, how to keep from being angry all the time. Phil had just as much trouble making friends as he did with being bullied, and would sometimes lash out at his father and at Captain America when he got particularly low. His dad always ignored it, pulled out a stack of comic books, and sat down on the floor of the family room reading until Phil would sulk his way into the room and join him after he'd calmed down.
His father died when Phil was sixteen. Phil put his favorite Captain America comic in his father's casket at the service, and he never bought a replacement.
When Phil slipped into his new, grey suit to go to keep watch over Steve Rogers, he thought of his dad. After he made it to headquarters, as he looked at the man stretched out in the mock bedroom, he saw someone much younger than he expected (despite his rational understanding of Rogers' age upon crashing). He wondered what his father would have said if he were around.
He sighed as his phone vibrated again as he watched, and he knew before he looked at it that it was another text from Clint. This time it read, "As hot as your new suit is, I wouldn't ask him to sign your cards until you've known him for at least two hours."
Phil grinned and typed, "This suit is totally hot enough to get me an autograph in under an hour. Give me two hours and I'll bring him home with me tonight. Do you mind?"
And then the text war kind of devolved into phone sex until an actual call from Fury interrupted them and he told Phil he was pulling him from Cap Watch to go to on an op. Two hours later, he sat on a plane next to Clint wondering about a day where he was constantly reminded of his father, watched his hero sleep, had text-sex with his lover, and then got on a plane to go run an operation to bring down a rogue government agent in Peru.
He didn't feel that guilty about buying an expensive suit for that kind of day.
4. Dolce & Gabbanna, 2,275.00: Tony Stark sent him a suit. He sent a note along with it apologizing for all of the mayhem with Vanko, and in parenthesis wrote 'Pepper thinks I do this stuff just to get under the skin of both of you'. Phil laughed until he opened the bag, and then he couldn't believe the suit inside. It was gorgeous; Tony had obviously gotten Phil's measurements from SHIELD because it fit like a well-tailored glove, right down to the powder blue shirt that hit his wrist just right.
The irony was that he only got to wear it once.
He didn't have any special occasions coming up that he knew about, and he was a little late for work that day (no thanks to Clint and those damned silk boxers of his), so he pulled on the suit from Tony. When he and Clint parted ways at base he just grinned in anticipation when Clint leaned over and whispered, as he was leaving for Tesseract watch duty, "I'm gonna love ripping that gorgeous thing off of you tonight." He gave Clint a quick kiss, pulled his sleeves into place, and went to work.
For way too many hours that day, he thought he'd lost Clint forever. He wrangled Stark and Rogers and sent Natasha off to find Banner. He watched her bring him back, and worried, and shoved that worry professionally away. When Clint helped Loki crash that German party, and then get himself aboard the helicarrier, Phil died a little. Hours after that, he realized that Clint was leading a team of bandits in an attack on the people he was most loyal to, Phil died a little more. He was unsure of how the hell they were going to take down a trickster god, and he didn't know how Clint would possibly survive the guilt that came so easily to him once he realized he committed such a breach of loyalty if he ever got out from under Loki's spell.
And then Phil died a lot in that good-looking suit.
Loki's spear went straight through the fine fabric, and Phil never saw the damned suit again. He did see Clint again, two weeks later as he came out of a painful haze at SHIELD medical, and Clint wouldn't leave him alone to do anything for two more months.
Phil had been right about Clint and his guilt, and it took a lot longer than two months for Clint's hands to stop shaking when they weren't occupied, or for the night terrors to settle down into good, old-fashioned nightmares. Phil did everything he could to help, including letting Clint rip as many suits off of him as he damn well pleased.
5. Anderson & Sheppard, 3000.00: "I can't believe you fucking said 'yes.'" Clint said, leaning in to kiss Phil. He leaned in to Clint's touch and then hung the suit in the closet next to one of his run-of-the-mill workday suits before turning back to his lover.
"I did say yes," Phil said, "And we're doing it tomorrow, in case you've forgotten."
Clint groaned and collapsed onto the bed, tucking his head under a pillow. He stayed that way. When Phil had changed into his own jeans and a ratty old Grateful Dead t-shirt from college, he leaned over the bed and pulled the pillow away from Clint's face. "Are you reconsidering?" He kept an even tone to his voice, even though he knew that, with Clint, that voice was a tell that he's worried about whatever he's asking.
Clint opened his eyes and sat up, pulling Phil into an embrace. "No. I'm not. It's just that—"
"Clint," Phil said, gently. "Remember when I first asked you out on a date?"
Clint laughed, "Yeah, I was bleeding out in your arms."
Phil nodded. "Yes, you were. And you said you'd shied away from me earlier because you couldn't figure out why I was interested in you." Clint just nods. "Well, I'm still interested in you. And for pretty much the same reasons." He leaned in and kissed Clint slow and deep.
Clint sighed when they released each other. "I seem to recall 'gorgeous' being on that list of reasons."
Phil shoved the pillow back in his face and laughed. "Yep, and it still is. Even in your old age."
"Hey, nine years younger than you," Clint said.
"Yes, which my mother keeps reminding me about. If she asks you if you're sure tomorrow, just please don't tell her you wanted to land a sugar daddy. She'll believe you."
Clint laughed, and they proceeded to go through the evening alternating between finalizing wedding plans and having spectacular pre-wedding sex.
Phil wears the most expensive blue suit he's ever bought to his own wedding and grins as Clint joins him wearing jeans, a crisp white t-shirt, and a black leather jacket in front of the small crowd of their friends.
The party Tony throws afterward is legendary.
+1. Wrangler 5 Star Premium Denim Jeans, 22.50: About fifteen years later, when Phil is fifty-nine, he wears a pair of Wrangler jeans to Clint's funeral.
A car accident killed him. A random, out-of-nowhere car accident as Clint was driving home from an appointment. Clint was killed instantly, the other driver running a red light at high speed. When the police called Phil's phone a few hours afterward to tell him, he let his Agent Coulson mask slip solidly into place, and he spoke politely and took down the information he needed. He thanked the officers and hung up the phone before throwing it across the room and breaking both it and a mirror. He proceeded to throw a chair through the glass coffee table that Clint had picked out and several kitchen glasses against the walls Clint had insisted on painting himself.
He stood in front of his bedroom closet for about an hour before the funeral when Natasha entered his room quietly, went to his dresser, and pulled out the jeans Clint had bought him years ago for his birthday. She pushed them gently into his hands. He looked at the jeans, looked up at her with tears in his eyes, and nodded.
The service was outdoors, and the number of people who showed up took Phil's breath away. People took turns talking about Clint, using words like 'loyalty' and 'pranks' and 'marksmanship' and 'brave' and 'reliable.'
Phil stood quietly in the bright sunlight and agreed with all of them, especially the last one, and silently added 'gorgeous' to the list.