"Permission to Court, Sir?"
Also known as "5 Times Steve Tried to Ask Clint for Permission to Court Phil, and 1 Time He Blurted It Out in Front of Everyone on the Helicarrier"
The bar was nothing like what Steve expected. Smoking was banned, so the air was clear. The music wasn't too loud, and the waiting staff were appropriately covered, which he definitely didn't expect while out with Tony Stark. The patrons were friendly and not yet drunk (probably for Bruce's sake), and there were plenty of different drinks, and games to play. Even the art was tasteful, the tables were clean… it was real nice.
Not to mention the view. Ph— Agent Coulson was playing pool with Bruce, Tony, and Natasha. Thor was at the bar, trying each form of 'Midgardian' alcohol, and managing to stay sober. Everyone else was either at the darts board, watching the television, or egging on the others. It left just Steve and Clint, still on their first and third drinks respectively, and relaxing after a busy day.
"Say, Clint, you and Agent Coulson are pretty close, right?" he asked, trying to sound casual. He traced patterns on the tabletop.
"We've known each other for years, longer than the rest of you put together, including Nat," Clint said, gesturing at Steve and the rest of the Avengers with his half-full glass. "Like a brother to me. Best buds and all that shi— kind of thing."
"Uh-huh," Steve said, nodding. His gaze moved from Phil's backside… uh, back to Clint, who was clearly watching his girlfriend. "So I wanted to ask you if I could—"
"You wouldn't try to cheat, would you, Stark?" Natasha asked. Tony widened his eyes to the point that the fake innocence was painfully obvious.
"Would I even dare try, Agent Romanov?" he said. "And I'm sure you'd catch me in a second." He snapped his fingers. Her dangerous smirk suggested that she would soon snap his fingers in quite a different way. Tony seemed to realise that, and backed up a few steps. "Hey, that's what you get when you play against a genius."
Her eyes narrowed. Clint muttered something about 'pre-damage control… I hope' before he jogged over to Natasha's side. Steve sighed, and slouched back into the booth's padding.
The gym was quiet at this time of morning. Steve knew enough about his team-mates' routines to know that Clint was supposed to be coming along soon. He wasn't wrong when he heard the door open, and looked up from the bench press to see the archer step into the gym. They waved to each other, and Clint sauntered over to Steve.
"Hey, Cap," he said, dumping his bag beside the next press.
"Good morning, Clint. Did you have a good sleep?"
"Great, thanks." He began to stretch. "You?"
"Yeah, it was good."
Things fell into a silence which must have been awkward, because Clint laughed between stretches.
"You're a great conversationalist, Steve," he said. He stretched his arms, hand-guards already in place. "Something on your mind?"
"That obvious, is it?" Steve asked. Clint gave him a look. "Okay, stupid question to ask a spy."
Clint laughed again. "Nat'll be along in a few… okay, I was gonna say minutes, but…"
Sure enough, the door had opened without Steve noticing, and he nearly jumped out of skin when he realised that she was beside him two seconds later.
"What were you boys talking about?" she asked. "Good morning, Captain."
"Good morning, Miss Romanov."
She nodded, and raised her eyebrow at Clint. He shrugged.
"Just small talk so far."
"Yeah, that's all it is," Steve hastily agreed. "Small talk."
It was a heck of a battle. Loki must have learnt some new tricks during whatever his year-long punishment was in Asgard. Based on what Thor told him of Asgardian society, fighting was regarded more highly than brains; so if Loki's punishment involved being stuck in a library somewhere… Well, it wouldn't be much of a punishment, would it? And not the smartest of ideas. Or maybe not being under the Chitauri's partial-control had cleared his head.
The noxious, acidic pink monster-blood was still all over the place, slowly eating through anything metal, and the dead beast was stinking up the whole area and bringing out New York's entire rat population. Loki seemed particularly annoyed with Stark (well, who wouldn't be?) because the colour of the goo clashed horribly with the suit, and it was chewing through the metal slowly but surely. It was interesting to see what Tony wore as pyjamas, since they'd all been called into action in the middle of the night. That it was now nearly midday said how long they'd been fighting.
"You okay?" he asked each person. There were a fair few injuries, but no casualties, and nothing more serious than a severely broken leg.
He came upon Clint lounging against an ambulance, overseeing the civilian check-ups, shades covering his sensitive eyes and bow and quiver slung over his back. The archer tipped an imaginary hat.
"Good fighting," he said.
"You okay, Barton?"
"Yes, sir. Feeling's come back into my feet, and I've done some exercises so my body shouldn't argue with me tomorrow." He cracked his neck to one side, and smiled. "Been seen to, Cap?"
"Already healing," Steve said. "Clint, I wanted to talk to you—"
"Hey, Capsicle, your comm's still on," Tony piped up. Steve glared across the battlefield at Iron Man, who shot him a thumbs-up. He turned off his communicator, and Clint raised a brow.
"What'd you want to say?"
"De-briefing as soon as everyone's back on the `carrier," Phil – Agent Coulson – said as he passed by. "We can come by for clean-up later. Right now, let SHIELD's scientists deal with this."
"Yes, sir," Steve said, fighting down his disappointment. That was their cue to get back to the airship as soon as possible.
"Good work today, Captain Rogers, Hawkeye."
"Sir." Clint saluted the agent.
"Later," Steve said before Clint could speak.
It was the second Thanksgiving since Loki's first attack on New York. This time last year, the Avengers had reunited to spend part of the day at Tony's place, but most of it at Phil's bedside in the hospital, waiting for him to wake up. When he woke for the first time, it was only half an hour before visiting hours were due to finish, so the Avengers kept it secret so that they could have the time with him before the doctors and nurses could interrupt. It was the best possible present, and it wasn't even Christmas.
So this was the first anniversary of 'Agent's awakening', as Tony liked to put it. (He was nearly tasered for that.) They had all worked on the meal together, in the mansion's enormous kitchen, each person doing something different to contribute to the feast. Steve had made sure that he and Clint would be preparing food together.
Nearly fifteen minutes had passed, and he still hadn't gotten up the nerve to speak.
"Say, Clint," he said. Then he hesitated.
"What is it, Steve?"
"I've been meaning to ask…" He laughed, a bit manically. "I keep trying to ask you something. It's about Agent—"
"Nearly done in here?" Pepper asked. "Thor's about ready to expire of hunger. Apparently." Her twinkly-eyed smile faded. "Bad time?"
"What?" Steve asked. He couldn't believe it. "Uh…" His shoulders sagged. "No. We're pretty much there, aren't we, Clint?"
"Well, yeah, but if there's something you wanted to talk about—"
"Another time." He breathed in and out deeply. "A better time."
Amora was even worse to fight than Loki, if that could be believed. At least Loki was easily distracted by trying to take his revenge on Thor (and failing epically). Amora was just as powerful, just as crazy, and not trying single-mindedly to kill Thor. Kind of the opposite. She was even able to do something to the electronics, which made their comms crackly whenever anyone spoke; Tony had had to keep out of her range, and instead assist the others when she wasn't looking, before retreating quickly.
In the end, Clint was the one who took her out. He wasn't able to use the explosive devices on his arrows; but at least she couldn't make them explode herself, using whatever device or powers she had. Anyone who got close – even Thor – had been unable to take her down. Clint's lightning-quick firing and exacting aim were the only things to get through to her. Even Steve's shield was useless, because he couldn't use it to bounce her spells back to her. They either went wild, or died on impact.
Unfortunately, Amora had managed to get one parting shot in, stunning Clint so that he hit his head as he fell. Tony caught him before he could fall farther than six or seven storeys; but it was bad enough that he had been sedated, and was currently lying on a gurney in hospital.
"I finally get you alone again, and you're hopped up on pain meds," Steve muttered resentfully. Clint giggled.
"C'mon, Steeeeeve," he said. "We both know you've been wantin' to talk for aaaages." He giggled again. "What's up, man?"
"I want to ask your permission to…" Clint giggled again, and began to fall asleep. It didn't really matter; he probably wouldn't have remembered the conversation when he woke up anyway, and it was important that he did. He squeezed the archer's shoulder. "Rest up, buddy. You'll be shooting arrows again in no time."
"Probably sooner than he should be," Phil said, appearing at Steve's side. "Have you been checked out, Captain?"
"Good. See you on the Helicarrier."
"I'll go with Clint, if I may, sir."
Phil blinked quickly. "Of course. Travel safe."
"I will, sir. Agent Coulson?"
"Um… never mind."
Clint had been cleared for duty for three days, and spent most of his time either on the range and working out, or complaining about the soap operas he'd had to watch while Medical triple-checked to make sure than no magic remained. Nobody chose to mention that he was still watching Days of Our Lives on the sly.
He was now heading out on a mission for SHIELD. The rest of the Avengers were seeing him off. As they walked through the bridge, Clint brought up the one topic Steve wished he could find the courage to approach.
"You've been wanting to ask me something for months, haven't you?" he said. "I don't know how long I'll be gone, so did you want to ask now?"
"There's not much time," Steve said.
"I know, Cap." He sighed. "Okay. We'll talk about it when I get back, okay? Three weeks, tops. Right, sir?"
"That's right, Barton," Fury said, not even looking back.
Three weeks? Steve thought. How can I wait…? No, I'll have to. But…
"Clint, I want to ask your permission to court Agent Coulson!"
Okay, he didn't mean to say it that loudly. Or on the bridge. In front of everyone on the ship. Well, nearly everyone.
Then there was the sound of something hitting the floor behind them. Steve turned, and noticed that, no, it was everyone.
Agent Coulson had just dropped his clipboard.
Natasha, who had arrived with him, picked it up smoothly and handed it to him. He held it close to his chest, both arms around it. Steve felt like he was going to pass out. Especially when Natasha's lips twitched. She covered them with one hand quickly, but her shoulders were still jerking up and down, and her face was steadily going red.
He waited for Phil to defend himself, say that he wasn't some kind of damsel in distress, or Clint's teenage daughter. But… But he blushed. He blushed like a teenage girl, and looked at Clint.
He looked at Clint hopefully.
Now Steve was having trouble breathing.
"Actually," Clint said, and Steve looked at him, "I'm kind of not the one you should be asking for permission." He smirked. "That would be Director Fury."
Steve felt like he was going to cry from frustration, and then possibly die of embarrassment. He must have looked terrible, because the head of SHIELD took pity.
"Yes," he said. "Permission granted. Just keep your personal life off my damn bridge. Got it, Rogers?"
"Yes, sir," Steve said, and he saluted before he could stop himself.
"About fu— uh, about time," Fury muttered. Steve was pleased that everyone was starting to swear less around him. (It was his range of disapproving-slash-disappointed looks.) Well, he'd feel pleased about that later. Right now, he had something important to do.
Phil's blush grew more intense, and Natasha's sniggers were audible by now, as Steve sidled up to the agent.
"Agent Coulson, do you want to go to dinner with me?" he asked softly. "Or coffee? Something?"
Before he could get a reply, Fury interrupted.
"You two have the week off as of now," he said. "Get your sh— stuff together, do whatever the hell you want. We'll only call you if there's a disaster of apocalyptic proportions."
"Thank you, sir," Phil said. Then he smiled up at Steve. The soldier nearly swooned. "I'd like dinner. Or coffee. Anything."
"Okay," Steve said. He beamed. "Let's go."
Phil shoved his clipboard into Natasha's arms, and he and Steve hurried out of the room.
It was a very good week.
Prompty-tags are prompty.
I know that I'm trying to slow my… what's the opposite of intake? Whatever it is (I'll check with Jeeves later), I'm trying to slow it down when it comes to Capsicoul. Production! That's the baby. I'm trying to slow my production of Capsicoul fan fics. It was almost working when I saw tags on a post on Cap-Coulson (on Tumblr), and thought of this story. So this is for the lovely peeps at Cap-Coulson.
Review if you like, please!