It wasn't that Tony was a voyeur or anything. Honestly. Everyone always assumed that he searched the security tapes for racy sections to jack off to in his lab, but that was so far from the truth that he let it ride to cover the real reasons. Those who thought it was about trust were closer to the mark; life had taught Tony that most people were out for their own interests and he needed to be on constant guard for con men and manipulators. Too many pictures taken by girls he'd picked up and brought home, business associates just looking for the latest tech to sell, so-called friends who snooped around, opening the medicine cabinet and the liquor cabinet and his walk-in closet. He'd given everyone a privacy code when they'd moved in the tower, and he'd fully intended to let them blackout any time they wanted. Jarvis was under strict orders to not peek unless the very safety of the team was at risk, and the AI was smart enough to know when they were in danger. Yeah, he had trust issues, but that wasn't why he had backup cameras for the backup cameras.
What set Tony off was that Phil Coulson had been acting weird ever since he came back from the dead and moved into his new job as the coordinator between SHIELD and the Avengers. Phil Coulson - good-natured, easy going badass who took every strange quirk Tony could throw at him in stride - was hiding something. And that hit Tony where it hurt, that a friend might not be trustworthy; truth was, Tony didn't really believe he deserved to have any friends in the first place. He didn't believe that Steve might really like him, or that Thor thought he was a good leader, or that Clint actually got his jokes, or that Natasha hadn't killed him in his sleep because she was a team member. Pepper and Rhodey had worn him down, eroded his doubts over time – it was just too early for the others. And then there was the fact that Phil was SHIELD and SHIELD lied (see "Phil is dead"), and Tony didn't trust Fury to not make Phil do something like report on the team's secrets. So when Phil moved in and was different, well, that was a sure sign that Tony had been right all along.
It was little things. How Phil looked at him when he and Clint were arguing over a ref's call in a game, like he could see right through Tony's bullshit, was eyeing him intently. The abrupt way Phil would leave a room, just stop talking, nod, and walk purposefully away – he'd always been so, well, impossible to get rid of, but now he seemed eager now to leave Tony's company. A distracted look in Phil's eyes during briefings and other meetings, like he wasn't listening to Tony's ramblings even if he could later recite every detail. Missing breakfast sometimes … Phil, off schedule? … and the amount of time he used the privacy screen.
The worst had been just a few hours earlier, during a pitched battle with some Doombots. Phil never lost his cool in a tactical situation. Never. But Tony pulled what even he had to admit was a stupid move, catching Clint and flying him right into the line of fire so the man could land a virus arrow to hack into a robot's system so they could take it home to tear it apart. Expecting an even and calm reprimand, Tony was shocked when he heard Phil, voice tight and angry, ask him, "Just what the hell were you thinking, Stark? You want to get one of you killed?"
So here he was, hiding out in his lab, watching the feed from the tertiary backup system of Phil's office, angle high enough to see all the paperwork on Phil's desk, his computer, even into the drawers when he opened them. He'd placed the camera there precisely to know what Phil was putting in his reports, capture his passwords, and gather all sorts of data that Tony shouldn't have. And at the moment, Phil was doing precisely nothing more exciting than filling out seventeen SHIELD forms – why did they need four different ways to report that no one was injured anyway – in his very precise and tiny handwriting. Yes, Phil still wrote his forms on actual paper as well as filing them digitally. Tony hadn't figured out why.
Sighing, Tony grabbed a screwdriver and kept working on the new design for a tight-beam repulsor just as a figure entered the camera's range; he immediately recognized the black pants and boots – Clint, still in his uniform. Phil looked up, and a smile turned up the corners of his mouth for a second before he tamped it back down into the familiar "I'm working" expression he used to steer off interruptions. There was no sound on the camera; Tony could listen in another way, but that would be crossing some imaginary line in his head, so he didn't. Didn't take much to clearly imagine Clint's smartass remark, probably something about the stunt they'd pulled to get a rise out of Phil. Dropping his quiver on the desk, Clint came into view as he leaned down; he was still dirty from the battle, bow in his hand. Trying to keep working, Phil shook his head, but Clint braced his hand on the desk; mouth close to Phil's ear, he whispered and Phil sat up straighter.
"Sir," Jarvis interrupted, "You might wish to know that Agent Barton has just activated his privacy code." Unsaid was the computers suggestion that now might be a good time to stop watching. Jarvis could be such a nag sometimes. Of course, Tony had programmed that attribute in the AI himself.
"Oh, really? That's interesting." His gut sank at the thought that Clint might be part of whatever was going on. He was, after all, a SHIELD agent, a fact Tony often forgot since the two of them had become friends. His attention riveted on the screen now, Tony nervously tapped the screwdriver on the table, project forgotten.
Phil looked up at Clint, amusement evident in his eyes, a smile tugging at his lips, his head shaking as if he found Clint endlessly entertaining. Then Clint was swinging his leg over and sitting on the desk, facing Phil, and Phil changed, tilted back in his chair, body relaxing as his hands dropped off the armrests. A glow flushed Phil's face and Tony knew in a heartbeat exactly what the man was hiding – he'd seen that look before when Pepper was putting up with him, her "humor Tony" face that told him just how she felt. As Clint's hand caught Phil's tie and tugged, Tony saw Phil's brown eyes darken with desire, watched Clint lower his mouth for a kiss, Phil's hand curve around Clint's shoulder to draw him closer. They were two people who knew what the other one liked, whose bodies fit together as perfect puzzle pieces, who clearly and obviously loved each other.
Oh god. It made perfect sense. Phil had been looking at Clint with that intent gaze, not Tony. Those abrupt departures? Only minutes after Clint or just before Clint disappeared too. Not listening in meetings when he was sitting next to Clint at that big table that hid all sorts of sins under the overhanging edge. Late mornings, privacy screens … and Tony had flown Clint right into danger, enough of a reason for the man who loved the big dolt to be on edge.
"Jarvis, stop the feed. Play back frame-by-frame for the last fifteen seconds. Keep going … wait … back three … forward … yeah, that one. Print me an 8 x 10 in black and white. Make it glossy. Then shut the camera down permenantly and remove it." He caught the picture as it fell out of the printer, took down one of the awards Pepper had framed for him, and replaced the certificate with the photo. An old sketch of an arrow design was in the recycle bin; he had to use industrial glue to hold the edges together, but it made for interesting wrapping paper and would be hell to open. He grinned when he imagined the response Phil would have when the gift appeared on his desk later. Oh, and he was going to have so much fun teasing Clint. Really? Phil … buttoned-down, suit-wearing, by-the-rules Coulson … and Clint … devil-may-care, jean-loving, break-the-rules-because-I-can Hawkeye? This was too good to be true. And Tony was damn glad this was the big secret. Chuckling with glee, he reached for grease pencil and wrote a message across the front.
Sorry about the Doombot thing