In all his time at SHIELD, Phil Coulson always tried to take his birthday off. He'd failed only three times: once for an op in Norway to rescue kidnapped children, another time when he was in the Antarctic searching for Steve Rogers, and the time when Clint had gone missing, tortured by The Surgeon, and Phil had to hunt him down. Getting Clint back was his present last year. Other than that, his birthday was a special day for him, a day to pretend to be a normal person, to get out and enjoy the little things that made the rest of the shit worth it. On this one day, Phil did want he wanted, even if it was geeky or silly, and he reveled in wearing his pajamas all day or going to the movies or eating nothing but Ben & Jerry's Chunky Monkey for dinner.
The problem this year wasn't work; well, not in the sense that Fury had a job for him or there was paperwork to finish up. No, the issue was people … two specific people, it turned out … who insisted that the whole team celebrate in ways that Phil absolutely didn't want. Tony, of course, was planning a big secret surprise party complete with catering and a band (a real big band to play 1940s music) and swing dancers and who the hell knew what else. To his credit, Clint had immediately broken the news to Phil as soon as he heard; Clint knew a big blow out was the last thing Phil wanted. Tony had informed Clint it was his job to corral the unwilling victim; instead, Clint had suggested they steal one of Tony's jets and fly down to the Grand Caymans for dinner. Phil almost went along with it, but then he ran into Pepper in the elevator, and she looked so excited and happy, talking about how much Phil meant to the team and sweet it was that he and Clint were working out so well and were so in love. He couldn't let her down, so he resigned himself to giving up his evening to Tony's plans. After all, he'd have the rest of his day to watch all the Duck Dynasty episodes he'd tivoed with Clint draped over him on their couch.
The big surprise was Steve; he presented Phil with tickets to an afternoon matinee of the revival of 42nd Street. How could Phil gracefully decline that offer? He did like the theater, but Steve was talking about eating lunch at one of his favorite old fashioned diners and that meant they'd have to leave by 11:00 am or so and get back in time to dress for the damn dinner party. Still, it was Steve. Captain America wanted to take him out on his birthday. He really couldn't say no.
"What was I supposed to say?" He asked Clint as he crawled into bed. "He was so excited."
"You could have told him you had plans to stay in and fuck me all day." Clint nudged Phil over and grabbed his paperback. Phil had put in extra long hours to make sure every contingency was covered for tomorrow; he was tired and wanted to fall asleep next to Clint's warmth and wake up late in the morning with nothing on the agenda but a slow easy morning in bed with maybe some of Clint's pancakes.
"Damn it, with Tony's party, now I only get the morning," Phil complained, rolling over on his side and putting his glasses on the dresser; his head on the pillow, he was already closing his eyes.
"I promise to make the most of the time," Clint said, leaning down to kiss his neck. "I got the recipe for those buckwheat strawberry banana pancakes you like. I'll make you a big stack."
"After." Phil snuggled down into the comfortable mattress.
"After." Clint agreed.
"Cap, they're in the subway." Phil scanned the scene with his high power infrared binoculars from his place on the roof of an apartment building. "Thor, four more incoming from the Northwest. Tony, they're harassing the cops down on 52nd."
"Check out Bergdorf's; the mannequins are moving." Natasha's voice rang over the comms; he turned his attention to the big windows and, sure enough, he could see them, jerky and slow, banging on the glass hard enough to crack it in places. Thank god it was so early; fewer people were out, just the first rush of workers coming into the city. In two hours, this was going to be a nightmare if they didn't get it under control.
"What the hell? Cell phones attacking their owners?" Tony took it as a personal affront. "That was a Stark model!"
"Got to be a coming somewhere," Clint said from his perch. "The affected area is expanding in a circle from a point near the Met. I think it's … holy fucking hell." The sound went muffled then the comm was filled with screeching, the equivalent of machine screaming. "… out, take 'em out before they …."
Phil yanked his earpiece out, shouting as he did. "Comms down. Get them out before they are affected."
The slick metal earbob flexed, tiny legs shooting out as it jumped to the ground and started for Phil, spindly metal digging into his favorite pair of shoes, marring the shine. He stomped hard, satisfied with the loud crack and parts that sprang out, but he started tossing every electronic device he had out of his pockets before they went ballistic.
"Everyone check their backs for a kick me sign," Tony joked, but his voice was tired. "This has got to be a bad joke."
"Come now, you are not ready to give up yet?" Thor responded. "I find this change of pace refreshing."
"Refreshing? Really? That's what you're going with?" Tony complained.
"Were that Hogun was here! He'd make short work of these villains!" Thor shouted back.
A large hot dog charged at the Hulk who happily picked it up and took a large bite; so far, cotton candy, hamburgers, a cola wave, and a giant cupcake had materialized. Back up comms were working now that they'd cut off the signal that was disrupting electronics, but as soon as one trouble was managed, another arose. Thor had practically surfed the cola to attack the cupcake with gusto.
"Okay, that's just gross. I mean, really, it's got eyes," Clint complained. "I'll eat anything, but this is crazy."
"Hulk like. Smash AND eat!" And, yes, the Hulk talked with his mouthful.
The roars shook the ground, one in challenge and another in response. The Hulk charged the big lizard, knocking both of them into the Hudson River; a large wave of filthy brown water washed over the docks, overturning smaller boats and flooding streets.
"Godzilla? That's freakin' Godzilla," Tony said as he blasted it with his repulsors. "This is not Tokyo."
"The Matthew Broderick version was in New York," Clint supplied.
"That one sucked," Tony countered. The banter was the only thing keeping them going, it seemed. Phil was worried that if they stopped talking they'd fall over; he knew he was close to it himself.
"Guys, we've got civilians to rescue," Steve cut them off. "The water's down in the subway."
"I'm on my way," Thor responded. Even he sounded weary.
"Sharknado!" Clint's shout carried above the whipping wind that pummeled Phil and tried to knock him off the edge.
"I can see there are sharks in a tornado," Tony groused, so exhausted he was getting down right grumpy.
"No, I mean they're all movies. Sharknado's one of those bad movies on the SYFY channel. Godzilla. Transformers. Mannequin. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," Clint explained. "Anyone got a TV listing? Maybe that's where it's coming from?"
"Stilwell, did you catch that?" Phil asked, taking cover behind an air conditioning unit as another shark whizzed by. "Check what's on TV!"
"I've got Jarvis checking satellite feeds and any anomalous wave signals," Tony said, a little bit of hope creeping into his voice.
Phil couldn't even managed to form a coherent thought, much less speak; he knew he needed a shower, but he'd made the mistake of sitting down on the couch to take off his shoes and that was it. He was going to fall asleep right there and not get up for hours. A whole damn day chasing fictional monsters brought to life by a device that was, even as he started to doze off, in Tony's lab; they hadn't found the culprit, just an empty room with a television hooked up to the machine.
"Come on," Clint caught his hands and pulled him upright. "At least get out of that suit. I'm afraid it's a goner."
"Don't want to." Yeah, Phil was at that point, the 'turn-into-a-two-year-old' phase now that they were safe back in the tower. There was still so much to do, but Fury had taken one look at them and declared debriefing could wait. He'd also ordered Phil to take tomorrow off; for once, Phil wholeheartedly agreed. Still, he helped Clint get both of them down to their underwear, the filthy clothes left where they fell, and then he was between the cool sheets and Clint was spooned up to his back, stroking his arm.
"Sorry about your birthday," Clint whispered.
Waking up slowly to a hand stroking his chest and a bulge rubbing against his hip, Phil sighed and kept his eyes closed as Clint worked his magic, erasing all the thoughts of yesterday with his lips that slid up Phil's neck and caressed his ear. This was how his birthday was supposed to start, little aches and pains aside; he waited until he was wide awake and then rolled them over until Clint was beneath him, grinning that sexy morning smile and arching his hips up into Phil's. This had been his plan for yesterday; reaching into the drawer, he took out the handcuffs and snapped them around one of Clint's wrists. His eyes darkened and Clint offered the other one by lifting both above his head and clasping onto the rails of the headboard. Phil adored Clint like this, locked down and at his mercy, and the noises Clint made as Phil kissed every inch of his body proved how turned on he was as well. When Clint was like this, Phil could bide his time, taking this amazing man apart piece by piece, opening him up, watching those eyes shift to stormy blue green as he grew more and more aroused. Because he liked to hear it, Phil waited until Clint was begging, promising anything – and Clint was quite creative in his ideas of payback – and then he finally eased inside of Clint, pressed his legs open and filled him, the pleasure so intense Phil almost came just from the tightness. But he held on and they rode it out together not with screams but with quiet declarations of love, whispering each other's names like prayers.
"When I can move again, I'm going to make pancakes," Clint sighed, but he made no effort to push Phil off of him. Phil wasn't all that sure he was capable of motion himself.
"That would be nice. It's, what, almost noon? Breakfast for lunch it is." And still, he just lay there, enjoying the warmth. Finally, as their body temperatures cooled, Phil became aware of the dirt and blood from yesterday plus the stickiness of the morning. "Shower first."
Clint groaned, but he peeled himself off the bed as soon as Phil rolled off. "Clean sheets. Going to need clean sheets. River water, cotton candy, and come? Yeah, no."
One of the best things about Stark Tower was unlimited hot water; no matter how long you stood there, scalding was still scalding. They were just going to clean themselves up but then Clint decided turnabout was fair play and that the main rainfall shower head could hold Coulson's weight; he used a hand towel to tie him up and proceeded to prove to Phil that he had just as much patience. Phil didn't mind; Clint in any form – wet or dry, dirty or clean, top or bottom – was the best present he had ever received. So he let Clint take control and went along for the ride, burying his hands in wet hair and urging Clint on, groaning Clint's name when he slid home and pressed kisses all along Phil's shoulders. Their short shower turned into an hour; they didn't get to eating until long after 1 p.m. and then they were both clad only in shorts, sprawled on the couch playing the episode where Si wins the donut eating contest, only half watching. Somewhere along the way, sprawling turned into tangled together and that led to rubbing and tickling and syrup got involved, and Phil discovered that he wasn't nearly as old as he thought he was when he outlasted Clint for the third time that day.
They might not have left the room at all if Steve hadn't knocked on the door about 5:30 and invited them to order Thai with everyone else, and then Phil only agreed if they could continue watching the show while they ate. Of course, Tony insisted they start from the beginning, and soon everyone was eating and laughing; Thor declared he needed a truck like Jace's and Bruce started to wonder why women liked beards, but then he cast a glance at Tony and Thor – and the satisfied looks from Pepper and Jane – and dropped the conversation. When they ran through a whole season, Tony started a new movie and everyone threw their plastic utensils when Sharknado came on; he changed it to Godzilla which got voted off in favor of Mega Piranha.
About 10 pm, a stack of presents mysteriously appeared along with a tower of cupcakes with candles; Pepper smiled at Phil as she sat down next to him. She knew his favorite bakery, and there was a maple bacon cupcake at the top just for him. Phil, always so in charge, was thrown by the display, but then he got his game face on and opened the gifts. From Bruce, he got a first edition of Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle. Steve opted for season tickets to the Yankees and the Nets since Phil was the baseball fan and Clint was more of a basketball type of guy. Natasha's gift was a pair of elegant silver cufflinks, which Phil put aside to look for their secrets later when Clint winked at him. Opening Thor's gift, he was surprised to find a small glass bottle filled with about three mouthfuls of a golden liquid.
"One is for you, another for Clint, to convey my mother's blessings upon you. The third is to keep for the future." He would explain no more, just smiled widely and thumped the table, asking if there was any more of the spicy curry.
The one Phil dreaded was Tony's; stripper lessons, sex toys, porno … Tony had a track record in gift giving. But inside a black case, he found an elegant little silver rectangle that look like a small handgun; picking it up, he noted the leads and the charger on the base.
"Next generation Stark Taser. James Bond would be jealous. Palm print recognition, solar battery, lightweight, packs a mean punch," Tony explained.
"Thank you," Phil said, and he meant it. The weapon was elegant and useful.
"Oh and I added a fourth, very low power setting in case you and Katniss are into those sort of games where you …"
"Tony!" Pepper put her hand over his mouth. "You have to excuse him. He can't let a good thing stand without messing it up."
"Hey, I resemble that remark," Tony said with a laugh. They all went back to watching the man eating fish double then triple in size, taking out an aircraft carrier along the way.
"I have to say I'm glad the party was cancelled," Phil finally said, not exactly sure how to approach the topic.
"Oh, yeah, there wasn't a party, not like that anyway. That was a smokescreen. Steve was going to get you out of the Tower so we could do shitty streamers, a Fury piñata … which is going to hang in my workshop from now on, by the way … cupcakes and bad movies. Surprise!" Tony said and everyone laughed, even Phil. The realization dawned on him that these people, his team, knew him; he didn't just have Natasha and Clint anymore. The room was filled with more than talking and eating and bantering … and he was as much a part of the connection as everyone else.
Clint waited until they were back in their room later to bring out his gift. As Phil was getting ready for bed, Clint tugged him to the couch and offered him a small square box. A flutter settled in Phil's stomach as he looked at it, no wrapping paper, just a bronze color and a top to be lifted off. His fingers shook as he slipped the lid off and dumped the velvet case in his hand.
"Natasha helped pick it out. I warn you, it's not a sex toy taser. I can't compete with Tony." Clint smiled, but there was something there, in his eyes, a sense of worry. "It does come with a life time guarantee of mind blowing sex, though."
Inside was a folded piece of paper, tucked in the curved silk of the lid; Phil barely had time to register the form number at the top before his eyes fell on the two simple silver bands tucked into the midnight blue. Celtic scrollwork, detailed and complex, ran around the outside.
"I know we can't wear them and I thought about not getting them, but Natasha said they're symbols and symbols are important, so I figure we can leave them here, maybe take them out on special occasions or something. The form's just a copy; I know better than to fold an original. I've got it done in triplicate and ready to hand in if you want. Pepper knows this really romantic inn up in Connecticut that will handle the whole thing, real quiet like, and she said she'd help with the paperwork …." Clint trailed off, waiting for Phil to say something, anything, but the words were stuck in Phil's throat as he read their names on the Change of Status form. Of everything he'd expected of his somewhat belated birthday, a marriage proposal wasn't even on the horizon. He blinked – good god he was tearing up and where did that come from? – and then he saw the doubt on Clint's face.
"Well, technically, I believe you're supposed to ask me."
Clint's face cleared, and he dropped down to one knee on the floor, holding Phil's hand. "Philip J Coulson, you want to get hitched and have sex with me until we're too old to get it up?"
That startled a laugh out of Phil and he leaned over to kiss Clint hard on the lips. "God in heaven, yes. Of course, you do have a smart mouth, but I guess I can put up with that."
"Oh, ho, you love my mouth and your moans tell me so." Clint surged up and pushed Phil back into the soft cushions, raining kiss down on him.
"I hear Connecticut's lovely in the fall," Phil murmured against Clint's lips.
"Lobster rolls and clam chowder and lovely garlicky butter to get in all the wrong places," Clint agreed.
"Sounds like a plan."
Somewhere in Upstate New York
"Did Phil enjoy his birthday?"
"He was busy all day, just like you said." The teenage boy nodded, half-terrified of the man beside him.
"Good. We need to keep him on his toes, don't we? Better for everyone." The laugh was tinged with more than a hint of madness, the familiar face contorted with his thoughts. The boy was careful to not flinch where the villain could see him – and make no mistake that's what he was despite all the kind smiles and help he'd offered. The boy had carefully cut the feeds from the Tower, not taping the presents or the party or the intimate scenes (um, wow); after all, he was told this was a training exercise to keep the Avengers in practice, so no one needed to know who was sleeping with whom. But he knew this wasn't SHIELD sanctioned and that he was in over his head; Taki was getting the hell out of here soon as his wheelchair could take him. He'd been so wrong about this guy, thinking that he could trust his professor.
"Look, I've got a test tomorrow and I need to get some sleep. You know how that is."
The man turned to look at Taki, face blank for a moment, then he smiled and life came back into his eyes. "Of course. Got to keep those grades up."
Wishing he'd actually installed the nitro on his chair like he always joked he would so he could get out faster, Taki went to the elevator, rolling inside as soon as the doors opened, faking a yawn when he turned back around.
He was so screwed.