Fic: Status Report: Medical (Again)
Title: Status Report: Medical (Again)
Summary: Clint seems to wind up in medical a lot. This bothers Phil more than it should
Notes: Written for avengers_rbb. Thanks to unavoidedcrisis and virtual_toast for the beta work. Thanks for feelschat for the cheerleading
“He’s here again.”
There’s no need for questions or comments. Phil simply thanks the voice at the other end of the phone for informing him, closes the file on his desk and makes the walk down to medical.
Barton’s lying stretched out on the bed, his eyes closed and a bandage wrapped around one arm which is already dotted with blood where it’s started to seep through the dressing.
“It’s not that serious,” the doctor says, appearing at his side so quietly that Phil briefly considers having her reassigned for stealth missions. “He was given some pretty heavy duty painkillers on the flight back but he should wake up soon.”
Phil simply nods.
“Once he wakes up we can release him into your care if you’re willing to keep an eye on him for the next twenty-four hours.”
“That’ll be fine. Thank you.”
He could go back to his office until Barton wakes up but he doesn’t. Instead, he takes the now all-too-familiar seat next to Barton’s bed and he waits.
He’s been doing this a lot since he got assigned as Barton’s handler and it never gets any easier.
* * *
“Target neutralised,” is the first thing Barton says when he wakes up, eyes still glassy from the drugs and a lazy smile on his face.
There was never any doubt that he would get the job done.
Phil doesn’t ask about the shoulder wound. He just sits and waits, watching Barton with as much of a neutral face as he can manage, given the circumstances.
“There were more of them than I expected,” Barton finally offers and Phil nods his head.
He’s already signed the paperwork releasing Barton into his care until tomorrow and he’s had some of Barton’s clothes sent up from his quarters.
Barton follows when Phil gets up to leave and the walk to Phil’s office is made in silence.
“If you want to sleep you can use the couch,” Phil says, once they’re inside.
He takes a seat but doesn’t look like he’s going to sleep. That’s fine. Phil has worked with him sitting here plenty of times in the past. Phil sits behind his desk, and resumes work on the report he was dealing with before he got the call.
“I’m hungry,” Barton says after about thirty minutes, which is coming close to a record for the amount of time he’s been quiet and awake.
Phil reaches into his desk and pulls out a sandwich, tossing it at Barton without even looking; he knows he’ll catch it.
“I’m hungry for real food,” Barton says after another minute.
“Barton, you know as well as I do that nothing in the cafeteria comes close to resembling real food.”
He makes the mistake of glancing up, sees the hopeful smile on Barton’s face, and sighs.
“Come on,” Barton says when Phil wavers. “I bet it’s been forever since you had real food either. It won’t kill you to step outside for a bit.”
“No, but Director Fury might if I don’t get this finished.”
Five minutes later, he closes the file and locks it in his desk. “Director Fury will probably kill me more if you faint from hunger in the middle of my office.”
* * *
They head to a small burger joint not far from HQ and Barton makes an impressive job of digging into his food despite his injuries.
Phil sips his coffee and watches, smiling when Barton polishes off his own meal and then starts stealing fries from Phil’s plate.
He’s still getting used to this, and he’s not entirely sure he likes it, this warm feeling he gets in his stomach when Barton’s obviously happy and the contrasting cold, sick feeling he gets when Barton is injured.
“We need to have a conversation,” he says, when both their plates are clear and the check’s been paid.
“Why do I get the feeling I’m not going to enjoy this?” Barton replies.
They don’t go to Phil’s office. Instead, they go down a few levels to Phil’s quarters. His status and clearance level afford him a bigger room than Barton’s, not that it really matters given how infrequently he comes here. Mostly it’s just to sleep, so the living area and kitchen barely get used.
“Sit,” Phil says, steering Barton over to the table in the kitchen before he can protest.
“I’m fine,” Barton says, eyeing Phil with a look of resigned acceptance at whatever punishment he feels Phil is about to hand out.
“Yes,” Phil replies dryly. “The blood on your face and arm clearly prove that.”
He walks over to his desk and pulls out a bundle of files that he’s prepared for this conversation. A conversation he’s honestly been hoping he would never need to have.
He tosses them down on the table. “Tell me what all of these have in common.”
That, at least, seems to surprise Barton, although he recovers quickly and picks up the first file from the top of the pile.
Phil knows which one it is. He’s arranged them in a very specific order and has each one memorised.
Bolivia - Two years ago
Phil can cope with just about any climate he’s dispatched to, and he’s encountered just about all of them, but he hates the humidity more than anything. There’s just something about the thick warmth of the air that makes him feel claustrophobic. But he’s never let the weather interfere with a mission, and he knows they’ll get the job done regardless of his discomfort.
“I’m pretty sure I’m melting here, sir.”
Okay, their discomfort.
It’s Barton’s first time out since SHIELD recruited him, and apparently he’s a talker.
Phil’s not entirely surprised. Barton hasn’t really shut up since Phil was assigned to oversee his training. He shouldn’t have really expected it to be any different out in the field.
“Keep the comms clear, Hawkeye, unless you’re actually dying.”
“I could be,” Barton scoffed but the line goes quiet and Phil lets out a small sigh of relief.
“Hey, what’s your first name? I can’t keep calling you Agent Coulson if we’re going to be working together like this.”
Well, that didn’t last long.
“You can always call me ‘sir’,” Phil replies dryly. “I find it has a nice ring to it.”
“Some of the junior staff think you changed your name legally to ‘Agent’.”
Phil can’t help but snort at that.
“Was that a laugh, Agent Coulson?” Phil can hear the smile in Barton’s voice and, dammit, he can’t stop himself smiling in return.
“Tell a soul and I’ll have you deployed to the Antarctic for a year with Agent Wainwright for company.”
Barton lets out a low groan. “That’s fighting dirty, sir. Anyway, if I want to know your first name I can find out. I have my ways.”
“And if you do, you’ll be spending the next six months writing up reports on all the gaps in SHIELD security that made your find possible.”
There’s a pause and when Barton comes back on the line his voice is low and all business.
“I have eyes on the target.”
“Take the shot when you have it.”
The silence that follows is the worst part. Phil is a patient man and knows how to wait better than most of the agents, but there’s still that tension in his shoulders that only disappears when confirmation comes in that the job is done.
Five minutes pass, then ten, and there’s still no word from Barton. Phil knows better than to check in just yet. The last thing he needs is Phil’s voice in his ear just as he’s about to take the shot. Oh, he knows Barton could make it with a brass band playing right next to him, but Phil respects him enough not to interfere unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Twenty minutes later and there’s a crackle in Phil’s ear followed by Barton’s voice.
“Target neutralised, sir.”
Phil can hear the pain in Barton’s voice. “What’s your status, Hawkeye? Do you need assistance to make it to the extraction point?”
“No, I can make it,” Barton replies. “Just might take a little longer than planned. I’ll be there in thirty minutes.”
“Barton, if you need assistance, I can be with you in ten.”
“I’m fine, sir. Just a minor setback. I’ll see you at the extraction point.”
He’s not an idiot. He knows Barton isn’t telling him everything.
“A minute later than your ETA and I’m coming after you.”
“Aww, sir, I didn’t know you cared.”
“Just be there, Barton.”
Barton arrives at the extraction point twenty-seven minutes later, limping badly but smiling when he sees Phil’s frowning face.
“See, no need for you to risk your suit to bring me in. I’m fine, just like I said.”
When they get Barton to medical it turns out that his definition of ‘fine’ includes an avulsion fracture in his ankle.
Prague - Eighteen months ago
Phil still isn’t sure how this mission went to hell so quickly, but he doesn’t have time to dwell on it right now because Barton is lying in his arms bleeding out from a bullet wound in his thigh.
“Stay with me,” he orders, although he’s not sure Barton can hear him at this point. “Are you listening to me?”
Barton lets out a whimper of pain as Phil increases the pressure on the wound. A team is on the way to get them the hell out of Dodge but Phil honestly doesn’t know if Barton is going to make it that long. He’s losing blood fast and all Phil has is his own jacket which he has bunched up to press over the wound.
“I’ll make you a deal. You stick around long enough for the med team to get here and I’ll tell you my first name. I might even let you use it sometimes.”
For a moment he accepts that Barton still cannot hear him but then there’s the faintest huff of a laugh. “You really going to let me die not knowing your name?”
“Think of it as an incentive not to die, then.”
Barton’s body lets out a shudder. “Not sure I have much choice in the matter, sir.”
“Well you’ll just have to haunt me then. And, frankly, I’m disappointed that you haven’t managed to find out already, to be honest.”
“You threatened me with paperwork if I did.”
The conversation is ridiculous but Phil knows if he can keep Barton talking his chances of survival are greater.
“Scared of a few reports?” Phil asks with a forced smile.
Barton lets out a low groan of pain. “If you don’t tell me, I’ll have to haunt you. Your name will be my unfinished business.”
No, there will be no talk of dying. Phil’s not going to lose him.
“Hey,” Barton’s voice is fainter now, and Phil has to bow his head in order to hear him. “At least I took the bastard down first, right? One less asshole out there.”
“Plenty more of them out there, Barton, which is why you need to stick around.”
“Knew you only loved me for my bow, sir.”
Before Phil can reply, Barton’s eyes close and his head lolls into the crook of Phil’s arm.
Less than a minute later, the med team turns up and bundles Barton into a van. All Phil can do is follow and try not to think about how cold he is where his shirt is wet with Barton’s blood.
* * *
They’re transported to a SHIELD facility on the outskirts of the city and by the time Phil has changed into clean clothes, Barton is already in surgery but the doctors assure him that the prognosis is good.
Phil has heard that before with lesser wounds than this, and it still ended with him losing an agent. He won’t be satisfied until Barton is awake and giving him a hard time again.
He makes his mission report while Barton is in surgery, and as soon as he’s out an in a recovery room, Phil takes a seat beside his bed.
Nobody asks him to leave. They know better.
Several hours later and Barton’s eyes finally open. They’re hazy with pain and the multitude of drugs that are being pumped into him, but he still manages a small smile.
“Good to see you, sir.”
Phil nods his head. “Call me Phil.”
Kazakhstan - Twelve months ago
“Barton, fall back. Your position has been compromised.”
“I can make the shot, sir. Just give me a minute.”
Phil can see the platform that Barton is perched on visibly crumbling beneath his feet.
“We’re aborting this mission, Hawkeye. Pull back now.”
Phil has another order on the tip of his tongue when Barton releases his arrow. A heartbeat later and he’s disappeared in a cloud of smoke as the platform collapses beneath his feet.
Phil’s heart sinks. “Barton? Barton, do you copy?”
He takes a moment to verify that the target is down and then he moves, hoping that in the ensuing chaos and confusion he can get Barton out, or retrieve his body if that’s the case.
As he turns the corner to the pile of rubble that was Barton’s perch he almost collides head first into him.
Barton grins, despite the fact that his pants are shredded and his left leg isn’t in much better condition.
“Come to rescue me, sir? I didn’t know you cared.”
Phil slips under Barton’s arm and lets him lean on his side as they stumble back towards the van.
“You’re going to be the death of me, Barton. Assuming you’re not the death of yourself first.”
Barton shrugs. “I made the shot, didn’t I? Let me guess, I’m on paperwork duty for a month for not falling back?”
“Try three months.”
“Aww, Phil, come on!”
“Keep whining like that and I’ll make it six.”
Moscow - Six months ago
“Barton, please tell me you’re not inside the building that’s currently on fire.”
Phil doesn’t need an answer. He can hear the roar of flames through his comm unit and the muffled sound of Barton coughing.
“I’m not organizing an extraction team because you were stupid enough to run into a burning building,” Phil adds, even as he’s making motions for one of the junior agents to get a team ready.
“Don’t worry, sir, I extracted myself.”
Barton is leaning against the van with a smirk on his face at the semi-assembled team. His face is streaked with soot and beneath that Phil can see that his skin is pink from the heat.
“And do you want to explain why a valuable asset decided to run into a burning building? I didn’t have you pegged as the suicidal type.”
Barton steps into the van and drops a small item into Phil’s hand. It’s the flash drive they’d been ordered to obtain from the AIM building that is currently burning. The drive is still warm and the plastic casing has started to melt slightly but it’s more or less intact.
Barton grins. “Mission accomplished, sir.”
Chicago - Three weeks ago
There’s no other way to describe the thing that’s currently prowling the streets of downtown Chicago in a scene that looks like it would be better placed in some sort of sci-fi horror movie.
“You think this thing is related to Godzilla?” Barton asks from a nearby roof as he waits for the thing to get into range.
Phil has no idea what it is. No one does. It’s clearly reptilian, and roughly the size of a man, only its scales are a dark blue rather than the standard brown. And apparently, it likes to eat people. Currently there’s what remains of a human arm hanging out of its mouth and Phil can only assume it’s trying to find some place quiet to finish its meal.
The comm line has gone quiet now, and the security cameras they’ve hacked into show the telltale tension in Barton’s body that he gets before he’s about to make a shot.
Barton's startled cry wasn't what he'd expected to hear, and in the time it takes him to get his eyes back on the camera, the lizard had made its way from the ground onto the roof with Barton.
Barton is a capable enough fighter at close range, but it's not his speciality and they have no idea what this thing can do. Phil's got his weapon drawn before the thought has even finished processing.
"Any support we've got in the area, get it here now."
He trusts his team to get it done and he exits the van. They'd pulled down plenty of surveillance on the building selected for Barton's position and Phil has the entire blueprints pictured in his head as he vaults a rail and heads for the stairs.
It's quiet when he reaches the roof and that's never a good thing. Phil hates the quiet. It's not a large building, so there's not many places Barton could be if he's still here at all.
"Target neutralised, sir."
Barton sounds out of breath; the voice rings through his earpiece but he can hear Barton clearly enough to pinpoint his position.
The creature is on the ground, an arrow embedded firmly in its eye socket. Barton is leaning against the wall beside it, attempting to look casual but Phil knows better.
"What's your status, Agent Barton?"
Barton pushes himself away from the wall and doesn't collapse which Phil takes as a good sign.
"Bit scraped up, but I'll live." There's a shallow cut on his arm that's bleeding sluggishly but it doesn't appear to be anything life threatening.
"Did you charge up here to rescue me, sir? I'm touched."
Phil holsters his weapon and tries not to smile. "There's a team on its way. You can wait for them or ride back with me. Depends how quickly you want to be debriefed."
"Let's get it done," Barton replies. "Like pulling a band-aid, right, sir?"
Phil shakes his head as the team arrives at the scene to take custody of the body. "Let's go."
* * *
Since they started working together, Phil has become adept at getting debriefings done as quickly as possible while still ensuring he has all the information he needs for his report. Barton doesn't have the greatest attention span at the best of times but when he's exhausted and crashing from an adrenaline high, they're working on borrowed time in terms of getting usable intel. Barton, to his credit, works well with Phil once he realised that Phil was trying to make these meetings as brief as possible.
"And then my knight in shining armour showed up," he grins as he comes to the end of his report.
Phil doesn't look up from the notes he's taking. "Anything else to add?"
"Then you're dismissed. Go and get some rest."
He hears the scrape of Barton's chair as he gets to his feet.
Phil's head snaps up at the sound of Barton's voice just in time to see him crumple to the floor.
It's a miracle that Barton doesn't crack his head on the desk or chair when he goes down and Phil's already talking into his radio as he makes his way around to where Barton is lying.
"I need a medical team in meeting room six. Agent Barton is down."
He carefully rolls Barton onto his back and it's immediately obvious that this is more than simple exhaustion.
His face is almost grey and covered in a sheen of sweat. Even without touching him, Phil can feel the heat of the fever radiating from him. It doesn’t take him long to locate the source. The scrape on Barton’s arm is now red and inflamed.
The medical team arrives before Phil can examine any further and he steps back to let them do their work.
“We need to get him down to medical, now!”
As they load Barton onto a gurney, Phil gathers up the notes from their briefing and stores them securely in his briefcase before following.
* * *
“The creature Barton took down had some kind of poison, secreted in its claws. We’ve managed to identify the it and we’re developing an antidote but it’s going to take a few hours. We’ve made him as comfortable as we can, but we need to keep him conscious so we can monitor his symptoms and take action if things get worse.”
Phil nods, taking mental notes for the report he’s going to have to make to Fury once this is all over. “What are his chances of survival?”
“We can’t guarantee anything, you know that, but he’s strong and it looks like we caught it early enough. Barring any unforeseen complications, he should recover.”
They’re the best at what they do, and Phil knows nothing is certain in this job, but he finds himself breathing a little easier.
He reports to Fury who simply nods, telling him to keep a close eye on Barton and report in if anything changes. Like Phil was planning on being anywhere else.
* * *
Barton’s eyes are still closed when Phil steps into his room, but apparently he’s alert enough to recognise his footsteps.
Phil takes a seat beside the bed and doesn’t ask how Barton is feeling. He can see well enough for himself that the man is suffering.
“It’s fucking freezing in here.” Barton shifts on the bed and finally his eyes open, glazed with fever and looking so miserable Phil’s not really sure what to do.
“I’ll see if I can get you another blanket.”
Before he’s even halfway out of his chair Barton reaches for him. His hand misses by several inches but his intention is clear and Phil sits back down.
“Feel safer when you’re here,” Barton murmurs and there’s that warm feeling in Phil’s chest again that he’s been trying so hard to ignore.
He takes Barton’s hand in his and squeezes.
“Prognosis is good, Barton,” he tells him gently. “Just a few more hours and then you can sleep, okay?”
Barton squeezes back. “You’ll stay?”
* * *
True to his word, Phil doesn’t leave Barton’s side until the antidote has been administered and Barton falls into a healing sleep. Two hours after that, he’s told that the fever has broken and there doesn’t appear to be any sign of permanent damage. All Barton needs now is rest and he’ll be back on his feet as though it were nothing more than a severe case of the flu.
Only then does Phil make his report to Fury.
“Keep an eye on him,” Fury says with a smirk, the kind that Phil has learnt by now means something is going on that he doesn’t know about, and probably doesn’t want to know.
“Yes, sir,” he replies, because there’s not much else he can say, really.
* * *
Barton spends the next two days sleeping. Phil pops in and out, catches up on his paperwork and braces himself for what he knows will be a cranky archer when he realises it’s going to take time for him to build his strength back up.
When Barton finally wakes up for more than five minutes, Phil is there, tapping away on his tablet and answering the first in a series of annoying emails from Tony Stark.
“Hey,” Barton murmurs when his eyes finally open and stay that way. “How long have I been out?”
Phil sets his tablet down and gives Barton his full attention. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
Barton’s brow furrows as he tries to think. The doctors had warned Phil that the fever might have screwed up his short term memory a little.
“You were debriefing me after Chicago,” Barton finally says.
"The creature you took down had some kind of poison in its claws. You've been in medical for three days."
Barton groans. "That explains why I feel like I've been hit by a truck."
"You're going to be fine, provided you take it easy for a few days. Do I need to revoke your range access until you're back on your feet?"
"You know I can get in there even if you do," Barton says.
"Fine, but if you pass out in there, I'll make sure you're left where you fall."
They both know that's not true and Phil indulges Barton's responding grin.
Phil rises to his feet. "I'll let you get some rest. If you leave before you get cleared by medical, you know I'll find you. Don't make me call Natasha back in to sit on your legs."
Barton simply offers a mock salute but Phil knows the message has been understood.
He closes the door quietly behind him when he leaves and contemplates just how screwed he is.
* * *
"It's a dangerous job," Barton says when he's finished reading the last file. "You know that. You've got battle scars of your own. Are you questioning my ability?"
"You know I'm not," Phil replies in a tone that he hasn't had to use since Barton was a new recruit that Phil was trying to keep from running. "Is it so hard to believe that I'm concerned about you? You don't seem to have any regard for your own safety, Barton, and you're more than the job."
The strength of Barton’s tone makes Phil pause.
“Come on, Phil, be honest. You’re the one who brought me in. Why? Because I’m good at what I do. I stop getting the job done and what am I worth to SHIELD?”
He holds up his hand when Phil opens his mouth to answer. “You know this place isn’t that much different to the circus where I grew up, you know. There’s plenty of marksmen out there just waiting for me to fail so they can step in and take my place. Well, I’m not ready for that to happen, okay?”
He tosses the files back down onto the table and rises to his feet, ignoring the way his injuries cause him to stumble.
“I’m going back to my quarters. I appreciate the pep talk.”
Phil intercepts him before he can make it to the door.
“I’m not even close to being done yet. You want to know why I brought you in? Yes, your skills with a bow are unrivalled but it’s more than that. You’re smart, Barton. You see things the rest of us don’t, and you have a unique way of looking at things. You’re not just a weapon, or a tool, or anything else. You’re an asset both to SHIELD and to me. If you lost both of your arms tomorrow, or lost your sight, I still wouldn’t let you go.”
Barton’s breathing heavily but his face has softened a little as Phil’s words finally start to penetrate. “Why? Why wouldn’t you let me go?”
Phil kisses him.
For a fraction of a second, Barton just freezes and Phil wonders whether the flirting over all these years had been nothing more than that.
But then Barton kisses him back. It’s not what Phil expected. It’s soft and almost hesitant, and in that moment Phil realises just how much he cares for this man.
“That’s why I won’t let you go,” Phil says when they part. “And that’s why you need to stop taking stupid risks with your life.”
“Oh,” is all Barton says in response.
“So will you promise me you’ll stop with the stupid risks?” Phil presses. “Because I know you’re not stupid.”
A smirk curls on Barton’s lips and he leans forward to capture Phil’s mouth in a kiss much less gentle than the first.
“Guess I have an incentive to stay alive. That really was a good pep-talk, boss. You kiss all your assets when you want them to do what you say?”
“No,” Phil smiles. “You’re a special case, Barton.”
Phil leans in for another kiss and makes it halfway before his phone starts ringing.
Barton, to his credit, doesn’t say a word when Phil answers. They’ve both been at this game long enough to know that no matter what happens between them, the job comes first.
It’s Fury and Phil listens until he has his orders.
“Are you fit for duty?” Phil asks when he’s hung up.
Barton nods. “Give me thirty minutes to get cleaned up and changed.”
“Excellent. We’ve got Doctor Selvig coming in with a rather unusual item which he’s going to be running some tests on. I need you to keep an eye on him and report anything... well I won’t say out of the ordinary, but anything that you feel warrants our attention.”
Barton frowns. “A babysitting mission? Am I being punished?”
“Director Fury asked for you specifically. We need someone with your eyes, Barton.”
“Fine, but afterwards you owe me a proper date to make up for it.”
“Done.” Phil kisses him again. “And, as a bonus, even you won’t be able to manage getting injured on this mission.”
Clint flips him off with a smile. “You’ll need to come up with a damn good date, sir.”
“Challenge accepted, Barton. I’ll see you at the end of your shift.”
He watches as Clint leaves his office, pleased to see that he’s holding himself upright well enough. It’s only when the door closes that he allows himself to smile.
It’s been a long time since he dated anyone, and he’s never dated anyone like Clint Barton before. Still, Phil is a resourceful man with years of experience behind him, and he’s got several hours before Clint’s shift ends. Plenty of time to plan and execute something that he knows will take even Hawkeye pleasantly by surprise.
And this is just the beginning.
Phil isn’t an idiot. He knows that SHIELD agents come with a shorter life expectancy than most. But he does know that for whatever time they do have it’s going to be the best.
He’ll make sure of it.