Title: The Agent And The Archer III: 'O, Christmas Tree!' (1/1)
Pairings/Characters: Thor/Jane, Clint/Phil, JARVIS, Steve/Tony, Natasha/Pepper, Bruce Banner, Joan Rossetti
Continuity: The Avengers (2012)
Genres: Angst, Drama, Fluff, Holiday, Hurt/Comfort, Romance
Spoilers: For The Avengers (2012)
Summary: While the Avengers decorate for the holidays, Phil and Clint quietly treasure their love for each other.
Beta: The marvellous khylara! :)
Date Of Completion: November 26, 2013
Date Of Posting: January 26, 2014 (January 22, 2014 (Revealed on A03))
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Marvel and Paramount do, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2766
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Note: Written for kitsune_scribe for the 2013 Clint/Coulson Holiday Gift Exchange.
The entire series can be found here.
In light silver
While the carols
And the ornaments
With their stories
The tree was so tall that Thor had to fly up to the top branches and decorate. Phil calmly directed his charges from the couch as the rest of the Avengers trimmed the lower branches with glittering glass ornaments and sparkling gold and silver garlands. Christmas carols played through hidden speakers courtesy of JARVIS.
The tree was known by different names: a Christmas tree by Steve and Tony; Yule by Thor and Natasha; Winter Solstice by Bruce. Clint called it either a Christmas or Yule tree, as both traditions had been celebrated in the circus.
Phil called it a Christmas tree, and thought it was a fine one. It was a real one, and the smell of evergreen was fragrant throughout the living room. It was much more pleasant than the antiseptic smells of the hospital.
He shifted on the couch. He was tired as usual but he had enough energy to take part in this tree-trimming. It was important to him to be a part of their first Christmas together as a team.
Clint came over and sat on the couch. Phil was stretched out so the archer perched on the edge of the cushion. He smiled at his lover.
“You’re doing a great job, Boss.”
“Am I?” Phil’s answering smile was amused.
Phil patted Clint’s forearm. “You’re a good boy.”
Clint laughed and put is hand over Phil’s. “I try, except when I’m not.”
Phil’s grin was canary-eating. Clint smirked and Natasha came over.
“What are you boys up to?”
“Nothing,” Clint answered breezily.
Her expression indicated her skepticism but she merely said, “Do you know where the star is?”
She lightly tapped her knuckles on the top of Clint’s head. “The star for the top of the tree.”
Phil pointed to a box on the coffee table. Natasha picked up the star from its bed of tissue wrapping. It was painted gold with sequins that sparkled.
“Not bad,” Natasha said approvingly as the sequins caught the light streaming through the large windows and sparkled tiny motes of refraction all over the walls.
“Looks like a disco ball,” Clint cracked.
“You have a burning desire for platform shoes?”
Phil laughed. “How about a pet rock?”
“No weirder than anything else we’ve seen.”
Natasha swung the star via a string. “You’d be correct, Archer.”
Clint made a grab for the star but Natasha easily sidestepped him. He launched himself off the couch and Natasha danced away, dangling the star.
“Now, children, play nice,” Phil admonished while Clint chased Natasha around the tree.
Tony was taking bets on whether or not Clint would catch Natasha.
“Not in a million years,” said Steve with a smile.
“Natasha, the star,” said Thor as he held out his hand. She threw it and he caught it with ease. Thor placed it on the top of the tree.
“Lookee what he can do,” quipped Pepper as she walked into the room.
“Funny, he doesn’t look like a Bumble,” Tony snarked.
Thor drifted down to the floor. “Ah, yes, the animated cartoon with the reindeer with the glowing nose.”
“Did someone say glowing?” Tony tapped his chest.
Steve rolled his eyes as he wrapped an arm around Tony’s waist.
Phil enjoyed the show. Moments like these helped him forget pain and nightmares and his frustration to get back to work.
Suddenly pain lanced through him with such force that he had to clamp down on crying out. He checked his watch, trying to read its face but was shaking too much. He was certain that it was time for his medication that could help with the pain.
Clint was laughing with Natasha. Phil hoped that he didn’t look this way. The last thing he wanted was to ruin Clint’s good time.
He looked like death warmed over when I finally woke up from my coma.
Clint’s voice was raspy as he stared down at his lover. Phil was confused, unable to orient himself. He felt strange, unable to feel his body. He should have panicked at the thought but was too lethargic.
“Phil, can you hear me?”
Phil tried to answer, but his tongue felt heavy and clumsy. Clint put a hand on his head.
“It’s okay, Phil. You’re back with me now.”
Clint looked exhausted. He had dark rings around his eyes and his skin looked sallow. What had happened to him?
“I’ve called for the nurse.” Clint slid his hand down to rub his thumb gently over Phil’s cheek. “She’ll get the doc and they’ll check you out.”
Phil was still concerned over Clint’s appearance. How long had he been in the hospital?
A nurse did come into his field of vision. She was middle-aged and looked a bit frazzled but smiled at him.
“Good to see you back with us, Agent Coulson.” She nodded her head, her light-brown hair bobbing. Her round face wore a genuinely pleased expression. She turned to Clint. “Dr. Kelowitz will be here soon.”
He finally got words out. Normally unflappable, he was starting to get scared.
“Do you remember Loki trying to escape from the Helicarrier?” Clint asked.
Phil frowned. Loki? God of Lies and Deception?
Phil looked up into the concerned face of his lover. “Yes?”
“Are you all right?”
Phil wanted to scream that he wasn’t all right, probably never would be all right ever again, but he couldn’t take his frustrations out on Clint. He was just concerned.
“I’m fine.” His breathing hitched as the pain shot through him again.
“It’s time for your pills.” Clint patted his shoulder and left the room.
Pepper was right there, pushing an errant strand of red hair behind her ear as she sat down on the edge of the cushion. “Just breathe slowly.”
Phil sighed. Of course she would know. “Okay.”
She smiled sympathetically. “I know it’s rough.”
“The roughest.” Phil shook his head. “Let me amend that. Compared to some people’s situations, I’m very lucky.”
Pepper cocked her head. “How so?”
“Oh, some people have cancer or heart conditions or are living in a Third World country with no access to healthcare. Then again, there are people in this country that have no access to healthcare.”
“I’m very lucky to have S.H.I.E.L.D. footing the bill.”
“You were wounded in the line of duty. They better take care of you.”
Phil smiled wanly. “Threatening S.H.I.E.L.D.? Not a good idea.”
She smiled. “I think I can handle Colonel Fury and his cohorts.”
Phil chuckled. “I believe you can.”
“So, what’s the scoop?” Natasha asked as she walked over and put her hand on Pepper’s shoulder.
“Pepper says that she can handle Fury.”
“Oh, I have no doubt she can.” Natasha squeezed her lover’s shoulder.
“Okay, here’s your meds,” Clint said as he returned with an impressive amount of pill bottles. Pepper grabbed the pitcher of water on the endtable and poured a glass of water.
Phil gratefully took the pills. The pain pill would work quickly, for which he was grateful. Before Loki, he would have felt as if he should begrudge the medication, but now it was a blessing. He had no desire to fight pain with every breath when he could take a pill and be pain-free. Self-denial in this case was not heroic; it was stupid.
Pepper stood and let Clint have her spot on the couch. Natasha encircled her waist and nuzzled her neck. “Shall we dance?” purred the Russian.
“Sounds good to me,” Pepper answered with a smile.
The music had turned slow and the women took advantage of it as they swayed out on the floor, soaking up the holiday atmosphere. Tony smirked when he saw them and held out his hand to Steve, who took it with a radiant smile. Tony drew him into a tight embrace and they danced across the floor with the tree as a backdrop. Bruce shook his head fondly and Thor beamed as they observed the couples on the dance floor.
“Oh, brother, make a dentist appointment. My teeth are hurting from all this holiday sweetness,” Clint snarked.
Phil chuckled. “Aww, cut them some slack. They’re in love.”
Clint looked at Phil with tenderness in his eyes. “I guess I can understand that.”
Phil grasped Clint’s arm. “Me, too.”
The elevator dinged and the doors opened to reveal…
Thor’s joyful shout echoed across the room and swooped over to gather her up in his arms, whirling her around and both of them laughing. The others looked on in amusement and happiness.
“You did not tell me you were coming,” Thor said.
“I didn’t know until yesterday and I wanted to surprise you.” Jane hugged Thor. “Darcy says hey.”
“I say ‘hey’ back.”
Clint smirked. “I’m sure no one ever heard of Thor speaking this way before.”
“Must be love,” Phil drawled.
Clint’s smirk widened.
Jane was caught up in the holiday preparations and Phil lay back against the pillow and closed his eyes. Clint squeezed his hand and joined the others. Phil listened to the conversations flowing around him.
“You must help us trim the tree.” Thor’s voice boomed with enthusiasm.
“I’d love to. It’s a wonderful old tradition,” Jane said.
“I am so glad that you are here.”
“So am I.”
“Hey, Capsicle, you said you had an ornament you wanted to put on the tree?”
“Yes, I had it in my things back here in the States. After I disappeared, S.H.I.E.L.D. put everything in storage. I just got back everything last week. I think they lost the boxes for awhile.”
A snort. “Typical.”
“Hey, Stark, remember you’re part of S.H.I.E.L.D. now.”
“Don’t remind me, Barton.”
“Anyway, this is the ornament I managed to save. It was my mother’s and her mother’s before that.”
“Oh, Steve, that’s so pretty!”
“It really is a work of art.”
“Thanks, Tony. My mom always placed it front-and-center on the tree.”
“Then that’s where it’s going on this tree.” Phil could hear a rustling of branches. “There! How’s that?”
“Perfect. Just like you, Tony.”
Phil could practically hear Tony’s blush. Steve knew just the right tack to take with his prickly lover: bantering back-and-forth mixed with tenderness. It always threw Tony off but he liked it.
Clint’s like that, all snarky and devil-may-care but underneath craving the tenderness. I know my archer.
He could feel the pain medication starting to work. Breathing was much easier as his muscles relaxed. He could feel himself drifting off to sleep as Christmas carols played and happy conversations swirled around him.
When Phil woke up, he was in bed with Clint asleep at his side. The sky outside the windows was dark, indicating nighttime.
Phil listened to the sound of Clint’s breathing. It was a comforting sound and relaxed him.
“You are as nothing to me, little man.”
He tensed. The voice was mocking as he felt fear coil up deep inside him. His peace shattered, he squeezed his eyes shut as images tumbled before his mind’s eye in a crazy jumble: Thor in the Hulk-proof cage aboard the Helicarrier; Loki at the controls to send him plummeting to Earth; Loki’s aristocratic sneer; Thor’s agonized shout as Phil feels a sharp, precise stab of pain as he tastes metal in his mouth, the cold rapidly spreading and his bones dissolving into dust as Fury’s face looks pained, and Phil gently floats away…
Phil shivered and carefully extricated himself from Clint’s embrace. He felt shaky as he balanced against the wall. With slow steps he reached the living room.
The tree glittered in the moonlight. It looked otherworldly, a fairy confection that stood silently as Phil managed to reach the couch. A moonbeam illuminated a delicate ornament at the front of the tree: a Saint Nicholas figurine dressed in a green robe patterned with shamrocks. It had to be Steve’s ornament.
He shivered and hugged himself as he tried to block out the disturbing images. He wished that he had never remembered his confrontation with Loki.
I don’t remember, really, just these flashes of what happened.
Phil scrubbed his tired eyes with his hand. He hadn’t remembered at all, at least not at first.
The hospital was not as bad as one might think. It was mostly quiet as he was in a private room, but there was still the clatter of carts, the beep of machines, and the announcements over the loudspeakers.
Phil wanted nothing more than to lie quietly or sleep. He was always too tired, tired of fighting pain and other indignities. Clint spent as much time as he could by his side but he had to attend meetings and other S.H.I.E.L.D. duties. It didn’t matter. Clint was here as much as he could be, and it warmed Phil’s heart.
After lunch one day he began to fall asleep. And that was when the memories came back in a flash. He saw everything: Loki, Thor, the attack…and woke up gasping for breath.
The monitors had alerted the nurses’ station. Nurse Rossetti came immediately, her round face concerned but professional. “Take deep breaths, Agent Coulson.”
She put a hand on his arm and took his pulse. Her calm attitude began to calm him down in turn. He finally began to catch his breath but the pain in his chest was bad. He wondered if he looked as awful as he felt.
She recorded his pulse rate and looked at him with dark-brown eyes full of sympathy. “It’s never easy, this memory thing.”
Phil managed a ghost of a smile. “You’re right about that.”
Joan Rossetti was a wise woman. “I don’t know the details of what happened, but I have no doubt that you showed great courage.”
“Thank you.” Phil grimaced.
“I’ll increase your pain medication.” Joan pumped the I.V. “You’ll feel better in a few minutes.” She glanced at the wall clock. “Agent Barton should be here soon.”
“It’ll work out just fine.” Phil didn’t elaborate further but he needed the time to gather his thoughts before facing Clint.
Joan patted his shoulder. “Get some rest.”
He was grateful that she was his nurse.
Phil could feel himself shiver again. It was partially from the cold and his too-vivid memories.
“Hey.” Phil jumped at the soft inquiry from Clint. “It’s all right.” He squeezed Phil’s shoulder.
Phil stared at the tree. “I’m sorry I woke you.”
“You didn’t. I just woke up a few minutes ago.” Clint draped a blanket around his lover’s shoulders. “I don’t care how perfect the temperature’s maintained in here, it’s cold.”
Phil smiled slightly. “JARVIS would be put out.”
“He’s a good egg.”
Phil laughed. “I wonder if JARVIS would get that reference.”
“I do, sir.”
Clint and Phil smiled at each other. “C’mon, let’s just sit here awhile,” said Clint.
They settled back on the couch and gazed at the tree, Clint putting his arm around Phil. Neither man spoke for several minutes until Phil said, “Remember when I recalled what Loki did to me?”
“It hit me like a ton of bricks.”
Phil sighed. “I was a mess.” He reached over and squeezed Clint’s free hand. “You were there for me.”
Clint shrugged. “I know what it’s like for Loki to turn your life upside-down.”
Phil squeezed Clint’s hand again. He knew well the anguish that Loki had caused his lover. There were some agents at S.H.I.E.L.D. who still distrusted him after what he had done under Loki’s mind control.
“Y’know, it’s good, this Christmas thing,” said Clint.
“Yeah.” Clint rubbed Phil’s shoulder. “We celebrated in the circus. Some of the performers were Pagans so we combined traditions like the tree and Yule log. It was cool.”
“Aren’t a lot of Pagan traditions adapted by the Christians?”
“Yeah, definitely stuff like the tree and Yule log. We had a lot of fun this time of year.”
Phil was glad to hear that. He knew that Clint’s childhood had not always been the best.
“This’ll be the best Christmas yet,” said the archer.
“Yeah.” Clint looked warmly at Phil. “You know why,” he said softly.
Phil smiled. “Glad to be here,” he answered quietly.
They settled even more comfortably on the couch and when the Avengers came into the room later that morning, they saw two sleeping men in an embrace as the early morning sunlight created a breathtakingly-sparkling tree.