yansadracan: (Clint)
Title: Built From The Rubble
Author: YanzaDracan
Fandom: Avengers
Word Count: 4,379
Characters: Clint Barton; Tony Stark; Pepper Potts; Steve Rogers; Bruce Banner; Natasha Romanoff; Phil Coulson; James ‘Bucky’ Barnes; Thor; Jane Foster; Darcy Lewis; Nick Fury
Rating: PG-15
Disclaimer: I don't own them. They belong only to themselves, and the people that created them. This is a figment of my imagination--fiction. No money made. Any mistakes are mine.
Summary: Avengers, Coulson, rebuilding trust. Phil didn’t die, he did something worse—he lived.

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Phil Coulson was bone tired. He was beginning to wish he’d never heard of Thor, Mjolnir, the nine realms or any other alien race. It’s been six months since he rejoined the living and it’s been brutal both physically and mentally.

The other eight realms had been flexing their muscles against Earth, sending (fill in advance reconnoiter squad of the week) after another through the still weakened Bifrost. The Avengers and their Chosen had drawn tight into themselves, but had unbent enough to allow him and Jasper just inside the boundary of ‘Us’ and ‘Them’.

He believed he was making progress. Darcy would often stop by with lunch or reports, and sit and chat about the everyday happenings with the team. She talked about everyone but only on the most superficial of levels, both of them ever mindful of JARVIS and Tony’s growing obsession with protecting his family.

Steve acted as the team’s voice in meetings as the others sat in mostly silent support. The first few missions badly rattled Phil as the change in his status brutally smacked him in the face. Gone was the snarky commentary from Clint. He still traded quips and observations with his team mates, but his whole demeanor had changed. He only spoke to the SHIELD agents if they needed to change positions or direct emergency personnel away from danger. There was nothing of Hawkeye, The World’s Greatest Marksman, there was only the Avenger codename, Hawkeye.

The first time he’d said, ‘Barton, talk to me’ and got no response, Jasper shook his head.

“They can’t hear you. JARVIS controls their coms. They’ll be opened when they need us. Phil…” Jasper signed. He hated adding more guilt to his boss’ load. “Hearing your voice in his ear could distract him to the point where it would get him injured or killed.”

The shock from Sitwell’s words rang in his head for a long time. Though the archer acted with cool professionalism the few times he interacted with him, Phil could see the shadows of betrayal and distrust in those ever changing eyes. He had done this...he had sworn he was not like those that came before…now he walked at the head of the other shadows in Clint’s memory.

Phil thought the relationship he’d built with Bucky Barnes while the Winter Soldier went through his de-programming would help smooth the way for him back into good graces of Steve and Natasha, but Bucky, became the Winter Soldier in his presence, and when Fury had tasked him with getting Barnes to sign a contract with SHIELD out of a sense of obligation for being rescued from the Red Room, he was politely informed he was already under contract to StarkTECH.

The next day a memo signed with a stylized ‘A’, that had become the Avengers brand, was delivered informing SHIELD that all actions on the ground would be routed through James Barnes, freeing up the Avengers to concentrate on the bad guys instead of splitting their attention between bad guys and good guys.

“Want to flip for it to see who takes this to Fury?” Jasper asked.

“No need. I’m the senior agent, and the reason Stark’s building a siege wall around the team. We have our weekly briefing today anyway.” Phil slouched a bit in resignation.

“We’ve been friends a long time, Phil. I have to say I don’t disagree with them. If you explained it to me every day for the rest your life, I will never understand why you put Nick and SHIELD above Clint. You were going to propose for Christ’s sake. Afterwards…”

Sitwell snapped his mouth shut, and left the office. He still hadn’t returned by the time Coulson left for the Helicarrier.

Phil spent many hours after his return from the dead reading and watching videos of mission reports. His heart broke every time Clint purposely stepped between a civilian or team mate to protect them from danger only Hawkeye had seen. His heart stopped every time the Hulk, Tony or Thor barely stopped his body from shattering on the ground below a destroyed perch.

Jasper had gleefully told him of the explosion of temper on the bridge of the Helicarrier when the Director learned Stark was snatching up any and all scientists that had been linked to any project that even whispered of the Tessaract. Doctors Foster and Selvig had disappeared behind the curtain of Stark money. The only reason SHIELD knew the whereabouts of Dr. Elizabeth Ross was Sitwell seeing her in the elevator at the Tower.

He read the behavioral analysis SHIELD profilers had written during the two years he was undercover, but they were based on information before the Chitauri. Everyone who survived the Battle of New York had been radically changed. No one was more changed than Tony Stark and Clint Barton.

The genius never talked about what he’d seen on the other side of the portal, and Clint never talked about Loki, if they had there was no record. Making an assumption on what he knew of Clint’s behavior, Phil hypothesized the archer and billionaire had been initially drawn together by their common nightmares.

Looking at the innovations coming out of StarkTECH in tactical and protective equipment, SHIELD’s number three saw Clint’s influence. He’d asked JARVIS, but all the AI would unbend enough to say was that Agent Barton and Sir held several joint patents being manufactured by StarkTECH and IronTECH. Phil quietly thanked the AI as pride filled his chest that someone recognized a diamond in the rough.

In between battles, he finally managed new profiles on the Initiative. The pairings within the group seemed extremely fluid reminding him of behavior often found in communes during the seventies. Listening to Darcy dither on about this and that, he thought he’d put the respective pairs together, but even with Barnes thrown in as the odd man, they’d absorbed him into their dynamic.

Now, the profiles were taking another turn. With Barnes, the upcoming nuptials of Dr. Foster and Thor, the Avengers had not just meshed as a team, but had melded into a family. Phil felt a twinge in his chest—he blamed on the pulling of scar tissue, as the Quinjet carried him to his weekly meeting with Fury.

Barton was their eyes high and Barnes their eyes low as they relayed information on the Jotun ice giants that appeared in Central Park. Barnes fed information to The Avengers, first responders on evacuating civilians, and the SHIELD agents protecting them. What should have been cumbersome and too time consuming to be effective—worked. The Avengers had taken the day and created another layer between the Initiative and SHIELD.

In his de-brief with Director Fury following the battle, Phil suggested releasing the team from SHIELD control since there was little interaction between the two.

“Believe me, Phil, I would love to cut them loose, but I can’t.” Fury rubbed a hand over his head.

“Is it something with the WSC?” He asked.

“I wish. After the battle with the Chitauri, everyone was looking for someone to blame. Adopted or not, Loki is a member of the royal house of Asgard, and as such he got the alien equivalent of diplomatic immunity, and Thor took his ass and the Tessaract home for Daddy dearest to handle his punishment. The Chitauri were dead and this Thanos character that Thor spoke of was on the other side of the portal. That brought us down to Agent Barton and Dr. Selvig, who under the control of the Tessaract made it possible for Loki to nearly take over the world, but were just as instrumental in stopping him.”

“The WSC was going to throw them to the wolves?” Phil asked.

“Yeah, well Stark was ten lengths ahead as usual, and to protect SHIELD, the WSC, and everything we’ve worked for, I had to make a deal to protect them.”


“Do you realize how much equipment in this organization has ‘Stark’ stamped on it? While we were vulnerable, he had JARVIS scouring through every nook and cranny. He ferreted out files dear ‘ol dad probably doesn’t remember—not to mention everything he’s been able to track down on the supposedly secret members of the WSC. Tony Stark can be a very dangerous man when he turns that genius IQ on you.”

“Did we try to keep Agents Barton and Romanoff?”

“We did. Agent Romanoff came in, collected your and Clint’s effects. Then four months after the battle, she returned a box telling me it’d been accidentally mixed with Barton’s. I never opened the box.”

Nick unlocked his storage closet and pulled out the box. Opening the box they found a note.
“Agent may need these when you bring him back from the dead…..TS’

Inside were the personal bits and pieces of Phil Coulson that Natasha had gathered for Clint to hold in remembrance of the man he loved, but finding out how cruelly deceived he’d been by the man who had promised to never betray him…Coulson and Fury understood the implications of the box. If Fury would have opened it sooner things would have been much different.

“Cheese…” Fury started, but Phil waved him off.

“If we’re honest, I’m as much to blame for this mess as you. I could have said no. I could have stipulated telling at least Clint and Natasha—Hell, if I’d had their help it probably wouldn’t have taken two years.”

He walked over to the windows, but didn’t see the fantastic view of the eastern seaboard…only the ways he’d sabotaged his relationship with the man he supposedly loved enough to want to marry. The clink of glasses drew his attention back to Nick.

“It was the one of only a few points of contention between us.” He accepted the glass of whiskey from Fury.

“What’s that?”

“You, or you and SHIELD—Clint always claimed he came in third behind those two things. Then there were my Captain America fan boy tendencies...”

“Did he?”

Phil saw a light glitter in that one dark eye.

“Apparently, since I let him think I was dead and ran off to Russia for two years to find Captain America’s best friend.”

“Have you talked to Barton?” Nick leaned his elbows on the desk.

“Beyond ‘Here’s our reports, Agent Coulson’, ‘or move your asses before that alien falls on you’…No.”

“Don’t you think it’s about time to act more like Badass Coulson than a shrinking violet?”The Director goaded.

“Really, Marcus…that’s where you want to go?” Phil grinned.

“No. I want my ‘one good eye’ back.”


Phil’s expression was wary. He could only blame exhaustion for belatedly realizing what he’d just admitted to Nick.

“I came first?”

Shocked at what the day was revealing Phil stood abruptly.

“I think that covers all the Avenger business for today. I’ll be returning to the city…now, Sir.”

“Phil…?” Nick stood as though to stop him.

“No…Nick…I…I need to think about this. Apparently Clint was seeing me much clearer than I saw myself.”

He laid awake a long time thinking about his conversation with Nick. He loved Clint…hadn’t he? Stepping outside ‘Phil’ to look at the past seven years through ‘Agent Coulson’ eyes—he became nauseous. Clint had initiated all of the firsts in their relationship. Phil had told himself it had to be that way since he was Hawkeye’s handler. There could be no whiff of coercion in any relationship with a subordinate. At first it was hard to believe a handsome young man like Clint Barton would give him a second glance, let alone be in love with him. Even after Clint had been promoted, the archer had carried the load…fitting his schedule to Phil’s as much as possible. He began to see why Clint had become frustrated to the point where they argued loudly over the time he spent on the Director’s pet projects. A few of the arguments had been so bad that Clint would disappear, fearful that the flaring tempers would turn violent.

Remembering those arguments, and the way he blew off Clint’s concerns made him wonder if their talk of marriage had been a last ditch effort because the younger man felt he was losing Phil to SHIELD and the Director.

Now the light in Nick’s eyes, and the thrill running through his body at the thought confirmed all of Clint’s fears, and made Phil wonder if he’d simply used Clint until the time was right for him and Nick.

Agent Coulson approved of using the assets available until such time as they were no longer pertinent to the bigger picture. Philip J. Coulson was appalled that he’d acted in such a way toward someone he professed to love. The only way to merge the two halves of his psyche was to talk to Clint—otherwise it would haunt any future relationship.

Satisfied, he began planning how to get Barton away from JARVIS and the Avengers protective tendencies long enough to talk. He fell asleep devising his game plan.

It took two weeks and a fundraiser for the foundation set up by Stark to help defray the costs of repairing the damage when the bad guy of the week decided to use New York City for a battleground. Inside security was being handled by Clint and Natasha’s people with Bucky as liaison with Phil and Sitwell as SHIELD handled perimeter security.

The top six contributors had the honor dining with one of the Avengers at their table. After diner, the team changed from their uniforms to mingle during the dancing and silent auction. The whole room stopped when the Avengers and their significant others stepped into the room in evening dress.

Phil’s breath stopped at the sight of Clint in his pale grey tux, matching Mandarin collared shirt with amethyst studs and eggplant silk waistcoat.

“You need to stop drooling before I have to shoot you.” Bucky whispered in his ear. “They certainly are a drool worthy bunch.” He said more to himself than the SHIELD agent. “And the muscle control being an acrobat gives you.” With a raised eyebrow and a leer, Barnes disappeared into the crowd.

The Winter Soldier catching him off guard caused Phil to give himself a mental shake. He’d never get Barton alone if he the sight of the archer in a tux stopped him in his tracks.

They circulated through the room in a loose group…mingling with the crowd, but never far from one another. Toward the end of the evening, board members from Stark Industries cornered Tony and Pepper. Natasha was talking with Bucky while Clint went to the bar. Seeing his chance, Phil approached so Clint was caught between the bar and a wall.


“Agent Coulson.”

Phil flinches inwardly at the blandness of the younger man’s voice.

“I need to have a word…privately.”

“I can think of nothing that won’t wait until business hours, Agent.”

This was a novel experience for Phil. He’d seen Clint pull out his Agent Barton persona many times over the years, but this was the first time he’d been on the receiving end.

“I have some things I need to say to you that does not need an audience.”

Clint looked over his shoulder and a minute twitch of his head told Phil he’d shaken off an offer of rescue from the Black Widow and the Winter Soldier.

With a sigh of resignation, eyes cold as an arctic storm looked back at Phil.

“If this is what it takes to lay this to rest and cap it with a tombstone…let’s go.”

He stalked past Phil to the elevators. When the doors opened they were at the hotel penthouse.

“I’ll give it fifteen minutes before Tony shows up so talk fast.” Clint settled in an armchair, the picture of nonchalance.

“I’ve apologized to the team for SHIELD’s deception, but I wanted to talk to you alone, and talk about some things I’ve realized since I’ve been back.”

“I really don’t care about your epiphanies, Coulson. You made it perfectly clear I was a piece of ass to tide you over until Fury consolidated his power to oppose the WSC. Then he stopped wasting those undercover talents you use to convince assets with issues to trust you…to fall in love with you.”

Phil flinched at Clint’s bluntness.

“It wasn’t like that…” Phil looked away from the too seeing eyes. “I did love you.”

“But not like you love SHIELD…love Marcus Johnson aka Nick Fury, Jr.”

Phil paled as nausea rose again. Hearing the words in that cold emotionless voice shook him to the core…made him feel unclean for the first time in all his years with SHIELD.

“When I heard you were dead, I stopped living. I wasn’t suicidal, but if the bad guys got lucky then the pain would stop. No one at SHIELD cared…Fury had you to himself at last, and if Hawkeye died a hero’s death it would be a publicity windfall.”

“I’m sorry. I never meant for things to go the way they did. When Nick asked me to go undercover I didn’t think about the ramifications of after the mission.”

“You never thought of any ramifications when it came to Nick.” Clint spat. “Didn’t you think I would tear up the world because I know Fury is fucking liar who lies. I loved you…sure, but more than that I trusted you. You convinced me to try one more time so when Thor offered to look for you in Valhalla I didn’t hesitate to say yes. You know Thor…heart’s as big as he is…he wanted my forgiveness for what Loki had done, and when Heimdall offered to look for you, I was stupidly grateful. When he told me you were alive in Russia…let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.”

Phil’s heart rate shot up when Hawkeye, the world’s greatest assassin turned those cold grey eyes on him.

“If not for my team…I felt…,”Clint’s façade cracked enough for Phil to catch the haunted look in those fascinating eyes, “like a whore. Granted the pay and the benefits were good so I was a well paid whore. I thought I’d feel better if I but an arrow in Fury’s eye socket until my team made me realize that someone who could do what you did was not in love with me. So I will ask this one time, and I will never speak of it again. What do you want, Agent Coulson?”

Whatever Phil hoped to accomplish by talking to Clint without the influence of the others, turned to ashes. The Clint Barton he knew died in the aftermath of the Battle of New York. All the pretty speeches he’d planned got throw away. The only way to meet Clint’s bluntness was with honesty.

“I wanted to set things right with you. I wanted to give you closure…to see if there was anything left that we could rebuild if not a relationship then at a least a friendship. I’m sorry things turned out the way they did, and if I could change the past I would. Looking back and listening to you just now, I don’t feel very good about what Nick and I did, and all I can say is, I never meant for it to happen that way. I want you…you and Natasha to come back to SHIELD.”

Clint sat frozen in his chair the look on his face incredulous that Phil could say these things to him with a straight face. Before he could recover from his shock, the doors to the suite burst open.

“Agent…Agent…Agent.” Tony called as his presence filled the room. “That is soooo not going to happen.”

The rest of the Avengers entered the suite at more sedate pace, Bruce closing the doors quietly behind them.

“Are you saying Barton and Romanoff can’t return to SHIELD?” Phil challenged.

“Sure they can return. They just can’t stay. They’re under contract to SI, and as such we,” he pointed to Pepper, “negotiate any outside contracts for their services.” Tony walked over to the bar. “Drink anyone?”

“Actually, anything any of us do goes through Tony and Pepper.” Steve added. “Anytime there’s a fight SHIELD is responsible for any fallout from those battles.”

“Why would The Director agree to that?”

Phil wanted the whole picture not just what Nick had told him.

“I made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.” Tony’s expression was smug.

“What could you possibly use to blackmail SHIELD?” Phil wanted to smack himself for sounding smug.

“Did you know JARVIS recorded everything that happened during our little skirmish?” Tony raised his eyebrows as he asked the question. “Including the transmissions from the WSC to the pilot that launched the nuke?”

Phil felt the blood leave his face. He looked around the hotel suite. Natasha and Bucky had moved to sit on the arms of Clint’s chair, flanking the archer. He stood in the middle of the Avenger family—the only clear path was the one to the door.


Phil turned back to Clint.

“I have one last question.”

Phil nodded at him to ask.

“These past six months—were you just there to try and rebuild our trust enough to bring us back to SHIELD, or were you truly trying to make amends?”

He hesitated.

Clint moved to the window, his back to the room.

Phil moved as if to go to him, but Bruce and Thor blocked his path.

“I’ll expect your things out of the Tower no later than noon tomorrow and inform Fury that only Agent Sitwell will be allowed on the premises.” Tony’s voice was hard.

Steve escorted Phil to the door.

“Clint, the answer to your question is both.”

Phil cringed at the quiet snap of the lock behind him. Nothing left to do but report to Fury, and test the waters to see if what Clint intimated was correct. They’d both caused too much damage outside their inner circle to look elsewhere.

Phil sat at the conference table in the Director’s office with Nick and Maria when Jasper burst into the office with a burgeoning file folder and a red envelope. Nick picked up the folder while Maria grabbed heavily embossed envelope.

“I’ve got an invitation to a fundraiser next month to be held in the Hamptons celebrating the various and sundry nuptials of members of The Avengers. For a mere two thousand dollars a plate you can attend an Avenger wedding reception. Room is limited to the first fifty RSVPs, limit four per invitation, and Chef Tyler Florence is preparing dinner.” Maria winked at Jasper.

I’ve got copies of marriage licenses with so many names and places that it’ll take all four of us to figure out who’s who.” Nick growled.

They shifted through the piles of paper.

“Damn, did everyone marry everyone?” Jasper’s voice was filled with awe. “Why would they give us all these aliases?”

“So they can all speak for each other, and we can flag them if they come up in a search we can get someone there to cover the situation.” Phil’s voice was bland, but his chest felt tight.

A month later the inner circle of SHIELD, dressed for an August lawn party on the ocean, appeared at the gate of Stark’s Hamptons home. Happy was on gate duty and greeted Jasper as he waved them through.

Velvet ropes directed them from the parking area to the party venue where Darcy greeted them and directed them to their table. The tables were under a tent facing the ocean while the sides would keep the ocean breeze off the guests when the temperature dropped after dark.

Leaving jackets and bags at the table, they began to mingle. Phil was standing next to Nick at the bar when his breath stopped as a laughing Clint dashed barefoot across the lawn followed by Natasha dripping water and hissing Russian curses like an angry cat.

“They are magnificent.” Nick commented.


A barely healed wound between the men, they never spoke of Phil’s time with Clint. Phil oversaw SHIELD’s most secret projects and ops, seldom coming in contact with anyone under Level 7 clearance.

“Gentlemen, you’re not ogling my spouses are you?” A hard twitch was the only indication Stark had startled the two spies.

They turned to see the genius with his arm wrapped around a pregnant Pepper.

“Which ones?” Nick asked. “We’re still trying to sort who married who.”

“They’re all mine. It’s like Stranger In A Strange Land Avengers style.” Tony quipped.

“Don’t pay any attention to Tony…he’s feeling very smug at the moment.” Pepper rubbed a hand over her rounded abdomen. “He won’t be so smug in a few months when it’s his turn to change diapers.” She smiled softly.

“Congratulations, boy or girl?” Phil asked.

“We don’t know.”

“You know how we like surprises.” Tony verbally jabbed. “Off we go, sweetheart. Rich people to separate from their money.” His grin was all teeth. “Enjoy, Agent…Director.”

They did enjoy their evening. The food and drink were excellent, all the Avengers made a point to talk with them though Clint and Natasha didn’t talk long. Driving back to the city, they compared notes.

“Stark has definitely calmed down.” Jasper offered, but he saw them five days a week.

“Barton has finally matured.” Maria said.

“What’s that mean?” Nick asked.

Phil watched her face in the rearview mirror.

“No smartass jokes. Actually, he didn’t say much at all.” Maria sounded bewildered.

The rest of the trip went by quickly as they talked about the party, the people, and what they’d learned. Silence filled the car after they dropped Jasper and Maria. Nick waited until their apartment was secure before he grabbed Phil’s hand.

“You’ve been awful quiet. Did something happen at the reception?”

“A little…it’s nothing…just my paranoia having a field day.”

Phil pulled a napkin out of his pocket and handed it to Nick. There was the name of the event and the date, but below that was a quote from George MacDonald.
To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.

Both men knew without a doubt there would be no rebuilding of trust between Agent Phil Coulson and The Avengers.

~ Fini ~
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