One of the first things Phil Coulson learned about working with superheroes was that each one had their own eccentricities and superstitions. The stronger, faster, smarter someone was, the more likely they were to have the oddest quirks and beliefs. Actually, it wasn't just people like The Avengers or the Fantastic Four, and don't get Phil started on Charles Xavier and the X-men. Lots of SHIELD agents carried rabbit's feet and wore the same unwashed pair of lucky socks on every mission. Maybe it was the element of danger, the same determination they all had but, watever it was, Phil had to deal with it on a daily basis.
Of all of the denizens of Avengers Tower, Tony Stark himself was the king of strangeness. He refused to take anything from people's hands – with notable exceptions of Pepper and Rhodey and now, thank God, Steve and Clint and Natasha (although she was on the list because she threatened to hand Tony a knife in his chest if he didn't take some of the grocery bags she was hauling up the elevator one day). Phil wasn't granted privileges yet, and he was sure that was just Tony being his regular ass of a self, not for any other reason than to get a rise out of Phil. But Tony also never wore the same underwear twice, had four lucky t-shirts he preferred to wear under the Iron Man suit, wouldn't get off on the 42nd floor of any building (long story that involved a drunken bender, three physicists and Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), and NEVER allowed anyone to listen to Barry Manilow songs within his hearing or anywhere in the Tower. He was convinced the crooner was Satan incarnate because Pepper broke up with him for the seventh time while Copacabana was playing on the musak system of the main elevator.
Probably because Thor was from a different world, he had a laundry list of odd behaviors and most were more cultural than anything else. There was the fact he always wanted to bring home a trophy – as soon as severed heads were declared off the table, he started collecting teeth from the various monsters to make a display. That creeped Jane out, so he put them away in a drawer. Mostly, he had an unhealthy attachment to Mjolnir, sometimes even sleeping with it in his bed when Jane was away. Bruce, on the other hand, made no excuses for his rituals; meditative chants, an elaborate tea pouring system with a spreadsheet for which tea on which day, and a meticulous list of the time spent as the Hulk helped him deal with the daily ups and downs of his dual life. The Hulk was simple. The Big Guy wouldn't step on a crack (the ones he made himself didn't count), go under a ladder (not that there was one big enough) and he'd get upset if a black cat crossed his path. Phil had seen him toss salt over his shoulder once when he smashed into a road crew supply shed and scattered the road salt everywhere.
Steve carried his over from his time in the military. First time he did his "slap the shoulder, pat the ass, and snap" to Tony, Phil had recognized it from all the Howling Commando books he'd read as a child. Giving everyone call signs and not using their names during action was another left over; Phil couldn't help but be thrilled when he was assigned his own nickname of "Super Nanny" because, one, Captain America, two, Tony hated it and, three, Captain America. Then he found out Steve had tucked one of the bloody trading cards into his belt pouch, carrying it with him everywhere, and Clint had to peel Phil off the ceiling and remind him that he was worthy of such an honor by taking him to bed and debauching him until he was sweaty and worn out.
Arguing that she didn't believe in luck might make most people believe Natasha didn't have any rituals, but Phil knew otherwise. The woman cleaned her guns in a specific order and timed herself doing it. If it took more than three minutes total, she'd start again. And she always loaded her stingers counterclockwise, left to right. From Clint, she picked up the habit of never saying goodbye even when she ran to the store or headed to the mess hall. It was always, "have fun boys" for Tony, Steve, Thor, and Bruce, "don't do anything I wouldn't do" for Clint, and "later" for Phil. It was so ingrained that when she was being followed in New Orleans one time, she said "adieu" and Phil instantly knew something was wrong.
Clint had picked up any number of charms in the circus and during his time as a merc. Like most entertainers, he would never say "good luck" but "break a leg" or some reiteration of that sentiment (and he NEVER named the Scottish play). His arrows were organized into alphabetical sections – acid tips then boomerang before exploding. Each bow had a name which Clint wouldn't share with anyone; Phil had known it was love when Clint told him about Vera, his oldest, most prized bow from his days as the Amazing Hawkeye. And Clint believed that singing to himself helped his aim even if it annoyed everyone else on the comms.
But the one thing that got to Phil the most wasn't singing or slapping or meditating … it was a tiny tube of black eyeliner that Clint had R & D whip up for him. Once a month a new bottle appeared and Clint would rotate the half-empty one out of his kit and tuck the full one in. According to Clint, the eye black reduced glare and sharpened his focus, much like a military sniper or a football player would use. He'd started wearing makeup as part of his costume, even painting a purple H on his face during one season, and that's when he discovered the positive attributions of the black grease paint. No matter how many studies Phil showed him that disproved it, Clint insisted the stuff worked and wore it with his tactical suit all the time. Hell, sometimes Clint even wore it when he was at the range, saying he needed to get practice with and without it. He'd saunter into Phil's office with those lines making his blue-grey eyes standout even more, and Phil would swear Clint knew all about the way his body reacted to that damn makeup.
That was the problem. The eyeliner turned Phil on. Big time. Like a 'throw-you-up-against-a-wall-and-fuck-you-until-neither-one-of-us-can-breathe' type of reaction. He had no explanation for why, just that his cock sat up and took notice each and every time, which was pretty damn awkward when they were in the middle of a life or death situation. First time Phil had met Clint, he'd been wearing the stuff, not quite as neat or thin a line, and he'd been soaking wet from a dive into the Avon to avoid a particularly nasty group of thugs that were chasing him so he'd looked more like a raccoon than a fashion model, but Phil was pretty sure that was part of what made him offer Clint a job at SHIELD. Only a part, of course; Clint had been on the most wanted recruitment list for a few years and was a feather in Phil's cap when he talked him into headquarters.
For a while after that, Clint stopped wearing it; later, he told Phil he was trying to fit in and be SHIELD material, worried he'd be kicked out into the cold again and end up dead in a canal somewhere, a nameless corpse. Then one day, Clint had started up again, not long after he went back to wearing his favored old ratty t-shirts and jeans so soft and frayed they looked like they were one good wash away from falling off him – which Phil found almost as distracting as the eyeliner. Clint didn't say anything, showing up for an op in Turkey and ignoring all the questions and stares. After Natasha came along, she taught him to draw the thinnest of lines with the waterproof stuff, and Phil had brand new fantasies to jerk off to in the shower.
When Phil looked at Clint now, bow at the ready, arrow notched, barely sweating under the gun leveled in his face or the very angry mutant with fire starting abilities standing just behind him, he had to admit that the eyeliner made Clint even more of a badass than he usually was. Their captors had already given Clint shit about it; Clint hadn't even replied, just kept his fingers tensed and his bow trained on the man in the blue hood.
Supposedly a training exercise with a group of new recruits, Phil didn't worry about the others since there was next to nothing he could do about it with his hands zip tied behind his back and his bare knees aching as he balanced on some exposed tree roots on the forest floor. They'd gotten the drop on Phil and Clint while the one especially helpless pre-agent had twisted her ankle, and Phil had sacrificed himself to save the rookies, all of which was the villain's plan, anyway: use Phil's overdeveloped sense of fair play against him. Clint had been boxed in by two henchmen and brought here to watch the final act in this little drama play out.
"He's wearing makeup," Blue Mask said. "Honestly, Phil? When I heard they'd found Captain America, that I could see. Fucking your childhood hero, yes. But getting married to this impetuous child? With guyliner on? Makes me question your sanity. Did dying change you that much?"
"And I supposed dating a want-to-be super villain is a better choice? Thanks, but I'll take the superhero who saves lives over the crazed man in a mask any day," Phil answered. "I'm still not convinced I even know you."
"My money's on obsessed stalker," Clint interjected. "Someone from the mailroom with delusions of grandeur."
"Your witty banter is not going to work on me," Blue Mask said. "I'm not some hokey villain who feels the need to monologue."
Phil arched his eyebrow and Clint scrunched his nose in response. They both stayed silent and just waited.
"We going now boss? The others will be here soon." The guy with the gun – big and thick, fatter than muscle – glanced around as if looking for trouble.
"There's no one coming. This was an easy day with a bit of a vacation in that well-equipped cabin. Relax. The babies will sleep for at least 24 hours, and we'll be long gone by then." Blue Mask walked over to Phil and stared down at him. They'd taken Phil's clothes, leaving him only his striped boxers, and he was shivering in the autumn coolness. The sun would be setting soon, and the temperature dropping. "So, Cheese, are you ready for the end of our game yet?"
Phil's head jerked up. "We finished it, remember? In your hospital room. I won with a checkmate."
"Took you long enough. I may as well have just walked up and introduced myself." He tilted his head and stroked a finger over Phil's ranger tattoo.
"Clint, may I introduce specialist Roger Mortimer, a.k.a. Marcher. Damn good ranger, terrible chess player. Last time I saw him, he was being fitted for a prosthetic arm." Phil's voice was as steady as ever. "We were colleagues, nothing more."
"No you had eyes for that motor pool jeep jockey, what was his name? The one who died in that IED explosion, right?"
Phil stiffened; his name had been Josh and Phil could have gotten serious with him, but he never had the chance. "Why are you with these mutants-for-hire, Marcher? Do they know you're a regular old human?"
"Ooooh, vat of acid! I'm voting for that option," Clint quipped. "The best villains always take an acid bath."
"This guy's annoying, boss. Can I torch him now? We're not taking him anyway," Fire Guy whined.
"It's so hard to find good henchmen," Marcher said to Phil. "But this one is right. Time to watch your boy go up in flames, just like Joshua."
In a twisted way, it all made sense, and Phil suddenly wondered if he'd ever known this man at all. "You killed him. It was always odd that there was an IED on that road."
"And I paid for it. The militant who sold me the original bomb was the same one who set off the one that took me down. I owe you for that as well." Marcher turned to his associates. "Trim, hold them. Wig, light him up." Phil surged up from the ground, aiming to tackle Marcher and bring him down, but a force held him, like gravity pulling at his very bones. Heavy and unwieldy, he couldn't move his body at all. "Let him turn his head, Trim. He needs to see this."
Weight lifted from his head and neck, allowing Phil to swivel and watch as the fire wielder Wig let the ball of flame grow in his palm. Clint was frozen just like Phil, Trim's mutant ability he guessed, and there was nothing he could do but watch .
"Thing is Phil, I don't think I want you anymore. No, this long ago became more about getting even rather than any kind of attraction. Not sure I ever really felt anything more than a moment of lust for a nice body and a tight ass … nice job keeping that up, by the way. I know how difficult that is." Marcher's eyes lit with a crazy kind of glee, dark brown pupils reflecting the flickering fire light. "I just want to cause someone pain and, to be honest, taking down an Avenger is a bonus."
Time slowed; Phil saw Clint's black rimmed eyes widen as Wig's hand flattened and he leaned down to blow the fireball towards Clint's immobile body. It seemed time had finally run out.
"You know," Phil said. "It's a good thing I wore my lucky tie today."
The fire flew into the spinning silver round, the shield capturing it and carrying it away as it continued on an arching trajectory. A knife sank into Trim's shoulder, breaking his concentration and Phil could move, launching himself at Marcher. Wig tried to throw another handful, but a repulsor blast knocked him backwards. Clint's arrow slammed into Marcher's chest as Phil's arms wrapped around his legs and took him down. The whole thing was over in seconds, not even a whole minute. Tony landed, Natasha appeared out of a tree, and Steve caught his returning shield as the henchmen gave up and dropped to their knees. The Hulk huffed in displeasure at not getting to smash anything and promptly wrapped his arms around Wig when he tried to spin more flames.
"It's over, Marcher." Phil sat on the man's knees, effectively holding him on the ground. "Did you really think I'd come out here without back up knowing you were gunning for me?"
"No, I didn't. No more than I would come without an escape plan." Marcher wasn't struggling; he lifted his hands and reached for a medallion around his neck. Phil reacted fast, grabbing the edge of the man's mask just as he touched the silver circle. A blue light surrounded him, Phil yanked off the mask, and a familiar face stared at him for a second before he faded away.
"Damn it," Phil cursed, left sitting on the ground with nothing but the blue fabric in his hand. "What was that?"
"Teleportation, I'd guess," Tony said. "These two might be able to tell us where he went."
Somehow, Phil doubted that; Marcher was a Ranger, well-trained and, at one time, the best of the best. He'd have plans within plans and these two were low-level flunkies. There was nothing left to do but clean up, find the decoy rookies, pay them for their trouble and send them back to SHIELD unscathed. That was going to take time.
"Did you have clothes, Agent, or do you just like being half-naked?" Tony asked.
"They took my suit." That made Phil angry. Everyone else had their talismans; Phil had his suit. "And one of your ties, Tony."
"It's okay," Clint said. "I brought an extra. It's back at the inn, along with mine. A nice tuxedo."
Phil looked up at the man he loved, surprised. "Now? You want to do this now?"
"Everyone's here. Nick and Maria are on their way to debrief. Thor should be back in less than an hour. Time enough to get ready." Clint shrugged, but he was grinning from ear to ear. "Pepper made all the arrangements, just like we talked about. Why not? You know if we try to plan it, things will never work out."
That's how Philip J. Coulson, Level 8 Agent of SHIELD, found himself walking into the loveliest, exclusive five-star inn in Connecticut in nothing but his boxers to get dressed for his wedding, his fiancé wearing a tac suit and carrying a bow, and being followed an eccentric crew of friends. In the elegantly simple honeymoon suite, he found something old, a lovely antique lotus tea pot filled with steaming tea from Bruce (with two red dates inside), something new, a perfectly fitted Kiton tuxedo courtesy of Tony Stark (and JARVIS who knew Phil's measurements), something borrowed, an ATP Army Swiss watch on loan from Steve (Captain America's watch!), and something blue, a tie dyed dendrobium orchid boutonniere from Pepper. Natasha kidnapped Clint until the ceremony despite Clint's protests that he wasn't the bride, and Thor, when he arrived, brought clear honey mead to drink after the ceremony. Nick, in his long black coat, took his place as best man, and Maria offered the first toast to the happy couple.
When Phil finally saw Clint again, they were standing in front of the Episcopal minister in what used to be the music room of the old mansion, surrounded by blue and purple flowers and the world's mightiest heroes, more commonly known as the closest thing they had to family. He couldn't stop the smile that spread across his face nor did he want to as he looked at the handsome man who was about to promise to put up with him for the rest of his life. Then Clint winked, and Phil's breath caught as he saw the eyeliner framing his favorite pair of mischievous eyes.
"You know why I wear it?" Clint whispered after they linked arms.
Phil could only stare in response, no answer coming to his mind.
"For you, of course. Turns you on. And I plan on doing that for a long, long time," Clint said.
"As you wish," Phil nodded. "I suppose I could wear my glasses more often."
Just like everyone else, Phil Coulson had his own set of superstitions. He always wore his armor, every piece of clothing matched and fitted, a perfect way to be non-descript. His ties were almost a religion, whether it's the silk one he bought in Monte Carlo or a special agent tie Tony made. He filled all his paperwork out in triplicate not because he liked it but because he's only ever lost an agent on missions where he didn't go in with all the "I"s dotted and the "T"s crossed before he left the office.
But most of all, Phil knew that Clint Barton-Coulson was better than any other lucky charm he could have because Clint gave him everything he needed to make it through the worst days. Clint made him want to come home and hearing Clint's voice was the only encouragement he ever needed. Phil told him that later that night, maybe not in words, but as they made love in the giant king-sized bed where, thankfully, Tony couldn't bother them since Pepper dragged him bodily from the inn. And Phil was going to keep on telling Clint until they were both old and grey and retired with a brownstone in Tribeca and a couple of corgis they walked in the park every day.
Assuming, of course, that they lived that long. Phil had died once already. And no insurance company in their right minds would take on a SHIELD agent and a superhero. That's why Phil hoped Clint kept wearing eyeliner. Lady Luck had been kind so far … no need to change things now. That, and he looked really hot. Like "fuck-your-husband-into-the-mattress-for-a-long-weekend" hot.