The rumor was that Phil Coulson had rules for everything; according to the current gossip among the junior agents, Phil not only had memorized the handbook, but he'd actually written the thing himself, working late into the night to come up with new Byzantine regulations to frustrate them. The fact that Phil followed those rules to the letter only served to reinforce the image; his expense reports were in triplicate, on time, filled with documentation, and he never missed a pre-mission meeting or debriefing, even showing up wounded before heading to medical. Maybe it was the perfect suits, the unflappable sense of calm or the really dry sense of humor that most people missed, but whatever it was, Phil Coulson was known as the Handbook King to almost everyone in SHIELD.

Clint Barton, on the other hand, was the Joker of the deck, a rule breaker extraordinaire. Coulson, they said, had his hands full making Clint toe the line, and Clint, well, he not only enjoyed the role he'd been cast in, he actively encouraged it, always willing to put on a show for a willing and gullible audience. The applause fed the leftover circus performer in him as well as helping him balance the darker parts of the job. His penchant for not following craptastic orders became stories that circulated quickly, growing into legends that tired recruits told in their bunks; one simple shot taken to save a life became, in the blink of an eye, Clint sticking it to the bureaucracy.

When Phil died, came back to life, and started dating Clint, the betting ran 4:1 that Phil had rules about sex and Clint routinely broke them. Clint was, after all, a lothario, even though no one could name more than three people Clint had dated (and one of those was always Natasha which was completely wrong); everyone was sure Phil had broken it off with that cellist because of his unrequited love for a certain agent. No, they said, Clint slept around, hooking up with men and women alike, and Phil pined for him, lonely and celibate until death brought them together.

In truth, Clint was the one who had five unbreakable rules about sex that he'd developed to protect himself and never violated until Phil Coulson came along. Phil, it turned out, was a troublemaker when it came to pushing Clint in ways he'd never expected; when it came to Barton's Big Five, as Natasha called them, Phil knew he was going to tear up the rulebook and never give Clint a reason to need them again.

Rule One: Never get involved with someone in the same line of work

"I've got a meeting with Fury in seven minutes," Phil argued, ushering Clint into his office and locking the door behind them. "How fast can you get out of that uniform?"

"Phil," Clint protested, albeit half-heartedly as Phil's hand palmed his cock through the material, stroking him to half-erection in minute or less. "Here? Cameras? Audio?"

"Stark jammer." Phil made short work of the buckles and zippers, freeing Clint and earning a moan for his nimble finger work. "Four weeks, three days, and twenty-seven hours, Clint. And I'm off right after this briefing, probably at least two more weeks."

"You know I missed you, but …" the breath was knocked out of Clint as Phil dropped to his knees and licked up the bottom of his cock, tongue circling the head. "God, Phil, that's good. But … I thought … no sex at work …"

"Rule 36.2.10a. Agents are granted flexibility in determination of official orders as defined under 14.8 when immediate endangerment of life can be established," Phil paused long enough to quote the handbook at Clint.

"You're going to die if you don't get your mouth on my cock?" Clint laughed at that assertion.

"I could make an argument for both of us being in serious pain."

Phil quit talking, slid his lips down and sucked Clint completely into the warmth of his mouth. It had been too long, too many fantasies and unsatisfyingly quick hand jobs; Clint was ready and Phil was more than convincing. All too soon, he groaned with pleasure, and Phil rose to kiss him, plastering their bodies together.

"Well," Clint murmured against Phil's mouth. "Least I can do is return the favor. You might be a little late."

"Fury can wait," Phil laughed as Clint pushed him back, trapping him against the edge of the desk. "Not that I'm going to last long. I padded my estimated arrival time by fifteen minutes anyway."

Rule two: no sex while on a job

"Barton, report."

"Target is engaged in extra-curricular activities. Again. Set of twins this time." Clint shifted in his perch. The first three times Roderick McTavish, head of the United Kingdom branch of H.Y.D.R.A., had one of these parties, Clint had been quite impressed by the man's stamina and creativity, but this was getting ridiculous. All McTavish did was eat and go clubbing and sleep and fuck; how could he be running a lemonade stand, much less a top secret military operation?

"The swimsuit models from the club?" Phil asked, a hint of humor in his voice.

"The two brothers from Cirque du Soleil," Clint answered. "They're, um, wow. That's amazing, and I knew some pretty good contortionists in my day."

"Describe it to me." Silky and low, Phil's voice rolled into his ear, vibrating through his body. "The blondes, right?" They'd been following McTavish for two weeks now, watching his lavish spending of money and high volume of alcohol consumption.

"Not natural blondes, I can confirm. One of them is … whoa, he must be double jointed … god, McTavish should learn about waxing. That's a serious pelt on his back." Clint tried to joke, keep things light, but he was failing miserably as he watched the three men through the wide open windows of the London flat.

"If I remember, your arms are much better than theirs, just the perfect circumference to get a firm grip." Phil sighed, and Clint had to shift again, his pants suddenly too tight. "Have to have a good hold when I'm inside of you."

"Phil. Comm line. Work." Clint protested.

"McTavish take his Viagra? You know he'll be at least an hour. And I haven't had a chance to touch you in eight days. Sleeping in the same damn house and always missing you." It had been frustrating, far too many SHIELD agents in and out as well as Steve and Natasha coming and going. "This is the only time we're alone. I'll take what I can get." Clint heard the distinct sound of a zipper going down and Phil's voice hitched. "Going to sit right here in this hot apartment and think about running my hands along your arms, up along your shoulders, curling around your neck and tugging you down until I can get my mouth on yours."

"Phil." This time, Clint made his name a plea either to stop or to continue, Clint wasn't sure which one.

"Have I told you how much I love the way you kiss, those little aborted sighs you make when I drag my tongue over your teeth?" Clint could hear the way Phil's breaths came faster as he worked himself towards the edge with just his words and his hand. "You make the same sounds when I'm inside of you, just before you come for me."

"Gods above, you're really going to do this." Clint couldn't stop his own hand from sliding along his rigid length, straining against his zipper. Admitting defeat, he tugged the metal tab and freed his cock, sitting back from the rife tripod but still in a direct line of sight to McTavish's well-lit windows. "I wish that were my hand, Phil, touching you, twisting the way you like it, feeling you jerk beneath my fingers."

"I'd prefer your mouth right about now." A little groan and the sounds of fabric rustling. "So wet and hot, and that little thing you do that you learned from the sword swallower. Like sliding into home."

"Fuck," Clint exhaled the word and fumbled in one of his pockets with one hand as the other hand moved faster.

"I'm so deep that I can feel the muscles when you swallow." Phil's voice was thready and he bit off the words sharply. "Take all of me and I'd wrap my hands into your hair and hold you while I … ah …"

Clint knew that Phil was gone then, and he held in his own grunt as he finished, never taking his eyes off the target, even when the intense sense of relief swamped his body.

"Clint? You okay out there?" Phil asked. "Did you …"

"Don't worry. No DNA evidence," Clint answered and he couldn't stop the stupid grin from spreading across his face. "Sterile wipes. Modern wonders." He folded the white square carefully and tucked it in the zippered bag in his pack. "I cannot believe I just did that."

"Better be prepared. That was just foreplay. I don't care if I Rogers wants to hang out all evening, I'll tell him I'm going to fuck you and drag you away."

"Might be worth it just to see his face," Clint said, adjusting the scope and giving a whistle. "Hey, McTavish's got a stripper pole and a trapeze in there!"

"Ideas, Clint. You're giving me ideas."

Rule three: after battle sex = awkward = don't do it.

"How long?" Phil asked, yanking his tie up over his head and tossing it towards the pilot seats.

"Fifteen minutes before the autopilot disengages for the landing sequence." Clint divested himself of tactical gear, scattering it haphazardly around the cabin of the new Stark Jet. Hands and arms and bodies reached and tangled and stroked in a fevered-haste to feel and touch; one boot landed on an instrument panel and Clint had to take a few precious seconds to turn off the monitors. Then they were kissing, one of Clint's legs still in his pants, held up by his thigh holster, and Phil in an open shirt with his briefs wrapped around one ankle. An edge of desperation, driving need to remind themselves that they were still alive, still together, sent Clint scrambling through his pockets for med packets of gel as they rubbed bodies together frantically. A tussle to find a good position – the jump seats were too hard, too concave, the bench row too shallow – until finally Clint was standing, hands tight on the roll bar, feet planted far enough apart, and Phil was behind him, sliding inside to twin sighs of satisfaction. There was the slightest of pauses in the headlong rush, just a second for Phil to wrap an arm around Clint's chest and dip his lips to the curve of Clint's neck, and then they rushed at a breakneck speed to the climax, crying out and calling each other's name as they tumbled over the edge. They clung together for a precious few minutes, not willing to separate, craving the comfort of each other's arms. A warning beep, and they had to pull away, helping each other dress, light caresses and whispered words of worry and concern.

"He'll be okay," Clint said as much for himself as Phil as he dropped into the pilot's seat. "He's Tony Stark. Probably already ordered pizza for the nurses."

"If he's not better, I'll tell him we just had sex in his brand new jet, the one he hasn't even been in yet. That will get him going."

Clint snorted and toggled back on the stick, heading in for a landing.

Rule four: to avoid entanglements, always leave first and never, ever cuddle.

Sluggish from sleep, Clint surfaced slowly, his limbs weighed down and his brain foggy from the whiskey; dreams flitted around the edge of his memory, the phantom feel of hands and mouth and body, just another desperate attempt to hide the ragged hole in his heart. He squeezed his eyes shut, unwilling to wake to the empty bottle, equally empty bed, and curled up tighter into a fetal position.


The word stirred the hair on his neck, Phil's mouth resting on Clint's skin, the warmth of his arm a presence across Clint's chest, Phil's fingers laced tightly in Clint's own. Hips snug against Clint's, Phil's left leg pressed between Clint's legs, their feet tangled together until the motel thin sheets. A sob caught in Clint's throat as he opened his eyes and turned his head; blue eyes stared back at him, familiar mouth turned up in a sleepy smile.

"I'm still here."

Clint squeezed Phil's fingers, just to be sure, then let the tension roll out of his body as his shoulders relaxed and he tilted back to give Phil's lips access to his. In a different kind of dream, leisurely and wonderful, brushes and nips of the most erotic kind, they hung suspended between sleep and waking, the bed a haven between what had been and what came next. Gradually and thoroughly, they explored with fingers and lips and tongue, opening their senses and learning each other's body intimately in the morning light, as lingering shadows faded beneath the depth of feeling. Clint finally believed it was real when he was full, Phil whispering in his ear, holding his hand, and rolling his hips as he thrust. They stayed together, heedless of the mess, Phil wrapping Clint in the cocoon of his body, holding him as if their very lives depended upon staying connected.

"We have to get up sometime," Clint mumbled, half asleep, warm and calm and content. "If nothing else, we'll need to eat."

"Natasha can bring us take out." Phil tugged up the sheet and tucked it around them. "I think I can handle going from here to the door."

Rule five: never, EVER talk about emotions during sex.

"You're so perfect." Clint dropped his head on Phil's shoulder, unable to think beyond the tight clench of Phil around his cock, the utter rightness of the two of them fitted together. He withdrew and then thrust back in. "Need you, need this." Again, his teeth sinking into his lip as he concentrated on tilting at the right angle, listening for Phil to cry out as Clint hit his mark. "Can't lose you, can't be without you." He curled his fingers around Phil's cock and stroked in time to his increased snaps of his hips. "Love you, so much, god, Phil, I love you." Tension crested and broke and he was coming, taking Phil with him, calling his name when he stuttered and plunged in one last time.

As he came back to himself, pleasure peaking and receding, he rolled onto his back and the realization of what he'd said sunk in. Not that it wasn't true; he'd been in love with Phil Coulson for too many years to count. No, it was that he'd said it out loud, in the middle of sex to boot. A rookie mistake because, damn it, Phil made him feel like a kid in the throes of his first crush, just discovering carnal delights. Rolling onto his side, he propped himself up on one elbow, resting his head in his hand, ready to do damage control.

"Phil, I was …"

"No apologies, Clint." With a soft gleam in his eye, Phil stopped him. "We both know you meant every word of it and, honestly, that breathy admission of undying love was pretty wonderful. You broke one of Barton's big five for me."

Arching his eyebrow, Clint was surprised. "You know about …" he couldn't remember ever telling Phil about the rules.

"Togliatti. The Russian SHIELD agent who wanted to get in your pants?"

Clint thought back; the op had been a few years before the Avengers and he could picture the guy. Red hair, nice looking, lush body. "Katya?"

"You turned her down at that bar while waiting for the exchange." Phil gave him one of his patented 'I know you better than you know yourself' smiles.

"And you were listening on the comm. Yeah, I told her to take two months after it was over and if she was still interested to look me up." She had done it too, but their schedules had never meshed so they let it drop.

"She asked you what kind of person it would take to make you break the rules."

"I told her that position had already been filled." If Clint hadn't been naked and sated next to Phil in bed, he'd probably have been embarrassed to know that Phil had overheard. "The rules never applied to you, Phil. You were always the exception."

"That's good, Clint, because I love you too." He rolled up and kissed Clint, slow and sweet. "Let's order take out and stay in bed for the whole day. We can both say it a few more times."

"Tony will have Jarvis check on us if we don't come to breakfast," Clint warned.

"Then we'll just have to give him something to see, won't we?"

New rule one: sand's a bitch

"Okay, I'll admit I didn't think that through," Phil said, lathering up a handful of shower gel and scrubbing at his skin. "I totally blame From Here to Eternity."

"Give me some of that," Clint head out his hand and stole the loofah. "I have sand in places that sand should never be."

"What do they make sunscreen oil out of anyway? It's stronger than any adhesive I've seen, better than crazy glue for sand," Phil complained, rinsing himself under the rainfall shower head and starting the process over again. "What do you say we institute a new Barton's rule?"

"No lube on the beach. Got it," Clint laughed. "At least we got a couple days of free time in Nice on Tony's dime. H.Y.D.R.A.'s change of timetable worked to our benefit for once."

"They'll be here tomorrow. We should study the layout one more time and I still have paperwork to do …" Phil began. Clint cut him off with a down and dirty kiss that was hotter than the water that poured down around them.

"Later. I know you built extra time into your schedule. We still haven't tried that little bar near the fish market, and I want to go back to get those earrings Nat would like." Nudging Phil back against the pebbled wall, Clint trapped him with his arms. "Rule 36.2.10a, remember? Wiggle room. And you know how flexible I can be."

"Indeed, I do."

They say opposites attract – but Clint Barton and Phil Coulson weren't opposites, they complimented each other, bringing out the best qualities and balancing the worst. Everyone noticed that Phil got a little less rule bound – or they just finally saw what was always there – and Clint arrived on time more often and actually did his paperwork 50% of the time. But those closest to them– or as Tony would say, front row seat ticket holders for the Phil and Clint live show – didn't need gossip or rumor to see how good the two of them were for each other. For Bruce, Phil willingly bent the rules, and for Steve, Clint followed orders. Thor trusted them to protect his back, and Natasha smiled at them in way that might be considered sweet on another person. Tony just smirked and had a trapeze installed in the gym and a pole in their bedroom.

Turned out, the trapeze was a hit with the whole team, and the pole made Phil miss a debriefing with Fury for the first time in anyone's memory.