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Title: While Phil Was Sleeping
Pairing: Steve & Phil, Clint/Phil
Rating: G
Wordcount: 2200
Summary: Steve is present while Phil is unconscious. Post-movie so contains spoilers.
Notes: Inspired by this art. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] lucdarling and [livejournal.com profile] unavoidedcrisis for the beta work and thanks to [livejournal.com profile] jacqui_hw for helping me flesh out the idea.



Steve is very much a creature of habit. He gets up at 0530 every morning, goes for a (long) run followed by a shower, breakfast and a read-through of any reports that need his attention. All of this occurs before the rest of the Avengers are even out of bed (except on the days Tony forgets to sleep, but even then, Steve never sees him).

Tony teases him about his routine and crudely asks if he schedules in the times he needs to take a shit but Steve has quickly learned to ignore most of what Tony says.

His time in the military might have instilled the importance of regularity but that doesn’t mean he’s not adaptable. Take their current situation, for example. It’s been easy enough to work a daily visit to the hospital into his routine. The others pop in and out when they can (some more than others) but Steve is there every afternoon from three until four, sitting beside Agent Coulson’s bed and talking to him.

The doctors have no idea when Coulson is going to wake up, but they seem confident it’ll happen at some point. His body suffered a massive trauma when Loki stabbed him, they say, and his heart stopped for almost a minute. But his vitals are strong now and the wound is slowly healing, so all they can do is wait.

Steve is good at waiting.

At first, he’s not really sure what to talk about when the doctors suggest Coulson might find it comforting to hear a familiar voice so he just talks about his day. He talks about how annoying Tony can be, which he knows Coulson understands all too well, and he talks about the team dynamic, and how they’re starting to work better together and to trust each other.

“I’m a little worried about Barton,” he confides even though he knows he won’t get a response. “He’s fine out in the field, but when we’re back in the tower he’s kind of withdrawn. He talks to Natasha but only when she makes him and the rest of the time he just keeps to himself. I understand, I guess, after everything that happened with Loki, but I don’t know how to make him understand that no one blames him.”

He doesn’t mention the fact that, out of all of the team, Barton is the only one who hasn’t been to visit since Fury told them that Coulson is alive.

* * *

“I’m going to make you a promise,” Steve tells Coulson after a couple of weeks. “I’ll sign your trading cards but only when you wake up, so you can tell me what you want me to write.”

He feels a little guilty, bribing an unconscious man, but he figures it’s more of an incentive than a bribe.

“Pepper told me you like baseball,” he continues. “We should go and see a game when you’re back on your feet. You know the worst thing I’ve learned since I woke up is that the Dodgers moved to California? What’s that all about?”

He chuckles and adds, “Well, I grew up with them, you know, so they’re still my team. We may have to agree to disagree if it turns out you’re a Yankees fan.”

Coulson sleeps on and doesn’t say a word.

* * *

Barton seems to have finally started to accept that no one blames him for what he did under Loki’s influence. He joins the team on movie night and even starts heckling during some of Tony’s more dubious choices, but he still hasn’t been to visit Coulson in the hospital and finally Steve decides to talk to Natasha about it.

“I always thought the two of them were close,” he tells her over coffee. “All three of you actually. Am I missing something?”

Natasha just shakes her head sadly and tells him that Barton needs time.

Steve knows better than to push.

* * *

“I suppose I should be grateful that Tony listens to me at all.” Steve grumbles as he tells Coulson about their latest mission. “I don’t think he’s ever going to follow orders but at least he listens and that’s a start, right?”

He always leaves a short pause after asking a question just in case Coulson decides that today is the day he’s going to wake up.

But Coulson remains still and silent, so Steve just continues talking. “Barton’s doing better. I actually caught him smiling yesterday. I still don’t feel like I know him as well as the others, but we’re getting there. Maybe when you wake up you can give me some pointers.”

But despite the smile and the team bonding, Barton still hasn’t set a foot near the hospital. Steve doesn’t want to bring it up in case it undoes all the work of getting him to join in with them in the first place. Maybe he’ll talk to Natasha and see if she can find out what’s going on, although she’s been reluctant to talk about anything to do with Coulson and Barton when Steve has brought it up before.

* * *

It’s been a month and the doctors have assured Steve that Coulson is going to wake up ‘any day now’. He still looks the same though, pale and thin after being fed through an IV for weeks, and lying perfectly still.

Steve lets out a weary sigh as he slides into his chair beside Coulson’s bed. He’s spent the better part of the day arguing with Tony about stupid little things, half of which he can’t even remember now. Tony was just in one of those moods where he was determined to push Steve’s buttons no matter what Steve said. Steve could have said that the sky was blue and he’s certain Tony would have argued with him about it.

And something has happened with Barton. Steve has no idea what, but he’s spent the last couple of days out of sight. The only reason Steve knows he’s even there is that his food occasionally disappears. No one has seen him though, except Natasha who just shrugged when Steve asked where he was.

“He’ll come out when he wants to be found.”

She didn’t seem worried but Steve was. He didn’t like anything that upset the team dynamic and right now they weren’t much better than they were before they all got together for the first time.

“I don’t know how you did it,” Steve tells Coulson once he’s settled. “Sometimes it’s like dealing with a bunch of children. I feel like a babysitter.”

Coulson doesn’t respond but Steve is quite sure he knows what he’s talking about.

“Things will be better when you’re back on your feet,” Steve says. It's half a promise to Coulson and half a promise to himself.

“I bet you’ll be able to find out what’s bothering Barton, and no one threatens Stark better than you do. I think he kind of misses it actually. Like it or not, you’re one of us. Tony’s already set a room aside for you for when you wake up.

You know, after you... after Loki... Fury told us that you still believed in heroes. Well, I do too, because I’m looking at one right now. You went after Loki without a thought. You had no armor, no serum, no special skills; you just did it because it was the right thing to do. That’s a hero, Coulson, and I believe in you.”

Steve hadn’t really intended to make a big speech but it needed to be said, and when he was done he reached over and gave Coulson’s hand a gentle squeeze. “That’s why you need to wake up. We all believe in you, and we all need you.”

He almost trips over his chair when Coulson squeezes back. It’s weak, but there’s definitely something there.

“Agent Coulson?” Steve asks hopefully, even though Coulson’s eyes are closed. “Can you hear me?”

There’s another squeeze of his hand and then his lips part.

“Clint?”

Steve frowns. Coulson’s voice is weak, little more than a whisper, but the name he spoke was definitely clear.

“Clint?” Coulson says again, and then the room is full of doctors and Steve is ushered outside. He stands for a moment, watching through the window as Coulson is examined and notes are taken, then he heads back towards the tower with one purpose in mind.

* * *

“Natasha, I need to speak to Barton. Now.” He doesn’t often use what Tony calls his ‘command voice’ when they’re off the clock but this is important and he needs Natasha to know that.

She doesn’t even flinch, simply looks at him for a moment and then disappears. Five minutes later, Barton wanders in trying to look casual but Steve can’t help but wince at how awful he looks. It’s clear he hasn’t been sleeping, his face is almost white and there are dark shadows beneath his eyes that make him look like the walking dead.

“You wanted to see me, sir? Got something for me to shoot?”

Steve doesn’t say he’s amazed Barton can even stand up let alone shoot and he simply motions with his hand. “Come with me.”

For a moment, Steve thinks Barton is going to argue but after a moment he shrugs and follows.

The car journey is silent, with Barton simply staring out of the window as they drive. Even glancing at him occasionally, Steve can tell that he’s not really seeing what’s outside. He’s lost in his own head, which is a feeling Steve understands all too well.

He expects some sort of protest or argument when they pull up outside the hospital, but all Barton does it stare at his hands in silence.

“Agent Coulson woke up about an hour ago,” Steve says when it becomes clear Barton isn’t going to say a word. “The first thing he did was ask for you.”

Barton still doesn’t speak, but Steve can see the tension in his arms and shoulders, recognises the signs of someone about to take flight.

“Look,” he says gently, “I’m not blind. I can see you care about him, and I can see you’re torturing yourself about what happened to him. That’s why you haven’t been to see him, right? Because you think it’s your fault?

I know, I can tell you it’s not your fault, and I’m sure he’ll tell you the same thing, but I also know you won’t listen. So, you can beat yourself up all you like, but he needs you right now. You want to make things right? Suck it up and go in there and talk to him.”

If anyone had told Steve he’d one day find himself giving relationship advice to, well, anyone really, he’d have laughed in their face. But here he is, adapting yet again to the never ending strangeness that is his life.

Barton’s picking at the skin around the nail on his thumb now, still quiet, and not even registering that he’s taken Steve’s words in.

Then, all of a sudden, he’s out of the car before Steve has even processed that he’s moving and is striding into the hospital without looking back.

Steve rubs a hand over his face. He really needs a drink.

* * *

It hadn’t taken long for Steve to discover that the serum has the same effect on caffeine as it does on alcohol, so drinking coffee is kind of pointless. He likes tea though, so he heads to the Starbucks around the corner and sits nursing a black tea and sketching a picture of the tree outside.

He gives it an hour before heading back to the hospital just to make sure everything is okay.

There’s no shouting as he approaches Coulson’s room so he figures that’s a promising start. He really doesn’t want to intrude on a private moment, so he peeks his head around the door, fully prepared to make a hasty retreat if needed.

“Captain Rogers,” Coulson’s voice is still weak but he sounds a little more alert at least. Steve steps into the room and can’t prevent the small smile from curling on his lips.

Coulson has shuffled over slightly in his bed to make room for Barton, who is currently sleeping with his head resting on Coulson’s uninjured shoulder.

He looks better already. Relaxed and content. Which is pretty much how Coulson himself looks despite his pale face and gaunt features.

“Agent Coulson,” Steve greets him with a nod of his head. “Good to see you awake. How are you feeling? And, please, call me Steve.”

“Steve,” Coulson repeats, a soft smile curling at his lips like he suddenly has everything in the world that he ever wanted. “You can call me Phil, if you like.”

Barton lets out a soft murmur and buries his face into Coulson’s neck.

“Clint told me you’re responsible for his presence here,” Coulson says, even as he rubs a hand over Barton’s shoulder. “Thank you.”

“It’s the least I could do,” Steve replies. “You should get some more rest though. I’ll let the others know you’re awake, but I’ll make it clear you’re not to have any visitors until tomorrow.”

Coulson’s eyes are already starting to close and Steve quietly makes his way towards the door.

“I dreamed about you,” Coulson says, just before Steve reaches the exit. “I mean. . . not like that. You were just talking to me.”

Steve grins over his shoulder. “That wasn’t a dream, Phil. I was present while you were unconscious.”

“Oh,” Coulson smiles as he drifts off. “I guess that makes us even then.”
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