He leaned his head back against the side of the old truck and closed his eyes. The sun was warm on his face and the breeze lightly ruffled his hair. If he let himself imagine, it was almost like his other half was running his fingers through it like he would when they were in bed or when he had his head in his lap while they caught up on Supernanny.
The dog tags, wrapped around the rearview mirror, jingled in the breeze coming through the open windows and his hand came up automatically to wrap around the chain hanging from his neck. He inhaled shakily, letting the familiar feel of the matching tags and rings ground him. If he felt a tear tracking down his cheek, well, no one was around to call him on it.
Natasha kept asking him if he’d gone by the grave, but he couldn’t. What was the point? What and who he was looking for wasn’t under that flag and slab of granite. That was just a pile of bones he hadn’t even recognized when he’d tried (and failed) to identify the body, not the love of his life. His soul was flying free and he felt closer to him out here in the country, kicking up clouds of dust and pushing the old Ford as fast as it would go; just like they used to do in their rarer than rare shared down time.
He knew it was killing her not to say anything whenever she saw the threadbare Go Army t-shirt come out, but the way she pursed her lips said more than she probably knew, which told him just how badly she was dealing with everything, too. Natasha rarely gave away anything, but he knew she thought he was losing it.
He wasn’t. He was coping in his own messed up way. So what if that meant disappearing in the middle of the day to drive a beat up old truck through empty fields? If he didn’t get out of HQ, out of the city sometimes, he was pretty sure he’d shoot someone and that wouldn’t help any of them. Hill might have made a comment or two, but Fury hadn’t said anything, so he kept on as he had been. It was working…for a certain value of the definition of the word.
His phone vibrated and he dug it out of the pocket of his jeans.
“Yeah,” he said hoarsely, not even bothering to check the caller ID.
“Phil,” Natasha said softly.
Something in her voice made Phil sit up a little straighter against Clint’s truck. “What is it, Natasha?”
“You need to come back.”
He frowned, trying to puzzle out what he was hearing underneath the words, but he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to parse the nuances right now.
“I’ll be back in a couple of hours. You know that.”
This time it was easy to hear her frustration. “You need to come back now. Phil, it’s Clint. He’s alive.”
Phil sucked in a breath. “What?”
That…that just wasn’t possible. The body the Avengers had recovered had had Hawkeye’s tags around its neck and his tracker in its back. What?
“He’s alive. I’m not going to lie, he’s hurt pretty bad, but he’s awake and asking for you.”
Phil blinked rapidly, fumbling for the keys, and trying to stand up at the same time. He swore softly when he lost his balance and fell on his ass. “Fuck driving back. Send Stark to pick me up.”
Oh, if any of the junior agents could see him now his reputation as the most stoic hardass in SHIELD would be completely shot. He couldn’t even begin to care right now.
He heard a thread of smug humor in her voice when Natasha replied, “I figured you’d say that. He should be showing up in a few minutes.”
He scowled as he scanned the sky. “If you already had Ironman in route, why did you call to tell me to come in?”
She snorted delicately. “Would you really have wanted Tony Stark to break the news to you?”
Phil nodded even though she couldn’t see him. “Good point.”
He could hear Ironman’s repulsors now. “He’s almost here, Tasha.” He took a deep breath. “Can. Can I talk to him?”
“Fury’s in with him right now,” she said gently. “He’s all yours once you get back here though.”
Stark landed in front of him and flipped his faceplate up. Phil held up a hand to forestall whatever smartass remark he knew was forthcoming. Into the phone he said, “Stark’s here. We’ll be back in,” he looked at Stark who mouthed twenty at him, “We’ll be back in twenty minutes. And Tasha…thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she said simply and hung up.
Phil put his phone in his pocket and eyed Stark as he stood up and brushed the back of his jeans off. “Whatever you’re thinking of saying, Mr. Stark, I highly recommend that you don’t.”
Stark shook his head. “This isn’t a time for jokes, Agent. I’m just glad the two of you get a second chance.” It was the most sincere thing he’d ever heard Stark say.
“Thank you. Let me close up the truck and we can be on our way.”
“Barton really embraced the cliché of being a good ol’ Midwestern Boy, didn’t he,” Stark asked as he eyed the beat up old truck; not quite able to resist saying something after all.
With his back turned, Phil let himself smile, thinking of all the camping trips and nights out under the stars in the old beast. He patted the side as he closed the door and locked it. “Don’t mock a classic, Mr. Stark,” he said in his usual deadpan manner.
“Never, Agent Coulson,” Stark replied with his usual smirk.
Phil had to admit it felt good to snark with the other man again. He felt almost normal, much more so than he had in the last three months anyway.
“Come on, Agent, let’s get you back to your man,” Tony said as he flipped the faceplate down.
Phil couldn’t stop the hopeful smile that lit up his face and he was very thankful Stark didn’t tease him about it. “Yes, please.”
There was a lot to be done, to be explained, but Phil didn’t care. Clint was alive. That was all that really mattered at the moment.
They’d come back for the truck and it would be just like old times. Phil couldn’t wait.
Warnings: Songfic, Angst, Temporary/Mistaken Character Death
I put my phone on random and Lee Brice’s I Drive Your Truck came on and my head conjured up this little angst-fest. It’s a very emotional song. This is my first time writing Clint/Coulson and I am extremely nervous. Please be kind. Thanks be to Snogged and Shanachie_quill for the betas. Any remaining mistakes are on me.
Written: March 13, 2013
Word Count: 1,092
Also at AO3.