sirona_fics: (clint/phil)
[personal profile] sirona_fics
Title: And I'll cross oceans like never before
Pairing: Clint/Phil
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: (non-permanent) animal transformation, angst, pining, (non-permanent) injury, sexual situations (post-transformation-to-normal).
Word count: ~17,000
Summary: 'Oh, hell no,' he thinks, looking down at his hands only to be met with furry paws instead of the fingers he expects. Or the one where Loki turns Clint into a puppy, and his new condition allows him to gain some startling insights into their resident babysitter agent.
Notes: Entirely [livejournal.com profile] foxxcub's fault for posting a certain gif and expressing a wish to see Clint transformed into said puppy. And then some feels entered the equation in the comments, and then [livejournal.com profile] kellifer_fic joined in, and long story short, this was born. Officially for the 'magical transformation' square on my [livejournal.com profile] avengers_tables Cliche bingo card. Title from Shelter by the xx. Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] foxxcub, who in addition to prompting this also graciously agreed to beta it. <3


EDIT: Now with unbelievably awesome fanart by [livejournal.com profile] essouffle. ART OF MY HEART, NO LIE. THIS IS SO THEM. *________*



Everything is really, really loud. The bright light hurts Clint’s eyes; he burrows his head under a scrap of fabric that smells like him, feels safe.

"...Where is he?! Has he been shrunk? Teleported? Work with me here, Thor, what can your brother do?"

Clint whimpers. There's no call for Tony to be so deafening.

"My brother would always choose to enact the biggest mischief he can think of, but I do not think he would harm Hawkeye; it would not serve his purpose at present. However I do believe I can hear something coming from yon pile of garments left behind; perhaps if you would hold your peace for a moment...?"

"What in the hell does that mean?"

"It means shut up a second, Tony," Natasha snaps.

Finally, blessed quiet. Clint decides it's safe to crawl out. His legs feel strange; come to think of it, his arms don't really feel like his arms, and when he tries to straighten...

'Oh, hell no,' he thinks, looking down at his hands only to be met with furry paws instead of the fingers he expects. "Thor, what the fuck did your fucking brother do to me?" he yells--only he doesn't, because no words appear from his lips. Instead, there's... barking?

Fucking fuck.

"My most sincere apologies, Clint," Thor says, while huge arms scoop him up and lift him until he's looking at Thor's distraught face, blue eyes sad. "It appears that my brother has turned you into a small dog."

"No shit," Clint yaps. To his surprise, Thor ducks his head, like he understood what Clint just said. "You can... understand me?"

"My father created the All Speak. I can understand everything, in any language that is spoken, included that of canines. I can assure you this condition is not permanent. That would require a far greater level of magic than my brother would be willing to expend for the sake of mischief. We will simply have to endure until it reverses itself."

"'Endure,' he says," Clint bitches. "You're not the one stuck in dog form for however long!"

"What's he saying?" Tony demands.

"He is not happy," Thor supplies with a wince.

"No shit," Tony snaps. Clint looks at him approvingly. There's a reason Tony's his favourite.

Natasha sighs. Clint turns his head to find her, feels a draft over the back of his hind legs as he -- apparently -- wags his tail at her. Gah, this is beyond embarrassing.

"Oh, look, he likes you," Tony says. Clint growls; it feels good. Much more effective than swearing, which directed at Tony is like water sliding off a duck's back. Tony's face falls; he gets these sad eyes when he looks at Clint, and he smells wistful--which apparently is now something that Clint can tell, Jesus, could this day get any weirder? He sighs, wriggles in Thor's hands until Thor passes him to Tony, and then licks his face behind the lifted visor of the armour. He's a little blinded by what a huge smile he gets back for that.

"What's happened? Where's Hawkeye? Why are you holding a Corgi?" Steve demands as he runs up.

"You mean why am I holding Clint," Tony corrects, since it's the answer to all three questions. Clint barely hears him, because he is frozen with fury -- Loki turned him into a Corgi? He's a lap dog now?!

"Why is he growling? Is he in pain?" Steve asks, a distressed frown on his face.

Thor, relegated to interpreter for the duration of the... incident, explains.

"...A Corgi, he couldn't have turned me into something big and fierce, no, it had to be a a damn Corgi," Clint yaps on, five minutes later, when he feels a warm hand settle on the scruff of his neck and lift him out of Tony's arms -- which is kind of a relief, because metal? Not so comfortable when you're a small dog, damn it.

"Widow, Cap, you're overdue for a briefing. Iron Man, you're done, head on home. Thor, you too, take the Hulk with you. Barton, you're staying with me, you need to be checked over. I've called in the vets."

"The vets?" Clint howls, outraged.

Coulson merely sighs. "Stop that infernal noise, who did you think would make sure you're okay in this shape?"

"Not the fucking vets, Jesus, Thor, you tell them that if they come at me with a rectal thermometer I am going to give them all rabies, I fucking swear."

"Son of Coul, Clint says--"

"I think I get the picture. No one's gonna touch your privates, don't worry. I'll whisk you out of there if they even reach for the snipping scissors."

"What?!"

Strong hands close on him when he tries to wriggle out of Coulson's grip. "Barton, calm down. You'll be done in no time."

Clint settles, albeit extremely reluctantly. "This is no time to decide you have a sense of humor, fucking hell," he grumbles.

True to Coulson's word, the vets pronounce him completely healthy, and no one even reaches for his ass or balls, which is good for them, because Clint is suddenly in possession of a bunch of very sharp teeth and isn't shy about using them.

Coulson nods when the vet gives him the all-clear and turns on his heel, clicking his fingers. To his horror, Clint's legs move to obey before he can even think to stop them. He jumps off the examination table, slinks sullenly after Coulson as he leads the way away from medical bay and up to the briefing rooms. Coulson holds the doors open for him obligingly, which Clint grudgingly appreciates. This 'having four legs' thing is kind of relaxing, actually; he's certainly faster that way, even if he still doesn't manage to trip Coulson up, the man is some kind of machine.

He doesn't get yelled at, either, which is kind of strange. Most of Clint’s superiors in the past have eventually sent him packing, sooner or later. Coulson, though, appears utterly unruffled, face stuck into that irritating mask of polite interest that Clint itches to crack at the best of times. Clint doesn't like mysteries. He decides to explore the new advantage he's found himself with, and sniffs the air curiously.

Coulson smells... amused. Clint blinks, taken aback. Well, that's a new one. Huh.

Coulson pushes another door open, and Clint breaks into a trot to keep up with him. He only sees shades of black, white, blue and yellow now, but his eyesight is as sharp as ever, if not sharper. There's Steve and Natasha, sitting close together, heads bowed, conferring in a low voice. They break it off the second they see the two of them.

"Is he all right?" Steve demands.

"He is perfectly healthy, Captain Rogers. We'll just have to wait for the spell to reverse itself. Until such a time I propose he stays confined to either the Avengers mansion or to HQ, your call."

"We're taking him home with us," Steve says immediately. He smells protective, worried. Natasha nods, face set. She smells even more worried than Steve.

"Guys, I'm okay," he tries to tell them, but to his frustration only yaps come out. He hates the look of fleeting panic that flashes over their faces.

"Very well. Take him to the mansion, but make sure you bring him back here with you as well. Agreed?"

"Yes, sir," they both say. Steve gets up and rounds the table, kneels in front of Clint, offers him a hand.

"Come on, boy," he cajoles, running it over Clint's fur. It's... kind of nice, actually. He takes a step forward, lets Steve pick him up and cuddle him to that massive, warm chest of his. The heat is delicious; he curls up against it, huffs contentedly. When he looks at Coulson, he catches a flash of smile that transforms his whole face, punches Clint in the gut. Coulson smells relieved, fond, and for a second Clint can't breathe from a realisation that feels a long time in coming -- Coulson genuinely cares for all of them. This isn't just his job; he's not watching their backs just because he was assigned to keep them in line. He does it because he wants to.

It's a shock that follows him all the way home, curled on Steve's lap as Natasha drives them out of downtown Manhattan.

---

The days blur for Clint after that. Apparently being a dog is exhausting, and the moment he lies down somewhere for more than ten minutes, he falls asleep. The naps make it hard to keep track of time, especially when it's mostly spent in the mansion -- since Loki's latest attack, the other villains have been awfully quiet.

Life as a dog in the Avengers mansion ought to be the best thing -- he gets plenty of attention, JARVIS lets him out for a walk as often as he likes (scratching at the door is particularly satisfying every time Tony does something degrading like picking him up and making cutesy faces at him while he growls), and all the food he can eat.

Unfortunately, it's not the best life for a dog that is in fact Clint, and thus sentient. Even Thor forgets sometimes that Clint is still Clint inside, and tries to get him to fetch. Obtaining canine instincts in addition to being aware of everything you're doing is hell, because while Clint the man wants to tell Thor to fuck the hell off, Clint the dog yaps happily and runs after the ball, only remembering himself when he's got it in his mouth and is trotting back to Thor. It's humiliating, especially because it feels so good to be patted on the head and called a 'good dog'. It's even more frustrating the way people's faces fall and they smell upset when Clint growls at them, because it hurts both the dog and the man.

Eventually, he just can't do it anymore. Fuck it, he's a dog. Certain things feel good even if he doesn't think they should, and he's never been the kind of person to deny himself something just because he's not supposed to enjoy it. To hell with it.

So he jumps in Steve's lap when Steve smells sad, or when he pats at his knee hopefully, and lets Steve's huge, warm hands pet him until he's comatose from bliss; and he allows Tony to play with him, and licks his face when he can wriggle close enough, and lets the way Tony laughs--so happy it's almost painful--make him happy, too. He lets Darcy take him for long walks until he's pleasantly exhausted, and he doesn't bite Natasha when she fits a Louis Vuitton leather collar on his neck, because he looks damn fine in it, if he says so himself. Hey, it's a dog's life, and if they want to spoil him rotten, who's he to ruin their fun?

And if sometimes he can't breathe from how much it fucking sucks that no one but Thor can understand what he's saying; and if he stops sometimes, on one of his and Darcy's walks, and stares into the distance, longing for a bow in his hands so much it tears him apart inside, well. No one needs to know about those moments.

The only person who still talks to him like he's Clint Barton is, perhaps not so strangely after all, Coulson himself. He comes over every day (it's the only way Clint can keep track of how many days have passed, the moment Coulson walks through the door), and lets Clint trot at his heels as he finds each Avenger in turn and checks in with them. He never pets Clint on the head when he comes in or when he leaves; he never tries to throw a ball for him, or call him a "good boy". Clint's so pathetically grateful he could howl.

So he doesn't understand why, around the tenth time Coulson walks through the front door, he starts to resent it. Coulson treats him like a person, still, an annoying person maybe, but a person nonetheless. Why the hell would Clint want him to pet his head? It makes no fucking sense.

Clint doesn't like mysteries any more as a dog than he did as a man. Clearly, further exposure to this phenomenon is needed. So when Coulson tries to leave for the twelfth time, Clint sprints after him and hops in the driver's seat of Coulson's boring government sedan, refusing to budge when he's ordered down.

"Barton," Coulson barks, but Clint just trots over to the passenger seat and plants his doggy ass down, lets his tongue loll, excitement curling in his gut.

"He probably needs a break from the house, poor thing," Steve says, concerned. "He's been holed up here for almost two weeks. He could do with a change of scenery. I'm sure he won't be any trouble."

Clint whines, begging and hating himself for it, but fuck if he's not going nuts cooped up in the house when he can't even hold a book, let alone a bow. Coulson throws him a look, then sighs. "Fine," he says, climbs inside the car and shuts his door, lowers the windows. "You can get him the next time you come in."

Steve nods, relieved. "Sure, Phil."

Coulson sighs again, but he doesn't smell angry, just resigned, and Clint will take it. He turns to the door when they leave the driveway, poking his nose out over the window and relishing the wind in his fur, lifting his ears.

"Don't fall out," is all Coulson says, but he lowers the window as far down as it'll go, turns on the radio to a Classic Rock station that makes Clint grin, tongue lolling out again. He never would have figured Coulson for a Pink Floyd fan, but he's unmistakably humming under his breath when Wish You Were Here comes on. The guy's full of surprises.

Clint feels better already when they reach HQ; the change in scenery alone palpably lifts his mood. He jumps out when Coulson holds the door open, pads happily after him and into the elevator.

Before they've even reached the floor where Coulson's office is located, there are three people in the elevator with them, all demanding Coulson's attention. He listens to each of them, gives directions, accepts the files they push in his hands, signs paperwork. Clint huddles in the corner behind Coulson, whose legs block Clint from the other people, making sure he doesn't get trampled. It's... probably the kindest thing anyone's ever done for Clint of their own volition.

When the elevator opens on the 27th floor, Coulson marches out, nose already in one of the more urgent files he's been handed. Clint follows, trying not to get distracted by all the new smells, so many strange people in the place, so many trails to follow. Then Coulson clicks his fingers again, and just like that Clint's mind sharpens, refocuses, the overwhelming stimuli falling away. He wonders where Coulson learned to do that; then again, the man's superpower appears to be capability. He might have been born knowing.

Coulson's office smells soothing, familiar. It takes Clint a moment to realise it's because it smells of Coulson, the warm, woodsy smell of his aftershave, a hint of bergamot from his soap. Clint feels something inside him unclench, a ball of anxiety he hadn't even realised he'd been carrying.

There's a sofa hugging the wall, a cushion at one end. Clint considers it, looks down at his dirty paws. There's nowhere else he can be out of the way, though. Unless...

Coulson sits at his desk, paperwork already spread all over the top. Clint slinks closer, shimmies between Coulson's leg and the edge of the desk, curls up near his feet. He feels a little ridiculous, like the worst kind of stereotype, sleeping at Coulson's feet, he'll never hear the end of it, but it feels... safe. Nice. Clint hopes Coulson won't kick him by mistake as he sets his head on his paws.

He's out before he can even finish the thought.

---

He wakes when the chair moves back and the foot his head's been resting on shifts, trying to slide from under him carefully. Clint’s up and looking around before he even knows what he's doing; the only thing that stops him from freaking the fuck out at finding himself boxed in between wood on one side and someone on the other is the smell.

Oh. He's in Coulson's office, of course.

"It's almost three. I'm going for some lunch, come on. You must be hungry, too."

Clint's stomach rumbles. He's ravenous.

Coulson strides down the corridor again, still reading. Doesn't the man ever rest? Clint thinks, stretching his legs by springing to the end of the corridor and back before walking placidly by Coulson's side. It's easy to find the cafeteria -- he just needs to follow his nose, if not Coulson's footsteps.

"Coulson," someone calls; Clint turns to find Fury bearing down on them, frowning at him. "Is that..."

"He needed a break, sir. He's no bother."

'No bother' is not how he'd have liked to have been described, Clint thinks sourly. Fury sends a considering look between them before nodding.

"All right. If anyone can keep him in line, it's you."

Clint wants to growl, so much, but even he has a self-preservation instinct. Something tells him that if he wanted to bite Fury, he'd break his teeth on him.

Fury leaves them alone after that, and Coulson just turns placidly towards the double doors where all the yummy smells are coming from, propping one open with his foot for Clint to follow.

He doesn't expect what happens when people spot him.

"Oh my goodness, he's adorable!"

"Is he yours, Phil?"

"Or is it a she?"

"Here, girl!"

"It's a he," Coulson says mildly. This doesn't really do anything to deter his admirers. A geeky-looking guy with glasses crouches and scratches behind his ears, which feels nice, and an older woman with steel-gray hair tickles his chin.

It's a marked difference to how people normally react when they see him. Normally they tend to walk right past, with merely a glance in his direction. Clint's kind of grateful Coulson didn't mention who he was -- sure, it's strictly need-to-know basis, but Coulson could have been an ass about it.

He's left alone after a while, and he looks around until he spots Coulson at the end of a table on the other side of the room. He pads over, sniffs to see what Coulson got for himself. Some kind of fish, salad. Ugh.

A cardboard plate is lowered in front of him, filled with chunks of steak. That's more like it. He gobbles it all up, traitorous tail wagging behind him. Coulson doesn't move until he's finished, which is smart, because Tony discovered the first day after Clint was changed that moving close to his food before he's done is a big mistake. Then it's back to the office, where Clint finds that he's not sleepy in the least anymore. He dozed away the whole morning, and now he'd like a walk, please and thank you.

When he noses at Coulson's leg, he's given a discouraging look. He desperately wants to go out, though, and there's a perfectly nice garden quad in between the buildings that house SHIELD. It's just a five minute walk away; surely Coulson can work outside as well as in. He whines, paws at Coulson's foot.

"Barton, I'm working."

"You can write your report outside," Clint barks. Naturally, this goes right over Coulson's head. Miserable, Clint flops by Coulson's feet again, resentfully turning his back to him.

The shadows shift and lengthen; the light outside fades, and so does the quiet hum of noise in the open space on the other side of the door. Coulson doesn't move except to reach for another file. Clint can feel his legs aching from all the lying down; he gets up, stretches, goes exploring. He jumps up on top of the sofa, just to see what Coulson would do, but he pays him no mind. Fuck this. He noses the door open wider than the crack it was at, thinks he's been perfectly stealthy about it until Coulson's voice makes him freeze in place.

"If you get lost, I'm not coming after you," he says. Clint looks back; Coulson's head hasn't lifted. He feels the intense desire to stick his tongue out at him. He knows this place perfectly well; he's not going to get lost.

Three hours later, Clint plants his butt in the middle of a corridor several floors away, and admits that he's fucked. Damn it, every floor looks the same when you're a foot tall, and his nose has been no help at all; he can't catch Coulson's scent anywhere. Looks like he's spending the night here, before someone finds him in the morning and calls someone who calls someone who calls Fury and Fury kicks his ass out. And on top of all that he really needs to piss, but if he goes here he's going to be mocked for the rest of his natural life, however long that ends up being.

He flops down, puts his head on his paws, sighs. This being-a-dog business sucks.

"Barton," Coulson's disembodied voice carries from the direction of the elevator. Clint's up and running so fast that he barrels into Coulson's legs before he can skid to a stop. Coulson takes a step back inside the cabin, sighs, mouth quirking. "You're coming home with me tonight, it seems."

Clint wags his tail. That sounds like fun.

The fresh night air is bliss in his nose; he sniffs happily, bounds away so he can do his business against one of the small trees that dot the quad. Coulson waits patiently for him, two minutes, three. Clint so doesn't want to go back inside. In the end, Coulson fishes his car keys out, dangles them from his finger.

"Look, I'll go get the car. See that passage? That leads out to the street. Meet me there in five minutes, all right?"

"Sure," Clint yips.

Coulson hesitates before he walks back inside, looks back. "Watch the traffic," he says, then disappears through the door.

Clint smiles.

True to his words, slightly longer than five minutes later Clint trots out to find Coulson idling against the sidewalk. The passenger door pops open, and he takes a flying leap inside, scrambles up into the seat. Coulson pulls the door shut behind his back; he's leaning close, and Clint can smell how tired he is. For the first time he wonders if that's now all of Coulson's days go, when he isn't in the field with them -- reams of paperwork, closed off in his office all day, people coming to get a piece of him any time they need to.

Coulson winds the window down again, and Clint sticks his nose outside, paws braced on the door. They're on the other side of town before long, and Coulson's pulling up outside a nice five-story building in one of the quiet neighborhoods. He climbs out, Clint at his heels, beeps the car locked and trudges up to the front door. They scale the stairs up to the forth floor, and Coulson turns to the right of the staircase, flicks on the light switch next to the doorway, locks the door back up once Clint has darted inside.

Clint can't help himself -- he must explore immediately. Three doorways lead off the spacious entryway, right, left and straight ahead. Coulson walks a little way to the right, opens the door-- "Bathroom," then comes back and goes left-- "Bedroom," then returns to the center and opens the last door straight ahead-- "Living room and kitchen."

Clint pays him no mind. He's already nosing inside the living room. A long, soft-looking couch lives in the middle, facing a state-of-the-art entertainment system, and there's a table with four chairs in one corner of the open space, on top of which there's a pile of files and more paperwork. A small kitchen takes up the far corner on the right. It looks surprisingly lived-in, the countertops housing a coffee machine, a waffle maker, three huge canisters that proclaim to be “coffee,” “sugar,” and “flour,” a spice rack, a set of kitchen knives, a microwave. That's all Clint can see from his vantage point; curious, he trots forward, makes to jump on the sofa.

"If you're going up there, come with me first," Coulson says, and leads the way back to the bathroom. He wets a washcloth, crouches down. "Paw," he directs. Clint lifts it obediently, and Coulson wipes it, careful, thorough. "Next."

Feet clean, Clint lopes back to the living room, scrambles up on the sofa. There's a bread bin at the far end of the counter, a drier next to the sink. The cupboards are closed; he's going to have to wait to find out what's in there. There's a small bookshelf in place of one of the cabinets, though; it's full of books, spines worn, clearly used. Huh.

"Right, I'm not going to make up any rules for you; you're welcome to come and go. If you chew or break something, you're paying for it when you're back to human. Touch those cooking books and you'll never find out how long that'll take."

Clint feels the strange need to salute; he does, because he's still Clint Barton, no matter the shape. He lifts one leg, touches his paw to his forehead. Coulson snorts, turns on his heel and walks away. Two light thumps signal him kicking his shoes off, and then the door to the bedroom closes quietly.

Clint paws at the cushions before slumping on top of one. He's almost dozing when Coulson comes back out, changed into a loose pair of pants and a t-shirt with The Clash logo on the front of it. He looks--soft around the edges, even more tired now that he's out of his suit. He takes two bowls out of the top cupboard in the middle, fills one with water and places it on the floor. It's only then that Clint realises how thirsty he is; he rushes over and laps half of it in one go. When he takes a step back at last, Coulson picks it up, refills it, returns it to the floor.

"Are you going to bite me if I try to feed you dog food?" he asks, a thread of amusement threading in his voice. Clint growls a little, shows him his teeth. "That's what I thought. I don't have anything but leftover Chinese tonight--"

Clint barks eagerly. That's A-okay with him. Coulson's mouth curls in that fond smile again, and he reaches for the fridge. Clint misses the actual appearance of the food because he's too busy stopping himself from rising on his hind paws and trying to lick Coulson's face. It's completely ridiculous; Coulson would never allow it. He doesn't even know where such a stupid idea came from.

Coulson empties the contents of a box of chicken noodles into the bowl; Clint nudges his hand in his haste to get at the food -- the steak at lunch was a long time ago. Coulson hesitates, then Clint feels the lightest of strokes over his head before the hand lifts and Coulson turns away. It nearly chokes him, how much he wants to run after him, jump up to be lifted. This is not what he should want from Coulson at all.

He busies himself with eating; to his endless consternation, the Chinese just doesn't taste the same to his doggy taste buds. It's still palatable, though, and he's not going to complain. When he's licked the last of the sauce out of his bowl, Clint looks around again, to see Coulson crunching on a piece of toast with what looks (and smells) like some cheese on top, nothing more. It's... kind of sad. He notes the tired slump of his shoulders, the way his eyes are narrowed against the flickering light of the TV screen. His feet are propped up on the coffee table, and once he's pushed the last of the toast in his mouth, he sets the plate down and shifts until his head is pillowed on the back of the sofa. Clint pads over, hesitates, then takes a flying leap on top of the cushions. Coulson spares him a glance, but says nothing, so Clint settles down, back pressed to Coulson's hip.

Coulson doesn't move. His hand is lying on top of his thigh, but he doesn't reach over, doesn't pet Clint's fur. Just like back at the Avengers mansion, this seems to rub Clint up the wrong way, even though there's absolutely no reason it should. He turns his head and looks up at Coulson, who has his eyes closed. Stealthily, Clint rises, places a careful paw on Coulson's leg. Coulson cracks one eye open, observes him steadily. Then he lifts his arm away from his thigh, holds it up in invitation. Clint slinks up, stretches over him, basking in the heat that emanates from his body, pillows his head along his leg. Coulson's arm comes down, and his fingers thread into the fur of his back; they flex, and Clint immediately goes boneless. Ugh, he is never getting up again, the man's hands are magic.

Coulson obliges wordlessly, scratching gently against Clint's back, behind his ears. When he gets to his neck, his fingers snag on the collar Natasha put there. He stares a moment, before his mouth curves and he huffs out a laugh. Long, nimble fingers have it off in a flash.

"You don't need a collar, Barton; it's not like you're in any way controllable, in or out of it," he says fondly. One hand moves down from his throat, pets his chest, his belly. If Clint was a cat, he'd be purring his head off by now. Instead, he lets out a content little huff, sprawls over Coulson's lap, tail wagging slowly.

He doesn't remember the moment he nods off.

When he wakes, light is still flickering on the walls from the TV screen, but there's no movement at all. One of Coulson's arms is curled almost protectively around him, while the other lies lifeless on the sofa next to his hip. Clint turns to look, worried; but Coulson's chest rises and falls easily -- he's out like a light.

Clint has never seen him asleep. The creases along his forehead are there even in repose, although they're not as deeply etched as during the day. His mouth is slack and open just a little, while his lashes rest against the tops of his cheekbones.

He is utterly, indescribably beautiful.

The thought startles Clint badly; his body goes tense. Coulson reacts like the hardened soldier he is -- his eyes snap open, case the room, while his fingers grip over Clint's fur. Clint can sense the very moment Coulson realises he's home, and the weight on his lap isn't life-threatening. He lets out a long, shuddering sigh, fingers unclenching. Clint pushes himself to his feet, braces his paws over Coulson's chest, looks him in the eye. The corner of Coulson's mouth curls, just slightly, and his eyes soften.

"Barton," he says, voice coming up through Clint's paws and into his chest, "has anyone ever told you staring is creepy?"

Many, many times, as a matter of fact. Clint hasn't let that bother him before; no reason to start now. He darts in and licks Coulson's face, just to the side of his mouth, darts away again as Coulson's arms close on empty air. He dances at the edge of the sofa, ass in the air, tail wagging as he braces himself for retaliation; he's expecting a cushion to be thrown at his head for that at the least.

He isn't expecting Coulson to burst out laughing, full-out, unchecked. It surprises him so much that he freezes for a long moment; and that's when the anticipated cushion materialises, smacks him lightly on the muzzle as it's thrown in his face.

"Asshole," Coulson mutters, but he's still grinning, the back of one hand wiping against his mouth distractedly. Clint immediately wants to lick him again.

"Just for that, you can sleep on the sofa," Coulson declares, but when Clint's ears droop and he lowers his head, Coulson merely sighs and walks away, doesn't try to stop Clint from following.

Coulson, it seems, for all his superhuman bad-assery, is just as susceptible to a pair of puppy eyes as the rest of them. Something to file away for future exploration, Clint thinks as he slinks on his heels, jumps up on Coulson's bed, pads around to find the perfect spot in which to sleep, flops down happily.

"Move over," Coulson says when he emerges from the bathroom in nothing but a pair of lounging pants. Clint loses a little time staring, so long that Coulson says, "I mean it, you want to sleep in my bed, fine, just move over. That's my side."

Reeling from the thought of Coulson assigning him a side in his bed, Clint complies, moves across (it's cold, but it'll warm up quickly enough). Coulson climbs under the sheets, puts his hands over his face.

"What am I doing," Clint hears muffles into his palms before Coulson sighs, deeply. "Just tonight," he's told, but it sounds nothing like Coulson's usual implacable directives, more Coulson trying to convince himself.

Clint wonders whether it's because he's currently dog-shaped, and Coulson's a sucker for animals. The thought makes him strangely despondent.

Coulson drifts off after a little bit of shuffling under the blankets to get comfortable, but Clint lies awake, head propped on his paws, and watches him, chest feeling tight for no reason he can distinguish. Eventually he creeps over, settles his back against Coulson's side, and lets his light snores lull him to sleep.

He drifts awake with his bladder fairly screaming at him. It's still dark outside, not even a hint of blue along the edges of the window. The room is a little lighter, lit by the dim glow of Coulson's alarm clock. When he tries to move, he's startled to feel an arm across his middle, something pressed against his shoulders. A huff of air informs him that said thing can't really be anything other than Coulson's face, pressed to his fur. He doesn't understand why that sends a tight burst of pleasure through his chest, right where Coulson's arm holds him close.

He would lie there a lot longer if he wasn't worried that he'd pee the bed and Coulson would kill him. So he wriggles around, ignoring the soft noise of protest that Coulson makes, and nuzzles his face, cheek scratchy with stubble, eyes squeezed shut. When that doesn't work as well as he'd hoped, he smirks to himself and presses his cold, wet nose to Coulson's mouth, licking across his lips. Coulson jumps as if scalded, so hard that he has to flail to stay on the bed.

"Barton, what the fuck," he rasps, making a face and wiping at his mouth. Clint jumps off the bed, trots over to the door, and yips encouragingly.

Coulson flops back down on the bed, throws an arm over his face. "Fuck me," he groans, heartfelt.

Clint blinks at the bed, at Coulson sprawled on his back, bare chest tautly muscled and covered in fine hair, head thrown back baring his throat, and the thought crystallises in his mind all of a sudden -- do not pass Go, do not collect $200 -- he wants to. He really, really wants to.

Oh, fuck.

---

Coulson takes him for a walk after much cajoling on Clint's part, dressed in sweatpants he'd snatched from a basket of clean laundry and a sweatshirt to match. He looks rumpled, still sleepy even if his eyes are sharp and aware. The cold air does wonders for Clint's head, though sadly it doesn't manage to erase the unsettling revelation. All of a sudden, he feels awkward pissing in front of Coulson, which, how fucked up is that exactly? He is a damned dog, it's not like Coulson's watching him piss naked.

...Except that under his fur, that's exactly what he is. Holy Jesus fuck. He has got to stop thinking that way, or he's going to make himself utterly insane.

Coulson, to his credit, carefully looks away when Clint lifts his leg. He wants to kiss the man, which, again, he is currently a dog, not to mention that Coulson would be about as amenable to kissing human-Clint as he is dog-Clint.

He makes sure to run extra-fast around Coulson when they turn back to the apartment, because that thought is certainly not bothering him. At all.

The ride back into the city is slower than last night, even though they set off just as the sky starts to lighten in earnest. Clint doesn't see much of it, even though he's got his nose pressed to the window again, because the thing is.

The thing is that he is a terrible human being. Technically human. Probably a terrible canine being, too, come to think of it. It hadn't stopped him from lurking outside the bedroom door, watching Coulson put on his suit. All right, he looked away when Coulson came out of the shower, but only because it didn't occur to him what was happening inside the bedroom until it was too late. The image of Coulson's shirt sliding over his broad shoulders isn't one Clint's going to forget in a hurry.

The trip up to the office isn't much different than the last time; people mob Coulson the second he walks inside. Clint is starting to feel ever so slightly put-out by that; surely they don't need to be quite so enthusiastic to pounce on him.

He's in for a surprise when they reach Coulson's office, though, because there's a familiar scent hanging in the corridor; true enough, Coulson opens his door to find Natasha perched on one of the chairs before his desk, one leg propped on the seat, chin on her knee. She unfolds gracefully when they walk in, smirks a little to see Clint padding in at Coulson's heels. Clint wants to stick his tongue out at her.

"Got that thing you asked for, sir," she says, cool and professional except for that twitch in the corner of her mouth that Clint knows means nothing but trouble.

"Thank you, Agent Romanoff," Coulson says. He smells like he's blushing, blood rushing up his neck even if Clint can't see any evidence of that at all.

Then Natasha steps away from the desk, and Clint can do nothing but stare. There's a small doggy bed under the desk, exactly on the spot where he'd curled up on the floor yesterday afternoon. His heart starts beating faster.

"I can't believe you got me a bed," he says--barks, really. Natasha and Coulson share a look; Natasha grins. It's terrifying.

"I think he likes it," she says. One sharp canine glints in the light. She looks much more fearsome than Clint, and he's the animal right now.

"Does that mean I can't sleep in your bed anymore? Because I can't say I like that deal all that much."

There's a choked sound, and Clint whirls round to find Thor frozen in the doorway. Oh, crap.

"Don't say a word. You owe me for your brother's bullshit, Thor," Clint warns, and okay, so it comes out as a whine. The important thing is that no one else finds out what he just said, even though it's not at all what it sounded like.

"Thor?" Coulson asks, eyeing Thor's reddening face.

"It is nothing. Clint likes his new bed, though not as much as his old one."

"Bastard," Clint growls while Coulson smells flushed again. Thor smirks.

"I have a feeling I'm missing something," Natasha says, looking between the three of them shrewdly.

Clint doesn't like her focus at all. He pads over to his new bed, noses around.

Natasha smirks. "I thought you'd want to go back home by now. Aren't you bored here all day?"

Clint backs away from her, plants his ass in the middle of the bed and flops down, growling. They'll have to wrench him away from Phil's office if they want him to leave.

...Phil's office. Oh, fucking fuck, he is screwed. When he looks over, Thor looks utterly shocked. "What?" Clint barks, cornered and furious.

"Natasha, I do believe our friend will feel better to be in the center of things. I am sure he was getting bored in the mansion, too."

Natasha sniffs, looks down at Clint, who fights the urge to hide. He does tuck his muzzle between his front paws, looks up through his eyelashes. She frowns.

"That is so unfair, Barton. We need to find a way to change him back faster, he is impossible like this."

"I agree," Phil murmurs. Something stabs Clint right through the chest with the words. Of course Phil would want him changed back. He's probably sick of Clint invading his space. He closes his eyes miserably.

"I do not think the spell will last much longer. It has almost been two weeks, and my brother will have lost interest long before now. I would be expecting a reversal any day now."

Clint ought to feel relieved about that. Natasha and Thor certainly look it. Phil... doesn't smell relieved. Clint doesn't understand any of this.

The day is long and trying after that. Phil is buried in work again, leaving Clint alone with his thoughts, which is about the worst thing that can happen right now. He can't escape, can't shoot away his disquiet, can't clean his bow until he feels more settled. He can only lie in his (extremely comfortable) doggy bed, smell Phil's clean, masculine scent, and stew.

God, he should have gone with Natasha.

He's surprised, then, when Phil rises after a mere few hours, picks up a load of files and his lightweight laptop, and clicks his fingers again. Clint rises obediently (the very fact that he isn't pissed about that is terrifying), and follows Phil down the corridor, to the cafeteria where Phil picks up a take-away cup of their biggest coffee and a sandwich, and into the elevator. They emerge at ground level, and Phil leads the way back, the same route they took last night--

Clint, working out at last where they're going, rushes off ahead. He has to stop to wait for Phil to get close enough for the door sensors to catch him, but then the doors swoop open and he's outside again, in the large, green quad. It's a beautiful day, mild enough that there are several people dotting the picnic tables set out, paperwork fluttering in the breeze. Clint darts away, running fast and hard, getting his blood pumping. He does a couple circles of the pathways, whizzes up and down the length of the diamond-shaped area, pads over the grass and flops over, relishing the coolness over his fur.

When he thinks to look again, Phil is nowhere to be seen. Not to be deterred, Clint starts making the rounds, nosing around each table until he's at the other end, in a spot of sunlight that's still close to a tree spreading its branches over the other side of the table. There Phil sits, tapping away at the keys, referring to his papers every now and again. Clint stops when he's a little way away, watches as the air sends the short hair over Phil's head fluttering, his tie lifting on the current. Something inside Clint cramps with an emotion he is scared to death of identifying.

Phil looks up when Clint comes closer and flops at his feet, tongue lolling. The smile that lifts the corner of his mouth squeezes around Clint's heart until he can't breathe from the tightness in his chest. It's small, but it sends the corners of his eyes crinkling, warm and fond. Clint comes to the troubling realisation that he would do virtually anything to have that smile directed at him again.

This is getting dangerous for Clint's health. Because if Thor is to be believed (and he is), he's going to regain his human shape any day now, and then what will he do? He won't be able to curl up at Coulson's feet whenever he liked; he sure as hell won't be allowed to sprawl all over his lap and beg to be stroked. He's not even going to think about being allowed in Coulson's flat, his bed. That way lies madness. The thought of losing this, Phil calm and relaxed in his company, sharing his space without a thought; of being able to touch him whenever he liked, under the pretext that he isn't himself right now -- it twists Clint’s insides and fills them with lead. He slinks closer, pillows his head on Phil's shoe nearest to him, presses his side against his ankle. Phil looks down, surprised, but doesn't push him away, resumes typing like nothing at all's the matter.

Fuck. Clint had better take what he can get, while it's still on offer.

He doesn't leave Phil's side once during the day. When, a little later, Phil picks up his stuff and returns to his office, Clint follows dutifully, perhaps not as eager as yesterday but certainly willing. He reclaims his doggy bed, curling up with his nose near his tail, as small as he can make himself. Perhaps if he just holds very, very still when he's back to human, he might be allowed near again? But Coulson will never be as loose around him as he is now, he'll sigh and pinch the bridge of his nose and give him that bland smile that might actually kill Clint if he sees it directed at him again, after the change the past 24 hours have brought.

And let's be honest. He can be quiet and still as a mouse in the field, but off it? Quiet is not the word used most often to describe him. Silent, creepy, annoying -- sure. Peaceful -- not so much. There's no way Coulson will be willing to let this arrangement continue. He closes his eyes, drifts off without realising again, safe, heartsick, tired of thinking of all the ways he isn't enough.

He wakes when a hand strokes over his head, gentle, soft. He jumps to his feet, disoriented again, looks around wildly to find Phil on one knee at the edge of the desk, hands carefully held in plain sight.

"Time to go home," Phil says with a quirk of his lips. He smells tired again, but not exhausted, like yesterday. Maybe the fresh air and change of routine did him good, too. Clint slinks out from under the desk, licks Phil's fingers that are resting on his knee. They twitch, and then lift, scratching just behind his ear, down his throat.

"Come on, we need to stop for some food. How about steak tonight?"

Clint pants, licking his lips. "Sounds fan-fucking-tastic," he barks. Phil's lips quirk up again.

They stop by the grocery store on their way back to Phil's place, and Clint is left to sullenly car-sit while Phil takes his time inside. The sky is surprisingly light; when Clint thinks back, the clock had pointed to something like six p.m. when they'd left the office. It's unheard of, to see Coulson leave so early. Clint grins; it feels nice to be important enough for someone as stoutly devoted to his job to change his schedule because of him. Even if it's probably because he's a dog right now. He harbors no hopes that this status quo will hold for long.

Phil returns weighed down by grocery bags, which he stows away in the boot before Clint can try to smell what's in them. The ride to the apartment is quick from there, and it's not long before Clint's having his paws washed again and he can take a flying leap onto the couch while Phil lugs the shopping into the kitchen. He starts emptying the bags -- there's steaks, potatoes, pasta, tomatoes (fresh and canned), a couple tins of tuna fish, a jar of mayo. Looks like food for a few days; Clint can't really see Phil shopping more often.

Phil gets out a baking tray, drizzles some olive oil over it and slaps the two stakes on top, waiting for the oven to heat. Meanwhile, he washes a potato and sticks it with a fork a bunch of times, shallow and fast, wraps it in a paper towel.

"Potato?" he asks over his shoulder. Clint shrugs as best he can.

"Sure," he yips.

Phil turns, gives him a proper smile. "One for yes, two for no?"

"Asshole," Clint barks (once), baring his teeth. Phil makes a strange noise; his back is already turned by the time Clint works out it's a smothered laugh. He'll just bet Phil's grinning down at the second potato while he gives it the same treatment as the first.

He sticks one potato in the microwave and sets the timer for eight minutes; then he places the baking tray in the oven, adjusts the heat setting. Then he comes over, switches the TV on before disappearing in the direction of his bedroom again, the already-familiar thuds of his shoes hitting the wall by the door marking his path. Clint slumps down, head propped on his paws, watches the black-and-white image of a football game. This being-a-dog thing makes it hard to work out which team's which.

He's growling at the screen when Phil comes back, clad in the same pants from last night, a soft-looking t-shirt stretched over his chest. His arms are strong, tautly muscled. Clint, can't take his eyes off them, or his hands, his fingers. He shivers. Fuck, he needs a distraction.

"Who's playing anyway?" he bark-growls. Phil looks at him, follows his disgruntled glare to the TV.

"Baltimore at Pittsburgh," Phil says after squinting at the screen. The fact that he has to check makes it clear he only switched it on for background noise. Clint's not a huge football fan anyway, so he paws at the remote until he works out how to hit the channel button with a claw. Phil doesn't protest, which proves Clint's theory. He flips through cooking shows and news and nature programs and music channels until he hits on an episode of New York Ink and snuffles, pleased.

"Seriously?" Phil says while he flips the steaks in the oven.

"Shut up, I love this show," Clint barks.

"That was more than two barks. You're not sticking to the system."

"I'll system you in a minute."

Phil snorts a laugh. It's not like he could have understood, but he appears to be proficient in tone of bark-growl as well as voice. Clint settles down to watching Ami bleep-swear on the screen and threaten to quit again, while the others mostly ignore him. The tattooing itself is what captures Clint, the whole process from appointment to design to application. He's always loved watching the tattoos take shape, finding out what makes them special to the people who get them done. He's absorbed while Phil putters about in the kitchen, and it dawns on him when he hears plates clack onto the counter just how quietly, soothingly domestic the whole setting is. For the first time in his life, it doesn't make him want to run. It makes him want to get off the couch, walk over to Phil working at the counter and slide his arms around him, press a kiss to the back of his neck.

This can't be happening. Lust is one thing; Clint’s fine with that, it's familiar, nonthreatening. These are uncharted waters.

"Come on, then," Phil calls, and Clint hears his bowl click softly on the floor. He jumps off the sofa and gallops over, burying his muzzle in the food, gobbling up chunks of delicious meat and potatoes. There’s some kind of tasty sauce mixed in, a product of Phil’s cooking magic. Phil is a great cook when he puts his mind to it, apparently -- nothing overly complicated, simple food done well. Clint, a steak-and-potato man any day of the week, appreciates that more than strictly advisable.

Once dinner is over, they migrate to the sofa, and Phil lets Clint flop over his lap again, hands automatically going for his fur, sweeping up and down his side, over his chest and belly, other hand playing absentmindedly with his ears. Clint nudges at it, turns his head to lick at those fingers, tasting the gravy Phil had made, and under that ink, paper, a trace of gun oil, a hint of soap. Clint is scared how comfortable it makes him feel, to have the warmth of Phil's body under him, the scent of him in his lungs. Phil sighs midway through Cake Boss, and there's a subtle unwinding of tired muscles, until Phil is sprawling with his feet up on the table, head pillowed on the cushions behind his back. The exhale he lets out is pure relief; not long after, his breathing evens out, and his hands still on Clint's fur. Clint only moves far enough to make himself comfortable, and settles down for his own nap.

Like this, head resting on Phil's stomach and rising gently on every inhale, the whole being-a-dog thing isn't so bad at all.


[PART TWO]
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