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What a Day for a Daydream (Tomorrow I'll Pay the Dues for Dropping my Load)

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“Have you identified the substance yet?” Rogers directs his question toward the small screen in the cockpit of the quinjet where they’ve quarantined themselves. He and Clint are shoulder to shoulder, leaning in close, looking at Phil Coulson, whose face is visible on the monitor. They’re both anxious for word about the unexpected gas they’d encountered -and inhaled - in the lab before they got out.

 

“Yes,” Coulson answers. His voice sounds as smooth and calm as always, but Clint tenses because he can read Phil better than most. There was a microsecond of hesitation before he answered and there’s a tightness between his eyes that tells Clint that it’s definitely bad news coming.

  

“What is it?” Rogers forges ahead, unawares, while Clint braces himself for the worst.

  

There’s a much more noticeable pause this time before Phil answers. “Pseudophilias-Empulcoitus.”

 

“Shit!” Clint mutters, standing up straight and stepping away from the screen. “Shit!” he swears again, louder this time as it sinks in, then smashes his fist into the wall.  “Goddamn it,” he hisses, shaking his hand out.  It was impulsive and stupid and he's no doubt bruised his knuckles badly, but the news Coulson just delivered has Clint reeling.

 

Rogers looks at Clint, alarmed and confused, and then turns back to Coulson. “What? What is that?”

 

Before Coulson can answer, Clint turns back to the screen and shoves Rogers aside a little; Rogers shoots him a look but doesn’t say anything. “Are you sure?” Clint asks, his face close to the feed.

 

Coulson gives him an unhappy nod. “Is there any chance anyone else was exposed?” Phil asks. Of course Coulson’s primary concern is always for the big picture - It has to be - but Clint can’t stop a knot from forming in his chest.

 

“No,” Rogers answers from over Clint’s shoulder, a slight expression of annoyance on his face. “There was no one around when we got there. I suppose some of the gas could have been released earlier, but it seemed intended for us. We destroyed the facility as per mission parameters.” He looks between Clint and Coulson on the screen. “Does one of you want to tell me what this is about?” he asks, a touch of impatience creeping into his voice.

 

Phil ignores the question in favor of his own more urgent one. “What about the surrounding area? Could anyone have been exposed nearby?”

 

Clint shakes his head rapidly. “No one else was in the vicinity. We already told you that!” he barks, trying – but largely failing – to keep his cool.  "Besides, it was pretty clear that it was meant for us."

 

Phil gives him a quelling look, and then glances past Clint to Rogers and clears his throat. Clint can see that Phil is supremely uncomfortable about telling Captain America what’s going to happen to them shortly, and something about that sits uneasily in the pit of Clint’s stomach. “Captain, you’ve been exposed to Pseudophilias-Empulcoitus. It’s a… pheromone, of sorts. The KGB developed it in the early 80s as an experiment in a type of psychological guerilla warfare.”

 

“Is it dangerous? A contagion? Should we be evacuating nearby towns?”

 

“No. It’s not contagious, and it requires a fairly concentrated dose in order to activate inside the human body. It also only has a half-life of ten minutes when exposed to air, so if no one else was in the facility or the immediate surroundings when it was released, there won’t be any broader concerns.”

 

“But we do need to worry about Hawkeye and me,” Rogers states. Coulson’s implication was clear so it’s not a question.

 

“Yes. From what you’ve told me, it’s likely you were both sufficiently exposed to... cause a reaction.”

 

Rogers rubs his eyes with his fingers and thumb and sighs irritably. He’s clearly losing his ability to tolerate Coulson’s uncharacteristic lack of directness. “Agent Coulson, could you please just get to the point? What kind of reaction?” he asks in his Captain America voice when he looks up again.

 

Clint watches Coulson closely as he pauses, his eyes flicking away from the screen, and then back before clearing his throat again.  “Captain, beginning sometime in the next couple of hours, you will experience an uncontrollable need to copulate. Repeatedly. And if that need is not met, there will be fatal consequences.”

 

Clint’s pretty sure he can see Phil’s face flush and his anger sparks. He doesn’t know what the hell Phil’s so bothered about – he’s not the one who’s about to go nearly insane with a need to fuck the person closest to him. Except that he thinks he does know. Phil’s admiration for Captain America is the worst kept secret at SHIELD. And Clint’s going to spend the next day or so fucking him – sullying Phil’s hero.

 

“That’s ridiculous,” Rogers scoffs, then looks at Clint who nods his head gravely in confirmation.

 

Clint has a sudden idea and pushes Rogers out of the way again. “Sir. The serum in Rogers’ blood. Any chance it would stop him from reacting?” he asks hopefully. Clint doesn’t fully understand how this shit works, but he knows that somehow, it stays neutral if only one person is exposed, requiring at least two people to react and cause the molecular bond, thereby activating the brain reaction. If Rogers doesn’t react to the substance, then Clint’s body will have nothing to react to, and maybe this whole problem goes away.

 

But Coulson shakes his head grimly. “We don’t think so. I asked the neuro guys that specifically. It’s not a pathogen so there’s nothing to kill. And it’s not a drug so there’s nothing to metabolize. The way the molecules adhere to the brain doesn’t trigger an immune response in the body. We can’t see any reason why Captain Rogers wouldn’t react the same as anyone else who was exposed.”

 

Fuck. Clint’s hopes sink and he stands up straight, turning his back on the screen and Rogers, who looks to be in a state of shock. Clint wipes a hand down his face and closes his eyes.

 

“Captain,” he hears Coulson say. “Would you give me a moment with Hawkeye?”

 

Cap hesitates at the request – he’s obviously a little thrown by it. “Sure,” he finally answers, though sounding reluctant. “I could use some air,” he adds sounding annoyed. As he passes, Cap gives Clint a questioning look, clearing wondering what the hell is going on, but he leaves nonetheless.

 

Clint watches until he sees Cap stepping out of the open rear hatch, then turns back to Phil and drops resignedly down into the seat.

 

“Clint…” Phil starts, then stops, apparently at a loss for words.

 

“Fuck,” Clint mumbles bitterly. “I’m sorry, Phil,” he adds, looking out the windscreen because he can’t quite make himself look at Phil just now.

 

“What are you sorry for?” he asks, a slight edge to his voice.

 

Clint shoots a glance over his shoulder, even though they both know Cap can’t hear them, then finally looks at Phil. “Well, I’m apparently going to spend the next day or so in a state of complete infidelity, for one. And I’ll be corrupting your boyhood hero-slash-crush, for another.” Clint rubs his face with both hands so he has an excuse not to look at Phil’s expression for a couple of seconds. When he looks back at Phil, he can see the man is hasn’t fallen for his ploy and is waiting for him.

 

Clint. This isn’t infidelity, and none of this is your fault. It’s beyond your control.”

 

Clint sighs and closes his eyes. “Right,” he says, his mouth suddenly gone dry and a wave of nausea hitting him deep in his stomach. Beyond his control - just like Loki all over again. At least this time nobody should end up dead. But it doesn’t escape his notice that Phil didn’t exonerate him from the part about sullying America’s poster-boy for goodness and virtue. Fucking great.

 

Clint-

 

But Clint is shaking his head before Phil can go on, because, no, goddamn it. This whole thing is bad enough without having to pick it apart emotionally. “Look, Phil… we both know this isn’t how we do this, right? Cap and I just need to… get through this. I promise I’ll do my best to not to fuck him up too badly,” he says grimly, standing abruptly and flicking his eyes to the screen for a split second. “I’ll go get Rogers.”

 

“Clint,” Phil starts, but Clint ignores him and keeps moving to leave the cockpit. “Agent Barton!” Coulson barks.

 

Clint stops, all the muscles in his body rigid with conflict and tension. But Coulson is still the boss and when they started this thing between them, they both understood that the only way it could ever work was if they could separate the missions from the personal. And keeping it professional had worked – this was the first time that anything personal between them had started to bleed over into the field. Clint forces his body to relax and turns toward the screen again, his face carefully blank.

 

Coulson scrutinizes his face for a moment. “Are you going to be okay?” he eventually asks, his voice quiet and gentle.

 

Clint stiffens again at Coulson’s tone. The only way Clint is going to get through this shit with his dignity intact is if they keep this solidly professional. And he doesn’t fucking need to be coddled. Clint squares his shoulders and ignores the question. “How much time do you think we have before it kicks in?” he asks, shifting subjects to derail wherever Phil was going with that and move the conversation back to a place Clint can deal with.

 

Phil pauses, clearly weighing whether or not to try to continue the more personal conversation. “A couple of hours, tops. Probably less.”

 

It would be nice if they didn’t have to deal with this here, but they’re in the middle-of-fucking-nowhere-Canada, at least 5 hours out on the quinjet.

 

Clint looks toward the open hatch where Rogers had disappeared. “Right. Okay. I should go…”

 

Clint turns back and sees that Coulson is staring past Clint to where Captain America disappeared to, with an unusually unguarded and pained expression on his face. When Phil blinks his gaze back to Clint and sees him watching, he looks uncomfortable, and Clint does his best to keep his face neutral and not let Phil see how much that just ripped at his guts.    

 

Phil clears his throat and shifts back into mission mode. “You know the protocols, Agent,” Phil says, all business again. “Secure the quinjet and stay inside for the duration.  Remain contained for 12 hours past the last… interaction.”

 

Clint snorts bitterly at that. “Yes, Sir,” he answers tightly.

 

“You want to stay hydrated,” Coulson continues in his no-nonsense way. “Get as much water as you can and have it close to hand. Food is good, too, if you can manage it, but probably you’ll be too… preoccupied,” he says awkwardly.

  

“I know,” Clint grits out, arms folded defensively across his chest. He seriously does not need Coulson going over the fine points of how to survive a fuckathon.

  

“Leave the emergency channel open. I’ll make sure no one tries to contact you, but if you need anything, I’ll be available.”

 

Clint pins Coulson with a hard glare. “With all due respect, Sir. I don’t think you’ll be able to give me anything I need for the next 24 hours.”

 

Coulson’s face shifts into something like regret and it looks like he’s about to get personal again, so Clint cuts him off.

  

“Are we done?” Clint manages between clenched teeth.

  

There’s a beat and Phil seems to deflate a little before he answers, his voice annoyingly gentle. “Yes. I’ll see you in a couple of days, Agent.”

 

“Sure,” Clint snaps, then reaches out and ruthlessly cuts the connection, knowing it’s petulant but not able to stop himself. He’s irritated by his own reaction to Coulson and feels dirty (already) just thinking about what’s coming between him and Cap. He leans forward with his elbows on his knees and drops his face into his hands, breathing shakily.

 

“I had more questions,” Cap says from behind him and Clint startles, sitting up, surprised that he didn’t hear the man approaching.

 

“I can probably answer them,” Clint sighs. “If not, Coulson’s leaving the channel clear if we need to contact base.”

 

“Alright,” Rogers says, clearly unhappy but not pushing it. He steps over and sits down in the other cockpit seat.

 

Clint looks at Rogers and realizes that he’s waiting for Clint to fill him in, so he sits up straighter and puts his own professional mask back on. “Pseudophilias-Empulcoitus.”

 

“Yeah, I heard that part,” Rogers snaps, his battle to retain his patience clearly lost. “What the hell is it?”

 

“It’s like a… an incredibly potent aphrodisiac. People who are exposed to it pretty much feel compelled to have sex. Like, a lot. And for a very long time.” Clint winces his discomfort.

 

There’s a moment of loaded silence and now Rogers’s brow is furrowed furiously.

  

Clint sighs heavily. “Okay, look,” he continues. “Sometime in the next couple of hours, the two of us are going to want to fuck each other and we’re pretty much not going to be able to stop.” Clint forces himself to hold Cap’s gaze, resisting the urge to flick his eyes to the empty screen where Coulson was just a few moments ago.

  

“That’s ridiculous,” Rogers scoffs, clearly disbelieving.

 

“Yeah, I used to think so, too. There’d been rumors about the stuff and consensus was that it was an urban myth. But then about seven years ago I was part of a raid on a Hydra lab and they had some stolen KGB materials.   Along with the substance itself, they had lab reports, patient files… videotape…” Clint looks awkwardly at Rogers. “And then about three years ago, some techs at a SHIELD lab were analyzing some of it and they were accidentally exposed to some, and… trust me, it’s real.”

 

“How…?” Rogers stops himself and seems to shift gears. “When you say ‘for a very long time’, what do you mean?”

  

“I mean for, like, 18 hours straight. Maybe more.  It varies depending on how big a dose you get."  Clint pauses.  "It seemed like we got a pretty concentrated dose,” he says with a grimace, remembering the thick mist that had unexpectedly hit them both as they searched the bunker.

  

“Eighteen hours!  How is that possible?” Rogers asks – or more like chokes. It looks a lot like Captain America is as close to freaking out as Clint has ever seen him.

 

Clint shrugs. “No idea. Somehow the shit makes it possible. Some fucking psycho dreamed it up.”

  

“Okay… okay,” Rogers pauses, considering, then looks back up at Clint. “So, when you say we’re going to want to…” he stops and clears his throat, “… fuck each other,” he winces visibly, “what are you saying, exactly?”

 

Oh, god,” Clint groans and covers his eyes for a second, trying to come to grips with the conversation. After a moment, he steels himself and looks back at Cap. “I’m saying that there is no force on earth that is going to be able to stop us from fucking each other. You’re going to want to fuck me and I’m going to want to fuck you and if we don’t fuck each other, our brains are going to melt. Literally.”

  

“Well, why can’t we,” Rogers swallows nervously, his face turning red. “Why can’t we just… separate. And… you know… be alone.”

  

Clint huffs ruefully. “Yeah, masturbating doesn’t work, apparently.” Clint sees Rogers’s face turn even redder – which Clint didn’t actually think would have been possible. “It’s not so much a… orgasm-thing,” he feels his own face flush, “as a… attraction to the other person-thing. It’s the pheromones. They mess with your brain, somehow. If there’s an upside to this at all, it’s that, as I understand it, we’re both going to want this really badly. We aren’t really going to be trying to resist it.”

  

“But I’m not… I don’t…” Cap stops and looks confused. “If we’re not gay…”

  

Clint sighs. For now, he ignores the ‘we’ in Cap’s observation. He’s pretty sure it’s inevitable that they’ll get around to that eventually, but it can wait. “It doesn’t matter, Cap. The…stuff… sort of breaks down those barriers. Just makes you want whoever is closest to you when you’re exposed, regardless of orientation. There’s some sort of chemical connection that happens instantaneously.”

  

“But I don’t understand. If we aren’t around each other, we could just ride it out…” Cap posits, clearly desperate for an ‘out’.

  

Clint’s shaking his head again. “It’s not that simple, unfortunately. If you’re exposed in close proximity to another person, your receptors and the other person’s receptors… bind or something. Argh… Banner could explain this a lot better," he grumbles in frustration. “It acts on the hypothalamus, which regulates all kinds of things in your body. Temperature, hormones, sex drive. Those KGB bastards ran all kinds of experiments. One series of tests exposed people together and then locked them up separately in different rooms. Without the receptor-partner to… be with, their hypothalamus overheated and literally cooked their brains.”

  

“So, Coulson wasn’t exaggerating? It killed them?” Rogers asks, incredulous.

  

“Yeah,” Clint answers wearily. “They had video.” Clint grimaces at the memory of watching the subjects of that particular experiment suffer – screaming and begging for relief for hours before simply collapsing, dead.  “Unfortunately, we’re stuck with each other.” Clint closes his eyes. “Sorry,” he adds quietly.

  

Rogers is silent for a minute. “But if we have sex, we’ll… be fine?”

  

Clint nods his head, eyes still closed. “Yep. We fuck our brains out for a day and then,” he gestures vaguely, “all better. Apparently, no after-effects.” Except mortification, Clint thinks.

  

He hears Rogers take a deep breath and then let it out slowly. “Alright, we do what we need to do and then we move forward,” he says, Captain America voice back in place again.

  

Clint laughs humorlessly. “Yep, easy as that.” He finally opens his eyes and looks at Cap. For all that he’s trying to put on a brave face, he still looks unsettled as hell. Clint understands exactly how he feels.

  

They sit in silence for a while, Rogers looking out the windscreen now and Clint staring toward the rear hatch. After a moment, Cap shifts in his seat and Clint turns. “I’m, um… I’m not really sure what the mechanics of this would be…” he tells Clint awkwardly.

  

“Right,” Clint sighs. As much as he’d love to bury his head in the sand, they should probably prepare for what’s to come. Reluctantly, he stands up and walks out of the cockpit, heading to the back of the plane where the medical supplies are kept. Rogers follows, but mercifully, he doesn’t ask any more questions for now.   Clint goes to the good-sized medical cabinet and digs around until he finds the jar of petroleum jelly. It’s not huge, but it’s more than enough to get them started, and from what he saw on those videos, there will be plenty of natural lubrication to ease the way once they get going.

 

He tosses it to Rogers then heads to the small galley where he grabs a few boxes of high-protein meal-replacement bars and tosses them to Cap as well. Then he grabs two cases of bottled water and carries them into the small bunkroom that seems to be the most logical place for them to do this thing. He sets the water in a cubbyhole, then pulls a lever, releasing a bed from where it had been folded up into the wall. Sometime after the Initiative started, someone – Stark probably – designed a retrofit into the quinjets, replacing the small, double bunks with one bigger one to accommodate the larger than life Avengers. Small mercies, Clint thinks; at least they won’t have to try to negotiate having sex on a bunk generally barely big enough for one person, much less two. After dropping it down, Clint walks directly over to the door.

 

What’re you doing?” Cap asks as Clint reaches up and pries open the small air vent above the opening.

 

“Getting rid of SHIELD’s video surveillance,” he answers as he ruthlessly rips the tiny optical device from the wall, sending sparks and wires flying. He drops it on the floor and then smashes it with the heel of his boot to make good and sure it’s completely dead.

 

Rogers is standing stunned in the middle of the room and Clint moves across it to do the same with the one he knows is hidden in the frame of a small storage compartment.

 

“SHIELD is spying on us on the quinjet?”

 

Clint snorts. “SHIELD is spying on us everywhere. Except maybe the Tower, because I don’t think they can get past Stark’s security.”

 

“Would they… would they have watched?” Rogers asks, horrified, as Clint tears the last one he’s aware of from its camouflaged placement.

 

“Probably not Coulson,” Clint has to admit, because at his core, he doesn’t think Phil would do that to him. “But we know that he’s talked to the neurobiologists about the situation, and who knows who else knows by now. I wouldn’t put it past any of them to try to record it.”

 

Rogers looks warily around the small room and at Clint who is still poking around. “Do you think there could be more?”

 

“I check the whole jet out every month or so and those were the only three I’ve ever come across in this area,” he answers, but continues to look for more.

 

“Why didn’t you remove them before?”

 

Cling shrugs. “Then they just find more clever places to hide them. If they don’t know you know they’re there, they get complacent.” Clint finally decides there are no more recording devices – he doesn’t think the SHIELD drones who installed them are imaginative enough to slip any past him - and walks over to an empty piece of wall, sliding down until he’s sitting. Cap gives the room one more suspicious look and follows suit, sitting across the small space from Clint. Despite it being the most obviously comfortable place to sit, they don't have any interest in utilizing the bunk.

  

Neither of them says anything for a while, but Clint can’t help glancing over at the other man. Rogers is still wearing his determined, ‘I am a leader’ face, but underneath, Clint can detect something else, something that looks like trepidation. Cap’s doing his best to hold it together, and Clint’s sure as hell going to do his best to as well, but having seen those tapes of prior victims has Clint on a razor's edge. He remembers watching in horror as the people on the video fucked each other until they had literally collapsed from exhaustion. Now, Clint eyes Rogers and wonders what that means for him, given that the other half of the equation has super-serum in his blood and the endurance and stamina many times that of a normal person. He has to stop himself from thinking about it when he starts to feel panic creeping in.

  

After long minutes of tense silence, Cap clears his throat. “So, do you, uh, do you know how to do this?”

  

He knows Rogers’s no blushing virgin – he made that clear to all of them early on when Stark had razzed him a little about it - but the man flat out said he doesn’t play for the other team and Clint can’t help feeling sick about what he knows is coming.

  

“Yeah, Cap,” he answers resignedly, his eyes still closed. “I know how to do this.”

  

“I mean, beyond theoretically.”

  

Clint nods again. “I have some experience.”

  

There’s a beat of silence and then, “Oh.” Clint hears a faint sound of surprise in Rogers’s voice.

  

Clint feels anger bubble up inside him, and he opens his eyes to glare at Rogers. “You have a problem with that, Rogers?”

  

Rogers pins him with a slightly affronted look. “No,” he answers, “I don’t. You just never gave any indication that you dated men.”

  

“I’m pretty sure I never gave any indication I dated women either,” Clint counters with no small measure of heat.

  

Rogers seems to think about that for a few seconds. “That’s true,” he acknowledges. “Look, I’m sorry. I just wasn’t expecting it but I don’t mean anything by it. And quite honestly, I think there are more important things for us to be worrying about right now than whether I’m homophobic. Which I’m not, by the way. Honestly, I’m kind of relieved that at least one of us is going to know what the hell we’re doing here.”

  

Clint snorts and turns away. The man has a point.

  

“So… how… what do we need to do to make sure I don’t hurt you?”

  

Clint snaps his head back and glares at Rogers.

  

“What?” Rogers asks, clearly knowing that he said something wrong but not sure what it was.

  

“You think you’re going to be the one who’s going to do all the fucking?” Clint asks, his voice tight and angry.

  

“Well, since you’re…” Rogers starts but trails off when he sees the thunderous expression on Clint’s face.

  

Clint’s face hardens. “You know that’s incredibly ignorant, right?”

 

Rogers looks thrown. “Sorry…” he murmurs, but his confusion is still evident.

  

Clint huffs out an annoyed breath. “Just because I’ve had sex with men before doesn’t mean I like taking it up the ass!” he snaps.

 

Rogers blushes furiously and opens his mouth to say something and then seems to think better of it. He furrows his brow for a few moments then looks back at Clint. “Sorry… I just assumed…”

  

“Well, don’t!” Clint barks. “Not that it’s any of your fucking business, but for the most part, when I have penetrative sex – Jesus Christ I can’t believe I just said that,” Clint mutters, mostly to himself. “- I’m not the… receiver. Fuck! Do you have any idea how awkward it is talking about this?”

 

“I think I do,” Rogers answers hotly, and Clint forces himself to calm a little. Fighting with Rogers now isn’t going to make any of this easier, and Rogers is right – they’re both here dealing with this. After a tense minute, he continues. “So… you’ve never… received… before?” he asks cautiously, clearly trying to avoid another verbal landmine.

 

Clint pins him with a hard look. “Yes. I have. But not for a very long time and when I did, I didn’t particularly like it.”

  

“Oh,” Rogers says quietly.

  

“None of this matters anyway,” Clint says angrily, “because from what I’ve seen, when this hits us, neither of us is going to care about anything except getting off as quickly and as often as we can.”

  

Rogers looks decidedly uncomfortable and squirms a little where he’s sitting. But if there’s one thing you can say about Captain America, he’s resolute in the face of battle. He clears his throat and looks directly at Clint. “Okay. I still don’t know how to make this work for either of us and you have some experience, so how about you give me a tutorial before we apparently lose our ability to communicate effectively.”

  

Clint stares at Rogers for a few seconds, appreciating that the man is willing to face any challenge head-on. Clint makes himself relax a little. “Okay, right… The Vaseline is for lube, to help…”

 

Rogers rolls his eyes. “Jesus, Barton. I understand what lube is for,” he says and huffs out a laugh.

  

“Okay!” Clint laughs too, despite himself. He spends the next five minutes explaining to Captain America how you prepare for anal sex, and, kudos to the man, he doesn’t flinch from it – just takes it in likes it’s a mission brief, which in a way, Clint’s supposes, it is. His eyes get fractionally wider once or twice, but for the most part, he holds steady.

  

It’s quiet for a long time after Clint finishes as Rogers seems to process everything. A minute later Clint turns a speculative eye toward the other man. “So, I know you said you aren’t gay, Cap, but has anyone caught you up on Kinsey?”

 

“Kinsey? No, I don’t think so. What’s that?”

  

“Kinsey was a biologist working in the 1940s and 50s. He sort of looked at sexuality for the first time in any systematic way. Basically, he surveyed a whole bunch of people and found out that not everyone is quite so lily-white heterosexual as we all used to think. He had a scale, 0 to 6, with 0 being complete heterosexuality and six being complete homosexuality. Most people actually fall somewhere in between,” he says, hoping Rogers maybe falls somewhere toward the middle of the spectrum.

  

Rogers thinks about that for a moment. “What number are you?” he asks perceptively.

  

Clint tips his head back against the wall and watches Rogers out of the bottom of his eyes. “Probably when I was younger – growing up - I was a 4. Maybe even a 3. Since I’ve been… settled, I’d say I’m more like a 5.”

  

Rogers quirks an eyebrow at him. “So, you’ve changed?” He sounds surprised.

  

“Yeah. It’s not unusual. Since the 50s, they’ve figured out that there’s a lot more to sexuality than Kinsey recognized – or bothered to think about. That things are probably more… fluid, but that societal pressure kept the lid on that. Publicly anyway,” Clint shrugs. “People are a lot more open about sex than they used to be.  Anyway, Kinsey’s scale was pretty rudimentary but it still gets to the point.” Clint peers in Rogers’s direction. “You want to tell me where you think you might fall?”

  

Rogers looks down at his hands and hesitates for a long moment. When he looks back up, his expression is reluctant, and for the first time, maybe a little bit lost. “I… zero? Maybe… a 1?” he adds at Clint’s no-doubt defeated expression. “I don’t know. I mean I never thought about it before. When I grew up, you didn’t think about it. It wasn’t… acceptable.”

  

“If it’s more acceptable now?” Clint prompts hopefully. “You never looked at a guy and thought, maybe…?”

  

Rogers shakes his head slowly, though the gesture looks apologetic. “I really didn’t.”

  

Clint just nods and looks away. Fucking great. Captain America is every bit the quintessential all-American heterosexual that his image would have you believe and Clint’s about to fuck him through the mattress. Wonderful. “I’m sorry, Cap,” Clint murmurs, still looking anywhere but at his teammate.

  

“Hawkeye,” Cap snaps and Clint jerks his head back around. “Neither of us wants this, but it’s what we’ve got to deal with. It’s not your fault.”

  

“Yeah, we can say that all we want,” Clint tells him and he can hear the frustrated anger creeping into his own voice. “But in the end, I’m still going to spend the next day or so fucking a man who’s not gay, so…”

  

“Yes, and I’m apparently going to spend it fucking a man who doesn’t want to be fucked, so let’s just put the self-recriminations aside and get through this.”

  

Clint turns away because the determination in Cap’s expression is just a little too close to those posters that Phil has up on his office wall and it’s making Clint’s stomach churn.

  

“We’ll get through this, Barton,” Cap says, more gently this time. “It’s going to be okay.”

  

Clint turns back and stares at Cap and has to admit to himself that he has a lot of respect for the man. Clint scrutinizes him closely for another moment and makes a decision. “How uncomfortable are you with this, Cap?”

  

Rogers hesitates, then cocks his head and eyes Clint. “I’d say I’m about as uncomfortable as you are. If you don’t like to… receive.”

  

“Would you be less uncomfortable with fellatio?”

  

Rogers squints at him. “What do you mean?”

 

“I mean oral sex, Cap. Blowjobs,” Clint says bluntly. “According to the data the KGB had, oral sex seemed to work to satisfy the… whatever… need. I think there’s something about there having to be some exchange of body fluids for the chemical binding to take place and stop any damage. But apparently it doesn’t have to be… genitally.” Clint cringes at his own words. “So, if it would be easier for you, I think I wouldn’t have to actually fuck you. You could… you could, you know, give me oral sex and I probably wouldn’t… die.” There, he said it. Clint wants to duck his head in mortification, but forces himself not to.

  

Rogers looks down and seems to give that serious consideration. After a few moments, he lifts his head again. “I think… I think I might be more comfortable with that, yeah,” Rogers says, and Clint’s pretty sure he hears relief there.

  

Clint braces himself before he goes on. “It’s… It won’t be…” Clint sighs and turns away for a moment, draws his strength and turns back. “On the video. The oral sex was… It wasn’t gentle. When this stuff kicks in, the need is… desperate.”

  

Rogers stares at him for a long minute, silence hanging between them.   “I was under water for 70 years,” Cap finally says.

  

Clint looks at him quizzically.

  

Rogers shrugs. “I’m just sayin’… I can hold my breath for a really long time.”

  

Clint stares at him uncomprehending for a few seconds, then gets what Rogers is saying and barks out an almost-humorous laugh. “You know there’s more to it than that. People tend to gag a lot when something is shoved down their throat.”

  

“I’ll figure it out,” he shrugs again. “People say I’m a quick study,” Rogers adds with a small grin.

  

A clear image of his cock pushed deep down Captain America’s throat comes to him unbidden and Clint shudders. His cock twitches in his pants and he is suddenly reminded just how not funny this is. He grimaces and turns his head away quickly. “Fuck...” he mutters.

  

Rogers is instantly alert. “What?”

  

Clint wipes a hand down his face. “Nothing,” he waves his hand dismissively.

  

Cap looks like he’s going to challenge that for a second, but instead says, “I could do the same. Since you don’t like to receive.”

  

Clint shakes his head. He has no problems giving Phil a nice slow, easy blowjob – likes it, even, the feel of Phil thick and heavy in his mouth – but Phil knows not to buck his hips or cut off Clint’s airway and based on what he knows of this stuff, he’s pretty sure that Rogers wouldn’t be able to control that impulse. “’S okay, Cap. I’d probably prefer the other option.”

  

Cap looks like he might probe that a little further but then realization flickers across his face. Clint knows that as team leader, Cap’s read his SHIELD file and he’s a smart enough guy that he probably just put two and two together. Thankfully, he doesn’t seem like he’s going to pursue it further, but just to be safe, he shifts gears to derail it altogether. “Listen, speaking of bodily fluids… Just so you know, my partner and I are monogamous and we both get tested four times a year.”

  

“Tested?”

  

“For STDs. Sexually Transmitted Diseases.”

 

Cap looks surprised for a second and then furrows his brow in thought. “That seems very… cautious.”

  

Clint shrugs. “SOP,” he says. He doesn’t elaborate with the, ‘for SHIELD’. The nature of their work exposes them to all manner of potential dangers (case in point, the current situation) so all regular SHIELD agents are tested quarterly. “Look, it’s been a couple of months since I was tested, but I have no reason to believe that I’m not clean.”

  

Rogers is still staring at him with a thoughtful expression, and Clint lifts an expectant eyebrow at him.

  

“Oh, uh… no. I think they tested me for everything they could think of when I… returned. But ever since the serum, I can’t really get sick and apparently I don’t carry or pass any pathogens either.”

  

Clint nods and ducks his head down again. They sit in loaded silence for a few minutes.

  

“So, you… you have a… boyfriend?” Rogers asks tentatively.

  

Clint lifts his gaze back up. “Partner,” Clint corrects automatically, because ‘boyfriend’ has always sounded filled with a little too much teenaged angst for him. Though the way he’s feeling right now, boyfriend might be appropriate.

  

Rogers nods his understanding. “How do you make that work?” Rogers asks him, sounding more genuinely curious than anything. “I mean, I haven’t really seen you go out. You always seem to be with us, or away on SHIELD missions-- Oh. Someone at SHIELD?”

  

Clint closes his eyes and leans his head back against the wall. “Got it in one,” he answers, then waits for him to figure the rest out. Phil asking to have a moment with Clint earlier made it pretty obvious, and as noted, Rogers is a smart guy.

 

A few minutes later, Rogers does indeed put it together. “Coulson,” he says, sounding like he worked it out just as he said the name.

  

“Give the man a prize,” Clint says, opening his eyes to watch Cap – wanting to know if it’s going to be a problem.

 

Rogers has a quizzical expression on his face. “You don’t… I mean, I don’t think I ever would have guessed you were together if this situation hadn’t happened.”

  

“That’s the way we mean it to be. We both have jobs to do and we don’t let the rest of it interfere with that. Sorry it happened this time.”

  

“Is he… is he going to be upset…?” Rogers asks tentatively, apparently wondering if he’s going to be facing a jealous boyfriend upon their return.

  

Clint huffs a bit of a laugh. “Not at you.”

  

There’s a small pause. “At you?” he asks, and Clint opens his eyes at the concern he thinks he hears.

 

Clint stares at the space between them. After a moment, he looks up and gives Cap a weak smile. “Nah. We’re good.”

  

“He’s a good man,” Rogers says without hesitation.

  

Clint bristles at that and turns away. He doesn’t need Captain America to tell him that. He knows exactly how good a man Phil is. He’s a good man who sets his bar for behavior at “Captain America”, who idolizes the man across from him. The man that Clint is about to…

  

“Did I say something wrong?”

  

Clint runs a hand down his face and looks back at Rogers. Ah, shit. He doesn’t know why he’s taking out his issues on Rogers. None of this is Cap’s fault. “No. No, I… No.

  

They return to their awkward silence.

  

“How soon before…?"

  

Clint pulls out his phone and looks at it. “Maybe an hour. Probably less.” He drops his phone onto the floor beside him. “Listen. For what it’s worth. I’ve seen what this stuff does, and I give you my consent now for whatever we do later.”

  

“O-kay…” Rogers answers, looking mildly confused.

  

Cling shrugs. “It’s a 21st century thing. Consent is sexy now,” he smiles weakly. “I’m not gonna really be in my right mind pretty soon. And I don’t want… I don’t want you to feel bad later. Like you did something you shouldn’t have. I know what’s coming and I want you to know that whatever we do to get through it, it’s okay.”

  

Rogers takes that in and then nods his understanding. “Okay. Then I giv-”

  

“No, Cap.” Clint shakes his head vigorously. “You have no idea what’s coming,” he says gruffly. Clint tries hard not to think about the things he’d seen on the tapes – how he had watched in growing horror as the people on the video had fucked themselves into exhaustion, complete depletion, damn near to death.   “There’s no way you can give informed consent.”

  

Rogers firms his mouth into a hard line. “You’ve told me what’s coming. If you can give consent then I can.”

  

Clint lets it go because he can see that Cap has his stubborn on and he’s learned that there’s very little anyone can do to change the man’s mind once he’s made a decision. Besides, there are more pressing things he needs to talk to Cap about before things get too out of control. “There’s something else I need…” Clint stops and clears his throat. Fuck. He hates that he needs to say this; hates how he knows Cap is going to look at him.

 

“What?”

 

Clint makes a disgruntled noise and then turns a resolute gaze toward Cap. “I need you to not…” Clint stops; this is harder than he thought it would be.

 

“You need me to not…?” Cap prompts after a moment, brow furrowed, clearly perplexed.

 

Clint blows out a loud breath. “Okay, look, I know you’ve got super strength, and you’ve got about 20 pounds on me, I think…”

 

“Yeah…?”

 

“Just… if you can… just, please try not to hold me down or restrain me.”

 

Rogers’s eyes widen and his face blanches. “Oh God…”

 

Clint closes his eyes. “Don’t,” he grits out forcefully. “I’m not some fucking damsel! I just don’t particularly like that, so if you’re able to think clearly enough, just… try to avoid that.” Clint opens his eyes and pins Rogers with a hard stare.

 

Cap swallows visibly and then nods, turning away from Clint.

 

“Do you…” Clint clears his throat again. “Do you have any triggers I should know about?”

 

“I don’t think so,” Rogers answers slowly, clearly giving it some consideration. “Just, you know…”

 

“Right, oral sex only if possible.”

 

“Yeah…” It sounds like relief and dread and fear and conviction, all wrapped up into one word.

 

“Yeah,” Clint acknowledges, and lowers his head onto his knees. He’s fucking done with all this talking, now all they can do is wait.

Chapter Text

 

They haven’t spoken for the last half hour or so. Rogers is always like this before a mission, Clint has noticed – quiet, intense, determined. When they’re on the jet on their way to wherever, Cap is focused and thoughtful, running strategies and contingency plans in his head, and coming up with back-up plans for their contingency plans. Clint can practically see the man’s mind spinning, analyzing the situation, and can’t help wonder what the hell today’s contingency plans might look like. To his credit, Rogers isn’t freaking out, but when Clint gives it some thought, he realizes he’s not really surprised. The man is a soldier.  He's survived war, being submerged for 70 years, the battle with the Chitauri, and who knows what else. He’s handling this like he handles everything – by putting on his game face and staring down the challenge ahead.

 

He’s given Cap the best information he can to try to prepare the man for what’s to come – if it’s really even possibly to prepare for something like this. Now, for his part, Clint just doesn’t want to fucking talk about it anymore. He doesn’t need to analyze things or try to predict what’s going to happen. He knows what’s going to happen, and he knows it's going to happen sooner rather than later. He can feel it starting. He’s getting jittery from adrenaline and arousal but he’s trying not to let it show; that’s getting more difficult though, because he’s starting to sweat a little and he’s had to pull his knees up to hide his nascent erection. He’s not sure why he bothers since they both know where things are headed, but he can’t help but try to at least put things off for as long as possible.

 

He’s so focused on his own internal monologue that he hasn’t been paying attention to Rogers for a while, so when the other man stands suddenly, Clint startles and looks up.

 

“Cap…?”

 

“Barton, I…” he says, eyes skittering nervously.

 

Dread washes over Clint. Rogers’ skintight Captain America suit doesn’t leave much to the imagination. When the hell had he taken out his cup? Clint tries not to stare but he can see a little bit of dampness where Rogers is starting to leak pre-come and it looks like his cock is almost fully erect. It’s fucking huge and Clint swallows as the dread is instantly supplanted by a wave of arousal that hits him hard, his mouth watering so that he chokes a little, his focus riveted on Rogers’ groin.

 

“Barton,” Cap says again. He looks miserable – he’s standing stiffly and clenching his fists by his sides. But there’s no question where his mind really is because his face is beading with sweat, his pupils are dilated, and his lips are shiny and wet where he seems to be unable to stop running his tongue over them. Oh God, Clint has never noticed how fucking hot Rogers’ mouth is – that plush bottom lip, soft and--

 

Fuck! Clint scrambles to stand up, pushing the heels of his hands against his eyes and shaking his head, trying to stop the freight train of his desire, which is very hard to do when your dick is throbbing in your pants.

 

“Barton, I think it’s starting… I’m feeling very…” Rogers stops, the sound of his panting the only thing audible in the otherwise silent space.

 

Clint feels his body tense even more but he drops his hands to his side and looks at Rogers, the singular inevitability of what’s going to happen crashing over him. And even though he knew this was coming, Clint is still taken by surprise to realize that more than anything in the world, he wants to have sex with Steve Rogers. Right this second. Everything else, all of his previous concerns and insecurities have washed away and it just feels necessary on a level so basic that any thought of trying to resist seems ludicrous now.

 

Except that’s not quite true. Rattling around in his head – behind his overwhelming need – he still has his intellectual awareness of how false this is; that he wants Rogers but he knows that he doesn’t really want Rogers. The dual train of his thoughts feels disturbingly close to how it felt under Loki – when his desire to resist never, ever went away - just became a distant and hollow echo in the back of his mind as Loki’s thoughts and desires quickly overpowered his own. Clint’s body reacts viscerally; nausea envelopes him and he doubles over with his hands on his knees, retching, but somehow managing to hold back from losing the contents of his stomach.

 

“Hawkeye!” Rogers says with urgent concern. “Barton, what’s wrong? Are you alright?” His role as leader and caretaker apparently superseding his desire and battling to the fore. He steps up close and puts a tentative hand on Clint’s shoulder.

 

The contact sends a jolt through Clint and he cranes his head up to look at Rogers again. He looks conflicted – like he wants to help Clint, but like he wants to tear his clothes off of him at the same time. Which, yeah, he probably does. Clint’s sick about what’s happening, he wants off this fucking quinjet and to be anywhere but here. But at this moment, he also wants Steve Rogers’ dick in his ass. He wants that more than he wanted his mother not to have died; more than he wanted the Swordsman to leave him the fuck alone; more than he wanted Barney not to have betrayed him; more than he wanted Loki out of his head. More than he had wanted Phil for the three years before he finally had him, and more than he’s wanted Phil every time he’s had him since then. He knows it’s an illusion – that his desire for Rogers is manufactured – but that doesn’t make the desire feel any less real.

  

“Yeah,” Clint nods and stands up straight, where, having rushed to Clint’s side in his distress, Rogers is now suddenly very much in his personal space. Rogers licks his lips again and Clint’s eyes flick there and then back to where Rogers is watching him very closely. “Yeah, I’m good,” he answers, giving a jerky nod.

 

And that’s all the acknowledgement Rogers apparently needs because almost before he can register it, he has pushed Clint against the wall, pressing their bodies together. He groans at the full body contact and tucks his face into Clint’s neck, gasping as he gives an experimental push of his groin against Clint’s hip. Clint adjust his stance so their legs are scissored and he can rub his own hard length against Rogers’ thigh. He whimpers as Cap obliges by pressing into him further and starting a small rut, his hips flexing minutely. Clint wants to be embarrassed by the keening sounds he’s making but he finds he’s not at all, and instead of shying away from this, he reaches around and grabs Rogers’ ass, and pulls him in close and tight.

 

Rogers grunts and Clint pulls him closer still and then feels Cap’s breath hitch, hot and wet against his neck. Clint shivers and bucks his own hips a little and it’s like Cap’s floodgates have opened because he shifts his whole body more fully toward Clint and starts rutting hard and purposeful – their height difference working Rogers’ cock against Clint’s stomach.

 

Clint’s breath is coming fast and his desire is ramping up quickly. “Jesus,” Clint gasps, feeling Rogers’ erection pressing into him, rigid and fiery, even with their clothes between them. “Cap… Rogers… wait…”

 

Rogers freezes for a brief second and then violently pushes back away from Clint. “I’m sorry,” he blurts, his eyes squeezed tightly shut. “I’m sorry, Clint, but…” He opens his eyes then and Clint can see the confusion and fear and desire. “Oh God, I need…” Clint isn’t sure that Rogers is even aware that his right hand is stroking his fucking huge cock through the strained and stretched fabric of his uniform.

 

“No, I know,” Clint rushes, his voice shaking and raw. “Me, too. Me, too. Just… God, take your fucking clothes off!” he says, already tearing at his own as fast as he can. Rogers doesn’t reply, just follows suit, tearing at his Captain America costume until he’s completely nude. Clint’s eyes go wide when he finally sees the full extent of what’s been hidden beneath the uniform. His erect cock looks even more enormous and intimidating when not confined by fabric meant to hold things tight and secure. Clint guesses that Rogers’ dick must have benefitted from the super-serum like the rest of him did because Clint’s pretty sure he’s never seen a cock that big outside of some size-kink porn he’d inadvertently stumbled across once or twice in his life.

 

“Shit. Shitshitshit,” Clint bites out frantically, wanting to get his hands on Rogers as fast as he can but stupidly trying to get his pants off before removing his boots. He finally has to sit down on the floor to extract himself and when he finally rips them free, he looks up to see Rogers’ erection bobbing in front of his face.

  

Clint licks his lips and thinks about opening his mouth and just… tasting… a little bit, but before he can, Rogers gets a slightly feral look in his eyes and he grabs Clint by the shoulders and yanks him up, backing him firmly into the wall. Rogers pushes forward, again pressing his full body against Clint’s and they both groan as Rogers begins to grind his hips in a small circular motion. Clint puts his hands back on Rogers’ ass, getting as much leverage as he can to rub against.

  

Rogers’ hands are bracketing Clint’s head and his face is buried in Clint’s neck, and he sounds embarrassed when he mumbles, “Clint…” with deep desperation in his voice. “Clint, please… can we? … Now? Please…” he beseeches, pushing harder into Clint.

  

The friction sends shockwaves of pleasure and pure lust through Clint’s entire body, and suddenly he can’t remember at all why he was ever hesitant because the idea of having Rogers shove his cock into Clint’s ass sounds like about the best thing ever.

  

“Yeah… yeah, do it,” he grits out, barely able to form the words through his own haze of greedy desire.

  

Rogers pulls back in surprise and Clint can see that his pupils are blown so wide that he doesn’t think he can even see a hint of blue. “Are you sure?” he pants, hips still moving, fucking only air in the small space he created between them, but apparently unable to stop.

 

Clint hadn’t expected this. He hadn’t been expecting to be coherent – for Rogers to be able to ask him for his consent. To be able to give it himself. But while he’s dying to get to the part where Rogers is fucking him, he realizes that they’re also both still in there, still aware of their surroundings, still have some small measure of control. He’s not actually sure if that’s better or worse. It doesn’t much matter though, because even if there is some rational part of his brain still functioning, he definitely still wants to fucking impale himself on Rogers’ huge dick right this second. “It’s okay… I need it. No, I want it! Just… just do it!”

 

That’s apparently enough reassurance for Rogers and he doesn’t hesitate again, turning and practically dragging Clint over to the bed like a caveman returning from the hunt. He pulls Clint, stumbling and tripping across the small space and tosses him down like he’s a rag doll, then crawls up between his legs. “How…?” he asks quickly. “I… I don’t want to hurt you,” he adds, looking slightly guilty as he glances down to where his hand is gripping his erection.

  

Clint pushes himself onto his elbows and grabs the jar of Vaseline, scooping a generous glop onto his fingers. He gently pushes Rogers back a little, then rolls his eyes at the man’s sudden panicked and possessive expression. “Just… this will go a lot faster if I do it myself,” he explains in a rush, quickly settling on his knees facing Rogers and not hesitating before he jams two fingers into his ass.

  

Oh,” Rogers nods in apparent relief. His face is flushed and his cock is leaking buckets, and Clint sees him start to stroke himself. “Please hurry,” Rogers pleads, more a strangled whisper than anything. His fist is moving faster up and down his cock and his eyes drift shut as his body seems to shiver in anticipation.

  

It’s awkward as hell trying to open himself up. Clint’s never actually done this to himself – hell, nobody’d ever bothered to do this for him – but he’s done it to Phil countless times, so he’s well familiar with the mechanics of it. It’s slow going though because the angle is so awkward and uncomfortable when you do it to yourself. Still, it’s probably better than asking Rogers to do it since the man had turned a brilliant shade of red and practically choked when Clint had gone through the ‘how-to’ with him earlier.

  

He flicks a glance at Rogers, who’s watching him eagerly and Clint hates the fact that he’s gagging for it – wants Rogers’ cock so bad he can taste it. Oh god… taste it… yes… yes, he wants to taste it… Clint rips his fingers out of his ass and pushes forward until his mouth is on Rogers’ cock.

  

Rogers startles and yells in surprise, and glancing up, Clint sees his eyes fly open but then quickly close again as he releases a deep moan. Rogers’ cock is so big – much bigger than Coulson’s and definitely much, much bigger than average – so Clint can only take in maybe a quarter of him, his lips stretched obscenely to get even that. But the second Clint gets his mouth around the head of Rogers’ cock and tastes the bitter drops waiting there, everything in his body relaxes. It must be the necessary binding of their brain chemicals because he feels Rogers relax in the same instant. Relief sweeps over him, but so does a dizzying new wave of desire and Clint’s moans echo Rogers’ as his tongue slides over the excruciatingly perfect sensation in his mouth. Clint loses himself to everything else for a few moments – the feel of the pull of suction and then drag of his lips tight against smooth skin, pushing out all other thoughts from his head.

  

Above him Rogers is breathing harsh and heavy and then he whimpers and the man’s hips jolt a little, his cock bumping up against the back of Clint’s throat. Clint’s airflow suddenly feels constricted and there’s a roar in Clint’s head as his vision narrows to a pinpoint. He panics and jerks his head back, then sits up, coughing and gagging.

  

“Sorry… Clint, I’m sorry,” Rogers mumbles quickly, then looks at Clint with desperation. “I didn’t mean… but, I… I need… Clint. I need…”

  

“Yeah… yeah, okay…” Clint starts and Rogers moves quickly with clear intent to reposition them. “No, listen!” Clint barks, and – thank god – Rogers freezes, aborting his move to pin Clint down. “You’re… you’re really big, Cap,” Clint starts and Rogers looks down at where his hand is back to pumping his cock. He looks sheepish and a little apologetic again.

  

“You gotta let me… Jesus, fuck!” he swears and shoves his hand down so he can piston his own cock ruthlessly. He’s not sure if the sob that escapes is because it feels so good or because he knows it’s not enough - the pleasure hollow and somehow incomplete. Clint drops his head and squeezes his eyes shut, groaning as he tries desperately to get himself off, but somehow he knows that his hand is never going to be enough.

  

“Please, Clint…” Cap says again, obviously trying to be patient but with enough raw desperation that it draws Clint’s attention back.

  

“Okay… yeah,” Clint nods his head. “Yeah… just… let me…” he says as he reaches around and shoves his fingers back into his ass. Rogers somehow manages to control himself but he’s watching Clint like he’s going to explode, and who knows, maybe he is; Clint has no idea just how long they have before this stuff could start to melt their brains. But Clint does know that if they don’t do this the right way from the start, he’s going to be in serious trouble by the time it’s over. “Listen,” he pants, stretching himself as quickly as he can, adding an uncomfortable fourth finger. “You gotta let me drive.”

  

“What?” Rogers’ voice cracks and he furrows his brow in question as his hand works his cock at lightning speed.

  

Clint takes a deep breath and blows it out. “You’re really big, Cap,” he repeats, twisting his wrist and opening his fingers as much as he can, feeling the deep burn of muscles forced open too quickly. “So, lie on your back and let me control things, okay? At least until I adjust.”

 

A look of pure guilt passes over Rogers’ face but is followed by quick understanding and he immediately throws himself onto his back. His monstrous cock bobs up and down on his stomach, an immediate pool of pre-come forming on his abs.  A thin line of viscous fluid stretches between them and the glistening, red head of Rogers’ cock. He reaches up and grabs the edge of the bunk above his head, clearly trying to defer to Clint’s control and to show Clint that he can do as he’s told.

  

But Clint has no interest – ever - in domination or power play, even in this situation. “Put your hands down,” Clint snaps, even in his state recognizing the irony of ordering Cap not to be submissive but he dismisses it quickly. Rogers obeys, a slightly confused expression flickering across his face before it’s quickly replaced with a look of hungry anticipation.

 

Clint eyes Rogers’ dick and swallows hard. It’s still terrifyingly huge, but Clint’s mind traitorously supplies that it’s beautiful, as well. It’s cut and proud, arching slightly inward toward his belly. There are two thick veins visible, running crookedly down the length of it, and Clint can’t stop himself from reaching out and lightly tracing one of them with his index finger. Rogers sucks in a hissing breath at the touch, his hips juddering automatically. Clint continues to eyeball it as he twists his hand around a couple more times, praying that he’s prepped enough because he’s pretty sure neither of them can wait any longer.   He grabs the jar of Vaseline, scoops out another glop and glides it over Rogers’ dick. He keens and stares at Clint through hooded eyelids, breathing faster by the second. Clint pumps his fist up and down a couple times to spread the lubricant liberally and he can tell Rogers is trying not to move, but the man’s hips seem to thrust of their own volition.

  

Clint squeezes the base of Rogers’ cock in warning and Rogers’ eyes shoot open questioningly. “Okay… Let me drive, yeah?” Clint repeats firmly and Rogers looks chastised, but nods vigorously. Clint works his knees up Rogers’ body until he’s straddling him, then readjusts his grip on Rogers’ cock and guides it toward his hole.

 

Rogers squeezes his eyes shut and makes a wordless noise of impatience, then grasps Clint’s hips, thrusting his own a little so that the head of his cock bumps up against Clint’s rim.

  

Cap,” Clint says sharply, and Rogers’s eyes snap to Clint’s. “You gotta let me go slow and adjust, or you’re gonna hurt me. Please,” he adds, and he can hear his own desperate plea, because as much as he needs Rogers to be fucking him as soon as possible, he has enough of a clear head to envision how he comes out of this if they don’t take this slowly and carefully.

  

“Sorry… Sorry…” Rogers murmurs and stills himself, squeezing his eyes shut tightly again and taking a deep, controlling breath. He drops his hands to the bed and grips the sheet tightly.

  

Clint doesn’t waste any more time, settling back and easing downward until the head of Rogers’ cock pops through the ring of muscles. Rogers whines and squirms, but then stills himself, before his hands start reaching up again, flailing for a second uncertainly, then closing on Clint’s hips like a vice. He’s clearly losing his ability to control himself, but give the man credit, he doesn’t push up into Clint the way Clint is absolutely positive he wants to.

  

“Good… good…” Clint grits out as he, oh-so-slowly, lowers himself down, inch by inch. It hurts; Clint hasn’t had anything in his ass like this for 20 years or more, and he definitely rushed the prep, but even though this isn’t something Clint ever does or wants to do, somehow it feels deliriously good in a way he never thought possible given his earlier experiences.

 

He knows he’s still tight and his body puts up token resistance, squeezing hard around Rogers’ dick. It takes long minutes of Clint easing incrementally down then back up a little then slightly farther down, over and over, until he is fully seated, Rogers’ equally enormous (and full) balls resting noticeably against his ass. By the time he gets there, Cap is shaking with anticipation, sweat pouring off of him as he uses every bit of his self-control not to rush things and hurt Clint. Clint appreciates the hell out of that.

  

“Okay, Cap… almost there…” Clint breathes out, putting his hands on Rogers’ shoulders. Rogers watches him intently as Clint shifts onto his knees a little more, leaning forward and beginning a steady rhythm, never pulling off too far. Rogers’ neck is corded with tension, clearly holding back with everything he has as Clint works to loosen himself up enough that whatever comes next won’t shred his insides.

  

Clint rocks above him for a few minutes, slowly adjusting to the sheer girth of the mass inside him. They’re both glistening with sweat and he has to dig his fingers in to keep purchase on Rogers, but a moment later, the man slides his arms inside of Clint’s, knocking them off his shoulders so Clint falls forward, flailing a little as he lands on Rogers’ chest. Rogers wraps one muscular arm around Clint’s back, holding their chests tightly together, then snakes his other hand down Clint’s body and grasps his ass, gripping him steady as he bends his knees and suddenly pushes up hard.

  

Clint’s body jerks automatically and he gasps at the pleasure/pain of it. “Fuuuuuuuccckkk!” he yells as Rogers begins a punishing pace, and Clint throws his hands forward to brace against the wall, locking his elbows to stop them from sliding up and hitting their heads.

 

“I’m sorry, Clint,” Rogers gasps in his ear, “I’m sorry… I have to…”

  

Clint just grunts in response, too preoccupied with how he can feel each slide of Rogers’ cock and how every time he pulls out it feels like he’s taking Clint’s insides with him.  He knows his body should be protesting and registering more pain, but he’s grateful that for whatever reason, it doesn’t. Clint has a fuzzy recollection of something about Empulcoitus and massive doses of pain-killing endorphins.

  

Rogers seems to fuck him forever, and Clint has the fleeting thought that maybe it’s the super-serum. It gave him greater stamina and endurance in everything else, why not sex? Clint’s own cock is neglected, but he’s getting enough friction between the grind of their bodies that he’s still hard and it feels pretty fucking good without reaching a point of desperation – yet. He’d beg for ‘more’ and ‘deeper’ and ‘faster’ except that he knows Rogers feels the same way and is pushing himself as hard as he can already.

 

Clint is lost in a haze of pleasure when Rogers grips him even tighter with both arms, stilling for a second, and then moaning as he jerks and convulses and quite obviously comes in Clint’s ass. Clint feels what seems like every muscle in Rogers’ body tighten and contract over and over, and Clint would swear he shoots more than a dozen times. It’s definitely not normal and Clint doesn’t know if that’s a super-serum thing or a Empulcoitus thing. As soon as Rogers apparently stops coming, he starts bucking up into Clint again and the slapping takes on a distinctly wet and sloppy sound as the come is being pushed in and out of Clint’s body with the motion, sliding down around his balls and dampening Rogers’ pubic hair.

 

Clint gives Rogers as long as he possibly can to work his way down because clearly the man is experiencing a remarkably intense climax, but soon he can’t stand it any longer and he breaks Cap’s hold, pushing himself up with his hands on Rogers’ shoulders again. His ass stings and feels slightly abused already and this is just the very beginning of what is going to be a very long day, but those thoughts are quickly replaced by the more desperate thoughts of how he’s going to get off.

  

“Cap… I need… please… my turn… please,” Clint begs, both of them apparently having lost the ability to form complete sentences. He hates the desperation he hears in his voice but he’s not able to do a damn thing to get rid of it.

  

Rogers freezes below him and looks up with a conflicted and uncomfortable expression.

  

Cap,” Clint says, adding some flint into his voice, because seriously? If the man thinks this whole ordeal is going to be one-sided he’s got another thing coming. But before he can call Rogers on anything, he flips them over, yanking himself out of Clint, causing Clint to gasp and his hole to flutter at the sudden loss. He feels a gush of warm come slide out, dampening the sheets below him. If he weren’t so fucking desperate, he might even laugh when he wonders just how big the wet spot is going to be when this nightmare finally ends.

  

Rogers is kneeling between Clint’s legs and he reaches over to grab the jar of Vaseline from where Clint had haphazardly tossed it earlier. Rogers’ other hand goes back to fisting his cock, already hard again – or maybe it never stopped being hard, Clint isn’t sure. “Are you sure you don’t want to…?” Rogers asks, holding up the Vaseline and jerking his head to indicate behind himself. “It’s okay. You can… you can fuck me if you want.” Rogers is panting – though not as hard as Clint, because he’s coming down and Clint is still working his way up - and he’s glassy-eyed, pupils still shot almost completely black.

  

Clint sees that Rogers’ expression is open and seemingly sincere, and yes, shoving his cock in Rogers’ ass and fucking him and fucking him and fucking him sounds like a really fucking good plan at the moment. And it’s pretty obvious that Rogers would let Clint do it, too, the way he’s hazy with his come-down but still aroused as hell. But Clint can’t forget the lost look he’d seen in Rogers’ eyes when he’d told Clint he was a fucking Kinsey zero and that, yes, he’d rather have Clint fuck his face than his ass. Maybe he hadn’t said exactly that, but the sentiment was definitely there.

  

Clint has just enough presence of mind to shake his head jerkily. “Mouth is good. Just gimme your mouth, Cap. Please…

  

Clint thinks he sees relief flash across Rogers’ face but it’s there and gone so fast that he’s not sure. Rogers blinks a couple of times and then grins. “I can hold my breath for a really long time,” he reminds Clint.

  

“Yeah, you said that before.” Clint’s wanking himself furiously, the burning feeling inside him getting more urgent by the second. “How about you just fucking get to it already!” he barks impatiently.

  

Rogers jerks at Clint’s demand and quickly situates himself, crouching between Clint’s legs and gripping the base of Clint’s cock in one hand. He hesitates for only the briefest second and then plunges his mouth downward.

 

An instant later, Clint is frantically scrabbling at Rogers’ head and shoulders, pushing Rogers off of his dick. “JESUSFUCK!! NO TEETH! STOPSTOPSTOP!!!

 

Rogers jerks his head up in surprise and, God damn it, why the hell hadn’t he gone over the finer points of giving head when he’d been schooling Captain America on how to appropriately prep for anal sex? Stupid!    

  

“Wha…?” Rogers asks, only half-coherently.

 

Shuddering at the sight of Rogers’ pink cheeks and glistening lips, Clint’s cock jumps in Rogers’ grip and Rogers looks back down at it and then up at Clint again in confusion. Clint squeezes his eyes shut tightly and tries to take a deep, calming breath, then opens his eyes again. “You gotta… you can’t use your teeth, man! You gotta sorta wrap your lips around them, like this…” Clint demonstrates with his own mouth. “See?”

 

“Okay… okay. Yeah… sorry,” Rogers mumbles, then bends his head and starts again. It’s clumsy at first, far from the best blow job Clint’s ever received, but he’s so wound up and close to the edge that Clint doesn’t think it will take long regardless. He can feel his orgasm starting to build, coiling low and hot and getting ready to spring, when Rogers suddenly pulls off of him. Clint lets out a horrifyingly loud whimper of protest, and lifts his head to look down just as Rogers ducks his head and actually sucks Clint’s balls into his mouth. Clint slams his head back down and moans shamelessly, spreading his legs wider to give Rogers all the room he needs. Rogers swirls his tongue around and around Clint’s balls, an erotic sensation that sends delicate tendrils of pleasure through his entire groin. But it’s too delicate, and after a few moments, despite how fan-fucking-tastic it feels, Clint starts to feel his desperation ramping up again. He needs to come, but his balls in Rogers’ mouth is not going to get him there.

 

He grapples at the other man’s head. “Cap… Cap, it’s not enough…” he pleads, and looks down when Rogers finally pulls off his scrotum.

 

Rogers sits up and wipes his forearm across his mouth. “Sorry… I’ve just… I’ve always wanted someone to do that to me, and I thought…” Rogers tells him with a bashful expression on his face, and it suddenly hits Clint that he’s just a kid! An inexperienced kid, who says he’s had sex before but very possibly has never done much outside of your standard heterosexual, missionary sex.

 

And any second now Clint is going to lose control and fuck his face. He grips the sheet to try to keep himself from grabbing Rogers head and doing just that, knowing he’d regret it later.

  

Clint blinks owlishly at him, the right words to say lost on him because his mind is too consumed with thoughts of growing need, when, without another word, Rogers drops his head down and wraps his lips around Clint’s cock again. That startles a yell out of Clint and his back arches involuntarily and then drops down and his hips buck upward.  

 

Clint’s cock is nowhere near as monstrous as Rogers’, but much like Clint’s fingers, it’s narrow and long - longer than average – and the head of Clint’s cock hits the back of Rogers’ throat before he gets half of it inside. Clint whines and thrusts his hips a little, wanting desperately to plunge himself deep deep deep into the hot constriction of Rogers’ throat, but somehow he uses his last reserves of self-control not to.

  

Clint can feel Rogers trying different things and when he opens his eyes and looks, Clint can see him watching his reactions. Rogers’ tongue fortuitously glances across the frenulum and Clint’s breath hitches loudly. Rogers pauses and looks up at Clint, then slides his tongue roughly over it again and Clint chokes out a groan. Rogers is definitely a fast learner and that’s all it takes before he goes to town on the spot. He tries different things with the hand holding Clint’s dick and then eventually starts a twisting pump motion that has Clint spiraling dizzyingly fast toward orgasm. When Rogers’ other hand snakes down low and gently rolls his balls, Clint is caught completely off guard and a blinding orgasm slams out of him. He doesn’t even have time to warn Rogers before the first shot of his come hits the man in the back of his throat and he pulls off sharply, dropping Clint’s cock, coughing and choking.

  

Clint immediately grabs his own cock to finish pistoning himself through his orgasm. He lifts his head and watches as thick, white ribbons of come shoot from the head of his cock with more force than he’s ever seen. The first line stripes Rogers’ cheek and he jerks his head up and away in surprise. The next pulses still hit him though – two in his hair (with one catching his ear as well), one more across his cheek, one on his neck and two on his chest. The last few slightly weaker shots land on Clint’s thigh and then he finishes with one final pulse over his fist.

  

The intensity of his orgasm is like nothing Clint’s ever experienced before – which probably answers that question about whether it was the super-serum or the Empulcoitus that had caused Rogers’ orgasm to go on for so long.

 

“Sorry,” Clint mumbles, panting like he just ran a 400 meter race full throttle and swiping his fingers across the come on Rogers’ face. He’s trying to be helpful, but realizes too late that he’s really just smearing it around more.

  

“It’s fine,” Rogers bats his hand away, quickly wiping his face and ear himself, but ignoring the rest of the fluids sliding down his body. A second later, he’s leaning forward, looming over Clint with obvious intent. “Can I…?” he asks, half bashful, half desperate, his cock already nudging at Clint’s hole.

  

“Yeah,” Clint pants. “Yeah, go ahe--”

  

Before Clint can even get the word out, Rogers is pushing in fast and bottoming out in one long stroke.

  

Ah, Fuck!” Clint’s back arches because he was maybe not quite ready for that.

  

Rogers starts a frantic pace, fucking Clint relentless and hard and Clint revisits the fleeting thought that a full day of this is going to have some after-effects, but that quickly dissolves in the intensity of his pleasure – the endorphins still doing their job.

  

“Clint,” Cap begs into the crease of Clint’s neck. “Clint…”

  

But Clint has no idea what Rogers's trying to say. “Yeah… okay, yeah,” Clint gasps, trying to reassure him but not sure why.

  

“Clint…” Rogers whimpers again and he sounds so needy, but Clint doesn’t have any idea what else he can do to give the man some relief. He’s already slamming his own hips in counterpoint to Rogers'.

 

“What…?” Clint asks, the word almost lost in the punch of his breaths caused by Rogers’ insistent pace. “Cap… what?”

  

Rogers’ hips don’t stop but he lifts his head from where it’s been tucked in Clint’s neck and stares at him desperately for a second with clear intent. Oh… Clint hadn’t expected that – the intimacy of it and worries that Rogers might not be comfortable had held Clint back from initiating any kissing himself. Clint doesn’t have any more time to consider it though because an instant later, Rogers crashes his mouth down over Clint’s and plunges his tongue past Clint’s lips.

 

The world lights up behind Clint’s eyelids and every sensation seems to spark, as though a circuit has been completed or something. Intense heat coats his brain, rounding out the sharp edges of desperation into a sense of pure and perfect connection, and Rogers must feel it too because they both groan wantonly at the same time. The Empulcoitus and the exchange of bodily fluids, Clint thinks distantly.

 

He hasn’t kissed anyone but Phil in years, but he can’t deny that it feels completely fucking awesome to have Rogers’ tongue sliding over his own.   His kissing is less gentle than Phil’s - dirtier - and Clint moans obscenely because everything feels so fucking good. He wraps both arms around Rogers’ head to hold him there – fingers grasping his short hair, gripping tight – so he won’t even think about taking his tongue away. Rogers fucks him hard and their mouths mash together - it’s uncoordinated and awkward and pretty soon it barely resembles a kiss as their frantic pace causes it to degenerate into mostly panting and the messy slide of lips and tongues and teeth. Clint can hardly get a breath with how every ferocious thrust from Rogers forces the air from his lungs and Rogers is grunting into Clint’s mouth every time he bottoms out.

  

Clint wraps his legs around Rogers’ back and moves his grip to his ass, pulling him harderdeeperfaster as his body flexes upward to meet the insistent snap of Rogers’ hips every time. The brackets that hold the bunk to the wall have enough give in them that it’s shaking a little, and Clint’s pretty sure that if it weren’t attached, they would be skidding across the floor from the force of Rogers’ fucking.

  

Clint…” he moans into Clint’s mouth just as he tenses and Clint can feel another orgasm rip out of him. “Clint… oh god…” he chokes out, dropping his face into the side of Clint’s neck. Rogers’ body convulses as he starts to empty himself inside Clint again. Like the first time, it seems to last forever, his body jerking rhythmically with every pulse. As his movements begin to slow and smooth out, Clint doesn’t know what possesses him, but he turns his head and mashes his tongue into Rogers’ ear, plundering and sucking with everything he has.

  

Either it’s one of Rogers’ erogenous zones or the Empulcoitus has that part of his body over-sensitized, too, because Rogers cries out and his body jerks violently, his hips starting another vigorous assault on Clint’s body. Clint keeps at it until Rogers’ thrusts become erratic and he almost stills.

  

They’re both struggling for breath, chests heaving, but Rogers thankfully has the presence of mind not to drop his weight completely onto Clint, instead balancing over him in a plank position. Yeah, super strength and endurance. He doesn’t pull out of Clint, just hums a little into his neck, rocking slightly, then kissing him lightly under his ear. Clint can feel the slick evidence of his own need intensifying the friction between them and he would almost call it pleasurable, except that he already feels so taut with impatience that it doesn’t quite get there.

  

“Clint…” Rogers murmurs, still rocking in place as he slowly skims soft, wet kisses across Clint’s neck and back to his mouth. Clint opens for him immediately and they fall into a gentle tangling of tongues that makes Clint sigh contentedly. It’s strangely intimate given the fact that, really, they hardly know each other, and it seems completely disconnected from the frantic pace of how Rogers was hammering into him just a minute before.

  

He’s just had the thought that it’s kind of nice, when Phil’s face appears in his mind’s eye, making him freeze, then push roughly at Rogers, who quickly sits up on his heels between Clint’s legs. The moment is there and gone instantly though, because Clint's dick is more than happy to remind him that they’re nowhere near done, rock hard and straining upward, as though reaching for the other man. Hell, maybe it is.

  

Rogers seems equally willing to ignore whatever just happened. “What do you want?” he asks, pumping his own still-hard cock.

  

Clint blinks and can’t help stare at Rogers’ face. It’s red, flushed from sex and scraped from beard-burn. His eyes look completely black. But his mouth… his mouth is puffy and pink and glistening wet and about the most delicious thing that Clint has ever seen. A clear picture flashes in his mind. “I wanna fuck your mouth,” he answers honestly, his dick twitching and then bobbing on his stomach. He smears his fingers through the pre-come pooled on his abs and slides them into his mouth, tasting his own bitter tang.      

  

Rogers’ eyes widen and, impossibly, they seem to grow even darker as he flicks his glance between Clint’s face and his weeping cock. “How do we do that?” Rogers rasps greedily, with no hint of hesitation.

  

Somehow, through their fog of desperation, Clint maneuvers Rogers off the bunk and onto his knees near the wall. Clint stands in front of him grasping Rogers’ head with one hand and leaning on the wall with the other. Rogers stares at Clint’s cock and licks his lips repeatedly, a dazed expression on his face.

  

“No teeth,” he reminds Rogers quickly, grasping hard onto his hair for a second for emphasis. Rogers darts his eyes up toward Clint’s and nods a little, before reaching up to grip Clint’s cock in one hand, the other still pumping his own. Clint pushes his hips forward a bit and Rogers opens his mouth wide. He’s not at all expecting it when Rogers pushes forward, immediately taking nearly all of Clint's cock in, on the first slide. Clint swears and his hips buck reflexively but Rogers barely seems to notice, much less mind, pulling back for a brief second and then pushing forward again.

  

Rogers was right, he’s a damn quick study and it’s maybe 15-30 seconds before he’s figured out how to relax his throat and easily take all of Clint without gagging. Clint waits as long as he can – until Rogers seems to really have the hang of it and each pass has his throat yielding willingly – and then gives in to his urges. He shifts and grabs Rogers’ head with both hands, somehow finding enough purchase in the short hair, and then takes control and drives his cock deep into the other man’s throat. He holds it there for a few seconds, savoring the exquisiteness of the sensation, and if Clint had any lingering concerns that this wouldn’t be enough, he stops worrying immediately. He groans obscenely as he pulls back slowly one time, and then unleashes full-force, slamming voraciously into Rogers’ face. His pace matches what Rogers just gave him, savage and unrelenting and he wants to feel bad about what he’s doing, but he can’t. He can’t, because while Rogers is squirming in front of him, throwing his hands out to retain his balance in the face of Clint’s demanding greed, it feels so fucking incandescently good that nothing else matters.

  

Clint quells the last of his guilt by reminding himself that it’s an established fact that the man can apparently survive without air for a very long time.

  

Clint loses himself to the sensation for a few moments, eyes closed, all of his focus on the feel of Rogers’ throat, tight around the head of his dick, Rogers’ tongue, slightly rough on the underside, and his lips, adding the drag of friction near the base. Clint’s balls slap against Rogers’ chin and it’s all exquisite and he feels another orgasm building steadily, but when he opens his eyes and looks down, Rogers’ face is alarmingly red and Clint panics, jerking and losing his rhythm. But then Rogers flicks his gaze up to Clint and his expression doesn’t seem to be one of concern, rather, it looks like pure lust to Clint. He takes it as ascent to keep going and renews his earlier pace, slamming his hips forward faster and harder, the seemingly insatiable thirst digging at his insides.

  

Rogers makes small choked noises as Clint pounds into his mouth, his shoulders and neck straining, hands grappling for purchase before finally finding it on the back of Clint’s thighs. Clint almost stops because he thinks for a second that Rogers is trying to signal him. Instead, the man actually grips him painfully and yanks him harder and fasters into his own face. Jesusfuck, Rogers really is super human, is the last coherent thought Clint has before he yells and his orgasm tears through him. Reflexively, he bends over and wraps his arms around Rogers’ head, holding him still with his cock pushed as deep as it can go as he shoots down the man’s throat. His hole clenches in time with the contractions, and he actually feels a yearning for Rogers’ dick to fill him up again. He pulls out before he’s done coming and the last few, weaker pulses splatter onto Rogers’ right pec, sliding over his nipple. Clint’s still with it enough to be amazed all over again at the sheer volume of come that they seem to be producing.

  

They’re breathing hard again and Rogers is slumped back on his heels, chest heaving, eyes closed, cheeks still crimson but the rest of his face fading to rosy. There’s come slipping out of the corner of his mouth and his lips are swollen red and abused looking, and Clint can’t resist the urge to push forward again, nudging at Rogers’ mouth with his half-hard cock. Rogers opens his eyes and looks up at the same moment that he opens his lips again, gently mouthing at Clint’s flagging erection. Clint hisses as Rogers gives a gentle suck on the head and he feels a belated spurt of come dribble out onto Rogers’ tongue. Clint’s is still gasping to catch his breath when he takes a half-step back, letting his cock slip from Rogers’ mouth.  

  

The moment Clint pulls away, Rogers gets a predatory look and is instantly up and starting to manhandling him with obvious intent. They’re both slick with the sweat that’s been pouring out of them and Rogers’ hands slip as he grapples with Clint, trying to maneuver him into whatever position he’s looking for. Eventually he wraps his arms around Clint’s chest and just picks him up, walking them over to the bunk again and pushing Clint face down over the edge of it.

 

“Jesus… yes, come on… do it again,” Clint urges, his hole still slick and eager for Rogers’ dick. Rogers doesn’t hesitate for another second, pushing hard and fast into him in one long stroke, taking Clint’s breath away.   Clint flails a little and scrambles to get his feet under him because Rogers has set another brutal pace and every thrust is banging Clint’s hipbones hard into the bunk’s side-rail. Clint eventually manages to get some leverage and then just tries to hold on and wait out Rogers’ next orgasm so he can get back to the business of chasing his own.

 

The day goes on and on.

 

At one point, an urgent craving comes over Clint and he impulsively shoves Rogers over onto his back, pushes his hands under his hips, lifts, then spreads Rogers’ cheeks apart wide so he can shove his face in deep. He goes to town with his tongue, mashing it wide and flat against Rogers’ hole, laving at it relentlessly.   The new contact sends different sparks of pleasure fissuring through his brain and it must do something for Rogers too because the man virtually melts into the mattress, arms flopping out to the sides. Clint hears a low moan erupt from Rogers’ chest, and is then soon replaced by a high keening litany of “godohgodohgodClintClintClint!”

 

Rogers squirms and writhes, but not so much that he ever risks losing Clint’s mouth. Clint grips him tighter and spreads his cheeks wider and doesn’t stop until he feels Rogers body jerk and buck in orgasm, so wound up that he comes without either of them ever touching his dick. Clint looks up in time to see Rogers’ abs squeeze into tight knots and come stream through the air, hitting Rogers in the face, matting his hair, coating his neck and chest in thick pearly ribbons.

 

Clint sits up on his knees and looks at Rogers’ hole, still clenching rhythmically after his orgasm, but looking pliant and loose from Clint’s attention. He thinks for a moment about what it would feel like to push his own cock into the tight welcoming heat. He thinks about it, and then he shakes his head and stops himself. Because Rogers doesn’t want that. No matter what he might say right now, before, when he was clear-headed, he said he didn’t want it.

 

Rogers looks so fucked out and blissful, still panting hard, that Clint can’t bring himself to manhandle the man around and onto his knees. Instead he crawls up Rogers’ body and straddles his face, nudging at his mouth with his cock. Rogers opens immediately - opening his eyes at the same instant – and pulling Clint’s cock in, sucking hard on the head. The next moment, his hand is on the base of Clint’s dick, pulling and twisting the way he’s already figured out Clint likes. Clint gives him a hand – reaches down and grabs the back of Rogers’ head in his palm, helping to support him so that he can get more of Clint down his throat with less effort. Rogers bobs his head for a while, then Clint takes hold with both hands and holds him still, reversing the motion so Clint is moving instead of Steve. It’s a little more awkward in this position, for Rogers more than Clint, but it works. It doesn’t let him get nearly as deep down Rogers’ throat as when he’s on his knees, but it’ll get him where he needs to go, so Clint relaxes into it, dropping his head back and closing his eyes.

 

After another minute, he feels Rogers resist against Clint’s grip and Clint opens his eyes and looks down.

 

“Can I do that to you?” Rogers asks him. “Can I lick you like you did me?”

 

Fuck. Yes!” Clint answers immediately, and crawls a half-step farther up on the bed, repositioning himself so Rogers can get his mouth on Clint’s ass. The insides of Clint’s thighs are sticky from where the massive amounts of Rogers’ come has been steadily dribbling out of him and down his legs. The tackiness catches on the smooth skin of Rogers’ cheekbones before he works his head back and forth a little to release the tension. Then he reaches up and spreads Clint wide.

 

They both groan as Rogers’ mouth makes contact and he quickly starts eating Clint out. It’s different for Rogers, Clint thinks, because he’s licking his own come out of Clint’s ass, and even though he can’t see it, Clint can imagine how some of the come must be oozing out and sliding down Rogers’ chin and neck. Clint shivers at the thought and his cock twitches violently.

 

His balls sit huge and heavy on the bridge of Rogers’ nose, still so full and taut from the Empulcoitus that they barely move as Rogers’ jaw works against him. It feels like Rogers is devouring him, like he has an insatiable hunger for Clint’s ass and his own come that he’d shoved deep in there. Clint’s dick, engorged beyond anything he’s ever experienced, bobs up and down, hitting Rogers’ forehead now and then when Clint is hit by sudden spasms of pleasure. He leans one hand against the wall in front of him and with the other, starts to work his cock, hypnotically settling into a rhythm that matches what Rogers is doing with his tongue.

 

“Don’t stop,” Clint begs. “Don’t fucking stop,” he demands. “Jesus, please, please, please, don’t fucking stop,” he pleads.

 

A minute later, Steve stops licking and suddenly pushes his chin upward and shoves his tongue impossibly deep into Clint’s ass and Clint comes like a freight train. He yells with the force of it as several pulses of semen shoot against the wall above the bunk before several more weaker shocks drop onto the bed above them and then the top of Rogers’ head. Clint’s panting and his legs are starting to quiver a little with the effort of holding himself up and not suffocating Rogers, even though he knows he doesn’t apparently need to worry about that. Rogers’ tongue is still wriggling obscenely inside of him and as Clint tries to catch his breath, each exhale comes out with a small whine of pleasure. He tips forward a little and leans his forehead against the wall, rocking minutely with the aftershocks and Rogers’ continued ministrations. It feels so fucking good and he rolls his face to the side, mouth dropping open, happy to ride the sensation for as long as Rogers will keep it up.

 

Only a minute later though, Rogers literally lifts Clint off of his face and twists them around so that he’s on top of Clint again, pushing his rock-hard cock into Clint’s relaxed and open hole. Clint can see that he was right about the come dripping down Rogers’ face, and neck and as soon as Rogers crashes their mouths together, Clint can taste it, too. He’s never been a particular fan of the taste of come, but he can’t get enough of it right now – no doubt another effect of the Empulcoitus – and their kissing becomes even more heated as he searches Rogers’ mouth for every last molecule of it that he can get.

  

It goes on for hours – Clint loses all sense of time – and with the exception of that strange moment after Rogers’ second orgasm, it’s never tame, it’s never slow, it’s never gentle; each time is as frantic and feral and desperate as the last. Rogers shifts positions a lot, manhandling Clint roughly and fucking him into all kinds of shapes and contortions. Clint’s not sure if it’s because he wants to try new things or because the Empulcoitus is driving something inside him that won’t let him settle. Somehow, throughout it all and to his credit, Rogers manages to keep from pinning Clint or holding him down, just like Clint asked him; there must be some part of him that’s still in there and still capable of rational thought, just like Clint.  

  

For his part, it doesn’t take more than a couple times before Clint understands that it’s so much better for him if he can really fuck Rogers’ face, rather than lay back and have Rogers suck him.  So when it’s Clint’s turn, he always pushes the other man to his knees in front of him and Rogers never complains. Over and over he watches Rogers’ face go bright red, lips beginning to tinge with blue as Clint’s cock blocks his airway. Over and over he comes down Rogers’ throat with a gasp or a yell, or sometimes reflexively pulling out and coming on the other man’s body. Over and over, Rogers gets right up as soon as Clint stops shooting and pushes right back into Clint’s ass.

  

They take turns – it’s just that simple – each of them letting the other do what he has to do to get off and release the tortured need inside, then switching. There’s no question that the Empulcoitus is doing something to allow Clint to push staggeringly far beyond the bounds of what he would normally be able to endure, but Rogers started with a huge advantage in that department and it’s clearly carrying over to this situation. At first, about every fifth or sixth time, Clint waves Rogers on and lets him go again, not quite able to keep up with Rogers’ apparent bottomless store of endurance. Then it gets to be every third or fourth; and then Rogers fucks him three times to every one time Clint fucks him back.

  

Eventually, as Clint is on his hands and knees while Rogers batters into him from behind, his legs collapse out from under him and he lands on his stomach.  Rogers’ cock slips free as he falls. Only a second later, though, Rogers spreads Clint’s legs wide where they are, lines himself up and pushes back inside.

 

“Cap…” Clint breaths, his voice a harsh whisper. “Cap… I can’t…” he trails off, unable to even form more words in his complete and utter exhaustion.

 

But Rogers shows no signs of letting up, hunkered over Clint, still in that fucking plank position and still fucking him with what feels like almost as much energy as he had hours ago. Clint thinks he feels another orgasm punch out of Rogers, then knows he did when he feels the telltale flush of fresh come oozing out of his ass, even though Rogers continues pumping his hips.

 

Clint whimpers with relief when Rogers finally pulls all the way out and drops onto his back next to Clint. He cracks an eye open and can see that Rogers is pumping his fist up and down on his still-rigid cock, and he honest to god doesn’t give a shit what the man does because he’s about to pass out. “I can’t do it anymore, Cap,” he manages to slur, then catches a glimpse of pure panic flicker across Rogers’ face.

 

“It’s okay…” Clint murmurs. “It’s okay… jus… do what you need to do… jus… try to be gentle, huh?”

 

“Clint..." Rogers says, desperate but torn, clearly horrified at the idea of continuing on with Clint in his current state, but still in obvious and desperate need of relief.

 

Clint flicks his eyes open and shut and sighs. “Don’ want you to die, Cap… do what you need to…”

 

After a silent moment where Clint can’t muster the energy to open his eyes again but he knows the man is arguing with himself, Rogers rolls onto his side, looping an arm around Clint’s waist and tucking his face into Clint’s neck. “I’m sorry, Clint,” he whispers, but he’s already rutting desperately into the side of Clint’s hip.

 

Clint just grunts, and Rogers slowly rolls him onto his side, gently bending Clint’s top knee and pushing it forward, and then slipping his cock in from behind. He can tell that Rogers is trying to be gentle at first, but that seems to be quickly lost in a renewed haze of need and soon it becomes the frantic fucking it’s been the countless times they’ve done this already.   

 

Clint’s completely depleted and on the edge of physical collapse. His brain feels thick but he wonders how much longer this can go on. They’ve been fucking for at least 18 hours, by Clint’s estimation, much longer than he had expected they would, but then he grimly remembers the seemingly large blast of Empulcoitus they’d been hit with. Clint himself had lasted so much longer than he expected and his mind skitters nervously away from thoughts of what that means for Rogers, who has the super-serum in his blood.

 

His fuzzy thoughts are interrupted by Rogers’ grunt behind him and Clint feels him go rigid and then feels the telltale jerk of orgasm. Based on the number of times he feels Rogers convulse against him, arms crushing tight around Clint’s chest, he’s is still shooting as much come as he did in the early rounds. Eventually he stills against Clint and relaxes his grip, his ragged breath coming fast and hot on the back of Clint’s head. Clint doesn’t move, just lies there, hoping maybe it’s over and that they can just sleep and wake up and then go home and pretend this never happened.

 

But it’s not more than two minutes before he hears a pitiful whine against his ear and then feels Rogers’ hips start to move again, tentatively at first, and then quickly gaining steam. Christ, Rogers hadn’t even pulled out of him and he’s hard and already pounding rhythmically into Clint again.

 

Clint’s last thought - before he blacks out completely - is that with the super-serum in him, Rogers might actually fuck him to death.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The first thing that Clint registers when he wakes up is that his body is on fire. He’s on his side and he whimpers and shifts the tiniest bit, and then freezes, his breath catching at the sharp, piercing pain that seems to radiate from everywhere at the same time. Everything comes back to Clint in a rush and he turns his head very carefully, following the sight line of the arm thrown akimbo over his middle, to see Rogers lying behind him, either asleep or unconscious, Clint can’t tell. They’re still on the bunk in the quinjet in the same position Clint remembers being before he passed out from exhaustion and Clint can feel Rogers’ breath coming in long, deep exhalations on the back of his head.

 

He lies still and prays Rogers doesn’t wake up as he tries to take stock of his physical condition. He can hardly differentiate the pain, so he starts at the top and works downward as a way to focus.

 

His head is killing him, every beat of his pulse feeling like his brain wants to burst out of his skull. It could be a side effect of the Empulcoitus. It could also be dehydration and/or low blood sugar. He doesn’t actually remember drinking any of the water that he’d carried from the galley in preparation, but he can see maybe a dozen empty bottles scattered around on the floor, so maybe they managed to get some fluids into themselves. It wouldn’t have been nearly enough, though, based on how many hours they were… doing what they were doing… and the amount of fluids their bodies would have lost in the process. There aren’t any similar protein bar wrappers that he can see and he cranes his head a bit to glimpse the still-unopened boxes sitting on the floor a few feet away.    

 

Moving on, his face hurts. It takes him a moment to puzzle that out but then realizes that 20-30 hours (he has no idea how long they were at it) of beard-burn probably scraped his face raw. He can also feel that his lips are puffy and swollen, and more oddly, his tongue and jaw ache. From hours and hours of kissing while they fucked? Clint has no idea; he’s pretty certain that except for that brief moment in the beginning when he took Rogers’ dick in his mouth, he didn’t perform any more fellatio, but with a grimace, he does seem to remember Rogers pleading with him to rim him to orgasm more than once – which he enthusiastically complied with at the time - so that, plus the kissing could be the explanation. It’s the only one he can come up with, anyway. Worse, though, and not surprisingly, he supposes, his mouth tastes like something crawled inside and died there. Besides eating Rogers ass repeatedly, he knows he definitely licked a lot of come from Rogers’ face and body during the ordeal. Ugh. He can’t imagine what possessed him. Oh, wait, yes he can. Clint grimaces again.    

 

His neck aches, and like his jaw, it’s probably from too many hours of overuse and strain. He can picture Rogers crouched over him, Clint stretching his neck to reach up so that his tongue can lave at Rogers’ hole. Clint feels his face heat. Another flash hits him, of Rogers grabbing his hair and craning his neck back. Why? Clint can’t quite grab hold of the memory.  

 

He realizes that pretty much every muscle in his body carries the telltale ache of overuse; his arms and legs feel like rubber. He hazards a glance downward to look at what he can see of his body in the dim light of the cabin and has to clamp his eyes shut again for a second to regroup and take a deep breath. It comes out shaky on the exhale but he opens his eyes and looks again. His entire body, what he can see of it anyway, is littered with bruises: finger sized bruises that clearly tell a story of Rogers gripping him tightly with his large hands; larger bruises that are a bit of mystery; and maybe most disconcerting, the bruises that were clearly made by Rogers mouth. There are dozens of hickies, or love bites, or whatever, all over his torso. His hand moves up automatically and lightly touches his neck, as the fleeting earlier memory solidifies into Rogers gripping his hair and tipping his head back so that he can get access and suck hard. He can’t see his neck but he’s pretty sure when he can there’re going to be a lot more of those marks. Lovely.  Clint starts to groan in frustration – he fucking hates hickies – but then cuts himself off quickly and freezes, afraid of waking Rogers. Thankfully, the man behind him doesn’t stir and Clint moves on with his self-assessment.

 

Having put off the inevitable for as long as possible, he moves his attention down to his groin. He can’t really get much of a look at it without moving because his knees are bent and his hips are tucked backward, and the way Rogers’ arm is slung over him is obscuring his view. But he can feel it. Jesus Christ, can he feel it. He knows immediately that what he’s feeling is the result of hours and hours and hours of fucking, causing severe chafing on his penis, scrotum, thighs and ass. The pain is all encompassing and he can’t really differentiate the agony of one part of genitals from any other at this point – it’s all just one huge mass of fiery pain.

 

He can’t stop himself from squirming a little bit but then he freezes, for the first time registering that – oh, fucking Christ - Rogers’ dick is still in his ass. He squeezes his eyes shut tight and tries to take a calming breath. God, this is… gross. Disgusting. Disturbing. Excruciating. Humiliating.   So many things that Clint doesn’t want to think about. The primary thing on his mind has now become how to get Rogers out of him and get the hell off of this bunk.

 

Carefully, gently, he lifts Rogers’ arm and sets it behind him between their bodies, then gingerly tries to slide away from Rogers. But Rogers’ cock doesn’t just slip out as Clint expects it to. Even completely soft, as Clint can feel it is (finally – it occurs to him that he never actually saw Rogers’ dick when it wasn’t at least partially erect), Rogers’ dick is bigger than most and Clint still feels full with it. And apparently Rogers’ come has dried around Clint’s opening and it feels like they’re virtually cemented together. The abused skin around his hole burns and pulls painfully and he’s assaulted with a flood of overlapping memories, old and new, but none he wants to revisit so he shoves them aside. He squeezes his eyes tightly shut and braces himself for a for a few seconds and then, without letting himself think about it, pulls himself off.

 

It takes every bit of control Clint has not to scream because it hurts like a motherfucker when Rogers’ cock releases with a squelching noise. Almost worse, Clint feels a sudden warm rush of fluid pour out of his ass – it’s disgusting and sticky and there’s so much of it that Clint is frankly stunned. The free-flowing semen burns the raw and abraded skin around his hole and that’s followed by a deep, deep burning ache and such severe cramping in his lower digestive track that he has to stop and concentrate on breathing through it. The cramps come in debilitating waves and he can’t move for several long minutes as he waits for them to subside, trying desperately not to make noise and wake Rogers up because he can’t really bear the idea of facing the man at the moment.

 

As they ease off a little, he realizes that come is still sliding from his ass and he wonders how many times, exactly, Rogers came inside of him after Clint passed out. And didn’t he ever pull out at all and release all that come? It doesn’t seem like it. Quickly following that thought is the realization that the combined come they both produced means that he’s been lying on a mostly saturated mattress for several hours. Clint recalls having a fleeting thought about the ‘wet spot’ the first time Rogers came, but the realities of that are more grim than he ever considered. Lying on the wet mattress for the last (probably) several hours means the skin where his body has been in contact with the material is also chafed - irritated and painful – probably not unlike a baby with diaper rash. Fuck.    

  

He finishes his physical assessment with the realization that about the only part of his body that doesn’t hurt are his feet. Thank Christ for that because at least he’ll be able to walk the hell out of here. Which is good, because he needs to get out of the bunk and out of this room, away from Rogers, so he can maybe have a quiet mental breakdown.

 

He carefully rolls away from Rogers, using every bit of fortitude he has to stay quiet, and employ his practiced ease and silent grace. Thankfully he somehow manages it without waking the other man. Once he’s on his feet, he stops and watches Rogers for a moment to be sure, grimacing at the cooling come that continues to trickle steadily down his legs and the cramps that keep rolling through him as his body works hard to expel the foreign substance. He can see crusty, dried come all over Rogers’ body – most of it probably Clint’s - and his hair looks like it’s matted with it. He swallows uneasily and turns away.

 

There’s an open, and half-full bottle of water near his right foot and he slowly bends down to scoop it up and then drinks what remains as quickly – but as quietly – as possible. Every swallow is painful, but blissful at the same time, the cool liquid easing across the swollen membranes of his lips, tongue and soft palate. It’s just enough to make him realize that he needs a hell of a lot more.   He glances around and spots a case and a half of water bottles. He grabs the half case and a box of the protein bars as quietly as possible, limps across the space to snag his clothes, and creeps out of the bunk area.

 

Every single step is agony. He tries to adjust his gait – to not allow any of the sensitive skin to touch or rub – but still, it feels like jagged shards of glass grinding into him with even the slightest contact. All he can do is clenches his teeth and grit his way through the movement. He hesitates for a second, not sure where he’s headed, then steers toward the cockpit since it’s the farthest away he can get from Rogers right now without leaving the quinjet.

 

Once there, he eyes the console warily, debating whether to contact Coulson. He knows he should, but he decides not. He knows it’s cowardly, but he’d still rather put that conversation off as long as possible, thanks. Instead, he stands as still as he can, cracks open another bottle of water and guzzles it down in a few quick gulps. Then another and another. After the third, he turns his attention back to his body. Reluctantly, he casts his first full glance down his torso and finds it’s as grim as he feared. Standing with bright sunlight shining through the windscreen, Clint’s body looks obscene; abused and deformed. The bruises from Rogers’ hands look blacker than in the dark bunk area, and those from his mouth look redder. And they’re everywhere. He lifts a hesitant hand to his neck, then drops it, not wanting to think about what he can’t see. His arms are littered with more black bruises than he’s ever seen on them, even after the worst battles he can remember.

 

Worse, though, is the state of his genitals. His penis and scrotum are swollen to nearly grotesque size and bright red and inflamed from the incessant chafing of 24 hours of being repeatedly shoved down Rogers’ throat, the combination of spit, sweat, and come irritating the tender skin. The skin on the right side of his body is also severely irritated, feeling like it’s been rubbed raw with sandpaper from laying on the soiled mattress for hours. He can’t see his back, but he knows there are more black and red marks there as well, and his ass… Clint’s mind skitters uneasily away from those thoughts.  

 

He drags his eyes away from his body for a moment and reaches for the box of protein bars that he’d set on the co-pilot’s chair. His hands shake as he tries to open them, and when he finally cracks the box and gets to the bars themselves, he has to rip the wrapping free with his teeth. He shoves half of a bar into his mouth and chews quickly and mechanically. He knows he needs the calories, so when he finishes, he eats another, and then guzzles a fourth bottle of water and opens a fifth, drinking half. He’s mostly successful at keeping his mind blank as he chews, concentrating on the motion of his jaw and trying to minimize the pain there, not really tasting anything. After two more protein bars, he stops, exhaustion overcoming him.

 

Within arm’s reach – thankfully - is the cockpit’s first-aid kit, and he grabs the bottle of ibuprofen out of it, swallowing 5 pills with the last half of the fifth bottle of water. He could really use some Vaseline, or some other barrier for his chafed skin, but he’d caught sight of the empty jar in the bunk room (even though he doesn’t really remember using it past that first couple of times), and the small first-aid kits don’t hold any.

 

He starts to use some gauze from the first-aid kit to wipe at the wet come still coating his ass and legs, but the first swipe has him greying out, so he aborts. He takes a quick look at what he managed and is relieved to see that it’s only tinged pink, and there doesn’t seem to be any active or severe bleeding. He breathes a shaky sigh of relief. He remembers trying to go slow at first, to make sure that they didn’t do too much damage, but he had Captain America’s enormous fucking cock battering into his ass for the better part of a day so he couldn’t be sure. He doesn’t think he’s ripped or torn too badly, but there are no doubt some fissures there – he just hopes they’re not bad enough that they’ll require suturing.

 

He knows that getting some clothes back on is going to be agonizing, but he also knows that he’s going to do it no matter how painful it is. Getting his underarmour on isn’t as bad as he thought it would be – the pain is excruciating, but not debilitating - and the material is made to wick away moisture, so that’s a blessing. But getting his uniform back on is some of the worse pain he’s ever experienced. The damned material is so fucking tight and excruciating to drag over his abused skin that the only thing that keeps him going with it is the knowledge that eventually he’s going to have to face other people and he sure as hell isn’t going to do it with the state of his body exposed for everyone to see.  

 

He needs more rest but he’s not quite sure how he’s going to accomplish that. He’s not going to go back into the bunk area. He considers the med-bay, and the narrow exam table there, but that’s highly unappealing in itself and the thought of the steps required to get there is too much to consider.   The floor would be miserable. Hell, every place or position he can think of would be miserable. Eventually, he eyes the pilot’s seat warily and decides it’s his best option. He steps over to it and carefully, gingerly, lowers himself down. He thinks that if he leans forward he can maybe keep some of the pressure off of his extremely abused ass and take most of the weight on the back of his thighs. It will put more pressure on his genitals, and it’s a toss-up which feels worse at this point, but if he spreads his legs wide, maybe he can minimize any additional friction. He figures it’s worth a shot.

 

It doesn’t go well. It hurts like fuck and he greys out again before the sharp pain snaps him back to the here-and-now, his limbs shaking and tingly. He almost stands back up again, but he knows he needs to sleep and while he may be skilled in sleeping almost anyplace, standing up is not one of them. He moves very slowly and eventually is able to take a good bit of pressure off the most painful areas, but not all of it; it feels like the lower half of his body is going to splinter into a million pieces.

 

He considers intentionally putting pressure on so he’ll just pass out, but even he has to admit that that would be really fucking stupid because losing consciousness and control is never better. So instead he maneuvers as delicately as he possibly can - whimpering uncontrollably the entire time and not caring one bit - and manages to lean forward and drape himself over the console enough that he thinks it might work. He’s not sure how he’s really ever going to be able to sleep considering the utter agony he’s in, but he knows he needs to try, so he closes his eyes and gives it a shot.

  

**

 

Steve wakes slowly, opens his eyes and is momentarily disoriented. He rolls stiffly onto his back, recognizing the minor discomfort of the overexertion of his muscles. It’s not distressing because it’s how he often feels after a battle, and he knows his body is already well on its way to recovery from…

 

Wait… battle?

 

Oh.

 

Shit.

 

Flashes of the previous couple of days come back to him but his recall is disjointed and seems nonlinear. Much of what happened after the Empulcoitus kicked in has an indistinct quality, as though the human memories couldn’t quite take hold in his mind through the unrelenting animalistic need to fuck. But they're clear enough to make Steve flush in embarrassment as he sits up and looks around wildly.

 

His thoughts have moved quickly past himself and onto his more pressing concern for Clint as he looks worriedly around the bunkroom. He doesn’t see any sign of him, and while his own Captain America uniform is laying where he left it on the floor, Clint’s clothes are gone. He tells himself that both absences are a good thing since it means that Clint must still be alive and at least mobile enough to walk away, and he breathes a small sigh a relief. That feeling is short lived, though, as he takes in the scattered handful of empty water bottles, and then sees the Vaseline jar - laying discarded and swiped clean on the floor – and his mind supplies a clear image of his hand smearing the jelly on his cock and then pushing brutally into Clint. Steve drops his face into his hands, shaking his head with a quiet groan of wishful denial. He drops backward again onto the mattress, only to sit up again when he registers the cold, clammy dampness and comes to a quick, disquieting understanding of why it’s wet. He scrambles off the bunk and reaches to snag his uniform from the floor.  

 

Before he dresses, Steve fully takes in the specific state of his body. His mind helpfully supplies that the dried, crusty substance all over him is obviously come, though whose, he can’t say for sure. Most likely some of both of theirs. He dazedly remembers how each time he’d orgasmed, it felt unnaturally prolonged and he seemed to generate almost terrifying amounts of semen – so much more than when he’s fisted himself off since he returned from the ice. He’s kind of disgustedly amazed at how much of it there is on his body, given the fact that the best he can recollect, he mostly came in Clint’s ass, and Clint mostly came in his mouth and down his throat. The memory has him swallowing reflexively and he notices the discomfort there for the first time; the pain isn’t bad, but it’s enough to remind him why it’s sore. He’s pretty sure that if he’d woken a couple of hours ago, his mouth and throat would have been in considerably more discomfort and he feels both relief and guilt that he has the Super Serum running through his veins.

 

His mouth tastes awful and though he can’t remember how many times he swallowed Clint’s come, he knows it was a lot. A real lot. And, oh God, the distinct memory of licking his own come out of Clint’s ass comes to him and he squeezes his eyes shut and tries to will away the image. How… how could he have done that? How had he wanted to do that? It’s all incredibly confusing and his breath starts to come too fast and Steve bends over with his hands on his knees to try to gain control. He’s never actually had a panic attack before, but he feels like these circumstances warrant one if any ever did; not only did he just spend a day or so having sex with a coworker (he was possibly a friend before this), someone he was never attracted to before, but it was sex with another man and Steve’s not gay.

 

And the sheer excess of it is so… disturbing. He’s trying to wrap his mind around how they could have gone on so long when… oh, no. Oh, God. Nonononono. Steve stumbles backward until his back hits the wall and he slides down it. He pulls his knees up and wraps his arms around his legs and drops his head down onto them, breathing fast again. After a few minutes, he lifts his head and stares at the bunk across the room, all the while, intense guilt and shame assaulting him as he remembers how he had continued to fuck Clint even after the man had lost consciousness. How long had he done that? How many times? Clint was unconscious and he had…

 

Steve abruptly rolls over onto his hands and knees and retches. Thankfully, he doesn’t quite vomit because he doesn’t want to think about what it would be that he would be coming up if he had. After a couple more dry heaves, he sits back, sweating and clammy and breathing hard.

 

He tries to conjure up the desire he felt the day before – the unyielding need – to have sex with Clint. To not stop having sex with Clint even when the man had become debilitated. But none of that desire remains. He feels no attraction to Clint – or any man – and he has a hard time wrapping his mind around what he experienced yesterday, versus how he felt the day before, and how he feels today. It’s incredibly disconcerting.

 

As he grapples with his confused and dismayed emotions, Steve spies the unopened case of water across the room and quickly crosses to it, tearing it open and grabbing a bottle. He practically rips the top off without unscrewing it and chugs it down as quickly as possible. His throat feels a little raw and he squeezes his eyes shut as he drinks, trying not to think about why.

 

He knows he’s probably dehydrated so he guzzles three more bottles, barely stopping to take a breath, then opens another and pours it down his torso, scrubbing viciously at the crusty surface to try to get the come off. As the water sluices down his body, he forces himself focus on his penis for the first time. It’s slightly tender and blotchy-red, but he knows from experience that his body is healing itself at an astonishing rate, so it must have been much worse before he’d passed out, and by tomorrow he shouldn’t have any pain or discomfort at all.

 

He also knows from experience – from life pre-serum – what it feels like to be hurt or sick and how long it takes to heal without the serum. Not to mention that he’d watched his friends in the army - and now his more-human teammates - take some hits and deal with injuries, so he knows how long and painful recovery can be for normal people.

 

Usually though, it’s the enemy that causes the injuries, not Steve.

 

Steve grunts in frustration and shakes his head, trying to just concentrate on cleaning himself up. He grabs a fresh bottle of water and pours it over his genital area. His pubic hair is basically one knotted, matted mess and trying to rinse out and untangle the hair is probably the most painful thing he’s experiencing, as his efforts sharply tweak the sensitive skin beneath, causing him to wince. He almost feels relief that there’s something that the Super Serum can’t fix, but then shame rises up in him at the thought that come-tangled hair is the worst he will suffer.

 

Clint… he doesn’t want to think about what Clint must be dealing with, and the worst part is that Steve gets to pretty much walk away unscathed.

 

Ultimately, he abandons that effort as a lost cause until he can get a proper shower, and starts to pour some water over his face, scrubbing the disturbing amount of residue from there as well. He quickly realizes he’s got some in his ear and pours more water. As he scrubs his ear, his fingers brush over his hair and he stops the water and reaches up to touch his head. The hair there feels about the same as his pubic hair - clumps that are stiff and matted - and he thinks maybe Clint’s come fell there when Steve had licked him out. Along with that, another vague memory rises, too – of Clint pulling his cock out of Steve’s throat and coming on Steve’s face and head. He thinks that was an accident on Clint’s part – recalls some sort of half-hearted apology – but it’s still gross and uncomfortable to think about so he goes back to trying not to.

 

Once he’s rinsed himself as best he can with the bottles of water he slides back into his Captain America uniform, pulling the cowl up over his hair to cover the mess that he didn’t even try to rinse, but leaving his face exposed. Then he quickly polishes off an entire box of protein bars and six more bottles of water, and goes looking for Clint. Honestly, the last thing he wants to do right now is have to face Barton, but he’s pretty worried about what the man’s physical condition must be and he wants to get the hell out of east-jesus Canada and get back home so Clint can get the treatment he no doubt needs.

 

He checks the med bay and other corners of the jet before making his way to the cockpit where he stops at the door when he sees Barton slumped over the controls console.

 

“Clint?” Steve asks tentatively, but the other man doesn’t reply – doesn’t even move.

 

Steve’s heart races as he steps closer, afraid Clint is comatose, or worse, dead. As he moves around and gets a better look at him, it doesn’t make Steve feel any better. Barton is deathly pale and Steve can’t tell if he’s breathing. Carefully, he reaches out to touch Barton’s neck to see if he can find a pulse. He hesitates for a split second when he glimpses Clint’s neck and sees the bright red blotches that he knows came from his own mouth. He forces his hand to keep moving forward, at the same time cringing at the memory of an uncharacteristic but desperate sense of possessiveness that drove him to mark Clint all over his body, in an aggressive effort to claim him. He still can’t recreate that need in his mind and finds the discord leaves him feeling shaken.

 

Thankfully, he finally feels Clint’s pulse, slightly elevated, but strong enough that he’s not apparently in any immediate danger. He doesn’t know what to do, so wanting to delay the inevitable and rationalizing it by telling himself that Clint needs the rest, Steve silently sits in the co-pilot’s chair. Now that he’s calmed a little and paying closer attention, he can see Clint’s back heave slightly with the shallow, but regular, breath of sleep. Not having any idea how long Clint may have been out and knowing he must need rest, he decides to give him another hour before he tries to wake him so they can start to make their way back home.

 

Guilt ripples through Steve again as he looks over at Clint, trying to assess his physical condition. The way he’s slumped over the controls can’t be comfortable, which says something about how the rest of him must feel if that’s how he positioned himself to try to sleep. Steve squirms ashamedly. When he looks closely, besides the grey pallor and red bite marks covering his neck, he can see that under the couple-days’ growth, Clint’s face and neck look raw and inflamed. He furrows his brow, trying to figure out what might have caused that when a vivid sense-memory from 1943 assails him.

 

A young woman had sat on his lap, fucking him slowly while kissing him for over an hour. He was inexperienced but she clearly was not, and he thought that she had ridden him to at least a couple of orgasms while he hovered so close to the edge for so long that it had been maddening. Eventually she had sighed and slid off of him and he’d whimpered at the fear that she was going to leave before he could come.

 

“Sorry, baby,” she had drawled in her lilting southern accent. “You’re too much for me to go on any more. As it is, I know I’m going to be feeling this tomorrow,” she’d winked and didn’t sound upset about it. “But you just lie back and I’ll take care of you.”

 

And she had, kissing him for another age and using her hand to slowly bring him to completion. Then he’d fallen asleep, wrung out from delayed pleasure; it had been the first time Steve had spent an entire night with a girl.  

 

In the morning, he had awoken and entertained thoughts of doing it again, but when he stirred and she lifted her head, Steve had been shocked to see her face bright red and looking scraped raw. She’d shimmied out of bed and looked at herself in the mirror over the sink in the room. “Oh, sweetheart, you really did it to me, didn’t you?” she’d huffed, but she didn’t really seem hurt or angry. “Just wait ‘til I tell the other girls that Captain American gave me beard burn!” she’d crowed. “Won’t they all be jealous!”

 

Steve had just gaped at her because he knew there was more going on here than he really understood, but his cock had a mind of its own and it jumped a little to see a naked girl standing in his room, despite her somewhat rough appearance. She noticed and smiled indulgently. “Oh, honey, I’d dearly love to ride you again, but as it is, I’m going to be feeling you for days, what with you being such a monster down there.” Steve’s eyes followed her gaze down to look at his half-erect cock and he’d blushed. “But let’s see what else we can get up to,” she’d added mischievously and then given him his very first blow job.

  

It may have technically happened over 70 years ago, but to his recently-unfrozen mind, the memory is fresh and it brings a renewed wave of guilt as Steve considers the beard burn and her words about feeling tender after just an hour of slow fucking. Steve had felt bad about that – that she was sore and her face was scraped and inflamed – but the fact that she was happy enough to give him a blowjob made him think that maybe it wasn’t so bad. He isn’t deluding himself about that this time, though. He doesn’t think that Clint is going to walk away quite so happy-go-lucky as the girl had.

 

He closes his eyes against intrusive thoughts about the fear he’d heard in Clint’s voice in his early rebukes to Steve to go slow or he was going to end up hurt. Clint had pleaded with him to be careful, but while their sex may have started that way, that rapidly changed and soon enough, and for the rest of the day, their fucking had been anything but slow or gentle. Even if he didn’t remember it – which he did - the mass of bruises visible on Clint’s arms tell that story clearly enough.

 

He remembers Clint’s uncomfortable request not to hold him down and his obvious desire not to be in a position where anything constricted his airway. Steve had tried. He really had. As soon as Clint had mentioned it, Steve had mentally pulled up Clint’s file and immediately understood. In 2005, in the Congo, Clint had been captured and in an unsuccessful effort to get him to reveal the details of the SHIELD operation there, they had forcibly held him down – not tied him down, but had several men hold him – and waterboarded him for days on end. Steve shudders as he looks at the visible marks on Clint’s arms and prays that he had complied, but the sheer volume of bruising there seems to belie his hope.

 

And those are just the injuries he can see. Steve is well aware that there have to be many, many more that he can’t see under Clint’s uniform. He knows he had marked Clint’s chest and back with his mouth, dozens of times, at least. And he knows… oh, God, he knows what he did to Clint for hours and hours and hours, even after his friend had passed out; things that will cause severe pain and possibly grave damage. He honestly has no idea how he’s ever going to be able to face Clint again. Or Coulson.

  

**

 

Steve lets the allotted hour come and go and doesn’t try to wake Clint. It’s gutless, he knows, but he justifies it by continuing to tell himself that Clint’s body undoubtedly needs more rest to begin to recover. After another 17 minutes, though, Clint’s eyes start to flutter, and then they open and he blinks several times before Steve sees him comprehend what he’s seeing. Barton abruptly sits up and Steve can see on his face how much pain that causes the man but Clint doesn’t make a sound. Steve winces in sympathy, more guilt crashing over him.  

 

“Cap,” Clint acknowledges him finally, gritting the word out through clenched teeth and clearly wanting to look anywhere but in Steve’s direction. He finally does anyway. “You okay?” Barton asks him.

 

“Shouldn’t,” Steve starts, only then realizing that his voice is gravelly and rough, and he stops and tries to clear his throat. Clint seems to flinch at the sound of Steve’s voice and looks away. “Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” he scratches out, forcing himself to hold Clint’s gaze when the other man looks back at him again.

 

Clint sighs and closes his eyes for a second. “Seems to me we both have reasons to be asking,” he says, eyeing Steve pointedly. Steve finally loses his own battle with embarrassment and turns away for a moment. Thankfully, Clint shifts gears. “Any idea how long we’ve been… done?” he asks.

 

“No,” Steve says. He has no idea when his own body had finally given out or how long he’d slept afterward, so he has no real idea how long into their 12-hour mandatory, post-event quarantine they might be.

 

He looks out the windscreen at the setting sun and then at the clock and mentally calculates how long they’ve been gone. He knows they started… having sex… at around 9:00am because they had breached the empty Hydra base at 7:00am and the substance had taken a couple hours to fully kick in. The expectation was that the ‘event’ would last approximately 18 hours, give or take a couple of hours, but while nobody verbalized it, he knows they were all wondering if the Super Serum in Steve’s blood would affect that one way or another.

 

He’s pretty sure it had, and not in a good way.

 

He had retained enough awareness to notice the sky go dark and then light again and stay that way for a long time before the desperate need had finally faded – long after Clint’s body had succumbed. His best guess is that while the Empulcoitus may have run its course in Clint after maybe 20 hours or so, he thinks he kept going for closer to 26 hours, but really, he has no way of knowing; it could have been as much as 30 or 36. He was so far from coherent, especially at the end, that he can’t really even hazard a guess.

    

Clint just nods and squints out the windscreen into the dimming light. He wonders if Clint sees something there that Steve can’t. He knows he needs to apologize for what he’s done so he takes a breath. “Clint, I’m--” he starts, but Clint cuts him off ruthlessly.

 

“You know what? I’m gonna go with ‘long enough’,” Clint says, and starts flipping switches on the console to power up the jet.

 

“Are you okay to fly?” Steve asks, alarmed, because Clint truly looks like he might pass out any second.

 

Clint seems to stiffen at his words and then abruptly pulls the jet into lift-off, causing Steve to scramble to get into his harness. Clint doesn’t bother with his own. Steve wonders if that’s because the attempt would be too painful for the man. But Steve gets Clint’s message loud and clear and doesn’t try to engage him any further. It’s not like Steve really wants to talk about any of this either.

 

A couple hours of silence later, though, Steve feels like he needs to ask. “Have you talked to SHIELD?”

 

He sees Clint tense and remembers their conversation about Coulson and understands that that added layer of complication must make this even more uncomfortable for Clint. It certainly does for Steve.

 

“No,” Clint answers tersely with a jerky shake of his head. “Not yet.”

 

Steve nods and reaches for the radio. Someone needs to do this and the least Steve can do is spare Clint this one discomfort – if only for a couple of hours. He doesn’t turn on the video feed, though, leaving it with just the audio.

 

“Hawkeye? Captain?” he hears Coulson’s voice as soon as the connection goes live. He sounds the same as he always does to Steve’s ear – calm, collected and professional - but he sees Clint flinch minutely and wonders if he’s heard something Steve can’t discern.

 

“Agent Coulson,” he answers as smoothly as he can and sees Clint send a fleeting glance his way. “We’re returning to base, Sir. ETA,” he pauses and looks at the instrument panel, “two hours, forty-three minutes.”

 

“Status report, Captain?” Coulson asks, and this time it sounds to Steve like he’s being very careful with his words.

 

Steve hesitates and looks at Clint, who gives a small shake of his head. Steve’s not entirely sure what he’s trying to communicate. “Both conscious and ambulatory,” Rogers says eventually. “Hawkeye is piloting the jet,” he adds, meaning to impart some small measure of reassurance to Coulson about Clint’s condition; that he’s alive and at least okay enough to be in the pilot’s chair. Clint seems to relax fractionally.

 

There’s a brief pause before Coulson speaks again. “Is there anything you need right now?”

 

This time it’s Steve who chooses his words carefully. “No, Sir. I don’t believe there’s anything you can do for either of us,” Steve says, his eyes darting to Clint for a second. Clint gives a tiny nod of approval, or appreciation, or something.

 

“Roger that. See you soon, Captain,” Coulson answers and there’s a slight hesitation before he cuts the connection. Steve sighs in relief that that’s over and turns toward Clint again. But Barton is resolutely staring straight ahead, so Steve takes it as the hint that it is. They fly in silence the rest of the way to New York; Clint looking like he’s using every reserve he has to stay seated upright and fly the jet, and Steve stewing in his remorse.

 

When they finally get back to the SHIELD base, Clint sets the quinjet down in the gentlest landing Steve’s ever experienced. Once the engines are powered down, Steve turns to his teammate again.

 

“Hawkeye… Clint…” he starts and then stops, because he can’t seem to find the right words to say. A simple ‘I’m sorry’ doesn’t seem nearly adequate enough.

 

Clint sighs. “There’s nothing to say, Cap. It’s over. Let’s just forget about it.” He’s staring out the windscreen, and when Steve looks he can see that Clint is watching Coulson stalk toward the jet with a grim expression on his face.

 

Steve is conflicted; wanting to get out an apology, but knowing that neither of them really wants to discuss what happened. “Okay,” he eventually relents quietly, feeling cowardly again, but also relieved.

 

“Go ahead, I’ll be right behind you,” Clint says, clearly not wanting Steve to see him try to negotiate out of the seat and off the jet, but Steve’s concerned he won’t be able to manage it on his own. He hesitates.

 

Clint closes his eyes. “Please…

 

Steve still hesitates, but then stands up and quickly makes his way out the back of the jet.

 

**

 

Phil crosses the flight deck with trepidation, worried like hell about what he’s going to find when he gets inside that quinjet. The last two days, while waiting for Clint and Rogers to check in, have been beyond difficult: knowing what was going on thousands of miles away; knowing that both men were acting beyond their control; knowing there wasn’t a damned thing Phil could do to stop it or help in any way.

 

But mostly knowing that the situation was probably tripping all of Clint’s triggers.

 

When they’d been recruiting Clint into the agency, SHIELD had done it’s standard invasive and thorough background check, and they actually got that asshole, Jacque Duquesne, on record bragging about how he’d ‘trained’ the young Clint Barton ‘in more ways than one.’ And some years later, when he and Clint had started a relationship, it hadn’t taken long for Phil to come to a pretty clear understanding of what that meant.

 

After the Congo, Clint had spoken fairly easily about the fact that after what happened, he didn’t want to be held down and that he needed Phil not to jerk his hips if Phil’s cock was in his mouth. But the rest, Clint didn’t talk about and Phil had had to figure it out on his own, reading Clint’s reactions and making inferences from his file. Clint’s tells were small, but after knowing Clint for so many years, Phil knew that the fact that he could see them at all, spoke volumes.

 

Rule number one: Clint doesn’t bottom.

 

None of it had been a problem for Phil. He was happy to have Clint top. And he could control himself when Clint gave him a blowjob because Clint gave mind-blowing blowjobs and Phil didn’t want to do anything that might discouraged him from giving them.

 

But Phil’s seen the tapes; he knows that once Empulcoitus kicked in, the victims largely degenerated into mindless fucking-machines, so desperate for relief that they would do anything. And compliant to let their partners do anything to them as well. He never saw any reluctance or restraint on any of the videos he’d watched. Phil couldn’t see how Clint was going to get out the other side of this situation without facing a lot of personal demons.

 

Worrying about Clint has Phil completely strung out. He’s been subsisting on coffee and pastries for two days, with only few hours of sleep on the couch in his office. He’s jittery and stressed, and the only times he can remember being more tightly wound are those interminable days of searching for Clint in the Congo, and the three when Loki had Clint.

 

When the 18-hour mark had come and gone, Phil hadn’t been terribly surprised. Eighteen hours was optimistic – the best-case scenario – but given what they’d reported about the quantity of Empulcoitus they’d been hit with, Phil had suspected that it wouldn’t be best case scenario. When 20 hours, and then 24, had come and gone, Phil had gotten significantly more anxious. At 30 hours, Phil had cursed and thrown all the files on his desk across the room, then spent the next hour sorting and reorganizing them and frankly happy for the mental diversion. At 35 hours, he’d gone down to the range and shot 25 straight clips of ammo, shredding every target in sight and sending junior agents running. At 38 hours, Phil had sent another quinjet to head toward their last-known coordinates and then called it back with an exhausted and shaking voice when he’d finally heard from Rogers at nearly 40 hours. Then, overwhelmed with relief, he’d locked his office door, set the alarm on his phone for two-and-a-half hours later, and immediately collapsed into a deep, exhausted sleep.

 

Slightly rested and slightly more in control now, Phil watches the quinjet land and he approaches, his pulse quickening. This situation has pushed all of his buttons where Clint is concerned and as much as they always keep the personal and professional separate, this time is he’s not certain how long, and to what extent, he’ll be able to retain the level demeanor he knows people have come to expect from him.   He slips on his sunglasses because he may be pretty damn good at schooling his expression but he’s not willing to place any bets on his poker face at the moment.

 

He sees Rogers emerge alone from the back of the quinjet and Phil wants to walk right past the man and get inside to Clint, but he stops. “Captain,” Phil greets him, barely able to contain his impatience.

 

“Agent Coulson,” Rogers answers, looking incredibly uncomfortable, but hand it to the man, maintaining composure.

 

“Agent Barton?” he asks immediately, because Clint is the much more important variable here. Phil can’t help notice that Rogers looks more or less fine. He’s read everything there is about the serum in Rogers’ blood and knows that the man’s body would have largely healed itself of any injuries by now. On the other hand, he knows that Clint’s body will have not, and he can’t help the bubble of resentment that works its way through him.

 

“In the cockpit,” Rogers tells him. “He told me to go ahead without him,” he adds, a clear note of apology in his voice.

 

“Is he alright?” Phil can’t stop himself from asking.

 

“He’s…” Rogers flushes noticeably and hesitates, looking at the open rear hatch, then back to Phil again. He clears his throat. “I think he’s worse than he’s letting on.”

 

Phil sighs and ducks his head, rubbing his fingers harshly across his eyebrows in frustration. “So, Hawkeye SOP, then?”

 

Rogers just grunts in affirmation.

 

Phil mimics Rogers’ earlier motion, looking at the open jet and then back. “Get to medical, Captain,” he tells the man in front of him.

 

“I’m fine, Sir,” he answers. “The serum--”

 

“May be helping you recover, but we don’t know enough about this stuff and we’re not taking any chances here,” Phil snaps at him. “That’s an order, Captain.” He doesn’t really want to stand here and argue the point with Rogers when all Phil really cares about is checking on Clint.

 

“Yes, Sir,” Rogers replies immediately, because Phil is right and Rogers knows it. But Rogers hesitates a moment, seeming to scrutinize him. Phil just stares back implacably, growing increasingly impatient for Rogers to leave. When he finally turns and walks briskly toward the building, Phil watches him until he’s out of sight, wondering for a few seconds if Rogers knows about him and Clint. He’s certain he didn’t before this incident, because they’re both very private and they work in a world where known personal connections can make you or your partner vulnerable. As far as Phil is aware, outside of the two of them, only Fury, Hill, and Natasha know, but this situation certainly had the potential to bring things to light.

 

But that’s really not at all important right now. Phil takes a deep breath in an effort to calm himself and then makes his way into the jet, walking decisively toward the cockpit where he finds Clint still sitting in the pilot’s seat. He doesn’t turn - even though Phil made a point to be sure he heard him coming - and Phil is fucking thankful for it. Because Phil’s body reacts viscerally, twitching in horror at the visible evidence of what has transpired over the last couple of days. He can see myriad fingertip sized bruises all up and down Clint’s arms, and sharp, red ecchymosis ringing Clint’s neck. Jealously and rage rise up inside of him, and he balls his fists. It’s only the fact that Clint needs him that stops him from leaving to chase down Rogers and punch him in the face – repeatedly.    

 

But, no. That’s not fair, Phil knows, and he stops himself and takes a breath. Rogers was under the influence just like Clint, and if Phil had seen Rogers 12 hours ago, his body would have probably told a similar story. Still, Phil has to fight hard to push the anger down.

 

“Do you need assistance, Agent?” Phil asks, trying to keep his voice nothing but professional even though he knows Clint can see right through him. Still, Clint hates any overt show of concern in the field, so right now, and until they’ve cleared the jet and medical has triaged him, they’re Agent Coulson and Agent Barton, or Hawkeye; nothing more. After that, when things are settled, maybe Clint will let Phil get closer and offer comfort. Maybe.

 

Clint doesn’t look at him, just stares straight ahead, and there’s a tension there that Phil can’t quite interpret, which is disconcerting. “There is no fucking way in hell I am letting you or anyone else carry me off this jet,” Clint bites out, clenching his jaw furiously.

 

“Understood,” Phil answers readily. “However, it’s nonnegotiable that the only place you’ll be going from here is Medical.” His words are firm and unyielding.

 

Clint barks a humorless laugh. “For once, I agree with you, Sir,” he says tightly. “I’d be really fucking grateful if you could clear the deck first, though,” he adds.

 

Phil understands. He’s pretty sure he kept a lid on the fact that Captain America and Hawkeye were dosed with Empulcoitus, but anyone who saw Clint now would see the handprint bruises on his arms and the ring of ecchymosis on his neck and come to some sort of conclusion. And regardless of what it might be, it’s definitely not one that Clint would want people to have about him.

 

“I’ll… Yes, I will. I’ll meet you at the elevator.”

 

He sees Clint nod without looking back and after a second’s hesitation, turns and exits the jet the way he came. Once back on the tarmac, Phil orders the few staff in the area to clear out, ignoring their confused looks before moving inside and making sure no one is in the area. He radios down to Medical to let them know they’re on their way, and then he waits. It feels like an eternity before he sees Clint emerge from the jet, moving slowly and tentatively, clearly in significant pain. What Phil wouldn’t give for Clint to have just a little of Rogers’ Super Serum right now.

 

Phil can tell that Clint is working hard to walk smoothly but anyone who knows Hawkeye could easily recognize that there is something very wrong with the man; his gait lacks the fluid grace that underscores his years in the circus and smooth skill as an acrobat and soldier. Phil takes off his sunglasses and blanks his face as Clint approaches the elevator, making sure the door is open and ready for them as soon as Clint arrives.

 

“Medical level,” Phil directs as soon as Clint passes the threshold and the box begins its slow descent.

 

Clint faces Phil, their eyes meeting for the first time and he stares at Phil pointedly for a few seconds. Phil recognizes the look for what it is: it’s a warning, a dare for Phil to say anything. Phil gives him his best level expression in return and nods once. Clint’s shoulders ease a bit and he turns around.

 

Phil has the sudden horrifying understanding that Clint hadn’t wanted the deck cleared because he was moving slowly, he had wanted the deck cleared so no one would see what Phil can now see. A small, indignant noise escapes from Phil before he can quash it. For Phil, it’s a slip of gigantic proportions and he recognizes that immediately. An abusive father and then being forced to make his own way when Barney dragged them to the circus has left Clint with a deep-seated need not to be perceived as fragile or a weak link. It’s what makes him so difficult with Medical and has been the biggest source of conflict between the two of them since the beginning. And it’s only gotten worse since he’s been put on a team with superhumans, Gods and geniuses.

 

It’s taken years, but Phil and Clint have come to an unspoken understanding; Phil won’t coddle Clint (no matter how much he longs to) and Clint will be honest – with Phil and himself – about how much medical intervention he really needs. That one small sound Phil made probably undid years of progress and he sees Clint tense up and knows that he’s shutting down as well.

 

Phil closes his eyes and tries to remember if there was anything similar on the Captain America uniform, but he knows there couldn’t have been because he’d watched the man walk away and that isn’t something he would have missed. He shakes his head, perplexed and with anger rising again over what the hell had happened on that jet and how it could have been so seemingly one-sided. He’d seen video of victims of Empulcoitus in the past, and once Clint and Rogers were exposed, he’d dug up everything he could on it; read every word and re-watched every minute of tape. It had made him sick - all of it - but one thing that was consistent in everything he read and saw was that because of the bond created in their brains, the sexual desire and activity was reciprocal – always. Phil cannot wrap his mind around how this particular event could possibly have been one-sided. And his desire to punch Rogers turns into a more sinister desire to do much worse.

 

Clint sways noticeably, and more than anything Phil wants to step close and help support him since it’s clear that he’s barely doing it on his own. But after his mistake a moment ago, the ‘stay away’ radiating off of Clint couldn’t be more clear unless he had an actual sign on him. Instead Phil watches him closely for any sign that portends that collapse is imminent. Phil’s ready to catch him if necessary, Clint’s feelings about that be damned.

 

After the seemingly interminable descent down to the medical level, Dr. Smolser is there alone when the doors open. Phil had hand-picked the doctor for his top-secret clearance, his reputation for discretion, and the fact that there’s something about him that Clint must like because he’s generally cooperative when Smolser’s his treating physician. Phil is relieved when Clint goes without protest, even though he’d indicated that he’d planned to; it can be hard to predict how Clint will react to Medical until he’s actually there.

 

Smolser eases him away - one hand gently gripping Clint’s upper arm to support him – and Phil feels a surge of irrational jealously, wanting to be the one with his hands on Clint, but knowing that his assistance is unwelcome. Clint’s painful movement has Phil’s eyes angrily scanning the hallway for Rogers, but a minute later, he shakes himself out of his murderous thoughts and walks down the corridor to the bank of chairs and sits down to wait.

 

**

 

Clint isn’t sure how he musters the fortitude to make it all the way to Medical without assistance, except maybe for the fact that there’s nothing like the sheer power of will. He’s endlessly thankful that Coulson has enough authority to completely clear the deck and the route to Medical, and even more grateful that he knows Clint well enough that he doesn’t try to help him or talk to him, or make any effort to come into the exam room with him.

 

He also says a silent thanks to Phil when he sees that it’s Dr. Smolser waiting there to treat him because he’s sure that is Phil’s doing, as well. Smolser is good; no-nonsense and discreet, doesn't treat him like he's fragile, and he seems to understand Clint so he only pushes when it’s absolutely necessary.

 

Clint makes a move to get onto the exam table but the doctor stops him. “Wait,” he puts his hand up but doesn’t touch Clint. “Can you get your vest off on your own?” Clint grunts his acknowledgment and Smolser nods. “Do that, please.”

 

This part isn’t too difficult. All of his muscles are strained and sore but the skin on his torso isn’t horribly abraded, and by comparison to the lower half of his body, it’s nothing, so getting that piece of his uniform off is fairly easy. When he reaches for his pants, Smolser stops him.

 

“No, don’t. I’d like to get some fluids and pain relief in you before we try to get those off. Lie down and we’ll get that going,” Smolser says with a complete lack of judgment or expression in his voice, and without making any effort to help him.

 

There’s a reason why he’s Clint’s favorite doctor.

 

He manages to lie back on the exam table; again, through sheer power of will. Smolser inserts the port into the back of his hand himself since there are no nurses or other medical staff present, and seconds after he opens the IV line, Clint feels almost instantaneously better.

 

“What’s in there?” Clint asks, curious. He blinks his eyes slowly and lets out a long breath of relief.

 

“Fentanyl,” Smolser answers as he eyes Clint’s Kevlar. “Muscle relaxers, broad spectrum-antibiotics,” he adds, then spends several long minutes perfunctorily, but gently, cleaning the exposed skin of Clint’s body. He does the best he can to wipe off the sweat, come, and blood that’s there, and cut through the layer of greasy Vaseline that seems to be all over his body. When he’s done what he can, Smolser cleans and disinfects the minor open cuts and less-abraded skin. It stings like hell, but with the fentanyl, it’s nothing Clint can’t handle. Once that’s done, with the pain killers fully engaged, he pauses, and Clint sees the doctor eyeing his pants again with consideration.

 

Clint wraps both arms over his face. “Just cut ‘em off, Doc,” he says. “’Cause the only way you’re going to pull those back off of me is if I’m unconscious.”

 

He hears Smolser hum in agreement and then leave the room. Clint floats on the drugs and he must drift off there for a few minutes because the next thing he knows, he can feel the doctor gently cutting at his uniform. It takes a long time – the Kevlar is difficult to cut since it’s made to withstand tearing or penetration - and Clint has no idea what he’s using to saw through the material, but he’s being incredibly careful.

 

As soon as the pants are taken care of, Smolser moves on to his underarmour, making much easier work of it. He hears the doctor give a low whistle of sympathetic surprise. From anyone else on the medical staff, Clint would be tensing and angry, but he knows Smolser well enough to know his reaction is clinical and non-judgmental.

 

“Any idea how long you were active?” he asks mildly.

 

Clint manages an almost-humorous laugh. “I have no idea. I gave out after maybe 24 hours. Rogers…” he trails off, not having an answer. Smolser doesn’t respond. “Bet you’ve never seen anything quite like this, have you, Doc?” he asks, trying for conversational to normalize the situation and remove some of the inherent awkwardness.

 

“No, I haven’t,” he admits evenly. “How’s the pain relief? Do you need more?”

 

The pain has mostly leveled into just a mild burning sensation and dull throbs. It still hurts, but Clint knows that any more of the fentanyl will probably put him out, and while he’s really looking forward to that, he doesn’t want it until the treatment is over and he knows all there is to know about his condition. “No, I’m good,” Clint sighs, his arms still covering his face and eyes. “Thanks,” he adds after a few seconds.

 

Smolser gives another small hum and gets to work.

 

The doctor talks him through his observations and the treatment he’s giving, knowing Clint well enough to know that it’s what he needs from the medical staff. The situation is about what Clint expects. Smolser tells him that there are no significant rips in his anus (which he already assumed by the absence of anything more than pink tinges in the come he’s been excreting for the last several hours) but that there are a lot of small fissures and he’s likely going to be in some discomfort for quite a while. Smolser tells him that there are also a lot of abrasions inside his rectum, but thankfully, there are few nerve endings there, so it’s not quite as painful. The only treatment for any of that is an antibiotic ointment and stool softeners, and to keep to a high fiber diet until the discomfort disappears, but Clint’s been planning on a liquid diet for the foreseeable future anyway. He curses inwardly, thinking about the protein bars he’d shoveled into his mouth earlier.

 

His prostate is also apparently abraded and overstimulated to the point of numbness at the moment. Smolser warns him that he may experience some discomfort in the coming days, but as he’s never seen anything quite like it, he can’t really predict what might happen.

 

Great.

 

His penis and scrotum also obviously need treatment. His genitalia are red and grossly swollen, abraded and on fire from the chafing of more than 20 hours of non-stop sex. There’s not much to do for how badly irritated the skin is except give him diaper rash ointment and use it liberally. And Smolser tells him he should abstain from sex for a couple of weeks, at least, but to let pain be his guide in that regard. Clint laughs mirthlessly because he honestly feels like he never wants to have sex again, so he doesn’t think that’s going to be a big problem. He doesn’t even let himself speculate about how Coulson might feel about sex with him after this.

 

Along with myriad scratches, he’s got bruises all over his body, most of them obviously from fingertips or hands, layered on top of each other and telling a clear and vivid story of Rogers’ desperation and how he’d manhandled Clint. There’s not much that can be done about them, but Smolser applies some topical ointment to the largest of the scratches and gently applies Arnica to the bruising, though admits to Clint that its usefulness is negligible.

 

When he’s done smearing a thick layer of medicated barrier cream all over the abraded skin from Clint’s knees to his belly, Smolser adds more muscle relaxers and pain killers to the IV, and then wheels him from the treatment room to a standard observation room.

 

“Can you shift over on your own?” the doctor asks him, lining the two beds up next to each other with the rails down.

 

“Uh,” Clint answers, mostly incoherent from the cocktail of drugs on top of his exhaustion.

 

Clint sees the corners of Smolser’s mouth quirk upward. “I’m going to take that as a ‘no’,” he says and steps in to help ease Clint onto the clean bed. Once situated, he lightly drapes the softest cotton sheet available over Clint’s naked body, then leaves him to sleep.

 

**

 

Two hours later, Phil is startled out of his brooding to see Steve Rogers standing in front of him, apparently freshly showered and in civilian clothes. He looks as uncomfortable in his skin as Phil has ever seen him – and Phil saw the man shortly after he’d found himself surprised to wake up in the 21st century.

 

A fresh fire of anger kindles in Phil’s chest at Rogers fully-recuperated appearance before he can tamp it down. Phil’s rational enough to know that there’s got to be more to the story than the state of their respective uniforms would attest, and enough of a professional to be able to separate out the personal here. Or try to, anyway.

 

“Captain,” Phil acknowledges tiredly as Rogers sits. “You’ve been cleared, I assume?”

 

“Yes, Sir. They took a lot of blood to analyze, but the serum did what it does and I’m fine.”

 

Phil nods. “Good.” He really is relieved. Nobody wants Rogers out of commission.

 

“I, uh, I assume we’ll need to debrief?” he asks, clearly uncomfortable with the idea but facing the necessity like the soldier he is.

 

He’s tempted to have Rogers debrief him right here and now, so he can find out what the hell had happened out there, but that could take a while. He’s hoping that Dr. Smolser will be out to give him some news soon, and he doesn’t really want Rogers here when he does. He’s also not sure that he should be the one to do it since there’s no way he’ll be able to remain objective. Phil sighs. “Yes. Agent Hill will debrief you, but it can wait a bit.”

 

“So… Agent Hill knows?” Rogers asks and Phil sees his face flush bright red.

 

“Only Fury, Hill and I, and two of our neuroscientists are in the loop regarding this incident. And now the medical team, of course.”

  

“Right,” Rogers answers stiffly.

 

“Go get some rest, Captain. The debrief can wait until tomorrow.”

 

But Rogers doesn’t leave and Phil turns to look at him a moment later.

 

“Is he going to be okay?” Rogers asks, his guilt radiating off of him.

 

Phil sits up straighter and clears his throat. “I haven’t heard anything yet.”

 

“Do you mind if I stay and wait with you?”

 

Phil really, really doesn’t think he has it in him to sit here with Rogers and wait for word on how badly the man had brutalized his partner – intentional or not. “Go get some rest,” Phil says again, gently, but making it clear that it’s an order and not a suggestion. “I’ll send word once we know something.”

 

Rogers hesitates and has that stubborn look in his eye but Phil returns it measure for measure; he’ll directly order Rogers away if he has to. After a moment, Rogers relents and stands.

 

“I’ll coordinate with Agent Hill,” he says.

 

“Thank you, Captain,” Phil answers, taking care to ensure his significant relief isn’t noticeable.

 

Rogers quickly dismisses himself and is gone 15 seconds later.

 

Phil tries to feel bad about it, but he doesn’t.

 

A half-hour later, Dr. Smolser finds him and runs through the litany of Clint’s injuries and what his recovery is going to look like. Phil’s pretty sure he doesn’t react visibly, even though every word is tearing his insides to shreds. But Smolser speaks gently and looks at him with such compassion that Phil starts to think that his and Clint’s relationship might not be that well-kept of a secret. Phil cocks his head at the doctor curiously.

 

Smolser notices the look and gives Phil a small sympathetic smile. “I’ve had the opportunity to observe the two of you here in Medical on more than one occasion,” he says. “Sometimes emotions run high and we do things unconsciously.”

 

Phil furrows his brow, a little perplexed.

 

“He kissed you after he arrived that time you were burned. I don’t think either of you really even registered that he’d done it,” he shrugs.

 

“Ah,” Phil acknowledges, and tries to remember Clint doing that but can’t. He remembers the incident – their comms had all gone down and Clint apparently had no idea what Phil’s status was until he’d arrived at Medical himself to be treated for smoke inhalation. He remembers both of their relief at seeing each other but doesn’t actually recall Clint publicly kissing him.

 

But he does remember that Smolser was their treating physician and if he’d seen it, he’d clearly kept it to himself. Phil makes a note to himself to do whatever necessary to ensure that this man stays on SHIELD’s payroll.

 

“I’ll take you back to see him now if you’d like.”

 

“Yes, please.

 

“Be forewarned. He’s not likely to wake for quite some time. Many hours, I should think. His body is exhausted and he’s on some strong pain medication.”

 

Phil’s throat feels a little tight so he just nods before Smolser pushes open the door for him and then disappears down the hall. As expected, Clint’s asleep, or unconscious, and he looks like hell. Emboldened by Smolser’s words, Phil touches Clint’s hand, knowing he won’t wake, and strokes his fingers down Clint’s, letting them linger for a few moments. Then Phil sits, dozing occasionally, waiting for Clint to wake.

 

Eventually, several hours later, during which Clint never stirs, he can’t ignore Fury’s increasingly insistent texts and phone messages any longer and he sits up out of his slouch and sighs. Regretfully, he still has a job to do. He taps out a response text to Fury and sighs again when he gets an immediate response demanding his return to the office. Marcus knows about him and Clint, and Phil’s pretty sure he understands how this is tearing Phil up; he’s not so much of an asshole that he’d be this insistent unless it was truly important. So, reluctantly, Phil stands to leave, but not before placing a small, gentle kiss on Clint’s forehead and whispering a quiet “I love you,” in Clint’s ear.

 

**

  

When Clint wakes, what he can only surmise is many hours later, he is both relieved and disappointed not to see Phil sitting next to his bed. Truthfully, the disappointment is the stronger emotion. As much as he doesn’t like to admit it, Phil’s steady presence when Clint wakes in Medical, while hard to accept, has always been reassuring.

 

But while he is disappointed, his relief at not having to face Phil is also pretty strong.

 

On the quinjet, he had fallen asleep much more readily than he’d expected, and then woken to find Captain America sitting next to him. He had really hoped for more time to get his shit together and come to grips with what he’d done to the man before he had to face him again, but Clint’s never been particularly lucky, so, no surprise there. He’d glanced at Rogers and knew immediately that Rogers probably had his cowl pulled up over his head because his hair was covered in Clint’s come and he had felt his face heat at the memory of his unnaturally prolonged orgasms that had covered the other man in layers of his semen.

 

Once they’d landed, Clint didn’t have a clue what to say to Coulson. Anger had clearly been radiating off of the man, and Clint didn’t blame him, considering what he’d done to Phil’s hero. He’d heard the low, murmuring between Coulson and Rogers outside the quinjet; maybe Rogers had pulled the cowl off his head for Phil to see the evidence of what Clint had done to him. It still hurt, though, Phil’s anger and that shocked, choked-off sound he’d made when he’d seen the full extent of the situation in the elevator. Given that Coulson was better at playing his hand close to the chest than anyone else Clint knew, that small noise had gigantic meaning. He had to admit that he wasn’t 100% sure what it had meant, but there was that small part of him couldn’t help but wonder if Phil was reacting to the fact that Clint had let Rogers fuck him when he’d never allowed Phil to do the same.

 

Clint lies in the hospital bed and fights his demons and the downward spiral of his thoughts. He’s self-aware enough to recognizes his own self-worth issues and he’s working on them, but lessons learned early in life are hard to unlearn and he can’t stop the niggling thought that Phil’s present absence has to do with him not wanting to be with Clint right now. Clint certainly wouldn’t blame him.

 

Clint sighs. Probably Phil had to go back to work.

 

Possibly he can’t stand the idea of being near Clint.

 

He’s startled out of his brooding thoughts when the door opens but is relieved to see it’s Smolser, who enters the room carrying a white paper bag in one hand and a small duffle in the other.

 

“Topical ointment, antibiotic ointment, antibiotic pills, muscle relaxers and Vicodin,” he explains, setting the paper bag on the table. He sets the duffle, obviously containing clothing, on the bed next to him. “I’d like you to come back in a few days and let me take another look. Or I could come to you if you let me know where you are,” he hedges. “And in the meantime, the best I can do is say use the ointment liberally and limit any additional friction to the area, so maybe just stay in bed for a while. And don’t shy away from the Vicodin.”

 

Clint nods. “Yeah, okay, Doc,” he says as he gingerly shifts to hang his legs over the side of the bed and unzips the duffle.

 

“He was here up until a couple hours ago. He didn’t want to leave,” Smolser tells him, and Clint freezes for a split second before digging into the bag, wondering if the man can read his thoughts or if he’d maybe talked in his sleep. “He asked me to let him know when you woke up.”

 

Clint looks up at the doctor and sighs deeply before returning to his rummaging. “I’d appreciate it if you didn’t.”

 

“I figured that’s what you’d say,” he pauses and scrutinizes Clint. “He’s not your enemy here, you know. No one is.”

 

Clint gives him an uninspired smirk. “You moonlighting for psych these days, Doc?”

 

Smolser gives him a mild smile. “Take care of yourself, Agent. And come back and see me in a few days. In the meantime, call me anytime if you need anything.”

 

“Yeah, thanks, Doc,” he answers absently as the other man retreats out the door.

 

Officially, Clint lives at the Tower, but as far as the rest of the Avengers know, he stays at his small quarters at SHIELD more than half the time. In fact, while he does keep a studio here, most of the time that he’s not at the Tower, he’s at Phil’s apartment.

 

There’s no way he’s going to Phil’s right now, though, so when he finally manages to get himself dressed, he takes his bag of ointments and pills and limps up to his SHIELD quarters. The copious drugs in his system mean it only feels like rough sandpaper grating away at his skin, rather than shards of glass, so that’s something.

 

Without hesitating, he walks to the bathroom, strips off his clothes as delicately but as quickly as possible, and climbs into the shower, turning it up to as hot as he can stand – nearly scalding. It’s not that he feels like he was raped, exactly - though there is definitely an unease about the whole thing that he doesn’t want to examine too closely – it’s just that he still feels physically dirty and gross. Even though Smolser did a pretty thorough job of cleaning him up, he feels like he’s still coated with a disgusting mixture of residues that makes him nauseous to think about and that he feels a desperate need to scrub off.   He ignores the agonizing throb of his body, using every bit of energy he has to stand there for as long as he can, soaping his whole body down, barely able to touch the sensitive skin below his waist. And then he does it a few more times for good measure.

 

When Clint stumbles out of the shower, he assiduously avoids looking in the mirror, reapplies the ointments to all the various parts of his aching body and takes two Vicodin. Then remembering Smolser’s advice, swallows one more for good measure before he eases his battered body into his bed. He’s asleep within seconds.   

 

 

Chapter Text

Phil knocks softly on the door to Clint’s SHIELD quarters. It’s the first place he’s looked and he’s 99% sure Clint is in there. He wouldn’t go back to the Tower – not looking like he does, because he wouldn’t want anyone asking questions. He wouldn’t go to Phil’s place because if he intended to go there, he would have called Phil when he woke up. Phil’s trying not to think too hard about the fact that he didn’t. It’s possible that he went to a hotel, but given the condition Clint was in, he likely went for the closest, safe, horizontal surface.

 

When he gets no response, he uses his ID to swipe himself in. Sure enough, Clint is in his bed, looking as much dead as asleep. Phil’s heart skips a beat but he tries not to overreact and instead he stares hard, waiting for the telltale movement of the white sheet that will let him know that Clint is still breathing. It takes far too long, but eventually the slow rise and fall of Clint’s chest reassures him that Clint’s lungs are still working.

 

He lets out the breath he was holding and steps over to the small efficiency kitchen on his right to quietly unload the supplies he’s carrying.

 

There’s a medicine bottle on the counter – Vicodin – and next to it, a tube of something he doesn’t recognize lying on top of a white paper bag. Inside the bag he finds various other pill bottles and ointments. He looks closely at each – at what they are and their instructions for use – lining them up as he does. He looks at his watch and wonders how long it’s been since Clint had a dose of the things that were in the bag. Too long, probably. He considers waking Clint to have him take the meds but knows that’s not likely to be well-received for a variety of reasons, so instead, he grabs a chair from the small table and moves it next to Clint’s bed; close enough that he can hear him breathing, but not too close to make Clint skittish when he wakes up.

 

Clint is lying on his side with the sheet pulled up to his shoulders, bottom arm wrapped around his head on the pillow, the other bent with his fist curled in front of his face. It’s a familiar sight but Phil’s never known if the defensive-looking position was intentional, sub-conscious, or just… comfortable.

 

There are bruises on Clint’s arms, black and purple, most ranging from nickel-sized (just about the size of Rogers’ fingertips, Phil thinks ruefully) to silver dollar. But there are a few larger ones. And of course, there are the red marks visible on his exposed trapezius area and neck. Phil breaths out an angry breath and looks away as a distant, unpleasant memory comes back to him.

 

One of the first times he and Clint had slept together, he’d slid down Clint’s body, nuzzling and licking and kissing at the cut line between Clint’s hip and his groin before he applied a little bit of suction. He hadn’t really meant anything by it, and it’s not like he would have done it in a visible place – they weren’t teenagers, for God’s sake - he was just caught up in the pleasure of it and it felt really good to pull Clint’s skin to him that way. But Clint had jerked, flipping Phil hard onto his back before scrambling to sit up.

 

“Don’t!” Clint had gritted out. But when he registered Phil’s shocked and worried expression, he relaxed considerably and then pinked-up, looking ashamed. “Sorry. Just… please don’t do that. I... I’m not a fan.”

 

Phil rolled onto his side and propped himself up, maintaining as casual and non-threatening a position as possible. “It’s fine, Clint. I’m sorry, I should have asked.” Somehow he managed to make the words come out calm, even though what he was really think about was finding and strangling whoever had caused that reaction in Clint.

 

Clint had wiped a hand down his face, clearly embarrassed now. He flopped back onto the bed next to Phil again. “Guess I ruined the moment,” he muttered, staring at the ceiling.

 

“Well, that depends,” Phil said slowly, placing his hand lightly on Clint’s chest. “It’s not ruined for me, so if you want, I still want to suck your cock. But if the moment’s gone for you, I understand.”

 

Clint had turned his head quickly, a surprised smile creeping onto his face. “Well, if you want to…”

 

The next morning, Phil had gone down to the paper-files vault, checked-in his phone and computer, allowed for a light pat-down to ensure he wasn’t carrying anything else that could copy or record any of the information held within, and pulled out Clint’s Asset Recruitment File, looking at it for the second time in ten years. The first time he had read the file, Clint was just one of many potential assets that SHIELD was considering and Phil didn’t pay much attention to the details, beyond the fact that he preferred an unusual weapon. The guy had passed his physical and psych evals, and the background check came back clean. Or, clean enough, anyway. That was all that mattered. Phil had put it on the ‘Yes’ pile and moved on to the next.

 

This time, he gave it more consideration. He leafed through the pages looking for the interview he thought he remembered it contained. Probably the only reason he even remembered it at all was because it was an interview with a guy who had trained their bow-wielding potential asset to use a knife, and Phil had just that day seen Barton throw a knife with more precision than he’d ever seen anyone do before.

 

There it was. Jacques Duquesne talking about how he made sure everyone knew that the skinny marksman was his and not to mess with him. The file was thick and when he’d quickly skimmed through it the first time, Phil honestly hadn’t thought much about it – had somehow read it to mean that Clint was under his protection; the Swordsman was helping out a kid on his own, with no one else to look out for him except a brother who was only a couple years older himself.

 

But as he studied the words in the vault that day he could hear, not the vaguely protective words he’d interpreted the first time, but instead the sinister, bragging tone of it. And it made Phil sick.

 

“I made sure everyone knew not to mess with the kid, you know? No one else messes with what’s yours when you leave your mark.”

 

How had he not understood Duquesne’s meaning the first time he’d read it? Phil cursed himself for his carelessness and then scanned his mental database to try to recall if he’d ever put Clint in a situation that might have triggered him the way he had the night before. He couldn’t think of any, but that didn’t mean much. Clint was so hung up on not tipping his hand or showing any weakness that Phil was pretty sure he would have missed it anyway – especially in those earlier years when they didn’t know each other as well. He closed the folder with the sad realization that it certainly shed light on why Clint had gone rogue to protect Natasha. He cursed himself again for his idiotic blindness; he should have seen that there was more to it when Clint had gone so far out on a limb for someone he’d never met, after only reading her file.

 

Phil had never attached his mouth to Clint in that way again, and then he’d spent the next few months picking his way through the minefield of Clint’s past, working out what was okay and what wasn’t. It was entirely worth the effort because he was surprised to find there wasn’t a single person in the world he’d ever felt so strongly about as Clint Barton, and he’d be damned if he was ever going to do something that might trigger Clint like that again.  Not intentionally.

 

Phil pulls himself out of his memories and his chest tightens at the sight of the red ring of ecchymosis on Clint’s neck. How long will it take that to disappear? Given how dark they are, a couple of weeks, at least – maybe more - before the marks will fade to green then a sickly yellow and then finally vanish altogether. Too long. He won’t want anyone to see him in the meantime. The back of Phil’s brain starts planning; he’ll need to invent a plausible reason for Clint to be gone from the Tower for the next few weeks. Faking up a mission won’t be hard.

 

He watches Clint breathe. How had Clint reacted in the moment? Had he made the same connections, felt the same visceral discomfort, but been unable to get Rogers to stop? It’s hard to imagine those things went unnoticed on Clint’s part, but while in the throes of everything, it’s possible. Given what they know about Empulcoitus and its effects on the brain, it’s completely within the realm of possibility that their standard thought processes were offline. It would be a small blessing if that were the case, but he can’t stop his anger toward Rogers from spiking again as he envisions the man – who easily has 30 pounds on Clint and super-strength to boot – holding down a struggling Clint and marking him.  Phil quickly shakes the disturbing image away and returns the blame where it belongs - to himself, because he knows that ultimately, he’s the one that sent them into that base with bad intel.

 

But Phil’s a pragmatist if nothing else, and he knows there’s nothing to be done about that now; it’s over and done with and the only thing to do is move on and try to fix things as best he can. Phil pulls out his laptop and settles in to wait for Clint to wake up, because then, maybe he can do something to be helpful.

 

**

 

Clint can tell someone is sitting next to his bed when he wakes up but he doesn’t open his eyes. It’s dark in the room, but there’s a dim light coming from nearby. “I outed you to Captain America,” he mumbles, gingerly rolling onto his back and wrapping his arms over his eyes. He knows it’s a childish ploy not to look at Phil, but he doesn’t give a shit. “No, that’s not quite right. I outed myself to Captain America and he figured out it was you on his own,” he says. “Sorry,” he adds a moment later.

 

There is a long, silent pause where Clint imagines Phil’s anger must be ramping up.

 

“You can’t actually believe I would care about that?” Phil says in that very controlled way that tells Clint he’s definitely missed the mark.

 

What he hears is concern and sadness.

 

“He’s your…” ‘hero’ Clint almost says, “… colleague. We agreed it was better to keep it quiet.”

 

Another pause. “It was only a matter of time before they all figure it out,” Phil sighs, and without looking, Clint knows he’s taken off his glasses and is rubbing his eyes. “We work too closely with them and they’re not stupid people. Sooner or later they were going to wonder why the hell you’re apparently single and put it together that you spend an inordinate amount of time with me. Stark’s half-way there already. It’s pure pig-headedness on his part that’s kept him for realizing it.”

 

Clint thinks about the sidelong glances that Tony gives him sometimes, like he’s trying to puzzle something out. Phil’s probably right about him.

 

“Might be a problem.”

 

“I don’t care,” Phil says, sounding exhausted.  "But I don't think it will be."

 

Maybe. Stark will likely be fine with it. Hell, the guy’s probably had his own fair share of men in his bed. And Banner doesn’t seem the type to care. But he has no idea about Asgardian views on sexuality and then there’s the way Thor practically reeks of testosterone when he even talks about Jane… so that’s a toss-up.

 

But Clint’s still not sure that Rogers isn’t going to be a problem. While he did seem more surprised than bothered when he’d figured things out, Clint wasn’t going to hold him to that after what Clint had done to him. He makes a noncommittal noise and changes the subject. “I asked Smolser not to notify you.”

 

“He didn’t. You were already gone once I was able to break away from the office again.” Phil’s voice trails across the room and then there’s activity in the small kitchen. “It was obvious you’d come here.”

 

Phil’s willful disregard of Clint’s point is aggravating. “I don’t remember inviting you in.”

 

The sound of a spoon clinking in a glass gets closer a few seconds later. “Can you sit up? You’re behind on your medications.” He’s got that tone that he gets when Clint’s behaving like a petulant child and he’s choosing to ignore it.

 

Clint surrenders and unwraps his arms, peering over. Phil has all of his medicine bottles and ointments lined up on the bedside table and he’s holding a glass that presumably contains their standard post-medical cocktail of orange juice (for vitamins, nutrients and natural sugars) and keifer (for the protein, probiotics, and to get something in his gut to take the antibiotics and pain meds).

 

Clint sighs and carefully pushes himself up into a delicate half-sitting position, making a heroic effort not to let it show on his face just how much agony the small movement causes him. As he rests back on his hips and leans against the wall, the sheet slips down his body, exposing his chest. Phil hands him the glass then turns slightly to grab the medicine bottles, his eyes sweeping casually over Clint’s chest where the sheet has slid down to his waist. He’s very good – Clint has to admit, not that he would expect anything different – Phil’s eyes don’t linger and he doesn’t react. Nothing to see here, folks. But he’s probably taken in every single mottled, red and purple bruise in that single glance.

 

Phil’s hand hesitates above his. “One or two?”

 

“Three?” Clint puts out his hand.

 

Phil gives him a chastising look mixed with concern and drops two Vicodin into his hand along with the antibiotic and muscle relaxer.

 

“Um, would you get me a shirt,” Clint asks reluctantly – not because he doesn’t want one, but because he hates that he has to ask Phil to get it for him. But he doesn't want Phil to have to continue to look at the evidence of what he and Rogers did and there’s no way in hell he’s going to get up and get one himself. He’s naked under the sheet and he does not want Phil to ever see what’s under there. Not to mention that his skin feels like it’s been scorched off, so walking over to get it himself is not high on his list of fun things to do.

 

Phil just hums softly and goes to fetch one from the drawer. He comes back with his own old green-and-yellow, Madison Muskies t-shirt that has the ridiculous fierce-looking fish holding a baseball bat. Phil had never been able to come up with an explanation as to why he had a t-shirt from a defunct minor league baseball team from a state he’s rarely been to, but it was obvious that he loved it since it was thin and worn from myriad washings. Clint had appropriated it from him ages ago, mostly because he loved the soft way Phil’s eyes had crinkled the first time – and every time – that Clint had worn it.  

 

He doesn’t know if Phil grabbed it intentionally or if it was just on the top of the pile. He hopes it was the former as Phil hands it to him with no comment but the familiar expression readily apparent.

 

Clint drinks half the mixture that Phil gave him, pops all four pills into his mouth and then drains the glass. “Thanks,” he says, then sets it down with a slightly shaky hand and slips the shirt over his head, trying not to grimace at the sharp pain of his abused muscles.

 

Phil just nods and sits back down in the chair, crossing his legs. He’s a bit of a mess. His suit is far from pristine and he looks like he hasn’t had much sleep in a very long time, and knowing Phil, he hasn’t.

 

Clint yawns and looks at the clock. It’s 9:00 pm. He eases himself back down into a laying position and doesn’t say anything for a while. He’s still exhausted and add that to the Vicodin, he’s probably going to be back asleep soon. “Are you planning to sit there all night?” Clint asks.

 

“I’d like to stay,” Phil hedges.

 

“If you sit in that chair staring at me all night you’re going to feel like shit tomorrow.”

 

“I’ve survived worse.”

 

Clint offers a doped-up snort in agreement and his eyelids weigh heavily. And it’s probably the Vicodin that’s making him stupid, but he takes a chance. “Just… you can get on the bed if you want,” he slurs quietly, but closes his eyes in case Phil’s reaction isn’t what he’s hoping it will be, then quickly slides back into blessed unconsciousness.

 

**

 

There’s a familiar weight across his middle when he wakes. It’s light out, so if that didn’t clue him into the fact that he’s slept for several more hours, the all-encompassing burning pain makes it clear that the last dose of Vicodin wore off some time ago. It says something about how exhausted he was – or possibly about his skill at ignoring pain for ridiculous amounts of time – that the discomfort didn’t wake him sooner.   When he opens his eyes, he sees the chair Phil was sitting in now holds Phil’s jacket and tie; his shoes are tucked neatly beneath. Phil is lying behind him, curled close but not touching him except for the arm draped loosely over Clint’s side. He’s stirring too and Clint’s not sure which one of them woke first.

 

Neither of them says anything for what feels like an eternity. Clint has no idea what to say so he’s not anxious to leap into the fray. Phil… he can imagine that Phil has no idea what to say to him either, but, oddly, he’s gently stroking his thumb over Clint’s rib. It feels so goddamned good to have Phil touching him that Clint doesn’t even care that it happens to be rubbing against one of the larger bruises on his chest and he can feel the added small sparks of pain.

 

“Come back to mine?” Phil asks quietly.

 

Clint closes his eyes again. “You can’t possibly want me there.” Yeah, Clint’s working on his mountain of issues, but he hasn’t quite summited yet.

 

Phil makes a wordless frustrated noise. “And you can’t possibly be that stupid. Get your head out of your ass, Agent,” he answers, but there’s no heat behind the words. Just mild exasperation with that frustrated edge, accompanied by a possessive tightening of his arm. It hurts even more and Clint still doesn’t say anything.

 

The reflexive ‘no’ is forming on his lips, but before he can get it out, Phil rushes to continue.   “You know it’s much more comfortable there. You’re not going to want to go out anywhere for a while and you’ll go stir-crazy in this tiny place. I’ve got supplies and the bodega can deliver whatever else you might want with a phone call, but the delivery guys can’t get in here. And don’t forget the television. Netflix and HBO,” he reminds Clint tantalizingly and then pauses. “But mostly I want you there. It’s where you belong,” Phil says more quietly and then goes completely still.

 

The ‘no’ is still on the tip of his tongue but Clint hesitates. He has no idea how Phil can stand the sight of him, much less want him to go back home with him; only a day or so ago he’d been practically vibrating with anger over what had happened. But Phil’s inexplicable affection for him has always been a bit of a mystery to Clint, and if he’s somehow willing to forgive Clint for what he’s done – or at least maybe ignore it – Clint supposes he shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. He learned early in life that that was a foolhardy thing to do because they don’t come around very often – at least, not for him.

 

And he would be more comfortable.

 

“Your bed is a million times better than this shitty thing,” Clint acknowledges, and he can feel the tension melt out of Phil instantaneously. Huh.

 

“Yes,” Phil says and a soft kiss is pressed to the nape of Clint’s neck. “It is.”

 

“I don’t need you to take care of me,” Clint tells him before he can stop himself.

 

There’s an exasperated huff of breath on his head as Phil shifts a little higher; this one is infused with more affection than frustration.

 

“Believe me, I’m well aware,” Phil says ruefully. “You’re like a damned cat put in water, you know that? I want to take care of you, Clint. Are you ever going to accept that and just let me?”

 

Clint squirms a little, not entirely comfortable with the idea of it, but he finds he has to turn his face further into the pillow to hide a creeping smile.

 

**

 

Steve slips quietly into the common kitchen at the Tower, hopeful that no one else will be around at the early hour. He and Barton are the only morning people in the Tower, and Clint’s not around, so he figures he’s momentarily safe. Unfortunately, Tony appears out of nowhere seconds later. Damn it, Jarvis.

 

“Look what the cat dragged in. Thought you’d be back two days ago,” he says casually but Steve can see Tony’s assessing gaze sweep over him. Stark’s disheveled and looks like he’s been awake for a couple days. He moves directly over to the coffeemaker and pours obscene amounts of coffee grounds into it before turning back around. “We were starting to think you and Barton ran off together.”

 

He ignores Tony’s comment and tries not to think about how close to home that hit (Barton’s cock, erect and dripping, nudges Steve’s chin). “Had some problems with the jet. Comms were down for a while,” he says, sticking his head into the refrigerator so he doesn’t have to lie to Tony’s face.

 

The refrigerator is pushed briskly shut and Steve jerks upright so his face doesn’t get slammed in the door. “What kind of problems?”

 

“I’m not sure. Barton’s the mechanic. It took him a little while but he fixed it,” he says and pointedly looks at the hand that Stark is using to hold the refrigerator shut. Tony raises an eyebrow at him and then holds up his hand in a placating gesture. Steve goes back to rooting around in the refrigerator, not really even thinking about what he’s doing.

 

“So, where’s Robin Hood?” Tony asks lightly, back to fiddling with the coffee machine. Tony plays at nonchalance, but Steve knows there’s underlying concern.

 

They’ve all been feeling this ‘team’ thing out between them since Loki’s attack, growing closer in different ways but unsure of the boundaries; all of them have barriers that none of the others has quite penetrated yet. But they’re becoming more than teammates and more like friends every day. And by unspoken agreement, they’re all particularly protective of Barton, understanding just how vulnerable their resident archer is: no enhancements; frequently standing in the open to cover them from on high; and refusing additional protection because the bulk might impede his movement or bow-action. Stark spends an inordinate amount of time working on tech for all of them, but he spends the most time on Clint’s gear.

 

Steve shakes himself out of his thoughts to see Tony eyeing him closely. What does he say to that? He’s in medical? If Steve tells the team that, they’ll want to go see him, and he’s pretty sure that that’s the last thing Clint would want. “Fury sent him back out. I’m not sure where,” Steve lies, hoping to put Tony off the scent. It sits uneasily with him that on top of what he did to Clint, now he’s lying to Tony to cover it up. Guilt gnaws at him and his stomach roils.  

 

Tony narrows his eyes. “Already? Aren’t they supposed to give, like, some R&R between gigs?”

 

“It doesn’t really work like that, Tony,” Steve says, opening a take-out container and sniffing. Some kind of Thai noodles. Spicy.

 

Tony narrows his eye at him. “Why do I feel like there’s more to this story?”

 

Steve pops the container in the microwave and turns around to lean against the counter while the food heats. “Because you're suspicious by nature?” He crosses his arms and returns Tony’s stare.  

 

Steve smiles mildly as Tony watches him carefully. The food pops and crackles as it cooks.

 

“I was going to eat that,” Tony says after a moment.

 

The microwave beeps, Steve opens it and grabs the noodles. “You snooze you lose,” he says, brushing past Tony and heading out of the room.

 

“Seriously? You snooze you lose? What are you, like, 90?” Tony yells after him.

 

Steve cannot get out of there fast enough.

 

Disconcerting images chase him to his apartment (Clint, slumped, seemingly unconscious in the pilot’s seat; pale, arms bruised, red marks circling his neck) where he finally registers that he just heated up Thai food for breakfast. His stomach roils again and Steve grimaces. He dumps the noodles in the trash, then grabs his gear and heads for the gym; he just needs a little time at the heavy bag.

 

**

 

Phil leaves without Clint having to ask to give Clint a half-hour for his meds to kick in, reapply ointment, and carefully dress. He zips up a hoody all the way and lifts the hood over his head. If he keeps his head ducked, hopefully no one will see any of the marks on his neck or the fire-engine-red color of his face beneath his four days of scruff. He’s slathered on a very liberal layer of ointment, then slipped on a pair of soft boxers and the oldest, thinnest sweatpants he could find, but the friction is still excruciating as he moves around the small space. The narcotics make the pain tolerable when he’s not moving, but they can’t do much for how it lights up now with even the slightest movement.

 

When Phil comes back, he’s carrying his briefcase and he goes to the kitchen to gather up the supplies he’d brought earlier and Clint’s medicines. Miraculously, there are very few people in the corridors on their way out, and no one he knows personally, and soon enough, he’s settled in Lola and on their way. Despite Phil’s obvious efforts to drive carefully, every bump in the road and bounce of the car sends shockwaves of pain through Clint, who grits his teeth and tries not to make any sound. Mercifully, Phil keeps his eyes straight ahead.

 

Phil starts to hover a little too closely around him as he gets out of the car moving slowly and deliberately, but Clint cuts a glare at him and he backs off. But thank God Phil’s building has an elevator because there’s no way Clint would have made it up six flights of stairs.

 

It’s cool and bright in the living room when they step in and Clint sags in relief. He always forgets just how small, dark, and sort of depressing his SHIELD quarters are until he goes somewhere else and sees the contrast.

 

Phil inherited the apartment from his great aunt who had moved into the unit on the upper-East Side as a young woman when it was new in the mid-1950s. The austere architecture makes it nothing special to look at on the exterior, but inside, the place is bright and airy because of the curtain walls. It still has all the period finishes, including the turquoise boomerang Formica in the kitchen and pink atomic Formica in the bathroom. And Phil has filled it with mid-century Danish modern furniture that feels so at home on the parquet floors that it seems to grow organically up from it.

 

There are a few things scattered around that clearly don’t conform to the austere aesthetic: one of Clint’s worn go-bags tucked out of the way next to a stool under the kitchen island; his third-favorite bow, leaning in the corner; a pair of battered boots next to the door. But most noticeably, the overstuffed green monster of a couch that Phil bought after finding Clint asleep on it in the consignment shop where they’d been looking for another small dresser to hold some of Clint’s things.

 

“Couch or bed?” Phil asks him, and it’s so normal, the way he says it, that Clint doesn’t even protest when Phil unzips his hoody and slides it off of him, deftly tossing it over one of the hooks by the door.

 

Clint eyes the couch and considers. It is damned comfortable. And HBO. “Couch. For now,” Clint decides without too much difficulty.

 

Phil darts past him and arranges some pillows on the chaise-extension of the couch so Clint can lie propped up a bit and watch the television if he wants, then leaves him alone and disappears into the kitchen. Clint shuffles over to the couch and unceremoniously drops his sweatpants before easing himself down, unable to stop a hiss of pain from escaping. He grabs the thin throw blanket from the back of the couch and drapes it over himself, hiding the red chafed skin visible on his legs and his noticeably swollen junk. A few moments after he’s settled, just as the flames of agony begin to bank into a duller, pounding throb, Phil reappears and Clint quirks an eyebrow up at the four jumbo bags of peas he’s holding. “You know I’m really more of a broccoli fan.”

 

A faint smile twitches at the corner of Phil’s mouth. “Icing it will help.” Smolser had told him that as well, but it was more than Clint could deal with to bother the day before. “I also have oatmeal if you want to take a bath,” Phil continues, “and I could make a turmeric paste if you want to try it.”

 

Clint gapes at Phil. “Um. Turmeric?” he asks, reaching for a bag of peas.

 

“It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities,” Phil tells him, forming his face into a perfect blank mask when Clint grimaces as he delicately lays the first bag of peas on his groin. “I did some research,” he adds, shrugging.

 

Of course he did. If Clint didn’t love Phil before, he definitely does now. But he did. He definitely did.

 

“Uh, maybe later,” Clint says skeptically, then winces when he adds another bag of peas. At first it’s a toss-up whether the discomfort from the added weight is worth it, but after a minute, he begins to feel distinct relief, or at least frozen numbness. “Thanks.”

 

“Can I get you anything else?” Phil asks as Clint places the last two bags around his lower half. “A protein shake?”

 

Clint shakes his head against the pillows. “Don’t you need to get back to work?”

 

Phil shakes his head in return. “I’ll work from home today,” he says and nods toward the closed office door down the hall.

 

Clint’s eyes dart in that direction and then skitter back. He hasn’t been in there since he’d helped Phil paint the room six months ago. Behind the door, Phil’s office is a shrine to Captain America, and the traitorous part of his brain wonders how long it will be before Phil gets past the part where he’s just glad Clint is alive and moves on to thinking more closely about what Clint had actually done to stay alive.  

 

**

 

Steve steels himself, already on edge and tense, and knocks.

 

“Come.”

 

“Deputy Director Hill.”

 

“Captain Rogers, take a seat.”

 

Steve closes the door to the small room behind him and sits across from Maria Hill. He tenses when he sees another man step forward from the corner behind him. As the man sits, Hill introduces him as Dr. Warrens, from the Psychological and Therapy Services Department.

 

“Seriously? PTSD? Is that some kind of bad joke?” Steve asks, incredulous and suddenly irritated.

 

Dr. Warrens glances at Hill and clears his throat. “More like a poorly-thought-through bureaucratic decision.”

 

“And it didn’t occur to anyone to change it?”

 

The doctor shifts uncomfortably. “They already had the letterhead printed before anyone put it together.”

 

“No offense, but that doesn’t exactly give me a lot of faith in your services,” Steve carps peevishly.

 

Hill cuts them off. “Captain, this debrief will pertain to the events that took place between September 13 and September 15, 2012. I understand this is sensitive information and want to assure you that it is in no one’s interest that what happened in Canada be made public. This session will be recorded; however, once we are finished here, I will transcribe the recording and then destroy it. The transcription will not be saved – auto-save is turned off on this computer,” she gestures to the laptop sitting next to her on the table, “but a copy will be printed off and then the electronic version of the document will be deleted. A single hard-copy of the document will be kept in our paper-files vault and will only be accessible to three people: Director Fury, myself, as Deputy Director, and Agent Coulson, as your handler.”

 

“And the doctor?” Steve tips his head in the other man’s direction, but keeps his steady gaze on Hill.

 

“Anything said in this room or between the two of you at any future point is subject to doctor/patient privilege and all current medical privacy laws. The same goes for the doctor you saw in Medical.”

 

Steve studies her for a moment and she stares back unwaveringly. He doesn’t have any particular reason to believe or not believe her, so after an uncomfortable silence, he gestures for Hill to continue.

 

“I’m not here to judge you, Captain. Or Hawkeye. It’s important that we collect as much information as possible so that we might avoid this kind of situation happening again in the future.”

 

“I understand.”

 

“Okay. So, from the beginning, if you would.”

 

Steve straightens a bit and looks directly at Hill. “Agent Barton landed the quinjet about a mile from the suspected Hydra compound just before sunrise at 0630 on September 13. When we arrived at the base about ten minutes later, there were no signs of activity. We breached the subterranean structure shortly after. Once inside, we encountered no resistance.”

 

“There was no one there?” she clarifies.

 

“No one,” he confirms.

 

She nods and gestures for him to continue.

 

“We swept the rest of the facility before going to the laboratory. Agent Barton went immediately over to a bank of computers to retrieve the files we were looking for. I searched the lab for any relevant research materials as mission parameters directed. There was a door near Agent Barton that looked like it was maybe a freezer door, and I opened it. A couple of seconds later, we heard a loud hissing noise and a large cloud of gas blew into the room from above us. I’m not sure if my opening the door triggered the gas, if it was something Agent Barton did, or just coincidence.”

 

“How long did the hissing last?”

 

“Less than ten seconds.”

 

“And was the gas visible? Could you smell it?”

 

“No and yes.”

 

“Can you describe the smell?”

 

Steve pauses and thinks. “It had a sweet smell. A little like honey, maybe?”

 

“Okay. Continue. What did you do next?”

 

“We both sort of froze for a couple of seconds and then I started for the door but Agent Barton went back to what he was doing on the computer. I told him we needed to leave but he refused and said he needed another minute, so I set the explosive charges while he finished. We exited the bunker without seeing anyone else and once we were a safe distance away, we blew the charges and destroyed the facility. We made our way back to the jet where we contacted SHIELD immediately.”

 

“You had no immediate reaction to the gas?”

 

“None that we noticed.”

 

“Alright. Go ahead.”

 

Steve tenses and looks at Dr. Warrens, and then back at Hill. “There’s not much more to say. After we informed SHIELD of what happened, Hawkeye plugged the flash drive into the quinjet computer and transmitted the data back to HQ. It took about a half hour for Agent Coulson to dig through the data and ascertain what the gas was.”

 

“Had you been experiencing any symptoms up to this point?”

 

“None,” Steve responds and feels his face pink slightly, remembering how hard he’d been in his uniform as the substance took hold.

 

Hill nods. “How long did it take until you felt the Empulcoitus take effect?”

 

“A couple hours from the time of exposure, approximately.” (Barton, pinned against the wall while Steve ruts uncontrollably) Steve’s face heats more.

 

“And what transpired in that period?”

 

“Well, we talked to Agent Coulson. And then Hawkeye and I talked at length about what was going to happen. He… explained a few things to me. We tried to prepare as best we could.”

 

“Meaning?”

 

Steve clenches his jaw. “We got water and protein bars from the galley. Barton got some petroleum jelly for,” Steve stops and clears his throat, “lubrication. (Tossing the empty container away after scraping the last of the jelly from the jar, then pushing his chafed cock into Barton’s fiery-red gaping and abused hole) We went to the aft bay and he removed the cameras from the area,” Steve says with a hard look at Hill, still disbelieving that SHIELD would be spying on them. His irritation spikes at Hill’s apparent lack of contrition.

 

“So, it took a couple of hours before you began to feel the effects?”

 

“Yes,” he grits out.

 

“Can you describe the sensation?”

 

He huffs out an annoyed breath. “Well… at first I felt my heartrate pick up. I began to sweat. Eventually, I began to feel…” (horny and desperate, pleading with Barton to let him fuck him) Steve stops, too embarrassed to give details. He glances between the other two. “I’m not really sure why SHIELD would need to know these details.”

 

“Our purpose isn’t gossip, Captain,” Hill tells him. “But this substance is out there and being used as a weapon. Any piece of information could hold the key to preventing it the next time.”

 

(Gasping and pulling out of Barton as he comes, semen rocketing across the other man’s back, more pouring out of Barton’s ass) “No,” Steve says, simply, done cooperating.

 

Hill stares at him and Steve stares back. He can out-stubborn the best of them, so if she’s waiting for him to proceed, she’ll be waiting for a long time.

 

“Captain Rogers…” Hill starts with a slightly threatening tone.

 

Steve pins her with a hard glare and lifts his chin defiantly. “It’s my understanding, Deputy Director, that the KGB left behind extremely detailed files and videos. Surely those would provide you with more information than I could ever supply. If you want more information about the Hydra lab or what we encountered there, I’m happy to answer your questions. But if you want salacious details about the rest of it, you can look elsewhere,” Steve tells her calmly but firmly, then stands up and leaves without a glance back.

 

**

 

“Rogers’ debrief,” Maria tells him, dropping the slim file on his desk. Phil looks at it and then back at her with a mildly questioning expression. She shrugs. “He wasn’t very forthcoming. I can’t blame him, really.”

 

Phil tosses his pen onto the desk. “No,” he agrees tiredly, staring at the file. “How did he seem?” Phil asks, raising his glance back up to her.

 

“Okay,” she says. “Not overly cooperative. A little angry,” she adds.

 

He lifts an almost-amused eyebrow. “So, about the same?” Maria nods and gives him a knowing half-grin. Steve Rogers has never been an easy asset to handle, being often stubborn and having a tendency to deviate from mission parameters whenever he sees fit.

 

“Did you get him to talk to Psych?”

 

“He left before we could discuss it. He seemed suspicious of Warrens when I introduced him.”

 

Phil makes a dismissive gesture. “It’s a generational thing.”

 

“Maybe,” Hill concedes. “The ‘PTSD’ thing didn’t help. He picked up on it immediately.”

 

“God! When are they going to change that?”

 

“When they run out of letterhead?” Maria suggests sardonically.

 

Phil huffs.

 

Maria smiles then shifts into a more serious expression. “He should talk to someone. They both should.” The last is said pointedly.

 

“I know.”

 

Maria sighs and hands two more files toward him. “Medical reports. Rogers and Barton.”

 

Phil stares at them but doesn’t reach out to take them from her. After a few seconds, she sets them on his desk. “You’re their handler so I’m keeping you in the loop.”

 

Phil just nods. She’s right, of course.  

 

“Read ‘em. Don’t read ‘em. I don’t care.”

 

Phil keeps staring at the files as she turns to leave. She’s at the door before he looks at her again.

 

“Get your boys to Psych, Phil,” Maria tells him. “And while you’re at it, you might want to make an appointment yourself.”

 

Phil stares after her as the door closes, pointedly ignoring her last comment, and instead wondering when she’d picked up Fury’s infuriating habit of referring to his assets as ‘your boys’.

 

Phil eyes the three folders on his desk with trepidation. He doesn’t particularly want to read any of them.

 

He picks up the first thin file: Debrief of Steven Rogers, September 17, 2012.  He reads the entire thing in 30 seconds and feels a well of frustration that it doesn't provide any enlightenment as to why their encounter appeared to have been so one-sided.  But he does snorts at the fact that Rogers had basically told Maria to shove it.    

 

Phil hesitates before grabbing the next slim file: Steven Rogers, Medical Report, September 15, 2012.

 

Once he opens it, he skims the contents quickly, as though reading it fast will somehow make it less rage-inducing.

 

    Patient presented with minor complaints… mild dehydration resolved orally… Rapid resolution of minor injuries due to presence of serum in blood...

 

There's nothing in it that he didn’t expect, given what he saw of Rogers condition the day before. By the time Rogers got to Medical, the serum had pretty much taken care of any complaints he might have had. The unfairness of it gets Phil agitated all over again. 

 

Clint’s medical report file from the same date is considerably thicker and Phil’s stomach twists when he picks it up. He can feel his heartrate elevate just thinking about what it contains. As Clint’s medical power-of-attorney, he is allowed to read Clint’s medical report. As Agent Barton’s handler and the Avengers’ liaison, it’s his responsibility to read it, and he knows he should. But as Clint’s partner, he can’t bring himself to violate what he knows would be Clint’s wishes on the matter.

 

Phil unlocks the drawer in his desk and drops the file in, unread, then tosses the other two on top of it. He closes and relocks the drawer. When he leaves at the end of the day, he’ll take them personally down to the paper-files vault and lock them away from prying eyes.

Chapter Text

 

Steve is up at his regular time the day after his return to the Tower and heads out for his morning run.  The familiarity of it soothes him after a restless night following his debrief with Hill.  He's still a little tired.  His body regenerated quickly but it was put through considerable strain on the quinjet so he's not quite up to 100% yet.  Still, it feels good to be moving, and he concentrates on his breathing and his heartrate as he settles into a slightly-slower-than-normal pace around Central Park, some of the previous day’s tension finally ebbing.

 

A few miles in, he becomes suddenly aware that something’s not right and he quickly stops, panting lightly and staring, stunned, down at his growing erection. He’s inexplicably aroused and even the smallest movement is sending unexpected sparks of pleasure through his body. He stands completely still, hoping it will recede, but he only gets harder. His anxiety spikes as it occurs to him that it must be some kind of side effect of what went on in Canada.

 

Steve startles when a runner in reflective gear passes by with a grunted acknowledgement and slight rise of his hand. Thankfully, it’s still dark and Steve was facing slightly away, so the jogger probably didn’t see Steve’s state. But he can’t stay where he is, so he moves toward a nearby bench, hoping that if he just stays still for a while, his erection will go away on its own. Every step he takes exacerbates the situation and his balls are tightening by the time he manages to sit down. He sits motionless to avoid any further stimulation. He needs to talk to Hill, or Medical, and find out if this is a normal reaction or if maybe the serum has something to do with it. And if this is a short-term effect, or permanent. Cold fear settles in his stomach.      

 

He sits with his legs crossed so passing runners won’t notice the state he’s in, and waits for fifteen minutes before he admits to himself that its useless. He’s rock-hard and throbbing in his thin track pants, and a sizeable wet spot of pre-come has begun to leak through. The bench is too close to the running path and it will be light soon. He needs an alternative plan.

 

There’s a stand of trees about 100 yards away. If he moves over there, he might be able to hide himself enough to take care of his problem. Jesus, he hopes no one sees him – the last thing he needs is a public indecency arrest on top of everything else. He gets up slowly, sucking in a startled breath at the intense hyper-sensitivity. He remembers this feeling, of being so completely aroused and desperate for release, of wanting to do things to Clint. At least right now he doesn’t seem to have any particular desire for the other man. Whatever is going on with his body seems to be purely physical, and he’s not experiencing the excruciating need that he did that day on the quinjet.

 

The sky is lightening up and he sees a group of runners heading in his direction so he moves, trotting toward the trees. Every step has him gasping at the friction that the heightened sensation is bringing, and he’s taking the last steps toward the first tree when his body convulses and he comes without warning. Its nearly violent in its intensity and Steve cries out as he falls to his hands and knees, shuddering through his orgasm.

 

“Hey, buddy! You okay?” someone calls out.

 

“Yeah, I’m fine,” he yells back, half turning and raising a hand at the friendly jogger. “Just a leg cramp. Getting better already.” He smiles and waves again, and then releases a relieved breath when the jogger moves on.

 

Slowly, he shifts and sits down against the tree, his back to the path. He’s breathing heavier than he was when he was running and his heart is pounding. It’s light enough that he can see the visible mess; the front of his track pants are saturated in come and the wet patch is readily noticeable.

 

“Shit,” Steve mutters. He’s not generally one for cursing, but certain things in life just call out for it and this feels like one of them. But he doesn’t have time to dwell. He knows he needs to get up and get moving before it gets fully light and there are more people on the path - and God forbid, he gets another erection. He hauls himself up and starts running, sustaining a sprinting pace all the way back to the Tower. For the first time in days, he’s grateful for the serum in his blood.

 

Steve takes the private elevator up to the common floor, then ducks around to the back stairs and sprints up three floors to his own apartment, slamming the door and locking it behind him before he goes straight to the bathroom. He turns on the shower, leaving the water cold, and strips off.

 

He started getting hard again about six blocks from the Tower and now he’s fully erect, his cock weeping again. He steps under the frigid spray – the distant unpleasant memories of being frozen not even putting a dent in the unwanted images that had been assaulting him all the way back from Central Park.

 

…the two of them, sitting up on their knees, Clint’s back pressed to Steve’s chest, Steve’s thighs burning as he holds Clint up and fucks into him, mouth sucking dark marks onto Clint’s neck…

 

…looking up at Clint, eyes glassy, and dripping sweat as he shoves his cock all the way down Steve’s throat. Spit and come run down Steve’s chin to his neck, and he’s so turned on that he’s desperately fisting his own cock…

 

…Clint on his back eyes closed, gritting his teeth, his leaking cock bouncing on his taut stomach, knees held tight in the crooks of Steve’s elbows, as Steve fucks him relentlessly…

 

Steve’s mouth waters, foretelling the impending arrival of the contents of his stomach. He retches, bringing up a small amount of bile that he spits out and watches down the drain. He’s disgusted, but it’s not the fact that Clint is a man that’s so disturbing to him. It’s the sheer excess of it, how nothing was ever enough. It’s the terrifying need that left him so completely out of control. It’s how he was overcome with a possessiveness he’s never felt before that drove him to claim Clint – to brutally mark his body with his mouth. It’s how he had completely given in to his cravings without thought or care for how it might impact Clint. It’s all so anathema to who Steve is, to how Steve has ever felt – feels now – that he can't align that person with who he knows he is.

 

He stands for several moments in the shower, trying to will away his erection but it doesn’t flag in the slightest. Finally, with a sense of frustration and surrender, he takes himself in hand. He closes his eyes and his mind easily supplies images of the women he’s been with – the ones that have always supplied fodder for his fantasies when he jacks off. It works for a while, but when the filmstrip in his head gets to the part where the woman puts her mouth around his cock, suddenly it’s Barton’s mouth on his hole, rough tongue licking and devouring him and then shoving inside. Steve yells as his orgasm rips out of him so unexpectedly that his knees almost buckle again. His body twitches and shakes - his breath hitching and ragged - as his come stripes the white tile.

 

Steve groans as he squeezes the last pulse of semen from his cock, shivering as he gives in to the cold and the phantom sensation of Barton’s tongue. He drops his forehead against the shower wall.

 

Fuck.

 

Fuck.

 

**

 

Clint stares at himself in the mirror. He’s avoided it since he’s been at Phil’s but he figures it’s time to man up. He lets out an aggrieved breath as he studies his reflection.

 

He barely recognizes the person looking back at him. Several days’ worth of facial hair has him looking like somebody else and he doesn’t like it. His face is only a little tender so it wouldn’t be difficult to shave, but the growth is helping to camouflage the worst of the marks that are still visible on his neck. He considers it for a moment, then remembers the hard expression he’d seen when he’d caught Phil’s eyes lingering there for a second before turning away. He decides to leave it for now.

 

The bruises on his arms are fading and none of them hurt at all. The smaller, more superficial ones are just mauve-colored dots, but the larger, deeper ones are still working their way through purple and have only just barely begun to edge into a sickly green. Clint grunts his annoyance and turns his attention to his chest. More bruises and Rogers’ fucking love bites everywhere. He closes his eyes at the memory of Rogers sucking hard on his neck while he’d fucked him in the ass. More unnervingly, Clint had begged him to do it; pleaded with him to fuck him again and again, keening in undisguised pleasure when Rogers attached his mouth to Clint’s body. He shakes off the uncomfortable thoughts and opens his eyes, staring at his visible ribs.

 

He’d dropped such an alarming amount of weight the first week that he’d gone back to solid foods a couple of days ago, even though Smolser suggested he might want to wait a while longer. Every bowel movement leaves him with tears leaking from his eyes, but he can’t afford to start dropping muscle mass, so he grits his teeth and forces himself to eat.

 

After a moment of stalling, he finally forces his eyes further down his body.

 

The chafing is still bad. Around the edges, on his belly and his thighs, the scarlet red had faded to bright pink fairly quickly and then settled more or less back to normal, but his entire groin is mostly still a solid mass of throbbing fire, and still unnaturally swollen. The worst of the chafing had been deep enough that it had become abrasions, weeping wounds that have now scabbed over. He looks like some grotesque freak. The first week, drying himself after a shower had practically brought him to his knees, but keeping the area clean and dry is crucial so he’d taken to throwing back some Vicodin every time he got in the shower. After his first follow-up with Smolser, the doctor had sent a handheld hair dryer over, and now Clint uses that to dry his genitals and ass. The man is a genius.    

 

Clint’s cock twitches and he glares down at the traitorous organ. Most horrifying of all, his exposure to the Empulcoitus has left him hyper-sensitive. Sex is the farthest thing from his mind, but Clint’s cock jumps and threatens to fill unpredictably, even though every touch is still excruciating. One completely unwelcome erection that he couldn’t possibly alleviate had left him curled in a ball on the bed and whimpering like a puppy before he finally swallowed three Vicodin and knocked himself out. He’d woken hours later, gratefully flaccid again. He watches his cock apprehensively and waits to see what will happen today. Thankfully, the twitching stops after a few moments and doesn’t develop into anything worse; he sags in relief.

 

The other victims of Empulcoitus had the same aftereffect. For the most part, they reported that the symptom lasted a couple of weeks, so Clint is hopeful that he’s experiencing the tail end of it. He wonders if Rogers is dealing with it, too. The Super Serum is a wild card; for all Clint knows, it could be shielding him from any side effects, but it could also be making it worse. It certainly seemed to exacerbate the whole fucking part. Clint sincerely hopes the man at least gets to escape this indignity.

 

Once he’s sure the danger is past, he gingerly slips one leg into his boxers, and then the other, then pulls a t-shirt over his head and makes his way to the kitchen. Recovery periods have never been easy for him. He hates being sidelined and gets prickly at the implication that he needs help. Tension has been building all week as he’s grown less and less accepting of Phil’s efforts to help him. Phil’s been hovering close, then realizing what he’s doing and backing off, then hovering again, and backing off, like he’s in some sort of orbit around Clint. Clint’s tolerance is waning rapidly and he’s had to stop himself from lashing out more than once in the last couple of days.    

 

This morning, he’s brooding after his self-examination, and he’s on a razor’s edge, dreading the upcoming visit from Smolser. The pain of it he can handle, but Smolser’s last visit five days ago left Clint feeling exposed and vulnerable and the effort to contain it all had left him shaking and exhausted afterward.

 

Phil walks into the kitchen while Clint’s digging around in the refrigerator pulling out yogurt and fruit, and when he reaches up and grabs a bowl out of the cupboard for Clint’s breakfast, Clint’s jaw tightens. “I can get it myself,” he grits out.

 

Phil freezes for a split second and then sets the bowl on the counter. “I know.”

 

“Then stop treating me like a fucking invalid,” he snarls.

 

Phil barely glances at him, then opens the drawer and takes out a spoon, setting it in the bowl for Clint before turning to face him. Clint slams the refrigerator door and crosses his arms, glaring.

 

“I understand,” Phil says calmly, “that if you were to stop and think about it, you’d realize that me getting a bowl out for you when I’m standing in front of the cupboard is not in any way meant to impugn your manhood or imply that you couldn’t do it for yourself; that this is just me doing what I would do for you on any given day. But I also understand that you’re frustrated by all of this, so I’m going to ignore that.” He gives Clint a good-natured smile.

 

Clint presses his lips together to keep from saying something he’ll really regret and looks away.

 

He doesn’t move as Phil reaches around him, grabs the coffee pot and fills his travel mug. “I’m not sure when I’ll be home, but text if you want me to pick up anything on the way,” he tells Clint. “I’d kiss you good-bye but I’m afraid you’d scratch my eyes out if I try, so I’ll see you later,” he adds as he slots the carafe back into place, and then disappears from the kitchen.

 

Clint doesn’t answer, but when he hears the front door close softly, he drops his head and swears – first at Phil, for thinking he’s fucking funny – and then at himself for being such a fucking asshole to one of the two people in the world who actually gives a shit about him.

 

**

 

“How’s the pain?”

 

“Getting better,” Clint answers tightly, as Smolser slowly lifts his penis to look at the underside and get a better look at his scrotum.

 

“Still taking the Vicodin?”

 

Clint hesitates, catches himself, and then answers honestly. “Yes. Not as often.”

 

“Good.”

 

He grits his teeth and tries to relax, but it’s fucking hard. Smolser is being as gentle as he possibly can, and Clint trusts him, but he’s still vibrating with tension. The last ten minutes of probing questions and prodding hands have left him completely unnerved.

 

“Okay,” Smolser removes his hands and takes a quick step back, stripping off the nitrile gloves. “We’re done.”

 

Clint hisses as he sits up and pulls the sheet over himself. It’s weird having a medical exam on Phil’s bed, but it was a better option than having to limp through SHIELD. “How’s it look, Doc?” he asks, masking his discomfort in a casual tone.

 

“It looks fine, Clint. The healing is where I would expect it to be after ten days. Any questions or concerns?”

 

“Yeah, uh, the abrasions, now that they’re healing, they’re starting to itch, but…” Clint winces.

 

“Mmm. Yes, I can imagine,” he says mildly. “Normally we’d give a steroid cream for itching, but those are generally contraindicated for the genital area anyway, never mind your current condition. You might try soaking in an oatmeal bath, that might give you some temporary relief.” He looks apologetic. “I’m sorry, it’s the best I can do under the circumstances.”

 

“Yeah, okay. Thanks, Doc.”

 

Clint waits for the doctor to leave but Smolser unexpectedly sits down on the edge of the bed and eyes him levelly. Clint gives him a curious look.

 

“How’re you doing, Clint?” he asks.

 

“You just told me I’m fine, Doc,” he answers, already knowing it’s not going to deflect what comes next.

 

“Have you talked to anyone about what happened?”

 

“Still moonlighting for Psych, Doc?” Clint retorts. It comes out harsh, and he regrets it immediately. Smolser just watches him without reaction as all of Clint’s insecurities start making a mad dash to be the first one through the door. He sighs and drops his head. “I’m going stir crazy. Everything still fucking hurts. Coulson’s driving me up a wall with his need to help me all the time and I’ve been such an ass about it that I wouldn’t blame him if he sent me back to HQ any minute. My dick thinks it wants to go out and fuck something, and just the thought of going back to the Tower and seeing Rogers after what I did is…” Clint shakes his head and laughs bitterly.

 

It's quiet for a moment and then Smolser speaks. “Can I give you some advice?”

 

Clint looks at the man. “If I say no are you going to anyway?” he asks tiredly.

 

“No.”

 

Clint huffs and squeezes his eyes shut for a moment. When he opens them, Smolser is still looking at him the same way. Clint sighs. “Yeah, sure. Have at it.” He gestures weakly.

 

“You know the old saying about how you eat an elephant?”

 

“One bite at a time,” Clint finishes.

 

Smolser nods, pats Clint on the thigh, and stands up.

 

“That’s it?” Clint asks, incredulously. “You’re not going to tell me to go to Psych?”

 

“You already know you should go to Psych,” he answers as he pulls on his jacket.

 

“Yeah. But seriously, that’s all you’ve got for me?” He kind of wants Smolser to tell him what he should do.

 

Smolser stops and considers for a moment. “Don’t underestimate Phil,” he adds, then picks up his bag. “I’d like to see you in about a week to check on things again. Maybe you’ll be ready to get out by then and can come see me at Medical.”

 

Clint waits until Smolser is gone before he eases himself off the bed and limps to the bathroom. He opens the cabinet and skeptically eyes the jar and sticky-note with Phil’s hand-written instructions describing how much of the mixture to add to the bath.

 

A half-hour later, he’s dozing lightly while he soaks. His quietude is disrupted when he hears the sounds of Phil’s return and he tenses, making a quick check of the bath to reassure himself that the water is murky enough that nothing is visible. Clint’s been very careful to ensure that Phil’s not seen the full extent of his injuries and he doesn’t want that to change now. But it’s a moot point because Phil never knocks on the door. After their friction this morning, he knows Phil is giving him space.

 

Phil had clearly waited to come home until he was sure Smolser would be gone, and Clint appreciates the consideration. Phil has complete access to his medical records, but Clint doesn’t know if he’s read these most recent ones or not. He hasn’t raised the subject and neither has Clint. Normally he wouldn’t care, but this time… This time he’s still sometimes having trouble interpreting what he sees in Phil’s expression and he’s too unnerved to ask what it means.

 

Clint sighs and slides further down in the tub, using his toe to open the hot tap for a minute and warm the water. He stews in his bath, regretting how he’d struck out at Phil earlier because he knows it was childish and that this is about himself and not Phil. Years of Psych appointments have taught him that. If nothing else, he can now recognize his own issues, even if he can’t always overcome them.  

 

When he was a little kid, his life had been happy enough. His mom was the center of his world and she loved him and Barney. Their dad wasn’t around much; he drove a truck and was gone for weeks at a time. And when he was home, he just drank a lot and passed out. Clint and Barney mostly kept their distance from him because he was a mean drunk, verbally abusing all of them. Then, when he was six, his dad was fired for driving his truck drunk, and what happiness Clint had, was shattered. Unable to find another job, his moods grew blacker. He drank more and more, and instead of just yelling, he started hitting. He and Barney still made themselves scarce, but his mom couldn’t do that and more often than not, she was the target of his violence.  

 

One day, after watching his dad beat his mom too many times, he’d charged at him, yelling at him to stop. He had stopped, and then he’d beaten Clint viciously. He screamed in pain, causing his father to beat him harder, yelling at him to shut up. And when his mom had rushed to help him, his father had pushed her violently away, yelling at her to stop coddling the little asshole. Clint ended up with a broken arm, two fractured ribs, and a broken nose that left his eyes so swollen that he could barely see.   But Clint didn’t care, because at least he’d stopped his dad from beating on his mom that day; he was happy to take the punishment instead.

 

A few days later, though, Clint had watched helplessly as his dad pummeled his mom, and a couple days after that, when he lit into Barney.  Clint shook with rage that he couldn’t do anything, too hobbled by his injuries and useless to step in to help. He swore to himself that he’d never let it happen again and he stepped between them every time, right up until it wasn't necessary anymore because they were both dead, killed in a drunk driving accident with his father behind the wheel.

 

It didn’t take a genius to understand that all of this added up to a big ball of psychological mess that was the genesis of his frustration with being sidelined by injury and his unwillingness to sit by and do nothing when others were in danger.    

 

His father had been the first to teach him that complaining about your injuries never helped, his fists coming more frenzied if Clint made a sound; he quickly trained himself not to cry. But his entire life had essentially been one continuous lesson that illness or injury were not something to be indulged in, because no one cared, and because showing it could land you someplace much worse.

 

In the orphanage, the nuns didn’t have the time to soothe every crying child (there were so many), and the older kids just mocked those who did and called him babies, so there was no point.

 

Foster families didn’t want the hassle of a kid who needed extra attention. They just wanted the money that came with taking you in and as soon as you got to be more trouble than you were worth (literally) they sent you packing. It happened to him and Barney a few times; once Clint had to carry all of their combined belongings – stuffed into garbage bags – while Barney carefully cradled his arm. It was two more days before any adult had bothered to notice the ten-year-old had a broken ulna.

 

The circus was more or less an “every man for himself” situation – or in their case, every kid. If something happened and you couldn’t perform or do your job, you were left by the side of the road in whatever crappy town you were in when the circus moved on. Clint lived in terror of that happening – of being separated from Barney – so he never complained and performed through all manner of injury and illness. It didn’t stop him from being left behind in the end, though.

 

There were all kinds of ways that showing weakness was a bad idea in the merc camps, where the only one to watch your back was yourself. The best-case scenario if you couldn’t hold your own, was you didn’t get paid. Slightly worse, you lost a contract because a competitor saw your weakness and took advantage; that only set you up to be preyed upon by others. Clint’s not proud to admit that he’d stolen a few jobs that way himself, but there was no room for pity in mercenary work. Worst-case scenario, if you couldn’t work through a little pain, you got yourself killed.

 

So, yeah, by the time Clint got to SHIELD, he had a pretty firm understanding of how much people didn’t give a shit about what kind of condition he was in and the potential consequences of complaining about it. By then, he was past the point of caring, anyway; pain was just pain and he could work through it.  It was fine.

 

But the first time Clint got hurt on a SHIELD mission, about a year after he’d been recruited, he’d woken up in Medical, surprised to see his handler next to his bed. It was the start of the long journey to understanding that maybe it wasn’t entirely fine.

 

A mission had gone to shit pretty much immediately and there was suddenly a lot of unexpected shooting going on. Agents were pinned down but Clint couldn’t see what the hell was happening from his vantage point. The idea of doing nothing - of sitting by uselessly in his assigned position – was a non-starter for Clint. Without a second of hesitation, he’d torn out his comms so he wouldn’t have to hear Coulson tell him to stop, and had left his perch to help the agents on the ground. He’d taken a hit pretty quickly, a bullet slicing not-so-neatly through the muscle just below the line of his armored vest. He registered it vaguely, but kept fighting. When the dust finally settled, he moved on to helping the wounded, dragging them to waiting helicopters with one arm slung over his shoulder, or carrying them bridal-style if need be.

 

“I think it’s your turn, Agent Barton,” he heard his handler’s voice and turned to see Coulson watching him with an unreadable expression.

 

“I’m fine, Sir,” he’d answered, blinking slowly, but the next time he opened his eyes, he was in Medical, with Coulson sitting by his side.

 

Clint felt a small bubble of panic well up inside him. “S…Sorry,” he managed to stammer out, his voice rough and scratchy.

 

Coulson tilted his head slightly. “You do owe me an apology, but I’m curious, Agent, what exactly are you sorry for?” he’d asked mildly.

 

Instinctively, Clint knew that it was a trap. He was going to get the answer wrong, no matter what he said. So instead, he shifted his gaze to the ceiling and didn’t say anything. He wasn't surprised when that didn't  work.

 

“I’d like an answer, please, Agent. What are you apologizing for?” Coulson asked, still with a deceptively easy tone.

 

Cling clenched his jaw and continued to stare at the ceiling. “For screwing up the mission,” he finally answered.

 

“You didn’t screw up the mission. The mission was screwed by bad intel. You assisted four agents who would, without question, be dead now if you hadn’t made a move. But you know that. So, Agent, what are you really apologizing for?”

 

Clint closed his eyes as dread washed over him. They hadn’t worked together much, but Clint had gotten the impression that Coulson was a pretty decent guy. Apparently he’d been wrong. Clearly Coulson was the sadistic type who got off on making him list out his inadequacies just to make him feel like shit. What an asshole. But, fine. SHIELD was still the best gig he’d had in… ever, so if he had to play this game, he could. He gritted his teeth. “For getting shot. Sir,” he added, not even trying to hide the resentment in his voice.

 

Coulson didn’t say anything for a long time and tension built in the silent room. Finally, when Clint couldn’t stand the suspense any longer he turned and glanced back at his handler. The man looked calm but somehow also like he was on the verge of great violence.

 

Clint’s panic grew. “Look, I won’t be out of commission for long, okay. I can work through the pain,” he said, and wrapped an arm around his abdomen, grimacing as he sat up, before swinging his legs over the side of the bed to prove it. “It’s not a big deal. Just gimme a week and I’ll be good. Less if you need me out there sooner. I swear,” Clint added, panting through the discomfort. Coulson had stood when Clint had moved and his face was doing something weird that Clint couldn’t interpret; his anxiety skyrocketed.

 

“Agent Barton,” Coulson started, and then stopped for a moment, staring at Clint the whole time with a tight expression. His brow furrowed for a second before he pressed one hand against the front of one of Clint’s shoulder, then placed his other hand on the back of the other and gently eased Clint down onto the bed. He lifted Clint’s gown on the side to take a quick look at his bandaged injury and then resettled the sheet and blanket over him. Clint could only stare, dumbfounded.   “What you should be apologizing for is not trusting me. I’m your handler, and the only way that that relationship can work and for us to be successful, is for you to trust me to know my job and do what’s best for my people. I was about to tell you to get the hell down there when you foolishly removed your comms, so that for the rest of the fight, I had no way to communicate with you. Had you not done that, I would have warned you about the shooter on your left flank and you might not have sustained the injury you did.”

 

Clint felt his face flush at the criticism and his own stupidity.

 

“Thankfully, your injury isn’t severe and the doctors believe you should recover quickly. I say that not because I’m worried about how long you’ll be out of commission, but because human suffering is not something I ever enjoy seeing.”

 

Clint rolled his eyes. “I’m not suffering,” he muttered.

 

Coulson huffed out a disbelieving breath. “Are you in pain?”

 

Clint sighed loudly. “Jesus, it doesn’t matter. I don’t need coddling.”

 

Coulson eyed him assessingly for a moment before speaking again. “Agent, while you are on your medical leave, and until such point that I am confident that it is no longer necessary, you will meet twice weekly with Dr. Manfred from the Psychological and Therapy Services Department--”  

 

“What the fuck, Coulson! I cleared Psych!”

 

“Agent,” Coulson said firmly and Clint snapped his mouth shut. “You will do as directed, and you will cooperate with Dr. Manfred, do you understand?”

 

Clint just glared at him.

 

Do you understand, Agent?”

 

“You want to at least tell me why I’m being punished,” he bit out.

 

Something in Coulson’s face seemed to shift and he brought a hand up to rub viciously at eyes for a second before looking back at Clint, this time with a softer expression. “You’re not being punished, Agent.”

 

Clint couldn’t stop a derisive snort from slipping out.

 

“You’re not. Barton,” he said, more gently still, “somewhere along the line, you seem to have gotten the mistaken impression that your well-being is irrelevant, and you need to be disabused of that notion.”

 

Clint snorted again.

 

“Fine. I’ll put it in terms you’re more comfortable with. Your attitude and mistaken impression could get you killed, and you’re too valuable an asset for us to allow that to happen. Or it could get someone else killed, and I know neither of us wants that, so we need to take corrective action. You will therefore submit yourself to Dr. Manfred, and you will cooperate with him fully. And fair warning, he’s a very astute man and he will see through any subterfuge on your part.”

 

“They didn’t see through it before,” Clint mumbled.

 

“Yes, well. When you had your clearance evaluation they were looking more for homicidal maniac tendencies and less for low self-worth issues.”

 

Clint snapped his glare to Coulson, nostrils flaring as he pushed out angry breaths.

 

“He will keep me apprised of your progress and if he indicates that you are in any way not fully cooperating and working to redirect your thought process, you will be dismissed from SHIELD. We don’t need reckless agents.”

 

Clint looked away.

 

“And one more thing. If you ever purposefully remove your comms in the middle of a mission again, it will be your last. Are we clear?”

 

“Crystal,” Clint managed through clenched teeth, and Coulson had left without another word.

 

So Clint had gone to therapy. And Coulson was right, Manfred was good. It took a while, but eventually Clint understood that his fucked-up life was… fucked up. And that the way he dealt with injuries and pain – his own and other people’s – was informed by his parents, the orphanage, the foster homes, the circus, the merc camps. That one experience built on another and added up to a distorted view of appropriate behavior and reactions. Of course, having an intellectual understanding of that and successfully changing your behaviors 100% of the time are two entirely different things. Clint may have begun to recognize his own self-destructive behavior, but a lifetime of conditioning is still pretty fucking hard to undo.

 

So, yeah, Clint’s not the best patient. And he recognizes that sitting on the sideline with Phil watching his every move, waiting to jump in to help, and Clint both trying to let him while simultaneously having to fight every instinct in his body in order to do so, is what has him wound so tight he’s been feeling like he’s going to explode.   He settles deeper into the tub, gives himself another jolt of hot water, and tries some more to relax.

 

Smolser’s advice is still resonating in the back of Clint’s mind: one bite at a time. His physical recovery is making progress but only time will fix that; he can’t do anything about Rogers for now – not that he has any idea how he’ll fix that anyway; so Clint settles on trying to eat the one piece of the elephant that he can right now. When he gets himself dried off and dressed, he searches out Phil. He finds him changed into jeans and a t-shirt and slouched on the couch with a beer, watching Monday Night Football. He looks up as Clint approaches, face placid but eyes conveying a complex combination of concern, wariness, and that thing that Clint can never quite identify.

 

He moves to sit down and Phil doesn’t say anything but he shifts over a bit, so as not to crowd him, even though it’s Clint who’s invading Phil’s space and not vice versa. Clint sits closer to Phil than Phil clearly expected, and Clint catches the flicker of a pleased expression and how his eyes crinkle the way Clint loves. Neither of them says anything for a few long moments, and then Clint sighs and tips sideways a little, leaning into Phil. Phil hesitates for a brief second, then pulls his arm free and wraps it gently around Clint’s shoulders.

 

“Meow,” Phil teases quietly, offering easier forgiveness than Clint probably deserves.

 

Clint huffs a genuine laugh and settles further in as Phil presses a smiling kiss into his hair.  

 

**

 

Phil is eating alone at the far side of the cafeteria when Steve Rogers appears with a cup of coffee in his hand. He’s been avoiding Rogers since the Empulcoitus incident, which he knows is completely unprofessional, but, screw it. Since their run-in with Loki, Phil’s had something of a new appreciation for the important things in life, and Clint, he knows, is the most important thing. So, yeah, Phil’s been avoiding Steve Rogers because his focus has been on Clint and he frankly just doesn’t want to look at the man who brutalized his partner, intentional or not. Plus, if he can keep funneling all of his rage and frustration at the situation at Rogers, he can pretend that it’s not all his fault for sending them into the base with bad intel in the first place.

 

But he knows that as Agent Coulson, he still has a responsibility to the man. Phil sighs inwardly and sits back, looking up him.

 

“May I join you?” Rogers asks, sounding unsure and hesitant.

 

Phil gestures neutrally to the chair across from him. Rogers sits, looking uncomfortable, and doesn’t say anything, just fidgets with his coffee cup on the table.

 

Phil waits him out for a minute and then loses patience. “Can I do something for you, Captain?”

 

Rogers straightens and clears his throat. “Yes, I… I wanted to know how Agent Barton is doing, but I… don’t know where he is or how to contact him.”

 

“He’s recovering. He should be back on active duty in a week or so.”

 

“Good,” Rogers nods, staring at his coffee.

 

“What is it?” Phil asks, because clearly Rogers has more to say.

 

Rogers eyes flick between Phil and his coffee. “It’s just… the serum… it… it made it last so much longer, and I… I didn’t mean to hurt him, but I couldn’t stop...”

 

Phil flinches at the thought of Clint, depleted and at the end of his endurance, battered and in pain, while Rogers’ body pushes on. Oh, Christ, Clint. Phil has to look away for a moment to gather his composure. Since that first day, he’s actively avoided thinking about the details of what happened to Clint. It’s the only way he’s been able to stop himself from doing something he’ll regret and that might end his career.   Phil’s stomach turns and he looks down at his food with a sudden loss of appetite. He can’t bring himself to look at Rogers, but in his peripheral vision he can see that Rogers is looking away uncomfortably as well.  

 

After a moment of awkward silence, Rogers clears his throat again. “Will he come back to the Tower?”

 

Phil snaps his gaze back to Rogers. “Yes,” he says emphatically, because even though they haven’t discussed it, Clint never backs down from a difficult situation and Phil knows that nothing that happened on the quinjet will keep him from doing his job once he’s able.

 

“Good. That’s good,” Rogers answers, nodding again, looking somehow relieved and ill at ease at the same time. He seems to get lost in his thoughts for a moment.

 

Phil waits him out for a minute and then loses patience. “Is there something else you wanted, Captain?”

 

Rogers shifts his gaze back to Phil. “This is very awkward.”

 

“Yes,” Phil acknowledges, agreeing completely.

 

Rogers shifts in his seat. “Clint, uh, told me that the two of you…”

 

Phil freezes for a second and he schools his face into a stony glare. “Is that going to be a problem, Captain?”

 

“What? No! Of course not,” Rogers rushes, clearly flustered.

 

“I’m glad to hear it,” Phil says, his voice steely, though he’s more relieved than he’d like to admit.

 

“I just,” he stops and then abruptly sits up straight, placing both hands on the table and looking Phil directly in the eye. “I just wanted to apologize. To Hawkeye, of course, when I can. But, given your relationship with him, I also feel I owe you an apology.”

 

Phil just blinks at Rogers. The line between personal and professional is so blurred right now that he has no idea which side of it he’s on or how to respond. It only ever happens to Phil when Clint is somehow involved because he’s the only person who can get Phil so tied up in knots that he loses his objectivity like this. He’s never been able to decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but he does know that Clint’s become so integral that it’s an inevitable thing, so he long ago accepted it.  

 

Rogers is apologizing to him but he finds he can’t bring himself to accept it. The man sitting across from him left Clint wrecked; in addition to the severe physical injuries he inflicted by virtue of the serum in his blood, he also inflicted potentially significant psychological trauma. And he wants Phil to forgive him. Phil is suddenly acutely aware that he’s reached the end of his tolerance for the conversation.

 

“Sir?” Rogers says tentatively, shaking Phil out of his distraction.

 

Phil closes his eyes for a few seconds and searches for objectivity but comes up empty.   “Captain, I’m not sure I can give what you want right now. All I can offer is the assurance that I am a professional and will behave as such when we work together. But if you’re seeking absolution, I suggest you find a priest.” Phil stands. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a meeting,” he says, meeting Rogers’ eyes with a steady look. The man looks stricken and guilty. Phil feels his own flicker of guilt, but he can’t bring himself to give Rogers empty words of forgiveness.

 

Rogers stands up himself. “Yes, Sir.”  

 

Phil doesn’t respond, just turns and leaves, dumping the rest of his food in the garbage as he goes.

 

**

 

After 18 days in Phil’s apartment, Clint’s bored out of his mind; there’s only so much television he can watch before he wants to stick daggers in his eyes. He’s healed enough that he can move around more easily, though not quite smoothly enough to chance going back to the Tower. And when he’d finally shaved two days ago, he’d been frustrated to find that a few of the worst of the fucking love bites Rogers worked into his neck were still visible.

 

Smolser had cleared him for light activity the day before, but cautioned him not to push too hard if things became painful, and reminded him that a lot of sweat could lead to new chafing. Restless and needing a distraction from his circular, self-destructive thoughts, he heads to HQ. His status as an Avenger means he can have all the time he wants on the private range. He zips all the way into his jacket and flips up the hood, hiding the fading bruises from view, not that he needs to worry too much since the latent hostility toward him for his role in Loki’s attack means very few people there ever engage him anyway. He grabs his bow and goes.

 

Once at the range, he locks the door, blinds the observation windows, strips down to his t-shirt, and takes out his bow. He works the targets for two hours before he growls and tosses his bow aside in frustration. The muscles in body still ache from the strain and extended overuse on the quinjet, but it’s nothing that he hasn’t pushed through dozens of times before and there’s something about it that feels almost good. It’s the fire in his groin that forces him to stop, the sweat and small, subtle shifts in stance aggravating the last of the chafed areas still trying to heal, and reigniting the pain. He reaches for his bag and grabs a bottle of Ibuprofen, popping three in his mouth and swallowing them down with an entire bottle of water.

 

His muscle memory aches to keep shooting, but he knows that that will just prolong his recovery, so he does the smart thing instead of the thing he wants to do and packs up his gear. After he puts the hoodie back on, he heads up to the cafeteria, thinking to grab some coffee to bring to Phil. He’s waiting in line at the coffee kiosk just inside the doors when he spots two familiar figures sitting at the far side of the room, in an out-of-the-way corner. He can’t hear what they’re saying, but Clint’s pretty good at reading body language. The conversation looks stilted and awkward. Rogers is speaking haltingly, and Phil is a master at containing his emotions but Clint is a master at reading Phil, and it’s obvious that Phil is bothered by whatever the other man is saying. After a moment of mostly Rogers talking and Phil looking almost anywhere but at Rogers, Phil finally pins Rogers with a hard gaze and says something. Rogers reacts visibly and then Phil gets up and leaves.

 

Clint’s gut sinks. Phil idolizes Captain America – has for decades – so there’s something inherently wrong with what Clint just witnessed. Phil being angry at Clint, he can understand – he deserves it. But Phil being angry at Rogers, that’s just… wrong. Guilt eats at him because he can only think of one reason for Phil to have done a 180 on Rogers. Clint swallows thickly and abandons the coffee queue, slipping out the side door before either of the two men see him.

 

**

 

He goes back to the Tower 24 days after their return from Canada when the last of the marks on his body are finally no longer visible. It’d been a week before every movement wasn’t pure agony, another week before the pain had started to really ebb. Only in the last couple of days has he been able to consistently move around with enough ease that people wouldn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. Well, normal people anyway. But thankfully Natasha’s been on a long-term op for the last six weeks and completely incommunicado. That’s been the only saving grace about this whole situation – that Nat wasn’t around to figure out what was going on, because she would see though his bullshit in a heartbeat. Well, that and the fact that the surprise erections have gone away.

 

He’d rather stay at Phil’s, but Fury orders him back to the Tower so they can continue their exercise in ‘team bonding’ that sharing a roof apparently helps facilitate. So Clint returns late one night and then drags his ass into the kitchen at 0530 the next day. He’s generally a morning person, but after nearly a month of doing little besides sleeping, reading, and watching television, the early hour is harder than usual; he’d had to set an alarm and force himself to get up so he can get his body clock reset and get back on a normal schedule. He still hasn’t seen anyone else and he doesn’t really want to, but he figures he’s safe because you could set a clock by Rogers’ morning run - he will have left a half-hour ago and not be back for another hour. The rest of the residents rarely show their faces before ten.

 

Before everything happened, he and Rogers had actually begun to bond over their shared trait as morning people when they’d all first come together in Stark’s Tower. They’d sat in companionable silence over cups of coffee – neither of them particularly being morning talkers – and passed pieces of the newspaper back and forth between them. More recently, Clint had begun running with Rogers some days; jogging together to the park and back, with Rogers running literal circles around him once there.

 

Despite his initial trepidation over the fact that Phil’s hero had shown up alive and in person, Clint found he genuinely liked the guy. Rogers is smart, an excellent tactician in the field, and ballsy as hell. And he’s got a quick, self-deprecating sense of humor that goes a long way to putting others at ease with the fact that he’s Captain America. Clint is genuinely disappointed that the easy comradery they’d been building is probably ruined.

 

Clint stands near the coffee maker transfixed by the steady brown stream pouring into the pot. As soon as it beeps, he pours himself a tall mug, shuffles over to the breakfast bar, and drops onto a stool. He stares dazedly into the steaming mug waiting for it to cool. He should be able to get this one down, refill the mug and take it back to his apartment long before anyone else shows up.

 

A small noise makes him look up and he freezes when he sees Rogers walking into the room. Surprise lights Cap’s face and his step hitches for a split second but he recovers smoothly and continues toward the refrigerator.

 

Shit. Why the fuck isn’t Rogers out on his run?

 

“Morning,” Steve says, a beat slower than would be normal. He is carefully not looking Clint’s way.

 

“Morning,” Clint mumbles back. He’s beginning to formulate a plan to get the hell out of there when Stark and Banner saunter in, fully dressed and looking wide awake.

 

What the fuck? Did he land in Bizarro Tower or something?

 

“Hey, Clint,” Banner smiles at him and sits down on the adjacent stool. “It’s good to see you again.”

 

Clint grunts his greeting and quickly zips his hoody all the way up. It’s irrational - the marks Rogers left there are completely gone – and stupid, because making an unnecessary move like that could get him killed in an undercover op.

 

Stark doesn’t acknowledge either of them at first, just moves directly over to the refrigerator and shoves his head inside. “So, Barton, when did you get back from Serbia?” Stark’s voice is muffled inside the appliance.

 

“Last night. Late,” he answers. Phil had worked up a simple cover story of a recon op in Eastern Europe. Clint takes a long sip of his coffee to avoid having to say any more words. It’s still too hot and it scalds his tongue, though no one in the room would know.    

 

Tony emerges with ingredients for one of his disgusting-looking smoothies and starts throwing them into his Magic Bullet. He nudges Steve closer toward Clint to give himself more room to work at the counter and a blind man could see how Rogers freezes and resists, before moving a couple of steps backward instead.

 

Tony stops what he’s doing and looks at Steve, then looks over at Clint, then back at Steve. “Um, is there something going on?” Tony asks, his eyes moving between the two of them like they’re a puzzle he’s trying to figure out. Even Banner is giving them a curious look.

 

Clint stares into his coffee cup. “Nope,” Clint says, popping the ‘p’.

 

“Really? ‘Cause I’m definitely getting the feeling there’s something going on.” Clint can feel Tony’s sharp gaze on him. “You feel it, right, Bruce?”

 

Banner just holds his hands up in a ‘don’t drag me into this’ gesture.

 

Clint is trying to ignore the whole situation and doing a pretty good job of it until he finally looks up and unfortunately locks eyes with Rogers, who is wearing a strained expression. Fuck. The two of them are not being subtle at all.

 

“Seriously, what am I missing? I’m feeling left out here,” Stark asks, his eyes ping-ponging between them.

 

The man is too goddamn perceptive and Clint has no idea how he could possibly respond without giving Tony more to be curious about. So he doesn’t answer; instead he just gets up, slides his coffee mug off the counter and walks out of the room without another word or a glance at anyone. In the gleaming refrigerator surface, he catches a reflection of Rogers darting out in the other direction.

 

As he makes his escape, he can hear Stark’s voice behind him. “That was weird. Was that weird? I wasn’t imagining that, was I?”

 

If Banner replies, Clint’s moving too fast to hear him.

 

Fuck.

 

**

 

Clint does the mature thing and avoids Rogers as much as he can. It’s the only thing he can think of to do. Whenever he sees the guy, he can’t stop his mind from flashing back to how he shoved his cock all the way down the man’s throat, or how Rogers had manhandled him around and fucked him in every position imaginable – and some he never would have imagined. He knows Rogers mind is in the same place because with his fair skin and blond hair, his creeping blushes are readily obvious. Every time he sees Rogers’ face flush, Clint feels himself pink up as well. It’s damned awkward.

 

Clint sticks to his own apartment at the Tower as much as he can get away with – he suspects Rogers does too – without it becoming overly suspicious. They both seem to understand that they need to make appearances in common spaces, but they don’t talk unless necessary and Clint can see Rogers gets jumpy every time they’re in each other’s presence. Rogers would be terrible undercover; Clint hopes he’s not being quite so obvious. Tony has stopped asking questions but there’s no chance he isn’t still watching them closely. Even Bruce and Thor give them peculiar looks sometimes. It’s unnerving. When Natasha comes back, her radar is immediately pinged and she eyes them curiously, clearly not sure what’s going on, but obviously sure something is going on.

 

They get calls to assemble and they respond like they always would because they’re professionals and neither of them is going to let bad shit happen to other people because of their own mini-drama. They make it work; by unspoken agreement, Rogers stays in the back while Clint flies the quinjet. When they get to the scene, Rogers quickly orders Clint up high and away – which is what he would do anyway. The action is usually enough of a distraction that they don’t need to interact much, but when Rogers breaks them into groups of two or three, he makes sure that he and Clint are never together, and that’s 100% fine with Clint.

 

It works fine.

 

Until it doesn’t.

 

**

 

Natasha doesn’t knock. She never knocks, but Clint has spent years learning to interpret Nat’s gestures and the way she’s not-knocking right now means nothing but trouble for him. He’s been propped on his couch staring at the muted television since they came back from today’s fight, too angry at himself to do anything else.

 

“What’s going on with you and Steve?” Natasha demands, arms crossed as she stares down at him. There’s not nearly as much accusation in her voice as there should be.

 

Clint flicks a glance at the bruise on her cheekbone and his face hardens in self-recrimination. “We got our wires crossed. Sorry.” he answers, unable to look her in the eye.

 

“I’m not talking about today. I’m talking about what happened in Canada.” Clint’s skilled enough that no one but Natasha would be able to see his surprise at her question. “Because whatever it was, it’s affecting the way you work in the field.”

 

She’s not wrong. Today had been a clusterfuck. At around 0600, they’d gotten a call to assemble and get to Roosevelt Island where they’d gotten word of a Hydra lab that was purportedly experimenting on children thought to have mutant powers. Clint had abandoned his coffee (made these days in the crappy Mr. Coffee machine in his own apartment rather than in Stark’s fancy machine in the common kitchen) and suited up, bolting for the landing bay with his gear. He and Steve had done their dance to avoid each other and they’d arrived at the incident location quickly. Everything was fine.

 

But there had been far more Hydra agents on the ground than they’d anticipated and things got chaotic fast. Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk ended up fighting a virtual army at Four Freedoms Park, while Rogers, Nat, and Clint found themselves battling another group of them around the old hospital building. Clint was up high, covering Nat and Steve from the roof. He had momentarily lost visual contact with both of them when Nat had calmly asked for back up over comms – something that Black Widow only does when she’s in serious trouble.

 

Clint had immediately abandoned his perch and leapt over the side of the roof, flipping and dropping from one level of the fire escape to the next until he was on the ground, and then started making his way to where he thought Nat was. But then he’d seen Rogers heading the same way from the other direction and he’d hesitated, ducking around a corner to let the other man handle the situation.

 

And Rogers had apparently done the same.

 

“Guys? Seriously. I could use a hand here,” Natasha’s strained voice came through the comms.

 

Clint had cursed and then bolted toward her. “I’m coming, Widow,” he’d yelled, pulling his bow up and nocking three arrows as he sprinted around the corner and immediately dispatched three of the eight Hydra agents that Nat was fighting. He kept firing, knocking one after the other out of the fray as Widow did the same with her fists and widow's bites. A second later he saw Rogers rounding the far corner, quickly assess the situation as being in hand, and then - thankfully - disappear again.  

 

Things had resolved quickly after that. A few Hydra escaped, but the lab had been isolated and the children were safe. Clint and Rogers had kept their distance from each other the rest of the day. Natasha hadn’t said a word in the field; Clint had hoped she’d missed the slip up in the chaos of the fighting, but he should have known better. Natasha never misses anything.

 

“I said I’m sorry.”

 

“And that doesn’t answer my question, so you wanna tell me what happened between you and Rogers?”

 

Clint barks out a laugh that doesn’t have a bit of humor in it. “I reeeeally don’t.”

 

“You’re going to anyway.”

 

“Nothing happened, Nat. Drop it,” Clint says flatly, picking up the remote and flipping aimlessly through the channels.

 

“Really?” she says, taking the remote and turning the television off. “’Cause Stark says Rogers turned up alone 52 hours later than you two were expected and that he didn’t see you until more than three weeks after that. My sources tell me something hush-hush happened in Medical the day you returned but it was locked down and no one knows any details. The tension between you is so thick you could cut it with a knife and you know I’m not the only one who’s noticed. Whatever it is, it’s affecting how the two of you work together and someone is going to get hurt. I don’t really care if you want to get yourself killed, but I’m not particularly eager to check out just yet.”

 

“Ah, Nat, you’re always so kind and loving,” Clint mutters sarcastically, but he knows she’s worried about him. Plus, she’s right. She was in trouble today and if anything had happened to her it would have been on Clint; he’d fucked up badly because of this thing between him and Rogers.

 

“I checked SHIELD’s files on that mission, Clint,” she says, because of course she did. “They’re remarkably absent, and you and I know that that doesn’t happen unless…” she stops.

 

Clint squeezes his eyes shut tight, as if that could prevent the next words from coming out of her mouth.

 

“…were you compromised?” she asks, her words quiet and annoyingly gentle.

 

Clint flicks his glance at her for a second and sees the concern in her eyes and feels guilty for it. It’s too strong and it makes him uncomfortable so he turns his gaze back toward the ceiling. She’s worried about some last vestige of Loki rearing its ugly head and he doesn’t want to tell her the truth, but she went through hell with him in the aftermath of that while they waited to see if the Asgardian magic would save Phil, and it’s not fair to make her worry again.

 

Clint closes his eyes and braces himself. “We got dosed with Empulcoitus,” he says in a monotone.

 

When she doesn’t say anything for moment he turns and looks at her again. She’s staring at him neutrally, but he can tell she’s working hard to maintain the expression. He almost feels a tiny bit of satisfaction at the idea that he managed to surprise Natasha Romanov.

 

“How bad was it?” she finally asks.

 

Clint just shakes his head a little. He knows she’s seen the video and data from the KGB, same as him. She could try to imagine what it was like, but there’s no real way to put words to it.

 

“Was it…” she stops and reconsiders. “What are you struggling with?” she asks instead.

 

Clint takes a deep breath and then lets it out loudly and slowly, buying time and rifling through all the files of shit he’s struggling with in his head. Mostly he just wishes Nat would go away so he can go back to trying to pretend it didn’t happen, so he huffs a small laugh and hopes she’ll play along. “Uh, well… you know. I had sex with Captain America for like, 24 hours straight. So, there’s that.”

 

There’s a long pause before Natasha responds.

 

“Captain America,” she says, her voice low and dangerous.

 

Clint looks blankly at her.

 

“You said Captain America, Clint. Not Cap or Rogers, like you usually do.”

 

Shit. He should have kept his mouth shut. Clint turns away and moves to get up so he can end the conversation right there, but she grabs him and yanks him back down.

 

“Tell me,” she insists, giving him a chiding stare, “that you aren’t somehow thinking that Coulson is pissed about this.”

 

Clint scoffs and tries to hide how close to home that hit and makes to get up again. But again, Natasha forces him back down onto the couch, this time holding him in place. “Phil and I are fine,” he snaps in frustration.  

 

“I’m sure you are,” she answers calmly. “And that’s not what I asked.”

 

“If you don’t fucking let go of me, I’ll…” he growls at her.

 

“You’ll what?” Natasha asks, cocking her head and an eyebrow at the same time, almost mocking, knowing it’s an empty threat.

 

“Oh, fuck you, Nat!” he snarls, jerking his arm away from her and finally standing up.

 

Clint,” Nat says from where she’s still sitting on the couch.

 

Clint wipes a hand down his face and then turns to face her. “Jesus, Nat. You know Phil idolizes Captain America,” he says resignedly.

 

Natasha grunts and makes an impatient gesture at the obviousness of the statement. The fact that Phil’s home-office is basically a shrine to the man is the worst-kept secret at SHIELD.

 

“And I…” he stops, and shifts his gaze away from her intense scrutiny.

 

“You what?” she asks, standing up, but Clint doesn’t answer. “You what, Clint?” She makes a frustrated noise when he still doesn’t reply. “You are such a fucking idiot sometimes.”

 

He finally turns back and glares at her. “He’s straight, Nat! Okay?” he yells. “Rogers is straight and I fucked him anyway! Jesus, who knows how that’s fucked him up! And I did it to Phil’s boyhood hero. I saw them talking last week and Phil can’t even look him in the eye anymore. It’s ruined. I ruined it for him.”

 

“Okay,” she says slowly, “putting aside what you think you did to Rogers, you have to know that he’s not Phil’s boyhood hero.”

 

“It’s not what I think I did to him. And what are you talking about?” he gapes at her. “Of course he’s Phil’s hero!”    

 

Captain America. Not Rogers. Think about it, Clint. Yes, he may have gone a little fan-boy for a while after they found him under the ice, but reality set in pretty quickly. Phil doesn’t idolize Steve Rogers. He idolizes Captain America. The ideal – not the real guy. The minute he could, Phil found an excuse to put away all of his Captain America memorabilia, because he doesn’t view Steve that way at all and it got a little weird.”

 

“What the hell are you talking about?” he growls at her. “He didn’t get rid of his Cap stuff.”

 

“I didn’t say he got rid of it; I said he put it away.” Clint looks at her in confusion. “Last April? Two weeks after they found him in the ice? Phil painted his home-office so he’d have an excuse to take everything down. For God’s sake, Clint, you helped him paint, why do you think he chose burnt umber?”

 

“Because he likes the color,” he says, but he can hear the hesitance in his own voice.

 

“No, idiot. Because it clashes with the red, white, and blue of all the Captain America stuff and it gave him an excuse to not put it back up.”

 

“He didn’t put it back up?” Clint asks, feeling suddenly off-kilter.

 

“Jesus, when was the last time you went in his office?”

 

Clint furrows his brow. “The day we painted. I got called down to the Mojave right after.”

 

“And you haven’t been in there since?”

 

Clint shakes his head, thinking about the closed door in Phil’s apartment that he had spent nearly a month avoiding while he recuperated. “You don’t know that that’s why--”

 

Nat rolls her eyes at him. “Of course it is! I swear, you have the EQ of a garden slug.”

 

It could be true. Clint knows Phil respects Rogers but he’s also seen Phil’s jaw tighten or heard his clipped tone over the comms when Rogers has gone off the reservation during missions, making up rules as he goes along. Part of Clint starts to concede the point to Nat, but then he remembers Phil’s reaction the day they returned from Canada.

 

“Stop it!” Natasha snaps at him, reading him too well.

 

But Clint shakes his head. “You weren’t there, Nat. You didn’t see the look on his face when we got back. He--” Clint stops and shakes his head again.

 

Natasha sighs. “You’re wrong. Whatever you think you saw or heard, you’re wrong.”  

 

“He was pissed. It was so obvious,” he continues to argue, refusing to let it go.  

 

“Why would Coulson be mad at you for what happened? It was the mission. We’ve both done reprehensible things in the name of the missions and no one, least of all Coulson, ever holds that against us.”

 

Clint squeezes his eyes shut. “Not this time, Nat. This time it was personal. Rogers, he… I…” Clint stops, firming his mouth and looking away.

 

“No, Clint,” she says adamantly. “Not at you. Phil would never be mad at you for that and you know it. If he was angry at all, it was at himself for letting it happen in the first place.”

 

Clint hates to admit it but that does sound a lot like Coulson, actually. Still, he’s not ready to give up on his self-destructive thought pattern because he’s stubborn like that. Or stupid. Phil had reacted to what he’d seen in the elevator that day. Clint is positive of it.

 

“Clint, you know Coulson,” Nat breaks him out of his thoughts. “Who is he really worried about?” She raises a challenging eyebrow at him. When he just scowls at her, she sighs and steps over to him, pulling him down to press their foreheads together. “He loves you, dummy. Don’t ever forget that,” she tells him. Clint closes his eyes. A moment later, she kisses him lightly on the cheek and then moves toward the door.  

 

“Nat,” he stops her just as she’s about to leave and she turns. “What happened out there today… It won’t happen again.”

 

“I know.”

 

Clint stares at the closed door for several long minutes, trying to sort through the conversation. He’s not able to argue against what she’s said, but not able to fully accept it either. He looks at his watch. Phil is probably still mopping up the Roosevelt Island incident, but Clint knows that even on the craziest days, he always tries to get home for at least a few hours of sleep in his own bed. He hesitates for a second, then grabs his keys and slips out of the Tower.

 

**

 

Phil unlocks his front door and smiles when he spots Clint’s boots on the floor and his jacket tossed haphazardly over the arm of the couch. He can see the glow of the reading lamp coming from under the bedroom door and by the time he opens it, he’s got his own jacket off and is pulling his tie loose. 

 

When Phil opens the closet door, Clint rolls over and gives him a slow, sleepy grin. “Hey.”

 

“Hey. I wasn’t expecting you.” Phil slips off his shoes and pulls a hanger off the bar to hang up his suit coat.

 

“I know,” Clint sucks in a deep yawn. “Is it a problem?”

 

“Never. But if I’d known you were coming I would have tried to get home sooner.”

 

Clint shrugs. “I didn’t know I was coming. I don’t mind waiting.”

 

Phil stops his hands where he’s unbuckling his belt. “Everything okay?”

 

Clint grins at him, but Phil thinks he can see something else, lurking underneath. “Everything’s good. Come to bed already.”

 

Phil slips his pants off and hangs them up too, then unbuttons his shirt and tosses it and his socks into the hamper. He grabs a t-shirt from his dresser and starts to pull it over his head.

 

“Leave it,” Clint tells him, but when he hesitates, Clint shrugs. “Unless you don’t want to.”

 

They haven’t talked about restarting their intimate relationship. Hell, they really haven’t talked about anything related to what happened in Canada and they probably should. Phil has no idea if sex in any form might trip Clint’s triggers and he sure as hell doesn’t want to do any more harm than has already been done.

 

But when he drops the shirt and slides between the sheets, Clint doesn’t hesitate, rolling them so that he’s between Phil’s legs, hovering over him. A feral grin sweeps over Clint’s face and a second later his mouth is on Phil’s, tongue pushing impatiently inside.

 

A small surprised noise escapes Phil and he gets a hand on Clint’s chest, pushing gently. “Are you sure?” he asks.

 

Clint doesn’t answer; instead he grinds his hips down against Phil’s and Phil can feel that Clint is already hard. His own cock twitches in response. “I… I’ll take that as a yes,” he chokes, barely getting the words out before Clint is on him again.  He slots their mouths together, kissing Phil deep and wet, then flexing his hips and rubbing their cocks together tantalizingly, garnering an appreciative groan from Phil.

 

Phil's breath hitches when Clint shifts and licks and kisses his way up to Phil’s ear, nuzzling there for a moment. He shivers and his now-hard cock twitches against Clint’s hip. He hadn’t let himself think about this – had put sex completely out of his mind, knowing he and Clint needed to have a conversation about it, but never seeming to find the right time. He hadn’t realized how much he’d missed it though, until just now with Clint pushing against him.  He shudders with anticipating at the thought of having Clint inside him again—

 

“I want you to fuck me,” Clint whispers in his ear, and Phil stiffens, shocked at the words.

 

It takes Clint a half second to register it and then he freezes too, his face still buried in Phil’s neck. A second later, Clint abruptly pushes off of him.

 

“Clint—"

 

“Okay then. I’ll take that as a no,” Clint says with a small, bitter laugh and sits back on his heels.

 

“No, Clint…”

 

“Hey, it’s okay,” he says quickly, throwing the light blanket off of himself. “I get it.” He gets up and grabs the t-shirt Phil had discarded and is out the door before Phil can even begin to piece together what just happened.

 

He drops his head and curses quietly to himself. It’s been a long fucking day. The confrontation with Hydra had been grueling and the contents of the lab horrifying. Figuring out what to do with the children had been emotionally wracking. Phil knows he’s not in the best frame of mind for this conversation but it’s obvious it needs to happen anyway. He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, then steps over to the dresser to get a new t-shirt and goes to find Clint.

 

He’s not hard to find since he’s in the kitchen banging loudly through the drawers, looking for who knows what. Phil takes a stance across the small space, careful not to crowd him. Phil has no idea what’s going on right now but all of his alarms are pinging and he knows that one wrong move on his part and Clint will bolt.  

 

Phil just watches until Clint slams drawers opened and closed and leans both hands on the counter, back to Phil. He’s breathing heavily and his shoulders are hunched up to his ears.   He gives Clint a moment to calm down before he speaks. “Okay. I guess we need to talk.”

 

Clint snorts humorlessly. “Yeah, no. We really don’t,” he says, a bitterness in his voice as he shakes his head.

 

“Yes, we do. We should have talked about this sooner. I’ve been wrong to avoid it. I’m sorry.”

 

Clint shrugs. “Nothing to talk about.” He goes back to rifling through Phil’s silverware drawer.

 

“Of course there is. Christ, Clint, what you went through was traumatic…”

 

Clint finally turns and glares at him. “I’m not traumatized, Phil.”

 

“Okay. Poor choice of words. But you’re fooling yourself if you think you’re not affected by all of this.”

 

“I’m fine.”

 

“Maybe. Mostly. But not entirely, I think.”

 

Clint narrow his eyes with an air of warning.

 

“Clint, no one could go through what you’ve been through and not struggle with it.”

 

He sees Clint bristle. “I’m not struggling.”

 

“Then why did you just offer to let me fuck you?”

 

“Look, it’s not a big deal. I made an offer. You’re not interested. It’s fine,” Clint smiles mildly but Phil can see how his eyes are shuttered.

 

Phil ducks his head, pinching the bridge of his nose between his fingers. He’s too fucking tired to contain his emotions; the anger he’s feeling again about what happened to Clint – what he let happen to Clint - is working its way to the surface. “Clint, why would you offer that when it’s not something you want to do?” he asks impatiently and frustrated with Clint’s denial.

 

“Who says I don’t want it? Why would I offer if I didn’t?”

 

“I don’t know for sure, but I’m fairly certain it has something to do with what Rogers did to you.”

 

Clint jerks his head up, looking confused. “What Rogers did—? Phil, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.”

 

“Okay. How about I tell you some things that I do know,” Phil answers, trying to maintain his composure, but his latent rage toward Rogers is lapping at the edge of his control. “I know that you like to give me blowjobs,” Clint gives him a bemused look. “But only in bed where we’re lying down and never on your knees.” At that, Clint’s eyes flash darkly, but Phil continues undeterred. “I know that because there have been many, many times when that position might have been the logical option, given where we were and how things had progressed, but every time, you’ve moved things over to a bed, instead.”

 

Clint starts to look away but Phil takes a small step closer and he stops.

   

“I know you don’t want to be dominated in the bedroom because the one time I gripped your wrists, you pulled them away from me rather pointedly, and I know you don’t want to dominate because you’ve never once made any move in that direction. How’m I doing?” he asks, cocking his head.

 

Clint’s face is red with agitation but he doesn’t respond. Phil steps closer still.

 

“And I know that you really like to fuck me because you do it often and well. I know that you like to be kissing me when you come, because your mouth is always looking for mine when you do, no matter how contorted it means we have to get. Still on target?” Phil asks, raising a provocative eyebrow.

 

Clint just glares at him, but his breath is coming in audible bursts.

 

“I’ll take that for a yes,” he says before continuing. “What I also know,” Phil’s voice gets harder, his own agitation becoming obvious, “is that you don’t want me to fuck you, because the first time my fingers ventured anywhere near your ass you went fucking rigid and then immediately shifted positions. That was six years ago, and there hasn’t been one time since then that you’ve given any kind of indication that you wanted that to change. So, you tell me, Clint,” Phil says, narrowing his eyes. “How should I interpret your sudden change of heart? Other than as the result of what Rogers did to you?”  

 

Fuck you,” Clint snarls, and then pushes past him and slams out the front door.

 

Phil turns and leans his hands against the counter, dropping his head between his shoulders. “Exactly,” he mutters to himself.

 

Well. That could have gone better.

 

**

 

He’s not worried. At least he tells himself he’s not. Clint left in his boxers and a t-shirt so Phil knows he’s not going far and that he’s most likely brooding in Mrs. Laherty’s roof garden. Clint has spent a lot of time up there over the years when he needed breathing room or had something to work through in his head. Phil goes back to bed, knowing that he needs the sleep and there’s nothing he can do until Clint’s ready to come back.

 

Phil has to remind himself that Clint always comes back.

 

It’s a couple hours later when Phil is woken by the soft click of the front door. He expects the bedroom door to open and is surprised to hear Clint quietly open the office door instead, and then sees the light from the room glow beneath the bedroom door. It’s quiet for a minute and he can only surmise that Clint must be standing there, just looking into Phil’s office, but he can’t think of why he would. He’s about to get up and find out when the light switches off. Phil sees the bathroom light go on next, then hears the shower start, so he settles back in and closes his eyes. He must have fallen asleep, because the next thing he knows, the bed dips and then Clint’s arm is slipping around his chest. Phil reaches up in his half-awake state and loosely grips Clint’s hand in his own.

 

Clint sighs deeply. “You weren’t wrong,” he admits quietly from behind. “About any of it. I won’t go on my knees for any man ever again,” Clint says with venom. “And Duchesne used to tie me down when he was pissed at me, so, yeah, no thanks on the D/s.” He pauses and takes a deep breath.

 

“Clint, I don’t want anything from you that you don’t want to give,” Phil says softly and starts to turn to face Clint, but Clint holds him firmly so he can’t.

 

Clint presses his forehead into the back of Phil’s neck, but it’s several long moments before he says anything. “I don’t want to talk about this. But you’re right. We probably need to, so just…” he trails off and sighs.

 

Phil waits for a minute before gentle urging him on.  “Go ahead.”

 

“It’s not… It wasn’t that bad, Phil.” Clint stops and a humorless laugh bubbles out. “I mean, it was bad, just… not in the way I think you’re thinking. Rogers… the fucking… it…” Clint pauses and makes a frustrated noise. “It was hard and fast and it was painful sometimes, but never so much that the pleasure didn’t outweigh it. I wanted it.”

 

“It was the drug,” Phil answers, trying to stay calm, but Clint must feel him tense because he squeezes him tighter. Phil forces himself to relax.

 

“I know that. But that doesn’t negate the fact that in the moment, I wanted Rogers to be fucking me. I don’t resent him for it and you shouldn’t either.”

 

He knew this about the drug – that it had this effect – but that’s not really ameliorating the ire he feels toward Rogers. “Clint,” Phil squirms a little but Clint still doesn’t release him.

 

“We talked, Phil… beforehand. And I asked him not to…” Clint sighs and finally releases Phil so he can roll over; they lie a foot apart facing each other, propped on their elbows, heads resting on a hand. “He never went near my triggers. He never grabbed my arms or held me down, he never cut off my breath. And believe me, there were plenty of times when I expected it. But he never did. He did what he could, Phil.”

 

“But he did fuck you,” Phil points out, not able to remove the edge from his voice.

 

Clint gives him a considered look.  “Phil, you get that he was as much a victim here as I was, right? He had to do it. It was that or die, you know that. Or it was that, or shove his cock down my throat a million times like I did to him. And since I told him ahead of time that I’d rather he not do that…” Clint pins Phil with his gaze. “He didn’t go near my triggers, Phil,” he repeats. “Not once.”

 

Phil takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly, weeks of rage beginning to seep away along with it.  “Okay, so I may owe Rogers an apology. But I still don’t understand why you made the offer you did.”

 

Clint sighs and rolls onto his back, staring up at the ceiling. “Because, apparently - according to Nat - I have the EQ of a garden slug.” A corner of Clint’s mouth curls into a tiny smile and then disappears before he turns and looks at Phil. “I may have thought you were pissed,” he confesses with a small shrug.

 

“About…?”

 

Clint hesitates, then flicks his glance uneasily away, before looking back at Phil. “For giving that to Rogers when I’ve never given it to you.”

 

Phil can’t stop his face from contorting. “I would never--”

 

Clint holds up a hand. “Yeah,” his stops Phil. “I know that. Still working on the circular thinking though. Garden slug, remember?” he says and this time gives Phil a small grin.

 

Phil rolls onto his back, too, maneuvering so they are pressed against each other. “Yeah, well, I’m not sure I’d score any higher than you,” he sighs.

 

“Jesus Christ, we’re a pair,” Clint snorts.

 

Phil huffs and reaches over, tugging on Clint until he rolls onto his side, head on Phil’s chest. Phil wraps his arms around him and squeezes; Clint relaxes into him. It feels really fucking good. Phil bends his neck and kisses the top of Clint’s head. “Tomorrow we make an appointment with Psych.  Both of us.”

 

Clint grunts his reluctant agreement.

 

“Sleep, now,” Phil murmurs, and Clint grunts his agreement at that, too.

 

**

 

Steve’s down in the gym working out his frustration the day after the mess on Roosevelt Island when Natasha saunters in and drops her gear near the door. He stops the bag and takes in the purple mark on her face. “How are you?”

 

She rolls her eyes at him. “I’m fine, Dad.”

 

Steve gives a soft snort and goes back to the bag. He learned quickly that, much like Clint – though not in exactly the same way - Natasha does not like to admit her weaknesses.

 

“How’re you?

 

“I’m fine,” he answers, landing a dozen rapid-fire punches.

 

He sees her scrutinize him and cock her head. “Are you?”

 

Steve stops and looks at her quizzically for a moment and then closes his eyes as realization dawns. “You know?” he asks, then opens his eyes to see her weighty expression as she nods back at him.

 

“SHIELD told you?” he asks, horrified, wishing he could go curl up in a ball in the corner, but he stands his ground.

 

Clint told me. There’s a difference,” she assures him. “Seriously. How are you doing?”

 

Steve sighs and looks away. “I’m fine. I’ve got this… fucking serum in my blood to make sure of it.” He punches the bag hard and the chain breaks free, sending it flying across the gym.

 

Natasha looks at the bag then back at him. “Physically. What about the rest of it?”

 

“The rest of what?”

 

She hesitates. “You tell me.”

 

Steve huffs out a frustrated breath. “I’m fine,” he insists, hooking a new bag to the chain.

 

“Really?” She looks pointedly at the pile of broken bags scattered around the room.

 

“I like to box, Romanov,” he says and attacks the bag again. “Give it a rest,” he says flatly.

 

“Have you talked to anyone about it?”

 

He laughs humorless. “Like who? Who do you suggest I talk to about this?” He gives the bag a pointed punch. “Actually, I tried to talk to Coulson,” he admits. “It didn’t go well,” he adds, giving the bag a particularly vicious right hook.

 

Natasha snorts. “He might not have been the best choice, but don’t worry about it. He’ll settle down once Clint gets his head out of his ass.” She sobers a bit. “I meant like Psych.”

 

Steve stands up straight and stops the bag from swinging. He looks at her in surprise.

 

She shrugs. “They can be helpful.”

 

Steve looks over her shoulder into the distance for a moment. “When I was coming up, the psychiatrists were the last people you wanted to talk to if you wanted to stay in the army.”

 

“Times have changed, Steve,” she says gently. “No one is trying to drum you out. It’s their job to keep you mentally healthy, not to find ways to get rid of you.”

 

“Do you use them?”

 

“No,” she answers honestly.

 

Steve huffs.

 

“If I need to unload I go to Clint. Or Coulson. But, as you’ve said, those aren’t great options for you right now.”

 

Steve grunts.

 

“Look, I’m just saying Psych is an option to consider. But, if you want to talk to a friend, I’m willing to listen.”

 

Steve looks up at her in surprise. “You’re Clint’s friend.”

 

She lifts an eyebrow. “And I can’t be yours, also?”

 

Steve considers her for a second and then dismisses it. He really doesn’t want to discuss it with anyone. He shakes his head. “There’s nothing I need to talk about. I’m fine,” he says and goes back to beating up on the bag.

 

This time Natasha scoffs. “We may not have known each other very long, but I’m betting I know you well enough to know what’s going on in your head. Guilt, confusion, regret…” she says. “Am I getting close?” she asks archly.

 

Steve scowls at her. (Clint, bent over the bunk, Steve pressing hard on his back as he pounds into him, Clint’s breath punching out painfully with each brutal stroke.) He quickly moves around the bag away from Natasha as he feels his face heat - not sure if it’s from the memories or because Natasha has read him so well.

 

“Look, Rogers, this isn’t productive,” she tells him, walking around the bag and getting into his space again. “You’ve got to find a way to cope with things or it will tear you apart.”

 

(Clint, rigid with pain but stoic, sitting in the cockpit.) “I cope just fine,” he says defensively, hitting the bag even harder and Natasha has to duck out of the way.

 

Natasha looks at him dubiously. “Yeah. You come down here and beat up on heavy bags and then you go back up just as tense as you were before. You need to talk to someone.”

 

Steve gives her a pointed look before giving the bag a hard one-two punch. “I don’t need to talk.”

 

Natasha considers him for a moment. “Maybe what you need is more of a challenge.”

 

“Yeah?” Steve answers doubtfully, giving the bag five hard hits with his right hand, putting his whole body into each punch.

 

“Yeah. I’ll tell you what,” Natasha reaches out and stops the bag from swinging. “Let’s spar. No holds barred. I’ll try to beat you up for what you did to my friend,” the way she says it makes it clear she isn’t really angry with him.

 

Her patronizing tone is annoying, but he thinks about it for a second before shaking his head. “I don’t need--”

 

Before he can finish, she sucker punches him in the temple and then swings around and gets him with an elbow in the back. He stumbles forward a few steps before straightening up and turning to glare at her. “That’s dirty fighting.”

 

Nat smiles viciously and wiggles her fingers, gesturing for him to come at her.

 

Steve scrutinizes her and bends his neck back and forth, stretching and cracking it, suddenly feeling much more enthusiastic. “No holds barred? I don’t want to hurt you.”

 

“I’m not worried,” she goads him, looking entirely unconcerned.

 

Fists fly.

 

They’ve never sparred before and though he knows she’s good in hand-to-hand, the most Steve’s really seen of her in action is small glimpses here and there because he’s generally otherwise occupied himself. Fifteen minutes in, they’re sweating and circling each other and she’s already gotten the best of him a couple of times. He can tell that she’s getting frustrated at how he’s holding back by the way her assaults on him are getting more savage, but the last thing he wants to do is to hurt Natasha.

 

In a flash, she literally runs up his body and wraps his neck in a thigh-hold. They drop to the floor and Nat gets one of his arms twisted up so that any movement on his part will probably mean a dislocated shoulder. Steve grunts in defeat.

 

“You’re making this too easy, Rogers,” she laughs harshly in his ear. She’s been riding him the entire time, trying to make him angry so he’ll fight back.    

 

Steve slaps his other hand twice on the mat, tapping out for the third time and Nat releases him and is on her feet before he can even blink. When he finally gets to his feet, she leaps at him with a flying, twisting move and snaps his head with a foot to the side of his face. Steve falls to the floor then scowls up at her.

 

“Are you seriously going to let me beat up on you like this?” she hisses, breathing hard. “I expected more from you, Cap.”

 

Steve hops to his feet and eyes her warily, circling again. The truth is, every time she’d pinned him, he’d had no idea how she’d gotten the upper hand and he’d been surprised to find himself down and vulnerable. And he hasn’t been holding back as much as she probably thinks. “I don’t want to hurt you, Romanov.”

 

Natasha snorts. “You think you even can?” she needles him and somehow slips behind and takes out his knee. Steve crumples to the floor.  

 

A second later he hops back up and takes a halfhearted swing that she easily dodges.

 

“Really, Rogers? That the best you can do?” Natasha laughs and ducks down, punching him hard in the balls.

 

Steve collapses in pain but he decides he’s had about enough and when Natasha moves to wrestle him into another hold, he somehow manages to grab her leg and flip her onto her back on the mat. He gets her pinned to the ground, straddling her chest, using his significant size difference and large hands to press her hard into the mat below. Steve leans into her face. “I don’t want to hurt you, Romanov,” he repeats, biting the words out.

 

“Like you didn’t want to hurt Clint?” she says provocatively, then kicks her knee up hitting him square in the back, unbalancing him just enough to dislodge his grip and flip them. She scrambles to her feet immediately and lands a roundhouse kick to his face.

 

Steve lies on his back staring at the ceiling, making no effort to move this time. He’s breathing hard when he admits, “I didn’t want to hurt him.”

 

“But you did,” she answers, circling him.

 

Yes. I did,he says quietly and closes his eyes, a new wave of self-recrimination washing over him.

 

“Agents get hurt on the job all the time,” Natasha points out, stepping close and casually poking at Steve with her toe.

 

“Not by their own team!” Steve snaps, turning to glower at her. “Damn it!” he adds, then sits up and drops his head into his hand. Natasha moves around to stand in front of him and he raises his head to look at her.

 

She smiles at him. “See? That wasn’t so hard. Want to talk some more or would you rather do some real fighting now?”

 

Steve ignores her and flops back down onto the mat with a thud, one arm on his chest, the other flung out to the side. Natasha drops down beside him and rolls her head to look his way. “Better?”

 

Steve laughs bitterly and covers his eyes with his hands. “You’re incredibly manipulative, you know that?”

 

Natasha laughs. “Yes, Steve. I know that.”

 

They lie for a few moments, catching their breath and not talking. Steve stares at the ceiling again. “I really hurt him,” he finally says.

 

Natasha sighs. “It’s the job… We all know anything could happen out there, people get hurt, killed… but each of us has made the choice to do it anyway.”

 

“Yeah. We go out and fight against Hydra or AIM or… crazy alien invaders, and I get that – we can get hurt doing it. But he shouldn’t have to worry about his own teammate hurting him.”

 

There’s a silent pause before Natasha rolls over onto her side and props her head on her hand. “I shot Clint once, did he ever tell you that?”

 

Steve turns his head sharply and looks at her. “You shot Barton?”

 

Natasha nods, her face open and relaxed. “He was covering a retreat and he was grabbed when it took longer than anticipated to extract a witness. They shot him up with sodium pentothal trying get the exfil plan. It probably wouldn’t have had much effect on him except they knew they didn’t have much time and had worked him over hard beforehand – no finesse, just pure pain - so his defenses were pretty well shot. We had eyes and ears on him the whole time and Coulson and I could tell he was about to talk. But we needed another half hour to get our witness out and safe, so I shot him.”

 

Steve stares at her wide-eyed trying to wrap his mind around the matter-of-fact way that she had just essentially told him that she and Coulson had watched and listened as Clint was being tortured without doing something about it. Not to mention the last part. “Wh-where?” Steve stammers out.

 

“In the gut. It was risky, but a head shot was riskier. And if I’d hit him in either arm or shoulder he would have killed me. Couldn’t get a sight-line on his legs,” she answers easily. “It did the trick. Put him into shock and unconscious before he could talk.”

 

Steve continues to gape at her and she gives him a knowing smile. “He thanked us once he woke up.”

 

Steve gawps at her some more. “I…” he starts and then furrows his brow before turning back toward the ceiling. “It’s not the same.”

 

Ugh,” Natasha rolls her eyes and sits up; Steve follows suit. “Do you blame Clint for the attack on the helicarrier? The one that killed 17 people? The one that nearly killed Coulson?”

 

Steve can see her point immediately and he turns away from her.

 

Do you?” she presses.

 

Steve pushes a frustrated breath out of his nose and looks back at Romanov. He can see the triumphant expression on her face. “No,” he admits. “But Clint does,” he adds, trying to win back some small point.

 

“Actually, I’ve been beating the sense into him for the last four months, too. We’re making progress there,” she smirks.

 

Steve groans and flops backward onto the mat. Again. “Yeah, okay, okay. I get it. Maybe. God, it’s just so…” he covers his face with his hands. “…awkward. I know you all think…” Steve stops and makes a disgruntled noise and turns toward her. “I’m not a virgin, but the things we did…”

 

Natasha puts her hands up to stop him. “Nope, we’re not going there.”

 

Steve startles and looks at her in confusion.

 

“Yeah, sorry. I won’t be able to unhear that if you tell me, so…”

 

Steve finds he’s half annoyed and half charmed by her response. “I thought you said if I wanted to talk you’d listen,” he challenges her with a note of humor.

 

“Yeah, I meant more like, if you want to talk about the, ‘I feel so guilty for hurting my friend’ part. Or maybe the ‘I’m not gay but I had sex with a man,’ thing.”

 

Steve shoots her a look. “I’m not homophobic,” he says defensively.

 

“Well, that’s good, and there are a lot of people out there who will appreciate that,” she says dismissively. “But that’s not what I’m talking about.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“Steve, you aren’t gay, but this stuff made you do things you never thought you wanted to do. That’s got to be messing with your head a little.”

 

He looks at her uneasily and then pinches the bridge of his nose, squinting his eyes shut. “That’s not…” he looks back up at her. “Honestly, that’s not the thing that’s bugging me. I don’t know. I get that we were driven to do what we did. I knew guys back in the 40s, Romanov. Guys who weren’t really gay, but the circumstances of war tend to take some of those barriers down. I get that. It was the same with me and Barton. It’s just, on the jet--”

 

She gives him a threatening look.

 

Steve stops and sighs. “Right, not going there...”

 

“Hey, good talk,” she says slapping him on the thigh, then jumps up and extends her hand out to him. “But it’s enough for now. We don’t want to get too carried away with all this feelings nonsense.” Steve reaches his arm up and Natasha grabs him and heaves him to his feet. “Come on,” she gestures with her fingers again. “And this time no pulling your punches.”

 

**

 

“You’re a dirty fighter, too,” Natasha says an hour later as they lie next to each other on the mat again, sweaty and panting.

 

Steve huffs. “When you grow up in Brooklyn and weigh 90 pounds, you don’t have much choice.”

 

“Feel better?”

 

“I guess. A little,” he admits turning to look at her. “Thank you.”

 

Nat hums in acknowledgement.

 

“How is he? Really?” he asks reluctantly, fearing what the answer will be.

 

“He’s okay,” she says nonchalantly. “He’s healed. I’m still working on getting his head out of his ass.”

 

Steve’s face clouds with the memories again.

 

“Stop it,” Nat snaps at him. “Yes, you hurt him, but he’s recovered. And he hurt you, too, Steve. Just because you healed more quickly doesn’t mean that he didn’t.”

 

Steve gestures dismissively. “I told you, I’m fine. Clint’s got nothing to feel bad about.”

 

Natasha makes a noise that makes it clear she agrees but that Clint is an idiot. “You’re right, but he’s sitting at home stewing about the fact that he corrupted poor Captain America…”

 

Steve scowls and tips his head back. “I’m not A VIRGIN!” he yells at the ceiling in frustration then turns an annoyed look at Natasha. “God! Why does everyone think I’m some sort of delicate flower when it comes to sex?! I’ve had sex. A lot of it, as a matter of fact. And for you it may seem like 70 years ago, but from my perspective it was a few months!”

 

Natasha doesn’t react to his outburst, just gives him a level stare. “You’re focusing on the entirely wrong part of that statement.”

 

Steve gives her a frustrated look. “What?”

 

Natasha rolls her eyes and sits up. “God, it’s like I have to spoon feed everything to you two! Think about it for a second,” she says, leaning back on her hands, apparently patient to watch him puzzle it through.

 

A moment later he gets it. “That’s ridiculous. I’m not… that guy. He’s not real. He was made up by the propaganda machines.”

 

I know. Like I said, I’m still working on pulling Barton’s head out of his ass. But I think it’s time for you two to call your self-loathing, ‘it’s-all-my-fault’ competition a draw.”

 

Steve snorts and sits up, nodding halfheartedly.

 

Natasha hops to her feet. “Atta boy,” she says and pats his face.

  

Steve bats her hand away and glowers at her, but she just laughs and turns on a heel.

 

Natasha walks over and grabs her water bottle and towel from the floor where she’d dropped them earlier. She heads for the door and pushes it open, but before she leaves, she turns back, this time with a more serious expression. “If you ever want to spar again just let me know.” Then she slips quietly through the door.

 

He stares after her for a moment, then slowly gets to his feet. He’s tired and sore from the sparring, and impressed as hell at Romanov’s abilities. He walks over to the punching bag and gives it a few halfhearted hits before grabbing it and stopping the swing. He does feel better. A little. He’s not entirely sure if it was the talking or the fighting that helped – probably a little of both. What Natasha had told him was enlightening, and he’s willing to possibly concede that Clint’s physical injuries are a side effect of what they choose to do as Avengers and not something he can bear the blame for. That doesn’t really fix the problem of the inherent embarrassment of it all. The things they did… Steve wishes he could put his hand up and block it all the way Romanov did. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have that luxury.

 

Steve sighs and makes his way to the locker room, unsure how he and Barton will ever get beyond the awkwardness.  

 

**

 

EPILOGUE:

 

The universe must be out to get him. There’s no other explanation.

 

“Can you can fix it?” Rogers asks from behind as he approaches.

 

Clint makes a frustrated noise and drops the panel back into place. “No. Not without a replacement part.” They’re in a goddamned jungle where Clint has somehow just managed to execute a fucking heroic (if he does say so, himself) crash landing without killing them both. But they’re hundreds of miles from anywhere or any assistance.   Just the two of them. Alone.   “Did you reach SHIELD?”

 

“Yeah. They said to let them know if we’ll need exfil but it will be at least 24 hours if we do.”

 

“Great,” Clint mutters.

 

He squats down and puts the tools back in the toolbox and Steve stands awkwardly nearby, scanning the surrounding jungle. It’s been three months since their exposure to the Empulcoitus, but things haven’t returned to normal between them, the mortifying memories of what they did together under the influence of the substance an always present barrier. Yes, they’re able to work smoothly together in the field – after the incident with Natasha, both of them understand that the circumstances of whatever crisis they’re facing are far more important than their own individual discomfort – but outside of work, they’re still stilted and ill at ease in each other’s presence. It’s frankly exhausting.

 

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Rogers asks when Clint stands up with the toolbox, gesturing at the cut along Clint’s left eyebrow. He has a bruise on his cheekbone that appears to be fading already.

 

“Fine,” he assures the other man, brushing him off with a flap of the hand and then wincing. When they’d impacted, he’d been gripping the steering column hard and his left wrist had jammed painfully. He can move it, so it’s not broken, but it’s definitely a bad sprain. He uses his right hand to reach across and swipe at the blood on his face. The wound is still seeping a little.

  

“You should let me dress that.”

 

“I can take care of it,” Clint answers, probably a little too sharply, but the last thing he wants is to be crowded into the small med bay with Rogers’ hands on him. As an unspoken rule, they still like to keep as much distance between them as possible. “Thanks, anyway,” Clint adds, feeling guilty for sniping at Rogers’ genuine offer of assistance.

 

Rogers hesitates for a second and then tells him that he’s going to scout the area and Clint acknowledges, feeling inordinately relieved about it. Once he’s gone, Clint makes his way through the rear hatch and once inside, he stows the tools then heads to the med bay and the stocked cabinet there. All of this is threatening to bring up disconcerting memories and Clint clamps down on them as soon as they threaten. He grabs the wound kit and takes it over to the sink with the mirror above it, perfunctorily cleaning the cut and putting a butterfly bandage on it, hoping it will suffice.

 

When he’s done, he goes up to the cockpit and logs into the comms. Phil’s face appears within seconds.

 

“Hawkeye? What’s your status?” His tone is completely professional, and Clint can tell he’s distracted – what’s going on with Clint and Rogers isn’t the most pressing thing at SHIELD right now. There’s a lot of background activity as half of the agency has mobilized on this op. It was supposed to be him and Kennedy taking Natasha to her infiltration point in Colombia today, but the moron had eaten some bad oysters the night before and Rogers had been sent in as a last-minute substitution.

 

“A rotor blew. Not gonna be able to fly this thing out of here without a new one. If you can get me a replacement, I should be able to get us airborne again.”

 

“Sabotage?” Phil asks, tense.

 

Clint shakes his head. “I don’t think so. Didn’t see any signs of it. Just bad luck, I think.”

 

He sees Coulson relax fractionally. “We won’t be able to get anyone there for at least a day. You’re stuck for now. I suggest you stay put and wait.”

 

“Yeah,” Clint says with resignation.

 

“Injury status?”

 

“I’m fine. May have sprained my wrist. No big deal,” he shrugs.

 

“And the blood running down your face?” Phil asks wryly.

 

Clint swipes at his face and his hand comes away bright red. It’s so fucking hot and humid here and he’s sweating so much that he hadn’t even registered that the wound was still bleeding. “Huh. Guess maybe I need a couple sutures.”

 

“Go take care of it, Agent. We’ll try to have a part there by 0900 tomorrow. This channel will stay open if you need anything,” Phil says low and quiet and with a bit of affection. A fuzzy warmth works its way into Clint’s belly.

 

“Yes, Sir,” he acknowledges and cuts the connection, but Phil is already gone, back to working the mission.

 

Clint returns to the med bay and re-cleans the wound, then takes out the suture kit, but when he tries to grip the tiny needle for the fine work, his injured hand shakes and he finds he can’t quite do it. Damn it.

 

When Rogers comes back twenty minutes later, Clint is waiting outside in the bright sun. “So, I guess maybe I could use a hand,” he says, lifting the gauze from his head to reveal the weeping laceration. “I think it’s going to need a couple sutures, but…” he holds up his left hand, now tightly bound in a compression bandage.

 

“Sure,” Steve answers easily and goes immediately for the first aid kit that Clint has already set nearby. It’s brightest outside, so it makes sense for Steve to sew him up here. It has the added bonus of not requiring they be cramped into a small space together.

 

“See anything useful out there?”  

 

Rogers shakes his head and snaps on the nitrile gloves. “Nothing but a lot of jungle,” he replies, carefully wiping the blood from around the cut. “On the bright side, I didn’t see any threats, either.” He pauses a few seconds later and looks at the cut then turns his gaze down to Clint’s eyes. It’s obviously just where his eyes are naturally drawn, but Rogers seems to suddenly take note of how close they are and he flushes deeply, his eyes skittering away.   “I’ve only done this once before. It probably won’t be a neat scar,” he says, remarkably calmly given how clearly uncomfortable the man is.  

 

Clint huffs. “It’s fine. Just do it.” He’s got more scars on his body than he can even remember getting, and a lot of them are uglier than anything Steve’s likely to give him.

 

Steve hesitates again. “Is there anything for the pain?”

 

Jesus, no amount of physical pain could be worse than being in such close proximity to Rogers. All Clint wants to do is get sewn up and get the hell away from him as quickly as he can. “It’s fine,” Clint repeats, taking care to remove the edge from his voice.

 

Rogers nods and gets to work.    

 

**

 

Clint spends most of the rest of the day high up in a tree, keeping an eye on the surrounding terrain in case Rogers was wrong about there being no threats. It’s what he would normally do, regardless of the circumstances, but in this instance, it just so happens that it has the added bonus of keeping him far from Rogers. He’s certainly not going to complain about it. Rogers yells up to him every hour or so to check and make sure he’s still there since he can’t see Clint from below, and busies himself at the computer, studying maps and monitoring the op.

 

At nightfall, when he can’t see anything anymore, Clint carefully eases down the tree one-handed and makes his way back to the jet. Rogers is still in the cockpit on the computer – for a guy from the 1940s, he’s picked up modern technology incredibly fast, no matter what Stark says. Clint doesn’t stop, instead passing by in favor of the small galley, where he eyes the sole source of food with distaste. They don’t exactly stock the quinjets with gourmet supplies and it’s not like they’re going to change SOP because Clint has bad associations with the standard-issue provisions. He knows he needs nutrition and fluids, so he sighs and grabs a couple of the protein bars and a six-pack of bottled water.

 

He’s tired. He’s been awake for going on 22 hours and it’s fucking hotter than hell in this jungle. And humid. He’d love to stretch out and get some sleep but the only bed on the jet is the one he and Rogers had fucked on a few months back. Yes, the mattress has been replaced – it can’t possibly have been salvaged after what they’d done to it - but he still doesn’t have any desire to go anywhere near the bunk bay. He makes his way to the rear hatch bay instead and slides down the wall to sit on the floor. Once there, he opens a protein bar and chews mechanically, alternating with gulps of water. When he finishes the two bars and three bottles of water, he pulls his knees up and drops his head down onto them.

 

A few minutes later he hears Rogers walk in and Clint lifts his head in time to see the other man position himself across from him and slide down the wall to mirror Clint. He stiffens reflexively, wondering why Rogers has chosen this space instead of somewhere else. When he peers over, Cap has his ‘resolute’ face on, which Clint interprets as Rogers trying to prove to himself that he can be in Clint’s presence. Clint resigns himself to doing the same.

 

He acknowledges Cap with a small grunt and then leans his head back against the bulkhead and closes his eyes. Fuck. Fucking Empulcoitus. He and Rogers had been building an easy friendship before everything happened and it’s been shit since then. They can barely look each other in the eye and Steve gets skittish like a nervous colt whenever Clint’s in the vicinity. Not that Clint’s any better. Frustration wells up in him. He’s so sick of this shit – he wishes like hell that they could just move past it.

 

He hears Cap shift across the space and crack open a bottle of water, then guzzle it down.

 

Clint’s tired. He’s sick of the situation. He’s done with it all. As his frustration turns over and over in his head, he has a sudden, impulsive idea. He peers over at Rogers, who seems equally lost in his own thoughts and Clint weighs what his reaction might be. But, fuck it, it’s not like things could be worse than they are now. And, well, humor has always been Clint’s go-to method of dealing with the shit life throws at him, so... he makes his decision and shifts, straightening his legs out in front of him. Cap sees the motion and looks over.

 

Clint sets his shoulders and gives Rogers the most innocent look he can muster. “Hey, Cap, remember that time you and I spent a whole day fucking each other?”

 

Rogers freezes. Then his eyes go owlish for a second before he blinks. Twice. Clint sees the moment Cap gets it and relaxes a tiny bit, a smile twitching up on half of his mouth. “I seem to remember something about that, yeah,” Rogers says slowly, as though testing the waters.

 

“Yeah,” Clint nods. “That was weird,” he deadpans.

 

Rogers tries to hold it together but after a few seconds his face cracks and he barks a laugh. Clint grins and it grows into a snigger, setting Rogers off into a peal of laughter. They feed on each other and pretty soon, they’re both clutching their sides, laughing uncontrollably, faces red and gasping for breath.

 

After a few minutes, they manage to gather their control.

 

“Hey… hey,” Clint wheezes out. “Did you.. did you see…?” Clint’s laughing too hard to finish.

 

It takes a minute, but eventually Cap gets his breath. “What? See what?”

 

“The wet spot, Cap. The wet spot!” Clint manages between breaths. “It was fucking huge!” Clint cackles again. “We musta dumped four gallons of come on that bed!”

 

Cap blushes furiously and then drops his head into his hands, groaning in embarrassment, but his shoulders are still shaking. A second later he looks back up. “That stuff was… I mean, that wasn’t normal, how much…”

 

“Oh, ya think?” Clint howls.

 

“You know, that was kind of disgusting, when you think about it,” Steve tries to deadpan but can’t quite do it.

 

Clint rolls over clutching his sides. “Kind of disgusting when you think about it,” Clint echoes, barely getting the words out through peals of hysterics.

 

“How… how was that possible?” Steve asks rhetorically, knowing that the science behind it was beyond them.

 

Clint cackles and sits up again, shaking his head. “I don’t know, Cap, but, Jesus, I don’t ever want to do that again.”

 

Rogers nods his head in agreement. “Hey, um, afterward… did you get…?”

 

“Random hard-ons?”

 

“Oh, God. Yes!” Rogers slaps his hand over his eyes and cringes at the memory.

 

“I was hoping maybe that didn’t happen to you.”

 

He peers through his fingers looking sheepish. “I was out running in Central Park the day after we got back—”

 

Clint’s eyes go wide and he barks out a laugh.

 

“It wasn’t funny!” Rogers protests, but he’s laughing despite himself, his face creeping red again.    

 

“Oh, dude, it really is,” Clint sniggers. “Hey, at least yours didn’t make you pass out from pain,” he quips, then immediately regrets it when he sees Rogers’ face cloud. Shit.

 

“I’m really sorry for hurting you, Hawkeye,” he says before Clint can stop him.

  

Clint shakes his head vigorously, still catching his breath. “Don’t start with that, Cap. It is what it is and you didn’t want it any more than I did. Besides, if anyone should be apologizing, it’s me.”

 

“You? Why?”

 

“Jesus, Cap, because I… Because you’re not gay.”

 

Rogers shrugs awkwardly. “It wasn’t—” he stops and then starts again. “That’s really been the least of the things on my mind.” Clint raises his eyebrows in surprise. “It wasn’t so much the fact that it was gay sex that bothered me, as it was the sheer excess of it. It was just so… disturbing.”

 

Clint can’t stop himself from laughing again, because that’s the understatement of the fucking century.

 

Rogers smiles then his shoulders start to shake again. A moment later, his face turns more serious again. “Can I ask you a question?”

 

“It depends. You’re not going to go all doe-eyed remorseful and shit on me, are you?”

 

“No.” He gives Clint a muted glare. “It’s just… there’s no one to talk to about this. No one who could possibly understand.”

 

Clint nods his agreement. “What do you want to ask?”

 

Rogers looks down and shakes his head a little, then looks back at Clint. “It’s just, the things we did… I don’t… I’ve never wanted…” he stops and sighs in frustration, staring at his hands for a few seconds before looking back up. “That just wasn’t who I am. It’s hard to understand how I could have…”

 

Clint nods slowly. “Yeah. I know.” Clint’s thinking of the quinjet, but in the back of his mind a blue glow flickers. “I know. I don’t think there’s any making sense of it, Cap. And trying to will just make you crazy.  It was the drug. Period.”

 

Rogers sighs. “You’re probably right. And Natasha says we should call our self-loathing competition a draw,” he says with a small smirk.

 

“Nat got to you, huh?”

 

“Mm hmm,” Rogers nods his head with a wide-eyed expression.

 

Clint laughs. “Well, she’s one of the smartest people I know, so, okay, Rogers, I’m good with calling it a draw.”

 

Rogers grins and tips his head back against the bulkhead. “Don’t you think it’s about time you called me Steve? I mean, like you said, we did spend a whole day fucking each other. Seems like that should put us on a first-name basis.”

  

Clint blinks. “Right. Yeah, that… seems about right. Yeah. And, you know. Call me Clint.”

 

Steve snorts and jerks his head up and down a little.

 

Clint narrows his eyes. “So, we’re good?”

  

Steve looks at him through slitted eyes, then gives him a small smile. “Yeah, we’re good.”

  

“Awesome. ‘Cause, you know, the last few months have really sucked.”

  

Steve snorts again and nods. “Really sucked,” he agrees.

 

They both lose steam after that, but things, thankfully, don’t get awkward again. Clint sighs audibly and they sit in easy silence for a few minutes. He’s tired. Hell, he was tired before all this started and now he’s just more so, and he doesn’t relish the idea of spending the night on the floor of the rear landing bay.

 

“Fuck it,” Clint says and stands up stiffly. Steve looks at him with curiosity. “Look, I’m fucking tired and I’m not spending the night sleeping on this hard floor,” he explains as he passes Rogers. He hears Cap scramble to his feet and follow, but when they get to the sleeping bay, Cap stops at the door. Clint doesn’t hesitate before he walks over to bunk, pulls the lever to drop it down, and flops himself onto it. “Aaahh, yeah, that’s better,” he groans, glancing back at Steve. “Cap, you can sleep standing up for all I care, but if you wanna share half this bunk, I promise not to molest you.”

 

He sees another small grin flicker on Rogers’ face and when he starts to move to the bunk, Clint slides over and rolls onto his side facing the wall. A second later he feels the mattress jostle as Cap takes up occupation on the other side.

 

Clint yawns deeply. “G’night, Steve,” he says and closes his eyes.

 

“Good night, Clint,” Cap returns easily.

 

 

END 

(sort of... one more short chapter--->)

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

The dim room is a hive of muted activity, two dozen people bent over computer monitors tracking the ground team or running analysis of the radioactive emissions.

 

Steve stands in front of the large-screen television monitor and runs a weary hand down his face, trying to focus. He’s tired. He’s been up for going on 42 hours, the one constant in the mission room, while others have, by necessity, slipped away for a few hours here and there, returning slightly rested, freshly showered, and highly caffeinated. Steve could go for a cup of coffee, but he doesn’t want to leave his post. There’s too much at stake, with agents – including Barton and Romanov – still in a precarious position. But things are going as planned and the mood of the room – though vigilant - reflects that.

 

“Captain Rogers,” a gentle voice startles him and he glances sideways, surprised to see Agent Coulson standing at his shoulder.

 

“Yes, Sir?” Steve blinks at him, confused, because Coulson’s working analytics, not monitoring ground activity like Steve, and since their awkward conversation in the cafeteria a few weeks ago, he and Coulson haven’t spoken unless it’s been necessary for a mission.

 

“I thought maybe you could use this,” Coulson says, extending a large to-go coffee toward him.

 

Steve looks at the paper cup and then back at Phil, hesitating for a second, but then reaching to take the hot beverage. “Thank you, Sir,” he says, mouth already watering in anticipation of the bitter gold.

 

“You’re welcome.” Coulson gives him a small, but warm, smile and then moves back over to his own station.

 

Steve stares after him, perplexed at the apparent olive branch he’s just been offered and unsure what he’s done to deserve it.  But he’s also relieved and more than happy to accept it. He eases the lid off the cup and smiles; the coffee is black and piping hot.  Perfect.  He sticks his nose over the cup and inhales, grunting in pleasure at the rich aroma.  Twenty-first century coffee is so much more satisfying than the Depression- and War-era swill he'd been raised on.  Impatient, he snaps the lid back on and takes a long swallow, groaning happily as it scalds his tongue and burns the back of his throat.