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Yule Shoot Your Eye Out

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“For the record, I still think this is a terrible idea,” Nat said.

Clint hunched further into his coat, hiding his scowl behind the one scarf he owned. “You’re the one who’s always saying I should start living in the moment more.” It was two weeks into December, he got that, but did it still need to be a billion degrees below zero already? How did it even snow when it was this damn cold?

“True, but ‘living in the moment’ does not translate into ‘get hammered and tell your frat boy crush you’re in love with him at a Christmas party.’” She paused and caught several snowflakes on her tongue. It looked graceful, pretty. If Clint did that, he’d look brain-damaged.

“I’m not in love with him,” Clint mumbled. Up ahead, the thumping sound of bass grew louder as the Sig Ep house came into view. It was the one house that existed outside of Greek Row in a residential district; Phil had once told him it was all due to the fact that Sigma Epsilon Chi was the oldest fraternity on campus and had their house built first. When the university had begun construction on the new Greek housing complex fifteen years ago, the Sig Eps had submitted documents that declared their house a historical landmark and subsequently were given the right to stay where they were. That was what happened when your fraternity held the long-standing reputation of being the smart guys.

Clint knew a lot about the Beta Gamma chapter of Sigma Epsilon Chi. It might have had something to do with Phil getting a happy glint in his eyes whenever Clint let him babble random trivia at him. Clint had never had a desire to go Greek, but Phil loved it, and Clint liked things Phil liked, so what?

“You’re not in love?” Nat made a tsking sound. “It took you thirty minutes to get dressed tonight.”

“I haven’t done laundry in two weeks. Sue me. Can’t I just want to go to a Christmas party and look decent?”

“This isn’t just a Christmas party. You’re asking Phil Coulson out tonight.”

“Maybe.” Clint swallowed. “I said maybe I’d ask him out.” A party two days before everyone left campus to head home for the month-long Christmas break was the perfect opportunity, because it had a built-in escape hatch if things went to shit.

And Clint knew, logically, that things could definitely go to shit. Statistically speaking, sophomore scholarship jocks majoring in criminal justice didn’t normally hook up with senior dean’s list fraternity vice-presidents who tutored them in stupid psychology courses. Clint's odds were running painfully long.

Nat patted his arm. “Look, I know how you get this time of year. I just don’t want anything to happen tonight that’ll make you get more down, you know?”

Clint sighed. “How ‘bout I promise not to do it if it doesn’t feel right?”

“How about you promise not get shitfaced and make an idiot out of yourself?”

He gave her a crooked smile and bumped his elbow against hers. “Okay, deal. No idiot-making.”

“At least you picked a guy in the nerdiest frat on campus,” Nat observed as they passed a guy dressed as Doctor Who wearing a Santa hat camped out on the front steps between the house’s giant white columns, handing candy canes out to everyone. Nat unwrapped one and took a quick lick.

“Oh my god, they taste like rum,” she said.

“Happy Christmas, young lady!” the Santa Doctor Who called in a terrible British accent, and saluted her with a red Solo cup.

“For the record, this is what you’re getting into,” Nat said, and stuck the rum candy cane back in her mouth.

~

Phil Coulson had been tutoring Clint for only a semester, but they’d been friends since the beginning of Clint’s freshman year. Clint had been playing a game of pool by himself in the student commons one evening when a guy in a hoodie with Greek letters on it wandered over and asked Clint if he could play a round with him. Clint, being wary of frat douchebags, had sniffed, “Sure,” thinking he’d smoke the guy and he’d move on. Most guys around Clint’s age hadn’t been taught at eleven to play pool by their brother.

The guy had smiled and held his hand out to Clint. “I’m Phil Coulson,” he’d said, like they were at fucking job interview or something.

“Um. Clint.” Clint had shaken his hand awkwardly before racking the balls. He’d wanted to ask the guy why he was hanging out with a no-name freshman, but he’d figured it didn’t matter. He hadn’t been looking for friends; the university was giving him a scholarship to be on the archery team, and Clint was there to get an education so he’d be able to do something with his life, unlike his deadbeat brother sitting in jail. Friends weren’t his concern.

Twenty minutes later, when Clint had indeed smoked Phil’s ass, Phil had leaned against his pool cue and laughed, saying, “Well, shit, you just cost me ten bucks.”

“What?” Clint had asked, completely thrown.

“Tony—one of my frat brothers—bet me ten bucks I could come over here and get you to play against me and I’d win.”

Clint had frowned, not sure what to make of that. “You thought you could beat me?”

“Hell no, I’ve been watching you play. I knew I’d get my ass handed to me.” He’d paused, and then flashed Clint the smile that would soon become Clint’s undoing. “I live dangerously. Besides, you seem like a cool guy.”

No one had ever told Clint he was cool. Hearing it from this guy—preppy, clean-cut, fraternity dude in a green polo and pristine white K-Swiss sneakers—was weird. Flattering, but definitely weird.

They’d played three more games that night. And two more the next day.

On the third night, a group of girls had already taken over the table by the time the two of them showed up. Phil had said, “There’s a table at the house, if you want hang out there?”

“Okay,” Clint had replied slowly. He’d never been in a fraternity house before, and the thought vaguely terrified him for some reason. All the Greek houses he’d seen were huge and sprawling, like something out of Gone With the Wind or some shit. He couldn’t understand how college kids could afford to live in them.

The Sig Ep house was still huge, but it had a weathered feel to it, unlike the immaculate houses of Greek Row. The white paint on the columns was peeling in spots, and the bricks were worn and faded. A tall, ancient-looking oak tree stood in the yard, stretching far above the rooftop; the dilapidated remains of a treehouse sat among the branches.

Clint had trailed inside after Phil, who roamed the halls like he owned the place. Every guy that passed them had nodded at him and murmured, “Coulson,” in an almost reverent tone.

“Are you, like, the president or something?” Clint had asked.

Phil’d laughed. “Naw, I’m the social chair. I plan all the parties and formals. I’m better than the president.”

Clint hadn’t been able to stop himself from smiling like a dope.

A long, rickety staircase had taken them down into a cavernous unfinished basement, which was lit by so many fluorescent lights, Clint had to squint at first to get his eyes adjusted. Neon beer signs and vintage movie posters—along with an extremely old copy of the Periodic Table—covered the walls. There were three refrigerators, an antique popcorn machine, and one massive freezer. In the corner, past three ping pong tables and an air hockey game, was the pool table.

“This place is insane,” Clint had said, tapping a finger against a poster for Reefer Madness.

Phil had shrugged, but he’d looked very pleased with himself. “Nothing fancy, but we like it. That one’s my personal favorite.” He pointed to a black and white poster for Midnight Cowboy. “Um, some of the guys call me Rizzo.”

Clint had no idea what he was talking about, but he was pretty sure Phil was blushing. “Why’s that?”

“I don’t know. I really like Dustin Hoffman?” He’d smiled at Clint, sheepish, his shoulders slightly hunched, and Clint had felt his heart pound a little harder.

“C’mon, let’s play. You dragged me all the way down here, might as well make it worth my while,” Clint had said, quickly grabbing a cue off the rack on the wall and setting up the balls.

They’d played for two straight hours. At one point, a couple guys came downstairs to play air hockey. They’d looked nice enough, but then one of them had open their mouth and said, “Introduce us to your girlfriend, Coulson!”

Clint had gone completely still, every inch of him ready for a fight. But Phil had laughed lazily and, to Clint’s shock, slung an arm around Clint’s shoulders. “Not a girlfriend, ladies, sorry. But my friend’s name is Clint.”

The two guys had acted like it was the most normal thing in the world to come over and shake Clint’s hand. Phil never lowered his arm.

Clint probably fell for him right about then, give or take a day or two.

The thing was, Phil was a popular guy. Being the social chair of a frat apparently took up a lot of his time, and when he wasn’t planning parties, he was studying, because, according to Phil, “Average grades won’t get me into Stanford.” His intention was to get his PhD in psychology and become a therapist. Sometimes Clint looked at Phil’s goals and wondered what the fuck he was even doing with his life.

Needless to say, Clint didn’t end up being Phil’s best buddy or anything after that night playing pool in the basement of the Sig Ep house. Phil just didn’t have the time to hang with him very much, so Clint took what he could get.

It was a coincidence that Clint had to take Quantitative Research Methods for his major, which was so dumb, since Clint was a fucking criminal justice major and thought psych courses were...well, not his thing. After the first week of class at the beginning of his sophomore year, Clint ran into Phil at the Starbucks in the student commons.

“Oh, Research Methods?” Phil had asked, pointing to the monster book under Clint’s arm. “That’s a great class, are you taking it with Gibbons?” He’d beamed like he’d suddenly found out Clint raised penguins.

“You’ve taken this God-forsaken class?” Clint had blurted out.

“Sure, all psych majors take it.”

Clint had dumped the book on the table in front of Phil and collapsed dejectedly with his arms folded over it. “Fuck my life, Coulson, you have to help me. I am shit at algebra, and swear to God, the professor talks in Mandarin half the time. I shouldn’t even need this class!”

“You know, criminal justice does incorporate some aspects of psychology and counseling,” Phil’d replied, already flipping open the text and chewing his bottom lip in thought. Clint would have punched him had he not been distracted with whole lip-biting thing. “You’re asking me to tutor you?”

Clint had hoped he was making the perfect pathetic puppy face. “Please? I gotta get at least a C in this class or I’m screwed.”

Phil had glanced up at him from under his lashes and smiled crookedly. Clint hated it when Phil did that, because it was stupidly hot and made Clint’s cock give a tiny twitch. “What’s in it for me?”

“My undying gratitude? You not being an asshole?”

He’d scrunched his mouth up and tapped his chin. “Yeah, no. I’ll pass.”

Clint had picked his textbook up and whacked Phil in the chest with it, hard. “You suck.”

Ow, and I’ve been told that more than once.” Phil had then held out part of his cinnamon scone to Clint. “So—seven o’clock tonight in the library?”

And that was how Phil became Clint’s personal tutor for his psych course. They met every Tuesday and Thursday evening in the library; Clint pretended it wasn’t the highlight of his week outside of archery practice. Nat called it “Clint’s secret dating sessions,” since apparently she thought she was an amateur comedian.

They weren’t dating. Studying wasn’t dating. And besides, Clint still wasn’t completely certain Phil was anything but straight. He’d heard some of the Sig Ep guys referring to someone named Melinda several months back, and every time her name came up, Phil got all blushy. Granted, it had been a while since a girl had been mentioned linked to Phil, but that didn’t mean anything. Phil was awesome; it was obvious everyone wanted to be with him.

So Clint went to his tutoring sessions and played the occasional pool game with Phil and reminded himself that he was lucky to be with Phil at all, even if they were just friends.

~

The inside of the house looked like a pine tree had exploded all over it. Also, “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmas Time” was playing way too loudly.

“Have fun,” Nat drawled as she patted his arm.

“Hey, wait, you’re not leaving me yet!” Clint said in dismay.

She rolled her eyes. “You don’t need me to hold your hand for this. Either he says yes or he doesn’t.”

She made it sound so easy. “You said this was a bad idea.”

“It is, but not because I don’t think he’ll say yes.” Nat smiled, and it was an honest, fond smile, one Clint knew was reserved for him. “You’re painfully sweet when you’re drunk,” she added softly.

Clint wrinkled his nose. “I’m...so?” Yeah, okay, so he got handsy and liked to cuddle when he’d had one too many, was that a crime? It wasn’t like he was gonna let himself get that drunk tonight. He had enough of his pride not to try and snuggle Phil before he’d even asked him out on a real date.

“Just...don’t let your heart fall out of your chest and make a mess everywhere.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“So is this thing you have for Coulson.” Nat cocked an eyebrow at him.

Clint did not blush. At all. “I need a drink,” he said, and left a smirking Nat standing in the front lobby as he went in search of beer.

Things went downhill rather quickly after that.

~

“What, Coulson didn’t tell you?” Tony asked as he made a huge scene out of pouring vaguely greenish-looking alcohol into a dozen red shot glasses covered in white snowflakes. Everything smelled like peppermint and vodka.

Clint could feel his ears grow hot. “Tell me what?” He had to yell over the stereo blaring Mannheim Steamroller.

Tony licked the excess alcohol off his fingertips and yelled to the room at large, “Christmas shots! Come and get ‘em!” He took one for himself and toasted Clint with it. “Want one? They’re pretty awesome.”

“Um.” The glasses had already disappeared in seconds. “Seriously, where’s Phil?”

“Tau Omega Christmas dance. I begged them not to have it on the same night as our shit, but apparently the only night they could rent out the venue was tonight.” Tony immediately poured another round, and this time Clint grabbed a shot. It tasted sickly sweet and burned the back of his throat.

No, Phil hadn’t mentioned he’d been invited to a sorority dance. Clint would’ve remembered something like that. He swallowed tightly and asked, “Who’d he go with?”

“Melinda May. Y’know, she’s their chapter president, Phil’s now our chapter vice-president, the Tau girls are kind of our sister sorority; he’s networking, basically. Well, that, and I’m pretty sure he and Melinda have banged at least once.”

Clint’s stomach dropped into his shoes. “Oh,” he said, and reached for another shot.

Tony clapped him on the back. “Hey, no worries! I think I heard the dance gets over at midnight, so Phil will be back here eventually. He wouldn’t miss our Christmas shindig.”

Clint wanted to believe that. But then, maybe Phil had more important things on his mind. Like getting laid by a hot sorority girl who, Clint had heard rumored, had a black belt in jujitsu. Clint didn’t know jujitsu. He could barely spell jujitsu.

So Nat had been right. This whole thing was a terrible idea. Clint had dug out his best sweater and put on fucking cologne for no reason.

“Goddamn idiot,” he mumbled as he downed the shot. There was only one thing to do now, and that was get totally and utterly blitzed.

~

Clint didn’t know how much time went by. What he did know was that a lot of shots were had, a lot of beer pong was played, and at some point a random Sig Ep guy decided to challenge Clint to a pool tournament. The loser had to finish a bottle of whatever the winner chose.

The room was beginning to tilt slightly. This didn’t stop Clint from making a crazy backwards shot like a pro.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” his opponent groaned.

Clint smirked and blew over the end of his pool cue, like he’d fired a gun. “You look like an Everclear kinda guy,” he said.

The guy blanched, while his big blond friend started laughing and said, “Bucky, you’re so screwed.”

“Shut it, Steve.” The guy—Bucky—narrowed his eyes at Clint and leaned in like he was sharing a secret. “Just—not Everclear, man. Trust me.”

Clint didn’t know a whole lot of Sig Eps, but Bucky’s name was starting to dawn on him. Phil liked this guy, had mentioned something about him recuperating from a bad car accident last year. Now that Clint took a good look at him, he did notice the way Bucky held his left arm at a slightly awkward angle.

What the hell, it was Christmas and Clint was drunk. He’d go easy on him. He winked at Bucky and replied, “You can pick the alcohol, dude. I won’t tell.”

Bucky’s shoulders immediately relaxed. He even made the next shot. His buddy Steve, who Clint was pretty sure wasn’t a Sig Ep, still didn’t look impressed.

“He watched The Color of Money a few weeks ago. Now he’s obsessed,” Steve said.

“I really wish you drank more,” Bucky muttered, and Clint was about to point out the fact that Steve did, in fact, have a beer in his hand, only he was interrupted by someone yelling, “Coulson’s back!”

Clint missed his shot. The ball bounced off the edge of the table and rolled off onto the floor. Clint didn’t watch where it went, because he was too busy staring.

Phil was descending the stairs, all loose-limbed and pink-cheeked, his hair slightly rumpled. But even worse, he was dressed in a black suit with a bright blue dress shirt, his collar open and unbuttoned. He had what looked like a tiara on his head, and he grinned all wide and sloppy as guys high-fived him and called out “Rizzoooooooo!”

He was so beautiful, Clint thought he’d have a legit heart attack just looking at him.

“Uh.” Bucky poked Clint with his cue. “Are you gonna go get your ball?”

“What? Oh.” Clint blinked hard and scrubbed a hand over his face. He swayed a little on his feet, suddenly extremely conscious of how drunk he was. “I was just—Coulson.”

Steve turned and squinted in the direction where Clint had flailed his hand. “Hey, they got back early!” He waved at Phil, who was slowly making his way through the crowd toward them. Clint silently prayed Phil wouldn’t notice him, wouldn’t see how much he was shaking over the simple thought of what it’d be like to peel Phil out of that suit.

Fuck, that suit. Not that Clint didn’t think Phil could clean up well, he’d just never let himself think about it too much. Now he knew why.

“Rogers!” Phil yelled over all the noise. “You actually made it!” His grin turned up another couple of notches as he flung himself at Steve and hugged him.

“Of course I did; Bucky’s been talking about the Sig Ep Christmas party for years. Figured it was worth the drive up this time.” Steve tugged at Phil’s blazer. “You look sharp! How was the dance?”

“It was a blast. They, uh, made me their Carnation King?” He fidgeted with the ridiculous tiara on his head.

Bucky groaned. “Good luck, man, now you’re gonna have to show up to all the Tau Omega things.”

Phil shrugged. “I don’t mind, they’re cool girls.” Then, then he swung around the pool table and slung an arm around Clint’s neck. “Hey, hey, since when did you get here?” he asked, the words right up against Clint’s ear, sending warm breath tickling over his skin. There was a distinctly strong whiff of whiskey.

Clint swallowed and ducked his head, laughing awkwardly. “For a while now. Just hanging out.” And because he was drunk and pressed up against Phil’s side and wanting him so badly his teeth hurt, Clint reached up, tugged on the tiara and added, “You look really hot with this.”

He could feel the rumble of Phil’s laugh against his arm. “Yeah? You think so?”

“What the fuck’s a Carnation King, anyway?”

Phil leaned his weight a little more heavily on Clint. He smelled like woods and vanilla and everything that made Clint go hard. “It’s like a sorority homecoming king, sort of. Every sorority has different names for them.”

“Basically, he’s their mascot for the rest of the year,” Bucky drawled. “I was Carnation King two years ago, it was brutal.”

“You loved it. That crown’s still sitting in your room somewhere,” Steve said with a smirk.

Phil snorted happily. “I love having you around, Rogers. No one knows better than you how much Barnes is full of shit.”

Clint bit the inside of his lip and wondered why Phil cared so much if Steve was there. And more than that, he wanted to hear Phil say he loved having him around.

As if he was reading Clint’s mind, Phil whispered, “Steve is Bucky’s shadow, but he doesn’t go to school here. He’s too good for us.” He raised his voice at the end, scrunching his nose up at Steve.

Steve rolled his eyes, but it looked fond. “I’m not Sig Ep material, Coulson.”

“Of course you are! Everyone always talks about how you’d make an awesome brother.”

“Stop hitting on my best friend, dude, your crush is getting old,” Bucky said, spinning his pool cue in a lazy circle.

Clint’s stomach gave a sharp lurch. So Phil had a crush on Steve? Clint could understand why: Steve was blond and broad, and had a sweet puppy smile. He wasn’t awkward around people at all.

Did Phil have crushes on other guys, too?

“So what’s up?” Phil asked, apparently no longer reading Clint’s thoughts as he waved his hand at their now-stalled game.

“I was in the process of getting my ass kicked,” Bucky said.

Phil leaned back and gave Clint one of those painfully hot smiles. This one was worse, though; his eyes were kind of drunk-hazy, and his mouth looked very wet. “Yeah, Clint’s pretty rough around a pool table.”

“I let you win sometimes,” Clint said, desperate to think of anything but how much he wanted to kiss Phil.

“D’you hear that? He lets me win. I rest my case.” With warning, Phil’s arm was back around Clint’s shoulders. “I’ll kidnap him and save you the trauma, huh, Barnes?”

Bucky held up both hands. “Be my guest! I’ve got booze to drink.” He swiped the beer bottle from Steve’s hands. Steve just shook his head, and he looked like he was about to say something, only Clint was being steered toward the basement stairs with Phil’s arm still warm and heavy against his neck.

“Where’re we going?” Clint asked, which was better than please let me makeout with you.

“We’re going to my room so I can change and then we’re gonna hang out. I feel like I haven’t seen you in forever. You still need to tell me how your final went.”

Clint only grabbed part of that sentence, mostly the part where Phil had said he wanted out of his ungodly hot suit. There was too much alcohol in his system, and too much loud Christmas music blaring through the halls as they weaved their way through the party crowd. Clint wrapped his hand around Phil’s wrist to keep from getting separated, his thumb against the soft skin stretched over Phil’s veins.

“I don’t want you to change,” Clint blurted out as they were halfway up the stairs to the second floor landing.

Phil paused, side-eyeing Clint in confusion. “You mean in general?”

“No, like—” Fuck, why was Clint saying words right now? Why the hell had he thought drinking was a good thing? “Like, your...shirt. Suit. Thing.”

They reached the top of the stairs and Phil finally dropped his arm. His tiara was listing to one side. “You really like my suit?” he asked in a weirdly quiet voice.

Clint couldn’t look him the eyes. “Sure, yeah,” he mumbled. “Did, um—did Melinda like it?”

There was a pause, and when Clint finally glanced up, Phil was squinting at him, like Clint had said something really confusing. Or dumb. “She didn’t really say,” Phil said. “It wasn’t really like that, anyway—you know that, right?”

Why did Phil care if Clint knew? “I didn’t know anything until Tony told me you wouldn’t be here tonight.”

Phil blew out a loud breath. “We just went as friends. We’ve only ever been friends.”

“Okay,” Clint said, unable to look away from where Phil’s shirt hung open at his throat. He wasn’t sure what else to say to that.

“And I should’ve told you I’d be late. I just...I didn’t think…” Phil sighed heavily again, mouth twisted to one side before he smiled sheepishly. “You surprised me, that’s all.”

Now it was Clint’s turn to squint. “I did? How?”

“You’re here,” he said, before disappearing into his room at the end of the hallway.

Clint followed after him, totally lost. “Of course I’m here, why wouldn’t I be? All you talked about for months was this party and how awesome it is.”

Phil clicked on the lamp on the table beside his bed. As fraternity vice-president, he had the privilege of his own room, which always seemed like it was twice the size of Clint’s cramped dorm room. Not that Clint had been up there all that much; it felt painfully intimate to be around Phil’s stuff, seeing the rumpled sheets on his bed and smelling hints of his aftershave. Clint usually just insisted they stay downstairs in the basement.

Now he remembered why. The light in the room was dim, but Clint could very clearly see Phil start to take his suit off, kicking his shoes to one side as he tossed the tiara onto his dresser. He shrugged out of his jacket, his back to Clint, and Clint watched with an increasingly dry mouth as Phil absently rolled his shoulders. He was so deceptively broad; most guys built like Phil liked to show it off, but Phil rarely did. He tended to live in his frat hoodies and t-shirts, like he couldn’t care less that his arms were cut, or that his hips were narrow enough for guy to get his hands around them pretty easily.

“You’re so fucking gorgeous,” Clint thought. Or, well, he was pretty sure he’d thought. Apparently his mouth-to-brain filter was out of order.

Phil turned around, in the process of unbuttoning his shirt. “What?” he said, eyes wide. “What did you say?”

Fuck. “Nothing. I didn’t say anything.” Clint took a step back and leaned against the door, letting it fall shut with a loud thunk. Great, because what he needed right now was to be shut in a room alone with a half-naked Phil, who was staring at him like he’d never seen Clint before.

“It sounded like you said I was—”

“I got a B on my final,” Clint said in a rush. “I think if all goes well I’ll have an 84% in the class?”

Phil blinked at him, then suddenly beamed. “Seriously? Dude, that’s awesome! We should be celebrating!”

Clint shrugged. “It’s not that big of a deal.” He sincerely hoped Phil couldn’t see how hard he was blushing.

“Bullshit, it totally is! You worked hard for that B, I should know.” To Clint’s aroused dismay, Phil came over and pulled Clint into a tight hug, arms wrapped around Clint’s back, one hand splayed between his shoulders. It felt different than the hug Clint had seen him give Steve downstairs. For starters, Phil hadn’t hugged Steve with his shirt hanging open, putting acres of warm, smooth skin out on display to slowly kill Clint’s common sense. Now all that skin was pressed up against Clint’s chest. He kind of wanted to die.

“I wish you realized just how smart you are,” he heard Phil say quietly. “You didn’t need me for that grade, y’know.”

“‘Course I did, I always need you.” God, why couldn’t he stop saying words? He’d managed to prove Nat wrong by not automatically trying to snuggle Phil, but maybe the need to snuggle had somehow morphed into a chronic need to verbally spew all his gushy feelings out into the open.

Phil chuckled and leaned back, leaving one hand cupped over Clint’s shoulder. “You’ve made it pretty far along on your own so far. I mean, I would’ve been shit helping you out in the circus and stuff, so—” He bit his lip and abruptly dropped his hand. “Sorry, I know you don’t like to talk about—sometimes I babble when I’m drunk.”

It was true, Clint didn’t like to talk about his time with the circus. But Phil didn’t know he was the only person besides Nat who was even aware of Clint’s past. Clint secretly cherished the fact that Phil knew the kinda shitty stuff about him, just like Clint knew Phil’s dad had passed away when he was thirteen from cancer and his mom had suffered from depression ever since.

“I think a lot of us would’ve gotten our GEDs sooner if we’d had a tutor hanging around the trailers,” Clint said.

“It would’ve been kind of hard to study, being a star archer and all. The famous Hawkeye had better things to do.”

Clint’s heart thudded happily, knowing Phil still remembered his nickname. “There was always the off season. Winter was boring as fuck; I mostly just ate ramen and looked for random jobs until the show started up again.”

Something sad flickered in Phil’s eyes. “You were like fifteen, right?”

“I put eighteen on the job applications, but yeah. I don’t think most people bought it.” Clint gave him a lopsided grin, but Phil wasn’t smiling anymore.

“What did you do at Christmas?” he asked softly.

Clint didn’t want to tell him he’d never really had much of one, not until he’d met Nat at the beginning of freshman year and spent the holiday with her family. No one wanted to hear about orphan boys hanging out at soup kitchens and dumpster diving for threadbare mittens, or hiding out from the cops when they spent nights sleeping in the park. He refused to sound like a goddamn Dickens character.

“It...just wasn’t a priority,” Clint finally said with a shrug. “My brother and I, we made do.” And now Barney was spending his Christmases in jail.

Phil hugged his arms over his chest, his stupid shirt still hanging open. Clint could see a faint dark line of hair trailing down from his navel into his suit pants.

“Do you see him much? Barney?” Phil asked.

Clint shook his head. “Naw. He doesn’t want to see me. I’m just a reminder of how he could’ve made better choices.” He winced, wishing he hadn’t said so much. It was difficult to keep track of the conversation when all he wanted was to rip that shirt off Phil’s shoulders and lick him all over.

Phil made a weird little moaning sound, his hand reaching out to touch the side of Clint’s neck. It sent a sudden jolt of warmth though Clint, enough to make him shiver.

“You’re just—you’re so—” Phil's eyes were wide and full of something Clint couldn’t read. The tips of his fingers pushed into Clint’s hair, and the air in the room suddenly turned very stuffy and close.

“I’m what?” Clint said, because if he didn’t say something he was going to kiss Phil and ruin everything.

He didn’t expect Phil to sigh deeply and rest his forehead against Clint’s. They were so close now, close enough that Clint could feel Phil’s breath against his lips.

“You are the bravest, strongest person I know,” Phil whispered. “And I know I’m drunk and I know I’ll regret saying all this in the morning, but I hate the fact that you’re also unbearably cool and awesome and so far out of my league it kills me.”

Time seemed to grind to halt in that moment. Clint went very still, barely daring to breathe.

“W-What?” He was hallucinating, he had to be. He’d progressed passed sloppy drunk and into desperate dementia.

“I still can’t believe you came here tonight. I figured you’d have some place better to be than hanging out with my dumb frat.”

“I...I don’t think they’re dumb. You love being in a frat.” He wondered if this meant he could actually touch Phil back. There was a freckle right in the center of his chest; Clint slowly raised his hand and traced his index finger over the spot. Phil’s skin was smooth and so very warm.

“Sure, I love it, but that doesn’t mean you have to. I know it’s never made much sense to you, why being a Sig Ep’s a big deal to me.” Phil’s words stuttered slightly as Clint drew his finger down between his pecs, over the soft smattering of hair.

“I get it, though. It’s important to you. And I’d—” Clint swallowed. “I’d never think something that’s important to you was dumb.”

Phil was watching Clint’s finger trail back and forth over his stomach. “Um. That’s…” He shivered, his hand clenching slightly in Clint’s hair.

Maybe Clint wasn’t imagining all this. Maybe this was real and Phil actually wanted him. He slowly spread the rest of his fingers over the line of hair disappearing into Phil’s pants and concentrated on pitching his voice low and husky. “Do you really have a crush on Bucky’s friend?” he asked.

Phil made a little breathless sound that was possibly the hottest thing Clint had ever heard. “Once upon a time I thought I did,” he said, pushing against Clint’s hand, and oh shit, this was really happening. Clint’s head was spinning. “But then I met someone who kinda made me realize it wasn’t anything serious.”

“Met someone?” Clint paused with his fingertips barely curled around Phil’s belt buckle.

“Yeah, this super hot archer who plays pool and wants to save the world from evil some day.”

Clint glanced up and frowned. “Wait, you have a crush on a fucking super hero?”

Phil blinked at him, then broke into a big, sloppy grin. “Possibly. Am I involved in your origin story right now?”

“Origin story—” Clint snapped his mouth shut. Oh. Oh.

“Oh fuck,” Clint breathed.

“Is that okay?” Phil whispered as he bumped his nose against Clint’s. “Swear to God, I wasn’t ever going to say anything since you’ve never really said you were into guys, or that you were into me like that, and the thought of freaking you out to the point where you never spoke to me again would fucking break my heart like you wouldn’t believe, so even if you don’t want anything like that with me, just say so and I’ll deal with it, I promise, I’ll—”

Clint pushed into him, his mouth sliding over Phil’s and swallowing the rest of his words. He didn’t care if they fell over or tripped or hit a wall—Phil Coulson wanted him, and that was the greatest thing Clint had heard in a long, long time. He kissed him until he was forced to pull air into his lungs, and was rewarded with a thoroughly flushed, shiny-lipped Phil staring at him in shock.

“You...seriously?” Phil said.

Clint figured they should probably take some time to talk about all this and their feelings and shit, but right now he just wanted to get his gorgeous frat boy naked and make him moan his name a few times.

“Later ‘m gonna ask you out, okay?” Clint mumbled into the side of Phil’s neck, hands shoving his shirt down Phil’s arms until the cuffs caught at his wrists. “But can we just—can we just do this for now?”

“Jesus Christ, yes, fuck, oh my God, c’mere—” Phil yanked the shirt over his hands and flung it aside, nearly tackling Clint onto the bed and making quick work of his jeans. Clint really wished he hadn’t decided on wearing so many goddamn layers under his sweater; it felt like years before he felt cool air hit his skin and heard Phil make a strangled gasp.

“I knew you’d be perfect,” he whispered right before leaning down and mouthing Clint’s dick through his briefs.

Clint grit his teeth and counted to ten in his head. He would not come in his underwear less than two minutes after getting naked with Phil. On top of this, the door to Phil’s room wasn’t locked. Anyone could walk in, anyone could hear them…

“The—the door, it’s—I didn’t—”

“It’s fine, no one’s gonna bother us.” Phil continued to nuzzle Clint, kissing over the head like Clint wasn’t twitching and leaking everywhere.

“H-how do you know?”

“Because everyone saw me come up here with you, and most of the guys know how desperate I’ve been to, uh. Be alone with you in my room.” Phil looked up at him from under his lashes, smiling sheepishly. His mouth looked extremely pink, and his eyes were dark and wide and beautiful.

“You are the best Christmas present ever,” Clint blurted out.

Phil’s grin turned wolfish. “I haven’t even made you come yet.”

“I don’t give a fuck, all I wanted after tonight was for you to be my boyfriend.” Wow, okay, the words were coming fast and furious again. Clint dropped his head back against the bed. “Ugh, God, sorry. You’re not the only one who drunk babbles.”

He heard a low groan that sounded way too sexy to be unhappy. “After tonight?” Phil asked.

Clint stared up at the ceiling. “I was gonna—gonna ask you out, like I said. But then you weren’t here, and I thought...I figured I’d missed my chance.” He shut his eyes and let the words sink into the air. His heart was pounding something fierce, but a strange weight felt like it had been lifted off his shoulders.

Lips suddenly pressed against Clint’s, and his eyes flew up to find Phil hovering above him, all broad and shirtless and every fantasy Clint had had about him over the past year.

“You never missed your chance,” Phil whispered before he kissed Clint again, deeper this time, wetter.

Clint was pretty much done talking for the time being.

He wasn’t a virgin by any means; the circus had taken care of that. But while Clint had a few pleasant memories of desperate fumblings behind trailers, he’d never really been with someone who made his blood rush with terrified, giddy anticipation, or his chest ache to simply touch them. Basically, he’d...never been in love.

Crap, Nat was right. She was always fucking right.

Just don’t say it out loud, you creeper, Clint told himself sternly as Phil kissed his way over Clint’s body. His skin felt alive, sparking with electricity; he yelped when Phil sucked lightly at his left nipple, arching up to grind his hips against Phil.

“I’ve thought about this,” he heard Phil murmur.

“Yeah?” Clint gasped. He was so close, it was embarrassing. This was what happened when you didn’t get laid for three years.

Phil blew a warm gust of air over Clint’s stomach, then dragged his mouth over the hair just below Clint’s navel. “Yeah. A lot. I could beat off all night to the way you look right now. How gorgeous you are.” He licked over the front of Clint’s briefs again, which were more than a little damp from Clint’s dick getting way ahead of itself.

Clint bit his lip. You’re the gorgeous one. “What else have you thought about?” he asked against his better judgement. Phil’s voice was like liquid sex, and Clint was only hanging on thanks to the alcohol in his system.

“Mmm.” Cool air suddenly rushed over Clint’s cock. He jerked his head up and saw Phil tugging his underwear down his thighs. Clint was completely bare to him now, standing at full attention, his balls so tight he could barely breathe. Phil stared at him and licked his mouth. On command, a spurt of precome slid down Clint’s shaft.

“This,” Phil whispered. “I’ve thought about your cock all big and hard for me. I’ve thought about your perfect ass and you begging for me to fuck it. I’ve thought about you sucking me like you want it more than anything and then letting me come all over you, and then I clean you up and make you come until you’re shaking with it.”

Clint dug his hands into the sheets and moaned.

Phil raised his head and blinked a few times, like he was coming out of a trance. “I-I mean—shit, I said too much, sorry, you’re just so—”

“Better do something fast, Coulson, or I’m gonna fucking lose it,” Clint growled, grabbing the base of his dick and squeezing, hard. He was leaking all over the place now, which meant a few good tugs and Clint would go off like a rocket. There was no way in hell he’d last through any decent fucking—just the implication of Phil’s cock in his ass made Clint whimper and tighten his grip on himself.

Jesus, he would’ve jerked off a couple hundred times before the party if he’d had any idea he’d be naked in Phil’s bed.

His hands were suddenly pinned against the mattress, and he had Phil’s taste back in his mouth again. Phil groaned into the kiss as their hips brushed together; Clint wanted to sigh in relief when he felt the tension vibrating through Phil’s arms. Yeah, Phil wasn’t all that well off, either.

“I want to do everything to you,” Phil said into the kiss.

“Fuck, yes,” Clint gasped, and wrapped one leg around Phil’s waist, pressing him closer. The angle lined their cocks up perfectly, flat against each other, and Clint thought he’d die from the sensation. Immediately, they started a rhythm, Phil rocking down, Clint arching to meet him.

“God, you feel amazing and I’m not even inside you,” Phil said rather brokenly, like he was clinging to the edge with everything he had.

Clint moaned, long and loud, not giving a flying fuck who heard. “Next time, next time you can fuck me, you can do anything you want, I’ll take it—” He made the mistake of imagining the feel of Phil sliding into him, filling him up, holding him close—Clint came harder than he had in forever, pulsing waves pulling him apart in bright, languid bursts.

He yelled Phil’s name more than once. He may have even said baby.

Phil made a sharp keening noise and buried his face against Clint’s neck, his hips spasming out of time before he came to stop and sunk his weight down on top of him. He released Clint’s hands to slide his own up and over Clint’s shoulders to softly pet his hair.

“I’m in love with you,” Clint thought, only once again, his mouth opened and said the words out loud instead.

Phil went still for a moment, then slowly trailed a finger down over Clint’s jaw. “Merry Christmas to me, then,” he whispered before giving Clint a soft, closed-mouth kiss. It wasn’t the kind of kiss that normally followed crazy monkey sex.

It was pretty much perfect.

“So, uh, I’m probably gonna pass out here,” Clint said after their chaste kissing turned lazy and sleepy.

“What a coincidence, me, too,” Phil sighed. But then he shifted slightly, which made their skin pull where it was stuck together. He made a face and grumbled, “Yeah, we should probably clean up. One sec.” He rolled off the bed and started hunting around his room for something. Clint had enough reserve energy to lever himself up onto one arm and watch Phil wander the room naked. God, and Phil thought Clint had a fine ass. There wasn’t a single part about Phil that didn’t make Clint’s mouth water.

Eventually Phil came back to the bed with a container of Kleenex wet wipes, which sent Clint into a giggle fit.

“Hey, hey, they’re super handy, don’t judge,” Phil said. “You don’t even know the shit I’ve cleaned up with this stuff.”

“Sorry, it’s just making me think of how Nat cleans everything up with make-up remover towels. You two are soulmates.” Clint swiped at the dried come on his stomach, feeling happier and more content than he could ever remember.

Phil paused. “Maybe we could, you know...hang out with her sometime? I know she means a lot to you and we’ve never, um, been properly introduced.”

Clint’s heart tumbled over, and he couldn’t help the dorky grin that spread across his face. “Totally. She’d love to.”

Phil’s answering smile looked relieved. It was a heady feeling, knowing he could hold so much sway over Phil’s emotions. Clint tossed his wipe onto the floor and wrapped both arms around Phil’s neck to tug him down into another kiss, just because he could.

The abrupt, obnoxious pounding on Phil’s door was about the last thing Clint wanted right then.

“Yo, Coulson! The cops just showed up! You wanna come take care of this?”

Phil groaned in an entirely unsexy way and dropped his head onto Clint’s shoulder. “Go find Stark, he’s the fucking president!”

“Yeah, I’m not an idiot, asshole, thanks. He said to come get you, that you’re the—and I quote—‘unofficial Sig Ep diplomatic ambassador.’”

Clint turned his face into Phil’s pillow to muffle his snort.

“Are people getting arrested?” Phil demanded, glaring daggers at the door. He looked about ready to set fire to everything with his brain, yet his hair was sticking up in back and there was a hickey on his neck.

“Not yet?” There was some muffled yelling from downstairs, and whoever was outside the door—it sounded a lot like Wade Wilson—said, “Stark just told me to tell you that sex with Barton can wait—hold up, you’ve got Clint Barton in there?”

Phil was out of the bed like a shot, yanking on jeans in record time. He grabbed what looked like Clint’s undershirt off the floor and tugged it over his head as he blocked Wilson’s view into the room. “Go down there and tell that douchebag I’ll be there in a minute.”

Clint heard Wilson chuckle. “Coulson’s got sex hair,” Wilson sing-songed. “‘Bout fucking time, too. Thought you’d taken a vow of chastity or some shit.”

Go,” Phil growled.

“Stay away from this guy’s dick, Barton, he’s a hardass!” Wilson yelled. Phil slammed the door in his face.

“Tell me again why this frat is special to you?” Clint asked.

“I have no idea,” Phil moaned, crawling back onto the bed and nuzzling his face into Clint’s neck. “God, I’m sorry about this; they sometimes have the worst timing.”

Clint was too busy melting like a sap to be disappointed. Phil was still warm and smelled vaguely of sex. Not to mention he was wearing Clint’s shirt. “It’s all right,” he said, and slid one hand up Phil’s back, counting the bumps of his spine. “I should probably be heading back, anyway. Nat’ll be looking for me.”

“No way, you’re staying right here.” Phil sucked sharply on Clint’s bottom lip. “I only just got you naked. I’ve got all night to do depraved things to you before I sober up and regret them all.”

Clint cupped the back of Phil’s neck. “Will you? Regret them, I mean?” Blood was suddenly roaring in his ears.

Phil huffed a laugh and kissed the corner of Clint’s mouth. “Never,” he whispered. “Unless—unless you will?”

“Not quite.” Clint moaned softly and grabbed Phil by the wrist, spreading his hand over his newly-minted hard-on.

Phil sighed dejectedly. “Ugh, no, stop, I have to go play nice with the cops. Hold that thought for me?”

Clint leaned back and waggled his eyebrows. “I’ll hold it. Just for you.” He folded both their hands over his cock and gave one long, slow tug. Phil’s eyes fluttered closed, and he kissed Clint hard enough for their teeth to knock together. Fuck, this was the best Christmas ever.

Phil ended up fleeing the room with a full erection and even worse bedhead, Clint’s shirt on inside out. Clint laid back in bed and grinned like a dope as he pictured Phil being as courteous and polite as humanly possible to the cops downstairs.

His jeans, crumpled in a pile on the floor, started vibrating.

Clint wiggled to the edge of the mattress and craned his arm out, catching the cuff of one leg. He reeled them in and dug out his cell phone from the back left pocket. Nat’s number flashed across the screen.

“So, the party’s breaking up,” she said when Clint answered. “Guess the neighbors down the street have had enough and called the—”

“Yeah, I know, the cops showed up. Phil’s taking care of it.”

Pause. “Oh, is he?” she drawled. “And how do you know this?”

Clint rolled onto his stomach, hugging Phil’s pillow to his chest. “I’m, uh. In his room?”

Another pause. “You’re naked, aren’t you.” It wasn’t a question.

“Possibly. No, definitely. I’m definitely naked.”

“Well.” He could hear traces of a smile in her voice. “I guess I stand corrected. Just hold off on the wedding in Iowa until I’m done with finals, okay?”

“Whatever,” Clint mumbled, not minding the blush blooming over his cheeks. “I still need to ask him out.”

“Uh-huh. You’ve already told him you love him, I can tell.”

She was downright creepy sometimes. “You can’t tell anything.”

“I may have never heard that ‘I-just-got-laid’ tone in your voice, but it’s there.”

“And how does getting laid equal me telling—”

“Because you’re like the Grinch, Clint. Your heart grows ten times its normal size when you’re drunk.”

“I’m…” The thing was, his heart did feel huge and full. “The Grinch never got drunk. Did he?”

Nat sighed. “Oh, my darling boy. I love you dearly. Call me in the morning.”

“Phil wants to hang out with you, by the way,” Clint said.

“He should. He’ll need to ask my blessing for your hand and all.”

“Oh my god,” Clint moaned, and hung up.

He couldn’t stop smiling.