“Last one,” Coulson warned, replacing his empty magazine with a full one.
“Left side pocket, I think I’ve got one left,” Barton said but Coulson just shook his head.
“Keep it, you’ll need it.”
“I appreciate the sentiment, sir, but you’re firing way more than me.”
Coulson raised an eyebrow at him before firing a round. Somewhere on the other side of their makeshift barricade, a man cried out and went down. “Are you questioning my aim, Barton?”
“No, sir. It just looks like our new friends would rather play with you than with me.”
Coulson ignored the unspoken “– and I know you positioned yourself to cover this side on purpose”. He had and he wasn’t going to apologize for it – Barton was injured and it was protocol. Besides there were two more men trying to sneak up on them and focusing on that instead of answering seemed like a good idea. He fired twice, the men fell and Barton quirked an eyebrow at him. It lacked his usual humor though, the lines around his eyes tight with pain, and Coulson begrudgingly had to concede the man had a point. At this rate he was going to run out of bullets much faster than Barton – even with an extra magazine.
“Okay,” he said, closing the distance between them to crouch next to Barton, who shifted sideways to cover both their flanks while Coulson rummaged through his pockets. He tried to jostle Clint’s broken arm as little as possible while doing so but in their current situation expediency had priority over carefulness and if he wasn’t entirely successful at least he was quick about it.
He returned to his original position with their last magazine and resisted the urge to sigh as more hostiles started approaching.
This mission really was not the resounding success SHIELD had hoped it would be.
It had been supposed to be pretty straightforward – not that it really mattered as far as missions were concerned, when the simplest mission could go to hell in the span of a heartbeat and the most complicated be pulled off without a hitch.
Rumors had surfaced that certain classified weapons – straight from SHIELD’s R&D in fact – were being sold on the black market. While another team looked for the leak at HQ Coulson had found himself posing as a buyer in a deserted industrial district with Barton on top of an opposite warehouse as his primary back-up and a SHIELD team half a mile away as secondary. But something somewhere had gone wrong and Barton had had to cover his exit from on high while Coulson had ducked behind his vehicle – and not a moment too soon, the first round of bullets hitting the side of the car, taking out the tires along with Coulson’s hopes of a quick get-away.
The secondary team, he had soon found out, was taking fire as well and Hill had informed him it would take at least twenty minutes for SHIELD to deploy additional resources to their location. In the grand scheme of things twenty minutes weren’t a lot and so when Barton had told him he had eyes on two SUVs approaching at high speed, ETA 20 seconds and “well, shit, it looks like they’ve got rocket launchers,” Coulson had simply relayed the intel to Hill and reloaded his weapon.
They had been holding their ground – arms dealers may have too many weapons at their disposal but that didn’t make them born strategists and these ones in particular had no idea how to mount an assault on a fixed position – until a rocket had flown over Coulson’s head and into the warehouse Barton had been shooting from.
It had missed Barton’s hide-out by a few feet – they either hadn’t been able to pinpoint his exact location or hadn’t wanted to risk getting in Barton’s line of sight to attempt a direct hit – but the force of the explosion had still been enough to throw him off his perch.
For a few heart-stopping moments Clint had been in free fall and then his line had snapped tight, denying gravity and slamming him into the side of the building. It had left him momentarily dazed and completely exposed some ten feet above the ground and Coulson had been quick to cover him before Barton had cut his line and dropped the rest of the way down, taking cover next to him. Coulson had already known something was wrong though, Barton’s landing less controlled and fluid than usual and a quick look had confirmed the awkward angle of Barton’s left arm and the tight expression on his face. He wouldn’t be firing any more arrows today but that had barely slowed him down: Barton had put down his bow – of course he would have kept hold of it while falling, Coulson had thought fondly – and taken his side arm out of his thigh holster instead, his bullets unsurprisingly finding their targets despite him using his right hand.
“Last one,” Coulson had warned a few minutes later and there they were now, running low on ammo and waiting for back-ups that were still five minutes away.
Coulson shot a longing look at the bow next to them. The quiver was still a third full and it sure would have helped with their ammunition problem. But Clint was in no condition to use it and Coulson didn’t know how – which in retrospect was tactically unsound and something he would have to remedy.
“When we get home, you’re teaching me how to use that thing,” he told Barton, startling a fleeting grin out of the man.
“I thought you’d never ask, sir.”
Three minutes and some hand grenades improvised out of Barton’s explosive arrowheads later, they had the situation more or less under control when the cavalry finally showed up and helped secure the scene. Then Coulson got drafted into coordinating the clean-up while Barton was whisked off to medical and he didn’t think about it anymore.
It took Clint two days to get restless.
With target practice off limits and Romanoff on a long term assignment he had very few pastimes left and so it didn’t take him long to start appearing places he wasn’t supposed to be, like the roof – Phil did not want to know how he even managed with his cast keeping his forearm at a strict 90° angle against his body. It caused a minor panic among a few junior agents – not their fault, they were new, and Hill still hadn’t agreed with Phil’s suggestion that some of their agents’ quirks be included in the welcome packet – and Phil, who hadn’t had any time to himself dealing with the shit storm of paperwork from their failed mission, living on bad coffee and the spare suits he kept in his office, remembered the archery lessons.
The next time Clint flopped down on his couch – and this was Clint, not Barton, just like Phil only was Coulson or sir or boss in the field – Phil looked him over with concern.
“When’s the last time you slept?” he asked.
Clint shrugged, which meant Phil probably didn’t want to know the answer. The man always got a little off when an injury kept him away from the range for too long, like his skin felt too tight and he couldn’t relax properly, and this time was no different: Clint looked both jittery and exhausted despite the fact that it wasn’t even noon yet and Phil briefly wondered if his offer was about to make things better or worse.
He put the file in his hands down and came around his desk to sit on the edge of the couch. Clint shifted minutely to make room for him but not enough that they weren’t pressed together. Phil smiled a little at Clint’s lack of subtlety but he didn’t mind it one bit, not when his proximity already had Clint relaxing, his eyelids drooping a little, and Phil leaned down to drop a quick kiss on his temple. He had a meeting in ten minutes but before that –
“10 pm tonight at the range. Bring a bow for me?”
The blinding smile on Clint’s face was all the answer Phil needed to stop worrying and he found himself helplessly smiling back as Clint tugged on his tie to pull him back down for another kiss. When Phil reluctantly pulled away – he really did need to go to that meeting now – Clint moved as if to stand with him but Phil’s hand on his chest stopped him in his tracks.
“I have a meeting. You’re staying here to sleep,” he said, uncompromising, and Clint rolled his eyes.
“Yes, Phil,” he said, clearly humoring him. But he settled back down without further argument and when Phil closed the door behind him Clint’s eyes were closed again and he was still smiling.
In Phil’s book that was definitely a win.
Ten minutes before 10 pm that night Phil changed out of his suit and into SHIELD’s basic training gear of black sweatpants and T-shirt and made his way to the range. It was late and the place was deserted – just how Phil wanted it to be. A man’s reputation was a useful tool in his line of work and he didn’t need other agents gawking at his first attempts to hit a target with an arrow. It would ruin his street cred.
Clint had been busy, he saw when he came in, a row of dummy targets set some twenty feet away from the firing line. All that was missing was the man himself, who came in less than a minute later holding a bow and a couple of quivers that were definitely not SHIELD standard equipment. In fact it looked a lot like the kind Phil had seen in pictures of his niece at camp doing one of those 30 minute introduction courses to archery and Phil was definitely not going to ask where Clint had gotten them – or how he had smuggled them onto the base.
“Starting with the basics?” he asked instead and Clint nodded.
“You wouldn’t hand an assault rifle to a guy who’s never fired a gun, would you?”
“Is your bow the assault rifle in that analogy?”
“Nah, it’s better,” Clint said with a grin and passed him the bow before hanging the quivers on an empty gun rack.
Phil took it carefully, suddenly irrationally afraid that he was about to make a fool of himself. If this had been anything else it wouldn’t have mattered – he and Clint had known each other for too long and been on too many missions together not to have seen each other in some pretty ridiculous situations, and since they had started sleeping together they had more or less been cured of any lingering illusions – but it wasn’t. It was a bow and it was such a big part of Clint’s identity that Phil desperately wanted to be good at this. To be worthy.
He shouldn’t have worried though. Clint was a good teacher and Phil listened to him carefully, copying his stance and moving with Clint’s fingers when the man adjusted his position. For the next 10 minutes Clint had him draw the bow repeatedly, circling around him and correcting his grip when needed until he was satisfied and Phil had gotten used to it. Only then did Clint hand him an arrow, showing up how to position it on the string.
“Mine’s got a higher draw weight so it’d harder to draw,” Clint said, looking at the bow a little longingly. “But I figured we’d keep things nice and easy today.”
It took another 20 minutes before Phil was allowed to let the arrow fly. When he finally did it sailed past the target, embedding itself in the wall, and Phil frowned at it, trying to will it back to the target with the strength of his mind alone.
“Keep your elbow up,” Clint reminded him from where he was leaning against the wall, watching intently.
Phil tried again. Inhale, draw, exhale, aim, hold. Release. And repeat, over and over again.
To his satisfaction it didn’t take him long to start hitting the target, though his arrows stubbornly clung to its outskirts for an entire quiver before slowly hitching closer to the center. Clint remained mostly silent, only speaking up when Phil was doing something wrong, preferring to let him get a feel for it and figure things out for himself. It was working too: by the time he ran out of arrows Phil may still not have hit the bull’s-eye but he had come damn near on his last few tries.
He felt relaxed and centered, his breaths coming out deep and steady. It was different from the immediate gratification that came from firing a gun: the bow had made him work for it, the tingling in his shoulders and arms from the strain of repeatedly drawing it a pleasant reminder of that. It was a good feeling and the sudden insight into Clint’s head was an even better one, Phil holding close to his heart his new understanding of why Clint lost himself for hours at the range despite not needing the practice – and of his restlessness when he couldn’t.
“I think that’s enough for today,” Clint said, breaking the silence, his voice low and slightly uneven.
When Phil turned to look at him he caught a glimpse of something open and hungry on Clint’s face. It made the slow thrum of arousal that had been buzzing through Phil for most of his lesson – a side-effect of being the sole focus of Clint’s sharp eyes – burn hot, leaving him breathless and aching.
Phil swallowed past his suddenly dry throat, putting his bow down carefully.
“Come here,” he said, his own voice rough and scratchy, and Clint didn’t need more encouragement, backing Phil against a wall in one of the range’s few blind spots from the security feeds, his cast caught between them making things a little interesting but then they had always been good at improvising.
“God, the way you looked,” Clint mumbled, shaking his head as if to try and clear it.
“Now you know how I feel,” Phil said, laughter in his eyes and Clint kissed him, hard and a little desperate, like he wanted too much and didn’t know how to handle it. And Phil let him, let him take whatever he needed because if it was up to him Clint would always get everything he wanted.
It was still new, this additional layer in their relationship, and Clint was still a little uncertain, rarely taking the initiative and never asking for anything, as if expecting the whole thing to blow up in his face sooner rather than later. Phil couldn’t really blame him, not when he knew what was in the man’s file, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t do everything in his power to try and make Clint comfortable.
So when Clint pulled away and said, raw and needy: “Can I? I want– Please,” Phil didn’t even think twice before replying:
“Jesus, yes, Clint, anything.”
Clint was on his knees in front of him before Phil had even finished speaking, that last word coming out a little winded as Clint started nuzzling him through his pants, mouthing the outline of his quickly hardening cock.
He tugged at Phil’s pants, making a frustrated noise when the task turned out to be less straightforward than it usually was with only one cooperating hand and Phil was more than happy to help, shoving both pants and underwear down. Clint groaned his approval, wrapping his mouth around him immediately and Phil gasped, his right hand flying up to bury itself in Clint’s short hair while the other flattened against the wall in an effort to support himself.
“Fuck, Clint,” he grunted, staring at the man’s lips moving back and forth on his cock. The sight was almost too much, it always was, because it was Clint and Phil would never stop being so fucking grateful that Clint wanted this as much as he did, and then Clint looked up, meeting his eyes, and he was lost.
His hips snapped forward involuntarily and before he could get himself back under control Clint had pulled his hand away from Phil’s hip, giving him both permission and free range. With another curse, Phil tightened his hold on Clint’s hair and started fucking his mouth with short, hard thrusts that went progressively deeper as Clint moaned around his cock, his now free hand coming up to clasp Phil’s where it was still pressing flat against the wall. All it took after that was Clint swallowing around him and Phil was coming, his vision whiting out for a few seconds.
When he came back to himself, Clint was panting harshly against his stomach and yanking his hand out of Phil’s grasp to shove it into his pants, jerking himself off frantically, and no, that wouldn’t do at all.
“Up, up,” Phil ordered, pulling insistently on Clint’s good shoulder, and Clint went, pushing himself to his feet. The move put him off balance and into Phil’s chest, forcing him to reach out for him to keep himself upright, and Phil wasn’t above taking advantage of the situation, thrusting his own hand into Clint’s pants.
Clint made a broken sound into his shoulder as Phil wrapped his hand around his cock, his own fingers digging into Phil’s arm. The cast was in the way again, restricting Phil’s range of motion, the angle awkward but it didn’t seem to matter, Clint too close to the edge to need more than a few tugs and a rough encouragement before he was coming, muffling his shout into the soft cloth of Phil’s T-shirt.
It took them a moment to catch their breath and even then Clint remained pressed against him with one of Phil’s arm wrapped securely around him, just enjoying the closeness. Eventually they pulled apart, Clint pressing a soft kiss against Phil’s jaw and Phil getting momentarily distracted by the sight of his mouth, still red and swollen.
“Home?” Phil asked and Clint wrinkled his nose.
“Shower first,” he said but his quick acceptance of Phil’s apartment as home made Phil smile at nothing in particular as they made short work of putting the range back in order, picking up arrows and throwing targets out.
After they were done Clint stopped him with a light hand on his arm on their way out of the door.
“Thank you,” he said, sincere and a little bashful, his head unconsciously tilting towards the bow and arrows Phil was holding – not that it was necessary, Phil having heard everything he meant with those two words.
“Same time tomorrow?” Phil asked, just to see Clint smile.
It really was a beautiful sight.