"I can explain."
That was never a good start to any conversation, Phil had found over the years. Under the pale glow of the streetlight above them it was difficult to make out details, but Clint appeared to be wearing a pair of tight black pants, motorcycle boots, a liberal amount glitter and nothing much else.
It should have been ridiculous.
It was actually hot.
It was absolutely nowhere in the mission plan.
"Really?" Phil said. "Is this the kind of explanation that I'll want to hear?"
"Probably," Clint said, "but right now, we kind of need to run."
The sound of shouting and heavy footsteps followed them down the street down the street as they searched for somewhere to hide. Phil had no chance to get his cell out to call for help and this had been a simple observation mission so there were no comm links back to SHIELD HQ other than the cell phones. He stayed slightly behind Clint, knowing that the other man was more likely to see a place to hide and did not appear to have a gun with him. There was absolutely nowhere that a gun could be concealed in that outfit.
Clint veered left into an alley, Phil followed and skidded to a stop in time to watch Clint leap up and haul himself, muscles rippling across his back, onto a fire escape. It was a stunning display of pure strength, matched only when Clint reached down for Phil's arm and dragged him up as well. They waited, breathing hard, and watched the entrance to alley.
A moment later three large men ran past. Clint shifted as if to move and Phil placed a hand on his bare shoulder to stop him. After a couple of minutes a black sedan car drove past. When there had been no more movement in the street beyond for several minutes, Phil relaxed and gestured to the ground. Clint went first, landing lightly and grinning up at him with arms open to catch. Phil just rolled his eyes and dropped from the fire escape next to him in his best "I did not grow up in a circus so I can do this without theatrics" style.
They stayed in the alley while Phil made a brief call on his cell. Although the call was short, Phil could see that the chill of the night air on Clint's bare skin was raising goosebumps.
"Where to, boss?" Clint asked softly.
"Extraction in three hours," Phil said. "We'll need to take cover somewhere but the safe house is out if Natasha is still in play."
"Natalia the waitress is serving drinks as we speak," Clint said, "but I may know somewhere."
It was a couple of blocks away, a hotel that charged by the hour, and Clint's outfit was actually a bonus there judging by the wink and leer that the guy at the desk gave them. The room was shabby, poorly decorated and Phil was thankful that there would be no need to sleep there because the sheets looked foul.
The harsh fluorescent lights overhead allowed Phil his first proper look at Clint. Glitter had been applied liberally across his chest and shoulders, tapering down his stomach towards the waistband of the tight black pants, and Clint's eyes were outlined in heavy, expertly-applied eyeliner.
Phil had to swallow as his mouth went unusually dry.
"So," Phil said.
"I need a shower," Clint said. "This stuff fucking itches."
"Right," Phil said.
He tried not to watch as Clint headed towards the bathroom, the tight pants hugging his ass just right. He absolutely failed.
Phil was starting to get concerned about potential drowning when the bathroom door finally opened to release a wave of steamy air and Clint, who was scrubbing at his hair with a towel. The tight black pants and motorcycle boots were still present and so, unfortunately, was a lot of the glitter.
"How the fuck do you get this stuff off?" Clint complained, scrubbing madly at his hair and then his chest, turning the skin pink. "It doesn't clean, it just spreads. I've got glitter in places that glitter should never be."
"Thank you for that image," Phil said dryly. "You were going to explain why you're dressed like...well..."
"A ten dollar whore?" Clint supplied helpfully.
"I was going to go with classy hooker, but whatever you feel most comfortable identifying with," Phil said. "Is this a new type of bouncer chic I didn't know about?"
Clint gave his arms one last, irritated rub with the towel and threw it in the corner where it distributed glitter in a limp, damp puff of displaced air.
"Yeah, about that bouncer we had arrested," Clint said. "It turns out that one of the other bouncers knew a guy who knew a guy so the job was gone before I got there."
Phil started to get an idea about where the story was going.
"You needed someone in there and they were auditioning," Clint continued, "so I signed up."
"As a stripper."
"It's a strip club, so yeah." Clint grinned and made a sort of 'ta-da' shimmy. "Got the job, obviously."
"Boss, we're in the wrong line of work," Clint said. "I made two hundred bucks in tips tonight."
"You actually stripped, on a stage, for money?" Phil asked, feeling a headache start at the thought of trying to write this mission up.
"Three times," Clint said proudly. "Turns out, I'm fucking awesome at it."
Phil felt he should probably be more surprised by that.
"So, if you were so good why are we being extracted in two hours?" Phil asked. "You just needed to be there as back-up for Natasha this time."
Clint rubbed the back of his neck. "Turns out, I'm a bit too good. The boss's boyfriend visited the dressing room after my second turn and made some interesting offers. Now, I could have done it - king and country and all that-"
"Barton, we don't have a king," Phil said, "and SHIELD isn't in the habit of asking their agents to prostitute themselves."
Waving away Phil's objections, Clint continued. "Well, it wasn't really a problem because the boss wasn't too pleased and he let one of the girls know that he wasn't too pleased and she let me know as I was going up for my third show. So I decided to skip out before anyone could get to the part where they tried to break my kneecaps. I figured that an out of luck but awesome stripper probably shouldn't know combat moves and I wasn't going to just let them break my kneecaps without a fight."
"Good thinking," Phil said faintly. “And the number of men chasing you was because..?”
Clint winced. “The boss’s boyfriend was very keen, I guess, and the boss is a jealous, jealous guy.”
It was definitely going to be one of those mission write-ups where Phil had to employ euphemisms and possibly outright obfuscation to maintain any credibility to Clint’s professionalism.
"Sir, do you actually need that jacket?" Clint asked after a pause.
The room was not particularly warm and Clint was starting to get goosebumps again. Phil took off his jacket and passed it over. On Clint, the jacket was a bit tight in the shoulders and slightly too long in the arms. Instead of adding an air of respectability, a feat that Phil feared was impossible right now, it added an extra air of depravity to Clint's overall appearance.
"Barton, the dry-cleaning for the glitter on that is coming out of your paycheck," Phil said, glad to hear his voice steady and clear rather than hoarse and broken as he had half-expected.
"Sorry, sir," Clint said. "You'll probably just have to expense a new one. I don't think the glitter comes off without industrial cleaners."
Phil sat down on the bed, which creaked alarmingly, and raised an eyebrow.
"I think that I'll stand," Clint said, flushing slightly. "These pants? Were not made for doing anything except a bit of bumping and wriggling before they come off. They’ve taken more abuse than they’re really designed for and I'm pretty sure they're not going to last much longer unless you’ve got a sewing kit on you."
"Standing sounds like a good idea, then," Phil agreed, taking out a notepad so that he could begin trying to word his report.
It was a long two hours waiting for the extraction team and the reports on the mission had to be classified by Fury himself.