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Won't You Please (Leave Your Mark On Me)

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“No, no, no, Phil, you gotta... It’s this... It’s not that way, it’s...” Clint tripped over his own feet and nearly fell into the wall before Phil grabbed him and made him fall into Phil instead.

Falling into Phil was way better, but they were still going the wrong way and Clint needed to make sure he knew that.

“Barton,” Phil snapped, hand squeezing Clint’s arm tightly. “I know this is the wrong way. Trust me.”

Clint blinked. He trusted Phil. Did he trust Phil? Yes. “I trust you,” he managed. His tongue felt too fat for his mouth; he wanted to sit down.

Phil’s expression softened – or that might have been Clint’s eyes going out of focus again – and then he was pulling Clint along, down one empty corridor and then the next.

“I could, you should…” Clint shook his head, trying to clear it. “You should have let me shoot those assholes. They drugged me. I’m always allowed to shoot people who drug me.” Unless it was Bruce or Tony. And even then, Clint wasn’t convinced.

“In here,” Phil told him, pushing him through an open doorway and closing the door softly behind them.

“Phil,” Clint said, leaning heavily back against the wall. Fuck but he was dizzy.

“You can shoot double the number everyone else gets to next time,” Phil promised him, fingers sliding up Clint’s throat and pressing against his pulse. “How many of me are you seeing?”

None right now because Clint had his eyes shut. Phil slapped his cheek, not too lightly, and Clint dragged his eyes open.

“Three,” he admitted grudgingly then blinked, frowning. “Oh, hell, four.”

All of the Phils he was trying to focus on got this pinched look around their eyes. “All right, you’re staying here. I’ll deal with the hostiles and come back for you.”

“What?” Oh, fuck, jolting upright like that was a mistake. He thought he might puke. “No, Phil, you can’t go out there alone.”

Phil’s hand settled on Clint’s cheek, warm against Clint’s skin, which felt kind of sick and clammy. “I can,” he said. “I promise I’ll come back.”

Clint forced himself to focus on just Phil, just this one Phil. “I can fight, sir. Come on.” It wasn’t that he didn’t think Phil could handle himself, he knew Phil could handle himself, but Clint couldn’t just sit around here doing jack shit while Phil risked his life. It wasn’t Phil’s fault Clint had gotten himself captured; that was all on Clint.

Over their heads, there was a crash followed by machine gun fire.

“Got to go,” Phil said, kissing Clint quickly and squeezing his wrist. There was a click just before he stepped back and oh, shit, he wasn’t squeezing Clint’s wrist, he was handcuffing him to the radiator.

“Phil, fuck,” Clint snapped, heart jumping up into his throat. “Let me go.”

Phil shook his head, stepping back. “You’ll follow me, if I let you go.”

Clint’s breathing was coming fast and he curled his hands into fists, trying to keep himself grounded with fingernails in his palms.

“Are you all right?” Phil asked. “Do you feel worse?”

“I’m fine,” Clint mumbled, dropping his head down to his chest. He didn’t usually go down this fast but he was too stoned right now not to react to cuffs around his wrist, cold and tight and put there by Phil.

Fuck.

“I’ll be back,” Phil told him. He sounded worried. “Just stay still and wait. Don’t move.”

Clint managed to nod and then Phil was gone. Clint swayed and focused on a point on the floor, just beyond his shoes. He needed to sit down but Phil had told him not to move, no get out clauses or unless.

He curled his fingers around the sharp metal of the cuff and locked his knees. He wasn’t going to move.

***

Clint lost track of time eventually. His world had narrowed down to his too-slow breathing and the way his toes were curled inside his sneakers like that would keep him upright. Anytime he swayed too hard, the cuffs went click-clack against the radiator and startled him awake again.

He wished he had his radio. He wanted to hear if Phil was okay. He wanted to tell Phil that he hadn’t moved.

Some part of Clint’s brain, the part that wasn’t drugged or floating around in headspace was worried. It kept nagging at Clint’s awareness but he couldn’t concentrate on it; everything else was too overwhelming. Maybe if he hadn’t been drugged, maybe if Phil hadn’t cuffed him, but together those things were too much.

“Barton?”

He heard the voice coming from outside the door and he lifted his head but didn’t move otherwise.

The door crashed open and Phil came barrelling in. There was blood along his collar and a bruise on his jawline. He breathed out hard when he saw Clint and pushed his gun back into its holster.

“There you are, you okay? Fuck, you’re white as a sheet. Why didn’t you sit down?”

Clint watched Phil fuss with the cuff and felt his cosy, floating bubble start to crack. “You told me not to,” he said, because Phil hadn’t said he couldn’t talk.

Phil frowned at him. He tucked the cuffs into his pocket and pulled on Clint’s arm. “Come on, we have to keep moving. I’ve taken out the guards but they may have reinforcements.”

“I stayed where I was,” Clint repeated, tripping over his feet as he tried to keep up with Phil. “Like you told me.”

“Yeah, yes, you did great,” Phil said quickly, arm sliding around Clint’s waist like he didn’t trust him to stay upright on his own.

Clint let Phil take some of his weight and clung to the words as hard as he could. You did great. If he ignored Phil’s distracted and impatient tone, it was almost enough.

***

There was a SHIELD helicopter waiting for them on the roof. Phil helped Clint stumble inside and then stole a radio from a junior agent, plugging himself in and talking rapidly to whoever was on the other end.

Normally, Clint could tell who Phil was talking to just from the angle of the creases around his eyes but right now, Clint couldn’t concentrate well enough. Clint couldn’t concentrate well enough for anything at the moment.

He wanted to go to sleep – the drugs were wearing down in his system and leaving him washed out and exhausted – but the rest of him was too on edge, creeping anxiety making his stomach cramp and his muscles jitter impatiently.

He leaned into Phil’s side without planning to and breathed in the strong smell of his deodorant and the fight sweat it couldn’t mask. It calmed him enough that he didn’t think he was going to jump out of the ‘copter anymore.

“Hang on,” he heard Phil say and then, “Barton? Are you feeling all right?”

They didn’t touch in the field unless one of them was bleeding out. Clint knew that. Phil knew that. Clint waited to get shoved away any second.

“Dizzy,” he said and it was mostly a lie. He was kind of lightheaded but not too bad, not like it had been. He couldn’t say I’m dropping, help me because then Phil would know.

Everything would be over if Phil knew.

“Okay,” Phil said and then he didn’t push Clint away. He settled a hand in Clint’s hair instead, holding Clint’s head against his shoulder while he went back to his conversation.

Clint closed his eyes, leaning into the touch and consciously working on centring his concentration on Phil. Maybe this would be enough, he thought hopefully. If he could just stay here long enough, then everything would be fine.

***

As soon as Clint woke up in the med bay the next morning, he knew that it was going to be a bad day.

His head was pounding like he’d drunk his bodyweight in whiskey the night before. He felt stiff and bruised and achy and his stomach was growling, angry with everything.

Which was all fine. He could deal with all that. The thing that was going to be harder to deal with was what was going on in his head.

Sitting up quickly, he reached for the IV line and pulled it free from the back of his hand. There was a bandage around his right wrist and he flushed hot and then cold when he realised it must be from the handcuffs.

Not that he’d struggled. He hadn’t struggled at all. He’d been so good and Phil hadn’t seemed to notice.

Clint shook his head at himself, annoyed, told himself to get a fucking grip. Phil hadn’t praised him because Phil didn’t do that. Phil didn’t know that the cuffs meant anything more than a way to stop Clint getting himself shot while compromised.

“Okay,” Clint muttered, looking around for his clothes. They were sitting, folded and smelling freshly washed, on the plastic chair by the door.

Clint smiled. Of course Phil knew he was going to break out as soon as he woke up, and had made sure he didn’t have to do it buck naked. Then just as quickly, he was annoyed, gut churning with irrational resentment because Phil had come by to leave him fresh clothes but he hadn’t stayed. What could be more important than –

“Fuck,” Clint snapped and punched the metal bedframe. It hurt. “No seriously, get a fucking grip,” he told himself, because this was insane.

Phil had nine billion things to do every day that were more important than sitting at Clint’s bedside, watching him sleep. Clint knew that. The problem was that right now, Clint didn’t know that.

Clint got dressed quickly and then slipped out of his room. He wasn’t sure if the med staff put him in a separate room these days because they knew he was going to escape early and wanted plausible deniability or because they wanted to stop him rallying any other patients into a mass breakout.

For the record, that had only happened one time and the kitchen had been serving meatloaf that day.

“Agent Barton?” he heard someone call. They sounded resigned rather than likely to actively give chase, so Clint kept to his current steady pace, putting as much space as he could between himself and anyone who might want to talk to him.

He was at the door before he nearly collided with Phil.

“Oh hey,” Phil said, catching Clint’s arm and tipping his head quizzically. “Jail break?”

He looked amused, not as if he was going to drag Clint back to bed, but Clint’s fight or flight instinct kicked in anyway.

“You know it,” he said, trying to sound casual while he kept walking. Phil’s hand was still on his arm, and Clint was shrugging it off before he could stop himself.

“Feeling okay?” Phil asked, dropping into step beside him. He didn’t try to touch Clint again, which was good. Or bad. Or good. Clint had no idea.

He wanted to crawl inside Phil, all the way under his skin while Phil petted his hair and told him that he’d done great last night, but that wasn’t ever going to happen so the only other plan he could come up with was away. Get away.

“Tired,” Clint told him, slanting what he hoped was an embarrassed grin Phil’s way. “D’you think Fury would have a fit if I skipped out on whatever fun he wants us to have today?”

“No,” Phil told him, starting to look worried, Agent Coulson giving way to Phil, the guy who was just Clint’s concerned boyfriend. Clint knew why he was worried: Clint never admitted to not being fit for duty. Clint’s brain wasn’t usually trying to do a number on him, though; he could power through any kind of physical discomfort, but this was different, he couldn’t sit in a nest like this and he wasn’t sure he could shoot straight either.

Which was fucking terrifying, frankly.

“Stop looking at me like that, Coulson,” he said and he could hear himself sounding snappier than he meant to but couldn’t do anything about it. “I’m fine. Just hungover as fuck.”

Phil nodded as though that was reasonable – thank god that was reasonable – but kept walking beside Clint. “Want me to drive you home?” he asked.

Clint shook his head quickly. ‘Home’ was Stark Tower these days, and Clint would genuinely put his fist through a hideously expensive vase if he had to interact with Tony right now. That or he’d accidentally trigger Bruce into Hulking out through the force of his own pent-up fucking frustration.

“Gonna crash here,” he said, peeling off quickly toward the elevators. “I’ll see you later.”

“Sure,” Phil agreed, nodding. “I only have meetings this morning, I can try to rearrange, if you need me to – ”

“No,” Clint told him too quickly then winced when Phil looked startled and a little hurt for a second before he pulled up his Agent Coulson walls.

Great. More guilt. Clint did love him some guilt.

“I’ll see you later,” he said again, trying to sound softer about it this time.

Phil nodded and waved him off. “Feel better,” he said and turned away, already back on his radio.

Well then, Clint thought, and then deliberately didn’t follow that up with anything else because he knew that whatever his brain told him right then would be wrong and probably all kinds of unfair.

He stepped into the first elevator to arrive and hit the button for the residential floor. “Bed,” he told his reflection in the mirrored walls. “You’ll sleep. You’ll feel like an actual person again. Easy.”

***

Five hours later, Clint didn’t feel like an actual person. What Clint felt like was an alien wrapped in a person suit who was about to burst out of his skin.

He wondered if this was what Bruce felt like all the time. Then he wondered if Bruce had ever considered that his Hulk problem might just be a really bad subdrop. Then he thought about throwing himself out of a window; it might be kinder to everyone.

Unless he landed on someone.

Fuck. He covered his face with a pillow and wished desperately for an off switch in his brain.

The knock on his door startled him so bad that he nearly punched himself in the eye sitting up. He was all sorts of smooth today, wow.

Clint pressed his ear to the door, trying to tell from the quality of his visitor’s breathing whether or not it was Phil. Clint was seriously worried about the damage that he could do to his relationship right now.

“Clint, open the door.”

Not Phil. Natasha. Clint was opening the door before he’d decided that he even wanted to.

Natasha took one look at him and swore, closing and locking the door behind her. “Idiot,” she said, smacking him on the shoulder. “Why didn’t you call me?”

Clint frowned. “To do what?” he asked, genuinely confused.

Natasha shook her head, blowing out an annoyed-sounding breath. “All right,” she said, “kneel down, by the bed.”

Clint’s knees immediately tried to obey but he resisted. “Tasha,” he said quietly. He couldn’t ask her to do that.

Natasha rolled her eyes. “I’m not going to fuck you,” she said. “But I can help you. Unless you want to stay stuck like this?”

Clint shook his head quickly. He really didn’t. “You’re not going to fuck me?” he repeated.

“No,” Natasha promised, sounding more amused, less annoyed this time. She sat down on the bed and nodded at the floor just in front of her feet.

Clint folded down, bowing his head automatically. She spread her knees, one leg on either side of his head, blocking out his peripheral vision and slid her hand into his hair.

A couple of the half-dozen knots in Clint’s stomach slowly unwound. This was familiar. They’d done this a million times. He knew she wasn’t going to leave him hanging, not like – .

Natasha’s hand tightened in his hair, tilting his head back until his eyes watered. “Coulson told me he handcuffed you,” she says easily. “He thinks you’re pissed at him because of that. Are you going to tell him you’re not?”

Clint couldn’t shake his head; her grip was too tight. “No,” he said. He closed his eyes. “Nat, please.”

“Yes,” Natasha said softly. “You’re a fool, but yes. Come here.”

Clint scooted closer, sighing when she forced his head down onto her thigh. Her blue SHIELD catsuit tasted familiar and her skin underneath smelled right.

“Did you do well?” she asked, scratching his scalp with her fingertips now. “Did you do well for Phil?”

Clint nodded, screwing his eyes up tighter.

“Words, Clint,” Natasha snapped.

“Yes,” Clint told her. He turned his face toward the dark, familiar warmth of her inner thigh. “I was really good.”

Natasha laughed softly. “Of course you were.” She was petting his hair properly now, thumb tracing the smooth skin behind his ear. “You were always so good for me.”

It was getting easier and easier for Clint to breathe and he loved her so much right now for doing this for him that he couldn’t say anything.

“Say thank you, Clint,” Natasha reminded him.

That had always been one of her rules: when someone compliments you, thank them.

Thank you,” Clint whispered. He was so tired suddenly, his drug hangover banging against his skull. “Thank you, ma’am, thank you.”

“Shh.” Natasha stroked her hand down over the nape of his neck. “You don’t have to call me that anymore.” She laughed softly. “You were never this easy for me when we were together.”

“Sorry,” Clint mumbled. He was having difficulty holding himself up on his knees, but he’d stayed on his feet for Phil yesterday; he could do this today. Except Natasha was pulling on his arm, drawing him up onto the bed.

“Come on,” she said, guiding him down onto his side on the mattress and lying down beside him. She let him pillow his head on her stomach, curled up around her hip, and kept on petting him. “Go to sleep.”

“Can’t,” Clint argued around a yawn. He’d tried that before and he was terrified of waking up and finding that this peace had gone again.

“That wasn’t a request,” Natasha said firmly then, gentler, “I will stay. Unless there’s an invasion. Which there probably won’t be.”

Clint laughed tiredly, barely managing to make a sound. “Love you,” he told her stomach.

“Yes,” Natasha agreed and then he really was asleep.

***

“You need to talk to Phil,” Natasha told him, much later that day when they were eating dinner in the canteen.

Clint was starving but he managed to stop shovelling food into his mouth long enough to give her an unimpressed look. “And say what?” he asked, glancing around before continuing, “Hey, Phil, you know I was weird this morning? Well guess what, I’m actually pretty damn kinky and you accidentally tapped straight into that yesterday? Nat, he wouldn’t even stay long enough to grab his coat.”

“You’ve been sleeping with him for how long now?” Natasha asked, apparently deciding to ignore all of Clint’s totally valid arguments. “Three months?”

“Nearly four,” Clint said, concentrating on cutting his tater tots into bite-sized pieces.

Natasha rolled her eyes so hard that it had to hurt. “You’ve been having bad sex for four months?” she hissed and then coolly raised her eyebrows at the junior agent who had done a double take on her way past their table.

“It’s not bad sex,” Clint scoffed, making sure that Agent Mason heard that too, because at some point the gossip mill was going to cotton on to who he was having sex with and he didn’t want that part getting back to Phil. “It’s just…”

He made a face at her, hoping she’d get it. It wasn’t bad sex; the sex was great. Phil could do amazing things with his hands and he loved giving blowjobs more than Clint had ever thought anyone could.

“It’s not what you need though,” Natasha told him, not asking.

Clint looked away. “It’s fine,” he insisted. It was. It was going to be. Because Clint was stupid and he’d fallen in love with Phil even though he’d known they weren’t going to be compatible in bed. He’d done the sex thing with a lot of guys and girls, but the relationship thing had only ever worked with Natasha and now with Phil. He could cope with not-great sex as long as he got to keep that; he absolutely could.

Natasha put her hand over Clint’s. “Talk to Phil,” she said, “he might surprise you.”

Clint pulled his hand away. “You don’t tell me what to do anymore,” he reminded her.

“Please,” Natasha scoffed. “I will always be around to tell you what to do. You wouldn’t last a minute without me.”

She smiled so Clint smiled back, relieved that she wasn’t going to push it. Not that that fixed anything, but at least he could pretend, just for now.

***

“Hello,” Phil said when Clint let himself into his room. It wasn’t a surprise to find him there, already in Clint’s bed; he’d been turning up more and more often lately. Phil slipped off his glasses and put them and his e-reader on the bedside table. “Feeling better?”

“So much,” Clint told him, stretching his hands up towards the ceiling and grinning. “And now, I really, really need to have sex with you.”

Phil’s eyebrows went up. “So feeling a lot better, then?”

Clint smirked and pulled his sweater off over his head. “Yeah. Let me show you?”

“Feel free.” Phil spread his hands and settled back more comfortably against the head of the bed.

Clint shivered. He loved that, the challenging little gleam in Phil’s eyes. He abandoned his plan to get naked right then, just kicked off his shoes and crawled up the bed, still wearing his pants.

He shivered harder, happy when Phil reached out and grabbed him as soon as he was in touching distance, hands sliding up his sides, possessive and tight on his ribs, and dragging him up for a kiss.

Phil always kissed like he meant it; even the quick brush of his lips first thing in the morning always felt like he was kissing Clint, not just the dude he happened to have woken up with that day. This kiss was slow and soft, Phil’s tongue darting out to lick their lips so their wet mouths clung together.

Clint pushed into Phil’s hands, bare skin on bare skin, and then Clint’s naked chest against Phil’s soft, well-worn t-shirt. Phil’s right arm wrapped solidly around Clint’s waist and then he was rolling them over, dropping Clint down into the nest of pillows that always ended up around Phil when he was reading in bed.

“Mm, hi,” Clint laughed, experienced by now in pretending that just being manhandled around the bed wasn’t enough to get him hard and ready in his jeans.

Phil straddled Clint’s hips and pulled back far enough to strip out of his t-shirt. When it looked like he was going to make himself comfortable on Clint’s thighs, Clint grabbed his upper arm and pulled him back down, arching pointedly for another kiss.

“I’ll crush you,” Phil protested when Clint kept pulling until they were chest-to-chest, Phil propped up on his elbows over Clint.

“Right,” Clint scoffed rather than that’s the idea. “Like you even could.” They were about the same height but Clint was definitely broader – Phil probably couldn’t squash Clint but Clint was more than happy to let him try.

“You think I couldn’t?” Phil asked and let himself go lax, hips digging into Clint’s stomach and his solid weight making it hard to breathe.

“Fuck it, come here,” Clint groaned, wrapping his arms around Phil’s back and pulling his knees up, curving up into him like there was any hope of them getting closer than they were right now.

Phil dipped his head and kissed him again, biting Clint’s bottom lip between his teeth and holding it there before letting go. “We should finish getting naked,” he said, voice getting thick.

“Mm, no,” Clint protested but Phil still sat up, pulling out of Clint’s arms.

Clint pouted. Then he got distracted watching Phil climb out of his sleep pants and all desire to pout – or tease in any other way – fled. There was a scar on Phil’s inner thigh that Clint hadn’t asked about yet, and he reached out to touch it, rubbing at the tight, pale skin with his fingertips.

“Don’t,” Phil said, batting Clint’s hands away then reaching for Clint’s fly, like Phil could get Clint naked quicker than Clint could. Clint was a motherfucking Avenger, he could strip in the blink of an eye, but he was still content to let Phil do it.

“Hey, so,” Clint said, lifting his ass obligingly when Phil peeled his jeans down. “Sorry that I was kind of an asshole this morning.”

Everyone thought that Clint didn’t know how to apologise but that wasn’t true: he mostly just wasn’t often sorry. He was sorry if he’d made Phil think he’d done something wrong, though.

Phil slid Clint’s jeans down past his knees and waited for Clint to kick them the rest of the way free before settling back on top of him. “You’re not pissed that I made you stay out of the fight?”

Clint thought about how Phil had made him stay out of the fight and then had to bite the inside of his cheek so he didn’t get lost in the memory.

“Duh,” he said, “but yeah, no, I get it, I guess? Next time though, remember that I am a fucking asset and I can take down HYDRA goons with both hands tied behind my back and after a pint of whatever those drugs were they put in me.”

“Noted,” Phil said, mouth curling up. He leaned down and licked Clint’s jaw, all the way up to his ear. “You looked good in my handcuffs though.”

Oh god. That was just not fair. Clint had learned through a series of embarrassing misunderstandings that that was the kind of thing that people said sometimes, that it didn’t necessarily mean anything. Still, hearing Phil whisper that in his ear was enough to get him desperately turned-on in an instant.

“Yeah?” Clint breathed, like this wasn’t important. “That something you think about?”

Phil had moved from breathing in Clint’s ear to kissing down his throat. “When it comes to you, I think about everything.”

Clint moaned and tipped his head to the side, giving Phil room to bite if he wanted to. “Good line,” he mumbled because that was what it was, he knew that was what it was, but fuck.

It turned out that Phil did want to bite. Clint was a million percent in favour of that. “Phil,” he groaned, closing his eyes and concentrating on the sharp sting of Phil’s teeth. “Phil. Shit. Fuck me?”

Phil’s breath blew out hot against his damp skin. “Seriously?” he asked, pulling back. “I thought you didn’t do that?”

Clint forced his eyes to open and felt his skin heat up at how interested Phil looked all of a sudden. “I said I don’t do it much,” he corrected.

That was kind of lie, something he’d told Phil in self-defence really early on in their relationship. Clint had been fucked by a lot of other people. But letting Phil fuck him had always felt too risky, like Phil would take one look at him and understand everything that Clint tried so hard to keep hidden from him. Clint felt raw right now, though, everything too close to the surface and needing to be touched, smoothed away, so he maybe wasn’t making the best decisions.

“Let me get the stuff then,” Phil said, kissing him one more time before climbing off the bed.

Clint settled back against the pillows, concentrating on the soft press of the comforter under his back, the steady ticking of the clock on the wall. He wasn’t nervous. This was going to go fine. They’d fuck, it’d be crazy hot, they’d fall asleep and, in the morning, Clint’s brain would be all the way back where it was supposed to be.

He reached up and grasped the headboard, squeezing and releasing the flat wooden slats in his fists until his heart stopped thumping quite so hard.

“Clint?” Phil asked, kneeling on the bed beside him. Something about the way he said it made Clint think that he’d maybe said it once or twice already.

“Hey,” Clint said, opening his eyes and grinning up at him. “Got the slick?”

Phil stroked a hand over Clint’s belly and thumbed his navel. “What’s wrong? You look like you’re going to your execution.”

“Nah,” Clint said, spreading his legs and bumping Phil with his knee. “This is not how I look when they’re about to execute me. Remember, Latveria?”

Phil closed his eyes briefly. “Yes, thank you, that’s exactly what I wanted to think about right now.” He took hold of Clint’s knees, fingers warm and careful and pulled Clint’s legs wider apart. “Sure?”

Clint smiled up at him. “Hundred percent,” he promised and loved Phil maybe even more than before when he didn’t ask Clint anything else, just took him at his word.

“How do you want to do it?” Phil asked, rubbing some lube between his fingers to warm it.

Clint got distracted watching Phil’s fingers gleam and heard himself say, “You on top,” before he remembered that Hawkeye, or at least the Hawkeye everyone thought they knew, was a take-charge, topping from on bottom kind of guy.

“That definitely works for me,” Phil told him, voice a little thick, and kissed Clint’s knee, ridiculous and inexplicable, before rubbing his slicked-up fingers over Clint’s perineum and down toward his hole.

Clint closed his eyes, breathing out. “Yeah,” he said, couldn’t make his voice any louder. “Yeah, please.”

Phil leaned in and kissed him carefully while he fingered him. “Okay?” he asked. “I’m not hurting you?”

Clint laughed. “Seriously the opposite of hurting,” he promised. In fact, he could stand to be hurting a bit more than he was; Phil was being seriously fucking careful with him, which was great, he wasn’t ungrateful or anything but it was making his skin itch, twitchy with wanting something sharper.

He shifted his hips suddenly, pushing down onto Phil’s fingers and Phil, who’d been slowly adding a third, froze.

“Stop that,” he said sharply, “I’ve got you.”

Clint dragged his eyes open. They felt heavy. “Yeah?” he asked. “Want to have me a bit quicker? I’m liable to die of old age, here.”

Phil smacked him on the thigh and Clint bit back a groan. “Sue me for trying to be a gentleman,” he said, but he didn’t sound mad; his eyes were laughing.

He scissored his fingers wide, one fingertip grazing Clint’s prostate, and Clint dragged in the air for a moan, uncurling one hand from the bedframe to grab hold of Phil’s upper arm.

“There?” Phil asked, sounding like he was adding points to his map of Clint’s body. He rubbed his fingers inside Clint in tight little circles.

Clint couldn’t do anything but grit out a yes, twisting his hips for more.

“Okay.” Phil pushed up onto his knees, leaving his fingers where they were while he rolled a condom on one-handed.

“Ninja,” Clint slurred, watching him.

“Sex ninja,” Phil agreed unexpectedly, making Clint laugh.

He was still laughing when the head of Phil’s cock nudged just inside and then he kind of choked on it.

Getting fucked by Phil was pretty much as great as Clint had known it would be. Phil had fantastic moves. Phil was great in bed. It seriously wasn’t his fault that all his skills and stamina and goddamn fantastic technique always left Clint exhausted but unsatisfied, still restless.

“Yeah,” Clint groaned, when they were both slick with sweat, his thighs clamped hard around Phil’s ribs. “Yeah, fuck, but please, Phil, shit, fuck, I please.”

“Please, what?” Phil asked, lowing his head and dragging his lips over Clint’s. “Tell me and I’ll do it.”

Clint’s pulse spiked. That was too big a promise and the damned thing was that he knew Phil meant it; Phil wasn’t the type to get so carried away by sex that he committed to things he wasn’t okay with delivering.

Except, except Clint couldn’t ask for it once and never have it again, that would be worse than this desperate, uncurling need twisting ignored in his belly.

“Clint?” Phil’s voice was losing some of its turned-on hoarseness, starting to sound too alert and fuck it, no, that wasn’t okay. Something in Clint kind of snapped, and he reached blindly for Phil’s hand, lacing their fingers together and dragging them up above his head, pressed down against the pillow.

“Remember what you said?” he asked, trying to find a way to make it sound like this wasn’t everything. “About me in your handcuffs?”

Phil shifted, more of his weight holding Clint’s arm down and Clint’s throat clicked, dry and wanting.

“Like this?” Phil asked. He squirmed his fingers free from Clint’s and wrapped them around his wrist instead.

Clint arched up into him without meaning to.

“Okay.” Phil didn’t sound freaked out, that was good. Clint kept his eyes shut anyway, because Phil was better at hiding things with his voice than he was with his eyes and Clint didn’t want to see if he worked it – worked Clint – out.

“Okay,” Clint echoed even though it hadn’t been a question.

Phil squeezed harder, slow, experimental increments until Clint’s bones started to grind together and Clint tipped his head back, swallowing back all the pleas that wanted to come out.

“Am I hurting you?” Phil asked, making Clint wonder what was showing on his face. He’d bet a million bucks that it didn’t look anything like pain.

Not as much as you could be, Clint thought. “No, it’s good,” he said. And then he cursed, because Phil was always, always one step ahead so it shouldn’t be any surprise that he grabbed Clint’s other arm, the one that was still holding onto the headboard and pinned it down too.

Clint jerked up automatically but Phil’s hold didn’t give way. Perfect. Almost perfect. Clint opened his mouth, trying to find some way to play this off, but Phil didn’t give him the chance, leaning in and kissing and kissing and kissing him, kissing him until Clint melted back into the bed, giving over control to Phil and whatever Phil wanted to do to him.

Turned out that what Phil wanted to do to him was keep fucking him, bending him near in half while Clint twisted under him, fingers clenching and releasing as he revelled in not being able to move even if he’d wanted to.

Which he seriously fucking didn’t.

His cock was so hard he was leaking, throbbing, and it was almost too much but he took a breath and didn’t let himself come.

“Fuck,” Phil groaned. His face was flushed red and he was fucking Clint harder and harder until Clint thought he was going to scream if he didn’t get to come. “Clint, god, this is good, you’re so good.”

Clint squeezed his eyes shut for a second, locking that away in his memory forever. They flew open again when Phil started to relax his grip on Clint’s wrists.

“No,” he said, before he could stop himself, “don’t, you said I was doing good, please don’t.” He bit his lip hard as soon as the words were out but it was too late by then.

Phil blinked at him, looking sex-hazy and confused in one. “You’re doing great,” he promised, “but I need a hand to jerk you off.” He kissed Clint’s cheek. “I’m close, I want you to come first.”

Clint laughed shaky and relieved. “I don’t need you to touch me for that,” he told him, “just, just tell me when you want me to come.”

Phil stared at him, smile slowly curling upwards. “Oh, really?” he asks. “This I’ve got to see.”

His hips had never totally stopped moving but now they picked up the pace, shoving deep into Clint, with a little twist on the end that drove Clint right to the edge. He was waiting for Phil though, he’d keep waiting even if it fucking killed him, just see if he couldn’t out-stubborn his body because Phil –

“Okay,” Phil said, dropping his head down beside Clint’s and biting his ear before kissing it. “Can you come right now?”

“Fuck,” Clint groaned, feeling like all his strings had been cut all at once. He arched hard off the bed, chest crashing into Phil’s and Phil let go of one of his wrists to grab him, wrap an arm around his back and hold him as he came hard between both their bellies.

“God, Clint,” Phil said, sounding awed. “That was… very hot.”

Clint blinked up at him, feeling swimmy and dazed and amazing. He squeezed down around Phil, who was still hard and neglected inside him. “I think it’s your turn,” he managed, tongue too thick not to slur.

“Yes,” Phil agreed. His hands found Clint’s thighs, holding on, and Clint went loose, letting Phil push Clint’s knees up around his ears, fucking into him in short, barely-controlled thrusts a half-dozen times before he froze, biting his lip white as he came.

Neither of them was much good for anything after. Phil just about found the energy to get rid of the condom, but that was it and then he was flopping back onto the bed, completely unlike his usual displays of Agent Coulson-like efficiency in the bedroom.

Still half-lost in the hazy, cosy place that good sex sent him, Clint curled up against Phil’s side, putting his head on Phil's chest and dragging Phil's arm across his shoulders. You couldn't expect aftercare from a dude who didn't know he'd just scened, but Clint was resourceful, he could get it for himself.

“Okay?” Phil asked. He was stroking Clint's back in long soothing strides and Clint wanted to purr.

“Great,” Clint told him. He was sore and sticky and it was so great. He kissed Phil’s neck. “Best ever, right?” It was. It was definitely the best sex they’d had.

“Yeah,” Phil agreed, pulling him closer. He sounded more thoughtful than smug, Clint thought vaguely, but Clint was already most of the way asleep so he didn’t let it bother him.

***

Clint was sure this briefing was interesting – they usually were, especially since he’d joined the Avengers and the number of Doombots and radioactive lizard men had exponentially increased – but it was seriously difficult to pay even a cursory amount of attention this morning.

Phil didn’t look like he was having the same problem but then Phil didn’t have a ring of fingerprint bruises around each wrist. Clint did. They were his new favourite thing.

There were four red-brown marks running in a neat line just below his wrists, smudging onto the backs of his hands, and there was a thumbprint at the base of each thumb. Those hurt the most, and he couldn’t stop touching them.

Their handspans were comparable, but Phil’s fingers were thicker so Clint could fit his fingertips to each bruise and still see a ring of colour surrounding them, growing darker the harder he pressed.

“Barton?”

Clint stopped rubbing his wrist and found that his smile was totally without edge when he looked up at Steve. “Cap?”

Steve looked he was thinking about frowning but didn’t have a good reason to. Clint felt bad for the guy; usually Clint was more than prepared to give him reasons to frown. “Does moving out at 09:50 give you enough time to get your kit together?”

Clint mentally rewound what he’d been tasked with doing. He was lucky, his brain usually recorded stuff he missed while he was zoned out. It was how come his mission reports were a thing of beauty whenever he got around to writing them.

This mission was a one bow, two types of arrow kind of thing. Easy. “I’ll beat you to the jet,” he promised.

Steve nodded, moving on and Clint tried to pay a bit more attention while still playing with his bruises, little flares of achy pain that satisfied him somewhere deep in the pit of his gut.

When he looked around, he found Tony looking at him, eyes fixed on Clint’s hands and a knowing smirk around his mouth.

“Hello,” he said, leaning forward and talking over whatever Steve was saying to Natasha. “Did someone get a bit rough last night? You dirty boy.”

Clint didn’t let his eyes flick over to Phil, but he was sure he was frowning. “I always have a good night, Stark,” Clint said easily.

Tony’s hand twitched and he grabbed Clint’s right wrist while Clint was busy tucking his left out of sight. Damn it. Clint’s reflexes were fractionally slower this morning and it showed.

Tony’s smirk turned delighted. “Nice,” he said, “should have known you’d be kinky.” He brushed his thumb along the back of Clint’s arm, right over the bruises and Clint tore his hand away before he’d thought about how it’d look.

“Fuck off,” he snapped, too serious, he knew, but those were his, Phil gave them to him; they weren’t for anyone else to touch.

Tony held up his hands and rocked back in his chair like he was already moving on. Everyone else was looking at Clint now – well, Banner was biting his lip, smirking down at his tablet and Steve looked like he wanted to get back to the mission, but everyone else.

Fuck.

Natasha looked pissed. Clint didn’t look at Phil.

“Okay,” Steve said. “I think that’s everything, unless Agent Coulson or Agent Sitwell have anything to add?” His tone basically screamed, whatever you add, please don’t let it be about Hawkeye’s sex life.

Sitwell waved him on.

“No, nothing,” Phil said, sounding distracted.

Steve dismissed them and Clint jumped up from his chair, aware of Natasha’s eyes fixed on him and seriously not wanting another tell-him-the-truth lecture.

Unfortunately, taking the long way around the conference table to avoid her put him directly in Phil’s path.

“A word, Barton,” Phil said in a tone that Clint probably wouldn’t have been able to resist even if he weren’t, well, him.

“I’ve only got forty-three minutes, sir,” Clint said, throwing a grin at him without meeting his eyes.

“You can spare five,” Phil told him firmly, so Clint shut up and hung back.

After the last person left – Natasha, obviously, with a look at Clint that meant tell him – Phil shut the door and turned back to Clint.

“Are you okay?” he asked, closing the distance between them and putting a hand on Clint’s arm. He looked wide-open and guilty. Clint had expected him to be mad, but now that he was thinking about it, he wasn’t sure why exactly.

“Fine?” Clint told him, confused. “Great, even.” He bumped their shoulders together as best he could with Phil still holding his arm. He lowered his voice. “Kind of sore after last night but that’s not a bad thing.”

Phil didn’t smile. He pushed back the sleeve of Clint’s SHIELD jacket and stared down at the bruises. “Did I hurt you?” he demanded, voice and eyes oddly intense. Clint shivered even though he knew that look didn’t mean what he wanted it to mean. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Clint didn’t like the look on Phil’s face. It was fucking with all the lies he’d been telling himself about how maybe they could work this out, find some middle ground.

“C’mon, Phil. I get worse than that in the gym.” He tried to pull his hand back but Phil didn’t let him.

“Still, it shouldn’t have happened. I’ll be more careful in future, I promise.” He sounded so serious. He was looking at the bruises still, his mouth all twisted up.

This wasn’t how Clint wanted him to look. Clint really didn’t need it brought this sharply home that when he looked at his bruises, he felt calm and claimed and wanted, but when Phil looked at them, he saw a mistake.

Clint snatched his hand away. Phil’s grip twinged on Clint’s wrist bone but it didn’t feel good anymore. Now Clint just felt cold.

“Fuck careful,” he told Phil flatly and shouldered past him. “I need to go.”

“Clint?” Phil called and then, “Barton?” once Clint had wrenched the door open.

Clint didn’t stop.

***

No matter what, Clint could always rely on a bow in his hand to calm him down. Today, tucked up on the balcony of a swanky hotel, eyes trained on Iron Man as he tried to reason with the villain of the week, his hands wouldn’t stop shaking.

It didn’t make any sense that he felt this shitty. He’d known that Phil didn’t need the same things – from sex or from this relationship – that Clint did. He’d always known that and he’d gone into this anyway because he wanted Phil enough that he’d thought it wouldn’t matter.

It shouldn’t hurt this much that he’d been proved right. No matter how many times he told himself that, though, it didn’t stop the churning ache in his chest.

While Clint was moping, the villain of the week – some kind of creepy necromancer dude – brought a repulsor rifle up, obviously bored with listening to Tony. Clint forced himself to pay attention again.

The necromancer fired, a wave of light that knocked Tony back on his heels but didn’t dent the armour. Not that it mattered; three seconds later, Hulk was there anyway, tearing Tony out the way, growling at him when Tony tried to protest.

Clint would have given them shit about that if he’d felt like talking.

Further down the street, Steve paused in the middle of fighting the weird skeleton soldier people and demanded, “Iron Man? Report.”

“No dice,” Tony told him. “The undead army are his pals and he will remain their glorious leader, yadda yadda. I say it’s time we stuck an arrow in his throat. What say you?”

“Agreed.” Steve sighed heavily. “Hawkeye, take the shot.”

Clint’s hands wouldn’t stop shaking. He snapped his bow up to eyeline but couldn’t keep it steady.

“Negative, Cap, I don’t have the shot.” He could have done it, he could always do it, but it might have been second time and there were civilians around.

“What?” Steve said. “Hawkeye, are you - ?”

“I’m fine,” Clint interrupted quickly. “I just can’t – ”

“But you always have the shot,” Tony said straight over him, which didn’t help to make Clint feel any less shitty.

“Not this time.”

“Hawkeye, take the shot.” Phil’s voice suddenly broke over the radio even though he’d been real good about letting Steve run all ops lately.

“I don’t have it,” Clint repeated flatly, jaw tight.

“Friends, may I be of assistance?” Thor boomed. “I believe I can incapacitate this Master of the Dead.”

“Yeah, Thor, have at it,” Steve told him.

There was a ripple through the air and Clint instinctively closed his eyes. There was a flash that was bright enough for Clint to see it anyway and, when he opened them, the necromancer was a smouldering, smoking pile of ash and bone.

Clint felt nauseous. Not that the guy didn’t needed to die, but it should have been quick and clean on the end of one of Clint’s arrows, not fried to death from the inside by Thor’s lightning.

“Iron Man,” Clint said into his radio, “can you come get me?”

His voice sounded off to himself, and Tony must have agreed because he jetted up to Clint’s balcony without complaint.

“Seriously, are you okay?” Tony asked, visor up and off comms as they were taking the scenic route down to ground level.

It was so fucking temping to ask Tony to fly him straight home, but Clint couldn’t do that without admitting something was wrong. And he’d never been the kind of guy who could do that.

“I’m good,” he said. “I’m always good. Can we talk about vibration correction in my recurve some time?”

Tony grinned the way he always did when given a problem to fix. “You bet we can. Just name a time and place, Katniss.”

They touched down and Clint could see Phil stow his handgun and set off toward them.

“How about now?” Clint asked, not desperate because he didn’t do desperate.

Tony looked at him then shrugged. “Works for me.” He gestured one heavy, metallic arm at one of several waiting SHIELD cars. “Meet me back at my lab and we’ll fix you up good.”

Clint nodded at him, grateful to Tony more for not asking than for the help, and then waved at Phil. “I’ll see you later, sir. Bow-related emergency.”

He swung himself into the car and pulled the door closed before he could hear Phil’s reply.

***

In Clint’s defence, he’d only been planning on an hour or two’s grace to clear his head before going back to SHIELD to face the music.

Somehow he’d forgotten the way time sort of warped in Tony’s lab, so it was three a.m. by the time they came crawling back out. On the plus side, Clint’s bow was now so stable that he could probably have had fucking malaria and still been able to take the shot.

Not that he was planning on ever letting himself fuck up like that again. Jesus Christ, he had to get a better handle on himself right now.

“Thanks, Stark,” Clint said off-hand, when they parted at the top of the stairs. Clint could hang out with the guy for hours when they had something to work on, but he still wasn’t good at the whole small talk thing, so it was probably safer to just go to bed rather than follow Tony into the kitchen.

Tony started talking to the dishwasher when he was sleep deprived. It was weird.

“No problem,” Tony told him, waving over his shoulder and heading off down the corridor. “Now go make up with your boyfriend or whatever.”

Clint stopped, blinked, tried not to gape. “What?” he called after Stark’s retreating back. Tony didn’t stop. “Stark!”

Tony disappeared around a corner and Clint decided against giving chase, because what would he say? Fuck, how did you know? would just confirm what was probably (hopefully) only Tony taking a shot in the dark.

Instead, he turned toward the elevators and added Tony potentially knowing about them to the list of things to worry about telling Phil.

It was a long fucking list.

Clint’s bedroom was dark when he reached it, and he could tell it was empty before the door was fully open. Not that he’d expected Phil to be waiting there for him. Obviously. It would have been more awkward if he was.

His phone was sitting in the middle of his unmade bed, exactly where he’d left it when they’d been called in this morning. He told himself not to think about how that meant Phil’s boxers were probably scrunched up on the floor on the other side of the bed, or that his t-shirt had to be somewhere around too.

There were three text messages waiting for him on his phone, the first two from Natasha:

19:37
Coulson’s worried. I won’t tell him anything but you should.

20:21
It might be too late. Coulson’s also v smart.


The third message was from Phil himself:

20:42
Clint, call me as soon as Stark lets you go. We need to talk.



Clint stared down at his phone.

Shit. He was going to get dumped.

He really didn’t want to get dumped.

Still, while he might be pretty good at avoidance, he wasn’t a coward. He forced himself to click out of messages, and was scrolling over to the call log when his phone vibrated with an incoming call.

Phil.

“Hey,” Clint said, keeping his voice even. “It’s pretty late.”

“I just found Stark making out with his coffee mug in the kitchen, I’m guessing you’re free?” Phil sounded pretty normal, if worryingly business-like for the middle of the night.

“Yeah, I’m. Of course I’m free for you,” Clint told him, hoping he sounded flirty.

Phil’s long breath there could have meant anything at all. “I’m coming up,” he said decisively.

“Should I slip into something pretty?” Clint asked but he was talking to empty air. “Huh. You hung up on me.” He ended his side of the call and dropped his phone back onto the bed.

First Phil hung up on him, and next he was going to dump him. Clint wasn’t enjoying tonight; last night had been way better.

He decided against stripping naked, covering himself in oil and hoping he could lure Phil into bed and make him forget everything else – he didn’t have any oil, and it sounded kind of gross – and settled for straightening the bed covers instead.

There was definitely a time, a pre-Phil time, when Clint hadn't found tucking in top sheets and smoothing down hospital corners soothing. When Phil broke up with him for having unreasonable sexual demands, Clint was probably going to flip the fuck out every time he saw a neatly pressed top sheet.

Phil knocked on the door, but didn’t follow it up by walking straight in, which was unusual. For all that he sometimes bitched about having no privacy, Clint didn’t like this new development.

“Hey,” Clint said, aiming for casual. He stepped aside to let Phil in, then took advantage of him passing close by to lean in and steal a kiss. He needed to stockpile them for winter, or something; for when Phil stopped wanting to kiss him.

Surprisingly, Phil didn’t dodge the kiss. He leaned into it and kissed Clint back, even keeping it going after Clint would have stepped back.

“Did you get your bow fixed?” Phil asked, after a minute. He still hadn’t moved back more than a couple of inches.

“Yeah, it’s.” Clint swallowed. Phil was gorgeous up close; it was distracting. “It’s good now.”

“Good.” Phil’s eyes tracked Clint’s, too intense for three a.m. but also heavy in the corners, his blinks coming slow. He was tired. Clint wondered where he’d been sitting, waiting for Clint to emerge. “Clint - ”

“Can we go to bed?” Clint interrupted. “I know you want to talk about shit and I swear I won’t run away if you want to do it now, but could we, can we, can we just sleep?”

He looked away from Phil as soon as he’d said it, embarrassed at saying something so fucking stupid. He didn’t like to be the reason Phil was sleep-deprived, though. It made protective instincts he usually tried to bury jump up and call him names.

“Clint,” Phil said again. He put his hand on Clint’s neck, heavy and irresistible when he forced Clint to face him again.

Clint forced his expression to go flat, not give away any tells. For some reason, that made Phil sigh.

“Yes.” Phil leaned in again, kissed Clint slow and careful with their lips barely parted. “Let’s go to bed.”

Clint wished that he’d told Phil some time that he loved him. He couldn’t say it now, but it would have been cool if Phil had known.

They undressed quietly. Clint kept thinking of smartass things to say, but he couldn’t make himself actually break the silence. He waited for Phil to crawl into bed, then went over to turn off the lights.

“You could just ask JARVIS,” Phil reminded him. Clint wasn’t sure if his voice sounded loud because Clint wasn’t expecting it, because he was nervous too, or just because it was dark.

“JARVIS is sleeping, Phil,” Clint told him, pretending to be shocked.

Phil laughed softly, and then it was easier for Clint to get into bed beside him. He lay down on his back, careful to keep to his own side instead of deliberately stealing all of Phil’s space the way he normally would.

After a minute, Phil sighed again, reached over and pushed at Clint’s shoulder. Clint went, rolling onto his side and letting Phil spoon up behind him.

“Give me your hands,” Phil said quietly in his ear.

Automatically, Clint held up his hands in the darkness, linking fingers with Phil when they fumbled their way together. After a second, and a slow, firm squeeze, Phil shook his hands free and wrapped them around Clint’s wrists.

Clint sucked in a breath, too surprised to hide it. Phil stroked firmly over the line of Clint’s bruises. Clint wasn’t surprised that he could find them perfectly in the dark, after only having seen them for a minute, tops.

“I’m sorry,” Phil said, lips brushing the back of Clint’s neck.

Clint wanted to ask what for, but didn’t. With Phil’s hands holding his wrists tight, squeezing off and on to a rhythm Clint couldn’t follow, he felt calm for the first time since this morning.

He decided not to rock the boat right now, just leaned back further into Phil’s chest and turned his head into his pillow.

Phil kissed the back of his ear, which should have been stupid, but just seemed practical when Phil did it.

“Go to sleep,” Clint murmured, already most of the way there himself.

“What else would I do?” Phil asked, sounding fond and amused.

Leave, Clint thought, but he didn’t say it. No sense giving Phil ideas.

***

When Clint woke up, his foggy brain told him he’d been asleep a long time, which was great, but also kind of worrying. Being woken up before dawn was the price you paid for sleeping next to Phil on a work night.

Clint had long since decided he was okay with that.

This morning, though, he opened his eyes and Phil was still beside him, sitting up in bed and frowning thoughtfully at his laptop.

“Um,” Clint said, clearing his dry throat and rolling onto his back. “Hey?”

“Good morning.” Phil reached out and mussed Clint’s hair without looking away from the screen. “Do you know what a Wartenberg Wheel is?”

Clint choked. Wow, that wasn’t something it was fair to ask him before he was all the way awake. “Yeah,” he tried. “I mean, um.” He sat up and leaned into Phil’s space. “What are you looking at?”

Phil pointed at the screen and yeah, okay, that was a pinwheel. Phil was researching pinwheels. And – Clint glanced up at the row of tabs he had open - apparently a whole load of other things.

“Phil,” Clint said slowly, leaning away again. “What’s all that?” He tried to make himself sound neutral and hopefully managed it. He was starting to hope, just slightly, but he didn’t want Phil to know that in case he was reading this all wrong.

Phil finally put the laptop down and turned to face him. “I thought I should do some research,” he said. He sounded nonchalant but the way he licked his top lip a couple times meant he was nervous. Clint appreciated that.

Clint swallowed. He couldn’t have this conversation in bed. He rolled up onto his knees, rubbed his hands on his thighs. “Why?”

Phil half-smiled. “I started putting things together yesterday. Then I ran it past Natasha, who would neither confirm or deny, but I’m right, aren’t I?” He waved back at the computer. “That’s what’s been missing for you, from… us.”

Clint’s first reaction was to feel seriously fucking stupid. Of course Phil had noticed something was missing too; no matter how Clint tried to fake it, apparently he just wasn’t good enough.

“I’m sorry,” he said, hating the way he sounded hurt. “I tried so hard to – ”

“Clint.” Phil poured a whole load of feelings into that one word. “Fuck. I’m saying this all wrong.” He knelt up too, reaching out for Clint. “Come here.”

Clint did, leaning into the kisses Phil pressed across his mouth. It was more careful and affectionate than Phil usually went in for; Clint wondered if it was the start of goodbye.

It was on the tip of Clint’s tongue to apologise again, to promise to get better at pretending to want what Phil wanted. He didn’t let himself do that.

“It’s okay,” Clint said steadily. “I get that you don’t want all that.” It was his turn to wave at the laptop. “I swear I won’t make things awkward at work or anything – ”

“When what?” Phil asked. He dropped his hand down to Clint’s bare knee and squeezed. “When I break up with you for getting turned on when I hold you down?”

The way he said it, soft and teasing, like Clint was being stupid, didn’t make Clint feel better. It just made him feel more and more lost.

Phil,” he said seriously. “It’s more than that.”

Phil’s mouth twisted. “Sorry,” he said, “I’m trying to sound calm and confident. Am I just coming across like an asshole?”

Clint shook his head. “No, you sound like you. I’m just freaking out.”

Phil laughed softly. He squeezed Clint’s hand this time. “Come on,” he said, “let’s get out of here, I’m taking you to breakfast. We can start this conversation again.”

Clint frowned, confused. “It’s still Thursday, right? What about work?”

“Mental health day,” Phil told him, closing his laptop and standing up. “I already emailed Hill about it.”

“Since when does SHIELD have mental health days?” Clint asked. If that was a standard thing, he had missed so many days off. The whole Loki-and-Phil thing should have given him a month all by itself.

“Since I emailed Hill about it this morning,” Phil told him patiently. “And since the Director is in deep cover in South America and can’t be contacted to contradict me.”

Despite the anxiety bubbling in his stomach, Clint laughed. “Go you, sir. Sticking it to the man.”

The corner of Phil’s mouth twitched. Then his expression turned curious. “When you call me sir?” he asked.

“That’s a work thing,” Clint interrupted quickly, because that was less embarrassing than it’s the closest thing to an endearment I can make myself say. “Anyway, I thought we weren’t talking about this yet.”

“No, you’re right.” Phil nodded. He pulled his shirt off over his head then held out his hand. “Come on, let’s shower.”

“Together?” Clint asked. This was the weirdest maybe-break-up he’d ever had.

Phil nodded firmly. “I’m not sure you won’t run off otherwise.”

Clint wouldn’t. Probably. But he wasn’t going to turn down a chance to get his hands on a naked, wet and soapy Phil.

“Yeah,” he said, “better chain me to the towel rail,” because the easiest thing to do was turn it into a joke.

“Maybe,” Phil said thoughtfully. “We’ll talk about that later too.”

Clint stopped in his tracks, watching as Phil turned and headed for the bathroom. “I’m banging my head against a metaphorical brick wall right now,” he called.

“That’s fine,” Phil called back. “Now hurry up. The water’s warm.”

Clint waited another minute, trying to sort this all out in his head. Then he gave up and followed Phil into the shower.

***

Phil did actually take him out to breakfast. They went to an anonymous diner with no line at eleven a.m. on a Thursday morning, and Phil ordered the pumpkin waffles without looking at a menu.

“What?” Phil asked after Clint had ordered chocolate chip pancakes and ignored the look Phil gave him. “I used to come here a lot when I was single. Their coffee is to die for.”

He said it so matter-of-factly. “What are you now?” Clint asked, picking up his coffee mug because he wasn’t sure what else to do with his hands. It was damn good coffee.

Phil just looked at him. “Having a relationship discussion in a diner in downtown New York. But otherwise… not single?”

Clint nodded, breathing out. “Okay.” His knee was jumping under the table; he curled his toes, trying to stop it.

He drank some more coffee, watching under his eyelashes as Phil did the same. Clint wasn’t dumb; he knew what this was. One of the first things Phil had ever taught him about interrogation was that people were more likely to listen and less likely to make a scene in a public place.

“What do you want to know?” Clint asked eventually. He knew when he was being played, but the silence was getting to him. Just like it was supposed to.

“Nothing.” Phil shook his head. “I want to tell you something.” He leaned over the table and put his hand over Clint’s.

Clint stared; they didn’t usually do that in public.

“When I was twenty-four, maybe twenty-five, straight out of the military, I met a woman who told me she enjoyed being whipped.”

Clint’s head snapped up. “Okay?” he said slowly. “Is this where you tell me you’re sorry but you hated it?”

Phil shook his head. “No, I loved it. So did she. Unfortunately, she turned out not to love me very much.”

Clint had kind of a problem working out how that was possible. He took in the way Phil’s eyes were cast down, a little sad, and decided to muddle his way through trying to tell Phil that.

Phil squeezed his hand.

“You, um.” Clint tap-tap-tapped his thumb against the side of Phil’s hand. “You liked it?”

“Yeah,” Phil said quietly. “I’m not pretending to be an expert. We never did anything other than that – or, well, sometimes she liked me to use my hand to spank her – and I don’t know what it is that you need. But I’d be interested in trying, if you wouldn’t mind being patient with me.”

Clint shifted in his seat. “I don’t like whips,” he said then stopped, coughing.

The waitress had suddenly appeared behind Phil’s shoulder, and her eyes were kind of wide.

Phil and Clint watched in lip-biting silence while she set their breakfast down on the table and flashed Clint a grin before bouncing away.

Clint started laughing first. Phil joined in a second or two later.

“Crap,” Phil muttered, hand over his face. “Now I’m going to have to find a new brunch place.”

“Hey,” Clint said, peeling his hand out of Phil’s so he could hold it up in surrender. “You brought us here.”

“True.” Phil picked up his knife and fork, cutting around a square from the corner of his waffle. “So. You don’t like whips?”

Clint had barely stopped laughing, now he started again. “Dude,” he said, shaking his head. Not that he was objecting to Phil’s practicality; eating and discussing their kinks seemed like a great combination of duties. “No, I don’t like whips. I don’t like that kind of pain.”

That kind,” Phil prompted gently.

Clint hesitated. This was going way better than he ever could have dreamed, but Phil sounded like he’d had one kinky relationship, not like he needed it to feel right in his body like Clint did.

“I like being spanked,” Clint said, remembering to lower his voice this time, “and I like nipple clamps and wax and knife play and all that shit. There was a guy in the circus who liked whips too much. So I’m not into that.”

Phil nodded and didn’t press for details. Clint appreciated that. “You like having your hands trapped.”

“More than anything,” Clint told him, maybe too quickly. Oops. He cleared his throat. “Nothing that’s going to cause permanent damage, obviously, but yeah. Yeah, I… like that.”

Phil ate some more of his waffles and nudged Clint into starting his pancakes. “When I handcuffed you the other day?” he asked.

“It fucked me up pretty badly,” Clint agreed, faux-casually.

Phil put down his fork with a clatter, only a tiny one, but still less controlled than Phil normally was. “I didn’t realise.”

Clint rolled his eyes. “Duh.” He ate some more pancakes; they really were excellent. “Don’t worry about it. You didn’t know and I’m good again now.”

“I read something about subdrop?” Phil asked carefully.

Clint nodded. “Yeah, it can be a bitch.” He watched Phil’s mouth twist up, all upset and guilty. “Look, it’s really okay. You didn’t know and Natasha fixed me up, so.”

“Natasha?” Phil asked, looking at him closely.

Oh yeah, there was another thing they maybe needed to talk about. “I didn’t have sex with her or anything. But she’s, she’s good at knowing what I need, I guess.”

“I’m glad,” Phil said, looking like he meant it. He pushed his plate away, breakfast mostly gone, and put his hand in the centre of the table. After a beat, Clint touched his fingertips to Phil’s. “I’d like to learn what you need,” Phil told him. “If that’s okay with you? I’m not prepared to lose you over this.”

Clint’s heart was beating too fast. He actually felt more anxious now that there was a shot at hope. “Me either,” he admitted quietly. “But if it’s not working for you, you need to tell me, okay?”

Phil nodded. “Yes, of course.”

“No, see.” Clint leaned closer, totally serious. “You have to promise me. I get that I’m the one who’s going to be tied up or whatever we decide we want to try, but if it doesn’t feel right for you, it could fuck you up too, okay? Promise?”

“Promise,” Phil told him, eyes locked on Clint.

Suddenly, Clint wanted nothing more than to get his mouth on Phil’s. They’d made out for a good fifteen minutes in the shower this morning, but now it felt like a lifetime ago.

“Can we go now?” Clint asked, already half out of his chair.

“Yes.” Phil threw some money onto the table and followed Clint out. Their waitress held the door for them, tipping Clint a wink that he returned easily, putting an extra bit of ridiculousness into it to make her laugh.

Phil cleared his throat and reached back, snagging Clint’s wrist. “Come on, Barton, now’s not the time to develop social skills.”

Clint laughed, letting himself be towed. “My social skills are second to none, sir,” he complained, tucking his hand into Phil’s back pocket, just for a second, because they were the anonymous faces of the Avengers and no one would recognise them here. “Just like, you know, the Hulk’s. Or Thor’s.”

Phil knocked his elbow into Clint’s. “I’ll see you back at the Tower, later on,” he said. “There are a few things I need to do.”

“Okay?” Clint said uncertainly. He still really wanted to get his mouth back on Phil’s mouth. “I thought you’d called in to work.”

“I’m going to the library,” Phil told him, smiling slightly. “And then, if that’s successful, the sex store on Seventh Avenue.”

“Woah,” Clint said, “okay.” He didn’t know why he was surprised; there was nothing as determined as Phil Coulson when he didn’t know something he felt he needed to. “You want me come with?”

Phil shook his head. They’d reached a subway station and Phil stopped, stepping out the way so he didn’t block the stairs. “I’m just going to do some preliminary research. I’m sure I’ll come to you with a lot of stupid questions once I know what to ask.”

“That’s fine,” Clint assured him. “No problem at all. Talk to me about sex any time you like.”

Phil rolled his eyes. He patted his pockets and frowned. “Lend me your Metro card?”

Clint pretended to gasp. “You mean you came outside without enough equipment to survive a real life Day After Tomorrow?” he asked.

He felt kind of giddy with relief, or potential relief, anyway. Sure, Phil could start looking into things and decide it wasn’t for him, but there was a possibility that he wouldn’t; Clint would take that.

“A Metro card wouldn’t help me in an ice age,” Phil told him seriously, accepting the card that Clint pushed into his hand and also the brush of fingers across his palm that Clint couldn’t resist.

“See you back home,” Clint said, then wanted to take the words back. Stark Tower was his home (sort of) but it wasn’t Phil’s.

Phil just smiled though. “Yeah, see you later. I won’t be too long,” he said and headed down the stairs.

Huh, Clint thought. This was why relationships were so much harder than combat missions. No matter how well he thought he understood the plays, they never worked out how he was expecting.

In this case, that might not be too bad a thing, he thought, and decided to swing by the park to climb some trees and scare some pigeons before heading home.

***

It was late by the time Phil got back, a couple of brown paper bags in his hands that made Clint buzz with curiosity.

Unfortunately, he’d just sat down for an after-dinner beer with Bruce and couldn’t exactly jump up and start demanding to know what Phil had bought.

“Dr Banner,” Phil said, nodding at him, “Barton.”

“Hi,” Bruce said, smiling at him. Because he wasn’t Tony, he didn’t make any comments about Phil turning up here without a convenient excuse, but he did look curious. Or maybe amused.

It wouldn’t have surprised Clint to whole lot to discover that everyone knew about them, to be honest. Clint was a goddamn professional on the clock, but even he couldn’t playact twenty-four hours a day and he maybe hadn’t worked too hard not to slip up.

“There’s curry in the fridge,” Clint told Phil, leaning over the back of the sofa to talk to Phil properly.

Phil shook his head. “I grabbed some dinner while I was out. Are you busy?”

Clint shook his head. He’d barely started his beer, but he put it down, realising he might need a clear head tonight.

“Doc,” he said, twisting back to look at Bruce. “You mind if I – ”

Bruce waved him on. “Go on. Tony leaves me for Pepper all the time; I’m used to it.”

Oh yeah, he definitely knew. Clint checked in with Phil, but he didn’t seem worried.

“Thanks, man,” Clint said, holding out his bottle to Bruce, which Bruce took with a wry little smile. Of course, everything Bruce did was wry. Or angry. He’d never demonstrated wryly angry yet, but Clint was sure he could manage it.

Phil hadn’t put down his bags, and he switched them to the side furthest from Clint when Clint joined him in the doorway.

“Really?” Clint asked. “You think I can’t take that from you?”

“You probably can,” Phil agreed mildly. “It’ll be more fun if you don’t.”

Clint smiled at him sideways. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Phil agreed, nodding. Clint bumped their arms together and set off for the elevators. You had to love a man with confidence.

***

“Okay,” Clint said, sitting cross-legged on the bed and resisting the urge to bounce. “What’d you buy me?”

“Who says it’s for you?” Phil asked, but he put the bag down in front of Clint. He waited until Clint had reached out for it, then seemed to have second thoughts. “There’s no obligation for us to use any of this. These were just a few things I found interesting.”

“Phil,” Clint said softly. “Let me look before you start freaking out, okay?”

“I’m not freaking out,” Phil muttered. He laughed under his breath, in that way that meant he was and he knew they both knew it.

There were books at the top of the bag, shiny, slim ones with titles like The Ultimate Guide to Kink. Clint grinned and handed them to Phil and didn’t say anything about Phil’s need to research everything before he did it.

He reached into the bag again and felt his eyes widen when his hand closed around something hard and cool and familiar.

“Don’t want to use yours again?” he asked pulling out a set of heavy-duty cuffs, thick bands of black, butter-soft leather, sturdy D-rings and a spring-loaded metal clip between them.

Clint’s breath felt short, his wrists already tingling as he imaged straining them against the cuffs, the rings refusing the give.

“The packaging says they’re inescapable but I imagine they weren’t tested on you,” Phil said dryly. When Clint looked up at him, he was watching Clint carefully.

“Yeah,” Clint agreed softly, hooking his fingertips through the rings. “What else did you buy me?”

This time, Phil didn’t bother arguing that they weren’t for Clint. He picked up the bags and tipped them out. A three-headed pinwheel, small and cold and surprisingly heavy, landed on Clint’s knee, but he was distracted by the set of long, coloured candles.

“Really?” he asked, picking them up. They didn’t stop his breath in his lungs the same way that the handcuffs did, but he knew the wax would, once it hit his skin.

Phil shrugged. “You said it was something you enjoyed.”

“Yeah.” Clint piled Phil’s goodies up in his lap and scooted closer. “That’s kind of a big one though. Maybe we should start smaller?”

Phil opened his mouth, closed it again, eventually shook his head. “We’ll do whatever we’re both comfortable with,” he agreed, “but we already know we both enjoy it when I hold you down and fuck you. I thought next time – which doesn’t have to be tonight – we could try something more.”

Clint’s mouth was dry. He wished he’d kept that beer. “You’re not just doing this for me, right?” he asked seriously. “Because you don’t need to, we talked about how – ”

“I’m not just doing this for you,” Phil promised him. “I’m forty-eight years old; it’s time I explored my sexuality, don’t you think?”

Clint laughed. “You’re already a bisexual super-spy with a tie fetish and a crush on a ninety-year-old super-soldier, what all else are you hoping to discover about yourself?”

“I don’t know,” Phil said. He arched an eyebrow. “Want to help me find out?”

Fuck, Phil was good. Just like that, it was no longer just about helping Clint out; it was Clint’s opportunity to help Phil. “You’re an asshole,” Clint told him, completely appreciative. “Come here.”

Phil slipped an arm around his waist, pressing them together. His hand splayed out across the centre of Clint’s back while they kissed.

“Should we talk about what we’re going to do?” Phil asked once they’d broken apart. They hadn’t gone far from each other. Clint’s forehead resting against Phil’s because Phil was in serious contention for boyfriend of the year, and Clint wasn’t keen on letting him get too far away.

“Yeah? I guess.” Clint forced himself to rocked back on his heels. “I mean, spontaneous is good. Spontaneous is great but planning is sexy too?”

Phil laughed softly. “I’ll make sure Sitwell knows that the next time he’s planning the annual SHIELD company picnic.”

“Yeah, how about no. Planning is sexy when you’re doing it. Asshole. For the record, though - ” Clint spread his hands, indicating their new toys. “You want to use any of these on me, I am absolutely on board with that.”

Phil’s shoulders relaxed, just a fraction. Probably Clint wasn’t supposed to notice, but Clint noticed everything. “What about this?” he asked, picking something off the bed that Clint had overlooked. It was a roll of tape, black like the comforter so it had blended in.

“Blindfold?” Clint guessed. He wasn’t too keen on the idea of tape in his hair, but he was pretty sure Phil would already know that.

“Bondage tape,” Phil told him. He pulled off the plastic wrapping and unrolled a strip. “The woman in the store said it’s good because it only sticks to itself. It won’t mark your skin or rip out your arm hair or anything.” He rolled it around his hand to demonstrate. The tape sat loosely on his skin but as soon as he pulled it tight and overlapped it, it stuck tight to itself, binding his fingers together.

Clint made an involuntary noise.

“Yeah?” Phil asked quietly, unwinding the tape from his hand.

It was all Clint could do to stop himself holding his hands out to be bound right now. It was only the fact that Phil would probably want him naked first that stopped him.

“Yeah,” Clint said, voice deliberately very, very level. “Please.” He could feel the familiar bubble of turned-on anticipation in his belly and he knew his stare was getting a little fixed, zeroing on Phil.

Phil looked back at him and cleared his throat. “Do you want to start?”

Clint nodded. Then he forced himself to be unselfish about this. “If you do. If you’re sure.”

Phil rolled his eyes, gentle and chiding. “How many more times? We can keep negotiating as we go along, right? We don’t need to plan everything right now?”

“No.” Phil started to pile the books and things he’d bought on the floor by the bed so Clint helped him. “I mean, sometimes, you can plan out a whole scene but. Spontaneity is good. I feel like I maybe already said all this?”

“You did,” Phil agreed. He cleared his throat. “Take off your clothes, then?”

It was too much of a question to be really hot. Or it should have been. Phil didn’t sound hesitant; for all that he was still testing the waters, there was command in his voice.

“Okay,” Clint agreed, starting on his shirt, folding it automatically before moving on to his pants. Natasha had a thing about not leaving a mess and she’d drilled it into Clint pretty good.

“Good,” Phil said quietly when Clint piled his shirt and trousers on the desk, for lack of a better place to put them.

Clint was still in his boxers and socks but he hesitated, not sure if Phil was changing the directive. “Sir?”

“I’m sure I didn’t say stop, Barton,” Phil said pleasantly. “You’re not naked yet.”

Clint bit his lip, grinning down at the floor so Phil wouldn’t see, and shucked his underwear, kicked off his socks.

“Come here,” Phil said, holding out his hand. Clint stepped up to him, sucking in a breath when Phil ran a hand all the way down from the dip of Clint’s collarbone to the base of his dick.

Clint wasn’t all the way hard yet, but he didn’t think he was going to have any problem getting there, not with the way Phil cupped his balls, careful but certain of his welcome.

“Phil?” Clint breathed, looking up at Phil and licking his lips.

“I’m looking at you,” Phil told him, touching Clint’s cheek with his other hand. “You don’t normally stand still long enough to let me.”

Clint could have made a wisecrack there, but he didn’t. He stood still, just breathing, while Phil looked for whatever it was he was hoping to see. Clint had no idea what it might be, but the idea of Phil really seeing him wasn’t as terrifying as it probably should have been.

“Sit on the bed,” Phil said, after a minute or so that felt much longer. Clint's skin was itchy and restless under Phil’s gaze.

Clint sat. He watched Phil pick up the tape and immediately offered up his hands, palms down. He didn’t know what Phil had in mind, but he was pretty sure he wanted it.

“Hands in front or behind?” Phil asked. Clint opened his mouth to say that that was kind of Phil’s call but Phil shook his head. “In your professional opinion.”

“In front,” Clint told him after thinking it through. He really liked the idea of binding his hands behind his back, the extra pull in his shoulder, but it would be harder to get himself free that way, and there was still always the chance that Phil would freak out.

Phil nodded. “Put your hands together.” He put his hands on Clint’s wrists, guiding them where he wanted them anyway, pressed together palms and forearms, softer skin prickling. “I need you to tell me if you don’t like this, okay?”

Clint nodded automatically, watching rapt as Phil looped a strip of tape around Clint’s wrists, tying them tight and then working his way up, binding Clint’s hands together, just his thumbs and the tips of his fingers free, then down again, arms immobilised almost to the elbow.

The tape felt cool, slick and almost silky. It wasn’t particularly substantial, not like cuffs or some of the rope Clint had used, but it was strong. Clint pulled experimentally and the tape flexed like a second skin but it didn’t give. He choked back a sound.

“Okay?” Phil asked quickly. “Is that too tight?”

Clint tipped his head back, staring up at Phil. He was probably telegraphing way too many of the things he felt about Phil right now.

“It’s great,” he promised. He couldn’t move his arms at all. A familiar feeling of panic, not-panic rose up in his throat and he rode it, breathing out and gasping a huff of a laugh.

His adrenaline was already starting to spike. He felt fantastic.

Phil’s hand cupped his cheek again, and Clint tipped his face into it. He wondered if touching him there was something Phil found reassuring.

“What does it feel like?” Phil asked him, less like he wanted dirty talk, more like he really wanted to know.

“Like.” Clint shook his head, trying to think of the words. “It’s grounding? It’s like being up a mile off the ground but completely steady.”

“Safe?” Phil asked.

“So safe,” Clint promised, so keen for Phil to know that that he talked right over the end of Phil’s question. He stared up at Phil, trying to read his expression. “It’s like, when I’m like this, I don’t have to make any decisions and I’m, I don’t know, wanted and stuff?”

Phil nodded. He looked thoughtful but Clint didn’t know if it was the good kind or the bad.

Clint nudged his knee against Phil’s. “I’m kind of asking a lot of you, I know that.”

“No,” Phil told him quickly. “No, I have no problem with you asking. I just hope I can live up to it.”

Clint looked down pointedly at his arms, at the way Phil had gone out and researched all this shit, just for him. “You already are.” He tipped his head up pointedly, hoping Phil would get the message.

Phil smiled slowly. “Did you want something?”

Clint licked his lips. “A kiss?”

“A kiss, what?” Phil stepped back, just far enough that Clint couldn’t touch him with his legs anymore.

Clint didn’t like the suddenly-cool, empty air all around himself. “Can I kiss you, please? Sir?”

Phil’s eyes darkened, just a fraction. That was interesting but Clint wasn’t going to press him on it, not when his skin felt like it was pulling away from his bones, trying to get to Phil.

“Yes,” Phil said, but he still didn’t move closer.

Clint could work with that. He pushed up onto the balls of his feet, flexing his thigh muscles, and lifted himself off the bed, just far enough that he could mash his mouth against Phil’s. It wasn’t graceful, but it didn’t need to be; it just needed to be contact.

Phil leaned right into the kiss, sucking hard on Clint’s bottom lip, pinching it between his teeth until Clint was very aware of the blood flowing just beneath the skin, of the way that Phil could bite just a tiny bit sharper and send blood pouring down Clint’s chin.

“Do you have a safeword?” Phil asked suddenly, pulling back.

Clint would have laughed if he were more present in his head. It was as if Phil had a checklist in his head that he kept getting derailed from. “Yeah,” he said, blinking and sinking back down onto the bed. “Nat made me.”

He’d never bothered before; Natasha had been furious when she found that out.

“Good,” Phil told him. He kissed Clint again, face hovering just in front of Clint’s when he pulled back. “Do you want to use it or pick another one?”

Clint shrugged, movements made jerky by the way his arms were tucked in close. “I like it.” He smiled up at Phil. “It’s Budapest.”

Phil laughed, shaking his head. “All right. At least I know we’re unlikely to accidentally say that in bed.”

“Right,” Clint agreed. That was why he and Natasha had picked it too. Except, since they’d stopped sleeping together, they’d reclaimed it, kind of. They dropped Budapest into conversations when they wanted to remind each other that they were there. It was a safe word for them these days, not a safeword.

He was okay with sharing it with Phil, and he was pretty sure Nat would be too.

“All right,” Phil said again. “And you’ll use it if – ”

Yes,” Clint told him. “I might use it right now if you don’t hurry the fuck up.” He didn’t mean it. The fact that Phil cared about this shit warmed Clint’s heart in places he’d been sure were long dead.

“Good.” Phil nodded thoughtfully. His eyes roved around the bed and when he nodded again, he looked like he had a plan. “Lie on your stomach.”

Clint obeyed, rolling over awkwardly since he couldn’t use his hands to help. He had to settle with his arms pinned between his chest and the comforter, and it was uncomfortable but not unbearably so.

“Does that feel okay?” Phil asked. There was nothing soft about the question, just practical.

“Feels fine,” Clint promised, tilting his head down until all he could see was comforter.

“Do you want me to tell you what I’m going to do or surprise you?” Phil asked, still in that same clipped, Agent Coulson tone. Clint was going to be fucked at work from now on.

“Surprise me,” Clint decided quickly.

Phil’s hand rested on Clint’s flank. “It won’t be anything we haven’t discussed tonight.”

Clint nodded. “S’okay, I trust you.”

There was a beat where Phil didn’t do or say anything else, but then he shifted suddenly, stepping back from the bed. Clint closed his eyes and breathed and forced himself to keep still, despite how much he wanted to fidget with anticipation.

The fact that Phil started with a spank wasn’t a surprise. The fact that it landed on the sole of his foot, not his ass or either thigh, kind of was.

The slap jolted through him, from the arch of his foot all the way up to the startled sound that he barely swallowed down.

Phil hummed and then did it again, a stinging clash of flesh on flesh, and Clint’s leg twitched, muscles tensing then immediately relaxing.

The next slap landed on the other foot, higher this time, right below his toes. It didn’t work as well for him, the skin there thicker and less sensitive.

“No?” Phil asked, quietly like he was talking to himself. “Okay. We can – ” This time, the hit landed on the back of Clint’s ankle. It stung like fuck but he didn’t have time to react before the next came, and then the next. Phil was working his way higher and higher until he reached the backs of Clint’s thighs.

Clint only realised he’d let his legs drop open in response when Phil slapped him hard on his inner left thigh, the tip of his forefinger just scratching the edge of Clint’s left ball.

“Oh fuck,” Clint breathed, curling around his bound arms and groaning into the mattress.

“I can see my handprints on your skin,” Phil told him, sounding a bit lost and dazed himself.

“Fuck, Phil,” Clint mumbled, turning his head blindly looking for Phil.

“What?” Phil asked. He cupped his hand around the side of Clint’s neck, forcing him to keep his eyes on Phil, even though it was a strain on his neck muscles. “Tell me what you’d like to do.”

Clint’s eyes started to drift away from Phil’s so Phil tightened his grip, thumb pressing hard into the back of Clint’s skull.

“I didn’t say you were going to get what you want,” Phil reminded him.

Clint stared at him, suddenly riveted by every flicker of expression crossing Phil’s face.

He tried to get his brain back online. “Hurt me more?” he asked. “I just… more?”

Phil’s eyes went very dark, and Clint had somehow earned a kiss for that, though he wasn’t sure how. “Lie back down,” Phil told him. “Tell me how you feel right now.”

Clint groaned. He fucking hated being made to talk when he was this close to flying out of his head. “Good,” he said, and hoped that would be enough.

He could hear Phil moving around the room, a soft click that he was pretty sure was Phil lifting the lid on his laptop, and then a rustle of plastic.

“What?” Clint asked, letting the question hang.

“Preparation,” Phil told his shortly. “Keep going. Tell me about your hands, how do they feel.”

“Fine,” Clint decided, after the couple of seconds it took to relocate his hands and then the part of his brain that registered stuff like that. “Warm. Kind of achy.”

Another rustle, and then the unmistakable snap of a lighter. Clint hadn’t smoked in twenty years, but he still knew that sound. “And your feet?”

Clint wondered if Phil was doing this deliberately. Making Clint think about parts of his body was waking him up out of the place he’d been sinking into in his head. He wanted to go back there but he couldn’t, not until Phil wanted him to.

“Hot. Tingly.” Clint turned his head since Phil hadn’t told him he couldn’t look. “Phil, please.”

Phil turned around from the laptop he’d been kneeling in front of. He was holding a lit candle in his hand: the white one, the one that would hurt least. Phil had definitely done his research; Clint just wished he’d been there to see it.

“You promised to tell me when something isn’t working for you, remember?” Phil reminded him. His eyes kept flicking back to the candle flame like he couldn’t completely drag his eyes away.

Crap, so he had. Clint actually kind of enjoyed dragging himself past the point he was comfortable with, using stubbornness as masochism, but he had promised. He should probably be good this first time.

“Stop making me answer questions?” he asked. “I can’t… it’s not fun.”

Phil nodded seriously, looking like he was cataloguing that away in his memory. “Okay,” he agreed. “Do me a favour in return. Roll onto your back.”

Clint went, using his shoulder and the muscles in his back to pivot himself around. He rested his hands on his chest and let his legs splay.

“Good,” Phil said softly. When Clint looked back up at him, he was – holy shit – tilting the candle, holding it a very regulation eighteen inches above the back of his own hand and letting wax drip slowly onto his skin.

Phil hissed, shaking out his hand then frowned curiously at the faint red mark Clint could see forming where the wax had landed. “I actually don’t know how that should feel,” Phil admitted, making a face at himself. “Also I’m having bad baby formula associations.”

Clint huffed out a laugh. He nodded down at his own expanse of naked skin. “Try it on me, I’ll tell you.”

“Will you?” Phil asked, tipping the candle again, deftly controlling the melting wax.

“Promise,” Clint said, meeting his eye.

Phil stood up and carried the candle carefully over to the bed. He sat down on the comforter near Clint’s hip and reached out for Clint’s bound hands. Pulling them closer, he repeated the tipping process, clear wax dripping onto Clint’s exposed knuckles.

It was hot and it stung but it was nowhere close to unbearable. It didn’t do much of anything for him, actually, because knuckles weren’t exactly a sexy zone.

“Try that on my balls,” he suggested, mostly just to see what Phil would say.

“Or not,” Phil said immediately, making Clint smile at him. “I was thinking your thighs.”

Clint swallowed. That worked too.

“Yes?” Phil prompted.

Clint nodded. “Yes.”

“Okay.” Phil took a breath. He looked nervous. Not uncertain or unwilling or anything that might make this one giant mistake, but definitely nervous. Then he shifted backwards, straddled Clint’s lower legs and dribbled a thin line of wax down Clint’s right thigh.

Clint inhaled sharply, starting to draw his knee up toward his chest and forcing it back down.

“Good?” Phil asked.

Good,” Clint promised. He wanted to ask Phil to bring the candle closer, to make it hurt more, but he knew Phil, knew he wouldn’t do it. “Again.”

Instead of following along, Phil narrowed his eyes and straightened the candle up. “Are you giving me orders now?” Phil asked, sounding dangerously amused.

Clint watched the wax roll down the outside of the candle until it hit the space between two of Phil’s fingers and couldn’t stop himself making a protesting noise even though Phil didn’t give any sign of how much that must have hurt.

“No,” Clint said quickly. He shook his head. “No, Phil, I… Are you burned?”

Phil switched the candle to his other hand and held his right up so Clint could see. The webbing between his fore- and middle fingers was pink but the wax flaked off easily when Phil worried at it with his thumb.

Clint nodded and relaxed back into the bed. Phil hurting him was one thing – a great thing, potentially – but Phil getting hurt in the process made Clint’s skin crawl.

“That’s it, that’s good,” Phil said softly and poured another line of wax, criss-crossing it over the first.

Clint groaned and felt his thigh muscle tense, throbbing with the need to peel the wax away, stop the burning, except he couldn’t, wouldn’t, except it felt awesome and he choked on the feeling of the pain seeping away, leaving him strung out and floating.

“Good,” Phil said again, almost to himself, and then he lifted his free hand and raked his nails through the hardening wax, tugging at skin and the fine hair covering Clint’s thigh, blunt nails scraping newly sensitive skin.

Clint groaned, cock twitching, suddenly and sharply reminding him that it was still there, still waiting for attention.

“Phil,” Clint begged, no idea what he was asking for but needing it. The edges of his vision were hazy but he could make out Phil still, watching him like he wanted to take notes or film him or… shit, Clint didn’t know. He couldn’t think.

“You look gorgeous,” Phil said, completely sincerely and poured a pool of wax into the hollow of Clint’s hipbone.

It was almost too much, which meant that it was almost enough, and Clint bit his already-bruised lip bloody so he didn’t cry out too loud. Pooled, the wax was thicker; it felt like it was burning straight through his skin down to the bone, like it was going to burn straight through but –

But it wasn’t, obviously. Because Phil was here, Phil was looking out for him and he wouldn’t let Clint get more hurt than he needed to be.

“That’s too much,” Phil told him, like Clint might not have noticed – Phil had noticed; it was okay – and dragged his fingers through the wax, smoothing it out between their skin, taking away the sharp, stinging pain of the burn.

“Phil,” Clint said again, and then Phil’s mouth was on Clint’s throbbing hip, sucking kisses over the tight, sensitive skin and Clint was just fucking gone. He was pretty sure Phil was talking to him but it seemed like too much effort to listen, he just let himself get rolled over, back onto his stomach.

More wax now, this time on his ass, then the backs of his thighs and the small of his back – which, weirdly was the most intense, satisfying pain yet, good enough to have him groaning down into the bed, rubbing his hips helplessly against the comforter while Phil scraped the wax off again, getting freer with his nails as time wore on.

“Stop that,” Phil said, slapping Clint hard on the ass, right over a freshly burned patch of skin.

Clint moaned, managing to stop rubbing himself off with the kind of effort he normally kept for herculean, saving-the-world-type efforts.

Phil leaned forward, mouth brushing Clint’s ear. “Don’t come until I tell you to,” he said quietly. “You showed me you could do that the other night, remember?”

Clint nodded quickly; he was way beyond words.

“Clint?” Phil repeated. There was just enough of a question in his voice to make Clint drag his eyes open.

It didn’t do a lot of good, since he couldn’t focus, but he managed to kiss back – kind of – when Phil kissed him, which seemed to satisfy Phil that he was still in here somewhere, anyway.

“I’m going to fuck you now,” Phil told him, “but you can’t come.”

Clint was apparently beyond moaning even, but he managed it somehow. He’d been curled forward for a long while now, and his muscles all protested when Phil hooked an arm across his chest and pulled him backward, up onto his haunches and then further back into Phil’s lap.

Clint just dropped his head onto Phil’s shoulder and let himself be draped wherever Phil wanted him. Apparently where Phil wanted him was just like this, chest bowed out and ass nestled into Phil’s hips, Phil’s cock nudging between his legs and the scratchy material of Phil’s pants rubbing the still-raw slap and burn marks covering Clint’s thighs.

Phil kept one arm braced across Clint’s chest, and the other hand dropped down to Clint’s ass. Clint didn’t remembering him putting down the candle or picking up the lube, but Phil’s fingers were wet and slick now so it must have happened.

“How much lube do you need?” Phil asked, fingering Clint with much less care than he had yesterday.

Or, no, that wasn’t right. There was still definitely care there; just none of the unnecessary gentleness that might have set Clint’s teeth on edge.

“None,” Clint told him, rolling his head and pressing the word into the side of Phil’s neck. It was a lie, but he wanted it to be true.

Phil pinched his nipple. Hard. If that was supposed to make Clint behave, it missed its mark.

“Here,” Phil said, pulling his fingers free, “sit back and – fuck.”

“Fuck,” Clint agreed, sinking down all the way on Phil’s cock in one smooth, too-fast move.

“Shit,” Phil hissed, sliding his hand up Clint’s chest and fitting his hand lightly around Clint’s throat, squeezing with a barely-there pressure. “Careful.”

Clint worried his teeth against Phil’s throat, mindlessly scraping them across lightly stubbled skin. Phil was thick and solid inside him, thighs shaking against Clint’s with the effort of keeping his hips still.

“I’m not going to do all the work here,” Phil told him shortly. He dropped his hands to Clint’s hips and pushed his nails in toward the bone. “Come on, Barton, get me off.”

Clint’s stomach turned over, horny and exhausted and so very willing to do exactly what Phil wanted. He dug his knees into the bed and started to fuck himself hard on Phil’s cock, rolling his hips and deliberately avoiding his own prostate because Phil had told him not to come and so Clint wasn’t going to come.

Phil was making harsh noises in Clint’s ear, hands catching and releasing on Clint’s hips, letting Clint have control of the pace but reminding him that he was there.

Like Clint could have forgotten.

“That’s it, that’s, fuck – ” Phil’s hands rubbed along Clint’s thighs, following the movement, scratching and pinching in time with Clint’s thrusts.

It was much better than anything that Clint had had in so long. His cock was leaking steadily, his balls tight. He needed to come but he didn’t want to, not until Phil said it was okay.

He squeezed tight around Phil, grinding down into his lap, rolling his hips, pulling out all the tricks he knew to make Phil come apart inside him.

“Clint,” Phil groaned, thrusting up once, uncontrolled, into Clint. “Clint.”

There was nothing Clint wanted more than to get his hands on Phil right now. He wanted to reach down between both their legs and play with Phil’s balls. Phil loved that and Clint wanted to make him feel great, wanted to do this as well as he could.

But his hands were tied and as much as he twisted his wrists and pulled against the tape, they weren’t going anywhere. He couldn’t hold back his whine of frustration but it didn’t slow the movements of his hips; he could find another way of getting Phil off, he knew he could.

He pushed up suddenly, rising up so that just the head of Phil’s cock was still inside, then sank down, fucking them both together while Phil grunted into his ear and touched him all over, exploring his chest and his belly and his cock.

“Phil,” Clint protested but Phil ignored him, looping his fingers lightly around the base of Clint’s dick.

“You’re doing so great,” Phil told him, craning his neck and kissing Clint’s mouth, “don’t come.”

“Won’t,” Clint breathed, pushing through the feeling of Phil’s fingers on his cock, skin on skin and so damn good.

Clint’s legs were starting to feel the strain, but he would keep doing this as long as it took. It didn’t look like it was going to take much longer, not from the way Phil’s breathing was deepening, speeding up, muscles locking and tensing all along Clint’s back.

“Fuck,” Phil said succinctly and then clutched Clint’s hips, coming inside him in a series of a-rhythmic jerks.

Clint collapsed back against Phil once he was sure Phil was spent, relaxing and letting Phil take his weight because he couldn’t, not anymore.

Phil let them both sag back against the nearest wall, breathing hard.

“That was fantastic,” he said and brought his hand back to Clint’s cock. “Do you want to come?”

Of course Clint wanted to come, he was so keyed up he was shaking with it, but he wasn’t sure he could. Everything felt too far away, impossible and unreachable.

“Clint?” Phil asked then, when Clint still couldn’t work out words, “Barton, answer me.”

“’m good,” Clint slurred, “I’ll wait, you can…”

“No.” Phil sounded steely. “No, I want you to come. Now.” He started to move his hand, jerking Clint steadily.

Clint was so hard it hurt, and he caught a sob behind his teeth. He was too distant from everything; he needed to touch Phil but he couldn’t, and he pulled sharply at his wrist restraints, needing them off, needing to touch, needing -

“I’ve got you,” Phil promised and then he was pushing his left hand between Clint’s bound ones, giving it to Clint to cling to while his other hand moved on Clint’s cock.

“’m good,” Clint said again, “right? Right, Phil, I’m doing good?”

“You’re doing so good,” Phil assured him. “You’ve done so well. And now you’re going to come for me.”

Clint shook his head. He couldn’t. It was all too much and he couldn’t.

“Clint, I’m not asking,” Phil told him and squeezed the head of Clint’s cock firmly.

Clint started to shake. It felt like his orgasm began in the centre of his chest and just kept radiating out, shaking through his fingertips, his skin where it was pressed to Phil’s skin, lighting up every fading burn and still-throbbing bruise until it was screaming through him and he was coming, all over himself and all over Phil’s hand.

The world was spinning hazily when Clint managed to open his eyes.

“Easy,” Phil said softly, sliding out from behind him and guiding him down to lie on the bed.

Clint made a noise, wishing he’d told Phil earlier that it kind of sucked to be left this soon after. Phil didn’t go far, though, just knelt on the bed and deftly unwound the tape from around Clint’s hands. It came off easily; falling away and leaving Clint’s skin feeling clammy in the sudden shock of air.

Phil dropped the tape onto the floor and reached for Clint’s hands, rubbing the feeling back in for them, bending his joints and checking his circulation.

Clint smiled up at him lazily. “Okay?” he asked, knowing that it would be.

“Okay,” Phil told him seriously. He kissed Clint’s wrist before giving him back his hands and standing up. “I’ll be right back.”

Clint watched him make his way toward the bathroom, drifting in the fog of a damn good scene and barely more than half awake still.

Phil wasn’t gone long, or maybe Clint just lost time. The next thing he knew, he was being coaxed under the comforter and Phil had stripped down to his boxers, pulling Clint in to sit up against his side.

“Here,” Phil said, pushing something into his hands. “Drink up.”

Clint blinked, fingers curving unconsciously around the glass. “You’re a natural,” he mumbled. It was a struggle to find the words, he felt like he had to search for each one separately, but he wanted Phil to know.

“Just drink,” Phil says, hand still supporting the base of the glass. “We can talk in a minute.”

Clint drank half the water, then pushed it back to Phil. “You too,” he insisted, since Phil probably didn’t know how to take care of himself after a scene yet.

Phil looked amused, but he obeyed. “I preferred you when you weren’t being bossy, Barton,” he said, once he’d put the glass down on the nightstand.

Clint smiled. “No, you didn’t. You love all sides of me.”

“Yes, I do,” Phil said simply, like it was a matter of fact, “but I can love some parts more than others.”

Clint didn’t know what to say, so he just leaned further into Phil’s side, pressing his face into Phil’s chest.

Phil pulled the comforter up further around them, making sure Clint’s shoulders were covered and then hugging him closer anyway, rubbing his back.

Clint smiled against Phil’s skin. Phil had definitely done his How To Be a Good Dom homework.

“How are you feeling?” Phil asked quietly. He hadn’t sounded unsure while he was pouring wax onto Clint’s skin, but now he did.

“Fucking fantastic,” Clint told him honestly. He was relaxed down to his core, sleepy and content and just kind of… right. He made himself tilt his head back and meet Phil’s eyes. “You didn’t hate it, right?”

He held his breath, waiting, even though he was pretty sure Phil had had a good time.

“Yes, Barton, I hated every second of watching you come undone for me,” Phil said archly, raising his eyebrows.

Usually, Clint was a big fan of sarcasm, but right now he couldn’t take it. “Phil,” he said softly, watching as Phil winced and shook his head.

“Sorry.” Phil cupped the back of Clint’s skull and pulled him in for a kiss. “I loved it,” Phil told him seriously, pulling back so Clint could see his face, see that he was telling the truth. “Thank you for giving me that.”

Clint shook his head. “Pretty sure it was you giving it to me.”

Phil rolled his eyes. “I see you’re not in the mood for conversation,” he said, kissing Clint again and then again. “Do you think you can sleep?”

“I think I am sleeping,” Clint admitted, curling up closer. He hesitated before asking his next question, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to do it tomorrow. “So, what are the chances of you breaking up with me?”

Phil sat up, rolling over to look at Clint properly. “There was never any chance of that,” he said seriously.

Clint sank down into the pillows, reaching up for Phil. “Yeah?” He’d already been pretty damn relaxed but somehow he managed to feel even better when Phil stretched out beside him, shaking his head fondly.

“Never,” Phil promised. He pulled Clint over until Clint’s head was on his shoulder again, and pushed his hand under the comforter, finding Clint’s wrist and squeezing it slowly. “Especially not now. I have a long list of things I want to try with you.”

“Yeah?” Clint asked, trying to swallow back his smile and blaming the fact that he was still mostly in headspace on the way that he failed. “Sounds good.”

Phil smiled back. “Go to sleep,” he ordered.

“Sir, yes, sir,” Clint mumbled then ruined his own sarcasm by falling asleep straight away.

***

When Clint woke up the next morning, Phil was still asleep. That was pretty unusual but Clint had always figured topping had to be exhausting, probably especially the first time.

“Hey,” Clint whispered, leaning over and kissing Phil’s cheekbone.

Phil murmured something but didn’t wake up, rolling further onto his stomach and pulling the comforter tighter around himself.

Clint grinned and rolled out of bed. He found some clean sweats in his closet and picked up Phil’s WSC baseball league t-shirt from the floor, shivering at the light scrape of fabric over last night’s bruises when he pulled them on.

It was mid-morning, which meant nothing in the world of the Avengers. Still, he managed to get to the kitchen without bumping into anyone, and the coffee machine was already hissing happily by the time the elevator door opened and Natasha stepped out.

“Hello,” she said, dropping her leather jacket onto the sofa and kicking off some killer heels, before padding across the floor to lean across the breakfast bar and grin at Clint. “Sleep well?”

Clint rolled his eyes and turned back to the coffee machine, sticking the nearest mug under it and then handing it to Natasha, hoping to distract her.

“Thank you,” she said, smiling at him pleasantly. “Did you know that Phil called me yesterday afternoon to ask my opinion on floggers?”

Clint choked. “He – ” He laughed. Of course Phil had done that. “What did you say?”

Natasha took a careful sip of coffee. “That you have a lot of opinions about them and he should take you with him when he goes to buy one.” She raised her eyebrows, questioning. “Is it working?”

Clint chewed on his bottom lip, not because he didn’t want to tell her but because it mattered to him that she thought he was doing the right thing. “It’s really working,” he assured her. He rubbed his hip, where there was still a faint pink burn mark shining on the skin currently hidden under his t-shirt. All the other burns had faded to nothing, but that one had stuck around. “Apparently he has things he wants to try.”

“Of course he does,” Natasha told him, not looking surprised at all. “You’re the only person who ever thought Coulson wouldn’t be interested in tying you up and making you beg.” She grinned, bright but brief. “Have you mentioned gags, yet?”

Clint flipped her off. “Funny.” But she was right; Phil probably would like that too. He added it to his own mental list.

“I am,” Natasha agreed. She pushed up onto her hands so she hung halfway across the counter and tipped her chin at him, beckoning him closer. When he leaned in obligingly, she kissed his cheek. “I’m pleased for you.”

Clint swallowed hard. Before he could decide whether to be flippant or sincere, whether to answer or not, in fact, she picked up the mug and saluted him with it before sauntering away.

“Love you too,” he called after her, finally finding his voice. She didn’t answer, but he didn’t need her to. He just hummed while he filled two more mugs with coffee.

He kept humming as he walked down the corridor and was singing by the time he reached the elevator, but he managed to tone it down before he let himself back into his room.

It turned out that he needn’t have bothered, since Phil was awake, sitting up in bed and laughing silently as he watched Clint open the door with one elbow and close it again with his ass.

“Hey,” he said. He held out his hands, whether for Clint or for the coffee, Clint didn’t know, so he gave Phil a quick kiss, then pushed a mug into his hands.

“Hi.” Clint refused to let himself smile stupidly, absolutely refused.

They were silent for a while as they drank their coffee, then, “I didn’t actually mean for us to take another day off,” Phil told him, sounding resigned but not really worried.

“Eh.” Clint sat down cross-legged on the bed and shrugged. “We’re working on team cohesion. Not even Fury can object to that.”

“Are we?” Phil asked doubtfully. He nudged Clint’s thigh with his knee. “Is that what you’d call it?”

“Phil,” Clint said, fiddling with the handle of his mug. “I fucked up two missions this week because I was distracted. Working our shit out is going to help with the team.”

Phil frowned. He took Clint’s mug away and put them both out of the way. “You didn’t fuck up the Hydra mission,” he said, “I did. I shouldn’t have cuffed you, when you asked me not to. The Zombie Army thing was a bit more of a fuck up, sure, but again it wasn’t all on you.”

Clint shook his head. “Stop being nice to me, sir. That’s not how we roll.” He waited for Phil to argue again but he didn’t, just nodded slowly instead.

“Okay, then let’s make a deal: let’s agree to talk more, okay?” He must have noticed the face Clint tried not to make because he laughed. “Don’t worry, Barton, I’m not suggesting we talk about our feelings every evening over dinner. I don’t think either of us would survive that, but I want us to talk about the important things. Okay?”

“Okay.” Clint blew out a breath. “I can do that.” He smirked suddenly. “In the interest of full disclosure, then, Natasha thinks we should look into buying me a gag.”

“Huh.” Phil tipped his head. “Is that something you enjoy?”

“Well.” Clint crawled across the gap between them and pressed his mouth to Phil’s. “You said you wanted to try everything, right?”

“Right,” Phil agreed. “I was thinking we could try floggers the next time, though.”

Clint paused mid-nibble on Phil’s jaw, taking a moment to think about Phil’s biceps and how much force he’d be able to put behind a flogger. It was a good thought.

“No?” Phil asked, obviously misreading Clint’s silence.

Yes,” Clint said firmly. He tackled Phil back onto the bed and straddled his hips. “Fuck yes, in fact.”

Fuck yes, huh?” Phil teased, pushing his hands under Clint’s t-shirt. “Well, that’s promising.”

Clint leaned in and kissed him, keeping his eyes open and smiling when Phil did the same, even though smiling fucked up the kiss.

It was promising. If they kept on like this, he thought maybe they were going to be just fine.

/end