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compromising factors

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Phil always locks his office when he steps out. Still, when he returns from the break room with a fresh cup of coffee, he finds himself entirely unsurprised to see Clint Barton perched atop one of Phil's filing cabinets, fresh from his debriefing with Fury. On the wall across from Clint, Phil's Captain America poster (a reproduction; he's not an idiot) has thumbtacks embedded to give Cap a classic Hitler mustache. When Phil steps into the office, Clint throws two more thumbtacks rapid-fire -- thwip, thwip -- to land in the centers of Cap's pupils.

Phil raises an eyebrow and settles into his desk chair. "My office is not a detention hall, Mr. Barton."

Clint jumps down from the filing cabinet, landing with a dancer's grace. "That's a shame," he drawls, "since Principal Fury told me to report here. Or is this the part where I earn my A on my knees?"

"Even if you grew up in the circus, try to pretend that not all your knowledge of high school comes from bad porn," Phil says dryly, and he absolutely does not let himself smile. "What can I help you with?"

A trace of doubt flickers over Clint's face, and he gathers himself to stand at attention. "I. You said that --" He trails off, clearly expecting Phil to pick up the slack, but Phil stays silent. He wants to see exactly how Clint understood that conversation they had in the diner. Clint takes a breath, then starts again. "You said, back in Colorado, that you'd take care of me, and I'd get to choose how. You said that you wanted me."

Only the slightest hardness of jaw betrays how difficult it was for Clint to say that last sentence, and Phil wants to reward him for it. "I do. You did well with Hydra. I had high hopes to begin with, and even I was impressed." Clint ducks his head a few degrees in acknowledgement, and Phil adds, "At ease, Agent."

Clint relaxes into a trained military rest, hands still behind his back. Phil allows just a hint of promise to sparkle in his eyes. "In general, I'll tell you if I need to you assume a particular position."

A puff of laughter escapes Clint's lips. "I bet you say that to all the new recruits."

"No," Phil says simply. It's true; Clint's special. He's strategically crucial for SHIELD, he's unparalleled as an operative in certain skills, and, if Phil's entirely honest with himself, he's intoxicatingly enticing, something that Phil isn't used to seeing in the attention-hungry hotshots who come through his office. "Well, what did you choose?"

Clint shrugs. "I need more information. That's what I decided. It sounded like you have a pretty good idea of what each option would involve, so I wanted to hear them from you before I narrow things down."

"That's reasonable," Phil says. "And in case it wasn't clear, your employment offer wasn't contingent on you choosing either option. You can walk out of this office, request a different handler from Fury, and only see me when we pass in the halls."

"I know, all right?" Clint sounds impatient. "I want to fucking be here, and I wouldn't need your permission to leave if I didn't."

Phil smiles thinly. "It'll be interesting to see if that's accurate, but hopefully we won't have to test it. Very well, then. Option one. I'll be your permanent assigned handler. You won't be my only asset, so I won't be around you all the time, but I'll be there for everything important, and I'll be in touch throughout everything else. I will use you in the way you deserve; I won't waste your time on simple guard duty, and I won't dictate which weapon or position you take, as long as you communicate and fulfill my parameters. I'll make sure you have the best equipment that SHIELD R&D can provide, and I'll provide access to trainers for any exotic weapons you choose to study. I'll teach you the aspects of covert operations that you've been able to skate by without learning, and I'll give you missions where you can practice what you've learned.

"I will always have your back," Phil finishes. "I've seen you in action, and it's breathtaking. You won't have to worry about where the assignments are coming from, or how you'll get paid, or whether you'll get caught with a flagged passport and have to rescue yourself. I will take care of you, body and mind, in every mission you undertake. And at the end of the day, you can go home, kiss your boyfriend or girlfriend, and leave your work behind."

Clint nods neutrally. "And the other option?"

Phil steeples his fingers and looks Clint directly in the eye. "The second option is quite simple. You'll be mine. That doesn't mean that you'll be responsible for satisfying all my whims; it means that I'll be responsible for satisfying all your needs. If what you need after a mission is a long, hot bath, I'll be there to massage your scalp and watch the entrances so you can close your eyes. If what you need is punishment, then I won't hesitate to make you spend the night kneeling beside my bed, ankles splayed wide by a spreader bar, and I'll tell you what a filthy bitch you are until you fall asleep with a heavy plug in your ass."

Phil can see Clint's erection outlined clearly in his pants now, and he lets his eyes trace down his body, so that Clint knows he's being examined. Clint shifts in place, barely more than a tremble, but he doesn't break his stance. A good sign. "I'll expect you to follow all my directions at home, whether or not they make sense to you, but I'll also expect you to tell me if I ask you to do something you don't want. If you're good -- and I believe you can be very good for me, Clint -- then you'll be rewarded. If you disobey, you'll be punished, but you will always be my precious possession. I will not let go of you until you choose to leave.

"But here's the part that will be hardest for me. When you're out in the field, I won't be the one giving you orders. I often won't be on the same missions at all, and when that happens, I won't be able to tell you where I am. All I can promise you is that I'll get you the best handlers in SHIELD, people who won't ride roughshod over your unique approach. I have quite a bit of pull here, so if a particular handler isn't working out, I'll find you someone new."

Silence stretches between them. Phil simply watches and waits. There's a beauty to Clint's face when he's lost in thought, all the crags and rough places softened and inward-turning.

"What if I want both," Clint says; it's not a question.

"Then you'll be disappointed. I don't fuck my assets. It's a bad habit, it casts a shadow over their professional advancement, and it hinders my focus in the field."

"I didn't mean the fucking, sir."

Phil tilts his head, thoughtful. "You'd want to be mine, even if we didn't make things sexual. I won't be easy on you."

"I know."

"I won't let myself get emotionally involved, either."

"I know." (Clint hides his resignation to indifference with the ease of one who's been doing it all his life. Phil's unsurprised.)

"And that's what you want?"

Clint shrugs. "I want all of it. But if I've gotta choose, then that's my choice."

Phil suspects that Clint doesn't actually know what he's getting into, but that's all right. It just means that he'll have to go gently until Clint understands.

Not too gently, though. Phil nods at the space on the floor behind his desk, to the left of his chair. "Kneel here for me while I fill out the paperwork to become your handler," he says. "Then I'll take you around the armory."

Clint rounds the desk and lowers onto his knees. He moves efficiently as always, but with some hesitance; he's clearly not used to kneeling. That'll change.

When he's settled into place, Phil rewards him by stroking fingers through his hair. "I'm going to do incredible things with you, my Hawk," he says seriously.

While he fills out the paperwork with his right hand, Phil brushes his thumb over the short fuzz at the base of Clint's skull. He ignores the jolt of arousal when he feels Clint's muscles tense and then relax at the touch; that door's been closed to him. Instead, he lets his hand relax in place, lets his own body begin to link Clint with mine.

What drew him to Clint, back when the Hawkeye was just a manila folder on his desk, was the ethic of his amorality. Phil read and reread his file, and by the time he set it down, he knew that Clint would be loyal to the point of self-sacrifice, if SHIELD played their cards right. He also knew that he wouldn't trust anyone but himself to play those cards -- and if he knew that he'd enjoy the task beyond the bounds of professionalism, that was simply his ruthless self-honesty. Identify the compromising factors, then set them to the side; the strategy has always served Phil well.

Phil lets his thumb stroke Clint again, this time a half-inch lower, where the pad of his finger grazes over nothing but smooth skin. Pleasant as the position is, he's not the type to make Clint wait unnecessarily -- not yet, anyway, not until Phil knows he needs that enforced patience. Instead, he focuses on the last section of paperwork.

At the bottom of the final page is the handler's statement of commitment -- the vows of the handler-agent marriage, so to speak. Phil's supervised many agents, but he still makes himself read over each word, each promise to adhere to SHIELD's code of conduct and maintain professional respect. He signs and dates the statement in crisp navy-blue ink.

Then he slides his fingers under the collar of Clint's shirt and tugs him up off his knees. "Let's get started," he says.