Clint hated the winter. He'd hated it ever since he was a circus kid in the Midwest, and the snow would seep into the tents and rotting trailers as it melted, soaking his blankets until his toes never quite felt warm until spring. Winters since then were both better and worse; when his dubiously-legal jobs gave him enough cash for a motel room, he could crank up the heating and burrow under the blankets until his fingers could thaw and rest for the next day's work. When his pockets were empty, though, he learned to fall asleep even when his limbs were shuddering so heavily that he woke up sore.
One day, when Clint made it big, he'd get a bungalow in Brazil and live there all winter. He'd learn how to shoot a blowgun, and he'd spend January as a gentleman of leisure, perfecting his recipe for capybara stew. (He wasn't sure what a capybara was, but the wizened snake charmer from the circus used to wax at length about eating them during Lent.) He'd spend whole afternoons on the roof of his house, lying naked in the sun.
This January, he was not in Brazil. He was in Buttfuck, Ohio, and the steel-colored shit falling out of the sky was just liquid enough to soak through his jacket, but just frozen enough to sting his face everywhere it hit. Clint shouted a final thanks to the trucker who'd let him hitch a ride, gritted his teeth, and jogged to the entrance of the motel as quickly as he could without slipping on the slush-covered cement. He glanced again at the neon VACANCY sign flickering through the sleet. Thank fuck for minor mercies.
Clint wiped the worst of the precipitation off his face as he stepped inside, taking in the room with a well-trained flicker of his eyes. The Formica reception desk looked aging but clean enough; a red-haired kid who hadn't yet grown into his height stood behind it, and a businessman with a worn but expensive leather briefcase had his back to Clint. The kid looked up at Clint with wide eyes. "Crap," he muttered to himself, then said more loudly, "I'm really sorry, sir, but I just booked our last room. We're all booked up."
"Fuck," Clint sighed. "Okay, where's the closest place that would have rooms?"
"Uh, there's a Super 8 in Middletown. It's just twenty minutes down the highway."
God fucking dammit. Clint swiped his hand over his forehead again, where the rain was starting to trickle down from his scalp, and stepped up to the desk. The businessman turned toward him, watching in mild curiosity; he was around thirty, a few years older than Clint, good-looking in an unassuming way. Clint glanced at the clerk's name tag, which read "EDDIE," and flashed his most persuasive "honest but desperate" expression. "Look, Eddie, I know this isn't procedure, but I don't have a car, and the weather is so shitty that I'd probably freeze before I hitched a ride to somewhere else. I'll take anything you've got -- a laundry room, a spare couch in the office?"
Eddie looked hesitant. "I'm really not supposed to do that. I can call you a taxi from Middleton. . ."
Right, like Clint had that much cash handy on top of his room cost. He spared a moment to curse internally at the fucking contact who'd insisted on meeting in the middle of fucking nowhere. In goddamn January. As if to mock his crap luck, a rumble of thunder sounded from outside, and the room's lights flickered momentarily.
"Excuse me," the businessman said. He had a nice voice -- confident without sounding like a dick. "Is my room a single or a double?"
Glancing down at the keyring in his hand, Eddie chewed his lip uncomfortably. "Room Nine's a single queen."
"Mmm," the man said. His eyes slid up and down Clint; in another situation, Clint might have read it as a come-on, but this polite man in a department-store suit didn't exactly exude "on the prowl." His eyes met Clint's. "I'm willing to share, if you're interested."
"You are my new personal hero," Clint replied fervently. "Can I help split the cost, at least?"
"Don't worry about it," the man said. Out of the corner of his eye, Clint could see Eddie looking deeply relieved at the averted crisis. "It's on my company card anyway. But I should warn you that I've heard unconfirmed rumors that I snore."
Clint grinned. "You're keeping me out of that weather; you could keep C-SPAN playing all night and I wouldn't care."
One corner of the man's mouth quirked in response. "I do find the sound of bickering politicians strangely soothing. I'm Phil, by the way." He extended his hand.
"Frank," Clint said on instinct, and shook it.
"Do you have any other luggage?" Phil asked, glancing at Clint's single duffel bag.
"Nah. I travel light."
Phil nodded. "Then shall we?"
Clint resisted the urge to give his new savior a kiss.
After a quick stop at Phil's rental car, safely shielded by an extra-large umbrella, the two men stepped into Room Nine. The sleet was still pouring down outside, punctuated by the occasional crackle of lightning, but the room was cozy and warm. A little too cozy, if Clint was honest; he'd planned to offer to take the couch, but the only furniture besides the bed was a small desk and accompanying chair. "Guess I'm on the floor, then," he said with some reluctance. Warm and dry definitely beat the alternatives, and he'd slept five feet from elephant shit before, but motel carpets still made his skin crawl.
"If you prefer," Phil said mildly, hanging a garment bag in the tiny closet. "The bed's large enough to share, though, and I don't bite." Clint caught the tiniest flash of a smirk that added "unless you ask nicely," but he was pretty sure he'd imagined it.
He realized abruptly that he was shivering hard. "Not gonna complain about extra blankets," he conceded. "Mind if I take first shower?"
"All yours," the man nodded.
Clint brought his bag into the cramped bathroom. If asked, he figured he'd say that his clean (and hopefully dry) clothes were in it, but it also contained the photocopied documents that he'd be handing over the following afternoon, sewn carefully into the lining. The odds that a random businessman would not only rifle through his bag but be able to find them were slim, but Clint hadn't stayed alive by getting careless.
The shower took a few minutes to warm up, but once Clint stepped into the hot water, he could feel muscles relaxing that he hadn't realized were clenched. He spent some time simply letting the water flow over him, seeping into his chilled bones, while he flexed his fingers and toes to restore circulation. Eventually, when he felt almost warm enough to start purring, he grabbed the paper-wrapped bar of soap and began to scrub off the grime of travel.
Clint's soap-slick hands worked efficiently over his body until they reached his cock and balls, where a gentle once-over was enough to remind his dick that he wouldn't have the chance to jerk off later that night -- at least, not without risking the kind of awkwardness that could get him kicked back out into the cold. His first few strokes were firm and perfunctory, just scratching a physical itch, but suddenly he found himself imagining exactly the situation he was trying to avoid. They'd be lying on opposite sides of the bed in the dark, and Clint would try to get away with getting himself off quietly. But Phil would hear the way Clint's breath was catching -- he seemed like the observant type -- and he'd roll over toward Clint. "I could give you a hand with that," he'd say, quietly, and Clint would nod, trusting Phil to hear the subtle movement.
Phil would start by jerking Clint off, stroking him with the dry, smooth hands of a guy who spent his career indoors. But Clint would be itching for something more; he'd start asking for Phil to open him up, to fill him with warmth from the inside out. So Phil would finger him open, wet and very careful, then let Clint ride his cock until they were both dripping with sweat. And then --
Clint came all over his hands with a helpless, strangled gasp. As he watched the water rinse the evidence down the drain, he kicked himself mentally for indulging in a fantasy that would only make things awkward during the night. Fuck it, he decided. He'd had a crappy enough day that he deserved to enjoy whatever jerk-off material he got.
Feeling blissfully warm and loose-limbed, Clint toweled off, pulled on a white t-shirt and some boxers (hopefully Phil wasn't too easily scandalized), and stepped out of the steam-filled room.
Phil, to Clint's immense gratitude, did not actually watch C-SPAN; nor did he try to engage Clint in awkward so-what-do-you-do small talk. Instead, after stretching out on the other side of the bed, he flipped through the TV channels systematically, glancing over intermittently to see Clint's reaction. (Clint was pretty laid-back about his entertainment choices, but he had limits, and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch was beyond them.) When he landed on American Gladiators, Clint rolled his eyes but nodded.
The comfortable silence between them lasted all of two minutes before Clint blurted out, "Are you fucking kidding me?" at a Powerball player who completely failed to avoid an obvious feint and tackle.
Phil smirked, just slightly, and his expression began to relax. "Hey, at least she managed to throw the ball in anyway. Who misses a foot-wide target from five feet away?"
Clint bit his tongue just in time to avoid saying, Not me, that's damn sure. Instead, he shrugged. "Looks like these amateurs do. You ever wonder how much better they'd play if the losing gladiators actually did get fed to lions?"
Phil's eyes sparkled, and Clint decided right then that, businessman or not, he liked this guy. "Actually, I think it's illegal to feed lions meat with that many steroids in it."
"That's true," Clint nodded sagely. "Gotta think of the lions."
They passed the rest of the show trash-talking the contestants, and it felt weirdly comfortable. Clint had spent plenty of evenings watching sports at bars -- when he wasn't busy pool hustling for his beer money -- but he rarely got to relax with someone as keen-eyed and sharp-tongued as Phil. When the show finished, Phil flipped over to the opening sequence of Lois and Clark.
"Oh God," Clint let his head fall back onto the headboard, "please tell me you're not one of those comic book nerds."
Phil shrugged, unashamed. "Nothing wrong with believing in heroes, though I'm more a fan of Captain America. But the eye candy's nice."
He didn't specify which one of them was the eye candy, Clint's brain unhelpfully pointed out. He gave it a stern lecture about how this was his lucky chance to spend the night somewhere warm, not the setup for a porno. (His brain didn't seem to be buying it.)
Phil seemed less inclined to talk back to the television for this show, so Clint let his eyes glaze over and his brain review the plans for tomorrow. If the shit weather continued, it'd make his job easier; even he'd have trouble with long-range shots in weather like this, so that considerably narrowed down the area he'd have to scout out. He had no reason to think that his contact would want anything but a clean exchange, and he had a good gut feeling about "RogerThat@aol.com", but he always took extra precautions when meeting a client for the first time.
The storm outside was a comfortable white noise, so steady that Clint had practically tuned it out, when a sharp crack sounded -- lightning, and damn close. Their lights flickered out, then eased back on, then died and stayed dead. Thanks to the closed curtains and night sky, the room was pitch black.
"That's a shame," Phil said, annoyed. "I haven't seen the end of that episode. Hold on, would you?"
Clint refrained from making a smart-ass comment about how it was dark inside, storming outside, and blissfully warm in the bed, so why the hell would he want to move? Instead, he stayed put while Phil got up, walked over to his briefcase, and fished around for a flashlight.
There were only so many things that two taciturn people could do in an unlit, unheated motel room. After they'd verified that the whole block was out of power, and after they'd finished readying for bed by flashlight, Phil and Clint slipped into opposite sides of the bed in awkward near-silence. Clint lay motionless on his side, listened to the storm, and tried to persuade his body that it could fall asleep this early.
His body refused to believe him. The rain continued to fall. The air in the room, without the benefit of the heating, grew steadily more chilly.
Finally he flopped onto his back and sighed aloud. "Stop me if you're actually falling asleep here, but I'm bored out of my skull."
He could hear the amused curl of Phil's lips, even if he couldn't see it. "Are you asking me to tell you a bedtime story?"
"Jesus, I don't know. Tell me about yourself, start a game of 'I Spy,' I'm not picky. I'm at the point where I'd rather listen to you brag about your last good fuck than stare into the darkness and shiver for another five minutes."
"You're cold," Phil said, a question disguised as a statement. "I'm sorry; there weren't any more blankets in the closet."
"I'll be fine," Clint shrugged. He'd slept in far worse. Didn't mean a distraction would be unwelcome. "Just working on thinking nice, warm thoughts. Feel free to share some."
A muffled sigh came from Phil's side of the bed. "You know, you could just ask me if I'm gay, instead of trying to figure it out with roundabout questions."
"I was trying to be subtle!" Clint protested. He'd given up any pretense of trying to sleep and was facing Phil's side of the bed in the dark.
"Really? I'd hate to see what you consider unsubtle, then -- a knife to the throat?"
Clint clamped his lips shut just short of saying, Well, yes. "Funny how you still aren't actually answering."
The bed creaked slightly as Phil rolled onto his side, facing Clint. "Are you always this smooth with people you want to seduce?"
"Only the ones who answer me with nothing but questions. It's pretty annoying, FYI."
Phil paused thoughtfully. "Want to skip the whole seduction part and move on to raising each other's body temperatures, then?"
"Oh fuck yes," Clint said fervently, and he reached forward to pull Phil close.
Phil's arms were stronger than Clint expected. His hands were less hesitant than Clint expected. But the thing that sank its claws most deeply into Clint's skin was Phil's voice: steady, quiet, and excruciatingly detailed in its desires.
They didn't fall asleep for quite a while.
Clint woke up when the lights flickered back on with a soft hum of electricity. He realized that he'd fallen asleep tangled in Phil's limbs, which was unusual, and woken up still wrapped around him, which was even more rare. But he was warm from shared body heat under the blankets, and the graying darkness outside the window said it was still early, so he didn't feel any rush to move.
Instead, he let his eyes drift over Phil's body -- at least, the parts that weren't swaddled in blankets. Well-muscled arms, as expected; a few scars here and there, of varying age, which suggested some interesting hobbies (or fetishes?); a slightly faded Army Ranger tattoo on his bicep, which might explain the muscles, the scars, or both. The Ranger banner wrapped around a red, white, and blue bulls-eye; after a moment, Clint connected it to Phil's comment about Captain America and realized it was a shield. He suppressed a snort of laughter.
"I can tell you're mocking me, you know," Phil said sleepily. He hadn't twitched a muscle, and Clint wondered just how long he'd been awake.
"You have a cartoon character's icon tattooed on your arm. I think I'm allowed to mock that."
Phil yawned. "Not just a cartoon character. Real guy. Steve Rogers. It's all about what’s inside, about earning what you need by using what you have."
"Mmmm," Clint nodded. The name "Steve Rogers" was triggering something -- a connection that his half-awake brain couldn't yet articulate -- but if he could just remember what --
RogerThat@aol.com. Former military operative. Just in town for the day. Fuck.
Clint's whole body tensed up, though he had enough control not to move. He'd given a fake name to Phil, and so far he'd been good at slipping under the radar, avoiding face recognition from most interested parties. So there was every chance that Phil didn't know who he was. Besides, unless Phil could untangle himself from Clint, slip out of the bed to rummage through Clint's bag, then work his way back in, all without waking Clint, his package was safe.
"Frank?" Phil's voice interrupted his thoughts. "What's wrong?"
"I ..." Clint trailed off. He had three choices, really: brush it off and meet Phil at the diner, lay out his cards on the table now, or call the exchange off as compromised. The latter wasn't an option; he couldn't afford to throw away good money. If he waited to meet Phil later, Phil would have the advantage of pre-chosen turf and potential back-up. Conversely, Clint felt pretty confident in his hand-to-hand combat abilities against a suit, should the conversation go sour.
"You're 'RogerThat@aol.com', aren't you," he said at last. He could feel Phil's body jerk and then freeze against him.
"Then you're Hawkeye," Phil said. His muscles were still tense, but not with the rigidity of fear; they were taut as a panther's, ready to pounce.
"Look, this doesn't have to change anything. I swear I didn't know until just now. We can skip the diner, make a fair exchange now, and go our separate ways."
Phil exhaled but didn't relax. "There's one problem with that plan."
"Yeah?" Clint prompted.
"There was never going to be a fair exchange." Before Clint could even process the words, Phil was twisting out of his grip and wrestling him into the mattress. This guy is no normal suit was Clint's first thought, and then, ow fuck ow. Almost before Clint knew what had happened, Phil had pinned his legs down with his body weight and cuffed Clint's hands to the headboard. With them both still naked, it was the kind of situation that might have been sexy, if he weren't genuinely afraid that he was about to be killed by a fucking ninja in disguise.
"I'm very sorry about these precautions," Phil said calmly. "But SHIELD's been working to locate you for quite some time, and I can't risk you running to ground again without considering our offer."
"Your ... offer?" This morning kept getting more surreal. Also: SHIELD, fuck. They were notorious in his profession -- covert and ruthless about pursuing their agenda, but with enough ties to government agencies to prosecute anyone in their way.
Phil nodded, looking as unflappable as a naked man pinning down another naked man with his thighs could. "You've got impressive skills, Hawkeye, but you've been using them for some very bad people. We'd like to offer you a full-time job."
"And if I say no?"
"Then I restrain you, and we turn you in for a fair trial. But given the amount of evidence that SHIELD has gathered about your activities, which we'd be happy to share with the court, I wouldn't recommend that option."
Clint narrowed his eyes. "You're kind of a bastard, you know that?"
Phil shrugged, and if there was a twinge of emotion under it, he hid it well. "I hear that a lot." Then his face softened, just slightly, and he rocked a bit of his weight off of Clint's legs. "It's a good deal, Hawkeye. Steady paycheck, back-up in the field, cutting-edge weaponry, and the knowledge that you're making the world a safer place. You'd like it there."
The offer was tempting: to live in one place, not worry about his next meal, have someone at his back. But Clint had chosen the codename "Hawkeye" for a reason, and it wasn't just his good vision or predilection for high places. He'd clawed his way out of his coop, and the one thing he knew was that he never wanted to be caged again.
Still, prison was also a cage, and one that wouldn't be kind to a short kid who liked to take it in the ass. If he went with SHIELD, they'd have to stop watching him eventually, and then he could just slip away.
"Okay," Clint said finally, meeting Phil's eyes with firm conviction. "I'm in." Then he let a smirk blossom on his lips. "Does that mean that I'll be working under you?" He bucked his hips upward, just a fraction.
"I --" Phil shuddered, visibly trying to get himself under control. "I have been known to handle junior agents on occasion. But it would be --" he lowered himself just enough for their hardening, bare cocks to brush against each other "-- completely unprofessional to sleep with a subordinate."
Clint stretched upward to lick a wet pathway down Phil's neck. "Then what if we pretended that we had this conversation a couple of hours later than we did?" When Phil looked hesitant, he added, "I'll keep the handcuffs on if you want."
Phil closed his eyes and inhaled sharply, and his cock pressed against Clint's hip, now fully hard. "You're going to be the death of me, Hawkeye."
"Call me Clint." He slid his legs out from Phil's hold, wrapped them around Phil to pull him downward, and met his lips for a long, hungry kiss.
As it turned out, "a couple of hours" was an underestimate.