It's an addiction.
That's the only way Clint can explain it, this insatiable need to just touch and touch and touch. After all these years imagining it and now suddenly being allowed to…
He and Phil are sitting a little bit off to the side, tucked away in a corner while Fury and Stark argue about the proprietary nature of Stark's force field technology and the classified nature of all the drugs they had Phil on this past year. Clint tunes as much of it out as he can. All he wants to do is sit like this, to soak in the calm and the quiet and to listen to Phil's voice in his ear. To touch him.
He wants to touch him so much more.
And it's ridiculous. He should be angry, screaming Fury down with all the banked rage Stark is practically vibrating with. They took Phil away from him, didn’t even give them a chance to make him right. But he can't bring himself to yell or to so much as pull himself away from this corner, this embrace. He's been fighting and wandering through the dark for so long, and Phil has, too. They deserve this.
Phil seems to think so, too, if the heated glances he keeps giving Clint whenever he's not distracted by what's going on around them are any gage.
There's the sound of a throat clearing beside them. Keeping his hold on Phil's hands, Clint glances up to find Agent Thirteen standing there. It puts her on the wrong side of the barrier still set up in the middle of the room, and the look on her face says that she knows it.
Phil gives her a faint, professional smile.
"Agent," she replies. "I just…this past year."
Phil shakes his head. "I know you weren't behind this."
"I didn't like what they were doing, and I knew you were hurting." Her gaze skates to Clint and then back. "But my assignment—"
"Was to keep everyone around me safe. Honestly, I'm surprised they gave me as much lassitude as they did."
Her lips twitch upward, but her expression is still contrite. "Fury really did want you to get a chance at a real life."
"I know he did." Squeezing Clint's hand, Phil says, "It was just missing some things I couldn't live without."
She nods, seems about to turn away, and Clint should let her go. He's a mixed up ball of relief and rage, and she doesn’t deserve that. She does deserve one thing, though.
"Sharon?" Clint says.
Shit, he's not good at this kind of thing. All the same, he keeps himself level as he says, simply, "Thank you."
Her eyebrow arches.
Shaking his head, he offers the only thing he can. "I don't agree with anything you did. But thank you anyway. For taking care of him."
Her smile bemused, she chuckles. "Agent Coulson did a fine enough job taking care of himself."
Clint's heart feels like it's swelling behind his ribs. Of course he did. All the pictures and the cranes and the midnight raids on grocery store thieves. He took better care of himself than anyone could. Bending, he kisses Phil's knuckles, only half-aware that Agent Thirteen is walking away.
Phil reaches up with his other hand to grasp Clint's neck, where he kneads gently at the tense muscles, scratching at Clint's scalp. It feels so good, warm and intimate, a touch the likes of which he hasn't had in so, so long.
He drops his head and feels the rumble in his throat as he says, low and quiet, "I can't wait to get you out of here."
The point of Phil's throat bobs. "Clint…"
It's the first moment of hesitation, the first crack since Phil agreed to stay. "What?"
He just rubs deeper at Clint's skin. "You heard what Fury said, when I dreamed…"
"You heard what Tasha said. When you're with me…"
"I don't know if I can take that chance."
Clint leans in closer, catches Phil's gaze and keeps it. Tries to show him exactly how completely he means it. "I'm not sure I can not take that chance."
And it's deep and heavy, full of meaning and full of everything he wants right now.
Phil looks at him with just as much want, just as much need, and he said he loved Clint. With his chest bursting, his skin hot, Clint brushes his lips over Phil's, little fluttering kisses until he gets to his ear. Then, quiet as can be, he whispers, "Sir. Please. I've been waiting years for you to fuck me."
In the next second, Phil's on his feet. Clint reels, fuck fuck fuck, if he overstepped or read this wrong or…
But Phil's hand is still in Clint's, and while he's facing the room, posture as straight and commanding as ever, it feels like all of his attention is on Clint. Like beneath that polished exterior, there's something burning. Something more than blue and force and bright.
Stark whips around, brow furrowed. "Agent?"
"Agent Barton's quarters. They're shielded from the floors above and below?"
"Of course. Every floor is, I have a Hulk staying here—"
"And your AI can monitor Agent Barton's vital signs?"
A flash of understanding breaks across Stark's face, and he smirks, looking at Clint. "Why you dog you."
"Answer the question, Mr. Stark."
"Yes, yes, now go. If you need any intervention, we'll be up there with a force field generator and a barrel full of Hulk tranquilizer."
"Stark," Fury starts, "do you really think—"
Stark bristles. "We're doing this our way. And I for one am more concerned right now about us all getting nuked by unresolved sexual tension than I am about Legolas over there getting fried while they try to resolve it."
"And on that note…" Clint grabs Phil and drags him toward the door.
Only Tasha's standing there. He's worried for a second she'd going to stop them, but she just waves. "Have fun."
With Phil's hand clasped in his, Clint makes a break for the elevator, and it's the best he's felt in over a year, maybe ever. They're alone together, and Phil's alive, and he's his.
The elevator doors slide open, then close behind them, and Clint presses Phil against the wall. He's careful to telegraph his movements—he's reckless but he's not an idiot, and Phil is still a walking nuclear bomb—as he gets all of his body up against all of Phil's. He smiles so wide it hurts his mouth; it hurts his heart, thinking he gets to have this. Gets to keep it.
This time, touching Phil's face, Clint's the one to ask, "Are you real?"
"As real as you are."
Before either of them can really regroup or push this any further, the chime is sounding, and they're on Clint's floor. Clint steps back and lets Phil peel himself from the wall. He holds Phil's hand as he leads him to the door to his suite and presses his thumb against the lock. It springs soundlessly.
"We'll get your biometric added tomorrow," Clint promises.
Phil doesn’t question it, just follows Clint inside and lets the door swing closed behind them. He fixes Clint with a stare that burns right through him, and God.
"JARVIS?" Phil asks.
"Agent Coulson. Welcome back."
"You heard what I asked Stark back downstairs?"
"Beginning monitoring of Agent Barton's vitals as we speak. Would you also like me to notify the other Avengers in the case of unexpected energy pulses?"
"He won't have to," Clint insists.
"Whatever makes you sleep better at night, sir."
"I think I'm going to sleep plenty well."
And there's all this space between them, nearly a foot, but the air crackles. There's heat and intent, and Clint is unafraid.
He smirks. "Thinking I'm going to wear you out?"
Phil's expression softens. "Thinking I'm going to go to bed knowing who I am for the first time in a year. Thinking I'm going to go to bed with you."
"Damn right you are."
Clint takes the first step back toward his bedroom, but Phil drops his gaze for the first time since they got here. He looks around.
"You've been living your life."
"The best I could."
"I missed so much of it."
"Nah." Clint reaches out for Phil, wants him to be right here, and not in some lost time. Not anywhere else. "You were with me all along."
Phil takes his hand and this time he lets himself be led.
Clint's bedroom is dark and messy, just the way he left it. It's probably going to drive Phil mad, but he can't really bring himself to care.
As it is, Phil just shakes his head. "This is what happens when you move out of SHIELD?"
"This is what happens when I almost lose my mind trying to follow a trail of breadcrumbs."
Phil's face goes soft all at once. "They were for you."
And Clint can hardly breathe.
"You had to know that. The whole time, I kept…I kept seeing you. Out of the corner of my eye." He digs his nails into the tops of Clint's shoulders, hard enough to hurt. Clint likes it that it hurts. "I thought I was going crazy."
"You're not the only one." Clint crumples just a little. "I'm sorry it took me so long. When you were gone, I didn't know…I didn't find the first crane until just a little while ago, but as soon as I did, I knew. Stark helped me." And he's babbling now, but there's so much he's wanted to tell Phil. All this time, he's just been dying to talk to Phil. "All the things you did…the cranes and the pictures, and…you were trying to find your way home."
"Of course I was." He holds the back of Clint's neck and keeps him steady, keeps him where he can look straight into his eyes. "I was trying to find my way back to you."
And he has to. He leans in and kisses Phil's soft mouth, licks in and tastes, and he can hardly believe it.
"You found me," Phil whispers.
Clint's lip trembles. "What can I say, boss? I was lost without you."
And Phil…Phil just cups his face. And he's so, so strong.
"Then that makes two of us."
It's not that Phil doesn't feel the ripples, isn't aware all the time of the energy deep inside his chest. It crackles and sizzles, and every time Clint kisses him or touches him, the azure winds around his heart. But instead of bursting out, it floods. It fills him.
"I'm going to be so good to you," Clint promises.
And God, but isn't that Clint? Always thinking he needs to convince people he's going to be better, that he's going to be worthwhile.
After all this time, how does he not know that Phil's known it all the while?
Instead of an answer, Phil kisses him silent and pushes him back toward the unmade bed. It's messy and it's Clint, and Phil wouldn't want it any other way. Pushing him down onto his back, Phil climbs up on top of him, straddling his waist and spreading his hands out across his chest.
For what seems like the longest time, they just look at each other.
Clint's the one to break them out of it first. He reaches up and starts tugging at the clothes Phil pulled on at some point in the chaos. They're not his own and they feel strange, but revealing himself like this in front of Clint feels even stranger. Good, but strange.
Clint grins. "Last time I saw you naked we were staying in that shithole in Guatemala. Remember?"
It takes a second, and the memories are fuzzy, but he does. "Slightly different context, Barton."
"What? Just because you were covered in mud…"
"I was still finding it in my hair for weeks. Ruined one of my best suits."
"You looked better without the suit anyway."
Phil shakes his head. "Were you taking liberties while I was decontaminating?"
"What can I say? I took what I could get."
There's something there. Some little edge of vulnerability. Phil kisses him, soft and slow. "You can have whatever you want, now."
At that, Clint pushes Phil's shirt off his shoulder, baring his chest. Clint's eyes go to Phil's for just a second and then down. His hand hovers over the scar.
The seam of it is glowing blue.
Phil shivers. "I think so."
The power feels contained. It feels like Phil has it under control.
Clint's finger settle, tentative and ever so slightly shaking at the edge of the angry line. It feels like a fire, like burning and magic, but it tastes less like azure blue and more like love.
Clint's fingertips say, 'I'm sorry', his eyes say, 'I'm sorry', but his mouth says, "It's not as big as I thought it would be."
Phil shrugs. "Felt pretty big at the time."
Tracing the length of the scar, it's like Clint knits the ragged edges of it back together, like he's knitting Phil back together. The place where the spear broke through glows brighter and brighter, but all Phil feels is peace. He stills Clint's hand and kisses his mouth.
Just as slowly, Phil undresses Clint, spending his own precious minutes feeling the lines on his skin, finding the ones that are new. It's something he's always done, inventorying the broken places on his asset, but it's something more this time. It's about seeing what he missed.
Clint seems to recognize it for what it is.
"Botched op," he says as Phil traces a line of broken flesh on his arm. "First time out without you and I lost it. I…I didn't have the shot."
That gives Phil pause.
Clint's lips are an unhappy, raw line. "You weren't the only one who needed someone to ground him, apparently."
Phil swallows hard. He catalogs the rest of the changes to Clint's body silently, kisses them all. He undoes Clint's buckle and his fly and pushes his pants down.
He has to bite his own sounds back at the sight of Clint spread out like this, naked and hard and beautiful. He kisses a tiny scar at the crest of his hip, kisses his navel.
He takes the long, slick line of Clint into his hand and gives it a first, light-as-air stroke.
Clint nearly comes off of the bed. "Christ, Phil—"
"Shh." Phil gives the flushed, shining head a little lick, and it's been so long. He remembers what Clint told him, and he wants it too, wants it with everything inside of him. With gentle fingers, he slides his hand between Clint's cheeks, takes a testing stroke, dry, against his opening.
"Yes." Clint's head moves back and forth as Phil takes him deeper in his mouth. "I have—"
Phil doesn't stop, keeps touching and licking and sucking even while Clint's rolling, getting a hand into a drawer and pressing a bottle into Phil's hands.
He slicks his fingers and works Clint open, one finger and then two. It's hot, smooth as velvet, and everything inside Phil is glowing, glowing.
He looks down at himself as he pulls his fingers out and rises to his knees.
He's glowing. Blue like light and life beneath his skin.
But he's not afraid.
"It's—" Phil starts.
Clint's gaze goes from Phil's chest to his eyes and back again. He reaches out to touch, and the contact is a brilliant searing, is burning handprint into Phil's flesh, and he wants it there. Wants Clint seared into him just like the magic. Just like the pain.
It feels like being reborn and like being alive. Like being in love.
"I trust you," Clint says.
Phil pushes the rest of his clothes off. He slicks his own length up, then falls to his hands and knees over Clint, kissing him like he'll die without his breath. The blue is seeping into Clint now, and Phil can feel it, can sense its edges, and it isn't violent or tearing. It's nothing meant to kill or hurt.
It's warm. As infinite as the stars and as small as this one, perfect moment.
Clint reaches for Phil, and the one brush of his hand against Phil's cock is almost too much, but Clint's opening his legs, lining Phil up.
"I love you," Phil gasps as heat envelops him. It's all tight and slick and better than he ever dreamed. When he's fully inside of Clint, he breathes and breathes and kisses the side of his face, touches his ribs and his cheek.
And Clint is burning. He is burning, brilliant, flaming with electric blue.
"I love you."
They're one in so many ways, bodies joined and energy flowing. Clint wraps around Phil, and with his arms braced to either side of Clint's head, Phil presses into him again and again and again.
And it's safe. It's safe.
He lets go, just a little. The azure burst is a slow wave, encompassing the both of them, a shell and a shield, and they're both inside of it, inside each other as surely as Phil is inside Clint. Like the moment Phil first believed that Clint was really here and really real, he lets the energy surround them.
Clint opens his mouth, and the cosmos come out.
Pressing lips to lips, Phil seals the universe back into him. As the pleasure and the infinite all threaten to unravel, he touches sensitive flesh, and, elbows faltering, he whispers, "Please."
Clint slams his eyes shut and arches his back. The slits of his eyes are glowing blue, and Phil is cerulean flame, and there's the pulse. The screaming pulse, and then just Clint, choking Phil's name, the spill of wet warmth between their bodies and all over Phil's hand. Phil kisses his brow and presses his face against Clint's throat. Pushes and pushes and he's so deep. Clint flexes, and it's over.
The magic flares out and Phil empties, he pumps Clint full, and he's still trembling, still reeling with the force of climax.
The tidal wave of energy pulls back, leaving a gasping, yawning silence, the room cool and grey and dark.
But the magic isn't gone. It's just inside Phil like his love.
Where it's safe.
Where it's tethered to Clint like a pulse, where it's tasted his lover's flesh the way that Phil has, and it's so completely, totally, utterly under control.
When Phil's arms can't hold a second longer, he pulls out and falls to his back beside Clint. Clint makes a wordless noise of protest and hauls his naked form to lie against Phil's side, a leg over his thighs and a hand pressed tight against his heart.
For a few perfect, precious moments, Phil floats.
Clint shifts and drifts his hand across the now-flesh-colored scar. Brushes fingers along the softened length of Phil's cock.
"So," Clint says, lazy and mischievous all at the same time, "is that what it's always like for you?"
Phil can't help the burst of laughter.
And it's okay. It's all okay. He hugs Clint tight. All he can say, all he knows is…
"That's how it is when I'm with you."
Clint kisses his shoulder.
Apparently, that's enough.