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We only have him for one day. That’s the news that comes down, and the team is shocked into silence. The interview and photo shoot need to be rolled into one event. If he gets called in to work then he is going, and he won’t be coming back. He comes with a security detail of a single man in black. We’re handed a folder. “This is everything you need to know about him.” There’s a single sheet of paper inside. It’s mostly blank.

It may sound like we’re dealing with some kind of secret agent, a man whose identity is too important to be leaked to the public (and the irony of such secrecy surrounding what is essentially a publicity spread does not escape us). In reality, this man’s face has been on every news channel in the world and in the pages of every newspaper. He has been featured in artworks and homaged on the catwalk. And late last Spring, he saved New York from an alien invasion alongside meta humans and one very expensive robot suit. And yet, if you were to pass Clint Barton on the street – known to most of the world as Hawkeye, That Guy with the Bow, and The Second Hottest Ass in the Avengers – you probably wouldn’t even grant him a second glance.

~*~

“Explain to me again why I’m doing this?” Clint asked, slouched low in the passenger seat of the black Acura, a powdered donut in one hand and a large coffee in the other, sunglasses firmly in place even though early morning New York was dark and dim.

“They couldn’t afford Stark or Captain Rogers,” Phil replied bluntly. “And Thor doesn’t have a work visa for this realm yet.”

“Banner?” Clint suggested.

“Officially, he’s not even in the country. Unofficially, we can’t afford to insure him outside of SHIELD facilities.”

“He lives with Stark,” Clint felt obliged to point out.

“That’s Stark’s problem.”

Clint slumped down even lower, planting one foot up on the dash. Phil didn’t bat an eyelid, a sign that he’d been expecting Clint to try to wriggle out of it. “What about Natasha?” Clint tried desperately. “She’s done modelling.” A few agents had put together a SHIELD calendar with the shots. The project hadn’t lasted long, and neither had the agents when Natasha found out. “Modelling in Japan.”

“This magazine offends her sensibilities,” Phil replied smoothly.

“And it can’t offend mine?”

“You don’t have any sensibilities.” Clint snorted in response and they drove the final few blocks in silence.

The building was the kind of nondescript that was leaning towards shabby, with a mix of raw and painted brick walls, displayed with such pride that they must have been trendy. Clint had sugar from his donut on his pants; he suspected that without the smear of sweetness on denim he could have passed as being artfully mussed, but it had honestly been a long time since Clint had paid attention to such things.

Phil signed them in at the front desk and headed to the elevator without waiting for directions. He wasn’t thrilled about being Clint’s handler on such a trivial issue, but he was yet to be cleared to return to full duties. The story was that Fury had been called down to medical once Agent Coulson was conscious, and instructed by the head doctor to make sure that the man took some time off. Fury had taken one look at Phil and sensed that it was far more likely that he would rather go rogue than sit on his couch and catch up on Drag Race, so Phil had been given the less-than-coveted role of liaison to the Avengers. Clint could tell by the set of Phil’s shoulders that he still occasionally seethed at how mundane his life had gotten. Clint didn’t see it as that big of a deal – better to be alive and boring than dead and interesting.

~*~

He walks into the photo shoot wearing worn in jeans and a t-shirt with a hole near the bottom. He’s taller than I had realised and more muscular than I had expected. He looks surprised to see so many people waiting for him and there is a long, still moment before his security detail takes a step back and our director of wardrobe and her assistants descend on him. I have to fight my way through the flurry of tape measures and cloth swatches for the chance to get my interview.

So little is known about the expert marksman and archery enthusiast of the global superhero team, the Avengers, that it’s hard to know where to start the interview. “Most people ask me what it’s like to work with Captain America,” he says without looking up from the pair of shoes that have been thrust at him. So, what’s it like? “It’s okay,” he replies and leaves it at that. It’s as close as he comes to gushing in the entire interview.

~*~

“You could have sent in a Bruce body double,” Clint grumbled as he stripped off behind a little curtain. There was a white undershirt and a pair of boxer-briefs waiting for him. Magazine-approved underwear. At his questioning look, the head wardrobe assistant had explained that they provided the best... lift. That was what Clint was taking away from this whole experience: dudes in magazines were wearing push-up bras for their dicks. “I’m not wearing these,” he said, hooking his finger under the waistband of the briefs and shoving them out of the changing space at Phil.

Phil took them, and Clint breathed a sigh of relief. Moments later they sailed over the top of the curtain, landing on Clint’s head as he was unlacing his boots. “Nice aim, sir,” Clint said drily.

“Don’t make this experience more irritating than it already is,” Phil replied.

“I don’t know why you’re complaining,” Clint shot back as he toed his boots off. “You get to stand around drinking coffee and watching me undress all day. People would probably pay money for that job, you know.”

“There are people who pay to have their own healthy limbs amputated,” Phil returned.

That piece of information made Clint pause. “Really?”

“Body integrity identity disorder.”

“Huh. So it’s not a sex thing then?” Clint asked as he stripped his red t-shirt off.

“No. Apotemnophilia is the amputee fantasy fetish.”

Clint grinned. “I knew you’d use that word of the day calendar.”

“It’s handy in interrogations,” Phil replied. “Doesn’t leave marks.” Clint snorted a laugh and shucked his jeans off.

“Hey, you want to come in here and make sure these fit right?” he asked through the curtain. “You are meant to be supervising this situation.”

“If you can’t put briefs on without my assistance then you’re beyond help,” Phil replied blandly.

“These are fashion briefs,” Clint replied, wrinkling his nose. “I don’t know how they’re meant to work. What if they don’t fit?”

“I’m sure they’ll fit.”

Clint pulled the briefs on and made a point of snapping the elastic. “They might be too small.”

“I highly doubt it.”

“Oh, ow,” Clint said dramatically. “You wound me. I’m too shattered to go on.”

“I don’t care if you’re unconscious and drooling,” Phil replied. “I’d still let them stuff you into a suit.”

“Ha. You’d never let anyone lay hands on an unconscious asset,” Clint said as he pulled the undershirt on. Clint let a flirty smile slip into his voice. “You’d have to dress me up all on your own.”

Phil sighed, a soft, mild noise that nonetheless showed irritation, and Clint made a note to behave for at least the next twenty minutes. He stepped out from behind the curtain in dress socks, support jocks, and the undershirt. Phil didn’t bat an eyelid – he’d seen Clint in less and had never lost that calm, professional air that Clint wanted to disrupt more than he wanted anything else in life. “You are going to help me with this stuff, right?” he asked.

“There are people here for that,” Phil replied.

“Well, yeah,” Clint agreed, leaning forwards to examine his face in a mirror. He ran his hand back and forth through his hair, fluffing it up at the back. “But that doesn’t mean they won’t make me look stupid.”

Phil looked Clint up and down. “Pull your socks up,” he instructed.

“That’s it? Those are your words of encouragement?”

“I’m your security detail,” Phil replied, his voice dripping with distaste. “Not your stylist.”

Clint rolled his eyes, but he balanced on one foot and pulled his knee up to his chest so he could tug a sock into place all the same. “Try to have some fun, will you? Designer suits everywhere. I know you dig this shit.” He fixed his other sock and then lowered his foot to the ground and took a moment to stretch both arms above his head, flexing his spine back and clenching the muscles in his thighs. “Happy people heal faster,” he added, patting Phil’s bicep with the back of his hand. Then he padded out to the wardrobe assistants and the mess of clothing that awaited him.

~*~

Clint Barton isn’t reluctant to talk about the Avengers so much as he seems bored by the topic. “People have been doing this stuff for ages,” he says bluntly. “Steve was doing it seventy years ago. People were doing it before him. People couldn’t put videos of it up on YouTube back then, but it was happening.”

It makes sense that I’m getting a history lesson from the guy who fights aliens with a bow and arrow. I ask him if his passion for history is what led to his love affair with the Stone Aged bow and arrow.

“Palaeolithic,” he says bluntly, his blue eyes pinning me in place. “The bow and arrow date to the Palaeolithic era.” Right, that’s what I meant.

~*~

The wardrobe department had been sent Clint’s measurements earlier in the week. Apparently that did not mean that he got to avoid having a tape measure shoved against various parts of his body. “These are just for minor tweaks,” one of the assistants assured him. She had tangles of black hair held off her face with a green bandanna. It was patterned with white skulls wearing a familiar, horned helmet. Loki had tried to take over the planet and some guy called McQueen had commemorated the event with a headscarf. That was fashion for you.

“You gonna to be stitching me into these things?” Clint asked as he pulled on the shirt she offered him.

“Just making sure they fit properly,” she replied, looping a tie around his neck. “It needs to be firm around here,” she said gripping his bicep, “and across the chest. We want to show off your assets.”

“Right.”

“You don’t wear a lot of suits,” she observed.

“Not this kind, no.”

“Do you own a suit?”

Clint considered the question. Ownership was a tricky concept when it came to SHIELD equipment. Clint technically did have suits – bland secret agent suits and one passable tuxedo – but they were kept in a storage container in some SHIELD basement, and Clint liked to pretend that he would never be stuffed into one again. “Not really,” he finally answered. “I prefer things that I can move around in.”

She smiled and set about making sure that the shirt fit right in the sleeves. It was too small by Clint’s estimation, but she didn’t seem to notice. “You’ll find that suits are not quite as restrictive these days as people think. Anything you can do out of a suit, you can do in a suit.”

“Oh really?” Clint asked as he buttoned the shirt up. It was too tight across the chest, and the sleeves clung to his biceps uncomfortably. It was apparently a ‘slimline, tailored’ look. It was awful.

“Sure,” she replied. “As long as it’s the right suit.”

Clint waited until she stepped back to survey the look of the shirt, and then he leapt up in the air, grabbing on to an exposed pipe above him. He pulled himself up into a chin up and felt the material creak in protest at the way it was pulled tight. He lowered himself, and then pulled up again, this time with his head in front of the pipe. A button popped off the front of the shirt and he felt the seam at his left bicep tear. He dropped down to the concrete floor, the dress shoes on his feet making neat clicks as he landed, and then straightened up and examined the damage.

“I don’t think I’ll be getting into a casino like this,” he observed.

The wardrobe assistant pressed her lips together and exhaled heavily through her nose. “We’re going to need a different shirt for your action shots,” she said at last. She turned away sharply and disappeared into a rack of clothes.

“Did I do something wrong?” Clint asked.

Phil had watched the whole exchange, leaning against one of the cleaner walls with his arms crossed over his chest and his legs crossed at the ankles. He looked bored and unfocussed, but Clint knew that Phil was anything but. Clint had developed a kind of sixth sense for when Phil was watching him. “That shirt retails for about three hundred dollars,” Phil told him.

Clint looked down at the shirt. It wasn’t ruined, exactly, but it needed work. “Really? Shit.”

Phil relaxed against the wall. “It’s their own fault,” he replied. “Not feeling comfortable in your clothes is a big sign that they’ve not been tailored correctly.”

“I guess you know a lot about this stuff.” Which was an understatement. Phil knew a lot about suits, and was not above grooming other agents if they had fluff on their sleeves or uneven cuffs. Everything that Clint knew about suits boiled down to: 1) they were awful, and 2) unless they were on Agent Coulson. There was something about the shape and lines of a suit that just seemed right on Phil. A precise neatness to the shape of lapels that was a secret warning of the skill and strength packed inside.

“I know that you can’t destroy everything they put on you,” Phil replied.

Clint looked over at him as he stripped the shirt off, a cocky smile in place. “Is that a challenge?”

Phil’s mouth quirked a little in response. “Not for you,” he replied. “If you want a challenge then you could always try behaving.”

“Sure,” Clint replied, taking another shirt off the rack and trying it on. “I can look pretty for you.” He waited for a moment, buttoning the shirt up and letting the pause hang there between them before glancing up at Phil from under lowered eyelashes, adding the “Sir,” like flirtatious punctuation, his lips curling over the neat syllable.

Phil eyed Clint’s hands, glanced up at Clint’s face, and huffed slightly in response. It wasn’t exactly a crack in the neat exterior of Agent Coulson, but it was a start.

~*~

A bow and arrow have been brought in as props. Barton takes one look at them, and levels a disappointed stare at the photography assistant who’d had the misfortune to present them to him. He takes the bow with a frown, and explains with casual detail why it is completely useless in every way. There’s no malice in his voice – he talks the same way a gardener would when seeing a bed filled with plants that are not suited to the environment. His tone turns consoling when he explains that the bow is not actually strung – the line running from one limb to the other is actually the stringer.

That’s not the biggest problem with the bow – the man in black pipes up to let us know that there was no insurance paperwork signed to cover Barton with a weapon in his hands, let alone any damage he may inflict on his environment. The photography assistant mentions that she can probably find a toy bow and arrow set. The way Barton grins lets us know that even suction cup-tipped arrows might be considered a threat in his hands.

~*~

“You ever been photographed before?” a woman with a small camera attached to a giant lens asked.

“Sure,” Clint replied. “Not so much like this, but yeah.” For one thing, the photographs taken of him were usually part of some kind of surveillance. For another, he’d never been given a haircut and had foundation painted on him for those shots. He could feel the cream sitting on his nose and it was driving him nuts. The only thing that had kept him from scrubbing his face clean was the amused glint in Phil’s eyes, like he knew that Clint was itching to wipe his face with his sleeve like a little kid.

“I guess you’ve probably never had something this intense,” she said. She would fiddle with the settings, then take a photo, look at the screen, frown, and repeat. As far as Clint could tell they weren’t actually doing a photo shoot yet.

“I’ve had intense,” he replied, looking around idly. He’d had some very intense photographs of him taken. “But they were just paying attention to one part of my body, you know?” There was a choking noise from the photographer, and Clint snapped his attention back to her in alarm. Her face was red, and she was giving his body a very contemplative look. “Not like that,” Clint replied. “My feet.” That information didn’t really seem to help the hot flush she was sporting. “They were cutting a toe off,” Clint clarified. The look of embarrassed arousal finally shifted, though it was replaced by one of quiet horror. “I got the toe back,” Clint added, giving her a reassuring smile. The photographer snapped one last photo, capturing Clint’s attempt at pacifying charm, and then walked away without another word.

“Smooth,” Phil commented from his position to the left of the backdrop.

“Shut up,” Clint replied.

~*~

Barton looks good in a suit, though the tailored shirts do nothing to hide the muscle of his body and the jackets only seem to accentuate the air of danger about him. Some men turn into aristocrats or artists when they don designer wear. Barton looks powerful. I ask him if he has any favourite designers and his face lights up. Enthusiasm colours his voice as he rattles off a string of names that I’m not familiar with. It’s not until he mentions some new variant that Tony Stark is working on that I realise we are on completely different tracks. I manage to get his attention when he pauses for breath. Do you have any favourite clothing designers, I specify.

“Not really, no,” he replies flatly. The conversation ends there.

~*~

Clint had been photographed standing awkwardly next to a brick wall in a black suit with no tie and the collar open, and then standing awkwardly next to a different wall with a tie in place. The tie had been re-done by three different people. Clint had snuck over to Phil while the photographer was organizing her camera and Phil had done something confident and practical, making the knot tight and square and a much better shape than the loose trapezoid it had been before. Clint hated ties.

“Aren’t suits meant to have white shirts?” Clint asked as he pulled another pair of pants on, this time pale grey, with fine cream pinstripes; they would not last one minute out in the field.

“Not always,” Phil said from the other side of the curtain.

The suit was paired with a flimsy shirt that was a dim kind of sapphire color. It had dainty, mother of pearl buttons. There was a black tie and a pair of shiny loafers sitting neatly on a chair. Loafers were not shoes that were designed for running and jumping and climbing; Clint was pretty sure that only assholes wore loafers.

“Aren’t pants meant to have belts and things?” Clint persisted. “This is just not working.”

Phil stepped behind the curtain and gave Clint the once over. “You don’t need a belt,” he assured Clint.

“You’re wearing a belt.”

“We’re wearing completely different suits,” Phil replied, buttoning Clint’s shirt up. It was an impatient gesture, an attempt to make the whole thing hurry past. Clint suspected that the length of the shoot had far less to do with how quickly Clint could dress and far more to do with how many new items to play dress-up with the wardrobe department would find. Phil tucked Clint’s shirt into his pants and then surveyed the lines of the material, tugging it so it sat neatly. “Jacket,” he instructed.

Clint shrugged the jacket on and looped the tie around his neck. He settled the strip of silk under his collar as Phil knotted it with deft movements that had small flourishes tucked in amongst the practicality. Clint held up the black pocket square, and Phil shook his head.

“Pocket squares are used to draw attention to the chest,” he said as he smoothed the tie down and slid the two buttons of the jacket through their button holes. “You don’t need any assistance there.”

“Are you saying I have a nice rack?” Clint asked. He pulled the curtain back and studied himself in the long mirror. He toyed with the buttons of the jacket, and then slipped his hands into his pants pockets, hitching the jacket up and ruining the line.

“These pockets are useless,” he declared. “I can barely fit my hands in them. How am I meant to put anything of use in here?” Phil looked amused, and Clint realised too late the implication he had made. “You know what I mean,” he said.

Phil stood behind Clint, looking at the cut of the suit from over Clint’s shoulder. “Now you know how Natasha feels,” he said simply. Natasha had a long-running war with women’s clothing; there had been a trend of jeans with fake pockets, and she had resorted to stealing Clint’s pants and getting them taken in at the waist. Phil looked over Clint’s shoulder, studying his front in the mirror’s reflection. “You actually don’t look too bad,” he conceded.

“What? You didn’t expect me to look good?”

Phil brushed a hand along Clint’s shoulder, smoothing out an invisible wrinkle. “Not this good,” he admitted.

Ah, a chink in the armor. Clint stared at Phil’s face in the mirror, watching as Phil’s gaze travelled down Clint’s body. They’d had this odd flirtation for years, a friendly teasing nature between them that Phil didn’t tolerate from anyone else and Clint had no interest in duplicating with others. It wasn’t exactly a crush; Phil didn’t make Clint giddy or lightheaded, didn’t have him emotionally compromised, but there was respect and fondness and a healthy dash of lust to spice things up. Clint was pretty certain that all three things were reciprocated.

Clint sucked on his lower lip for a moment, watching Phil as Phil’s eyes tracked the line of a lapel. He shifted his hips and pressed back into the easy weight of Phil’s hand at his shoulder. “See something you like?” he asked, because the classic lines were tried and tested.

Phil met Clint’s eyes via their reflection, a small smile on his lips. “Yes,” he replied in a low voice, before leaning forwards – his chest pressed against Clint’s back and his hand sliding up Clint’s shoulder towards his neck. Phil hooked two fingers into Clint’s collar, pulling back just a little so the top button of the shirt and the knot of the tie rested against Clint’s throat. Clint swallowed as Phil placed his mouth near his ear. His voice was low and teasing, and a little husky. “I love Marinella ties.”

Clint let out a deep, shuddering sigh. “You fucking tease, Coulson.”

Phil smiled and pulled away, sliding his hand down to the centre of Clint’s back and pushing him forwards gently. “They’re waiting for you,” he said pointedly.

“Right, and you’re not at all to blame for that.”

Phil smirked at him, a small quirk of his lips. “Go look pretty,” he instructed.

“If they wanted pretty they should’ve got Steve,” Clint groused. Phil merely smiled in response, enjoying Clint’s show of bad humor. Clint felt Phil’s eyes lingering on him as he headed towards the bland set.

~*~

The conversation shifts to preferred clothing choices. Clint Barton is a man who favors the casual look. His jeans are worn but fit his body enviably. His shoes are battered but are clearly expensive boots that are designed for rough punishment. It makes sense that someone who spends his life jumping from buildings and saving the day would wear clothes that have seen a little action.

“The uniform is probably the most comfortable thing I own. I’ve spent so much time in it that it’s as familiar as my own skin.” It’s an iconic look, too, with the bird-inspired maroon breaking up the black of his vest. “I’m just glad it’s not lycra,” Barton replies. “I spent a lot of my youth in some very stupid clothes.” With pictures from his youth as a circus performer slowly coming to light, I can’t help but agree. That said, it wasn’t an entirely bad look on him.

“It’s kinda hard to get the bad guys to take you seriously when you’re shedding spangles,” he says bluntly. Then his expression turns considering. “Although the time they’d take out to laugh at me would be an advantage.”

~*~

Clint had never spent so much of his life shirtless without someone either stitching him up or trying to get him more naked. He would not have minded getting more naked around Coulson. Clint had been blurring lines between brat and flirt with renewed enthusiasm ever since Phil had woken up in the SHIELD medical wing with more tubes going into him than he had fingers and toes. Clint’s ‘get well soon’ gift had been a brown paper bag with its contents divided fairly evenly between skin mags and catalogues for suits. On his first day on the job as Avengers liaison, Phil had informed Clint that he had awful taste in both.

“So long as you were thinking about me while you were flipping through,” Clint had replied with a grin and a wink. Phil had looked at him with an expression that wasn’t exactly startled, but was contemplative and considering in a new and thrilling way. It hadn’t changed the way Clint teased Phil or the way Phil mocked Clint. It hadn’t affected the easy banter they had and the professionalism that made Agent Coulson a good handler and Agent Barton an admirable asset; but it had laced those moments together with a hot, patient coil of want, a feeling that was almost tangible as Clint was given new clothes to put on and cunning suits to strip off, as Phil stood back and watched with a small smile and dark, interested eyes.

“Hold up, sugar,” the wardrobe director said as Clint moved to pull on a pair of charcoal pants. She gestured at the skin-tight boxer-briefs he was wearing. “Those need to come off.”

“Wait, why am I taking these off?”

“For the seated shots.” Clint stared at the wardrobe director until she elaborated. “It’s for the, uh, hang. There’s a certain look we like for the standing poses,” she said, making a cupping motion with one hand. “And then for the seated ones it needs to look more natural.”

“Lady, you have me in eyeliner and a pair of Spanx. Don’t even try to pretend that what you’re doing in this building is natural.” She slapped at his shoulder like he was being cheeky and shoved him behind the curtain.

“Just let it hang where it’s meant to,” she called loudly, apparently not understanding that curtains were not soundproofed. “If anything looks weird, it’ll get fixed in post.”

Clint stuck his head out from behind the curtain just to give Phil an exceptionally unimpressed look. Phil smiled back at him, all but twinkling with amusement. “Don’t you say a word,” Clint said warningly. Clint had never had such a thoroughly damaging experience as getting poked and prodded and assured that his body was completely freakish, and having people sigh loudly at how much work it was to make clothes fit him like they were meant to. And through it all Phil had been watching quietly, his eyes following the path of hands and the stripes of tape measures and the lines of seams.

Phil liked the suits, liked the way they accentuated Clint’s features. Liked to make the worship of material against skin a little more apt by tweaking the arrangement in small ways: re-knotting a tie, changing the angle of a pocket square, letting Clint know when a jacket should be worn closed and when it could fall open and be pushed back by the line of Clint’s arm as it led to a hand resting on his hip.

All those years of flirting over the comms, and all Clint had needed was a designer tie and a tailored shirt.

“Do you have to watch me so loudly?” Clint called from behind the curtain.

“I’m your security detail, remember?” Phil replied. “If you were taken out by a pair of underpants, I’d never hear the end of it.”

Clint snapped the elastic of the underwear before pushing it down his hips and along his thighs, making as much noise as he could with his hands against his own skin and the bunched fabric shifting in-between, letting Phil know that he was getting naked, that there was only a thin curtain between Phil’s neatly angular layers and the meaty curves of Clint’s flesh.

“If I do hurt myself,” Clint said playfully, “do you promise to kiss it better?”

“I only make it up to the people I hurt myself,” Phil returned. His tone was pleasant but it lacked the slightly sarcastic tease that Clint was so familiar with. It made Clint think of dim bedrooms and silk ties binding wrists. He stepped into the charcoal pants, shivering at the feel of the fine Italian wool against his dick, the feel of Phil standing all of two feet away, listening to the hitch of Clint’s breath as he dressed.

The pants were high-waisted and Clint was uncertain as to how they should sit. He’d been lectured about various cuts and styles and trends throughout the day, and he had nodded and looked attentive and then immediately turned to Phil to put him to rights. “Does this look right?” he asked, pulling a crisp, white shirt on. It had lots of fine little pleats down the front, making it feel thick and heavy; it was the closest Clint had come to actually feeling comfortable in a dress shirt. Phil stepped behind the curtain, the little nook of space that was half-filled with discarded clothes and otherwise occupied with bodies.

Phil stepped close and reached for the buttons of the shirt, tiny pretty things, far too many of them dotting down the front. He started at Clint’s sternum and worked his way up, moving deftly without even the scantest brush of his fingertips against the skin of Clint’s chest. Clint pressed the neat little buttons on the long cuffs through their holes, struggling a little with the stiffness of the starched cotton, stretching as it did along half of his forearm. Then Phil was adjusting the sit of the collar – tuxedo-style with little pointed tips at the front that were edged with gold – and smoothing one hand down the neat row of white buttons. Clint was sure that Phil could feel the thud of his heart in his chest, could hear the rough beat of it if he hadn’t already seen the jumping pulse at Clint’s throat.

Phil picked up just below where he had started, buttoning his way down Clint’s stomach, pulling the cotton tight against Clint’s waist because those tailored shirts were all so fucking close and clingy. Phil buttoned down and down, until his fingers were doing neat and productive things at the level of Clint’s crotch. Clint was fumbling with the tiny buttons of his other cuff and not even willing to hide his fluster as Phil ran the back of his first two fingers down the front of the shirt, his short fingernails hitting every button on the way down until the tips of his fingers caught at the high waist of those pants through the thick fabric of the shirt.

“That needs to be tucked in,” Clint said, his voice sounding faint and rough to his own ears.

Phil hummed in agreement, and thumbed open the button of Clint’s slacks through the thick cotton of the shirt. Clint inhaled sharply as Phil slowly pushed the shirt up with one hand, the pads of his fingers pressing a hot little arc above Clint’s belly button, and then eased the zipper down with the other. He moved his hands around, trailing his fingers against the rich material of Clint’s shirt, his forearms pressed against Clint’s sides as he slid his hands into the back of Clint’s pants, tucking the shirt in.

Phil had messed about with Clint’s shirts all day, tucking them in and straightening collars and making buttons sit right. This time his touch was different. It was firm and lingering, the heat of his hands sinking into Clint’s skin as Phil cupped his ass for long, glorious seconds, their bodies pulled close together and Phil making a show of frowning down at the shirt, the perfect impersonation of appropriate workplace relations.

Then Phil slid his hands around, palms dragging low across Clint’s hips. One hand gripping his side tight, Phil’s thumb pressed into the sensitive skin below the jut of Clint’s hipbone, while the other slid further across to the sensitive skin low on Clint’s belly, just above his cock. If not for the thick, rich fabric of the shirt, Phil’s pinkie finger would be resting against Clint’s pubic hair. And then Phil tucked the shirt in at the front, the back of his hand brushing against Clint’s hardening cock, twisting his hand around to better aid the perfect sit of the shirt tails, pausing to cup the line of Clint’s erection in his hand.

“Phil,” Clint whined.

The sound of something expensive falling to the ground and shattering out in the studio brought Clint back to his senses. Phil looked up at Clint with a warm, familiar expression, and eased his hands out of Clint’s pants. He fixed Clint’s shirt with neat, precise movements, completely unlike the caresses of moments earlier. Clint’s hands were on Phil’s chest, revelling in the feel of muscle and bone and Italian wool beneath his palms. Clint bit on his lower lip as Phil zipped his pants up over his erection, and Phil watched the way Clint’s teeth caught at the red skin with interest.

“Having trouble with those buttons?” Phil asked innocently, tilting his head to indicate the few small buttons left undone at Clint’s cuff.

“Fuck you,” Clint replied, a little breathless. “My suit has zippers on it for a reason.”

“I like the buttons,” Phil said, taking over and fixing those last, small, troublesome little fastenings.

“You like the clothes,” Clint returned.

“Yes,” Phil said in agreement, his hands holding Clint’s forearm, surprisingly gentle and so very calm. Clint could feel the heat of Phil’s palms sinking into him as Phil added, “I would suck you dry through those pants if I could.”

Clint whined high in his throat, his fingers stretching out and gasping the front of Phil’s jacket, crumpling the lapel in a desperate, crushing grip. “Jesus, Phil,” Clint said, sighed, groaned.

Phil smiled at him, close lipped and heated and a predatory. “They’re waiting for you,” he said, a curl of pleasure and amusement in his voice.

“Fuck them,” Clint hissed. “Let’s get the hell out of here right now and just-” Phil’s grip on Clint’s forearm tightened, and Clint bit his words off as a deep jolt of pleasure went through him. Hypersensitive and highly aroused, and Phil was so close and so warm and so very, very sexy.

“Complete the mission, Agent Barton,” Phil instructed in a low murmur.

Clint sucked in a deep breath and held it, exhaled through his nose and inhaled again. “Yes,” he said, his voice rough and raw. “Sir.”

~*~

With topics of conversation drying up, I ask him about his favourite movie. “Top Gun,” he replies instantly. “I must have seen that movie twenty times when it was in theaters.” That’s quite a passion for fighter pilots. “I was homeless at the time,” he explains. “My brother and I would sneak into movie theaters because they had air conditioning, we kept sneaking into Top Gun because it kept me quiet while he got some sleep.” So he didn’t exactly contribute to its box office success. “I always felt bad about that,” he admits. “I paid to see Mission: Impossible, though. Well, I paid for it once. I was temporarily displaced at the time.” And living out of theaters again? “The smell of popcorn always makes me sleepy now,” he replies with a flash of a grin. “I got the Mission: Impossible set the other day. They’re the only DVDs I own, though I haven’t seen them all yet.” Which begs the question: the movie franchise or the television show? He looks startled at the question. “There’s a TV show?”

Apparently Captain America isn’t the only one with come catching up to do.

~*~

Nine hours of dressing and undressing, and clothes and cameras, and powder on his nose. Nine hours of Phil and smiles and glances and hands. The longest date of Clint’s life and all he wanted to do was return the favor, to strip Phil down one item of clothing at a time, starting with his shoes, his watch, his pocket square and ending with the layer of calm that softened every movement. After the wonderful ache of a long day of teasing, Clint wanted to press Phil down and lick the sweat from his chest, to make him arch and moan and lose every shred of control that he had. And given the glances Phil had been giving him for the last hour, Clint was pretty confident that their interests aligned. When they were finally dismissed, they gave one another heated, promising smiles.

“Hey, wait up,” the wardrobe assistant called after them as Clint made a break for the door and Phil followed half a step behind. Phil stopped and turned, which meant that Clint had to as well. He tried to keep the annoyance off his face. “Your clothes,” the assistant said, holding up two garment bags.

“I’m wearing my clothes,” Clint returned.

“No, we picked some out from the shoot as a gift.” She held the two bags out with a smile. Neither Phil nor Clint moved to take them. “We do it for everyone,” she continued. “They’ve been tailored so we can’t exactly use them again.”

Clint glanced at Phil, and Phil looked contemplatively at the garment bags. “Is the trench coat vest in there?” he asked.

“Yes. And the infantry shirt. The grey suit, too.”

Phil reached and took the bags, delight visible only in the way his hands curled possessively around the hangers, and Clint thanked the wardrobe assistant with some genuine affection.

“Did you have a good time?” she asked.

Clint thought back over the day, now a blur of hot lights and uncomfortable clothes, and Phil all but eating him up with his eyes, with the way his hands rested on Clint’s body through rich and beautiful fabrics.

“Yeah,” Clint said with a grin. “It was fun.”

But nowhere near as much fun as the evening ahead promised to be.