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"Got a mission for you," Fury says, pushing the file across the desk to him. He sits back, putting his hands behind his head. "Role of a lifetime."

Phil skims it. He looks up at Fury. "You've got to be shitting me."

"Afraid not," Fury says. "Knock 'em dead." Phil shakes his head, looking back down at the file. "Who's your pick? Barton?"

Phil snaps his head up, looking alarmed for a moment. "Why would I pick Barton?" he asks, failing entirely to sound casual. "There are plenty of agents-"

Fury grins. "You are, and you have always been, an easy mark."

Phil raises an eyebrow at him. "I don't think many people would agree with you on that point."

"Because they don't know you like I do, Cheese," Fury says.

"Thank God," Phil replies, leafing through the file.

--

"You're serious about doing this?" his mentor- soon to be, anyway- asked.

"Serious as a heart attack," Phil said.

"Kneel," he said, and it took everything Phil had to do it. "Up. Do it again." Phil obeyed, and it was easier, but it still sucked. "Bad form," he said. "Again." Phil sighed, going back down on his knees. "Not what you had in mind? Too bad. This is step one. You've got to learn some manners before you earn any respect."

"Yes, sir," Phil said.

"Do it again."

--

After the first time with Clint, Phil has no idea what to do with himself.

Actually, he knows exactly what to do; he keeps his shit together long enough to get home, then jerks off thinking about it, about every single detail, about the marks he'd left on Clint's skin, the look in his eyes.

And then he waits a while, and then he does it all over again. One good turn deserves another, after all.

And thank God, Clint doesn't panic, not any more than is to be expected, and he doesn't run. It turns out to be quite the opposite, actually, and Phil welcomes it with open arms.

--

The first time, Phil popped himself in the face.

"Jesus fuck," he said, clutching his cheek, wondering why in the hell he thought this was a good idea.

"What the fuck did I tell you," his mentor said. "You didn't listen to me, and now you got a welt on your face."

Phil looked at him in concern. "Shit, sir, do I?"

"Hard to tell yet," he said. "You'll probably be fine. If you're not, try telling people you fell on an iron."

Phil pursed his lips. "With all due respect, sir, who would believe that?"

He shrugged. "Who would believe you hit yourself in the face with a whip? I don't think most people would be surprised to know you can work an iron." He put Phil's hand in the right position again. "You sure can't work a whip."

--

Phil gets standoffish when asked about everything beforehand, though Clint knows for a fact he went through a whole bunch of special training, the nature of which Clint can only guess at. He doesn't have any idea what it must have been like, because Phil's not a sub; Clint can hit the broad side of a barn, but Phil knows so much more, stuff Clint probably won't ever know.

"Are you embarrassed?" Clint asks; it's kind of an ambush question, because they're in bed, wrung out and hanging all over each other. "Of the person who trained you."

Phil frowns at him. "Of course not. Never. If I ever thought I would be, I wouldn't have let him."

Clint settles in, getting closer; that's more than he's ever gotten before, despite how little it is. "So, stop me if I'm wrong," he says, pushing his luck. "You were sleeping with this guy-"

"Not sleeping with," Phil corrects. "Being trained by. It wasn't sexual."

"Did you want to sleep with him?" Clint asks.

Phil shrugs. "Not particularly. I'm not into straight guys."

Clint shakes his head. "I still don't understand how you can do that with somebody and not want to fuck them."

"Of course you don't," Phil says. "You want to fuck everybody."

"Hey," Clint says, offended. "Not everybody."

--

His mentor's girl was tall and built, and Phil had a very hard time not staring at her when she was naked; he wasn't even into women, but she was a very fine piece of work. He wasn't sure how long they'd been together, but she seemed to be in it for the long haul, ready to take whatever he could throw at her.

Under these circumstances, that was not a statement to be made lightly.

As Phil stood by, he took her by the hair, pulling her back and kissing her hard. He whispered something in her ear, and Phil looked away, feeling like he was intruding. It was only momentary, though; he let her go, stepping away and motioning to Phil.

He placed his hand on the center of her back. "Here and here," he said, putting a hand on each shoulder blade in turn. "Those are the sweet spots. Never between here-" he drew a line above her kidneys- "and here." Another line at the top of her ass. "Don't fuck it up. You hurt my girl, you're taking my paddle."

"Yes, sir," Phil said. He could do this; he had a good target, he'd practiced, he was ready.

"This is your scene," he said. "Go."

--

It's really unfortunate all around. The mission was supposed to be four days from now, but a last-minute change means the schedule has been stepped up. Not only that, it was stepped up to the night after Phil and Clint played; not only that, but Clint's position was compromised early on, and now he's been caught.

They tie him to an open-backed chair and tear off his shirt, and Clint braces himself, ready for a host of possibilities, all of which involve shit going down. Of course, then he can see the guy in front of him and the guy behind him exchange alarmed looks.

"Holy shit," the guy behind him says.

Clint's back doesn't actually hurt, but it's mottled with bruises and welts; one of his captors pokes at him, and Clint jerks away from him. "Hey, watch it there, Magic Fingers."

"Jesus Christ, what do they do at SHIELD?" the guy says, coming around to look at the bitemarks on his chest.

"Your mother," Clint says, just before he headbutts him.

"Really, Clint?" Phil asks, as the team sweeps in to take care of the cleanup; Clint's already grabbed one of the goons' shirts, because there are some things he does not need to share with all of SHIELD. "'Your mother'?"

"Come on, sir," he says, grinning. "When do I ever get an opening like that?"

Phil deliberately slaps him on the back; okay, that hurts. "Good work otherwise, agent."

"Thank you, sir," he says, trying not to wince. Phil's still a dick sometimes.

--

"One," Phil said. "Thank you, sir, may I please have another?"

The second hit was even louder than the first one. "Two," Phil said, putting his face down on his forearms. "Thank you, sir, may I please have another?"

Three, four, and five were in mercifully short succession; Phil vastly preferred getting it all over as quickly as possible. This, of course, meant that there was a long pause before the almighty final whallop.

"Six," Phil said, through gritted teeth. "Thank you, sir, goddamn motherfucking son of a bitch."

"Don't think that last part's exactly good etiquette," his mentor said, setting the paddle down next to him. "But we'll let it slide this time."

"How does anyone like that?" Phil said, before he thought better of it.

He sat down on the edge of the desk; Phil knew very well that he deserved at least one more set for saying something like that, but it wasn't forthcoming. "That's the sixty-four dollar question, ain't it? All you have to do is swing the damn thing. Somebody else has to take that. Somebody else has to want that. If you don't understand the gravity of what you're doing to somebody, then you don't deserve to do it to them. Period, end of sentence." He looked into Phil's eyes, searching him for something. "How does that make you feel, if somebody wants to let you do that to them?"

Phil thought about it; it was a serious question, one that required some careful consideration. "Grateful, sir," he said finally.

He raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Anybody who wants to take that to make me happy deserves my gratitude," Phil said.

His mentor smiled. "Damn, there might be some hope for you after all."

--

Phil looks at him sometimes in this way that makes Clint deeply uncomfortable, this look that says that there's nothing other than him, that there's nothing better than him, like Phil's whole purpose is Clint. Clint can't articulate why it bothers him, just knows that it does. Maybe it's because he really likes it, enough that he's ashamed of how much he likes it; that sounds like something he'd do.

Fortunately and unfortunately, Clint usually sees that look when Phil is about to beat the holy hell out of him; it's fortunate because he doesn't have to see it or think about it for very long, but unfortunate because, well, Phil is about to beat the holy hell out of him.

There are a lot of trade-offs like that when it comes to this whole thing. Most of them end in Clint getting the holy hell beaten out of him. He finds it very hard to care about this.

--

"Give me your palms," he said, and Phil did it without hesitation, though he could be getting smacked for all he knew. Instead, he put a whip into Phil's hands. It wasn't one of his; this one was brand new. It was gorgeous, black with a streak of white braided in, and Phil had never seen anything quite like it.

"Is this your way of saying you've taught me everything you know?" Phil asked.

"Hell no," he said, and his amused smirk said that he took it in the way intended. "This is my way of saying you're good enough not to put your eye out with it."

"That's a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one," Phil said dryly.

"I believe in the power of positive reinforcement," he said. "Don't do anything fucking stupid to it. The only way to break it in is to use it."

Phil took it in one hand, carefully guiding it back and cracking it, nice and smooth; it felt like an extension of his arm, like he'd always needed it.

"See there?" his mentor said. "Meant to be."

"Never doubted that, sir," Phil said, cracking it again and again.

--

"I am certain that we have a form for what you're doing with Barton," Fury says.

"I am fully qualified to write one, if you want me to," Phil says mildly.

"Is it going to become a problem?" Fury asks.

"There will be no problems with favoritism or insubordination whatsoever, Director," Phil says. "I guarantee."

Fury raises his eyebrow. "You guarantee?"

"I guarantee that if there are any, Barton won't be able to sit down for a week," Phil says, with a little smirk.

"Good to know," Fury says, amused.

"Just let me know if you want me to draw up that paperwork," Phil says. "Sir."

--

"I found this when I packed up our stuff," Phil said, holding up the collar. "Pretty sure it's yours."

"Thanks," he said, taking it.

"So, is this the part where you lie to me and say it's a necklace?" Phil asked.

He straightened. "Is this the part where you dog me about it?" he returned evenly.

"No," Phil said.

"It's not a necklace," he said, tucking it into his pocket.

"Huh," Phil said.

He gave Phil a look. "'Huh'?"

"It's interesting," Phil said. "I didn't know you were into this stuff."

"Well, I am," he challenged. "Got a problem with that?"

Phil frowned. "I didn't mean it like that," he said. "I meant-" Phil sighed, clearly psyching himself up. "I've wanted to find somebody who knew about it."

The corner of Nick's mouth ticked up. "Well," he said, "you found him."