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My Insides Are Copper

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A year earlier, Clint had met a guy named Brayden at a tournament. Until that moment, no one had ever come close to beating Clint. Brayden, however, had given Clint a run for his money, enough to make Clint sweat a little.

It hadn’t hurt that he’d been hot as shit, all tall and lanky with freckles everywhere.

After the match, Brayden had asked Clint if he could bum a smoke.

“I won. You should be giving me a smoke,” Clint had drawled.

Brayden had given him a long, slow smile and replied, “Raincheck?”

Ten minutes later, Brayden had had Clint pressed up against the locked door of the men’s room with Clint’s jeans down around his knees. Clint had kept Brayden’s number in his phone ever since.

The night after he left Lucky at Phil’s house, Clint called Brayden. It was Friday, Margo and Terrance were visiting Margo’s sister, and Clint had the evening to himself. But what he’d hoped would be just hanging out on the couch with a pizza box and bad cable TV turned into him thinking about his dog and wondering if he should stop by to see him. Which then immediately lead to thoughts of Phil and the soft little sounds he’d make when he begged Clint to make him come.

“Fuck this,” Clint growled and pulled Brayden’s number up in his phone. He needed to get laid—really laid, not this part-time handjob bullshit. He’d spent too much time getting wrapped up in this crap with Coulson.

What Clint needed was a reality check.

“Barton?” Brayden answered with a laugh. “Jesus, it’s been a while. What’s up? Haven’t seen you on the tournament circuit lately.”

“Yeah, I’ve been, uh. Busy.” Clint closed his eyes and pictured Brayden’s broad shoulders and wide hands. “Listen, what are you doin’ tonight?”

Brayden laughed again. “Why, you got something planned?”

“Maybe. If you don’t mind driving into town to pick me up.”

“That’s a forty minute drive.”

“You’ve done it before. I’ve made it worth your while.” Clint licked his lips.

Brayden hummed, his voice dropping into a low purr. “Yeah, you have,” he said. “Your old man got some beer to steal?”

“I’ll see what I can find.”

Clint was waiting for him on the front porch when Brayden pulled up in his Jeep. The six-pack of Bud Light sitting at his hip wasn’t Terrance’s, because Clint would rather pilfer beer from the next door neighbor’s cooler than touch his foster dad’s stash.

“You’re a pain in my ass,” Brayden said as Clint climbed into the car. But he was grinning, especially when Clint dug his hand into the front of Brayden’s shirt and reeled him into a hard, biting kiss.

This Clint could do. He could kiss Brayden forever and it wouldn’t mean a damn thing. He wouldn’t be thinking about it in the morning, or wondering what the fuck it all meant. He wouldn’t be picturing pretty blue eyes staring up at him, asking for things Clint didn’t want to think about.

Brayden drove them to a parking lot of an abandoned furniture store on the edge of town, a place they’d gone before that was dark and quiet. They shotgunned a couple beers, then Clint crawled into Brayden’s lap and proceeded to make quick work of their clothes.

“Goddamn, you’re fine,” Brayden breathed against Clint’s collarbone, teeth scraping against skin, and Clint wanted to say something snappy, but he was focused on keeping his eyes open. Brayden’s hands were everywhere, and Clint wanted to see him, wanted to remind himself that he could have that gut-clenching rush of overwhelming sensation with anyone, because sex was sex.

And yet...it wasn’t. Brayden touched him with confident assurance, not tentativeness. He kissed Clint like it was a game, not something he needed desperately. He didn’t leave marks on Clint’s skin and then trace his fingertips over them like they were works of art. Brayden didn’t say Clint’s name like it was a secret just between the two of them.

Brayden was everything Phil wasn’t. Clint grit his teeth and made himself believe it was exactly what he wanted.

When it was over and the Jeep’s windows were fogged up, Brayden yawned as he rolled off the condom and stuffed it into an old McDonald’s bag. “Wanna hang out until you’re up for another round?” he asked, leaning across the gear shift to nip at Clint’s mouth.

Clint forced a smile. He needed to see his dog. Too bad said dog was currently residing in the last place Clint wanted to be. “Nah, that was my last condom. I could go for a burger, though.” The former was a lie, but the latter was true.

Brayden snorted. “I would’ve worn a clean shirt if I’d know we were going on a date.”

“I don’t date,” Clint replied, wiping the condensation off the passenger window.

~

“You look terrible.”

Phil glanced up from where he’d laid his head against his locker to find Pepper giving him a worried look. “I’m fine,” he mumbled.

“You don’t even sound decent enough to make that lie convincing. Is it your head again?” she asked quietly.

He winced. Pepper always spotted his migraines. But unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time for him to go home for his meds. He had a midterm in his History class, and a game that evening that pretty much determined the fate of the rest of the season.

“I’ve survived worse,” he said, thinking of his pain meds sitting in the bathroom cabinet.

“Can you call your mom?”

“She’s in San Diego until tomorrow.”

Pepper shook her head. “I’ll go by your house, or get Tony to—”

“No, Pep, I said I was fine. Seriously.” Phil made himself smile as he patted her shoulder. “I appreciate the concern, though.”

“Your mystery boyfriend could grab your meds, maybe?” she asked, one eyebrow raised.

Phil gave a weak laugh. “Yeah, sure.” Clint hadn’t looked at him since Thursday night, had been actively avoiding Phil since the whole talk about...things Phil should’ve never, ever have brought up. The horrified look in Clint’s eyes at the mere mention of—

He scrubbed a hand over his face. God, Phil hated that he couldn’t keep himself from getting all soppy and earnest after sex. He was a fucking idiot, and now Clint didn’t even want to be in the same room with him, let alone touch him. Why did Phil have to say anything at all? Why couldn’t he just keep his mouth shut and take what Clint gave him?

“So stupid,” Phil muttered under his breath as he slammed his locker shut.

“What?” Pepper frowned at him.

“Nothing. I’ve got a midterm to take.” He turned away before Pepper could fuss at him anymore.

But Phil didn’t pay attention to where he was going, and he ran straight into Clint. The force of the collision jarred Phil’s head, and he hissed in pain before he gasped, “Sorry.” He waited for Clint to disappear, ignore him like he’d been doing since Friday.

Instead, he heard Clint ask, “You okay?”

Phil slowly raised his eyes to meet Clint’s. “I’m...it’s just a headache.”

Clint leaned closer, close enough that Phil could smell hints of soap and aftershave. His mouth went wet. Fuck, he was so, so lame. “Just a headache?”

“Yeah, that’s what I said,” Phil replied a little too harshly. He watched Clint’s throat bob as he swallowed, and in the process Phil’s gaze skimmed over the curve of Clint’s neck where it connected to his shoulder, right above his collarbone.

Flaring out from the edge of Clint’s t-shirt was a bruise. A dark, round purple smudge. Mouth-shaped. It looked fresh, only a few days old.

Phil knew—he’d been careful not to bite Clint the last time in his room, in case his mom saw anything—the bruise wasn’t his.

A cold fist curled up in his stomach, and for a moment his headache was forgotten. All Phil could think about was the nameless guy who’d marked Clint, who’d touched him and kissed him all he wanted, because Clint only gave Phil stipulations. Phil wasn’t good enough to kiss.

With you I just get off. Clint’s words pounded through Phil’s brain, blaring and stark. Phil wanted to punch something, or someone. Mostly the guy—all the guys—who’d had Clint in ways Phil never would.

And yet now Clint was crowding into Phil’s space, squinting at Phil like he was concerned about him, like he actually gave a shit about Phil.

“I could...I dunno, steal you some Advil?” Clint said, and the little crooked, shy smile he gave Phil made Phil’s throat tighten.

He didn’t want anything from Clint. Phil was done being stupid.

“I didn’t ask for your help,” Phil growled, hating how rough his voice sounded, like he was close to tears. His migraine suddenly came rushing back.

The smile immediately slid right off Clint’s face. Something flickered in his eyes, and if Phil were still being a hopeless idiot, he would’ve thought it was hurt. “Hey, fuck you, Weasel, I’m just being nice.”

“I don’t need you to be nice,” Phil sneered. “I’m not in the mood to blow you, if that’s what you’re getting at.”

Clint’s expression darkened. “I didn’t say that,” he said, almost in a whisper.

“You didn’t have to.” The warning bell rang, making the pain scream in Phil’s head. He shut his eyes, grit his teeth, and with his head bowed he shoved his way past Clint and ran the rest of the way to class.

~

Clint didn’t work on Monday afternoons, so he threw himself into practice, attacking targets with a vengeance. He figured if he concentrated hard enough he wouldn’t think about Phil’s face all scrunched up in pain, or the way he more or less told Clint to fuck off.

The thing was, Clint had been thinking about Phil nonstop since the night in Brayden’s car, which was the exact opposite of what was supposed to have happened. Brayden should’ve fucked all thoughts of Phil right out of Clint’s head.

“D’you know anything about migraines?” he asked Kate, who was shooting at the target beside his.

She lowered her bow and stared at him. “Uh, not really? My mom gets them sometimes, I guess—why?”

Clint shrugged. “No reason.”

“Are you sick or something? You have been acting really weird lately…”

“Don’t worry about it.” Nat could read him like a book, but Kate tended to be a bit more oblivious. Sometimes Clint thought she did it on purpose.

“By the way, Nat and I are going to the game tonight. Since you and Coulson are buddies now, you should give soccer another chance.” There was a sing-song lilt to her voice. Clint wondered if maybe she wasn’t so oblivious after all.

His blush deepened. “Naw, I’m good. Need the practice.” Phil wouldn’t want him there, anyway. Not that it mattered, not that Phil had ever asked Clint to be at one of his games…

Shit, since when did he ever care about this crap? Clint glowered at the target and released another arrow.

He heard her sigh loudly and then felt a hand on his arm, forcing him to lower his bow. “Phil’s really good, y’know,” Kate said. “Like, really good. He’s gonna get a full ride somewhere, maybe even go pro.”

Clint shrugged off her hand. “So?”

“So, you should come see him in action. I think you’d enjoy it.” She waggled her eyebrows.

“Katie—”

“No, Nat already told me you’re in denial. I don’t have time for that.”

He spluttered. “I’m not in denial about anything!”

“Uh-huh.” Kate squinted at him. “What if I told you there was a rumor that Coulson and Steve Rogers were a thing?”

Clint felt his stomach immediately drop, and his heart started pounding. “That’s not—he’s never even had—who told you that?”

She threw both arms up in the air. “I knew it!” Kate whooped. “God, Nat wasn’t kidding. Holy crap.”

“Seriously, who told you Coulson was—with someone?” Clint fought hard to keep his voice even, to not picture Phil smiling sweetly at that big blond Boy Scout.

“No one told me, I made it up. Although I once heard Coulson had a crush on Steve, but that was years ago.” She beamed at Clint and poked him in the chest. “You’re not denying anything, though.”

“There’s nothing to deny. We’re friends. We’re doing a project together for Fury. End of story.” Phil had had a crush on Rogers? For how long? Did he still have a thing for him?

“All the more reason you should come to the game with us.” Kate looped her arm around Clint’s. “C’mon, I’ll buy you popcorn and promise not to scream too loudly for your hot goalie boyfriend.”

Never call him that,” Clint hissed, which only made Kate snort with laughter. He couldn’t put up much of a fight after that.

~

Phil had played a lot of games in his life, but none of them had ever compared to the absolute misery of that night’s regional qualifier. Winning meant his team would go on to play for a district title and then go on to state competition. Everything was riding on Phil performing at his best.

So even with his vision blurry and pain screaming in his head, Phil played as hard as he possibly could. And by the skin of their teeth, his team won by one point, thanks to Phil blocking what would’ve been a tying goal with seconds left on the clock.

While the whole field went nuts and teammates shouted his name, Phil sunk to his knees and tried to breathe past the nausea all the noise caused. The tips of his fingers felt numb.

“Coulson, hey, you all right?” Bucky asked, dropping down beside him. He grasped Phil’s shoulder and shook him good-naturedly. Phil bit back a moan.

“Yeah, yeah, fine,” he managed to say as he struggled to his feet.

Bucky didn’t look convinced, but Phil could tell he was trying hard not to smile. The rest of the guys ran up to Phil and started congratulating him, hugging his shoulders and ruffling his hair. Phil just wanted to curl into a ball and hide until the pain stopped.

“You’re the hero of the night, dude!” someone yelled, and Bucky grinned.

“C’mon, we need to celebrate,” he said.

Phil grimaced. “I—I can’t.” It was taking a lot of effort just to walk to the locker rooms.

Bucky frowned. “Seriously, did you jack up your knee or something? I can get Coach to—”

“No, it’s cool, I just—just need to go home, that’s all.” He’d done what he needed to do, and now all he wanted in the world was to get to his meds and sleep for a million years.

He changed slowly, careful not to make any sudden movements. The locker room was an absolute chaos of cheers and yelling. Phil shut his eyes and put his head in his heads, telling himself he could make it just twenty more minutes until he was home. If only his mom wasn’t out of town.

He forced a smile when his coach congratulated him—”Couldn’t have done it without you, Coulson”—and dragged his duffel bag onto his shoulder. All he had to do was make it to his car, drive twelve blocks to his house, and then climb ten steps to his room. He waited another half hour until the locker room was quiet and empty and slowly made his way out to his car.

Phil didn’t plan on a couple rival team players to be waiting for him, however.

“Hey, asswipe, you think you’re such a hot shot?” the first guy said. Phil vaguely recognized him as the other team’s goalie.

The second guy, who was taller and stockier, shoved Phil’s shoulder. “Bet we could beat the shit out of you right now and you wouldn’t even do anything about it.”

They were right. Phil wouldn’t do anything about it, but not for the reasons they thought. Every last bit of strength he had left was being used to keep himself upright. He could barely keep his eyes open.

“Let it go, guys,” he said, hating how weak his voice sounded. Of course this would happen after the rest of his team had cleared out, eager to go drink somewhere and celebrate. No one was around.

“We will, as soon as we fuck you up,” the taller guy said. He grabbed Phil by the front of his t-shirt and slammed him back against the side of the building. Pain screamed through every inch of Phil’s body, making him grit his teeth and moan against his will.

“D’you hear that? This’ll be sweet,” the shorter guy drawled with a laugh as he grabbed Phil’s chin and hauled his fist back.

Phil held his breath and waited for the punch.

“Hey!” a familiar voice yelled. “Douchebags! Lookin’ for a real fight?” It was almost funny, because Phil could swear it sounded like Clint. How pathetic that Phil was desperate enough to hallucinate Clint coming to his rescue.

Only the next thing Phil knew, Tall Guy had suddenly released his hold and was being thrown onto the ground by someone who looked just like Clint. Phil blinked hard and watched as said Clint look-a-like kicked him straight in the stomach.

“Dude, this doesn’t concern you!” Shorter Guy said and made an attempt to pull Clint Look-a-Like off his teammate.

“I think it does, fuckwad. My school, my team, my goalie.” And the way he said it, the way he smirked at the end of the sentence right before he tackled the second guy set off alarm bells in Phil’s head.

Clint.

Phil slid down the wall, exhausted and speechless. Clint punched Shorter Guy in the nose, and his knuckles came back bloody. Tall Guy tried to grab Clint around the ankles, but Clint had quick reflexes—Phil knew first-hand—and he easily slid out of the guy’s reach. The three of them wrestled on the ground in a blur of fists and knees until Phil heard his coach call out, “What the hell’s going on here?”

The brawl separated immediately. Clint stayed sprawled on the ground, panting and sweaty but looking very satisfied. Shorter Guy held his nose as blood seeped through his fingers, and his teammate had the makings of a fierce black eye.

Phil’s heart was racing so fast he could feel it in his throat.

Coach pointed at the two rival teammates. “Aren’t you boys supposed to be on your bus home?”

Tall Guy mumbled, “Yes, sir.”

“I should get your coach, have you both suspended. But from the looks of it, he’ll see the damage you caused and do it himself.” He raised an eyebrow at Clint. “Barton, care to tell me what happened?”

Clint sat up and licked the corner of his mouth where his lip was split. “These two were attacking Coulson, sir. In case you didn’t notice, he’s not exactly up for defending himself.”

Coach looked at Phil. The angry pinch between his eyes melted into concern. “Is that true, Coulson?”

“I’m fine,” Phil heard himself say for the millionth time. He couldn’t stop staring at Clint, who hadn’t looked at him once since the fight started.

“You don’t look it. Barton, take Coulson home. You two—” He glared at the rivals. “—get back to your damn bus. I’ll be calling your AD in the morning.”

They scurried off without comment. Clint sighed heavily and flopped back on the ground.

Coach asked, “You sure you don’t need anything, Phil?”

He shook his head slowly. “Just need to get home.”

“I’ll take care of it, sir,” he heard Clint say.

Coach laid a gentle hand on Phil’s shoulder. “Take tomorrow off,” he said quietly. “I’ll clear it with Principal Xavier. All right?”

Phil’s throat felt tight. He nodded, afraid to say anything.

When they were alone, Clint rolled to his feet, rubbing the back of his hand over his mouth. Then he crouched down in front of Phil and finally met his eyes.

“C’mon,” he whispered, and held out his hand.

Phil took it, leaning all his weight against Clint’s chest. He was beyond caring about his pride; it just felt good to be taken care of. Clint’s arm was heavy and firm around his shoulders as he half-carried Phil to his car.

“Jesus, Coulson, why’d you do this to yourself?” Clint muttered. He propped Phil up against the door as he dug the keys out of Phil’s pocket.

“Had to. People were counting on me. Can’t let ‘em down.” Phil’s words were beginning to slur together. He couldn’t keep his eyes open, the lights of the parking lot were too bright.

“No one wants you to kill yourself, dumbass.” The passenger door clicked open and Phil let himself be manhandled into the seat. He tipped his head against the window and whimpered at the steady throbbing behind his eyes.

“Why’d you really fight them?” Phil asked when he heard Clint climb into the driver’s side and start the car. “Didn’t even...know you were at the...at my game.”

Clint didn’t say anything for several long moments. Phil could heard the car pull onto the side street, the quiet ping of a turn signal.

“Wanted to see you in action,” Clint eventually replied. He never answered the first part of Phil’s question.

~

Clint’s hands were still shaking when he pulled into Phil’s driveway. The last twenty minutes were a blur, and his knuckles hurt from punching that asshole in the nose. His lip was bleeding, but nothing too terrible. Clint had had worse.

He was so damn lucky Phil’s coach hadn’t suspended him. Clint wouldn’t have protested, though; he’d known, in the back of his mind, that he shouldn’t have gone after those guys. He already had one fight to his name on school grounds.

But the image of Phil all pale and slumped against the wall, looking utterly beaten as that dickbag had jerked him around—Clint only remembered everything in his brain sort of fuzzing out and turning red. He’d been on his way back home from the game, having turned down Kate’s offer to drive him. Clint had wanted to be alone for a while to think about how graceful Phil had been out on the field, and how much it hurt to watch him be so perfect. He’d noticed Phil’s stiff movements at times, and the way he’d grimaced each time he blocked a ball, but Clint would never have guessed Phil was as bad off as he was.

Seeing how fragile Phil had looked in the face of that rival goalie made Clint want to burn the world down. It was a terrifying, overwhelming thought.

Phil made a soft sound of protest when Clint opened the passenger side door. “Almost there,” Clint said, looping Phil’s arm around his neck. “Is your mom home?”

“No, not ‘til tomorrow,” Phil murmured. He turned his face into Clint’s neck. “My house key’s on—”

“Yeah, got it.” Clint fumbled with Phil’s key ring, picking one at random. He was in luck; the front opened easily, and with steady hands Clint guided Phil through the foyer to the stairs. Lucky was there almost immediately. He came to a stop at Clint’s side and woofed.

“Not right now, dude, okay?” Clint said, giving Lucky one quick, cursory pat.

“He can come upstairs. He sleeps with me sometimes,” Phil said, words slightly muffled into Clint’s neck.

Clint swallowed, imagining Lucky curled up on Phil’s bed. “Tryin’ to make me jealous, Weasel?” He tried to laugh as he carefully walked Phil up the stairs. Phil clung tightly to him, his shoulders hunched. He smelled like sweat and grass.

“He’ll sleep with you someday.” Phil’s words were getting progressively more slurred. Clint nudged Phil’s bedroom door open with his foot, and for once he was happy to know the layout of the room so well. He avoided turning the light on and all but carried Phil the rest of the way to his bed, where he pulled back the covers and did his best to lay Phil down as gently as possible. Phil moaned the second his head hit the pillow, but it didn’t sound painful.

Clint went to work untying Phil’s sneakers. “Where’s your meds?” Lucky sat at Clint’s feet, eyes solemn and watchful.

“In the—the bathroom cabinet. In the hall. ‘s got my name on it.” Phil buried his face in his pillow.

Sure enough, there was a bottle of codeine in the cabinet, half full. How often did Phil get migraines like this to warrant a doctor’s prescription? Clint checked the recommended dosage, then grabbed a glass of water.

Phil managed to sit up long enough to swallow his pills and drink all the water before immediately burrowing back under the covers.

Clint just stood there holding an empty glass. He didn’t know what to do next.

“I owe you,” he heard Phil say, small and almost too soft to hear.

Clint shook his head. “You’re an idiot if you think that.” Lucky butted his head against Clint’s leg, reminding him once again that if it weren’t for Phil, Lucky’d probably be dead.

“I don’t want you to get in trouble.”

“Shut up and go to sleep,” Clint said roughly. Then he said to Lucky, “C’mon, Pizza Dog, you need a trip outside.” Lucky woofed, immediately heading downstairs. Clint followed after him and let him out the front door. As if he’d been housebroken for years, Lucky did his job without even being asked. Clint wondered if Phil had been training him.

When Lucky was finished, Clint said, “I’ll see you later, okay?”

Lucky cocked his head.

“I’m not staying, dude.”

Lucky blinked at him and gave a low woof. He turned around trotted back to the door, glancing over his shoulder at Clint like he fully expected him to follow.

The house was eerily quiet and dark. Clint thought of Phil curled up in his bed, in pain and alone. Lucky was hardly a guard dog.

Maybe he was the idiot, or maybe he was a masochist at heart. Either way, he couldn’t make himself leave. Instead, he went back inside, locked the door behind him, and climbed the stairs to Phil’s room. Phil was right where Clint had left him, the top of his head barely visible from underneath the blankets.

Clint rubbed both hands over his face. “Screw it,” he whispered to himself.

He crawled onto the bed on the opposite side and laid down on top of the comforter, his chest up against Phil’s back as he settled his right arm into the curve of Phil’s hip. A second later, the bed shifted as Lucky jumped up on the mattress, curling up at Clint’s feet.

Clint closed his eyes as his lips skimmed feather-soft over Phil’s nape. Phil sighed, long and deep, but didn’t push Clint away.

He’d just stay until Phil fell asleep. Then he’d leave.

~

Phil woke slowly, the light in his room an unfocused gray. The clock on his nightstand read 8:24 in the morning. And his head, thankfully, blissfully, didn’t hurt anymore.

He rubbed his face against his pillow and took stock of himself. Everything inch of him was still bone-tired, but he wasn’t in pain. The tips of his fingers were no longer numb, and he could open his eyes completely and take in the early morning light without flinching. Phil remembered his coach’s promise to tell Principal Xavier that Phil wouldn’t be at school that day. Phil felt a little guilty, but his tests were taken and practice that afternoon would be light following a big game.

He could let himself take a break.

The rest of last night’s events started to come back to him, though they were a bit fuzzy in spots. Phil remembered Clint practically carrying him up the stairs to his room and giving him meds, but everything else faded to black after that. He vaguely recalled Clint demanding he go to sleep…

Phil heard a soft snuffling sound behind him. It didn’t sound like Lucky; most mornings he’d already trotted off to get breakfast. Soon Phil would need to go down to the kitchen and refill Lucky’s food bowl and let him outside. He stretched slowly and rolled onto his side toward the center of the bed.

He came face to face with a slightly rumpled Clint who was fully dressed and dead to the world. His face was smashed into the spare pillow, and Phil could see the remains of a red, ugly cut at the corner of Clint’s mouth where he’d gotten punched. His eyelashes were almost a pale blond, long and delicate in the early morning light, all spread out over his sleep-flushed cheeks.

Clint’s arm was stretched toward Phil, his right hand splayed against the comforter. Like he’d spent the night reaching for Phil—or holding onto him.

Phil’s heart thumped hard. Clint had really, honestly spent the night in his bed. And absolutely no sex had been involved.

They’d never had a moment like this where things were just...quiet and easy. Phil never got to simply lie next to Clint and take him in, memorize the tiny scar above his eyebrow or way his day-old stubble was splotchy blond and brown. He wondered if anyone else had ever watched Clint sleep, or noticed how young he really looked without all his hard edges.

He stayed with me, Phil thought in amazement. It didn’t seem possible. Maybe Phil was high on his pain meds and dreaming it all.

Because, yes, in his room, in the hushed morning light, Phil could admit that he would dream up something like this. He’d thought about Clint curling up next to him, around him, tucking Phil tight against his chest while the two of them whispered to each other in dark as they fell asleep. And when Phil would wake the next day, he’d pictured Clint just like this: soft, vulnerable but not weak, and so intimately beautiful he made Phil’s chest ache.

Phil swallowed tightly as he reached out and traced his finger over the curve of Clint’s bottom lip. Clint gave a sleepy little moan, pushing into Phil’s touch like a cat. Phil’s thumb skidded over warm, smooth skin.

If this were still Phil’s dream, he’d kiss Clint awake. Clint would open his eyes and smile and kiss Phil back, whispering, “Morning, Weasel,” against Phil’s mouth.

But it wasn’t a dream at all. In the reality, Clint frowned sleepily, grunted low in his throat, and suddenly bolted upright in bed.

“Oh fuck, what time is it?”

Phil rolled onto his back and shoved a hand through his hair. “Nearly nine,” he said.

Fuck, I’m gonna miss first period.” Clint scrambled off the bed, gangly and uncoordinated in his half-awake state, his hair an absolute wreck. There was a pink pillow crease across his cheek.

Then, as if finally coming to full consciousness, Clint came to a stop at the foot of the bed and blinked at Phil. “Um...how’re you feeling?” he asked.

“Better. A lot better. Thanks,” Phil said with as much casualness as possible. He hoped Clint couldn’t take one look at him and tell that he’d just spent the last ten minutes fantasizing about fucking cuddling.

Clint nodded, his blue eyes still a bit sleep-fogged. “Good, that’s—good.” He folded his arms across his chest. “I gotta run. Sorry I fell asleep on you.”

Phil didn’t know if he should say he didn’t mind, that he’d rather wake up with Clint beside him than alone, or that he didn’t care. Neither option seemed like a good idea, not with his head still a bit fuzzy and the urge to kiss Clint nearly overwhelming. So instead, he swallowed hard and mumbled, “It happens.”

Clint paused, his expression unreadable. He opened his mouth, closed it, opened it again and said, softly, “Last night, at the game—you were amazing.”

Before Phil could wrap his head around that statement, Clint was gone, down the stairs and out the front door.