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My Insides Are Copper

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After the night in Phil’s room, Clint knew something had changed. He didn’t know how or why, only that Phil smiled a little bit more at him and Clint...liked it. A lot.

They still messed around in the locker rooms, and they didn’t talk about doing the other stuff. But sometimes Clint just wanted to watch the slow blush creep over Phil’s cheeks when Clint touched him in little, simple ways. The breathless sounds Phil would make whenever Clint kissed the soft spot behind Phil’s ear were so damn hot, Clint would think about them for the rest of the day.

He’d think about Phil all day, regardless of whether or not the sex happened. It didn’t help that Phil would catch Clint looking at him during English class and duck his head, grinning as he kicked his foot playfully against Clint’s under his desk. He wouldn’t look at Clint again for the rest of class, but Clint would have an anxious little flutter in his belly as he waited for the bell to ring. Especially if it was a Thursday, because Thursdays meant Clint was allowed to have Phil alone in Phil’s room, free to do whatever they wanted. Whatever Clint wanted.

He thought about Phil all the time, and that was a big problem. It was dangerous, and Clint knew better.

He reminded himself of this when he saw Phil walking through the halls at school with Steve Rogers, smiling that same smile Clint thought was reserved just for him. Rogers made some joke and Phil laughed, nose all scrunched up and his cheeks pink as he knocked his shoulder into Rogers’.

Clint bit the inside of his lip and abruptly thought, Fuck you, Boy Scout, he’s mine.

The bottom dropped out of his stomach. Clint felt light-headed, a little nauseous. Without thinking, Clint ran out of the building and around the corner to the closest alcove where the smoker kids hung out. Thankfully, the spot was deserted. Clint let his backpack drop to the ground with a loud thump as he dug out his cigarettes with shaking hands, muttering, “Get your shit together, Barton.”

He was so fucked. So, so utterly fucked. And to make matters worse, his lighter was broken.

”Damn it,” Clint growled as he threw the thing against the closest wall. The lighter bounced harmlessly off the bricks, which did nothing to calm Clint’s racing heart.

He should’ve let this thing with him and Phil die out weeks ago. And earlier that day, he definitely shouldn’t have let Phil—all post-orgasm hazy and beaming at Clint like he’d done something amazing—wrap his arms around Clint’s neck and place a tiny, gentle kiss against the side of Clint’s jaw.

“Your shirt’s on inside out,” he’d whispered into Clint’s ear, and they’d both giggled like they were drunk, Clint’s hands splayed over Phil’s hips, the tips of his fingers pushed under the hem of Phil’s t-shirt.

“Thanks,” Clint had murmured lazily, and for a moment he’d almost—almost—pulled back just enough to let their mouths slide together.

Now, three hours later, Clint was thinking of Phil as his.

He slammed his knuckles into the brick. The pain was sharp, biting, and Clint appreciated the hell out of it.

With his right hand stinging, Clint typed out a quick text to Phil with his left: Can’t meet tonight, something came up.

Screw their stupid Fury project. Clint was gonna get his shit together.

~

Phil was standing outside the door to his Psychology class with Steve when his phone buzzed. Steve was in the middle of ranting about the unknown plot of the new Jurassic Park movie, which was always entertaining. Steve was very serious about his dinosaurs.

“I’m just saying, we have new evidence now!” he said earnestly as Phil took out his phone. “There should at least be feathered velociraptors at some point, y’know? It’s a new movie, and we have new science.”

Phil wished Bucky was around—he never failed to get Steve all riled up by insisting that birds weren’t reptiles. Steve fell for it every time. “Maybe you should write Spielberg an angry letter.”

“Quit trying to sound like Bucky,” Steve said with a very exasperated eye roll. “You’re both jerks.”

“Barnes would take that as a compliment,” Phil replied with a smirk, but his good mood faded when he read the text waiting for him from Clint.

Can’t meet tonight, something came up.

What the hell did that mean? Clint never canceled their meetings—unless something bad had happened. Phil thought back to earlier that morning in the locker rooms. Clint had been loose and relaxed, even happy, if the pleased hums he’d made after he’d come in Phil’s hand had meant anything. He’d gotten a lot more tactile with Phil since that night he’d taken Phil home from the game; he touched Phil almost constantly the second they were alone, hands sliding over Phil’s stomach, the small of his back, his nape. Even after they’d both come, Clint seemed reluctant to let any space come between them. Sometimes he’d pull Phil in close and nuzzle his face into the curve of Phil’s jaw, like he just wanted to breathe Phil in.

Something had changed, but Phil was afraid to bring it up. Talking about stuff never lead to anything good.

“Hey, are you okay?” Steve asked.

Phil blinked at him, unaware he’d been glaring at his phone. “What? Um, yeah. Sure.” But what if Clint had problems at home again? If he was in trouble, Phil would figure something out, he’d talk his mom into letting Clint stay over, or maybe—

“I wish you’d tell me what was really going on.” Steve was watching him with a worried look in his eyes.

“Nothing’s going on.”

“Everyone’s noticed how distracted you’ve been lately. You might think you’re being subtle, but you’re not.”

Steve had always been scarily perceptive. Between him and Pepper, Phil rarely hid anything. It was hard lying to them.

“You wouldn’t understand,” Phil said quietly, shoving his phone back into his bag, but not before he texted back, If it’s bad, tell me.

“Wouldn’t understand what? Why don’t you tell me first and see for yourself.”

Phil sighed. He couldn’t even explain this thing with Clint to himself, let alone his friends. “Can you just drop it, Steve? I appreciate you guys being worried, but—”

“Are you dating someone you don’t think we’d approve of?” Steve asked. He suddenly looked so hurt, Phil wanted to hug him. “We’d never judge you like that—I’d never judge you like that.”

“I’m not dating anyone,” Phil said tightly. At least it was the truth. “It’s complicated. That’s all I’ll say.”

Steve shook his head. “Look, promise that when it stops being complicated you’ll tell me? Or Bucky?” He laughed weakly, since they both knew Bucky was the worst at keeping secrets.

Clint Barton was about as complicated as they came, and Phil didn’t think that was going to change anytime soon. But Steve’s sad puppy eyes were hard to take for long, so Phil forced a smile and replied, “Yeah, I promise.”

Steve didn’t look thoroughly convinced—he and Pepper shared the same ‘I-know-you’re-hiding-something’ expression—but he didn’t press Phil any further. “I’m gonna be late for Chemistry. I’ll catch up with you later.”

Phil wanted to feel like a dick for keeping things from Steve, but the unanswered text to Clint kept tugging at his mind. He spent all of class waiting for his phone to buzz with a response.

He never got one.

~

It didn’t use to be all that hard to avoid Phil at school. Ignoring Phil had been easy, effortless. It never left a dull ache in his chest.

Clint hadn’t seen Lucky in several days, and he desperately missed his dog. Occasionally Phil would text him pictures of Lucky curled up on his dog bed, or sitting at Phil’s feet. Clint secretly cherished every one of them, and kept them in a special folder on his phone.

Thursday night, after he’d refused to go to Phil’s house, Phil sent him a text at ten o’clock. It was a selfie with his face smushed up against Lucky’s, who was panting happily at the camera. Phil was smiling crookedly.

Lucky misses you & hopes everything’s okay, the following text read.

As Clint stared at the photo, that same dull ache swept through him. He’d ignored Phil all day, hadn’t answered his previous texts, and yet Phil had still taken the time to send him a picture of Lucky.

”He cares about you,” Nat’s words echoed in his head. Clint traced his thumb over the screen, along the edge of Phil’s smile. His heart beat a little faster.

He was about to do something really stupid, like text Phil back that he was all right, when he heard Margo’s raised voice down the hall from his room.

“I really wish you’d told me first, Terry,” she said. There was angry worry in her tone. “This is a huge deal. What happens if they say yes?”

“It’s a huge deal and that’s the whole point. D’you know how much the starting salary is for loading managers up there? More money than we’d ever see around here.”

“It’s Minnesota. It snows a million days a year! You hate snow!”

“I hate my job here more. Okay, yeah, I should’ve told you I was interviewing, but it just sorta happened. I couldn’t pass the opportunity up.”

Clint stood tucked against the doorway by the kitchen. He could see Margo sitting at the dining table, still dressed in her work uniform. Terrance leaned on the refrigerator as he opened a fresh beer bottle and tossed the cap onto the counter.

Margo sighed heavily. “We’d have to put the house up for sale.”

Terrance shrugged. “We’ll rent in Minneapolis until it sells.”

“What about Clint?”

A long pause. Clint held his breath.

Terrance said, “The paperwork for moving him out of state’ll be a bitch.”

Clint slumped against the wall, his legs suddenly too weak to hold him.

“It’s three months into the school year. We can’t expect him to—”

“I’m not doing this for Clint, Margo. As far as I’m concerned, he can manage whatever we tell him. Hell, maybe Minneapolis will help get his ass in line for a change.”

“What if we can’t get through all the red tape?”

“Then he can be another family’s problem.”

Clint’s cheeks felt too hot. He curled his hands into fists to keep them from shaking before slipping silently back down the hallway to his room.

Once the door shut behind him, lock firmly in place, Clint collapsed on his bed and let out a loud, broken sigh that sounded a lot like a sob. He covered his face with his hands, bit down hard on his lower lip.

He could handle this. He could. It wasn’t like he’d never started over in a strange town, or went months without friends. Clint knew how to survive. And in a year he’d be eighteen and on his own for good. Whatever happened, he just had to tough it out for a year.

“One year,” he whispered into his palms.

He wanted to scream. Mostly, though, Clint wanted to cry over how easily everything in his life could go to shit.

He thought of the picture of Lucky and Phil on his phone. Wherever Clint ended up, Lucky was going to be miles and miles away from him. He’d probably never see him again.

He’d probably never see Phil again.

Clint curled up on his bed, his spare pillow clutched to his chest as he dialed a number he’d never called before tonight.

On the third ring, he heard Phil say, “Clint?”

He opened his mouth to say something, anything.

“Clint, is that you? Are you okay?”

I don’t want to leave you. He couldn’t form the words without breaking down.

“Clint—”

He hung up and shut his phone off, pushing it under the mattress. He wondered how long it would take Phil to forget about him. Clint wagered three months, maybe five. He’d be taking care of Clint’s dog, after all.

Clint rolled onto his stomach, buried his face in his pillow, and quietly fell apart.

~

Phil stared at his laptop screen and reread the same line of his lit notes for the millionth time. He knew there would be a quiz over The Great Gatsby the next day, but a dumb quiz meant nothing when he couldn’t stop thinking about the phone call from Clint not ten minutes ago. Clint had never called him before, and Phil knew, he knew from the silence on the other end of the line that something was very, very wrong.

His mom was home for the rest of the week, which meant she’d be up late at the dining room table with her laptop and work files. Phil rarely heard her go to bed before midnight.

He considered sneaking out the back door, but Phil knew, eventually, his mom would notice he was gone. He’d once tried sneaking out to go to Bucky’s house when he was twelve and grounded—he’d been caught in less than twenty minutes. Besides, Phil didn’t like lying to his mom.

He snapped his laptop shut, huffing out a loud breath. No, he wouldn’t second-guess this. Phil needed to get to Clint, end of story. He grabbed a hoodie and shoved his sneakers on, tucking his phone into the back pocket of his jeans as he ran down the stairs.

Sure enough, his mom was camped out at the dinner table, lost in a sea of paperwork, the glow from her MacBook reflecting off of her reading glasses. She glanced up when Phil came to a stop in the doorway.

“You look like you’re going out,” she said with a knowing smile. “It’s a bit late for that, don’t you think?”

Phil swallowed. “It’s an emergency.”

His mom frowned. “Can I help?”

“No, I—” He winced and pushed a hand through his hair. Phil wished his heart wasn’t beating so hard. “It’s Clint. I...I have to go see him.”

“Right now?”

“Yeah. Right now.” Phil felt his cheeks go warm, but he held his mom’s gaze and squared his shoulders.

She sat back in her chair and folded both arms over her chest. “Clint doesn’t have the best home life, does he.” It wasn’t a question.

Phil shook his head.

“That’s why Lucky’s with us.” Again, not a question.

“Lucky is all he has,” Phil said softly. “His foster dad tried to—you didn’t see the bruise.” He took a step forward and gripped the back of the closest dining chair. Everything went a bit blurry as he pictured Clint sitting alone in his room, nursing another black eye, or worse.

He didn’t notice that his mom was standing beside him until she cupped his chin and forced him to meet her eyes.

“He’s special to you, isn’t he?” she whispered.

Phil couldn’t lie to her. He was tired of lying to himself. “Yeah,” he said in a tiny voice, and that one word felt both impossibly huge and incredibly freeing.

His mom gave him a slow, careful smile. “I wondered. You’re always watching him, like you can’t take your eyes away. I’ve never seen you like that with anyone else before.”

“I’ve looked at people,” Phil said, trying to duck away from her hold. She held on.

“Not like you look at Clint.”

“I…” He didn’t know what to say to that. “Are you saying you’ll let me go?”

She sighed. “Yes, but don’t stay out too late. And if it’s truly an emergency, you will tell me and not try to fix things yourself. Right?”

Phil nodded, his heart in his throat.

From his dog bed in the living room, Lucky woofed.

“You should take him with you,” his mom said.

Phil pictured Clint’s foster dad going ballistic at seeing Lucky near his house. “That’s probably not a good idea.” But if worse came to worse, he’d bring Clint to Lucky.

~

Though he’d only been there once, Phil still remembered Clint’s address. It was almost scary, how easily he made the various turns without any thought, until he eventually found himself parked across the street from the same shabby two-story he remembered from that rainy, horrible day he’d met Lucky.

The house was dark except for a dim light in a downstairs window. Having never actually been inside Clint’s house, Phil didn’t begin to know which room was his. He held his breath as he dialed Clint’s number.

It went straight to voicemail.

“Damn it,” Phil muttered, slamming his hand against the steering wheel. Then again, what was he expecting? Just walk into Clint’s house and make small talk with his fosters? He leaned back in his seat and stared helplessly at the house.

Curtains shifted against the single light; that downstairs window was open, Phil noticed. The curtains parted for a moment, and suddenly he could just make out the shape of a person lying on a bed.

Phil fumbled the car door open, heart jammed in his throat. He nearly tripped over his feet rushing to get to that window, to make sure Clint was okay. More horrible, ugly images of Clint bruised and battered flashed through Phil’s mind, making his stomach cramp.

As he got closer, Phil could see Clint clearly through the flimsy curtains, curled up on his side facing the wall. He looked small and very young. Phil could see the line of Clint’s spine through the thin cotton of his t-shirt.

Phil’s mouth went dry. Did someone hurt you again? he thought. His hands were shaking.

He couldn’t stand out there all night staring through Clint’s bedroom window like a creeper. Phil had to do something.

Swallowing hard, he said in a rough voice, “Hey.”

Clint startled badly. The pillow clutched in his arms fell to the floor as he jolted upright on the bed. He looked around wildly until his gaze landed on Phil.

“What—” Clint blinked. “What the fuck, Coulson?” His voice sounded like it was scrapped raw.

And that’s when Phil saw the shirt Clint was wearing.

He pushed back the curtains with both hands and hefted himself through the window. “Is that my soccer camp shirt?”

Clint stood up and plucked absently at the hem. “I guess,” he mumbled.

Phil had forgotten that Clint still had it. That afternoon in his room seemed like a lifetime ago. So much had happened since then.

He glanced around the room and took in the bare walls, the single bed in the corner with the worn quilt and pale blue sheets. Nothing gave the impression that a high school kid lived there except the dirty laundry on the floor and an empty Doritos bag on the nightstand. Taped above a small dresser was a picture of a hawk—it looked like a page torn from an ancient issue of Zoobooks. Clint’s bow and quiver sat by the closet door, but there didn’t seem to be any other personal items around.

Phil looked back at Clint, who was slowly curling in on himself again, arms hugged tight around his chest. His eyes were very red and puffy, but they weren’t bruised.

“What happened?” Phil whispered, because he couldn’t make himself say the words any louder. He could barely breathe.

Clint kept his head bowed and didn’t say anything. Silence ticked by, until Clint sniffed softly and jerked the back of his hand over his nose.

Phil had never wanted to touch someone so badly. He wanted to wrap himself around Clint, sink into him, take whatever hurt he was feeling as his own. He wanted to find whoever had made Clint look like this and make them pay.

He didn’t touch Clint. But he did move closer, close enough that he could feel the heat coming off Clint. He could hear Clint’s breathing, the way it was stuttered, shallow, like he was desperately trying not to cry.

“Clint—”

“You didn’t have to come here.”

“You needed me to. You wouldn’t have called if you didn’t.”

Clint shook his head. Phil waited for him to tell him to get out, or leave him alone, or shut the fuck up.

The very last thing Phil expected was for Clint to give a tiny, devastating sob and reach out to curl his hand into the front of Phil’s hoodie. He tugged Phil close until their foreheads pressed together.

“You didn’t have to come,” Clint whispered again, and Phil felt Clint’s fingers tighten against his chest. Like he was afraid Phil would leave.

Phil had spent many years learning how to take care of himself, or at the very least, how to adapt when things seemed to be falling apart around him. He had a mom who loved him dearly, and that went a long way. But Clint didn’t have anyone. If the world fell apart, Clint just held on and hoped he’d come out in one piece when it was all over.

Maybe it was the helplessness that washed over Phil at knowing he couldn’t save Clint from all the shit in his life that made him do it. Maybe it was just the need to do something instead of watching Clint shiver on the verge of tears. Phil would look back on it later and never really know why.

He simply leaned back, cupped Clint’s face with both hands, and kissed him like it was the last thing left for him to do.

Phil held his breath, mouth barely parted. Clint’s lips were chapped, but they were warm, warmer that his scruffy cheeks. He heard Clint gasp softly as he held very still and didn’t kiss back.

Don’t push me away, Phil thought. Please let me, just this once.

Very slowly, Clint’s grip on Phil’s hoodie relaxed, and Phil’s heart sank.

Then Clint tilted his head slightly and sighed against Phil’s mouth, the tip of his tongue sliding softly over Phil’s lower lip.

Phil thought about the first kiss between them, how it was fueled by anger and desperation and hurt. He remembered thinking it was nothing like how he’d envisioned his first kiss.

This was nothing like that moment on Phil’s kitchen floor. This kiss was careful, gentle like a first touch, an initial discovery, as if they’d never kissed before. Clint felt fragile under Phil’s hands, and Clint kissed with an edge of nervous sweetness. Phil felt as if the whole world had ground to a halt, time silently waiting on the two of them to figure out how to be together like this, like they’re…

Like we fit, Phil thought, and he opened his mouth a little wider, made the kiss a little deeper. He wished he could crawl inside Clint and know all his secrets, all his dreams, everything, good and bad, Phil didn’t care. He wanted all of Clint, not just the parts that were allowed.

His hands slid back into Clint’s hair, thumbs tracing the downy edges of Clint’s ears. Clint shivered against him, gave a soft, gorgeous whimper that made Phil wrap his arms around Clint’s neck and hold him tighter. The kiss grew wetter, faster, and God, this was how Phil had imagined his first time: breathless, dizzy, heart beating so hard he thought it might burst, and never wanting to stop.

Which is why Phil nearly cried when Clint suddenly jerked back and gasped, “Wait.”

Phil gritted his teeth, unable to paw through the mountain of emotions roaring in his head. “Don’t,” he started, because if Clint made him leave now—

“We can’t do this here,” Clint said, and his ragged voice was every single one of Phil’s filthiest fantasies. He didn’t stop staring at Phil’s mouth.

“Do you.” Phil stopped, swallowed to make his voice work. He noticed, belatedly, that Clint’s right hand had worked its way up under Phil’s hoodie and was splayed over his lower back. “Do you wanna go somewhere?”

Clint’s left hand finally released its death grip over Phil’s heart to reach up and touch Phil’s cheek. “Yeah. Yeah, let’s get out of here,” he said, thumb tracing the corner of Phil’s mouth before he leaned into another kiss, this one slow and messy. The small logical part of Phil’s brain that was still functioning knew that Clint didn’t want to get caught making out by his foster dad, but leaving meant letting go of Clint, which also meant he’d have to stop kissing Clint. It seemed like a lot, especially when he was melting into the circle of Clint’s arms around him.

He didn’t know who broke away first. He only remembered eventually climbing out the window after Clint, heart pounding and hands shaking. They got into Phil’s car and Phil asked, “Where do you want to go?”

Clint leaned back in his seat. He was still breathing hard, and his mouth looked very wet and swollen in the bluish glow of the streetlights. Phil wanted to bury his face in Clint’s neck and breathe him in forever.

“Wherever you wanna go, Weasel. Surprise me.” Clint gave him a lopsided grin.

Phil pushed across the center console and kissed him.

~

They drove to a Waffle House on the edge of town. It bordered a truck stop, which meant the clientele wasn’t all that reputable, but most kids from school didn’t hang out there. Phil liked to go there sometimes to be by himself while still being around people who didn’t know him or give a shit who he was.

They tucked themselves into a tiny two-man booth in the corner of the restaurant. Phil told himself it was for privacy and not for the opportunity to have his legs fit between Clint’s under the table.

Under the garish fluorescent lights, Phil could see the dark circles under Clint’s eyes. He seemed to shrink into himself again once they were in public, curling into his purple hoodie like a shell. But he smiled politely at the waitress and ordered coffee and a massive plate of hash browns with cheese.

“Didn’t really eat anything today,” he said sheepishly, pulling at his sleeves.

Phil bit back the urge to ask what had happened. He waited for the waitress to pour their coffee, and as Clint dumped an obscene amount of sugar into his cup, he said, “Just tell me, yes or no—are you okay?”

Clint held his coffee with both hands, staring into his cup like it held the secrets of the universe. “No,” he replied.

Beneath the table, Phil felt Clint’s knee press up against his leg.

“Can I help?” Phil whispered.

Clint took a long sip. “No.”

“If it’s about Lucky, you know I can—”

“It’s not Lucky.”

Phil scrubbed his hands over his face. “Then what? Is Xavier kicking you out of school for the fight? Did Fury say something to you about our project, because fuck that, he hasn’t talked to us in weeks about what the hell we’re—”

“I’m leaving.”

The words just sort of hung in the air for a moment. Phil blinked at him. “You’re what?”

Clint slammed his coffee cup down on the table, and they both sat silence as coffee sloshed everywhere, dripping off the end of the table. Clint pinched the bridge of his nose and muttered, ”Fuck.”

“Why...why are you leaving?” Phil could hear the panic in his voice.

Naturally, the waitress showed up with their food, giving Clint an excuse to avoid the question. He dug into his hash browns, eyes downcast.

Phil didn’t touch his burger. “You can’t just...leave Natasha like this.”

Clint finally met his eyes. “I can’t leave Nat, huh?” He stabbed his fork at a pile of cheese.

“Not without a reason, she’ll wanna know why you want to—”

“You think I want this?”

“I don’t know what you want! You’re not telling me anything!” Phil hissed. An elderly couple a few booths over gave him dirty looks.

Clint’s jaw flexed as he glared at his mostly-empty plate. “Terrance interviewed for a job in Minnesota,” he said through clenched teeth. “If he gets it, they’re moving and taking me with them. Or, more likely—” Clint laughed, ugly and sharp “—they throw me back into the system and I end up who-the-fuck-knows-where. Probably with a couple who make Terrance look like fucking Santa Claus.” He tossed his fork down and shoved his plate away.

A cold stone settled in Phil’s stomach. “They can’t do that. You’re seventeen, you’ve only got a year before you’re an independent.”

“Yeah. A year. Still counts.” Clint shut his eyes and folded his arms on the table, dropping his head onto them with a heavy sigh.

Since they were sitting in a Waffle House surrounded by people, Phil couldn’t exactly crawl into Clint’s side of the booth and kiss him until they couldn’t breathe. But he could reach across the table and push his hand into Clint’s hair.

“We’ll figure something out,” Phil whispered. “You said Terrance hadn’t actually gotten the job yet, right?”

Clint grunted something unintelligible.

“You’re not going anywhere. If they decide to put you back in the system, I’ll—I’ll have my mom look into it. She knows some people who practice family law, they’d probably know some loopholes. Hell, if I told her tonight what was going on, she’d probably drop everything to help.”

Clint lifted his head, making Phil’s hand slip down to cup the side of his face. “She’d really do that?”

Phil smiled. “‘Course she would, she knows what you mean to me.” The words sort of slipped out without Phil’s consent. He froze, heart in his throat and his thumb grazing Clint’s temple.

After a moment, Clint pushed gently into Phil’s touch like a cat. “You got a crush on me, Weasel?” he asked softly, grinning up at Phil from under his lashes.

If the urge to kiss Clint had been strong in the past, it was totally overwhelming now that Phil knew it was allowed, that he could. His mouth went wet at the thought of sliding across the table and sucking Clint’s plush lower lip.

“Shut up,” he said with a laugh as he dropped his hand. He didn’t miss the split second where Clint turned his head, as if he’d meant to kiss Phil’s palm.

They sat for another hour, Clint drinking coffee while Phil told dumb stories about Lucky and the blue jay that lived behind his house. Clint’s shoulders gradually relaxed and he started to smile more; at one point Phil curled his index finger around Clint’s in a loose hold. Clint didn’t pull his hand away, not even when the waitress came by to ask if they needed anything.

“You should take me back,” Clint said. “It’s almost midnight. Your mom’s probably freaking out.”

Phil hadn’t paid a bit attention to the time, which was a problem. “She was knee-deep in files when I left, she might not even—”

Right on cue, his phone rang. His mother’s number flashed on screen. Phil grimaced.

“Sorry, sorry, I’m coming straight home,” he answered quickly.

“Everything all right?” she asked. She didn’t sound angry.

“We were just...talking. At Waffle House.”

“Waffle House, hmm?” She chuckled, and Phil figured he was in the clear. “Well, when you’re done ingesting all that grease, you should both go to bed. It’s a school night.”

“Clint just said as much. You’re psychic.”

“I wish.” She paused, then asked in a softer voice, “Does Clint need a place to stay tonight?”

Phil glanced across the table, took in Clint’s tired eyes and rumpled hair. The thought of leaving him alone in his empty room made Phil’s chest ache.

“It probably wouldn’t hurt,” he said. He looked away when Clint frowned quizzically at him.

“Well, then bring him home. I’m sure Lucky will be thrilled to see him.”

He sighed in relief. “Thanks.”

“But—and I mean this, Phil—Clint sleeps in the guest room. Downstairs. Got it?”

Phil absolutely did not blush. He hadn’t even admitted to anything physical with Clint, but he was right: his mom was psychic. “Right, sure, got it,” he mumbled. It was pointless to argue with her when he was getting what he wanted, anyway.

“I’ll see you both in twenty minutes?”

“Yup. Bye.” Phil hung up and pretended Clint wasn’t watching him with narrow, curious eyes.

“What’d she say to you?” he asked.

Phil scrunched his mouth to one side. “Nothing. You’re staying the night with me.”

Clint’s eyes flared. “Seriously?”

“In the downstairs guest room,” Phil added quickly and cleared his throat.

Clint burst out laughing. He leaned over the table until he was nearly nose to nose with Phil.

“D’you know you’re fucking adorable when you’re embarrassed as hell?”

Phil wanted to glare at him, he really did. “You’re an asshole when you’re smug, did you know that?” he shot back, but his eyes never left Clint’s mouth.

“I did, actually.” Clint swooped in, giving Phil a quick, featherlight kiss. “C’mon. I wanna see this guest bed of yours.”

~

His mom was waiting for them when Phil and Clint walked through the front door. She smiled at Clint and asked, “Can I get you anything?”

Clint curled into his hoodie. “No, thanks. You’ve done enough already,” he replied quietly, and he looked so shy and relieved that Phil wanted to wrap his arms around him. There was a foot of space between them that felt like miles. Phil didn’t want to leave Clint’s side.

“Well, your room’s down the hall to the left. There’s fresh towels in the bathroom if you need a shower. Breakfast is at seven-thirty—and we’ll talk more then,” she added with a firm look at Phil.

He gave her a quick hug in reply. “Thank you,” he whispered in her ear.

She kissed his cheek and murmured, “He’s lucky to have you for a boyfriend.”

Phil was too exhausted to correct her. Eventually he’d tell her everything and she’d understand, but right now he just wanted to make sure Clint slept through the night, happy and safe.

As if on cue, Lucky appeared and promptly flung himself at Clint, nearly toppling him to the ground. The sound of Clint’s open, honest laughter as he wrestled with his dog made all sorts of emotions bloom in Phil’s chest. For a moment, he could barely breathe.

“You’re staring,” his mom said, poking him in the chest. “Now go to bed. That seven-thirty breakfast call is non-negotiable.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Phil mumbled. Fortunately, Clint was too occupied with Lucky to notice his blush.

~

Phil wasn’t sure how to proceed once his mom went to bed. He’d never really had someone other than Steve or Bucky stay over, and this wasn’t a typical guy’s night of XBox marathons and pizza.

Once Lucky settled down, Clint got to his feet and glanced over his shoulder toward his room. “So, uh. I guess I’ll just...hit the sack.”

“I’ll show you where the bathroom is,” Phil said, even though he knew Clint could find it on his own. Lucky trailed after them down the hall as Phil gestured to the shower on his right before coming to a stop in the doorway of the guest room. His mom had already turned down the blankets on the bed.

“She’s really great,” Clint said. “Your mom, I mean.”

“I know.” Phil hugged his arms to his chest. He desperately wanted to kiss Clint, or just touch him in some small way, but now that they were back in his house, it felt weird to be so...casual. Affectionate.

“Hey.” Clint nudged his sneaker against Phil’s. “You okay?”

Phil tried not to concentrate on how close Clint was standing, how easy it would be to fall into him. “I should be asking you that,” he replied with a small laugh.

“I’ve got my pizza dog and a swanky bed. I think I’m good.”

“That bed’s hardly swanky. It’s not like this is a hotel.”

“It might as well be. You got all the best stuff, Coulson.”

“You used to hate coming to my house.” Phil couldn’t help himself; he reached out and tugged playfully on the zipper of Clint’s hoodie.

Clint took a step closer. “You used to hate having me in your house.”

“Only because I thought you’d make fun of me.”

“For having nice digs?”

“For...all the nerd shit in my room. I don’t know.” They were both whispering for some reason. It wasn’t necessary; his mom’s bedroom was on the other side of the house. She’d never hear them.

Clint licked his mouth slowly. His lips were all shiny and Phil could hear his pulse pounding in his ears. “I like your room. Like your house.”

“Because of Lucky?” They were so, so close now. He could feel the warm puff of Clint’s words against his chin.

“Maybe. He’s here ‘cause of you.” Clint swallowed, and Phil watched the slow, smooth bob of his throat. “And I like you, too.”

And suddenly it was Phil’s turned to be kissed as Clint’s callused hand cradled the side of his face while the other pushed up under Phil’s own hoodie. Cold fingertips skimmed over his belly, traced lines over the edge of his jeans, and that was when Phil realized he couldn’t go back to his own room.

“I’m gonna stay here,” he gasped.

“Yeah,” Clint growled, nipping sharply at Phil’s lower lip. “What about your mom—”

“We’ll have to be quiet.” It was a risk and he was breaking a promise, but there was no going back. Phil wanted this.

He forced himself to let go of Clint long enough to shut the guest room door. Lucky made a sad whimpering noise as Phil shooed him into the hallway. “I promise we’ll make it up to you, buddy,” Phil said before turning the lock.

Clint was on him in a heartbeat, pulling him back into the kiss like they’d never stopped. They stumbled back toward the bed, hands everywhere as their legs tangled together. Phil laughed breathlessly as Clint yelped in surprise when the back of his knees hit the end of the mattress and the two of them went sprawling. Phil ended up braced over Clint, his thighs on either side of Clint’s hips.

“Real funny, Weasel,” Clint grumbled, but he was smiling as he yanked Phil’s hoodie off with one smooth glide of his hands. “Not my fault I don’t know my way around here.”

Phil had a snappy comeback for that, only it was forgotten the second Clint sat up and licked, slow and dirty, into Phil’s mouth, one hand cupped around the back of Phil’s neck while the other trailed down his stomach to tease over the front of Phil’s jeans.

“I…” Phil couldn’t form words at the moment. He was lost in the sensation of tasting Clint while simultaneously pushing against Clint’s hand, friction and wet heat swirling together in his head. Phil desperately needed Clint bare, needed to know what their skin felt like sliding together as Phil kissed the last of his breath away.

“Wanna to feel you,” he panted, and the words sounded needier than Phil intended. But Clint didn’t seem to mind, just nodded jerkily and wiggled out of his hoodie and t-shirt, both getting caught at his wrists in his rush. Clint glared at his hands, mumbled, “Aw, c’mon,” as he tried to free himself.

Phil buried his face against Clint’s neck and laughed. “Need some help?”

“You should be too horny to be laughing at me, jerkwad,” Clint said in an adorably disgruntled voice.

“I can want to fuck you and still think you’re hilarious.” Phil licked over the spot behind Clint’s ear that never failed to make him shiver.

Clint abruptly went still underneath him with his hands pinned above his head. Phil sat back, afraid he’d said something wrong.

“What? I didn’t mean—”

“You can, you know,” Clint whispered. His eyes were wide and very blue in the low light.

Phil bit his lip. “I can what?”

“Fuck me. Right now.”

His stomach swooped so quickly Phil was dizzy with it. He hadn’t meant it literally when they’d been joking around—honestly, Phil had simply pictured them jerking each other off and then falling asleep on each other. The usual.

Now, though...everything was suddenly more.

“I-I don’t have anything on me,” Phil stammered. He couldn’t tell if his heart was racing out of anticipation or fear—or both. “Everything’s upstairs, in my room.”

Clint sat up and rolled to the side of the bed. He finally yanked his tangled shirt and hoodie off his wrists and tossed them aside. “I’ve got, um. Stuff in my wallet.” He ran a hand through his hair, glancing tentatively over his shoulder at Phil.

Oh. Right. Of course Clint carried condoms with him. He was always prepared for the random hook-up. Phil swallowed against the ugly cold jealousy that curled up in his chest, reminding him of the bruise on Clint’s neck.

“Look, it’s no big deal, we can just mess around like before,” he said. Phil could hear his voice shake slightly. He kept his head bowed as he picked at the comforter.

He wasn’t expecting Clint to push him back against the bed and crawl on top of him, hands pressed against Phil’s shoulders. “Is that what you want?” he asked.

“Sure.” Phil turned his head, avoided Clint’s eyes. After everything that had happened between them, he couldn’t bear the thought of being just another notch in Clint’s bedpost.

You already are, a little voice in his head hissed, but Phil had always convinced himself that wasn’t true. Not completely.

“Hey.” Clint swept his mouth over Phil’s. Their noses bumped together. “Hey, look at me. Coulson.”

Phil took a deep breath and looked up at him.

“If we did this...it wouldn’t be…” Clint winced, like he was fighting to find words. “You’re not—them. Other guys.”

“I know that,” Phil said a little too harshly. Damn it, what did Clint want to him say? He was lying half-naked under Clint with his taste in his mouth—being told he wasn’t going to be as good a fuck as the others was the last thing in the world he needed to hear.

“What I’m trying to say is. Just.” Clint shut his eyes, murmured fuck under his breath.

“With me you just get off,” Phil whispered. “I get it.”

“No, you don’t.” His hands slid along Phil’s shoulders until his thumbs framed Phil’s jaw. Clint held him steady as he slowly, gently kissed him, like Phil was made of glass.

Against Phil’s mouth, Clint breathed, “With you, I belong somewhere.”

For a second, Phil nearly panicked, thinking he’d accidentally taken his pain meds and was hallucinating again. But then he reached up and splayed his hands against warm, bare skin, took in the way Clint sighed and kissed him a little deeper. He could feel Clint’s heart pounding under his palm, and that—that was real. It had to be. He couldn’t be imagining this.

He wanted to wrap Clint up in his arms, keep him safe, melt into him until he couldn’t tell where he ended and Clint began. Phil wouldn’t be those other guys, because none of them had been smart enough to realize that Clint was precious. Clint was his.

Phil had never once given any thought to what being in love would feel like. It was always an abstract concept, something distant that happened to other people. He’d heard Pepper say she was in love with Tony, but what did that even mean? Who actually thought they were in love in high school?

But if needing to be with someone more than your next breath, or wanting to protect someone with every fiber of your being was anything like love, well. Maybe Phil knew what Pepper meant after all.

He couldn’t say the words out loud. It was too much, and Clint was kissing him like he never planned to stop. Phil eventually managed to break away and gasp, “I-I don’t know where to start. Should I get the condom or—”

“Here.” Clint rolled off him and pulled his wallet out of the back pocket of his jeans. He flicked a blue condom and a thin silver packet of what Phil assumed was lube onto the bed before quickly shedding his pants and underwear.

Phil’s mouth went dry. He’d seen Clint’s cock dozens of times, but never when Clint was fully naked. He’d never gotten to take in the gorgeous lines of Clint’s body, how solid and compact he was. His dick was hard and flushed pink, curling slightly to the left, but Phil couldn’t stop staring at the lovely smooth planes of his stomach, or the curve of his hipbones.

Clint noticed him staring and actually ducked his head. He gave Phil a shy smile; Phil instinctively knew it was genuine, not just a tease. “I figured I could, ah...ride you. Y’know, be on top,” he said as he gave his dick an absent tug.

All the breath wooshed out of Phil’s lungs. “Um. Okay. Yeah.” His own dick jerked hard in his jeans at the mere thought of Clint...sitting on top of him...sinking down onto him...oh, fuck, Phil was not going to last through this.

“Just— Don’t laugh if I don’t, uh.”

“Last?” Clint grinned, and it was so fucking sexy Phil wanted to moan. “There’s always round two, right?”

Phil whimpered.

Clint seemed to take that as a good sign. His grin turned wicked. “Gotta get you naked first,” he drawled, kneeling up on the bed and attacking the fly of Phil’s jeans. He wasn’t gentle with Phil anymore, and Phil was fine with that. He lifted his hips, desperate to get his cock free, and was only a little self-conscious when Clint sat back on his heels and huffed softly, “Damn.”

“‘s not like it’s changed,” Phil said with a broken laugh. He was leaking everywhere, but he didn’t dare touch himself.

“Don’t let this go to your head, Weasel, but...you’re not exactly small.” Clint licked his mouth. His eyes were nearly all pupil.

“You don’t think I’ll fit?”

“Oh, you’ll fit,” Clint growled. He held up the lube packet. “Let’s just hope I got enough of this.”

Phil started to ask if he needed to use some on the condom—he’d seen that done enough in porn—but he lost all capacity for words when Clint climbed up onto the bed, straddled Phil’s legs, and poured nearly all the lube into the palm of his left hand.

Then he slicked his fingers and promptly began stretching himself.

Phil’s mouth fell open.

Clint’s wicked grin returned with a flicker of raw pleasure. “What, you never seen a guy prep himself?” He bit off the last of the sentence on a soft moan, tilting his head back.

Phil had been wrong. He’d never actually watched porn. This was porn. Jealousy curled up in his stomach once more at the thought of someone else getting to see Clint like this.

Mine, he thought again with hazy red want as he palmed Clint’s thighs.

“I can trust you to get the condom on, right?” Clint’s voice was getting progressively rougher, deeper.

Phil was slightly terrified he’d come in five seconds if he touched himself. “Yeah, yeah,” he said, even though he’d never put on a condom in his life; a banana during eighth grade sex ed didn’t count. He managed to get the foil open without too much fumbling, and after a few deep breaths, he quickly rolled the condom down his cock.

“You ready?”

“I—” Phil was gasping and they hadn’t even started yet. “Don’t you need more, like, time?”

Clint hummed and leaned down to lick into Phil’s mouth. “I think I’m good. ‘sides, you’re not the only one who’d kinda like to get this show on the road before he blows his load.”

He couldn’t help grinning. “Promise I won’t laugh.”

“If you’re laughing I’m not doing something right.” Clint straightened, his face serious again as he glanced down at Phil’s cock. With his wet hand, he stroked Phil once, which nearly made Phil lose it completely. He held his breath and tried to picture his seventy-year-old history teacher naked on a cold day.

“God, Clint,” he moaned.

“Yeah,” Clint breathed, and with his lower lip caught between his teeth, he lifted up onto his knees, held Phil steady, then lowered himself down with agonizing slowness.

The feel of sliding into Clint’s tight, hot body was overwhelming, breath-stealing. The pressure of orgasm was already beginning to build low in Phil’s balls, but he wouldn’t come, he wouldn’t, not until Clint was ready.

Above him, Clint whimpered, “Oh, god,” and shifted his hips. He sunk the rest of the way down.

“Shit, shit, I-I can’t—” Phil dug his fingers into Clint’s thighs, desperate to thrust yet desperate to keep it together. They hadn’t even moved yet.

Fuck,” Clint said in a rush, eyes still tightly shut. He looked torn between pleasure and pain. “Jesus, you’re bigger than I thought, god—”

“I don’t wanna hurt you—”

“No, no, just...give me a sec.” Clint gradually opened his eyes, and he gave Phil a small, lopsided smile. His cheeks were flushed bright pink. “Try moving,” he whispered.

Phil swallowed hard before he finally gave his body what it was screaming for. He pushed up, a tiny thrust, and Clint had to tuck his face against his arm to muffle his shout.

“Is it...okay?” Phil gasped.

“You have no idea,” Clint said. He swooped down to kiss Phil, all messy and a bit frantic. “You feel fucking incredible,” he added breathlessly.

“Good, ‘cause— I’m gonna come soon.” Phil’s hips had a mind of their own, and they were thrusting in a consistent rhythm now, faster and sharper. The bloom of orgasm grew hotter.

Clint moaned again, louder. Distantly, Phil knew he should be worried about his mom hearing, but nothing else existed at the moment beyond the bed. And he very much needed Clint to come with him.

Phil spit into his hand, wrapped his fingers tight around Clint’s neglected cock and pressed his thumb against the slit. He was wet, so wet, and Phil knew he had to be close.

As if reading his thoughts, Clint groaned, “Please,” and thrust into Phil’s hand. Phil pumped him, hard, and at the same time he felt Clint clench around him. Everything happened in a roaring rush: Clint’s cock spurted over Phil’s fingers, his stomach and his chest, while Phil felt like his own orgasm went on for hours.

When Phil came back to himself, he was covered in Clint’s come, and Clint was staring down at him like he’d had a religious experience.

“Is it...always like that?” Phil managed to ask. His voice was shredded.

Clint reached out and drew his finger through the come painting Phil’s chest. “No,” he whispered.

Phil sat up carefully, slipping out Clint’s body with a wince, and pulled Clint into his lap. They were a mess, but he didn’t care; he wrapped his arms around Clint’s waist and kissed him. His exhausted, post-coital heart thumped happily when Clint gave his familiar contented purr and curled into Phil’s embrace.

~

He hadn’t meant to fall asleep. Phil had had every intention of wiping himself off and getting rid of the condom and then sneaking back upstairs to his room.

But Clint had gone all boneless and pliant after coming; he kept nuzzling his face into Phil’s neck as Phil tried as best to clean them up with handfuls of tissues.

“C’mon,” Phil laughed, gently pushing Clint onto his back. “You’ll be fucking disgusting in the morning if you don’t get this off.”

“‘s what showers are for,” Clint yawned. He stretched, long and languid, his body one gorgeous arc of skin and muscle. Phil’s dick gave a halfhearted twitch and round two echoed in his head.

No, damn it, he had to get back to his own room.

It didn’t matter that Clint had yet to put his boxers back on and was sprawled naked on the sheets. Or that he had one hand loosely curled around Phil’s wrist.

“I can’t stay,” Phil whispered, but he was already crawling under the blankets.

“Just five minutes,” Clint mumbled in a sleepy slur as he tugged Phil’s arm around him, their fingers tangled together. “You’re all warm. Kinda cold in here.”

“You’ve got blankets.” They fit together so perfectly like this. Phil skimmed his lips over the soft hair on Clint’s neck, smiling when Clint sighed and tucked himself tighter against Phil’s chest. He’d never pictured Clint as the snuggling type; maybe he never had been. Maybe he was a snuggler for Phil.

Phil was too worn out to think about it too deeply. He couldn’t snuggle for long, anyway. He had to get up in a few hours and have a long talk with his mom; that conversation would be off to an awkward start if she caught him sneaking shirtless out of the guest room.

He’d just close his eyes and wait until Clint was asleep.

~

Three and a half hours later, Phil finally managed to force himself upstairs. Lucky quickly took Phil’s spot on the bed at Clint’s side.

Phil told himself not be jealous of a dog.