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It's Day 3 at Fury's secret base, and Phil's making his way through the leaked SHIELD files that have appeared online. Or rather, he's trying to work on the files; what he's really doing is coming to terms with his entire world crashing down around him.

The team is scattered around the lounge. Skye, hunched over her laptop, looks vastly more successful at engaging with all of SHIELD's secrets if her quick flipping back-and-forth between various windows is any indication. Triplett seems engrossed in one of Koenig's historical novels. FitzSimmons are talking quietly over a late lunch; they've spent most of the time on the Bus, trying to make further progress on the GH-325. May hasn't surfaced since they were assigned their quarters, for which Phil is glad. He can't deal with her on top of everything else.

Koenig is coming by with another round of snacks—he's been a little too eager as a host, but who can blame him after spending two years in isolation—when the alarms go off.

“Perimeter alert,” Koenig says.

The flatscreen in the room switches from muted cable news to a fuzzy picture of snow-covered trees and a man making his way toward the base entrance.

When the camera manages to catch his face, Phil grasps the edge of the table because the world tilts dangerously. “Clint.” It's little more than a whisper, but all eyes in the room are on him anyway. With more confidence, he says, “It's Agent Barton.”

“Any chance that he's Hydra?” Koenig asks.

“No,” Phil responds without hesitation.

“Sir, if I may point out—” Jemma begins.

“No,” Phil cuts in. Addressing Koenig, he says, “Let him in.” He doesn't wait for an acknowledgment before striding toward the base entrance.


Clint stumbles in with a blast of arctic cold, dropping his heavy backpack immediately and leaning against the wall, eyes closed. “Thank fucking god. I thought I'd die out there.”

“Welcome to Providence,” Koenig says.

Clint looks at him before his gaze moves on to the other people in the room. When his eyes fall on Phil, they freeze on him, and Phil looks back, marshaling every ounce of composure he has. It's the first time they've seen each other since Pegasus went to hell, which feels like a lifetime ago. Clint looks like he always had—strong and capable—minus some harsh windburn on his face and hands. Phil wants to get closer, wants to touch, to make sure that Clint is really okay.

“Coulson,” Clint says softly. He's still looking at Phil, surprise on his face, but not the kind that suggests he's just learned that Phil is alive. It makes Phil wonder how long he's known.

“Agent Barton,” Phil acknowledges.

“Hawkeye?” Skye asks from behind Phil.

Clint's eyes slowly shift to her. “The one and only.” He even manages a smile.

“May I ask how you managed to get a hold of these coordinates?” Koenig asks.

“Badge started glowing three days ago. Figured I might as well check it out, considering that my mission was compromised, what with SHIELD imploding.”

“You heard?” Phil asks.

“Kinda hard to avoid when it's on every channel.” Clint's aiming for nonchalant, but Phil can tell that he's also trying to comprehend how his entire life ended from one day to the next.

Koenig claps his hands. “Well, Agent Barton, let me give you the grand tour—”

“I think Agent Barton might like some rest.” Phil's polite but also emphatic.

“That'd be nice, yeah,” Clint affirms, shouldering his backpack again.

Phil catches a wince out of the corner of his eyes. He turns more fully toward Clint. “I'm afraid we're already at capacity as far as rooms go. You're welcome to share with me.” He's glad that the offer comes out casual, entirely professional courtesy and not the desperate need to talk to Clint in private.

Clint gives Phil another long look. “Lead the way.”


Phil leaves to get a first-aid kit after showing Clint to his room. He takes his time, telling himself that he's giving Clint space to get settled in. He stands in front of his closed door for a minute before going back in.

He nearly bumps into Clint., who is waiting just inside the door and looks like he's about to vibrate out of his skin. “Everything okay?”

Clint nods. “I—I know we don't usually—but—” He breaks off.

A moment later, Phil finds himself with an armful of Clint, who mumbles “sorry” and then presses himself closer. Stunned, Phil returns the embrace. He's not always good with affection, especially when he's ambushed into it. But this is Clint, and they are alone, and if Phil's honest with himself, he could use some physical closeness with another human being. He consciously relaxes and allows their bodies to align.

Clint lets out a sigh.

Phil brings his hand up to Clint's nape, letting his thumb stroke over the skin there. Clint's hands fist tighter into Phil's suit jacket.

After a long while, Clint pulls away. “Sorry if that was too much.” He looks at his boots. “But I just found out that you weren't, yanno, dead, three days ago. Tasha texted me. And then I was wondering if you were caught up in the mess at the Triskelion and if I'd see you again and then you're here, and—” He presses his lips together, silencing himself.

“No harm done.” Phil wants to kick himself as soon as the words are out of his mouth. How about, I missed you, too? or, I was wondering where you were when all this happened? Clint doesn't seem to mind. “I'm glad that Natasha is fine. I heard she's been working with Captain Rogers a lot.”

“Yeah. Pretty sure they were at least partially responsible for...” Clint waved his hand. “Whatever happened.”

“Hydra happened.”

Clint blinks. “Shit. Really?”


“So we're really fucked, huh?”

Phil smiles. He's missed Clint. “More or less. Fury's alive.”

Clint scrubs a hand through his hair. “Guess that explains the badge.”

“That was my thinking, too.” Phil nods at the table wedged into the corner. “C'mon. Let me look at your hands.”

Clint sits down carefully.

“Ribs?” Phil asks.

“Yeah.” Clint pulls up his fleece sweater. A large purple bruise stretches down his left side. “Didn't take a corner fast enough while running down some stairs.”

“Can I?”

Clint nods.

Phil's nearly certain that Clint's ribs are fine—he probably wouldn't have been able to make the hike out here if they weren't—but he needs to be sure. He's careful when he presses against Clint's skin, but Clint hisses nevertheless. “Sorry.” He rests his palm flat against Clint's side. He can feel the easy in and out of Clint's breath, a clear sign that there are no breaks.

“Keep going.”

Phil traces along the delicate bones as fast as he can, feeling for cracks. Much to his relief, there aren't any. “Just bruised.”

“That's what I thought.” Clint pulls down his fleece. “Thanks.”

Phil reaches for Clint's hands. Even though he's been inside for at least half an hour, the tips of his fingers are still pale with a blueish tint. Phil rubs them gently between his palms. “What was the mission you had to abandon?”

“I was in deep cover.” Clint looks off to the side.

Phil tries not to let his surprise show. Clint's never done a deep-cover mission before. Undercover for a few days or weeks, sure. But infiltration on a deep level? No. “You need to be debriefed.”

“I'm fine.”

Phil stops the motion of his hands. Clint looks up at him. “It's important that you go through a proper debrief. It helps you to put some distance between yourself and whoever you needed to be during the op. I can go through it with you. How long were you under?”

Clint pauses. “Fifteen months.”

“Jesus Christ.” Phil can't stop the words. That's almost as long as—as long as he's been officially dead.

Clint shrugs.

Phil starts kneading Clint's fingers again. “Who talked you into that?”

“I volunteered.”

Phil doesn't know how to respond to that. He always thought that Clint refused long-term undercover missions because they involved doing things he never wanted to do again. Phil reaches for the salve in the first-aid kit and begins rubbing it across the abrasions on Clint's knuckles.

“After New York...” Clint begins. “Natasha started working with Rogers a lot, and they sent me on some solo ops, but it didn't feel right.”

When Phil finishes with one hand, he picks up the other.

“So I volunteered. I figured, better me than someone who has kids or a partner.”

Phil understands Clint's reasoning—it is sound and in line with SHIELD's guidelines. And yet. It hurts that Clint would think no one would miss him.

“Besides, you were gone,” Clint whispers.

The words cut right into Phil. It's too close to things they never talk about. Had never talked about. “I meant to tell you that I was still alive.” It sounds like the weakest excuse imaginable. He focuses intently on Clint's fingers “A lot has happened, and I wasn't sure—”

“It's okay.” Clint turns his hand to close it around Phil's. “I'm just glad you're still here.”

It is not okay. Clint deserved to know. If only Phil hadn't been so stubborn about clinging to protocol. He tugs his hand out of Clint's hold. Bracing his elbows on the table, he lets his head rest against his folded hands. He's so tired—physically exhausted, mentally drained. He wants to sleep for days, but in the past week, he's barely slept two hours at a time.

“You know what's ironic?” Clint asks softly. “I was finally getting somewhere with these guys. You haven't heard of a group called Centipede, have you? That's who they were going to introduce me to.”

Phil looks at Clint, torn between rage and relief. Rage at how deep Centipede and Hydra run. Relief at Clint getting out.

“I guess you have heard of them.”

“You could say that.” Phil wonders if the ultimate goal was to recruit Clint for the cause. “My team and I were tracking them as well.” He picks up the salve. “Your face could use some of that.”

“Can you do it? My fingers still feel kinda stiff.” Clint looks at Phil with the same expression of trust he's given him many times before.

Phil isn't sure he deserves that. He dips his fingertips into the salve. “Hold still so I don't accidentally poke your eyes out.”

Clint rolls his eyes, but makes an effort not to move. They both ignore the shiver that goes through Clint when Phil's fingers swipe over his nose and cheeks.

“That should do it,” Phil says, his voice rough.

Clint mumbles a quick “Thanks.”

“Do you want some food? Or to go to sleep?”

“Food's good. Nothing too heavy. I haven't eaten in a while.”

Knowing Clint, that could mean anything from a few hours to a day or more. “You should have said. You could have eaten first.”

“'S okay.”

Phil stands. “I'll get you some soup. Door at the back leads to the bathroom if you want a shower. There's some standard SHIELD gear in the closet. Oh, and there's an assortment of pain killers in the first-aid kit.”

Clint nods.

Phil rests his hand on Clint's shoulder for a moment, then leaves without looking back.


When he returns with a tray of soup, crackers, and a bottle of water, Clint is stretched out on the couch, eyes closed. He is dressed in gray sweatpants and a white T-shirt. Phil wonders if Clint feels odd having SHIELD's logo plastered on his clothes or if he only cares about wearing something that's clean. Probably the latter.

“Here,” Phil says, setting down the tray on the coffee table.

Clint's eyes blink open and he sits up. “That smells amazing.”

“It's from a can, so you might want to lower your expectations.” Phil sits down next to Clint.

“It'll still be good.”

As Clint begins to eat, Phil shrugs out of his suit jacket and takes off his tie. He's not going anywhere for a few hours, and Clint has seen him in far worse. And less.

“Will you tell me about your team?” Clint asks.

Phil sinks back into the couch, trying to muster the words. Any words.

“Um, maybe not now. Later?”

Clint's accurate reading of his exhaustion brings a smile to Phil's face. “Later.”

He must have dozed off because he startles when Clint's knee knocks against his.

“Sorry. Didn't meant to wake you, but I want to turn in and you're on the couch, so...”

Phil doesn't follow Clint's logic. “Bed's over there.”

Clint ducks his head. “I'm good with the couch.”

Phil just wants to go to sleep, now that sleep seems within reach. “We'll share. End of discussion.” He stands and picks up the tray. “Go ahead, I'll take this back and let everyone know that they should only wake us in an emergency. Or more of an emergency.”

Clint hesitates, then walks over to the bed.

When Phil returns, Clint is already asleep. Stripping down to boxers and T-shirt, Phil slides in next to him. He settles close to the edge, then decides to fuck propriety and professionalism and turns over, close enough that his arm brushes against Clint's back.

Clint's warmth loosens something in him that's been wound too tight for too long.


Phil's warm. So very warm, utterly unlike the many recent nights he startled out of a nightmare, finding himself restless and alone. Clint has curled around him and is most definitely awake already.


Phil smiles at the greeting Clint whispers into his shoulder.

“Didn't wanna wake you.” Clint starts moving away.

“No!” It comes out too loud and too desperate. Clint freezes. “I mean, you don't have to move. If that's okay with you.”

Clint settles against Phil's back again. “Definitely okay.”

Phil exhales and tries to find that contentment again. It would be nice to have more than ten seconds of it. Clint's fingers move against his chest in small soothing strokes. He must feel the ridges of the scar through the thin T-shirt, but he doesn't ask. Phil's grateful for that silence; he isn't sure how he could manage telling Clint about that on top of everything else.

Phil closes his eyes and tries not to think about anything. “You slept well?”



“Don't feel a thing.” Clint's nose rubs across Phil's shoulder. “Even if SHIELD has gone to shit, they still make great drugs.”

If Clint only knew just how miraculous some of those drugs could be. “That they do.”

“What are we gonna do now?”

Phil opens his eyes. He picks up Clint's hand and brings it into his field of vision. He's always liked Clint's hands, knobby and strange as they are. “I don't know.” It's difficult to admit; Phil likes plans and goals. Purpose. “I refuse to let all of our work become meaningless.”

Clint tangles their fingers together. “You think Fury has a plan?”

“Fury always has a plan. Not sure who or what it involves. My team—there are some loose ends to tie up.” Phil almost invites Clint to come along. They could use someone as skilled as Clint, but he doesn't want to presume, and he isn't sure how he'd cope with having Clint around all the time with so many things unsaid between them.

“I want to find Natasha.”

That makes sense. She's the closest thing to family Clint has, and they've gone through many crises together. “Be careful. Your file's out there now.”

“Yeah, I know. I'll be alright.”

Phil swallows down a request to stay in touch. It's safer for both of them not to talk to one another.

“I gotta tell you something.” There's a hitch in Clint's voice.

Phil wonders if it's about the deep cover Clint was in. If he was trying to get close to Centipede, he was probably involved in things that must weigh on his mind. “Go ahead.”

“I've always regretted—when I thought you'd died, there's one thing I've regretted not telling you. So when I heard that you made it, I told myself that the next time I saw you, I would finally tell you. I think you know, anyway, but...well, the thing is that I like you. Kind of a lot.”

At first, Phil is confused. Then he wants to laugh. Trust Clint to throw years of carefully managed feelings into the open when their world has been turned upside down. But what's one more life-altering thing, really? “I might have suspected.”

Clint smiles into his neck. “Yeah, I'm not as good as you at keeping that under wraps.”

“Oh, what makes you think that I was keeping anything under wraps?” Phil teases.

“C'mon, really?” There's a hint of uncertainty under the indignation.

Phil rolls onto his back. He lifts the arm that nearly gets crushed between their bodies over his head, resting it on the pillow. Clint looks at him with such hope that it takes Phil a moment to find his voice. “I like you, too. More than a lot.”

Clint's smile lights up his entire face as he leans down to press a soft kiss against Phil's lips. “Is this okay?”

Phil nods and tugs Clint closer. It's not a perfect kiss by any means—they'll have to get used to each other and Phil is hopelessly out of practice—but Phil still loses himself in the way Clint's tongue sweeps into mouth and the insistent way his hands map Phil's body. Clint's fingers settle low on Phil's hip, thumb driving into the crease there. Phil's cock thickens with each press against his skin, and he can feel Clint getting hard as well.

“Please tell me,” Clint whispers, “that you're not opposed to some yay-we're-still-alive-sex. Because I'm not tired and I haven't been with anyone I truly like in forever and who knows when—”

“Yes. God, you don't need to convince me.” Phil pushes a hand under Clint's shirt, grasping for all the skin he can reach.

“What do you like? I can definitely get off if we keep doing this.” Clint mouths along Phil's neck, sucking on the skin there. “Or if—if you want—” Clint's hips stutter against Phil's side. “If you want to fuck me, that'd be okay, too, because nobody's fucked me in a while and god, Phil, I want—”

Phil yanks Clint's mouth back against his and shoves up against him. Clint's words put images in his mind that make him ache for any sort of friction. “Unless you magically have lube and condoms in your backpack...”

Clint curses. “I bet someone—”

“I'm not asking my team. No. That' But there's lotion in the bathroom if you think that could work.”

Clint's head dips. “No.” He pauses. “I haven't gotten tested since I went undercover, and I've had sex, and...”


He looks up. “I haven't done anything stupid, but I'd want to make sure.” There's no evasion in his gaze or in his voice.

Phil wonders if this will break the mood, but when Clint's body drags against his in a lazy roll, sparks shoot through him. “Plenty of other things we can do.”

Clint's fingers tease along the elastic of Phil's boxers, slipping underneath. “Can I make you come?” The request is almost shy.

Phil nods eagerly. “Want me to take these off?”

“No.” Clint feels for Phil's cock. His hand wraps around it in a slow stroke. “This is good.”

Phil's breathing picks up with each measured movement of Clint's hand. “Faster.”

“No. Not yet.”

Clint's thumb presses against the underside of Phil's cock on the upstroke and finds that spot under the head that makes Phil jerk every single time. “Please.”

“It'll be so much better if you hold on for a little longer.” He brushes a kiss over Phil's lips. “Promise.”

“Not fair,” Phil bites out.


Clint finally takes pity on him when Phil's hips push up into his strokes in involuntary twists. His fist tightens on Phil's cock, jerking him in a way that borders on harsh. It's perfect. Phil pleads and whines and clings, utterly beyond caring about how he might sound or what he looks like. His orgasm rips out of him. Clint strokes him through it, touch increasingly light until he stops and removes his hand from Phil's boxers.

Gentle fingers touch Phil's face and he opens his eyes, unaware he'd closed them. Clint kisses his cheek and mumbles, “Thanks for letting me do that.”

Phil should be the one thanking Clint for turning every bone in his body into jelly. All he manages is petting Clint's hair, which Clint seems to enjoy if his quiet hums are anything to go by.

“What 'bout you?” Phil asks.

Clint bites his lip. “I have an idea.”


Clint pulls out of Phil's grasp. “I'll be right back.” He gets out of bed and walks into the bathroom. Sounds of drawers being opened filter into the bedroom. He comes back with a tube of lotion, which he tosses onto the bed.

Phil frowns.

“I'll tell you.” Clint pulls his T-shirt over his head and shimmies out of his sweatpants. His movements are just slow enough to be deliberate. An invitation to look. Phil appreciates it—he's looked at Clint more and longer than had ever been strictly necessary—but his gaze hasn't been this welcome before. There's a flush all over Clint, and Phil tracks it across his shoulders and chest down to his cock, which is wet at the tip.

Clint places one knee on the mattress. He tugs at Phil's boxers. “Those must be sticky by now.”

They are. Phil lifts his hips so Clint can slide them off. He isn't prepared for Clint to lean down and lick across his soft cock. Phil's sensitivity has waned enough that it feels good. He lets out a quiet sigh when Clint's tongue swipes across him one more time.

Clint straddles Phil's hips and picks up the lotion. “I know we're not going to fuck. But...” He bites his lip again. “Will you put your fingers in me?”

Phil appreciates that Clint's direct about what he wants. “I'd love to.” He takes the lotion from Clint and uncaps it. “Will you get off just from that?”

“Depends.” Clint braces his elbows just above Phil's shoulders and steals a kiss.

“On my skills?”

Clint smiles. “Among other things.”

Phil pats Clint's hip with the hand that's not covered in lotion. “Move up a little more.” Clint shuffles forward. “That's good.”

Phil reaches around to Clint's ass and presses two fingers between his cheeks. He rubs across Clint's hole until Clint moves with him. Clint's relaxed enough to open for him, the tip of one finger sliding inside with ease.

Clint bites off a moan. Phil wishes he could tell him to be as loud as he wants, but he'd rather not give his team indisputable proof of what he's up to with Clint.

Phil works two fingers into him, never pushing in more than half-way, teasing his thumb along the rim. In part, he wants to make sure that Clint's comfortable, but it's also retribution for him being a goddamn tease earlier.

Clint pushes his face against Phil's neck with a whine. “C'mon.”

Phil presses a little deeper. “Weren't you the one who told me about patience and rewards?”

Clint huffs.

Phil nuzzles Clint's temple and continues with his slow pace until he has three fingers in Clint. There are wet spots on his T-shirt where Clint's cock drags across the fabric with each impatient push of his hips.

“Please, Phil.” The words are accompanied by harsh breaths.

Phil rubs his free hand up Clint's thigh. “I got you.”

He doesn't hold back after that. He pushes in as deep as he can, picking up speed as Clint loosens up. Clint bites down on his shoulder, muffling the stream of desperate sounds. Hips snap back, forceful counterpoint to Phil's hand.

A tremor runs through Clint and he sneaks a hand between their bodies. His knuckles press against Phil with each stroke.

Rather than trying to keep up a rhythm, Phil holds still and deep, letting Clint take what he needs. Clint keens, fucking himself on Phil's fingers, fast and sloppy, until he comes. A sob tears through him that Phil feels more than hears.

Phil pulls out slowly, thumbing over Clint's hole until all tensions leaves him.

Clint sprawls on top of him, lax and out of breath. Phil runs his hand across Clint's back in long sweeps.

When the fog lifts from Phil's brain, he wishes that they could both stay here and ride out the aftermath of SHIELD's collapse. It's unrealistic and selfish, yet Phil wants it.

“Too many thoughts,” Clint mumbles.

Phil brings his other arm around Clint. “Can't help it.” He kisses Clint's shoulder. “I'm not sure when my team will have to leave, but will you stay that long?”


“Thank you.” That's all he can ask of Clint.

“I know that this is the worst time to start..something, but, Phil, I want—” Clint pushes himself up to look down at Phil. “I want this, and I don't give a fuck about SHIELD or Hydra or Fury. Not where we're concerned. Okay?”

It's the okay that makes Phil feel choked up. It's the earnestness of it. Maybe he can ask more of Clint than another day or two. “Yeah. Okay.”