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The cool fingers around the back of his neck don’t feel like perfection, but they sure as hell feel right in this moment. Real. The metal digits leech the heat from his skin, leaving him feeling a good few degrees cooler, even with the shredding wind that whips around them. 

It’s the comfort, really, of the poison he knows. 

Clint takes in a breath and holds it for a three-count, taking in the landscape of the city around them, silhouetted in the polluted dusk, before he nods once and turns. “Come on, we’re burning daylight.”

The man he knows ( -- barely knows, doesn’t know at all, knows biblically -- ) turns and follows with a smile (more a smirk, but who’s counting -- assassins don’t really smile, Clint knows this). 


There are hands grasping at every part of him, fingernails pulling and scratching at his skin, his clothes. “This uniform is worth --” The sound of shredding fabric is unmistakable, “-- thousands.” Clint barely feels what he knows will come up as perfect finger-shaped bruises pressed into his hips. It’s not enough. He says as much, with his teeth, buried hard enough in Barnes’s neck to leave an angry mark, if only for a few seconds. 

“This is why you can’t have nice things.” Barnes’ voice is annoyingly steady for someone pressed flat against and pinned to a concrete wall.  

Barton huffs out a laugh against the warm, exposed skin of Barnes’ neck, taking a deep breath of gunpowder and sweat. “Don’t I know it.” He distracts himself -- Bucky too, by grabbing a fistful of that awful hair and crashing their lips together. It’s not pretty or graceful, it never is -- there’s teeth and blood and too much raw need for anything dignified. But they’re not dignified men and they never pretend to be. 


Steady, steady.


“Well, wasn’t that fun.”

Barnes has already got a cigarette lit and Clint indulges himself a little, very slightly, by closing his eyes and breathing in some of the smoke and not forcing himself out of bed. Barnes isn’t moving, so why should he? It’s his bed, anyway. If “Bucky” was uncomfortable with a little post-fuck relaxing, then he could be the one to extricate himself from sweaty sheets, not Clint.

His skin is sweat-slick and cooling in the air, but he’s still too warm to tug even a sheet over his legs. “You said it, Jimmy.” Clint can see him in his peripheral, resting nude against the headboard of the bed. It’s nice, the headboard -- oak. Stark suggested it, because Stark suggested practically everything he owned, other than the couch and coffee table Clint had jacked from -- an office at SHIELD headquarters. Anyway -- Clint hasn’t bothered to sit up yet, though he had wormed his arms underneath his head at some point. He’s got his eyes fixed on the ceiling because, honestly, he’s not sure what else to do. He’s never been much of a cuddler, and he’s never bothered to stick around after a lay before, unless he was planning on going again.

Barnes, however, despite any bets Clint might have wagered earlier in the evening, does not make any moves toward leaving, even after the minutes drag on. Clint could probably say something taunting, something to rib the other man into vacating his space -- but he doesn’t feel drawn to do so.

So, when Barnes finishes one cigarette and then another, stubbing out both on a well-placed glass on Barton’s bedside table, Clint just gives in to an impulse he never knew he possessed. He takes a breath of the smoke-lingering air -- and then turns to his side, flinging one arm over the other sharp-shooter’s chest. He can feel the breath Barnes takes in before he speaks, and Clint stifles it before he can even try, “Shut up.” The words are huffed threateningly against the warm skin of a shoulder and there is, for once, no argument.


Breathe, Barton. 

You’re doing enough for the both of us.


You you breathe too loudly, asshole. I can barely hear myself think over your creepy stalker-breathing in my ear. 

You love it.  -- Target’s at your eight.


“Please cut your goddamn hair.” Clint manages around a mouth full of Captain Crunch, the one with the berries. He likes his milk turning purple-brown and sugary, thanks. He won’t live long enough for those kinds of processed chemicals kill him through some weird brain-cancer, anyway. “You look like a comic-book villain.” Or a serial killer, he adds in his head, knowing it’s not the right thing to say aloud. 

Barnes, who is always about fifty times more awake than Clint (and everyone else, save Thor) in the mornings, just smiles from behind his coffee cup. The archer knows the retort he’s going to use before he says it, and Barnes also knows that, so he just stays quiet. It’s not breakfast-table conversation anyway. Not that they spend enough time together for Clint to know what Barnes is going to say on a regular basis, that’s not it at all -- but he can vividly remember (and he’s sure Barnes can too) the way his hands fisted in that dark, tangled hair the night before, the way it felt between his fingers as he pulled and tugged and coaxed. And he loved every second of it.

“He’s right,” Stark says, after crossing the kitchen and fishing some green-colored smoothie from the fridge, “you look awful. You want me to get you a haircut? I’ll get you a haircut. JARVIS, get on that. Set him up with my guy -- he’s good.” 


Clint rolls his eyes, because he knew it was coming. So, he fishes one of Nat’s hair-ties from his pocket (he wasn’t a boy scout, but he’s always prepared) and flicks it across the kitchen island at Barnes. “Well, then at least put your hair up, Jimmy. You’re making the whole kitchen look untidy.”


It doesn’t take much imagination to visualize the outlines of bruises on Barnes’ neck in the perfect shape of his own fingers. He knows they’ll never even begin to blossom over the tan skin, freckled with moles, stymied by Science and Enhanced DNA or whatever, but it doesn’t hurt to imagine them anyway. The genetic enhancements don’t make Barnes’ skin any cooler against his pressing touch -- he’s always hot, like he’s been running hard or out in the sun for too long. Barton knows from experience that Barnes always feels cold despite the heat of his skin -- in his sleep, he seeks out warmth like a moth to flame.  

The other man’s pulse is strong and steady against his bow-calloused fingertips. He tightens his fingers until he can hear the faint falter in breath, followed by a steady growl. A challenge: Barnes doesn’t go down easy. But where would the fun be in that?

“Come on, Barton, that all you got?” Mocking, is how it comes out -- but also overwhelmingly needy. And needy is something that Clint can deal with.

His fingers tighten more. “You wanna ask that again, Jimmy? Maybe a little nicer this time?”  

Barnes tries -- gives it his all (or nearly all, anyway -- because nothing’s keeping him there under Barton other than free will alone), and only manages a choked off hiss of gasping breath, poorly vocalized and hoarse. That sparks a smile in Barton, who loosens his grip a fraction, if only for the gesture, “Wanna’ say ‘Please,’ Jimmy?”

Before the other man has a chance to respond, Barton kicks his legs out from underneath him and eases him down to his knees, guiding him with the firm grip on his neck. Barnes glares upward, but doesn’t protest. They both know he wants to be there, asked to be.

Clint doesn’t mind making him ask again. 

He tightens his grip again when Jimmy stays silent, keeping them that way until the sharpshooter’s breathing starts to falter, when his body starts to involuntarily try to take in large gasps of air it simply cannot. 

One. Two. Three -- and he loosens his hold, cupping warm cheeks in his palms. Immediately, before Barnes’ first full breath, he gets a pleaded, “Please.



Clint’s breathing comes out ragged and wet against Jimmy’s shoulder.


It would be a lot better if the involuntary tears clouding his eyes were from anything but the gut-wrenching, searing pain coursing through his body, assaulting his nerve endings.

“Easy, Barton. Come on.”

But Barnes doesn’t move, just adjusts Clint’s body where it is draped over him, making sure they’re chest to warm chest. He cards his fingers through the archer’s hair and breathes steadily enough for Clint to match. Everything hurts. Everything burns. Everything is too much. Their bodily contact both helps and hinders, but they tried leaving Clint alone in the cold corner of the alley while they waited for backup earlier and that didn’t go well. Clint’s screams had been better (and quickly) muffled into Barnes’ shoulder, where they eventually faded into loud, occasionally whined breathing. 

“Just a few more minutes. Steady." 

Clint hates nerve gas, hates mad scientists even more.  He hates coming unhinged without the explicit desire to do so at someone else’s hands. He hates that anyone has to see him like this. 

-- But Barnes is safe and firm underneath him, and his arms form a protective shield around his body, even though his skin burns hotter and harder at any point of contact between them. It’s better than burning alone, feeling so overtaken by the mind-shattering pain that he felt himself slipping into unconsciousness with no tether to hold him strong. He just presses his face against Jimmy’s shoulder and burrows and tries to breathe, steadying himself in the other man’s existence. 

Clint doesn’t even hear the drone of the incoming med-evac helicopter over the sound of Barnes’ heartbeat in his ear. 


They don’t always get along.

They alternate between clashing violently and falling into step with one another almost effortlessly.

They destroy the living room of Avengers Tower with a brawl that started over the validity of “banana” being a legitimate secret ingredient in Iron Chef: America.

They take down two-hundred rampaging genetically-enhanced reptilian creatures, working flawlessly and seamlessly together, with barely a word spoken between them. 

They bicker over the choice of their one Pepper-allotted overly-sugary-breakfast cereal.

They get along well enough.