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Gold On Your Fingertips

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Clint would be grumbling under his breath if he weren’t desperately trying to be quiet as he hauled himself through the vents on his elbows. He’d argued this part of the job with both Trick and Barney, to no avail. It made no sense at all to make Clint do the creeping, he’d been a full head taller than Barney for at least the last 5 years, and his shoulders were broader than both of them.

But, here he was, dragging himself through the ventilation system of whatever company they were breaking into this month. It was claustrophobic as hell, and he had to shuffle forward at an awkward angle, one shoulder always in front of the other just so he could fit.

He scowled into the darkness.

When they were done here, Clint was going to have strong words with Barney, because he wasn’t gonna do this shit again.

He consulted his mental map of the place before making a left turn at the next junction, then a right after that, finally winding up pressed against a wide, flat grate that peered into a dimly-lit room. In the very center was a key-code protected column, inside of which was some kind of chemical compound that someone was paying them a very pretty penny to lift. Clint removed the grate silently, finding it lifted easily off of its hinges. He dropped lightly to the ground, landing on the balls of his feet with the grate still in-hand, because god knew it wasn’t going to fit into the shaft he’d been crammed in while he was still in it. He’d have to go back into the ventilation system backwards to get the grate back on, but that was a problem for future Clint.

Present Clint had a vial to steal.

He was reaching a leather-gloved hand towards the unassuming keypad when cold fingers wrapped around his wrist and yanked him sideways.

“What the-” he barely bit back a shout, and the words came out in a grating whisper. He was spun sharply, but he managed to come around with a knife already in hand before he got a good look at his attacker.

A good, intimidating look. The guy was kitted up in black leather and buckles, with goggles and a mask that covered nearly all of his face. He looked expressionless beneath the black plastic and kevlar, though Clint could just barely make out a furrow between his eyebrows, hidden behind wild strands of dark hair. Clint struck out with the knife out of instinct, and the other man threw out his arm, catching the blade across his forearm. Instead of the sickening sensation of the blade sinking into cotton and then skin, there was a teeth-jarring scrape of metal on metal.

Before Clint could put too much thought into it, the other man twisted his arm and grabbed Clint by the wrist, squeezing until he dropped the knife into a waiting palm and then yanking him into an implacable hold. He tucked Clint’s knife into his belt then grabbed Clint by the back of his neck and dragged him into a slightly more well-lit area of the room. Underneath the heavy, heart-thumping sensation of adrenaline, Clint felt a spark of something that was there and gone too fast for him to identify, and he wondered if the guy had gotten something on his skin - some kind of chemical or drug.

“Who are you?” the guy growled.

“Fuck off,” Clint spat, tugging at the arm now wrapped around his bicep. There was absolutely no give in the grip, it was utterly immobile no matter how Clint twisted and squirmed.

“What do you want with the serum?” the guy tried instead, pulling Clint further into the light. Clint couldn’t see his eyes behind the goggles, but he felt like he was being measured and found wanting.

Clint kept silent as he was dragged to and fro. He had a good five or six inches of height on the other man, but it might as well have been nothing for all the good the extra bulk was doing him. He was being manhandled like a ragdoll, and he if he were being honest, it was a bit alarming. Even Barney and Trick had stopped getting physical with him years ago, now spending more time convincing him to cooperate than dragging him off behind one of the circus trailers or smacking him upside the head.

Being tall had had its advantages, up until this encounter.

Short, dark, and intimidating let go of Clint’s neck to fist a hand in his shirt and yank Clint closer. Clint opened his mouth to say something else - and who knew what it was going to be, he never considered his words before they were out of his mouth - but the guy cocked his head funny, looking at something behind Clint’s ear. He muttered something in another language - something blistering and infuriated - and then he was dragging Clint out of the building behind him.

Clint did not stop struggling, for all the good it did him. The grip on his arm was as unwavering as ever, never seemed to loosen or waver like the man’s hand was getting tired. Clint was cursing under his breath and fighting every step of the way.

“Shut up,” the man hissed, tightening his fingers hard enough to bruise. “You’re going to attract attention.”

“Who the fuck’s attention am I going to attract?” Clint grouched back, yanking ineffectually at his arm and dragging his feet. “You’re the only guard around, as far as I could tell.”

The man paused, turning his head slightly to fix that disconcerting, blank-goggled expression on Clint. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, black case, one which he opened with the thumb of his right hand, the small box beeping its acquiescence. Inside, nestled in protective foam, was a glass vial.

“I’m not guarding the serum,” he growled, “I’m taking it. You almost got us both caught.”

Clint blinked at him in confusion. The vial had been sitting in the case, exactly as Trick had described, keypad-

“It was a trap,” he said, struck a little dumb by the realization.

Clint couldn’t see his assailant roll his eyes, but he got the sense of it anyway. “It was a trap,” the man agreed, tucking the case away carefully. “And you were the schnook.”

“I was the what?” Clint tried again to shrug off the punishing grip on his arm. “Jesus fuck, could you lighten up a bit, I’d like to keep my arm attached to my body.”

The man just snorted, but his grip lightened nearly imperceptibly. Not enough for Clint’s struggles to help, but enough that he wasn’t worried about his circulation. “The sucker. The fall guy. You were supposed to set off the alarms while your buddies stole the real serum.” He paused, exuding a sense of smug pride. “Too bad I already had it. But the alarms would have been… inconvenient.”

Clint stumbled along the hallway after him, still being tugged along like a disobedient child. “You got what you were after, why not leave me behind?”

There was another pause, this one more begrudging than smug. “Shut up,” he said, instead of answering, and pulled Clint through a maintenance door and down a poorly-lit hallway. Clint struggled to keep up, if only because he got the impression that if he fell the masked man would just drag his limp body along at exactly the same pace he was currently maintaining. Clint wasn’t sure how he was managing to sustain the speed and stealth whilst still keeping a firm grip on someone who was so much taller and at least as heavy, but it didn’t seem to even faze him. He moved with the single-minded determination of a machine, taking twists and turns near-instinctively. He never once paused to consider which direction to go in, simply pulled Clint through the bowels of the installation until they were emerging into the deep, oppressive darkness of the night, somewhere in the wooded surroundings of the quasi-military building Clint had been infiltrating.

The door they came out of was unmarked, unassuming, built into the steep incline of a hill, and near-invisible behind tumbles of ivy and forest overgrowth. It had been painted something dark and non-reflective, and once the man had yanked Clint far enough away, it mostly disappeared into the undergrowth. Five minutes later, Clint wasn’t sure he could have found it again, even if he knew how to navigate his way back to his rendezvous point with Trick and Barney.

“Where the fuck are you taking me?” Clint growled, renewing his efforts to get away, now prying at the fingers wrapped around his bicep.

He didn’t get an answer - not that he’d really been expecting one. His now-kidnapper picked up the pace, pulling Clint through the darkness of the woods in near-silence, the only sounds those of Clint’s boots crushing the underbrush. Clint renewed his struggles, tugging sharply on his arm and ignoring the pain that followed, literally digging his heels into the soft earth of the ground beneath his feet.

“Be quiet,” the man hissed, shaking Clint sharply.

“Fuck off,” Clint grunted back, taking a deep breath and intending to shout. If he brought the whole of the installation down on them, so be it.

He never got the sound out, however, because the man holding him gave an aggrieved sigh, reached out with his free hand and hit Clint beneath his right ear, sharp and painful. There was a flash of light behind his eyelids and then Clint knew nothing else.

***

Clint woke groggy and disoriented, with a faint headache and a sore arm.

He was lying on a relatively comfortable sofa - by far not the worst place he’d ever slept or woken up - but he definitely wasn’t in his bunk back at the circus, and what had happened to him?

He blinked his eyes open, forcing awareness and evaluating his surroundings. It was a small, decrepit little house. The sofa he was lying on was musty with disuse, though not filthy, and the entire room had the sense of abandonment, relatively clean if somewhat dusty. The furniture was bare and minimal, and it was silent as a tomb. Clint could see the edges of a small kitchen to one side and a dark hallway to the other, leading presumably to more unseen parts of the house.

And across from him was a man in black leather, sitting in a straight-backed dining chair with his elbows on his knees, watching Clint intently.

It took a second for Clint to place him. For one thing, it took a few moments for the events of the night to come rushing back, but for another, the mask and goggles covering the man’s face had been removed, along with the leather coat he’d been wearing. Clint alternated between staring at his face - which was pinched and disgruntled but fucking beautiful holy shit - and the glinting metal of his left arm.

“Oh fuck,” Clint managed, rolling to a sitting position, only to find that his arm was definitely shackled to the frame of the sofa. He ignored that for the moment, confident he could slip free, to continue staring. “Oh fuck, you’re the Winter Soldier.”

The Soldier grunted, resting his chin on his hands and glaring at Clint like he was some sort of alien species.

The Winter Soldier was a legend, in a very specific crowd. Mostly he was an assassin. He’d been around practically forever, from what Clint could tell, and never missed a shot.

Clint hadn’t heard he was also a thief.

But he’d definitely heard about the metal arm. Everyone had heard about the metal arm - it was a trademark, like his deadly accuracy and the fact he never let a target live. He was a ghost story, unseen and unheard and unreal, someone Clint hadn’t believed actually existed and had certainly never expected to meet.

Hadn’t expected him to be so young - only a few years older than Clint - or so fucking pretty, either, with stormy grey eyes and a mouth that looked-

Well, it looked like something, that was for sure. Clint was trying not to think about it because the Winter Soldier had kidnapped him.

Oh fuck, he was so fucked. He rattled the chain that was connecting the cuff on his wrist to the frame of the sofa. “You know I can pick this lock in like, under five seconds, right?”

The Soldier shrugged. “Probably,” he agreed, looking entirely unconcerned. “There’s nowhere you can go that I won’t find you.”

Clint grimaced. That was also probably true. There was also the additional fact that his shoes were gone. Okay, time to re-evaluate. “Why’d you bring me back with you? I don’t have anything you want or need, and you know more about what was going on at that storage facility than I do.”

The Soldier snorted. “Storage facility?” He shook his head. “It was a SHIELD base, and it was a trap. For me, not you, but you almost got yourself caught in it anyway. Why are you after Captain America’s DNA?”

Clint boggled at him. “Captain America’s what?

Captain America, World War II legend and recently defrosted superhero, was barely on Clint’s radar. Sure, he’d heard of the guy - who hadn’t heard of him, once he’d shown up on the streets of New York battling fucking aliens, he wasn’t even the most interesting news of the time - but they didn’t exactly travel in the same circles. For one thing, Captain America was a hero, and for another, Clint worked for a literal circus. A circus of crime, mostly, but still a circus. Why would he have been after anything of Captain America’s, much less his DNA?

They’d been hired to steal a chemical vial not-

Clint stopped trying to puzzle it out for the moment, because being a prisoner of the Winter Soldier was a bit more pressing than wondering just what the fuck his brother had got him into. It also wasn’t the first time he hadn’t been fully in on the plan, much to his chagrin.

He was a little more pissed off about it than usual, though.

The Soldier frowned. “Who do you work for?”

“Who do you work for?” Clint shot back, then bit his lip. This wasn’t like talking to Barney or Trick, mouthing off was probably going to get him more than slapped around a little for his trouble, even if it’d been years since either one of them had even done that. Mostly Barney just rolled his eyes at Clint’s misgivings, reminded him that they weren’t taking anything from people who couldn’t afford to lose it, and kept him on the outsides of the job, telling Clint when and where to be, if not why. Trick had tried a few rounds of bullying, but that only made Clint more stubborn, more unlikely to do what they asked, so he mostly left it to Barney now.

But still - he wasn’t going to give his brother and Trick up to the goddamn Winter Soldier just because he’d asked. He clenched his jaw around the inexplicable desire to answer and stared at the Soldier mutinously.

The Soldier sighed. He looked as conflicted as Clint felt, like he wanted to say a lot of things that he wasn’t saying. “I work for people who don’t tolerate mistakes,” was what he finally settled on.

Clint bristled. He may have fucked up, but that didn’t make him a mistake, and anyway, he wasn’t the one dragging unsuspecting… thieves… out of buildings and knocking them unconscious and depositing them in unknown locations. “How was I supposed to know the whole thing was a trap for you, Mr. Badass Winter Soldier?”

The Soldier waved him off in an exhausted kind of way, like Clint’s words were meaningless. He was studying Clint like he was a particularly confounding puzzle. His eyes flicked from Clint’s face to his shoulders to his throat, occasionally focusing on some point behind Clint that he couldn’t see and which Clint wasn’t planning to take his eyes off the Soldier to check himself. Clint heaved a sigh and crossed his arms over his chest as he slouched against the back of the sofa.

Or, he tried to, except the chain around his wrist caught him just short of being able to fully reach. He opened his mouth to complain about it, only to be overruled by the loud rumbling of his stomach.

“I don’t suppose you’ve got pizza stashed around here somewhere?” he asked, less than hopeful about the answer.

The only response was the smack of a foil-wrapped protein bar hitting him in the chest. Clint sighed and picked up the protein bar, twisting his wrist and popping his thumb out of socket long enough to slip the cuff before snapping it back into place with the kind of cartilage-crunching sound that had always made the other guys in the circus cringe.

“So,” he said, unwrapping the foil of the bar, “I’m Clint.”

The Soldier just blinked at him, caught somewhere between confused and surprised.

Which, fair, Clint got that a lot.

But he figured the Soldier hadn’t expected him to acquiesce so quickly, and Clint fully intended to capitalize on that, either in information or opportunity to escape or both.

He flashed a half-smile at the other man, one he’d flashed at a dozen other people in the last few years, one that got him a second look at least seventy percent of the time, and a quickie a fairly significant portion of that. He stretched his arms up over his head and cracked his spine, working the stiffness out of the shoulder that had, until ten seconds ago, been shackled to the furniture.

“This is the part where you tell me your name.” Clint said. “Or something to call you by,” he amended. He wasn’t dumb enough to think the Winter Soldier was going around giving out his real name.

The Soldier cleared his throat, sounding somehow vaguely awkward, which just made Clint grin harder. Clint broke off a chunk of the protein bar and began chewing it, the vaguely bitter taste of fake chocolate coating his mouth.

Ugh.

He waited.

“They call me Soldat, or the Asset,” the Soldier finally said, begrudging and still like he was a little confused.

“Well that’s a shit name,” Clint told him. “They call me The Amazing Hawkeye, which is much better, but it’s not a name.”

The Soldier shrugged.

Clint finished the protein bar without any other response, and he mentally cycled through the names, nicknames, and embarrassing pet names he’d heard in his time. Growing up in a circus meant there were a lot, and most of them weren’t polite.

He decided to hold off on anything too bawdy until he figured out just what he was doing here.

“So what’s a guy like me doin’ in a place like this?” he drawled, crossing one ankle over his knee and slouching further onto the couch.

The Soldier just stared at him with that same mixture of curiosity and dread.

“Did you kidnap me for a reason,” Clint prompted, “or am I just the eye candy?” He flexed a little, for good measure, caught the Soldier’s eyes dragging along the line of his shoulders.

Clint knew what he looked like - knew how to draw the eye, how to catch the attention he wanted to have, how to invite someone in with a look. Words he was kinda shit at. He usually just flexed a little, smiled just the right way, and people were either interested or they weren’t. And yeah, maybe he touched a few too many people, let a few too many touch him, but he also - not that he would ever, ever let Barney know - couldn’t let go of the singular hope that one of those times it would be the right touch. The one people talked about in hushed whispers, like it was too sacred to share but they couldn’t help but let bits of it slip. The touch that told you the person you were touching was meant for you and you were meant for them.

The kind of touch that left you Marked.

Clint wasn’t convinced he even deserved a touch like that, the kind of life he was living, but that didn’t stop him reaching out as often as possible. And it wasn’t like he wasn’t having fun along the way.

Right now, though, the Soldier was giving him all kinds of mixed signals, like he wanted to look but it wasn’t allowed. Like he was thinking about touching, but couldn’t quite bring himself to do it.

Hell, Clint wasn’t sure he should be allowing it. Encouraging it.

But the guy was fifty different flavors of smokin’ fuckin’ hot, and Clint couldn’t think of any other reason he’d have been dragged out of a base to bumfuck Egypt like this. Granted, Clint didn’t usually begin his sexual encounters by being knocked unconscious, but he might be willing to make an exception. Just this once.

Those thighs, man.

Even in tac pants, Clint kinda wanted them wrapped around his ears.

Except the Soldier kept cutting glances at him, obviously looking at Clint’s best attributes while simultaneously trying not to look at Clint’s best attributes. Clint had noticed that before - usually when he was performing - from men who wanted to look but wanted to not want to look.

He sighed.

“I couldn’t leave you there,” the Soldier said, finally, when Clint had basically given up on getting an answer. “You’d have been caught.”

Clint’s eyebrows rose up nearly into his hair. “So? What do you care if I get caught?”

The Soldier shrugged. “You don’t want to get caught,” he said, with the kind of finality that sent shivers up Clint’s spine. Like he’d been caught and hadn’t exactly enjoyed it.

Which, Clint had done a spell in juvie, and it wasn’t exactly fun and games. But this didn’t carry quite the same weight to it.

“So what are you going to do with me?” he asked, casual, like he wasn’t worried about it.

Actually he was surprised to find that he really wasn’t all that worried about it.

If the Soldier had wanted him dead, he’d be dead, simple as that, and if he’d wanted Clint out of his way and out of his hair he could have just knocked him out and left him in the base to be found by whomever or dragged out by his brother. He hadn’t needed to drag Clint along to wherever they were now, and he so far hadn’t hurt him. So no, Clint wasn’t all that concerned.

He also wasn’t all that anxious to leave, which was a bit of a worrisome thought in and of itself. One Clint decided not to dwell on, because dwelling on thoughts like that tended to get him into trouble. Clint was much more of a ride the waves and see where he ended up sort of guy, because that kept him on Trick’s good side and meant Barney didn’t hassle him quite so much. There’d be a chance to cut and run, just as soon as The Soldier decided Clint wasn’t gonna cause any trouble and as soon as Clint figured out just where in the actual fuck he was, then he could meet back up with his brother and the circus.

In the meantime, there was sin-with-a-metal-arm eyeing him with intent, and Clint couldn’t think of any good reason why he shouldn’t take advantage of the fact.

“Cat got your tongue?” Clint asked, and the Soldier blinked at him, like he’d already forgot that Clint had asked him a question. “You got plans for me, or am I just along for the ride?”

The Soldier shook his head, scowling. “You should sleep,” he said, instead of answering the question. “I have- I was,” he emphasized the word strangely, “supposed to stand by and await pick-up in 48 hours. So I haven’t got much time.” He strode across the room and fuck if watching that stride - now that he wasn’t being dragged along in its wake - wasn’t something to see. The Soldier pulled Clint to his feet less than gently. “You should sleep while there’s time.”

Clint blinked as he was herded down the darkened hallway, past a partially-opened door that led to a small bathroom and then into the bedroom at the end of the hall. There had been no other doors which meant-

“Aw,” he said, fighting back a smirk and delivering his next words in a monotone, “there’s only one bed.” He reached for the hem of his t-shirt, only briefly wondering what the Soldier had done with his tactical belt and boots, and stripped it over his head in a practiced, showy move, before dropping it on the floor at his feet. He tossed a glance over his shoulder as he took a couple of steps towards the bed, already made up with cheap sheets and a thin blanket. “Whatever shall we do?”

“I’ll keep watch,” the Soldier growled, hovering a couple of feet inside the door.

Clint turned to face him fully. “Will you?” he asked, and a few years ago he’d have been able to manage coy, would’ve been able to look up through his eyelashes. An unprecedented growth spurt and years with a bow meant he couldn’t quite pull that off anymore, so instead he aimed more in the neighborhood of proposition. “Will you keep watch all night?” His hands dropped to the snap on his pants and he unbuttoned and unzipped them immodestly, peeling the fly back and shimmying them over his hips.

The Soldier’s eyes dropped to follow his movements, and even in the darkness of the room - lit only by the moon outside - Clint could see him swallow roughly. He backed up to the threshold. “I’m- I need a chair.”

He bolted.

Which, okay, that was Clint’s second best option. He’d have preferred the Soldier stay and take him up on the unspoken but clearly out there offer. But this worked too. He dropped the pants in a hurry, kicking them off of his feet, and then darted towards the only window in the room to inspect it.

Even in the low lighting, Clint could see the small device at the seam of the window, the one that meant if Clint lifted the sash it would set off some sort of alarm. He could break the glass out, but the sound would definitely alert the Soldier as surely as whatever alarm system was in place. And anyway, Clint wasn’t planning to go anywhere tonight, he just wanted the lay of the land. It was too dark outside the window to see much of anything, however, so Clint backed away from the glass.

A few more steps brought him to the miniscule closet, which was bare inside except for a single bulb with a pull string, which Clint yanked quickly so that he could get a good look. There was nothing inside except for what looked like an access to the attic in the ceiling. His rapid inspection didn’t immediately reveal any sort of alarm, and Clint filed the information away for later use. He backed out of the closet, yanking the light string and closing the door silently, before throwing himself onto the bed on top of the sheets, in nothing but his socks and underwear.

After a half-second’s thought, he yanked the socks off and tossed them away, stretching out with his hands behind his head. He knew how to make a pretty picture, and the distraction would hopefully work nicely to keep the Soldier from noticing Clint had been doing more than just getting nearly naked.

And on that note, it might be nice to be even more distracting. Clint gave careful thought to the pretty blue of the Soldier’s eyes, the sharp edge of his jaw. The way his thighs stretched his tac pants delightfully, and the easy way he’d pulled Clint along behind him leaving the base.

That last bit shouldn’t have been hot, but the more Clint thought about it, the hotter it seemed. How hot would it be to be pinned down by the metal arm, held in place while the Soldier did whatever he wanted. Clint took a choppy breath, his dick perking up in his briefs. Clint was usually the one holding someone down, when there was a bed available and not just a quick alleyway fuck or bathroom blow job, not the other way around. He wouldn’t have thought he was into the idea of being manhandled, but it turned out he was very, very into it.

His timing turned out to be perfect, because just as Clint was really settling into the fantasy - the one where the Soldier was pressed up against Clint’s naked back, still fully clothed in the rough leather and kevlar - the steady tread of the Soldier’s boots announced his re-entrance. Clint heard the muffled sound of wooden chair legs hitting the carpeted floor a few feet away.

“Wow,” Clint said, smirking and a little breathless, but keeping his eyes shut, “you really are planning to keep watch, huh?”

The Soldier grunted in response, and Clint could hear him settling into his chair.

Speaking of hearing, Clint needed to take his hearing aids out. He didn’t know how long he’d be in captivity - so far as that was what was happening - and therefore had no idea how long the batteries needed to last. Sighing, he reached for the small devices hooked over his ears - so much better than the clunky plastic monstrosities he’d had as a kid - and opened his eyes enough to look at the Soldier.

“I won’t be able to hear you once I take these out,” he informed the guy, because it was going to be pretty obvious what was going on if he hadn’t already noticed, “so if you’ve got anything else to say, now’s the time.’

There was a pause, and then the world’s most awkward “goodnight” came from the corner.

“Night!” Clint said, cheerfully, and then unhooked the hearing aids, carefully turning them off.

He tucked his hands behind his head again and hummed quietly to himself, not able to hear the tune but finding the vibration in his chest soothing. Unable to hear anything and in the darkness behind his closed eyelids, Clint let himself sink further into fantasy land.

If the Winter Soldier was going to abduct and imprison him, well, Clint was going to make him pay for it however he could. Or reap the rewards. One of those things. Clint groaned a little to himself as he thought about the Soldier hovering over him, hands braced on the bed above Clint’s shoulders, his lips on Clint’s skin.

Clint didn’t think the Soldier would kiss him, at least not on the mouth, but he looked like the type to want to mark him up with scrapes of teeth and the rasp of stubble. Borderline-painful bites along his collarbone and chest. Maybe a hot, wet mouth on Clint’s nipples.

He couldn’t help the moan that escaped, breathless and aroused, as he dragged a hand from behind his head down to his nipple, pinching at it almost painfully. He let out a little gasp he didn’t bother to muffle.

If the Soldier said or did anything, Clint didn’t hear it.

If he wanted Clint to stop, he’d have to make him.

He let his hand drift further, dragging his blunt nails across his chest and abs, just sharp enough to blur the line between pleasure and pain, to make his dick twitch where it was confined in the cotton of his briefs. Clint let his hand trail lower, following the line of heat to his groin, and wrapped his fingers around his cock, giving it a squeeze. Some kind of sound fell out of his mouth, but he didn’t know what it was and couldn’t be fucked to worry about it. The Soldier would either enjoy the show, or he’d leave, simple as that.

The feeling of his palm, muffled through the cotton, wasn’t enough though, and he slipped his hand beneath the waist to cup hot, hard skin. He bit his lip and wrapped his fingers around his cock, dragging his calloused fist over the sensitive head.

“Fuck,” he muttered.

Would the Soldier touch him like this - firmly, squeezing roughly - or would he tease?

Clint didn’t know but he wasn’t in the mood to tease himself.

Fuck, he suddenly wondered, what would the metal hand feel like on his dick? Smooth and cold to the touch?

Fuck,” he said, again, yanking his left arm from under his head to shove at his underwear. He wrestled them down to his thighs, freeing his cock and leaving room for him to maneuver. His dick was leaking, precome smoothing the glide of his hand just enough to prevent chafing, just enough that the near-punishing grip Clint had on himself wasn’t painful. He sucked in a breath through his teeth as he stripped his dick, suddenly past the point of wanting or even being able to draw this out.

He’d wanted to tantalize the Soldier, maybe goad him into joining Clint in bed, but now he just wanted to come.

Clint worked himself off roughly, twisting his wrist as he stroked upward and sucking in air through his teeth. He clenched his jaw as orgasm got closer and closer; could feel the little grunts he made on every exhalation, as his back arched into his own touch, hips straining upward into every stroke.

The sound he made when he came was wordless, garbled and muted by the way his breath caught in his throat and his mouth remained stubbornly shut, but he could feel the hot stripes of come hitting his stomach and chest. He milked his cock through it until there was nothing left and he collapsed onto the bed, sated and spent.

There was come cooling on his hand.

Oh fuck, there was come cooling on his hand.

Clint maybe hadn’t thought this through.

With his underwear tangled around his knees and come everywhere, Clint wasn’t entirely sure what to do. Options were limited, and Clint was still too hazy with pleasure to really engage his critical thinking skills. He stretched, scratching at his chest just above where he’d come all over himself and pondered the dilemma lazily.

He could leave it, give in to the pull of slumber and make it tomorrow Clint’s problem. But it would be crusty and gross and he’d be mad at himself about it later.

Clint could use his underwear to wipe the mess up and then - do something with the underwear? Not wear them, that was for damn sure.

He could… maybe eat it? Clint felt his nose scrunch up. That was hot under certain circumstances, but mostly heat-of-the-moment types of things, and the moment had already passed.

Before he could get too stressed about it, a warm, damp washcloth landed in the center of his chest, splashing him with droplets of water.

Guess that answered the question of whether or not the Soldier had stuck around for the show.

“Thanks,” he mumbled, using the cloth to give himself a cursory wipedown. He dropped the washcloth over the side of the bed, unsure what else to do with it. Yeah the carpet would probably get wet, but did Clint care? Not really, no.

He kicked the underwear off, shoving them down to the foot of the bed and rolling himself into the sheets and blanket on the bed like a burrito. “Night,” he slurred, now confident that the Soldier was still in the room.

***

Clint was shaken awake roughly. He shoved at the hand on his shoulder. “Go ‘way, Barn,” he grumbled, scooting deeper into the blanket nest, “sun’s not even up.”

The hand shook him harder, snatching the blankets away, and Clint glared blearily up at his brother.

Except it wasn’t his brother, it was the Winter Soldier, and oh, right, Clint had been kidnapped by a notorious assassin. Right. That was a thing. A thing that had happened to him. Super.

The Soldier didn’t look much like an assassin at the moment however, he just looked like a guy. A vaguely unkempt guy, but not the sort who would draw attention. He was dressed in a canvas jacket over a dark-colored henley, with a baseball cap on his head. He was even wearing jeans, surprising Clint even more. There was a backpack on his back, the kind that had a little chest clip, and the fact that the Soldier had snapped it inexplicably caught Clint’s attention.

He’d been shaking Clint awake with his metal hand, Clint noticed. He stared at the hand for far too long, his brain sluggish so early in the day and without any caffeine in his system.

Wake up, the Soldier signed, and Clint blinked at him in surprise.

Hardly anyone spoke sign, and to see that the Soldier knew it was a shock.

We need to go, the Soldier said, looking frustrated and tense.

Clint fitted the aids into his ears sluggishly, flicking the power switches on. It was good to know he could communicate if the batteries died, and he should maybe work to conserve them, but it was too early for that. “Where’re we goin’?” he muttered, yawning. He sat up, throwing the sheets back, which was when he realized he’d gone to bed naked.

It was also when he realized he’d jerked off like a private performer just before going to bed naked.

He could feel the faint flush working its way up his throat, but that was nothing compared to the brilliant scarlet painted over the Soldier’s cheeks, even as he scowled down at Clint.

That blush banished the faint sense of embarrassment Clint had been feeling, replacing it with cocky and smug instead. He stretched, bending his spine back nearly as far as he could manage, knowing it made his entire body stretch out into one smooth, muscled line.

He’d seen pictures of his performances, after all.

The Soldier cleared his throat, and when Clint turned to look, he’d backed away from the bed a few paces, still flushed and uncomfortable-looking.

“We need to get moving,” the Soldier informed him, powering through his own apparent embarrassment.

Clint wasn’t sure he was on board with that plan. The more he allowed the Soldier to move him from location to location, the less likely it was that his brother would find him. He opened his mouth to protest, only to be hit in the face with a mouthful of cloth. Clint clawed it off his head to find it was his t-shirt from the day before, followed quickly by his pants, along with a jacket he didn’t recognize and a second baseball cap.

“My handlers will be here tomorrow for extraction,” the Soldier informed him, sounding grim. “We want as much of a headstart as possible.”

“Why are you running from your handlers?” Clint asked, standing up and shimmying into the jeans. He tried to sound bored instead of curious, and failed miserably.

Going without underwear was going to chafe, but it was worth it for the way the Soldier’s gaze couldn’t seem to stop straying from his fly. Clint pulled the shirt over his head, careful of his hearing aids, and shrugged into the jacket. He eyed the ballcap suspiciously. It looked innocuous enough and smelled clean but it was a hideous brown with a searing orange helmet stitched on the front. Begrudgingly, he settled it on his head as the Soldier gave him a once-over and then a short nod.

He seemed torn on Clint’s question, like he didn’t want or didn’t know how to answer it.

“You don’t want to get caught,” he settled on, gruffly, and then turned on his heel and stalked out of the room. Clint followed, grabbing his underwear out of the sheets at the last second and stuffing them in the jacket pocket. His boots and socks were waiting by the door of the house, and Clint was quick to stuff his feet into them, ignoring the laces entirely. It’d taken him about eight months to get the boots at just the right amount of tied that they wouldn’t fall off but still loose enough to slip on and he was glad the Soldier hadn’t done something annoying like unlaced them to get them off Clint’s feet.

“It seems like you don’t want me to be caught,” Clint observed, bending to tug the tongue of the boots into position.

The Soldier didn’t say anything.

“Which is weird, since you’re the one who caught me in the first place,” Clint continued, feeling grumpy and disgruntled.

He didn’t do early mornings in the circus. Performances ran late - and so did the other, more illicit jobs - which meant he was inclined to sleep late and long, not get up before the birds.

“If they catch you, it won’t go well. For either of us,” the Soldier said, and now he sounded pained.

Clint sighed, standing up. He didn’t know how that was supposed to be his problem. Then again, he wasn’t the one dragging other unsuspecting criminals out of buildings and into the woods. “Coffee?” he said, hopefully.

It wasn’t like he was going to escape out the door right this minute, and if the Soldier was running from his own handlers, Clint could at least agree that he didn’t want to be caught by them either.

The Soldier grunted. “We need to move fast.”

“We need breakfast,” Clint argued, following him out the door of the small house. His stomach rumbled in agreement.

The house was a small cottage, not far enough into the wooded surroundings to really be a cabin, but not close enough to the neighbors to be considered a suburb. Clint could just barely see neighboring houses through the trees, but none of them were close enough to distinguish any details, and he doubted they’d have heard him screaming, if screaming had been the choice he’d made the night before. The foilage was dense enough to be rural, if not quite a forest, and he had to admit, at least to himself, that it was a good place to hide out, regardless of whether they were hiding from the Soldier’s handlers or Clint’s brother or pretty much anyone else. No one would be looking too closely at a tiny house in the rural outskirts of god-only-knew-where.

They walked a couple of miles, at least, before the Soldier drew up next to a small white Toyota Camry, indistinguishable from a million other sedans on the road in basically every way. It was unlocked, because the Soldier just pulled the door open, gesturing for Clint to get in on the passenger side.

Clint looked around, taking in his unfamiliar surroundings, the quiet of the pre-dawn morning.

Even if he took off running, he might not be able to outrun the Soldier, based on the pace the man had kept in the woods, plus he had no idea where to go.

He got into the car with a sigh.

The Soldier hotwired the car faster even than Clint had learned to do it in his misspent youth, getting the engine running nearly as quickly as he would have with a key. He put the car into gear and pulled serenely onto the road, checking his heading and choosing a direction based on some criteria Clint wasn’t privy to.

“So where are we going?” Clint asked, hands stuffed in his pockets and slumped against the passenger door. The car began dinging annoyingly until Clint finally pulled the seatbelt over his shoulder with a huff, clicking it into place.

The Soldier glanced at him out of the corner of his eye. “Away from here,” he told Clint.

“So you have no idea,” Clint surmised. He hunched further into the door, letting his head rest on the glass of the window. “Great. Wake me up when we get wherever it is we’re not going,” he said, feeling his eyelids droop. “And think of a name while you’re at it, I’m not calling you whatever they called you, and I’m not calling you Soldier either.”

Clint didn’t really sleep so much as he dozed, keeping low-key tabs on his surroundings, but to his distress nothing about any of it appeared remotely familiar. It was dark, true, but the Soldier took them down backroads and through small towns, instead of along freeways or highways where Clint might get some kind of idea of where they were. He’d finally nodded off for real when the car drew to a stop and the Soldier cut the engine.

The sun was up, if barely, and they were in front of Gnaw Bone Food & Fuel, a tiny diner slash gas station that looked like any of a hundred middle-of-nowhere stops Clint had made in his lifetime. The Soldier kept his hands on the wheel, staring blankly out the window. Clint looked at him, waiting.

“James,” the Soldier finally said, flatly.

“What?”

“You can call me James,” he grunted, and then flung his door open and climbed out. Clint was quick to follow, stretching widely as he stepped out into the crisp, early-morning air. He followed the Soldier - now apparently James - inside, where they were greeted by a colorful sign that proudly welcomed them to Gnaw Bone, Indiana.

Unhelpful.

Clint had no fucking idea where anything in Indiana was, much less some place called Gnaw Bone.

The building he’d been trying to infiltrate had been just outside of Columbus, Ohio, though, and now he was in Indiana. Which was… not a good sign. Just how far had the Soldier - James - dragged him through the woods to the house, and for that matter, how long had they been in the car? Clint didn’t think it had been more than a couple of hours, but it was hard to be sure. The clock in the dash had been blinking 1200 ever since James had hotwired it.

Inside had the look of a dingy, 1970s diner, complete with linoleum booths and black and white checkerboard floors, with a small convenience store to one side demarcated by the shift in flooring to gray linoleum. James led the way, navigating past half a dozen empty booths before settling on one in the corner where he could sit with his back to the wall, leaving Clint with the itchy sensation of being exposed. There were menus stuck behind the napkin holder, vaguely sticky from years of use, and Clint pulled two out and slid one over to James, already looking over the breakfast platters. His stomach rumbled in agreement.

A waitress materialized from nowhere, looking only marginally more awake than Clint felt. “What can I get for you boys?” She asked, popping gum and looking James over distrustfully.

Clint dimpled up at her, aiming somewhere in the neighborhood of as harmless as any 6-foot-plus man could appear. “Coffee,” he begged, managing to sound even more desperate than he actually felt, which was saying a lot. “As much as you can pour.”

She grinned. “Refills are free,” she assured him. She shot a glance at James, who held two fingers up, indicating he wanted a second cup for himself. “Be right back,” she assured them, strolling away.

“Thank fuck,” Clint muttered, rubbing at his eyelids. There was truly not enough coffee in the world for the situation he had found himself in, and it only seemed more surreal as time passed.

The waitress came back with two cups - the same generic diner cups Clint had seen a thousand other times in a thousand other diners, beige ceramic with a chip on the rim - and filled them full with steaming black life-giving liquid. Clint noticed the barest brush of gold inside her wrist and tried not to stare.

It was in the shape of fingerprints, her Mark. They often were, the ones that Clint had seen, the mark of someone touched gently, with reverence. The Marks were always gold, a subtle shade that looked like a sprinkle of fairy dust, like someone had dipped their hand into very fine glitter and smeared it along their lover’s skin. New Marks were brighter, more effervescent, and marks whose owners had drifted apart were duller and less noticeable, but none of them ever went away.

Clint ruthlessly suppressed the long-harbored desire for a Mark of his own.

Instead he smiled up at the waitress winningly, shrugging out of his borrowed jacket and dumping his hat. She cocked her head at him, giving him an assessing look, and then turned a narrow gaze on James, who shrugged a little belligerently. His mouth was set in a thin, white line, and he looked as uncomfortable as Clint had ever seen him. She gave Clint another sharp-eyed once-over, then abruptly relaxed.

“What’re you havin’ for breakfast gentlemen?”

Clint ordered the biggest breakfast platter on the menu with over-medium eggs, watching as, again, James copied him by holding up two fingers for a second order. The waitress sashayed away after refilling Clint’s already-empty coffee mug and making him consider an on-the-spot proposal.

The food came out hot and filling, far from the worst thing that Clint had ever eaten, and definitely better with liberal amounts of hot sauce applied.

“Why were you stealing the serum?” James asked abruptly, when Clint already had a mouthful of toast and eggs.

He swallowed painfully, chasing the overly large bite down with a scalding swallow of coffee. “Didn’t know it was serum,” Clint said, shrugging as he pushed his toast through the runny yolk on his plate. “We get paid to steal stuff, we don’t ask too many questions.”

James gave him a disbelieving look.

“We don’t take anything from anyone who can’t afford to lose it,” Clint said defensively, even as his conscience niggled at him.

“Like secret chemical compounds from secret government installations?” James asked sardonically.

“You’re one to talk,” Clint told him, pointing his fork. “You were stealing it the same as me, what’s an assassin need with the serum?”

That seemed to stymie James for a moment before he rallied. “We’re shaping the future, creating a fighting force to bring order and peace.”

Clint snorted this time. “What, the people who trained you? They’re gonna bring order and peace?”

James’ brows drew together in vaguely offended distress. “My work has shaped the world,” he said, but it sounded more like something he’d been told than something he believed.

Clint shrugged. “Sure, you could say that. I mean - assassinating JFK changed the shit out of the world,” Clint agreed. “Shoved us balls deep in Vietnam, I think.” He studied James thoughtfully. “You were too young for that one though. Hey, how many Winter Soldiers are there?”

James blinked at him. “Just- I’m the Winter Soldier.”

“Sure.” Clint waved his fork kind of randomly, encompassing James’ face and shoulders and arm, before turning back to his breakfast. “But JFK was shot in the what? The sixties? You weren’t around then.”

James grunted as he cut into his own meal, shoving a large chunk of sausage into his mouth.

Clint looked him over with a practiced eye. He was older than Clint, by all appearances, but not by much. Maybe his early thirties at most. So the assassinations most commonly attributed to the Soldier couldn’t have been done by James, unless he was a time-traveler as well as a cyborg.

“Who else?” James asked, after a few moments of silence and the waitress refilling their cups. Well, Clint’s cup. James was still nursing his first cup of coffee to death.

“Who else what?” Clint asked, busy dumping sugar packets into his coffee.

“Who else have I - has the Soldier assassinated?”

Clint snorted. “Depends on who you ask. There’s a rumor list a mile long, goin’ back as far as the 50s I think. JFK is pretty reliably credited to you, or, well, to the Winter Soldier. They put a patsy in prison for it, but there was no way he could have made that shot from that angle.” Clint thought about the footage he’d seen. The shooter would have had to have been somewhere entirely different for the shot to have followed the trajectory it had. “Then there’s the Stark family - Howard and Maria.” James visibly flinched, just the smallest twitch around his eyebrows and a tightening of his fingers, but it drew Clint’s eye. “Made to look like a car accident but Howard’s face hit more than just a steering wheel, and something was taken from the trunk. Lucky thing Tony wasn’t with them, or we wouldn’t have Iron Man.”

He thought about it some more as he drowned his hashbrowns in more hot sauce. “That happened a couple of years before I was born though, so also before your time.” He hummed thoughtfully. “Oh, there was that Israeli guy who was going to fix that whole Palestine-Israel thing. Rabin? I think that was his name. The rumor mill swears that you did that one. Oh and that Russian defector - I’d put money on his asssassination. He defected from Russia for something, went to England where they uh… put him to work as a spy I think? Anyway guy goes out for dinner, gets what looks like food poisoning, turns out it’s fuckin’ radioactive poisoning. He was dead inside a month. That one had to be you, right?”

James looked stoic and pale, his hand frozen over his plate. Clint wondered if he’d crossed some kind of line, but he couldn’t think what it might have been. The guy was an assassin, for fuck’s sake, he couldn’t be squeamish about his own exploits.

“You alright man?” Clint asked, finally, when the silence had dragged into uncomfortable.

“I’m fine,” James grunted, turning his gaze to his plate and shoveling breakfast into his mouth with quick, automatic movements.

He didn’t ask anything else about the Winter Soldier’s reputation, and Clint didn’t volunteer any more theories.